Where did the inspiration for The Prison Healer come from?
At the beginning of 2019 I met a young woman who had grown up in a war-torn impoverished country. When she was a teenager, her father had been seen shaking hands with a member of an opposing religious faction, and because of that, her entire family had been sent to prison—for five years.
The injustice of her tale remained with me long after our brief meeting, as did her survival mentality during the most horrific years of her life. She inspired me, reminding me of how little I know of the world outside of my own safe, comfortable bubble.
A few months later, I visited Fremantle Prison in Western Australia, which is now a heritage site and open for tours. This prison has an entire underground tunnelling network where the inmates were forced to labour for hours on end, digging the passageways in order to supply water for the nearest township. I walked through those tunnels and, in some cases, paddled a canoe through the ones that are still partially submerged. It was an unforgettable experience, enough that when I left, a story began to take root in my mind: a story of injustice, of facing the odds time and time again and doing whatever was required to survive—at any cost.
And so, The Prison Healer was born.
Writing in a time of covid – has your writing life changed these days? Can you tell us a bit about it?
My day-to-day writing life hasn’t changed much at all, but like most people, there are times when it’s been really tough to channel my creativity, especially with so many horrors happening in the world. I’ve just had to try to remain as focused as possible and surround myself with as much positivity as I can. I’m fortunate to live near the beach, so I try to visit every day as an act of self-care. Little things like that help.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Or something in between? Do you even believe in that ‘plotter Vs pantser’ stuff?
I can be both. In my Medoran Chronicles series, I was very much a pantser, even if I tried really hard to be a plotter. Any time I planned something, my characters would decide to go off and do their own thing, so I just had to learn to trust them (as strange as that sounds). With my Whisper series, it was a little of both—there was definitely some pantsing, but I also plotted out the larger twists so that I could sneak in some subtle foreshadowing early on. As for The Prison Healer series, that was more on the side of plotting—the story arc of the first book came to me pretty fully formed, even if there were definitely some things that caught me by surprise as I was drafting. I think that’s my preferred way to write: to have an idea of what’s happening and where things are heading, but to allow myself creative space for things to adapt and change as I go along. The little surprises make all the difference.
What other media inspired you during the writing of this book? Songs, TV, movies, other books…
When I’m drafting a book, I have to give it 100% of my focus, so I don’t read any other books during that time, and if I watch anything, it’ll usually be something I’ve watched before just to give myself a short break away from the manuscript. I write really fast (The Prison Healer was written in just 26 days), so it helps when I don’t have any distractions during that time.
What is a curious or unusual thing about you that most people don’t know?
I don’t drink coffee, which makes me perhaps the most un-author-like author in the world.
Thank you so much Lynette for answering all our questions and for taking part in our book of the month!
Look out for our discussion post on THE PRISON HEALER on the #LoveOzYAbookclub Facebook Page in the coming days and to find out about our May book of the Month