Author Spotlight caught up with Lucinda Clarke on safari. I don’t think you need any particular excuse to travel in Africa, giraffes will do it for me. Why not combine a trip to the dark continent to craft a unique adventure? Without further ado, here’s Lucinda!
Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I never know how to answer this! I’ve written three full memoirs to get it all down on paper, but briefly, I was born in Dublin, dragged up in the south of England and finished off in college in the north of England. Moved around the UK then took off for Libya, and several other African countries. Now I’ve retired in Spain.
How did you get started on your writing journey?
A failed audition at the drama department of the South African Broadcasting Corporation, when I was told I wasn’t much good as an actress but to go home and write. I did and I won the playwright of the year award – which was pretty amazing as my Ex had retrieved the mss from the rubbish, covered in spaghetti and I’d had to insert all the letter ‘n’s by hand as the n had fallen off the typewriter.
After that, there was no stopping me.
Are there any poets or writers who influence you? How so?
I honestly don’t think so. I like reading stories that are clever with twists and turns which keep me guessing until the end. I’ve enjoyed Jean Plaidy books in particular, although she doesn’t meet any of the criteria above!
I have 8 books out now, 9 if you include my novella. I’m multi-genre, 3 memoirs, 1 comedy and 4 action adventure which probably means I’m schizophrenic as well! I’ll chat about the Amie series where I take a young girl away from her cozy home in London and plant her in an African country she’d never heard of and then I conjure up a civil war. I’m pretty mean to her, but she obviously survives as she appears in books 2, 3 and 4.
How is the title significant?
Scientifically – I reckoned that a character beginning with the letter A would come up early in listings and then I spelled it a little differently so it would be as unique as possible. Type Amie (blah blah) into Amazon and she comes up at the top. Sneaky!
Tell us a little bit about the characters? What are they like and how did you come up with them?
There is a bit of Amie in me as I went to Africa as an expat and remember what it was like. I was a teacher for a long time and I like to share knowledge and I wanted to give readers an insight into the real Africa as I saw it, not, as the media portrays it. It’s not skin colour which everyone assumes, but the mindset, aspirations and expectations of a totally different culture. I wanted to bring this to life.
Who do you think would like your story and what kind of readership are you aiming for?
I suspect my books appeal to an older generation both men and women, as I can’t write sex scenes without giggling, there is minimal romance in them and adventure stories are not particularly in vogue right now with the younger crowd.
What is the message you are trying to get across in your book?
I want to share one important message – do not judge and compare another culture with your own. Different groups of people think and react differently. We are all human, and equally important, but we have different lifestyles.
Chaotic! I adore peace and quiet and we live in a little rabbit hutch so I often have to compete with the radio and TV and my adorable husband chattering away or skyping the kids in Australia! I use the dining room table during the day and the laptop on my knees on the sofa in the evening. I moan that Dickens had a proper place to write (I had a study in South Africa), but my wailing falls on deaf ears.
How do you go about editing your story?
On the first draft I change the font and size, read through on-screen make corrections and then bundle it off to my editor in Australia and wait for the screams.
Where did you find your cover artist and what was the process like?
I’ve used 4 in total if I don’t count myself. The initial cover for my first book Walking over Eggshells I did and I just want to dig myself into a hole when I look at it – it was so awful and I wish Amazon would take it off my page! I’ve learned a lot since then and now use professionals. I’m not very good at telling them what I want, I’ll know when I see it, but I’m lousy at directing the graphic artists.
How did you go about getting published?
In the 1990’s I was traditionally published by the Big 5, educational books, and got the royalty upfront and all that. Sadly I had to turn down subsequent contracts as I needed to put food on the table and clothe the kids, and writing for radio and television paid immediately. When I began scribbling books in retirement I realised I didn’t have time to find another agent, submit to publishers etc and I also did the maths. Since they don’t market much for you, I might as well do it all myself and keep every cent. Also, I’m in control and I’m not about to sign away rights to Amie and her adventures.
What was your self-publishing experience like?
A huge learning curve and after 4 years I’m still learning, it’s never ending. I’m a novice when it comes to marketing and hopeless at maths and statistics, so can never figure out what works. But I have such a passion for books it makes up for the frustrations.
What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?
Pros – control eg prices drops and promos, copyright ownership, entering awards, ease of changing and correcting even after publication. Cons – hard work, hours and hours of it, no back up team, difficulty getting into bookshops and libraries, some indie books are on sale and not quite ready to be published.
The ease and the comparative low-cost of getting your book out on sale. Each one of mine is taking longer as I hope I make each one better.
How do you go about promoting your book as a self-published author?
Every which way I can think of. Facebook, Twitter, blog, newsletter giving a free book to sign up, guest blogs, radio interviews, local newspapers, adverts on FB and Amazon, entering awards – you name it, I’ve tried it.
Is there something about the whole process you wish someone had told you before? Good or bad?
Before I jumped on the roundabout that marketing is sheer hell. I used to be a gentle, quite, retiring soul and I’m now morphing into a loud, screeching virgo screaming ‘buy my books!’ I tell you it’s life changing. If readers don’t know you or your book they are not going to buy them.
Don’t order the mega yacht just yet. Good books sink into oblivion, bad books top the charts and while you should always make your book the best it can be there is a huge element of luck involved – who you know and right time, right place. Do it because you have a passion for writing, not for the cheque at the end of the month. I earned my living by writing for 40 years, but that included radio, TV, adverts, newspapers, mayoral speeches, leaflets, brochures, corporates, governmental etc. See where I am going? To make money you have to be prepared to be flexible and write what the client tells you to write. My most lucrative topic was urine diversion toilets, now that is just so glamorous! You do as you’re told and bank the cheque. It’s only today I can write as, when, and how I want.
What plans do you have for the future of your writing?
I’ve just published the 4th in the Amie series, so I’m tossing up whether to drag my children’s book out from under the bed, or write another Amie or even go back to Fairyland and continue the story of Cinderella now she has her divorce from King Charming. In the meantime I write another chapter of my back stories to Amie in my monthly newsletter, and I’ve just finished the second book The very Worst Riding School in the World – part 1 is free on Amazon and all platforms.
What are you social accounts if people want to connect with you?
Do you remember the days when we had one address? Not any more!
Blog link http://lucindaeclarke.wordpress.com then add date
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lucinda-E-Clarke/e/B00FDWB914/
Web page: http://lucindaeclarkeauthor.com
Twitter: @LucindaEClarke https://twitter.com/LucindaEClarke
Newsletter sign up: http://eepurl.com/c480ff