I’m so pleased to have on my blog today Emma Lombard, historical fiction writer and Twitter expert. She has agreed to share about her writing and her best Twitter tips, so if you’re in the market for Twitter tips AND you want to hear about an intriguing historical fiction novel based on one of Emma’s relatives, keep reading.
1. Tell me about yourself.
I’m a bit of a globe trotter, not only having travelled to different continents but also having lived on different ones too! I was born in the UK, spent my childhood in Africa and my adulthood in Australia. I’m staying put now. I was eleven when I started writing my first novel and fourteen when I finished it. I had the incredible opportunity at the time (through a friend) to have my raw first draft put directly onto the desk of an editor at a large publishing house (oh, for that opportunity now!) Naturally, it was rejected (with some wonderful feedback, I might add). Alas, fourteen-year-old me didn’t cope very well with the rejection! So, I shelved the idea of writing for a while. It was only after my kids got to a more independent age that I began thinking seriously about switching careers from being an editor in the corporate world to a full-time writer.
2. Tell me about your novel’s origins: how it came about, how long it took to write, where it’s at in the publishing process, and anything else you’d like to share about it.
I corresponded by letter with my grandmother for most of my life (she lived in the UK) and it was in one of her letters to me, years ago, that she told me about my 3x great grandmother who eloped with an English sea captain when she was sixteen. The instant I read that little bit of juicy gossip, I knew I had the start of my first historical fiction novel. I started writing it seriously and with intent back in 2016. It evolved into four books but by late 2018, I realised I needed to go back to Book One and get it ready to query agents. So, after dozens and dozens of reads by my amazing beta readers, plus two professional developmental critiques, I was ready to send it to my editor. Being an editor myself, I know first hand that no matter how strong a writer you are, a fresh pair of eyes is essential. I’ve discovered with fiction editing, it is even more vital to get developmental feedback from seasoned eyes to spot plot holes or flag when your character is going off track. Plus, I am a chronic over-writer, so it was invaluable to get guidance about what storylines could be removed without it impacting the core of my novel. Having a professional editor to bounce things off has been the best investment in my writing career for teaching me to be a better writer. For anyone writing historical fiction, I highly recommend historical fiction specialist editor, Andrew Noakes from The History Quill.
I began querying agents midway through 2019 and I’ve had a couple of nibbles with a partial and a full request, which is deliciously exciting!
3. You commissioned some cover artwork for your novel. Please talk about that, the why, the who, and the result.
After researching how to build my author platform as a yet-to-be-published author (based on the invaluable advice of publishing guru, Jane Friedman), I really wanted to have something juicy to add to my new website, since I do not have a book out yet. So, I thought it would be wonderful to commission portraits of my main characters to display. Since I am planning to head down the traditionally published route, I don’t expect this artwork to be used on the cover of my novel, but I’m okay with that because the benefits of having my characters brought to life through illustration has been amazing.
I engaged the services of the supremely talented Sydney illustrator, Tara Phillips, after I tripped across her feed on Twitter. And as luck would have it, I had also entered a competition on Twitter by award-winning UK-based screenwriter, Eleonora Mignoli, who is also an amazing artist, and I won a portrait of my protagonist! So, now I have three wonderful characters to show on my website!
Little did I realise the stunning flow-on effect this would have for widening my exposure on my author platform (Twitter, Facebook and my website). Not only do I now have artwork that has now become part of my branding but I’ve even got one of my darling beta readers working on the most incredible piece of fan art! She is doing an enormous cross stitch of my two main characters, starting with Grace. Readers can have an exclusive peek at the monthly progress on this masterpiece if they sign up to my newsletter, By the Book.
4. You are also known as a twitter guru. How’d that happen, and what’s your number one tip for tweeters?
How did that happen, indeed!?! I ask myself this same question every day! I am the LEAST technological person you can imagine, which is why as I tripped and stumbled my way through Twitter in the early days, I started documenting and sharing my discovery in a series of tweets to help out other newbies. These tweet threads proved so popular that I had followers ask me to put them all in a blog so they were easier to find and access in one spot. Despite there being ABUNDANT information out there from far more experienced experts, my Twitter Tips for Newbies series is all about how I discovered Twitter worked from a newbie perspective. It explains what worked or didn’t work for me, and the no-nos that newbies don’t know about, as well as outlining online etiquette, which is another whole issue. Many folks have told me they appreciate knowing this kind of information so that they don’t inadvertently step on any Twitter toes.
My number one tip for Twitter newbies is: screen all new followers carefully. Look not only at their main feed to see if they’re compatible with you, but check out their tweets and retweets to see how they respond to others online. If you like the look of them, follow back. If you aren’t comfortable having them following you, you can either hard block them (permanently – I do this for bots, crypto miners and explicit accounts) or soft block them (where you block them and immediately unblock them so that it stops them following you – I do this to non-writing accounts that look like they just want to sell me something, accounts in a foreign language and political accounts). You are not obligated to follow back (though keep in mind, you need to keep your follower/following numbers even until you hit the 5000 follower mark or Twitter will put you in Twitter jail). Don’t be shy to streamline your followers. This way you will have the kind of information you want to see popping up on your feed and comments on your posts that align with you. I know it seems counter-intuitive when you’re trying to grow your numbers to stop accounts from following you, but this will vastly improve your experience and enjoyment on Twitter.
For new authors still questioning whether it’s worth it to have Twitter as part of their author platform, here’s a guest post I wrote for publishing guru, Jane Friedman’s blog: How and Why to Build a Twitter Following While Unpublished.
5. What will your next writing project be?
I am currently working on revising and rewriting Book Two of my series, with the bonus of having a critique group behind me (which I didn’t have for Book One). I found my critique group by signing up for a writing course through The History Quill. My current historical fiction series is going to keep me busy for a while, but if I had to throw another project into the ring at a later date, I have always dreamed of being able to pull off a choose-your-own-adventure book for adults! But that’ll be a new venture once I have a bit more writing practice under my belt. Coming up with one ending to a book is challenging enough, let alone creating multiple endings to a story!
Many thanks to Emma for sharing her story with us today. Please check out her website, http://www.emmalombardauthor.com, sign up for her newsletter, and follow her on Twitter: @LombardEmma. You won’t be sorry!