Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to historical novelist Pam Lecky. Welcome Pam. Please tell us a little about yourself as writer and as person.
I was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland. Married with three children, I work part-time and have a lot to juggle, which isn’t ideal for my writing! I’m probably a typical writer – a bit introverted, and was prone to daydreaming from an early age. I was an only child and my mother died when I was young, so I grew up spending a lot of time alone (though not lonely). Books were always my joy and I turned to them frequently. I grew up during the seventies – a particularly bleak time in Ireland, so escaping into other worlds was attractive.
I first dabbled with poetry during my teens. Then I helped out on a local newsletter for a year or two, but it was only after my third child was born, that I decided to write a book – and it was purely to prove to myself that I could and with no thought of ever publishing. I loved writing and researching it and that was the catalyst.
Why did you choose to write historical fiction?
There were a lot of influences in my childhood and the earliest one that I can remember was television. Historical dramas in particular caught my attention, even though at that young age I didn’t really understand the stories. Ah but the costumes, the architecture and the way people behaved – something clicked. My father was a great reader and encouraged me to be as well; as a child and a teen I devoured books and I mean devoured. Then Dad bought me the complete works of Jane Austen and a foundation was laid. For those familiar with the 19thcentury world, I think I actually became a bluestocking! I munched my way through classics, dined on crime (modern and historical – Dorothy L. Sayers and P.D. James my absolute favourites – what fantastically twisty minds those women had), and supped at the feet of Georgette Heyer’s heroes and heroines.
Tell us about the concept behind your book. How did you get the idea?
The original premise was a young woman inheriting a property and having to fight to keep it. It had a beginning, a middle and an end (always a good thing!), but there was no flesh to its bones. I knew I wanted it to have an Irish flavour, but with a new angle perhaps. I have always been fascinated by the complex relationship between the Irish Ascendency and their British counterparts and that, and a wrangle over land, seemed a good place to start. It was only as I started to research, that the story took on a life of its own. Sub-plots popped up, often influenced by real events that I read about from old newspapers, books and on-line blogs. What started out primarily as a love story became tangled up in Irish history, Fenians and the English Lake District! The Bowes Inheritance was born.
Who would you like to invite for dinner?
Stephen Fry because he is so well read and witty; Helen Mirren and Judy Dench – two older women who I admire greatly and I’m sure have great stories to tell; Daire O’Briain because he is hilarious and also a science geek; and if not too weird, my late grandmother because she lived through the Easter Rising of 1916 and the Irish Civil War, and her life fascinates me.
What are you working on now?
My second novel, The Carver Affair (working title) is about a barrister and a writer, both of whom have complicated past lives. It’s set entirely in Ireland in the 1890s and follows their stories as the past catches up with them. It will be a darker and grittier book – less romance and more crime. I have a basic plot but it is in the very early stages of development. I’d also love to write a gothic novel and maybe even a contemporary one (thriller or crime). I just need more days in my week! I’m still so busy promoting my first book that I’m finding it difficult to just sit and write. I will have to be more disciplined. My days just seem to disappear.
Who were your editors and how do you quality control your books?
My initial edit, which was structural, was done by Inkwell – a Dublin based company. Their feedback was great and encouraged me to keep going. After a lot of re-writing and self-editing I knew that I would need a copy editor. Thankfully, some author friends on Facebook recommended Hilary Johnson, who is based in the UK. She was very patient and generous with her advice and frankly, without her encouragement, I might not have published at all.
Editing is an expensive business but essential. I look back on the first draft of my book now and realise how much I have learned from those experienced editors. I owe them a lot. I feel very strongly that if you self-publish you must produce the best work you can. Firstly, because you are competing with authors from big publishing houses with huge input to editing, and secondly because you are selling a product and you must give your customer value for money.
How have you found the experience of self-publishing? What were your highs and lows?
It has been a fascinating and fun process. As I am a control freak, it suits me very well to make all the decisions! The highs, besides writing ‘the end’, were undoubtedly doing the cover design, making the book trailer and first sight of my page on Amazon. The icing on the cake was when a total stranger emailed me to say they had enjoyed the book. Since then, continued great reviews and feedback have been feeding my ego no end! Recently, the book was Editor’s Choice in the Historical Novel Review and has now been long-listed for the HNS 2016 Indie Award. I was fairly stunned to learn of that – my first book, unknown author – it really can’t get much better.
Pre-publishing, my worst moment was trying to get the CreateSpace template to work and I can assure you the air in my house was blue that weekend! Since, publication in July, the greatest challenge for me has been getting to grips with marketing on social media. I’m naturally a very private person and hate the limelight, so it takes a lot for me to put myself out there. I’m slowly getting better at it. My new motto is ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’
How do you handle criticism of your work?
I’d love to say, it’s water off a duck’s back, but I have to be honest – it makes me cross if I feel it is unjust. I have been very lucky so far but I know the bad reviews will come – everyone gets them at some stage. I believe the best policy is to ignore them and that is what I will do, even if I am fuming inside. I only ever post reviews of books I have enjoyed, particularly now that I know how much blood, sweat and tears goes into writing. I will always give an author the benefit of the doubt.
Amazon: Amazon UK