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Q+A with Folklore Writer Lyndsey Croal

Through our agent and a couple mutual writing pals, I’ve been lucky enough to get to know the talented speculative fiction writer, Lyndsey Croal. Lyndsey, who lives in Edinburgh, writes across a myriad speculative genres. Among her repertoire you’ll find folklore short stories, young adult novels, a sci fi horror novel, and audio fiction. As she writes on her website, “Her writing is influenced by her professional background in environmental policy and politics as well as her experience growing up in remote places. While her novels span both adult and younger audiences, they share common themes of morality, belonging, and fighting against all odds.”

Her debut two-part audio drama ‘Daughter of Fire and Water’ was released in February 2021 with the Alternative Stories and Fake Realities podcast, and she is the Editor for Ghostlore: An Audio Fiction Anthology with the same podcast.

Get to know Lyndsey in this Q&A, where she shares her thoughts on ghosts, genre, and finding time to write with a busy schedule.

In three words, give us a flavour for the stories you write.

Strange, speculative, uncanny.

What inspired the idea for Ghostlore: An Audio Fiction Anthology?

I’ve always loved the connection between folklore and the supernatural – growing up in Scotland so many of our folk tales have elements of hauntings or dark histories, and I was fascinated (if not a little terrified) by ghost stories I heard when I was younger.

I’d also worked with Chris Gregory – from Alternative Stories & Fake Realities Podcast who produced Ghostlore – on a couple of folklorey things before, and we got chatting about this darkness in Scottish folklore as I’d been writing some new short stories. So, the idea came together to do an anthology of these types of dark tales, and he was very happy for me to just run with it. I was thrilled with how many submissions we received, and that it was received so well – the authors I worked with were all fantastic, as were the voice actors. We had stories from around the world, split into two episodes around the themes of ‘Wilderness’ and ‘Hauntings’. They’re free to listen to via the links below.

Have you ever encountered a ghost or do you believe ghosts are best left to fiction?

I’ve definitely had moments when I’ve wondered about ghostly presences. I grew up in quite rural places, and one cottage was on a farm with an old tower that we always thought was haunted – my friends and I would dare each other to go inside and explore, and we never made it past the doorway. More recently, I was staying in an isolated cottage in the woods for a week’s writing retreat, and I had the same recurring nightmare every night of a woman dressed all in white coming out of the attic and standing by the bed. It was so vivid and pretty unsettling that I was convinced there was something uncanny happening there. But I’ve also been told I have an overactive imagination, and can definitely freak myself out easily, so take that as you will! At least it’s all good inspiration for stories.

What is unique (or perhaps uniquely challenging) about creating an audio fiction anthology compared to traditional writing forms?

The format definitely brings the stories to life in a different way and can add a richness to the worlds. Chris from the podcast was able to produce it in a way that really added atmosphere with sound effects and music. The voice actors were also able to add their own voice to the story and bring characters to life. I think the format also forces the stories to be slowed down, and it can feel really immersive sitting and listening to a story in that way where you might spend more time with the words compared to reading them. It also means stories are accessible or can be listened to while on the go.

There were some challenges though, and it did influence the sort of stories I ended up choosing. Some stories I loved but didn’t think they’d work as well for audio format. The ones we picked were largely very close to a character’s point of view or were told in more of a fairytale-esque storytelling way that suited narration well. So it did limit choices a little in that sense.

What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

I think I’d give a different answer depending what stage I’m at with writing. I can find editing quite daunting and challenging when I first start, but it can be the most rewarding once I’m in the swing of it. I’m probably most energised when I have a brand new idea, but at the same time it can take a while to get it to all fit together in my head before I start writing. I’m not the best at planning, so my work often changes throughout the story or novel, so I then have to edit back and sometimes that can lead to some challenges with continuity that can be complex to fix. I’m lucky to have an excellent agent for my novels who is really good at spotting these things and working with me to find good solutions.

More generally another big challenge is finding the time to write and not burn myself out in the process – my day job can be quite demanding, and I have a tendency to take on quite a few outside things too, so finding enough time to work on writing can be a difficult balance to find. That’s why I often take writing breaks away to work on writing when I can.

What music do you recommend readers listen to while reading your work? Do you have a writing playlist?

I definitely listen to music while writing, especially soundtracks or scores. Lately for example I’ve been listening to The Witcher soundtracks from the TV show and games, music from the Lord of the Rings movies, and the Dune soundtrack when I’ve been working on sci fi. Other albums I’ve written to are This is All Yours by Alt-J and Folkesange by Myrkur. I think the Myrkur album would be a nice one to listen to when reading my folklore or fantasy stories in particular.

Your work spans genres - folklore, sci-fi, fantasy, horror. What draws you to these genres? Do you feel more inclined toward one over the other?

That’s a tough question! I think I’ve always been drawn to stories that feel not-of-this-world, as they allow me to get lost in new worlds and be as imaginative as possible. I definitely go through phases of writing one or the other, and I’m not sure I have a favourite (at the moment for example I’ve been writing more dark-sci fi and enjoying that a lot). But generally I like the high concepts I can explore with sci fi, and expansive worlds I can delve into. With horror, folklore, and fantasy, I really like being able to push those boundaries more into the weird and sometimes experimental. Most of the folklore stories I write are also quite dark or bordering on horror, so I enjoy making the connection there. As with the inspiration for Ghostlore, Scottish folklore is so rich with dark tales of strange creatures or phenomenon that I really like leaning into that. It might sound strange, but for me there’s an escapism in that darkness – writing helps me process things in the world and can be quite cathartic.

What's next? What are you working on now?

I’m currently making edits to a science-fiction-gothic-thriller-horror novel that I (clearly!) struggle a bit to categorise, but I love this one and am very excited to go on submission with it in Autumn. I’m also working on putting together a collection of dark Scottish folklore stories based around the seasons and will be focussing on that as soon as my edits on the novel are done.

On the editor front, there might be some more Ghostlore things coming, and even another audio project on the horizon so watch this space!

Where can we read (and listen to) your work?

Listen to Ghostlore Part 1 – Wilderness here, and Part 2 – Hauntings here. Read about the authors involved here.

My two-part debut audio drama ‘Daughter of Fire and Water’, a Scottish folklore reimagining of Bride and the Cailleach, can be found here.

Some ghostly flash fiction from me:

You can find more about me via my website or on Twitter at @writerlynds. I have work forthcoming this year in a few places, including Dark Matter Magazine, Air and Nothingness Press, Crow & Cross Keys, Shoreline of Infinity and Brigids Gate Press.

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