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Maxine Linnell grew up in Leicester, but couldn’t wait to get out, so she headed for Birmingham University. She’s done loads of jobs, from stacking shelves in Sainsbury’s to helping people to stop smoking, but she’s been a psychotherapist for a long time now, as well as having two wonderful kids.
A few years ago she decided to do what she’d always wanted to do - to write. She ended up back in Leicester after time in Bristol and North Devon, did an MA at Nottingham Trent University and joined a big community of local writers. Maxine has published a one-act play, and has had short stories broadcast on local radio and poems published in small poetry magazines. She’s also been working on retelling three Thomas Hardy novels for Real Reads, which will be published this year. Vintage is her first published novel.
An Interview with Maxine Linnell:
Vintage is set in 1962 and 2010, why did you choose those years?
I was a teenager in 1962. It was just before the Beatles and the Rolling Stones changed everything, when people mostly did what they were told, and girls were meant to look forward to being housewives and mothers. Holly doesn’t think much of all that when she’s in 1962. I think I was really lucky to grow up at that time, when so much was changing, though perhaps a lot of people think like that about the time when they’re growing up. There were also tough things to deal with too.
And there’s some fantastic things about 2010, and things that aren’t so great. I love the amazing stuff we have now, the internet, mobiles, mp3s, satnavs and takeaways. People are much more free to be who they are – but there are downsides. Marilyn has to experience the violence, and it’s very scary.
I thought it would be fun to play with such very different times, to dump Holly and Marilyn into places they’d never been and find out how they managed it all. And it was really good fun to write. I hope it’s fun to read too, and to imagine. There are lots of older readers who are also enjoying it.
Would you prefer to be a teenager now rather than to have been a teenager in the 1960s?
I don’t know what it’s like to be seventeen now – but I don’t think I favour one more than the other. They’re just very different, with good stuff and bad, like most times I suppose. If I definitely thought things were better in one or the other, the book wouldn’t be balanced: I’d be imposing my ideas on the characters and on people who read it. I don’t like that in books I read, so I wouldn’t want to do that in my own writing. I’d like people to make up their own minds. I know I’m happy being who I am now!
Your two main characters - the ones that swap places - are girls. Would it have been different for boys? If, say, Holly's friend Kyle was also transported in time?
I can’t imagine Kyle in 1962! He’s so much himself, gay, sensitive – it was really hard for gay people back then, they couldn’t come out safely. It’s not easy now, but it’s very different. Girls and boys were often kept separate – I went to an all-girls’ school, and hardly knew any boys except for my brother until I was about sixteen. I’m not sure I could have written the book about boys swapping – I just don’t know what it would be like. Maybe someone else could write that one!
Holly and Marilyn - the two characters who swap places in time, they never meet but towards the end they start to communicate - is there one thing you'd like them to say to each other?
They do start to communicate, but through texts and in their minds, and only in emergencies. They get to know each other well though, through living each other’s lives! We never get to do that, live inside someone else’s body, someone else’s time, with their family and their friends – except through books. That’s partly why I love fiction so much, it gives me a chance to live someone else’s life for a while, at least in my mind. And that lets me experience much more than any one person can in their own life.
I don’t know what they’d say to each other. Holly is really worried that Marilyn is going to mess things up for her. Marilyn’s just loving every minute – until things get scary.
Could they meet in the future? Is this the last we'll hear of them or is there more from Holly and Marilyn?
I’d love to write about them again – I feel like I know them both, and love them both too! I do have something in mind for them, but there are other ideas and characters I want to write about.
Teenagers Holly and Marilyn both hate Fridays and want a way out of the dullness of their lives. But, what neither expects is that a sudden accident sends them into each other’s lives. Adjusting isn’t easy; Marilyn lives in 1962 and Holly in 2010. How the details of teen life have changed while the preoccupations have remained roughly the same is cleverly charted in this swift moving time-slip novel.