Author Interviews

“I have printed in my office: Rejection Does Not Mean No”- Lynda La Plante speaks to World of Books about her top three career moments, her new short story, and her production company, La Plante Productions.

Since 1993 Lynda La Plante has spearheaded La Plante Productions. In that time the company has produced an impressive slate of innovative dramas with proven success and enduring international appeal.

Born in Liverpool, Lynda trained for the stage at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Work with the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company led to a career as a television actress with regular roles in dramas such as Fox, Minder and The Sweeney. While filming The Gentle Touch as an actress, Lynda wrote four plot outlines and sent them to the show’s producers. All were returned as unsuitable, but on one someone had written ‘this is wonderful!’ That was all the encouragement she needed, and that brief synopsis eventually became the phenomenally successful TV series Widows. Lynda’s original scripts for the highly acclaimed Prime Suspect (starring Dame Helen Mirren) garnered many awards and set a new standard for television drama. Lynda bestowed John Moores University with a creative writing scholarship in her home town of Liverpool and is an honorary member of the British Film Institute. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) has also awarded her with the Dennis Potter Writers Award. On 14th June 2008 Lynda was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List (Writer and Producer for services to Literature, Drama and to Charity). And in October 2009, Lynda was inaugurated into the Crime Thriller Writer’s Hall of Fame; an event that was televised by ITV3 in the UK. Some of the books penned by Lynda include: The Legacy, The Talisman, Bella Mafia, Entwined, Cold Shoulder, Cold Blood, Cold Heart, Sleeping Cruelty, Royal Flush, Above SuspicionThe Red Dahlia, Clean Cut, Deadly Intent and Silent Scream and Blind Fury, all of which have been international best-sellers. Lynda’s newest Anna Travis novel; Blood Line (released July 2011) entered the UK Sunday Times Bestsellers List at number 1 having sold 9,500 copies in its first two weeks, hotly followed by the paperback of Blind Fury achieving 38,000 copies sold in it’s second week in the charts.

Lynda La Plante

Lynda La Plante

Hi Lynda,

As huge fans of yours here at World of Books, we’re really excited to be able to talk to you today Lynda – thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule!

Q: On 27th January 2012, your short story, The Little One, was released. Although we’ve already read it (and been scared silly might we add), for those World of Book customers who haven’t – the story begins with a journalist called Barbara who desperately needs a gripping story that will gain her the recognition in the literary world she’s yearning for. After tricking her way into a former soap star’s home, Margaret Reynolds, Barbara discovers a terrified woman living alone in a seemingly haunted manor house. With a piano playing in the night, footsteps running overhead, and doors slamming shut in the dark, Barbara concludes that there might be a child living upstairs, unseen. But why is she there? And who looks after her? Such questions lead Barbara to a chilling discovery in the story’s climax. Another gripping story from you Lynda, where did the inspiration for this particular tale come from?

– The inspiration for ‘The Little One’, if I can describe it as that, actually came from when I was a student at RADA. I used to rent a room in a wonderful ladies mews house. She was a very clever costume designer, and a really caring and lovely lady. When she gave a party she would pay me to be a waitress, serve drinks etc. One of these occasions had many famous actors. I was very nervous and dropping things, it was a strange moment when suddenly the room went quiet, and making an entrance was a woman dressed in black with a black veil. She was made a big fuss of and eventually sat by the piano and I handed her a glass of champagne. She had the most beautiful slender hands, and when she eventually lifted the veil, she had such a sad expression in her dark luminous eyes. After everyone had gone home and I was washing up the glasses I asked who the lady in black was, and I was told she was a very well known actress who had recently been jilted by her husband. Years later I was invited to a party at her home. It was a beautiful small terraced house full of antiques and wonderful rugs and paintings. Some of the guests spilled out into the small ivy walled garden. She was not in black, but wearing a long white dress, and sitting on a swing held between two huge oak trees that dominated the tiny creative garden. I said to her:’ You have a beautiful garden everything feels so alive’ and she gave me the sweetest of smiles and replied. ‘Yes, everything but me……..’ I never forgot how uneasy it made me feel, even more so when I learned shortly after she had committed suicide.

Q: During your acting years, you wrote four plot outlines for a TV show and sent them to producers. Unfortunately all of these were rejected, despite someone having written on one of them, “this is wonderful!” Regardless of their initial failure, those original synopsis’ eventually became your phenomenally successful TV series, Widows. Out of sheer determination you have become a successful script-writer. What advice would you give to other aspiring writers out there who may have been turned down already, or are too scared to send anything off?

– My advice to aspiring writers, even if your material has been turned down- I have printed in my office ‘Rejection Does Not Mean No.’ Make sure if you sending off written work that is goes to the right people, this is easily done by using the internet, or checking out which person in a publishing company commissions. Learn how to write a brief treatment of your storyline, characters etc.

Year of Wonders Cover

Year of Wonders Cover

Q: What is the current book on your night-stand?

 The current book I have on my beside stable is ‘Year of Wonders’ by Geraldine Brook

Q: As already mentioned above, your most recent Anna Travis novel, Blood Line, was released in July 2011. As well as entering the UK Sunday Times Bestsellers List at number 1, the novel also sold an amazing 9,500 copies in its first two weeks. Are you always surprised by the success of your work? Do these figures sometimes seem surreal?

– I am constantly surprised by the success of my novels. It is a very good feeling to know I have so many fans and my appreciation of them is constant. ‘Blood Line’ was my first number one and to have two books in the top ten best sellers was champagne time.

Q: How different/difficult do you find it writing scripts compared to novels?

 The complexity of writing a script from a novel is always down to budget. In a novel I have total freedom to take my characters abroad, own a plane, have vast locations etc. However when it comes down to costing a show as I also produce my TV series, I have to wear a different hat! Instead of five patrol cars I can maybe afford one! Instead of ten uniformed police officers I might be able to run to two! And so it goes on. I have learned to almost snatch the most important elements of the novel and incorporate them in the script, but sometimes it is very hard as I have to lose characters and often chunks from the novel.

Q: When talking about your production company, La Plante Productions, your philosophy is that “the quality of the production is at the forefront of everything”. What more can you tell us about the work the company does?

 My production company La Plante Productions is a tough one to keep running at top level. Budgets are cut, even down to casting , but many times I have invested my own writing fees into the films as I refuse to cut corners. Sometimes it has been very difficult; in ‘Deadly Intent’ it seemed impossible for us to afford a small plane for the criminal to make his escape. There was simply not enough money, but I remembered our editor Ian Sutherland was not only a pilot but owned a small plane. It was begging bowl time as I persuaded him to not only allow us to use his plane, but to pilot it as well. We got the shots we needed, and it made a great ending to the show which would not have been possible otherwise. Yet again I have learned to never get despondent when for example the casting is proving difficult, often we have offered a part to an actress and then been unable to meet the cost, but yet again I believe we will always do better, and time and time again I have been proved right. We as a company have given opportunities to many unknown actors that have now become major stars. So we hunt for talent all the time and take chances often casting direct from drama schools so our casting director is a very important part of the company.

Q: How much input do you have into how your work is portrayed on-screen? How difficult is it finding actors and actresses that really fit the roles you have written?

– I play a very major part in all our shows, we have casting sessions and reading sessions and the final decisions are made between me, the director and producer. As I was an actress for many years this has proved invaluable for being able to draw in talent and be confidant that they will be able to handle the role. Often in the past I have rewritten a role to suit an actor that I liked so much but bore no resemblance to the part they had auditioned for.

Q: What would you class as the three top experiences of your career so far?

 My top experiences, as a writer and a producer has always been watching the first set of rushes for ‘WIDOWS’ and seeing the actors on the screen exactly how I had dreamed of them and seen them in my mind. I will always treasure the time when I went from being a writer for hire to producing my own material. ‘The Governor ‘was the first Production from La Plante Productions and starred Janet McTeer. However I think the accolades for ‘Prime Suspect’ will remain as my most treasured experience.

Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect

Dame Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect

Q: On 14th June 2008, you were appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for being a writer and producer for services to Literature, Drama and to various charities. What was this experience like?

 To be appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire was truly a marvellous moment. My family came to the Palace, and only recently I opened my treasured medal box to show my son, he asked if I had won it in the war! He had been so young when I received it he had forgotten. I won’t ever forget, I am still and always will be very proud and honoured.

Q: And finally last but not least, as we’ve mentioned to the other authors we have been lucky enough to interview, World of Books is dedicated to providing good-quality second-hand books to the public. In a world with an ever-growing digital media base, and increasing environmental concerns, do you believe in the importance of giving each physical book the chance of a new home?

 I think that World of Books’ dedication to providing good quality second hand books to the public is a truly admirable gesture. In this world of high tec, we sometimes forget that there are those in developing countries unable to afford what we as a country have always had. There is a joy at discovery from the written page- storytelling, enlightening and encouraging imagination is held between pages. I believe without any reserve what so ever that giving physical books a chance of a new home is and should be part of all our fortunate lives.

 Once again thank you for letting us interview you Lynda, it’s been a pleasure. We’re certain our customers will be thrilled to learn a bit more about you.

Fancy catching up on Lynda’s novels? Why not check out the World of Books site to see what offers we have available today?

And finding yourself in the mood to check out the work produced by La Plante Productions? Make sure you have a nose at their site.

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