Joanna Lambert joins me today here in my hometown along the shore of the St. Lawrence River. The sun is shining, it’s not oppressively hot and there is a beautiful breeze whispering through the trees surrounding my back yard. Since it’s such a nice day, I thought we would sit out on my deck, chat over some ice-cold lemonade and watch the birds and other wildlife come drink at either the birdbath or the waterfall fountain I have in one corner of the deck. I hope you’re not allergic to bees because they come to drink, too.
Your novels in the original Behind Blue Eyes Trilogy are all less than 300 pages. Did you ever contemplate putting them together into one novel? If so, what changed your mind?
Actually the manuscript was originally planned as one large book . When I submitted to my current publisher, however, they would only take it in a two or three way split as it was too large and would have made the resale price prohibitive.
I know you self-published these books, was that a consideration in making three books?
Yes, as I said above, the publishers liked the book but as they work out sale prices on page count, the resale price would have been astronomical. I really wanted to keep the manuscript as one book and knew there was no way I could cut anything out or change the storyline to make it smaller. So there was no alternative, I had to split it. I decided on a three way rather than a two and have to say, although it was hard work doing the rewrites, the whole thing turned out really well!
Had you tried the traditional route before deciding on “going it alone”?
Yes, I had sent the original manuscript to several agents. I did get some really positive feedback but it was always a case of ‘thanks but no thanks’ and there were comments about it being a very large manuscript. It was when I came to self-publish and was faced with having to split my work that I wondered whether the whole thing might have been a more attractive package had I marketed it as three separate books.
Will there be more involving the characters you’ve introduced us to after Between Today and Yesterday?
Yes, there will be one last book before I move onto something completely new. This time Matt and Ella are very much in the background and it is the young adults who feature in Between Today and Yesterday who are the central characters who drive the plot. I’m not quite there yet but what happens is going to be every bit as surprising as what goes on in Between Today and Yesterday.
Your original covers on your first three books were attractive, why did you decide to go with something more, shall I say bold? Have you noticed any increase in sales since your new covers went live?
I did like my original covers very much. I chose them and felt they were right for each of the books. However, it was when I had lunch with a fellow writer that she emphasised the importance of being ‘branded’. She put me in touch with her own cover designer Jane Dixon Smith who worked with me to produce the new look. I wanted to have a character on each of the covers. So we have Ella, Andy and Matt on the trilogy and Marcie on the cover of Between Today and Yesterday. The first three were done when the trilogy had been out for some time but there was definitely a slight surge in sales – although people who had already bought got in touch to say they were keen to get a set with the new covers!
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
I think self-belief and determination are both very important. The writing journey can sometimes be difficult – there are good days you have when things go right and bad days when either the inspiration dries up or no matter what you write you’re not happy with. When that happens you need to stay calm, hang on in there and convince yourself it’s just a passing phase. Better still, close down the computer and come back to it later. You’ll be surprised what a difference that can make!
The other piece of advice is get yourself an editor. Having written four books now I know being the writer makes you far too close to your work and you just don’t see things that a fresh pair of eyes will pick up. Believe me, a good editor can make all the difference!
When you’re not writing, what other hobbies do you enjoy?
Writing does take up a good deal of my time, but I also like to read – I have a Kindle but do occasionally get given the odd paperback to read as well. I’m working part time now and allocate one of my free days for seeing friends and work colleagues I’ve kept in touch with over the years. It’s great to meet for lunch and catch up on news. I also love theatre (we’re really lucky in Bath having the Theatre Royal where we get a lot of pre-London productions). Oh and I love the cinema too – we’ve a really good multiplex in the city.
Thanks for joining me here today on Celtic Connexions. It was good to see you. Maybe next time, we can take a little walking tour along the waterfront.