Today’s author spotlight caught up with Lisa Shambrook, strolling though the mists and heather of the Welsh countryside she calls home. Rumour has it she is actually searching for Excalibur. Without further ado, here’s…Lisa!
Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Imagination has always been my strongest passion, and growing up writing, along with reading and art, was always part of my life. I wanted to be an author and illustrator when I was young, but my words came faster and stronger than my art, and writing became my passion. Now I’m married with a grown up (almost) family and the time I need to write. My family is a huge support and are my greatest critics, and they were my reason for beginning to write years ago.
I grew up in Brighton, on the South East coast of England, close to the ocean and a love of the wild and calm of the sea has influenced my writing right from the start. I chose to move to West Wales to bring up my family and the myths, and legends, and nature of Wales continue to inspire me!
How did you get started on your writing journey?
Sixteen years ago I read Harry Potter and realised that writing a book was within my reach too. I began a fantasy trilogy written around my three children. It was fun and the children loved it, but it needed drastic improvement to become something good. I spent several years learning and honing my craft, and in 2013 I released the first of the Hope Within novels. They are very different from the trilogy I began many years ago, but have been well received and taught me much.
Are there any poets or writers who influence you? How so?
In general the writers who have influenced me are fantasy writers. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis were my teenage inspirations taking me into new worlds and igniting my imagination, and now I am hugely inspired by Garth Nix and Patrick Rothfuss. I adore anything that helps me escape and opens my mind.
Let’s talk about your novel! What is it about?
The Hope Within books: ‘Beneath the Rainbow’, ‘Beneath the Old Oak’, and ‘Beneath the Distant Star’ deal with difficult subjects but are uplifting and inspiring. The main theme of ‘Beneath the Rainbow’ is living life to the full and reaching for those so-called impossible dreams. The book’s tagline reads “It’s those silly dreams that keep us alive.” and sometimes they really do! Reach for those distant stars! The following books deal with contemporary mental health issues entangled with enchantment and vision, culminating in reaching those dreams we grasp for.
How is the title significant?
All three books are linked with the word ‘Beneath’. The titles are significant because in each book the characters relate to them intrinsically.
Where did inspiration for this come from?
I wanted titles that entwined all three books, and as we often find ourselves looking up for inspiration – at rainbows, glorious trees and the star-filled night sky, ‘Beneath’ is the right word!
Tell us a little bit about the characters? What are they like and how did you come up with them?
My characters are a mixture of my imagination fused with a fair bit of me. For these books I have used the wisdom of writing what I know, so I found much of myself woven into the protagonists. Meg, in ‘Beneath the Old Oak’, and her mother, Martha, are a big fusion of my own anxieties and experiences, but that means the writing is realistic and contains much truth. Jasmine, Freya’s young sister in ‘Beneath the Distant Star’ also relied a lot on experiences with my daughter and her own anger issues, and again it makes for painful reading but great authenticity and spark!
For my new series, I am concentrating on developing characters that don’t rely on my own experiences, but I think many authors integrate a smidgen of their own lives into their characters even if we don’t mean to!
Who do you think would like your story and what kind of readership are you aiming for?
My readers come from all walks of life and all ages, and I’ve had wonderful feedback from those who’ve felt uplifted and moved by my stories.
What is the message you are trying to get across in your book?
I love the beauty in life and my writing reflects that. I want to enchant and inspire, and the Hope Within novels do that. These books cover grief, depression, self-harm, anger issues and bullying, and my characters have to fight to discover themselves. I’ve suffered anxiety and clinical depression for most of my life and so the themes weave easily into the books with compassion and empathy. I want to inspire and help lift people who suffer with mental health issues and let them know they can rise above it.
What is your writing process like?
My process is to sit and write, to let the words flow, and to allow my imagination to soar.
How do you go about editing your story?
My books go through many, many revisions and lots of edits before going to Betas and Editors.
Where did you find your cover artist and what was the process like?
My cover art and interior design has always been important to me. I want to produce a professional book and go to great lengths to achieve this. My Publishing Partners are Blue Harvest Creative and I am a BHC Author. I have, so far, provided my own images and Blue Harvest has turned my images and ideas into beautiful covers and books. At book fairs I’ve been congratulated on the professional covers and interiors and people often don’t think I am indie published. BHC Authors are great and they have a successful ARC reading program which helps get our books out there.
How did you go about getting published?
I first published on my own with no idea how, and it went nowhere. I re-released ‘Beneath the Rainbow’ in 2013 with Blue Harvest Creative on board and have gone from strength to strength.
What was your self-publishing experience like?
Indie publishing is a tough business, and it’s your responsibility to keep your work professional and in the public eye. It’s not easy.
What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?
The pros are keeping control, a good return on royalties, and being able to continue to promote your books even when you’re working on new ones.
The cons are marketing. I’m an introvert so putting myself out there as a brand is hard and not comfortable, but I’m getting better at it. You need to put time into social media, platform building, and local exposure, like book fairs etc. It’s very time-consuming and wearing, especially as most authors would prefer to spend all their spare time writing, not marketing! Also with indie publishing you have to spend out on editors, cover designers etc to get your book out there, so all the initial financial outlay is yours, though this is also spreading to the publishing sector, as a fair amount of traditionally published are also expected to find their own editors etc these days too.
What were the surprises? Good or bad? If so, what were they?
The best surprises are the reactions from readers! Beautiful reviews, and when someone tells you your book helped them through a tough time, that’s beyond amazing!
How do you go about promoting your book as a self-published author?
Pretty much as an indie author a fair deal of time is spent building a fan base, through social media and local exposure. I am thoroughly enjoying book fairs recently and looking forward to more!
Is there something about the whole process you wish someone had told you before? Good or bad?
I wish I’d started it earlier! As an author you have to play the long game. Nothing happens overnight and you have to work hard, really hard for your own reputation and fan base!
Do you have any advice for writers who want to self-publish?
Edit, edit, edit…make your book as professional and polished as you can. Try not to let it out into the wild with grammar or spelling errors. Even the best have the odd typo, but polish it to the best you can. And it pays hugely to get fantastic beta readers who can point out the things you’re too close to see when you’re writing!
What plans do you have for the future of your writing?
I have just released a Post-Apocalyptic collection of connected stories with an amazing group of authors called ‘Human 76’ and I am researching and world-building for my next series. I am writing about Wales far, far into the future: ‘Centuries beyond post-apocalyptic, the landscape of Wales has turned into a whole new country…and the rumble of dragons has returned…’
In the meantime, I am preparing a collection of short stories to release at the end of the year. These will connect my Hope Within books and my new chronicles, and will follow the theme of dragons…
What are you social accounts if people want to connect with you?
Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/LisaShambrookAuthor
BHC Author Page: http://www.bhcauthors.com/Author_Lisa_Shambrook.html
Etsy Shop: www.etsy.com/uk/shop/AmaranthAlchemy