I am SO delighted to have the author of Lost & Found, Tom Winter, as a guest author on my blog today! In August 2013 Lost & Found was chosen as the Book of the Month by the Mail on Sunday's You Magazine book club. That summer, the Kindle edition was also a No. 1 bestseller on Amazon UK. I can totally see why. It is beautifully written and I howled with laughter one minute and was in tears the next.
Hi Tom, thanks for being my guest today! I have just finished your clever, funny, poignant and all round fantastic book, Lost & Found and can’t wait to pick your brains. No, not really – that would be really painful, (a bit like that joke.)
The blurb on your book reads : Meet Albert and Carol, two lost souls, brought together by a series of unforgettable letters ... Can you tell us a little about how you came up with such a unique idea?
It all began in early 2010. I was at the end of a rather messy five-year relationship—not the kind that ends in screaming and smashed crockery, but rather the sort that slowly chokes itself to death after stripping all the oxygen from the air. The experience made me want to write a story about a woman who persisted in a marriage long after she knew it was doomed.
As the character of Carol became clearer in my mind, it was obvious that she’d got herself into this situation precisely because she couldn’t express her feelings face-to-face, so it made sense that she’d choose to put her thoughts in anonymous letters. Yet she’s also reached the stage where she has a desperate need to be heard (by someone, anyone), so writing letters alone wouldn’t have been enough for her. At first I imagined her leaving the letters around her local park, perhaps tucking them into tree trunks or leaving them on benches, but as I began to imagine the kind of person who would find them, and why these anonymous letters might mean something to him, I developed the character of Albert. From that moment on, the story fell into place very quickly.
Are any of the characters based on anyone you know – or bits of them? I don’t mean like an arm or leg, but traits within a personality.
The people in my life have probably been wondering the same thing, though none of them have been brave enough to ask yet! My writing draws on many thoughts and observations, so there are definitely elements that I could trace back to certain individuals. Mostly, however, the two characters are based on me; they are two very different aspects of my personality.
Do you think Max ever got over the flower incident, or do you think it tipped him completely over the edge?
No, I think it pushed him right over the edge. I believe there’s a certain kind of bully who chooses to be mean to people as a defence against his own brittle fragility. As soon as someone fights back, he disintegrates. I imagine Max living out the rest of his days with the living room curtains drawn tightly shut.
You have a cracking sense of humour. The bit about the protective clothing to guard against exploding office workers had me in tears of laughter the most. Are you a funny person in your day-to-day life?
I suspect you’d find me very disappointing in real life! I do like to make people laugh (though it’s easier said than done here in Germany). I come from a mad family—mad in the classic, medieval sense of the word—so making people laugh was an important skill to have as a child. Although I’m always thrilled when people find my writing funny, in truth it’s the distillation of many hours spent staring at a blank wall, which means I actually qualify as the most boring person you know.
Ha! I doubt that very much!
Lost & Found is your debut, have you always written, and how long did it take to achieve your success?
I’ve been writing since about the age of four, when I took my mother’s diary and filled in many of the entries with statements like ‘This is my snot’. Hopefully it was obvious to everyone that these weren’t my mother’s words, least of all because I’d also decorated the pages with smears of the real thing.
In all the years since, I have always imagined being a published novelist, but I struggled for a long time to find my voice as a writer. A few years before Lost & Found, I wrote a very different book which, after endless rejections, got me an agent in New York. For a while I thought my career was taking off, but in retrospect I can see that I had written the wrong book, and chosen an agent who wasn’t right for me. The experience was a tough learning curve, but I finally got back on my feet and started all over again by writing Lost & Found. Happily, that led me to the perfect agent, Juliet Mushens at The Agency Group, who became a real champion of my writing.
That kind of support is crucial, so pleased you found Juliet. And as I have just finished laughing again because of your 'snot' explanation, I am further convinced that you are NOT boring!
Can you tell us a little about your next book, Arms Wide Open?
It’s about a brother and sister who discover that their long-dead father may actually be alive. The only person who knows the truth is their mother, who has succumbed to early-onset dementia, a rare and hereditary form of the disease. Over the days and weeks that follow, Jack and Meredith are forced to consider both the past and the future: their memories of their mother, their hopes for finding their father, and the fear of what’s in their bloodline. As in Lost & Found, I’ve used black comedy to lighten very difficult subjects. The paperback is out in April.
Cue a shameless plug: You may also like to know that I’m currently writing my third book, Days of Wonder, which will be published next summer. But that’s another story (no pun intended).
Fantastic, I love the title! Will look out for that too. And Arms Open Wide sounds like another roller coaster ride of tears of sadness one minute, and laughter the next. Can't wait to read it. So, Tom, what is the one bit of advice you would give to writers trying to get published?
Never give up! Keep writing. Keep honing your craft.
That advice is so important. I always say the same thing :) And can you tell us who is your very favourite author?
I’m going to cheat and give you two. I love Nick Hornby and David Sedaris. They could publish their shopping lists and I would still buy them.
Good choices! Thank you so much for taking the time to be a guest on my blog, Tom. It was great fun and can’t wait for Arms Wide Open and Days of Wonder!J
Here is the link for the paperback of Lost & Found Click on the link above if you would like to purchase the Kindle version. I guarantee you will not be disappointed ... unless you have no sense of humour and/or are a very boring person.