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Maxine Linnell

17 June 10 words: Adele Harrison
"1962 was just before everything kicked off. There was a revolution about to happen"
Maxine Linnell

Maxine Linnell is the author of Vintage, published by Five Leaves in Nottingham. The book is a young adult novel in which two seventeen year old girls body swap between 2010 and 1962 and is capturing the public’s love of nostalgia in much the same way as Ashes to Ashes and Life on Mars. Our reviewer loved the book so much she was delighted to catch up with the author to discuss why so many books and films are currently being set in the sixties... 

 
Was there any particular reason you opted to set Vintage in Leicester?
The obvious reason is that I was born and brought up in Leicester, so it's something I know. I like provincial cities and I like Leicester so it was fun to set it here.
 
Why did you choose 1962 for the body swap?
1962 was just before everything kicked off. The Beatles hadn't produced their first album yet. Society was still feeling the post-war effects, and families were so different from how they are now. There was a revolution about to happen, and I wanted to place it just then. The funny thing is that there are a lot of other things being pitched in this era such as; A Single Man, An Education, Mad Men, and On Chesil Beach - so there must have been something important about it.
 
Marilyn and Holly both get something quite different out of the experience. Marilyn discovers some freedoms in 2010 - what does Holly get from going back to 1962?
It's difficult for Holly, because she has to listen in to other people more than she does in 2010. She has to be more aware of what other people want and say and what they are doing. In a way she has to learn to shut up, because in her own world she’s out there and loud, which I love. And Marilyn has to learn to let go.
 
Who gets the best deal?
I don't think I could have written it if I didn't think both of these times had something really special to offer. I didn't want to weigh down on one period rather than the other. I think they are both exciting times. I wanted to write about some of the subtle differences, not just the obvious ones like computers and mobile phones. One example of the contrasts is in the Saturday club night. In 1962 there was the safety of everyone doing the same dance. You’re all doing it, you've all practised it, there’s not such a range of choice and the insecurity that comes with it.
 
The girls’ best friends play quite important and different roles...
Yes, I love Holly’s best friend, Kyle. When Marilyn meets Kyle she finds that he’s nothing like her idea of how boys should be - he’s vulnerable and emotional. She has to accept that. I don't want to give away too much about Marilyn's best friend Sheila, but she’s almost more extreme than Marilyn in terms of living out what girls were meant to be. She's going to stay at home with her parents and do what she’s required to do.
 
Is there a reason you went with a local publisher?
It just happened that way, I knew Ross Bradshaw and was happy to publish with him, and he was really supportive right from the start, which was great. I think there are some very positive things about being published by an independent publisher. I feel there’s a good relationship, and he is really behind me. I'm not a just a tiny fish in a huge publishing house. Ross puts on lots of local literary events and I get involved in those.
 
I was wondering; how you became interested in Buddhism?
I was interested from about the age of about 15 or 16, but I didn't take it up at the time because it seemed very nihilistic. I thought you were supposed to accept whatever happened to you, and that didn’t fit with my politics. Later I came back to it, and gradually found it more and more helpful and truthful. I'm much happier with Buddhism in my life.
 
Does it affect your writing?
I'm sure it does, but it's hard to know how. I would never want to try to preach or tell people how to be or what to think. I hope Vintage suggests possibilities of what to think about, without telling anyone what they should think. Holly and Marilyn get a crash course - who they believe they are isn’t who they really are.
 
Vintage, Five Leaves, 2010
What sort of research did you need to do for Vintage?
I didn't have to research much for 1962 because I was a teenager then, a little younger than Marilyn but it was what I knew. I did need to do some research about 2010, so to research the nightclub scene, my agent and I went to Mosh in Leicester. I thought they wouldn't let us in, but they were great. We talked to loads of people and had a really good time. I got much more of a sense of what social life is like now. People were very open. Completely unforgettable and great.
 
Moving on from Vintage, you've done a lot of other writing as well...
I've played around with a lot of different genres and written for theatre. I have a one act play that was published and produced a number of times - that was a lot of fun. I also write poetry, some of which has been published. In the last year I've done an interesting project - retelling three of Thomas Hardy's novels in 6,000 words each. It’s been a big challenge. The books give a flavour of the story and the style of Hardy, but they’re written for children and reluctant readers, and they sell to people learning English as a second language. I chose Tess of the d’Urbervilles, The Mayor of Casterbridge and Far from the Madding Crowd. They’ll be published in the autumn by Real Reads.
 
What do you make of Tess as a heroine?
She seems to be quite anti-feminist, doesn't she? She's so submissive and in some ways so weak, but Hardy was trying to say something about attitudes to women in his time. It was a radical book. I think he was saying that Tess would have been condemned for what happened to her – especially for having a child. He’s saying - here is someone who was pure, and what happened wasn't her fault. He had a lot of trouble getting it published. The book was censored by the publisher. The retellings were interesting - it was amazing to squeeze these huge stories into a tiny space.
 
If you could go back in time what period would you live in and why?
Good question. I'd like to live in Spain in the sixteenth century - I got interested in Saint Teresa of Avila a few years ago, and wrote a set of poems about her life. Spain was a huge mix of cultures, with some wonderful music, art and writing (I love Joglaresa's music). And then the Inquisition came along and got rid of it all. Saint Teresa mostly worked under the radar of the Inquisition. She was a powerful and radical teacher - not allowed for women.  I'd love to be a very long-lived fly on the wall in her convent and get to know her as she really was. But overall, I'm very happy to be where I am, in spite of everything that's disturbing now.
 
Maxine will be appearing at Lowdham Book Festival on the 26th June from 11.30 -12.15pm at the Myth and Memory tent, by the Village Hall. Her book is £5.99 and available from Five Leaves.
 

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