Author Interview: Anna Lickley

I am delighted today to be able to bring to you a little interview with author Anna Lickley. Anna’s debut full-length novel, Senseless, was published by Unbound Press this week.

Although fiction, Senseless, draws on Anna’s experiences of living wtih disability. Having been diagnosed with the complex genetic illness neurofibromatosis 2 at the age of 16, Anna is now registered deafblind. She is the in-house writer for Can You Hear US CIC, and enjoys writing poetry and short stories as well as novels. Read a little bit more about Anna’s real-life story at the end of the interview below.

Senseless contains themes of deafness and disability, but at its heart it is an illustration of the messy unpredictability of love and life and the resilience of the human spirit. For the full description and to buy a copy, please click here or visit Unbound’s website.

Here’s what Anna told me about her book.

What was your process for writing the book?

I started writing Senseless in January 2016 and finished the first draft  within 6 months as I disciplined myself to sit down and write at least 500-words a day, often more.

My writing style turns out to be very organic. I had a brief idea  of the plot in my head but it shifted and developed only as I wrote. I can’t stick to any more detailed plans.

Hemingway might be right that, ‘the first draft is always shit’ but I started sending it to agents at that stage. I got few standard rejections and two very positive and encouraging rejections. After that, I was close to giving up. Traditional publishing is so very difficult to access for debut novelists.

It was then that I found Unbound and was so  delighted  when they accepted my pitch.

Crowdfunding the book was a challenge but I had many superbly generous supporters and following that received a genius edit to my manuscript and quite a lot of re-writing followed to get it to this stage.

My editor said that she was ‘hugely impressed’ with the end result and that Senseless is ‘gripping and compelling with great characterisation’.

I’m really very excited to hear what other readers think.

Would you say there is a central message to your story? What are you hoping readers take away from it?

There’s not really a message beyond the obvious truth that life is life, full of ups, downs, twists and turns. I do hope the book is uplifting in the end.

The proof-reader who read it after edits asked Unbound to tell me that she ‘absolutely loved the book’ and that it made her cry (in a good way!). If everyone reacts like that, I will be over the moon.

I am aware everyone has different reading preferences though so I am looking forward to reading honest and varied reviews.

What are you hoping to show readers about peope with disabilities by featuring it so prominently in your novel?

I’m not setting out on a crusade or anything but I hope that readers see the human side of disability. People are people. I didn’t want disability to be the sole theme of Senseless or particularly remarkable. Rather just part of life’s messiness.

To many people, the idea of writing a whole novel seems very daunting. What advice would you give somebody wanting to write?

It’s been said before but I can only say, ‘just write’. Start writing and see where it takes you, I would advise to write something everyday if you are setting out to write a novel, even if it feels a struggle it is helpful to keep up the momentum.

And are you working on anything new at the moment?

I’m ‘researching’ (yes, the authors’ old chestnut!). My head can’t manage to think about two projects at once really but I have a title and basic plot outline ready. I need to talk to a few people as I want to write accurately about something I didn’t experience first-hand myself. It will be good!

Where is your favourite place to write?

Due to my sight-loss, I always write on the desk-top in my attic as it’s adapted for me. It is a good space where I have no obvious distractions and I have an exercise bike and yoga mat up here for head clearing. I have some of my best thoughts on my bike!

For anybody to complete and publish a novel is a great achievement. Considering the obstacles you have overcome in life to reach this point, I wonder if you might tell us a little bit about your life story and how you’ve adapted to meet challenges - from going deaf to finishing a full-length work of fiction!

I was diagnosed with nf2 when I was just 16. I felt mature and grown up then but I truly wasn’t! I’d had a wonderful time growing up and loved everything (music, singing, acting, dancing, reading, running, being with my family and friends etc etc) and then all of a sudden, my nf2 was ‘discovered’, I needed immediate 18 hour brain surgery on a huge benign tumour and my parents were told I might not make it or could well spend the rest of my life using a wheelchair.

 I’ve always felt that, if it was going to happen then I was at the best age for it to do so. I’d had a wonderful time growing up but was still young enough to be able to adapt to things very easily.

 I went deaf at university, which is a time when so many things are changing as you become an adult. I started to learn British Sign Language and to meet  other deaf people and people with nf2. All of which was a huge help in my adapting process.

 As time went on, more and more things became difficult but I learnt to accept them and change accordingly. I’ve got so used to having nf2 now (27 years on) that I can’t imagine not having it. You know, my friends with nf2 and I agree that none of us would choose to have it but we can choose how we live with it.

 If I didn’t have nf2, for example, who know if I would have time, inspiration and inclination to write?

Thanks, Anna! Good luck with Senseless. You can watch an interview with Anna on the Unbound Senseless page.