Today, I am delighted to welcome Emma Lombard into the Library. She has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into her life as an author.
Before becoming a historical fiction author, Emma 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 professional voices on social media. She also writes a monthly column for ENVIE Magazine, in which she shares publishing industry resources for authors.
She is the author of the upcoming historical adventure, Discerning Grace.
Are you an avid reader? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?
I inhaled books when I was younger—across all genres. My first ‘adult’ book that I read when I was 12-years-old was ‘The Power of One’ by Bryce Courtney. It was the first book that made me sob out loud. I had no idea books had that power! My reading tastes then swiftly moved to Wilbur Smith’s historical Courtney family saga, with my favourite book being ‘The Burning Shore’. Through my teens, I also devoured dozens of Danielle Steele and Joan Collins novels. With an insatiable appetite for reading, I stopped using book covers and blurbs as my attraction to a book, but rather chose books by the whopping size of their spine. This led me to read ‘The Clan of the Cave Bear’ series, ‘Shantaram’, which I absolutely loved, and my latest door-stopper find was Diana Gabaldon’s ‘Outlander’ series. Since I’ve become an author, I spend more time writing than I do reading, but I do still like to squeeze in a book or two here and there.
Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?
I would have to say Wilbur Smith. He writes amazing romantic adventures and sweeping family sagas with unforgettable characters. While writing larger-than-life adventures that span the globe, he always weaves in great romantic elements between his characters. I adore Smith’s descriptions of the African wild (especially after having lived there myself). I wanted to emulate that same romantic adventure feeling with my own books, so you can imagine how tickled pink I was when one of my beta readers said that my early manuscript had a Wilbur Smith feel to it. I hadn’t even let my beta readers know this tidbit of information, so it was the highest compliment of my burgeoning writing career!
Has your country of origin/culture influenced your writing?
Moving to multiple countries has always meant having a new place to learn about. I think, sometimes, when you’re born and live in one place, you don’t always get to know the history of the town or country where you live in as much detail as when discovering it for the first time as a new resident. Moving across the globe has given me an appreciation of exploring new places. I adore travelling! And I’m a sucker for castles and stately homes. A happy day for me is one immersed in a museum, or on a guided tour around a city. Put me in Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris (France), or in South Bridge Vaults in Edinburgh (Scotland), or in the ruins of Pompeii (Italy), or in the Sterkfontein Caves in Muldersdrift (South Africa), or in the goldmining town of Sovereign Hill in Ballarat (Australia), and I’m in my element! Knit this together with my long love of reading historical fiction, and it was inevitable that being a historical fiction author was on the horizon for me.
What was the best piece of writing advice you received when starting out?
To give my main character, Grace Baxter, more agency instead of her being a victim of circumstance. I was pushed to get her to create and direct her own circumstances. This was a bit more of a challenge having a female lead character in the early 1800s because of societal restrictions on women in those days. But I also figured that there had to be pioneering women, even back then, who broke the mould. Since Grace is inspired by my three times great grandmother, who indeed bucked the norm in her day by leaving her well-to-do family in England to elope with an English sea captain and live with him at sea, I felt I had a little more leeway to play with when writing Grace’s character. And besides, what’s a rollicking romantic adventure without a feisty heroine!
If a movie were made of one of your books, who would you like to play the lead roles?
I actually presented this question to my beta readers one time, and we got into a riotous conversation about it—so fun! We ended up agreeing that Keira Knightly would make a fantastic Grace Baxter because she’s small, slim and well-talented to play the part of Grace’s slightly un-gracious London socialite persona, and double up as lad in disguise hiding in plain sight as a ship’s servant. Chris Hemsworth secured himself the role as Lieutenant Fitzwilliam. His height and blond hair are a perfect match to Seamus, and he’d brilliantly portray Seamus as a chivalrous yet unbending Royal Navy Lieutenant whose life is blown to smithereens by an equally wilful lass. I’ve always envisaged the ship sets of Cape Town Film Studios in South Africa being used for my books (cough cough, any film producers, these sets are already built and ready to use … just saying …) These sets were used to film ‘Black Sails’ and the ship scenes for the Season 3 of ‘Outlander’. Since ships play a big part in each book in my series, I would love them to feature prominently in the movie or tv show.
If you could travel back in time, what era would you go to? What draws you to this particular time?
I know I’d have to join a loooong line at the standing stones at Craig Na Dun in the Scottish Highlands to go back to the 1700s to be with Jamie Fraser, but I reckon it would be worth the wait! My Instagram profile doesn’t say, ‘Mentally married to Jamie Fraser’ for nothing. But in reality, I like my creature comforts just a bit too much, so I’m perfectly happy for my body to sit on my comfy couch under the aircon, and let my mind wander back in time instead.
Please tell us about your latest endeavours.
2020 has been a tough year all round for everyone. I began querying literary agents in 2019 and received seven requests for my manuscript to be read, but as 2020 evolved into the year of chaos, I didn’t even have one request, despite querying three times the number of agents. If that wasn’t a sign that things were tougher than ever, then the feedback I got from a couple of agents saying that the publishing climate was at its toughest at the moment just cemented it. While a little disappointed, I’m certainly not undeterred, and I plan to query my first book, Discerning Grace, directly with publishers in 2021, while I continue writing the rest of my series. In the meantime, I have a fun and entertaining monthly newsletter, By the Book, for readers to hop aboard. Or you can find me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.