Sunday, 11 June 2017

Fab Firsts - Q&A with Pam Lecky

Fab Firsts is my new regular Sunday feature, that is going to be highlighting books that are firsts. When interviewing authors, it will be about their first book, as well as other firsts in their lives. When reviewing books for this feature, there will be a mix of debuts, first books in a series, the first time I read an author, and possibly other firsts depending on what I can think of!

If you are an author wanting to take part in Fab Firsts then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you.

I hope you enjoy this look at a variety of hopefully fabulous firsts, while making some sort of dent in my review and paperback TBRs which are my current main focus!

My name is Pam Lecky and 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 studied horticulture with the Royal Horticultural Society, and even built a show garden in Bloom (the Irish equivalent of The Chelsea Flower Show), with a good friend of mine.

I adore music and photography, and have been an avid reader from an early age. A huge fan of historical fiction and crime, particularly when combined, I finally decided to set free the stories battling for release in my head. I have a particular fascination with all things 19th century, from food and clothes to architecture and social history and often blog about these topics. I am a member of the Historical Novel Society.

1)     Can you tell us a bit about your first book?

My debut, The Bowes Inheritance, was published in July 2015. 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 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.

The book has been receiving wonderful reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, much to my relief, and was shortlisted for The Carousel Aware Prize 2016 and longlisted for the Historical Novel Society Indie Award 2016.

2)     What was your original inspiration to become a writer, and to write your debut?

I first dabbled with poetry during my teens. Then I helped out on a local newsletter for a year or two, but itwas 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.

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.

So it’s hardly a surprise that I write stories set in the 19th century.

3)     How long did it take you to write your first book?

The first draft took 6 months, but from first word to hitting the publish button was 18 months. There were long periods were I was unsure what to do (I knew nothing about publishing) so I don’t believe it would take me as long again. I recently managed a first draft in 3 months – so it is possible.

4)     If you could do anything differently in retrospect, what would you change about your debut, or how you went about writing it?

I wouldn’t change anything. I learned so much and that was vital for me to have an understanding of the industry in general and self-publishing in particular. I will manage the launch of my second book much better. Next time I will manage the social media and promotion end more professionally.
5)     Was your first book self or traditionally published, and how did you go about making that decision?

I self-published. I originally sent out my first draft to agents (a big no-no) and of course received the usual rejections and they were right – it wasn’t in a good enough state to be seriously considered. After much soul-searching I decided to consult a friend and published author, Ciara Geraghty. She advised me to have a structural edit done and to consider self-publishing. This was an important step on the ladder and I didn’t look back after that. The structural edit was positive and helped me clean up the manuscript (I learned a huge amount from that process). Then I attended a one day seminar on self-publishing in The Irish Writers’ Centre and that was pivotal. There was little point in sending out the manuscript again to agents anyway so I decided to self-publish. Luckily I found a fantastic editor, Hilary Johnson – she encouraged me – she loved the story, knocked my MS into shape (she is very strict!), and told me to go for it.

6)     Do you have any tips for other first time authors?

Trust your instincts – even if it means scrapping entire chapters sometimes. Be strict with yourself – no head-hopping in scenes and edit, edit, edit. If you want to go the self-publishing route, make sure you have your book edited professionally, after all you will be competing with authors who are traditionally published and you also owe it to your readers to produce the best possible work you can (you are taking their money!). Next most important thing is your cover – don’t be tempted to cut corners. Either buy a premade cover or have one custom made. It is the first thing a potential buyer sees – they will either pick it up or walk (or scroll) past. You only get one chance to hook them.

Tell us about your first…

7)     Book you bought

It was probably a Georgette Heyer – I think it was Faro’s Daughter (still my favourite)

8)     Memory

Playing outside with my friends in the front garden where I grew up. We were always making up games and always played outside and had to be dragged in for meals, bed or homework. Unfortunately, kids these days don’t seem to be interested in using their imaginations to play or explore the outside world.

9)     Person you fell in love with

John Steed in The Avengers on TV – I’m showing my age!  He was so cool and sophisticated. Sadly, Patrick MacNee passed away a couple of years ago.

10)   Holiday you went on

West Cork with my parents. I still remember it and have always had a fondness for that part of Ireland.

11)   Prize you won

I won a poetry prize when I was in secondary school.

12)   Album you purchased

It was an Elvis Presley compilation album.

13)   Embarrassing moment you can remember

The day I made my First Communion we visited my aunt. I managed to break one of her good glasses – still remember the panic!

14)   Pet

My first pet was a budgie. I didn’t want a budgie – I wanted a rabbit but my mother wanted the budgie and used me as an excuse to buy it!!

15)   Time you were in trouble

‘Borrowed’ 5p from the pile that was kept for the gas meter. I was about six and wanted to buy an ice-cream.

16)   ..choice of alternative career if you weren’t an author

I’m a qualified horticulturist so it would most likely be that or interior design perhaps.

17)   …time you had any independence

I bought my first home when I was 24. It was tough going but was worth it.

18)   …toy that you recall loving

My uncle used to travel a lot and he used to bring me back amazing presents from abroad that none of my friends had  – the one I loved best was a miniature pink washing machine – you could fill it with water and drain it as well. Hours of fun with that.

19)   … time you felt like an adult

My mum died when I was 11 and my childhood ended rather abruptly because of that. There was just me and my dad so I always felt a huge responsibility to act ‘sensibly’.

20)   … time you realised you were good at something

See No. 11 above – winning a poetry competition.

21)   … time you were really scared

As a young child I stayed down in my uncle’s house in the country. He was an awful man for telling ghost stories in the evening. I used to lie awake, terrified. I found the pitch darkness of the country at night very unsettling. I was very intrigued by his stories though and have often thought of including them in my work.

Link to buy The Bowes Inheritance (Amazon)

Thank you so much Pam for this fascinating interview. 

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