Today’s spotlight is shining brightly on the amazing Lucinda Clarke. Word has it, she is a tigress at heart, having learned the craft of writing during her journeys on the African continent. Exciting? I’d say so! What’s not to love about this G-R-R-R-EAT author? Without further ado, here’s…Lucinda!
Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I don’t feel I’m a very exciting person, although I’ve led a rather strange life. After a rather rocky start I married this wildly insane Walter Mitty character who took me to Africa and opened up a whole new world. I’ve lived in eight countries, in a mansion, a shoe box and on a boat. I’ve been worth millions and flat broke – all good experiences for a writer I think.
How did you get started on your writing journey?
My Grandfather had a newspaper in China and I so wanted to follow in his footsteps. He was a foreign correspondent for two major daily newspapers in London, and I was convinced he’d just organize a job for me on the Times or the Telegraph. No such luck. I’ve been scribbling for as long as I can remember, it’s all I ever wanted to do, but I was a good girl and went to train to be a teacher as that was a proper job with a good pension. I was only 18, was I worried about pensions?
Are there any poets or writers who influence you? How so?
You can see how down to earth I am when I mention Enid Blyton. I was entranced by her books and remember thinking ‘I could do that,’ (precocious brat). After that I graduated to William Harrison Ainsworth and Jean Plaidy as they wrote historical books, my second love.
Let’s talk about your novel! What is it about?
Amie an African Adventure was really the answer to whether I could write a novel. I’ve earned my living from writing since 1987 (whoops, give away in age there!), but honestly I used a typewriter with carbon paper. My first stories were on a machine without the letter t which I had to insert by hand. I’d written links when I was on the radio in Benghazi, Libya, and then pieces for a radio drama audition at the South African Broadcasting Service and I was told I’d never be that good as an actress but to go home and write. And I did and I won a national play award. From then I was commissioned by the SABC and later wrote scripts for TV and anybody else who would pay me, I wasn’t too proud to take money from anyone. One Monday I write about how good potato chips were for you for the crisp company and on Wednesday how chips would send you off in a box early for the Meat Marketing Board. My first books were memoirs and writing a full length novel was a challenge I couldn’t ignore.
How is the title significant?
I was crafty here. I thought people looking for books in lists often start with the letter A so my heroine’s name should be A… Amy seemed good but then I saw there were lots of Amy books so I spelled it differently and earlier in the alphabet. For the subtitle I thought I should mention Africa so people would know what it was about, and she certainly has an adventure.
Where did inspiration for this come from?
If I find out I’ll let you know! Stories just pop into my head and I wanted to share my love of Africa with other people. Some of my best times were riding my horse through the bush in Botswana. On my Facebook page it says ‘While I’m writing about Africa, I can dream I’m still there.’
Tell us a little bit about the characters? What are they like and how did you come up with them?
Amie was just a very ordinary, used to her western comforts girl who had her life all decided. At the start of the book it’s all going to plan, marriage to her school sweetheart, even the parents and in-laws are friends, then I send her to Africa. Big culture shock, so many preconceptions shattered, she’s in a different world, culture, mindset, value system and it takes some getting used to. Up to this point, I’m setting the scene for what will follow as the pace picks up drastically as she becomes embroiled in a few nasty situations, and then civil war breaks out and it’s a fight for survival from then on.
Who do you think would like your story and what kind of readership are you aiming for?
Definitely a mixed gender audience. I couldn’t write a sex scene to save my life and I’ve always loved action and adventure stories and this is both. Often I can’t find a suitable category in the promo drop down lists as they seldom consider this genre. It’s a book to take the reader away to Africa and live the adventure with Amie.
What is the message you are trying to get across in your book?
I wanted to share my experiences of the real Africa with others. As I mention in the book, it’s not a question of colour but cultures and mindsets that may be different, and both have their place. Too often we judge another culture without understand motivations and I hoped to explain a little of that by opening minds to new ways of looking at things.
What is your writing process like?
Chaotic I guess. I try to balance the marketing with writing – I’m about a quarter way through Amie 3 right now. I set myself so many words to do each day, a low number I can usually achieve and grab the time when I am on my own and it’s quiet. I have a vague idea for a story and it sort of evolves as I go along.
How do you go about editing your story?
I have a professional editor and she is really, really tough. After 30+ years as a professional writer I was confident I knew how to write. Note the past tense – when it came to books I was back in kindergarten. Radio and TV plays fine (if the 21 awards prove it), books – another matter.
Where did you find your cover artist and what was the process like?
I was incredibly lucky as my ex boss in Africa takes pictures for National Geographic and offered to do covers for Amie 1 and 2 and has already offered for Amie 3. He’s a really cool photographer and becoming well known internationally.
How did you go about getting published?
In the 1989/91 era I was commissioned on the strength of my radio work to write 2 educational text books by two of the Big Five. I remembered the size of my royalty cheques – pitiful. I’d had an agent at one time, but she only tried my children’s book with only one publisher and later I sent off a few early works to publishers but was turned down by them all. I was too busy writing to put bread on the table, so I didn’t bother to make much of an effort. It was only after I retired to Spain that the bug to write something I wanted to write, and as long as I wanted it, (I could ignore the exact timings required in the media) was amazing. And then the opportunity to self publish? No contest. I’ve turned down two offers since then, I’m staying independent.
What was your self-publishing experience like?
At the beginning it was a nightmare. Did my own cover, used the wrong fonts inside, uploaded it and waited for the loot to pour in. I was on the point of ordering the ocean-going yacht when I noticed there was no money coming in at all and I couldn’t understand it. Was the book that bad? (It probably was). In 12 months I sold maybe two dozen copies. Then I learned about the advertising / marketing strategies, or rather started to, I’m still learning. It had never occurred to me I would need to go out there and tell people about it.
What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?
PROS – more financial return on sales – control over pricing and promotions – control over choice of cover and changing if necessary – nail biting moments as you check your sales graph for the millionth time each day – keeping your copyright – no restraint of trade should you happen to part company with publishers – regular payments into your bank account (unlikely the big A will go bust any time soon) – a sense of total ownership and return on the amount of effort you are prepared to put in.
CONS – difficulty in getting your print books into stores – the attitude that you’re not a real writer because if you were, the Big Five would be beating a path to your door – you’re only playing with this publishing thing because you’re not very good – the 24/7 marketing and learning how to Facebook and Twitter and Linkedin and Google+ circles and Pinterest and the list is endless – it’s exhausting. Take a health check before you start all this!
What were the surprises? Good or bad? If so, what were they?
Huge surprise as I was used to the media world in radio and TV where we were friends but a little guarded about our projects – basically we were in competition, but the Indie author world is amazing and I still can’t believe how helpful and friendly everyone is. They will go out of their way to help at no cost and cheer you up when you’re down and really understand what you are going through like no other community – even my real life friends don’t really understand the horror of a flatline day. On the bad side there are a few trolls out there, but life is not perfect.
How do you go about promoting your book as a self-published author?
You name it, I’ve tried it. As many of the social media outlets as I’ve managed to work out so far – a couple of book signings, which were not a huge success. Living in Spain, I’m pretty much restricted to online communication, even the radio interviews and newspaper articles here have not brought in many sales. Our community is elderly (like me) and they all buy big name paperbacks for cents from the charity shops, so I’m up against that.
Is there something about the whole process you wish someone had told you before? Good or bad?
You have to market and you will be at it morning, noon and night.
Do you have any advice for writers who want to self-publish?
Decide why you are self publishing – for vanity, just to have a book on your shelf to admire, or do you want to turn it into a business? If it’s the latter prepare for some very hard work, and, be prepared for bad reviews, so grow a thick skin, but also be prepared to listen to advice. Most importantly, when I made a series of videos for a major bank (use our bank so you can put up your house, wife, children, parents, car and the dog in hock to us) – seriously, the first episode they said, make sure your family go along with this and support you every step of the way.
What plans do you have for the future of your writing?
Not sure I should share these publicly, but let’s just say J.K. Rowling would be envious.
What are you social accounts if people want to connect with you?
I’ll post all of them as I love hearing from readers. If anyone would like to go on the mailing list that would be great as they will get to hear early about new books and special promotions and giveaways.
Web page: http://lucindaeclarkeauthor.com
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lucinda-E-Clarke/e/B00FDWB914/
Excerpt from Amie:
“How many children do you have at this school?” she asked the headmistress.
“Just over six hundred, but they don’t all come every day.”
Amie turned to count the number of classrooms, there were twelve being used for teaching. “So that means you have about fifty children in each class?” she asked.
“Yes, they are large classes,” Mrs Motswezi replied, “but we have more in our pre-school, come we will go visit them next.”
Amie gazed at the crowd of small faces who turned to look at the visitors as they walked into the pre-school classroom. Some of the children smiled and jumping to their feet came to crowd round the new arrivals. As in every other classroom they had seen, Mrs Motswezi told the children that Amie was a visitor from England and as one the children chanted “Good morning visitor from England.”
Amie felt tears in her eyes as she gazed at the little faces. Some looked happy and eager, others looked sad and beaten, as if they knew, even at this early age, life was going to be one long struggle for survival. One child in particular caught her attention. Right at the very back was a small girl with the largest eyes Amie had ever seen. When the other children jumped to their feet, she noticed this little one was pushed to one side and she fell over before scrambling to her feet.
Mrs Motswezi saw Amie’s face and beckoned the teacher to come over and they spoke for a few moments in the local language.
“That little one has no parents and she is not thriving,” she told Amie pointing to the child she’d noticed. Maybe one day someone will take her and give her a good home, who knows. We don’t know where she comes from, she was found by the gate many months ago.”
Amie looked at the child again and wished she had something to give her. The child’s filthy dress was much too small for her and was torn in several places.
“Does she stay here in the hostel?” she asked the teacher, but it was Mrs Motswezi who answered.
“Yes, she has nowhere else to go. She is called Angelina, but I think God has forgotten this little Angel, we do the best we can for all our little ones.”
- Why Africa Needs More Science Fiction (iafrikan.com)
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