I would like to welcome Author Lucinda Brant to Layered Pages today to talk about her writing as part as the writing series I am conducting.
Why do you write?
The short answer is because I have to! I have so many stories I want to tell, and this drives me on. I think I have the opposite of writer’s block (whatever that is called). Why I choose to write historical romance and mystery is because of my love of history, and placing fictional characters in an historical setting allows me to create an entire world within an 18th Century setting.
There have only been two periods in my life when I have not spent time writing fiction. The first was when I was at university. Academic writing as a discipline is quite structured and has a particular set of requirements (though I still kept notebooks on research and storylines). The second was when my daughter was born. Writing and bringing up baby just don’t mix, well, for me, anyway. So I put my writing aside until my daughter went off to pre-school.
I remember writing my first stories from about the age of five, and then when I was in Primary school I wrote plays, which my friends and I would perform in the playground at lunchtimes, with me directing (of course!). One of my plays was performed before the entire school. It dealt with the final moments of Abraham Lincoln’s life and his assassination. Rather solemn material for a ten year old. I remember the rehearsals, and costumes, and as I wrote and directed it I was intent on it being the perfect production. The actors did me proud and the audience really enjoyed it. We were given a standing ovation.
In High school, I wrote historical fiction for my friends, usually during Math class. Not because I wasn’t good at math, but because the subject was boring (to me). The pages would get passed around and my friends would critique the latest instalment. All hand written and on ruled exercise book paper. For an English assignment when I was 15, I wrote a story about the Salem witch burnings. The students turn on their teacher, accusing her of being a witch, and she is burned at the stake. I wasn’t particularly fond of my English teacher at the time, and it was quite bold of me to hand in this piece of prose for her to mark. She entered my piece in a state wide creative writing competition, and I won. I still have the purple sash.
If I were a school leaver today, I would have gone on to do a creative writing or script writing degree. Those types of degrees weren’t available to me. Universities were very traditional, offering degrees that provided for professions such as medicine, science, law, teaching, accounting etc. I worked hard enough at school to be accepted into a combined degree of arts and law. It wasn’t what I wanted to do, but at that time making a living from writing was akin to saying you wanted to be an astronaut, so I went off to university to study politics, history and law. Once I’d graduated and was “out in the real world” it was back to the 18th century for me at nights and weekends.
How has writing impacted your life?
Again the short answer is enormously! As a child I wrote to lose myself in the worlds I created, so I guess it was a kind of therapy. I was able to escape reality through reading, and writing enabled me to imagine possibilities outside my immediate childhood environment. Coming from a very English background, to be poor was not something you ever spoke about because it was considered shameful, but we were poor. We were poor enough that my school uniform (mandatory and a godsend really because I did not have to worry about what to wear each day) came from the school’s second-hand clothing pool. But we were not as poor as some because at least we had our house, but it meant we did not go on annual holidays, and what money there was my mother spent wisely on what was necessary, food and running a house.
But for me I didn’t feel that poor because I loved to read, I enjoyed school, and there was the local library, where my dad and I would spend our weekends reading. I read everything I could get my hands on, and read the classics from an early age—Tolstoy, George Eliot, Jane Austen, Evelyn Waugh, Edith Wharton, Henry James; the list goes on. And in my spare time I also wrote. Without the distractions of TV and boring old annual holidays, reading and writing allowed me to escape into all sorts of worlds. I went on mental holidays and always to an historical place. So I time travelled to the Egypt of the pharaohs, Carthage when Hannibal ruled, on to Elizabethan England and when I landed in the 18th Century I felt right at home, and here I have stayed.
Of course it took decades before I earned any money from my writing, and then that was sporadic at best, because while I won competitions, prizes, and was signed up by a top agent, I have never followed any writing trends. I never wrote “what’s hot right now”, and that seems to change weekly. And my books take months of research and then writing, so about ten months from outline to publication. I write my 18th Century family sagas and my way. So until self-publishing came along and enabled me to find my audience, I have always had paid employment.
Family and friends knew I wrote, but they considered it my hobby. But all those years spent in university administration and teaching were to fund my writing habit (and of course help feed the family!)!
Self-publishing, more importantly digital self-publishing, has enabled readers to find me. I knew if I could just get my books in front of readers, they would enjoy them as much as I enjoy writing them.
So in the space of a few short years, here I am, making a living from writing full-time. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to make the dizzying heights of #4 in all fiction on the New York Times bestseller list, and #1 romance on the USA Today bestseller list, but that is icing on the cake. The best part is being able to bring readers the stories I love to write and they love to read, and I get to spend my days living in the 18th Century!
What advice would you give to beginner writers?
The good news for writers today is there are so many options and avenues open to get your writing before readers. You can go the traditional route and submit to a big 5 publisher, and/or an agent. You can self publish in print with Amazon Create Space or Lighting Source. And you can publish your writing through a slew of digital eRetailers. That’s the easy part.
Putting out a quality product and finding readership is the hard part. That takes lots of patience and lots of time (away from your writing). For independent writers it means not only writing the best book you can, but also editing, formatting, cover design, publishing, pricing, and then publicizing your book.
To be successful and to make a career of writing, you have to write from the heart what you are passionate about. And with historical fiction, you have to know your subject area inside out. I’ve been researching and collecting books on the 18th Century for over 30 years. I don’t overwhelm the reader with what I know, but it is there in the small details, as I hope is the passion for story telling.
You need to invest in your product. I could never do this all by myself, and I can’t. I am not an expert in every facet of publishing. Because I want my readers to have the best reading experience I have a team of wonderfully talented people who help me bring my books to readers—two editors, a translator, two cover illustrators, three narrators (one for each series), a book designer and a publisher.
In today’s publishing world it’s not getting published that’s difficult, it’s the writing, and being found and read, then recommended. Be patient. Quality story telling endures.
Thank you, Stephanie for having me as your guest at Layered Pages. It’s been a privilege. Lucinda
LUCINDA BRANT is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Georgian historical romances & mysteries. She spends her days in the 18th Century, and drinks Nespresso coffee like water. Her novels have variously been described as from ‘the Golden Age of romance with a modern voice’, and ‘heart wrenching drama with a happily ever after’. Quizzing glass & quill, into my sedan chair & away! The 1700s rock! — Lucinda.