I’m chatting with Emma Lombard today, and discussing her fascinating novel, Discerning Grace. I must admit, when Emma revealed her favourite children’s book was The Magic Faraway Tree, I was hooked. Mine too, Emma! Let’s hear more…
Before becoming a historical fiction author, Emma Lombard 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 voices on social media. She is the author of the upcoming historical adventure, Discerning Grace. To connect with Emma or enquire about being a guest blogger, head to her author website.
Historical adventure with a twist of romance
London 1826: 16-year-old Grace Baxter is NOT marrying old Lord Silverton with his dead-mouse stink and salivary incontinence. Refusing this fate, she disguises herself as a boy and flees aboard HMS Discerning, where her big mouth earns her a caning, reveals her identity, and forces Lieutenant Seamus Fitzwilliam to become her protector. Grace must now win over the crew she betrayed, while managing her feelings towards the taciturn Lieutenant.
And now to some chat…
What music do you listen to when you write (or don’t you)?
I am a lover of silence. Well, truthfully, when I’m writing, it’s not that silent in my head. The dialogue and sounds that I immerse myself into create enough noise, without the added distraction of external music. I also prefer to write when nobody is about, but with four teenage sons that’s not always possible. At times, I may or may not have needed to be drawn out of my writing world by incessant calls of, “Mum … Mum! … MUM!!”
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections or themes between each book?
I currently have four books in my series drafted (note, I said drafted because some of the latter manuscripts still need a jolly good scrubbing!) Book One is complete, edited and hitting the querying trenches as I type. I love reading a long series where you can immerse yourself into another world and get to know the characters intimately through several books, so it felt perfectly natural for me to write a series too. It has been a joy to evolve my characters from their young and naïve selves in Book One, and mature them through their life experiences in subsequent books.
What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?
Little Stones by Elizabeth Kuiper.
Hannah lives in Zimbabwe during the reign of Robert Mugabe. It’s a country of petrol queues and power cuts, food shortages and government corruption. Yet Hannah is lucky. She can afford to go to school, has never had to skip a meal, and lives in a big house with her mum and their Shona housekeeper. Hannah is wealthy, she is healthy and she is white. But money can’t always keep you safe. As the political situation becomes increasingly unstable and tensions within Hannah’s family escalate, her sheltered life is threatened. She is forced to question all that she’s taken for granted, including where she belongs.
What resonated so clearly with me about this book is that I was Hannah. As a child who grew up in Zimbabwe, this book emulated my childhood so realistically and poignantly. It evoked a gamut of emotions and I laughed, gasped and cried as I recognised places and situations that brought back a flood of memories I haven’t thought about in over 30 years.
Specific to your newest release:
What kind of research did you do, and how long did it take you?
The irony of me writing a historical naval adventure is not lost on me, since I get terribly sea sick. Any grand notions of immersing myself aboard a tall-ship sailing-experience were totally out of the question (no matter how much my heart desired it). I had to make do with visiting a few ships museums (solidly dry docked) to garner a feel for shipboard life.
The idea of writing my naval novel had been percolating for many years, so while some of my visits to ships museums were not intentionally for research, I was certainly able to draw on the experiences and refer back to my photos while writing.
The serious research started about three months before I began writing, and has continued steadily as I write. My first stumbling block was realising how hard it was to find resources that discussed what life was like for women aboard tall ships in the 19th century. There was plenty of material about male sailors’ experiences, but since my main protagonist is a female, I needed to dig deep to find what I was looking for. For example, I had to consider how my main character, Grace, would handle her monthly rags aboard a ship full of men. My female beta readers have appreciated these little details.
What would you want readers to think when they reach “the end.”
I hope my readers will be able to sit back and sigh with satisfaction that my story wholly immersed them in another time and place with characters who they championed for. I’m so lucky to have had some marvellous beta reader feedback:
I loved Grace for her spunk, not taking any nonsense for anyone else (least of all Seamus), doing what she needed to protect herself from Silverton and standing up for herself. She was no wilting wallflower! I enjoyed the ‘happy-ever-after’ feeling of the ending.
My favourite of the main characters was Grace, because of how headstrong and resilient she was. As for my favourite part of the book—I think it would have to be when Seamus realises who Grace really is, because it was such a relief as a reader to have the truth out in the open, and I loved the dynamic between them in that scene, and how Grace makes him work for the truth.
What’s the best thing a reader has said about or written to you?
Naturally, it is expected that your friends and family will rally behind you and say lovely things about your writing, but I’ve been blown away by the complementary kindness of virtual strangers, who are online acquaintances or new followers.
Emma’s an amazing combination of wit and heart. I highly recommend her blog to artists seeking a platform.
Emma Lombard Author’s Twitter tips for Newbies is gold! Learning from her now. Apply it to any of your niches and type of work you do.
I’ve had the pleasure of beta reading Discerning Grace for Emma. Not only is she a fantastic writer, but she’s a joy to work with, super supportive of her fellow writers and an all-round lovely person. I can’t wait to see her debut novel out in the wild and I feel privileged to have been involved in her journey to publication.
Tea or Coffee—a daily bucket of latte, sweetened
Dark or Milk Chocolate—milk milk milk all the way
When were you the happiest? The day my first baby was born (I have four)
Favourite Children’s Book—The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton
Favourite Adult Novel—The Burning Shore by Wilbur Smith
Thanks so much for visiting, Emma.