Author Interview: Emma Lombard
Happy Tuesday Readers, you know what that means...another author interview! Today we are talking with Emma Lombard, an Australian author working on her debut novel, Discerning Grace. Here's a little bit about Emma:
Before becoming a historical fiction author, Emma was an editor in the corporate world across various industries—aviation, aquatic ecology, education and the world of academia.
Her blog series Twitter Tips for Newbies is popular in Twitter's #WritingCommunity for helping writers (new to Twitter) navigate the platform and find their professional voices on social media. She also writes a monthly column for ENVIE Magazine, in which she shares publishing industry resources for authors.
She is the author of the upcoming historical adventure, Discerning Grace.
Now, let's get straight to the questions!
JMR- Hey Emma, tell us who you are. Where do you live? What do you do for fun? What does a perfect day look like?
EL- In everyday life, I’m Mum to four teenage sons—my men children, three of whom are taller than me—and two cantankerous cats who often thrash it out for a spot on my lap! I live in the perpetually sunny city of Brisbane in Australia. I love building jigsaw puzzles (especially Wasgij, backwards puzzles), playing Candy Crush (my secret shame!), and playing board games with my boys—though gone are the days when used to I beat them, they whip me soundly now. And I totally suck at Risk! Having raised four rambunctious boys, my perfect day these days constitutes solitude and silence. It doesn’t matter where, as long as those two ingredients are present.
JMR- Four teenage boys sounds exhausting!
JMR- You’ve worked in the ‘writing industry’ for a while as an editor. What made you make the jump to authoring your own novel?
EL- My past life as an editor wasn’t in the literary publishing world, but in the corporate world. They are both very different industries with their own unique audiences. I loved editing corporate work to fit in with style guide standards and company branding—but it required no creativity, just technical aptitude. Authoring a fictional novel is on the complete other end of the creativity spectrum, so the two can’t really be compared. However, I am glad to have a fundamental grasp of the English language and its nuances. It helps immensely when I don’t have to sweat for half an hour to decide where to pop a comma in my sentences. Coming up with a plausible, enjoyable, and entertaining plot for a story—now that’s a challenge!
JMR- Ha! Commas are the bane of my writing life! I envy you your editing experience.
JMR- What does it feel like be on the other side of the table, as it were?
EL- I have huge respect for my editor, historical specialist, Andrew Noakes from The History Quill! He is visionary when it comes to seeing the big picture, and he compounds this by drilling down on the tiniest historical details. Having been an editor working with many different stakeholders and clients over the years, I am completely open and receptive to feedback. It’s important to have a solid and trusting relationship with your editor, so that if there are elements of an edit that you don’t quite see eye to eye on, you can discuss it openly without worry of upsetting anyone. In fact, I can’t even sanction the thought of my work being blasted into the world without having gone before an editor first.
Perhaps because I’ve been an editor myself, I know how beneficial a fresh pair of eyes, and an expert brain, can transform a good piece of writing into a great piece of writing. For me, I really appreciate a deep and thorough developmental edit that discusses each chapter as a stand-alone, while keeping in mind its place in the overall story. As an author, you’re sometimes too close and too invested in mining the rockface to see the vein of gold staring you in the eye. A good editor will pull apart your novel, show you all the strands you’ve got to work with, and then leave it up to you to decide how to weave those strands back together.
It can be tricky for an author to find a suitable editor, but if you’re not a historical fiction author (I highly recommend Andrew, if you are), then have a look at this excellent article about how to find an editor, from Jane Friedman’s website.
JMR- Born in England, lived in Africa, settled in Australia, how has your globe-trotting influenced your writing?
EL- Changing countries has always meant having a new place to learn about. I think, sometimes, when you’re born and live in one place, you don’t always get to know the history of the town or country where you live in as much detail as when discovering it for the first time as a new resident. Moving across the globe has given me an appreciation of exploring new places. I adore travelling! And I’m a sucker for castles and stately homes. A happy day for me is one immersed in a museum, or on a guided tour around a city. Put me in Père Lachaise cemetary in Paris (France), or in South Bridge Vaults in Edinburgh (Scotland), or in the ruins of Pompeii (Italy), or in the Sterkfontein Caves in Muldersdrift (South Africa), or in the goldmining town of Sovereign Hill in Ballarat (Australia), and I’m in my element! Knit this together with my long love of reading historical fiction, and it was inevitable that being a historical fiction author was on the horizon for me.
JMR- I find a lot of writers are also travelers, I think it's an innate sense of curiosity and questioning. What's the story here? And then writing about it.
JMR- Let’s talk about history. What is your favorite historical era and why? Do you have a favorite historical female? Why?
EL- I’m open when it comes to reading historical fiction through the different eras, from Jean M. Auel’s prehistoric The Clan of the Cave Bear, to Vikings and Romans, through to later centuries like in Wilbur Smith’s Courtney series. As for writing it, I’ve been so immersed in the 19th century since I’ve been writing my own books, that I have a soft spot for this era. There’s a great balance of knowledge and information out there since it wasn’t too long ago—say unlike the ancient Egyptian era. I have huge admiration for historical authors who write about ancient times. The research required for that is mammoth (snigger)!
While there are many well-known historical females, my research unearthed a whole world of unknown women whose stories have not had a spotlight shone on them. These have been my favorite historical females to find—mothers penning journals about parenthood, sisters writing letters to relatives from the other side of the world, wives aboard ships keeping diaries that recorded tiny details of daily life not captured in a ship’s log books. It took me ages to find some resources that spoke about women aboard ships who were not just there to entertain the sailors, but who played a pivotal role in sailing the ship, raising a family aboard, and supporting industrious endeavors. These are some of my favorites:
Seafaring Women by renowned historian, Linda Grant De Pauw
Female Tars by Suzanne J. Stark
Hen Frigates by maritime historian, Joan Durett
She Captains by maritime historian, Joan Durett
JMR-Your upcoming book, Discerning Grace, is set in 1826. Tell us about your story? What was your inspiration for Grace?
EL- Discerning Grace is about a young London socialite who refuses to fit in with the life mapped out for her by a bombastic father. So, she flees aboard a naval vessel disguised as a young man. My novel plays out along the new path she has chosen for herself, which, let’s face it, would not have been the easiest as a new joiner aboard a Royal Navy tall ship. Of course, she is discovered (in my favorite scene in the book), and then begins her new challenge to live as a woman aboard the same ship with a crew who she duped into believing she was a young man. It was great fun exploring all those relationships!
The inspiration for this comes from the story my grandmother told me about my three-times-great-grandmother who left her well-to-do family in England to elope with an English sea captain. Other than borrowing that tiny nugget of a premise, the rest of my story is completely fictional, built up using accounts of the historical women I discovered in those resources I mention above.
JMR- You have created images for your main characters, how does that help you write them? I can picture you talking to them!
EL- The illustrations of Seamus and Grace are thanks to the exceptionally talented Tara Phillips! I won Lord Silverton’s portrait in a Twitter contest run by an equally talented Eleonora Mignoli. I asked my beta readers to send me images of real-life people who they thought most looked like Seamus and Grace. Those images, along with the descriptions from my book, created the basis for these amazing portraits. They turned out exactly as I envisaged them in my mind’s eye! Several of my social media followers have said how my antagonist, Lord Silverton, looks like Martin Clunes (who I LOVE as an actor!), but this was purely coincidental.
Obviously, these portraits are of when we first meet these characters in book one. I have several other books in the series on the boil, and it has been marvelous to envisage the deepening of Seamus’s smile line beside his mouth, or the crow’s feet around Grace’s aquamarine eyes. I don’t necessarily speak to my characters, but I do sit and watch them interact and play out scenes in my head (it must look like I’m staring into space, and not working when I do this!) I only need to look at their body language in their portraits for an inspirational reminder about how they react physically and verbally to different situations.
JMR- Martin Clunes was the first person I thought of when I saw the portrait of Lord Siverton!
JMR- Would you describe the genre of Discerning Grace as historical fiction or historical romance? How would you describe the difference between the two?
EL- Great question! It was only after some excellent advice from a couple of literary agents who I queried that I realized I’d blurred the lines between historical fiction, women’s fiction, and romance. So, after a substantial re-write to tighten up the voice of my novel, I’m now pushing Discerning Grace out into the world as historical women’s fiction, and re-querying agents who asked for a revise and resubmit. I’m hoping that Grace Baxter will appeal to the same readers who love Claire Fraser from Outlander, and Demelza Poldark from Poldark. In other words, fans of feisty historical female leads. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t an element of romance in my novels, it just means that it doesn’t follow the romance formula.
The romance genre has quite a distinct arc in the relationship between the two main characters, with a resolution to this relationship coming to a (usually) happy-ever-after scenario at the end of the book. It also zooms in on the more intimate moments between the two love interests (touches, glances, and proffered love).
The women’s fiction genre focuses more on the story arc of the female lead, independently of any love interests. It explores the character’s journey and the effects it has on her along the way, including how she manages challenges and grows from experiences. In Grace’s instance, she has to stay disguised as a young man aboard a ship of roughened sea dogs, and then ultimately stand her ground as a woman among the patriarchal ranks. Throw in a few perils of life at sea on an exploration vessel that is mapping the world, and Grace ends up on the adventure of a lifetime.
JMR- Great comparison Emma.
JMR- How can readers find and follow you on the web/social media?
EL- For anyone interested in keeping up to date with where Discerning Grace is in the publishing process, I’d love to have you aboard my monthly newsletter, By the Book.
Otherwise you can find me on my author website, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
JMR- What question were you hoping I’d ask but didn’t?
EL- None. Sorry. You asked some excellent questions!!!
JMR- Thank you Emma, it was a great pleasure to have you here today. Great answers and we look forward to seeing your book released.
Readers, don't miss a single interview or review! Subscribe today!