Skip to content
'Like insomnia, or memory loss, or madness, or perhaps more like the mysterious face behind your shoulder in the mirror at midnight, or the black dog racing through the village at night, writer’s block is something I prefer to keep in my peripheral vision. '
'This is a place that’s perfect for writing, because it’s been designed purely for that purpose. Mrs Drue Heinz, the benefactor who bought Hawthornden Castle decades ago, thought of everything when she and her trustees designed their fellowships. '
'We sat speechless in the echoing hall, each with our Princess Matic portable manual typewriter, a huge, orange plastic binder file and our bag of coloured key-caps. As satisfying as Lego, these hid the letters from sight but each matched up to a finger.'

Lydia Syson speaks with Catherine O’Flynn about moving into fiction and ghostwriting, her enthusiasm for history and her ethical motivations, the role of luck in publishing and the myths of writerly machismo.


Lydia Syson speaks with Catherine O’Flynn about childhood freedom in Botswana, how Critical Theory nearly destroyed her writing career, history as vicarious travel and her obsessive accuracy when it comes to historical and geographical details.

'I thought I was writing history, a novel for teenagers that told the story of British involvement in the Spanish Civil War — not something much covered at school — but my editor surprised me by calling it a 'political romance'.'

Lydia Syson reflects on the particular kinds of truth that fiction can reveal, considers the radical history of her maternal forebears, and puts the case for novel-reading as an essential element of historical research in ‘The Evidence of Fiction’.

'Thinking of Shaw, newly arrived in London from Dublin, heading hopefully for the British Museum to find everyone was writing novels, I remember the details of my own particular version of that profound and unforgettable sense of failure.'
'The articles I later wrote about this extraordinary trip may have helped sell my novel, who knows? I was fired by something else by then; the urgent need for an ocean sanctuary to protect the Kermadecs in the future.'
'You have to be prepared for weeks of footnote-tag, invest heavily in clue following and set off for distant records offices and idiosyncratic archives without necessarily knowing you'll get anywhere useful at all.'
'I loved the sense of living in Woolf's novels, their heady, fluttering, thoughtful sensuality, the significance of each detail; the epiphanic moments of being she evoked.'
Back To Top