Chatting with Historical Women’s Fiction Author—Emma Lombard

I met my guest today over on Twitter, where she caught my attention by being a helpful, welcoming presence. When I discovered she was also an aspiring historical fiction writer, I got to know her better, and even shared an interview with her previously here and in my newsletter.

Today, I’m pleased to feature another interview with her to announce her forthcoming debut novel! Please take a read to learn more about our darling Emma. Scroll below for an exciting excerpt of her novel as well.

What inspired you to write DISCERNING GRACE (Book 1)?

I’ve always been a little nosy—I know, I know … curiosity killed the cat! But back in 2001 during one of my regular letter-writing sessions to my grandmother in England, I decided I’d like to know a little more about our family history from the older generation. Once they’ve passed it’s so hard to find out what kinds of people they knew and the sorts of things they got up to.

So, my darling late grandmother, whom I was incredibly close to, indulgently began answering my questions and documenting memories of her own childhood and stories of ancestors. All it took was for me to read the opening to one of her letters and I just KNEW I had to write a story about it! This is what the letter said, ‘Your GGG grandmother was only 16 when she ran away from home to marry a sea captain … her family cut her off and she sailed the seas with him …’

Come on! What author couldn’t resist a little bit of real-life inspiration like that?

And so, that is how my purely fictional, historical naval adventure— with a dash of romance—blossomed. I’ve been thrilled by the journey of writing it and all the research too, but most of all, I’ve loved imagining the incredible courage and fortitude it would have taken my ancestor to choose such a life! Plus, there is my GGG grandfather’s side of the tale to consider too. As my grandmother put it, they were ‘obviously a very enlightened couple, and she a very, very liberated woman.’

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!

What is your favourite historical era and why? Do you have a favourite historical female? Why?

I’m open when it comes to reading historical fiction through the different eras, from Jean M. Auel’s prehistoric The Clan of the Cave Bear, to Vikings and Romans, through to later centuries like in Wilbur Smith’s Courtney series. As for writing it, I’ve been so immersed in the 19th century since I’ve been writing my own books, that I have a soft spot for this era. There’s a great balance of knowledge and information out there since it wasn’t too long ago—say unlike the ancient Egyptian era. I have huge admiration for historical authors who write about ancient times. The research required for that is mammoth (snigger)!

While there are many well-known historical females, my research unearthed a whole world of unknown women whose stories have not had a spotlight shone on them. These have been my favourite historical females to find—mothers penning journals about parenthood, sisters writing letters to relatives from the other side of the world, wives aboard ships keeping diaries that recorded tiny details of daily life not captured in a ship’s log books. It took me ages to find some resources that spoke about women aboard ships who were not just there to entertain the sailors, but who played a pivotal role in sailing the ship, raising a family aboard, and supporting industrious endeavours. These are some of my favourites:

  • Seafaring Women by renowned historian, Linda Grant De Pauw
  • Female Tars by Suzanne J. Stark
  • Hen Frigates by maritime historian, Joan Durett
  • She Captains by maritime historian, Joan Durett

What message are you sharing in your books?

The themes in my first novel, DISCERNING GRACE (Book 1), include:

  • an independent woman
  • the importance of love over money
  • appearances can be deceiving
  • love can conquer all
  • triumph over adversity

Does each book stand alone, or are you building a body of work with connections or themes between each book?

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 the first book, and mature them through their life experiences in subsequent books. Discerning Grace (Book 1) is out now. The second book is nearly ready to publish, and I have complete draft manuscripts for books three and four.

A movie producer wants to turn your book into a movie and you get to make a cameo. What would you do in the movie?

Ooo, isn’t this every writer’s dream!

Due to the nature of my story aboard a 19th century Royal Naval tall ship, there aren’t that many female characters, though I could play no role on the ship since I get hideously sea sick!

I would have to stick with a role that is safe on land, so perhaps one of the dinner guests in my opening scene.

You have created images for your main characters, how does that help you write them?

I asked my beta readers to send me images of real-life people who they thought most looked like Seamus and Grace. Those images, along with the descriptions from my book, created the basis for the artwork I’ve commissioned (because I can barely draw a stick man!) They turned out exactly as I envisaged them in my mind’s eye!

It has been marvellous to have them drawn so young and fresh when we first meet them. For the subsequent books in the series, I can envisage the deepening of Seamus’s smile line beside his mouth, or the crow’s feet around Grace’s aquamarine eyes. I don’t necessarily speak to my characters, but I do sit and watch them interact and play out scenes in my head (it must look like I’m staring into space, and not working, when I do this!) I only need to look at their body language in their artwork for an inspirational reminder about how they react physically and verbally to different situations.

Since I own this artwork, I’ve actually created my own Redbubble store called, By-the-Book (yes, like the name of my newsletter), where my readers can grab their own favourite keepsakes.

What do you do for fun? What does a perfect day look like?

In everyday life, I’m Mum to four teenage sons—my men children, all of whom are taller than me—and two cantankerous cats who often thrash it out for a spot on my lap! I live in the perpetually sunny city of Brisbane in Australia. I love building jigsaw puzzles (especially Wasgij, backwards puzzles), playing Candy Crush (my secret shame!), and playing board games with my boys—though gone are the days when used to I beat them, they whip me soundly now. And I totally suck at Risk! Having raised four rambunctious boys, my perfect day these days constitutes solitude and silence. It doesn’t matter where, as long as those two ingredients are present.

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: DISCERNING GRACE by Emma Lombard

Publication Date: 22 February 2021

Print Length: 370 pages

ISBN: 9780645105803

Ebook ISBN: 9781393725831

Genre: Historical Women’s Fiction

Blurb

London 1826. Wilful Grace Baxter, will not marry old Lord Silverton with his salivary incontinence and dead-mouse stink. Discovering she is a pawn in an arrangement between slobbery Silverton and her calculating father, Grace is devastated when Silverton reveals his true callous nature.

Refusing this fate, Grace resolves to stow away. Heading to the docks, disguised as a lad to ease her escape, she encounters smooth-talking naval recruiter, Gilly, who lures her aboard HMS Discerning with promises of freedom and exploration in South America.

When Grace’s big mouth lands her bare-bottomed over a cannon for insubordination, her identity is exposed. The captain wants her back in London but his orders, to chart the icy archipelago of Tierra del Fuego, forbid it. Lieutenant Seamus Fitzwilliam gallantly offers to take Grace off the fretting captain’s hands by placing her under his protection.

Grace must now win over the crew she betrayed with her secret, while managing her feelings towards her taciturn protector, whose obstinate chivalry stifles her new-found independence.

Excerpt

London, 13 May 1826

A deep-throated rumble of laughter drew Grace’s eyes across the crowded drawing room, and over to Uncle Farfar. Heading over to him, she admired the double row of gold buttons on his blue naval coat glinting in the luminescence of the gilt chandelier above. The crystal beads cast a sprinkling of starlight around the room. Grace thought the evening had a distinctly tropical aura with wide-fronded palms and vines spilling from all corners in a waterfall of greenery. Grace also thought Mother’s décor was fanciful and faux.

Uncle Farfar beckoned a young man, the single epaulette on his right shoulder announcing that he was a lieutenant in His Majesty’s Royal Navy. “Ah, Fitzwilliam. Just in time,” beamed Uncle Farfar, his face flushed with pleasure. Uncle Farfar was actually Admiral Arthur Jameson Baxter, highly decorated for his successful engagement in Admiral Nelson’s campaign at the Battle of Trafalgar. He had lovingly endured the childhood nickname Grace had bestowed upon him when she was eighteen months old, and unable to pronounce his name, Uncle Arthur. He had not escaped the deep weathering of a man who had spent his life at sea, and though his face was much rounder these days, Grace thought he still had a kindness in his eyes.

Centring himself between Grace and the new arrival, Uncle Farfar said, “Lieutenant Seamus Fitzwilliam, may I introduce you to Miss Grace Baxter, my niece and the delight of my life.”

Grace smiled politely, admiring the shades of gold shimmering across Fitzwilliam’s smoothed-back hair, caught tidily in a black silk ribbon at his graceful nape.

“The pleasure is all mine, Miss Baxter,” said Fitzwilliam, formally kissing her hand.

“Lieutenant.” Grace took her hand back, fingers curling, and Fitzwilliam clasped his own behind his back.

Uncle Farfar’s sharp eyes flicked across the room, and his cordiality shrivelled. “God save us, see who approaches? Lord Silverton.”

To Grace, Lord Silverton appeared closer to a hundred years old, despite him only being in his early fifties. He was also a childless widower of renowned wealth and lineage. His bulging midriff announced no shortage of good food. He had been a mysterious figure on the outskirts of Grace’s life since she could remember, but no number of years had lessened her discomfort around him.

“Your servant, madam,” drawled Silverton, bowing stiffly.

Grace dipped her head in greeting, lowering her gaze from Silverton’s beady eyes to the neatly tied cravat at the base of his bulbous, waggling chin. How could any respectable lady willingly draw herself to the attention of this crusty, timeworn creature?

“Your gown is simply delightful, Miss Baxter,” said Silverton. “Reminds me of the gossamer wings of a dragonfly.” Silverton’s obtrusive stare seemed to blacken Uncle Farfar’s mood further.

Oblivious, Silverton droned on, “Fascinating creatures! Dragonfly rituals of courtship may seem romantic to those inclined to observe the world through rose-coloured spectacles, but the amazing show of flips and spirals is usually the female trying to escape the boorish behaviour of the males.”

“I cannot possibly imagine how that feels,” Grace muttered, peering impassively around the crowded room. Fitzwilliam’s quick dry cough sounded suspiciously like a laugh, and Grace studied him from the corner of her eye. His face betrayed nothing.

Just then the butler rang the bell. Silverton’s beady eyes fixed on Grace. “Would you care to dine with me this evening, Miss Baxter?”

Uncle Farfar cleared his throat. “If you don’t mind Silverton, I’d appreciate my niece’s company this evening.” Uncle Farfar drew Grace away before Silverton could say anything more, and ushered her into the dining room. Fitzwilliam followed two steps behind with his allotted dinner companion, Miss Pettigrew. Her petite hand curled in his elbow, and her coifed black hair barely met his shoulder. Grace had made her acquaintance only once before, and realised with a sinking heart that she was in for an evening of little to no conversation with the demure creature, should she sit beside her. The stretched table was laid with the snowiest of linen, and set with such precision that even the King of England would have been pressed to find fault.

Uncle Farfar waved at the empty chairs. “Would you care to sit between Lieutenant Fitzwilliam and I, Grace dear? You might need to give me a kick under the table if we bore you with too much naval chatter.”

Grace sank into her chair. “Nonsense, Uncle. I do so enjoy your tales.”

Fitzwilliam waited for Miss Pettigrew to be seated as she gave him a simpering smile. A wave of relief washed over Grace at not being stuck with Silverton for the evening. Uncle Farfar clearly had the same thoughts, and he chuckled, “At least you’re squirrelled with us, away from that pompous windbag.”

Grace peered down the long table, her eyes narrowing as she caught Silverton’s beady eyes, grey as a wolf’s pelt, roaming freely across her décolletage. She scratched absentmindedly at the fine lace edging around the low neck of her lavender gown, aware that her unladylike fidgeting would likely irk Father at some point in the evening. But it could not be helped. Lace was wretchedly itchy.

Fitzwilliam pulled in his chair, and nodded at Captain Steven Fincham sitting stiffly opposite him like a squat Napoleonic figure. Dark circles beneath Fincham’s bleary, bloodshot eyes gave Grace the impression that he was in poor health, was suffering from the crapulous effects of intoxication, or both.

With the soup course over, Grace eyed the line of footmen entering with platters laden with succulent roast lamb. The thin slices looked perfectly browned on the outside with just a peek of pink inside. Her stomach grumbled at the rich buttery scent of the potatoes being served onto her plate. She intended to enjoy every mouthful. At the sound of cutlery pinging on glass, Grace turned her attention to her father, Lord Flint, who rose with his wine glass raised.

“As you know, my dear wife’s partiality to dinner parties ensures they happen with alarming regularity.” A polite smattering of laughter rippled around the table. “But tonight, we have two guests who deserve our well wishes.” Father inclined his bewigged head at Captain Fincham. “Captain Fincham and Lieutenant Fitzwilliam will soon be leaving England’s fair shores in an effort to expand our great nation’s knowledge of the world.” His crystal cut glass glimmered in the candlelight. “To a safe and prosperous journey, gentlemen.”

“To a safe and prosperous journey,” echoed the diners.

Uncle Farfar’s grey head peered around Grace at Fitzwilliam. “Where are you off to this time, Lieutenant?”

Relieved to be released from Fincham’s melancholy, and Miss Pettigrew’s muteness, Grace widened her eyes, equally interested to hear his answer.

“Plymouth first, to pick up the rest of the ship’s company and fresh supplies, before we sail to Tierra del Fuego,” said Fitzwilliam.

“Damned notorious waters off the Horn of South America, eh?” declared Uncle Farfar.

“That’s right,” interrupted Fincham, his unsteady hand lowering his empty glass to the table. “We’re sailing out tomorrow on the Discerning. To chart the coasts between Montevideo and Chiloé Island.”

“Ah, yes, the hydrographic survey! I recall hearing of it around the Admiralty.” Uncle Farfar’s eyes blazed. “The Royal Navy has been around those parts for years, but they’ve few charts to show for it. About time someone had a crack at it.” He inclined his head at Fitzwilliam. “Sounds just the kind of adventure a young man like you would relish.”

“Indeed, sir.” Fitzwilliam agreed.

Grace tucked a chocolate corkscrew of hair, that had rebelliously come undone, behind her ear. “What a pity you shan’t be here for the ball next week, Lieutenant. Mother will no doubt outdo herself again.” Fitzwilliam was about to reply when Lady Flint’s tinkling laughter drew his attention down the other end of the table. Despite numerous suitors declaring that Grace’s natural beauty stemmed from her mother, Grace thought Lady Flint’s shrewd eyes and downturned mouth erased all prettiness. She glanced back at the handsome naval officer beside her.

“You’ll have to pardon me, Miss Baxter,” Fitzwilliam said ruefully. “I find society balls to be little more than an exercise in attaching one unwitting party to another, usually for monetary gain.”

“Hear, hear!” Fincham banged the table, jangling the silverware. Miss Pettigrew squeaked with fright. Fincham blustered, “The oceans of the world are far less dangerous to navigate as far as I’m concerned.”

Grace laughed. “I quite agree, Captain Fincham. Father had me all but married off to Colonel Dunne until he found out he’s as poor as a church mouse and about to be shipped off to India.” She turned to Fitzwilliam, one brow arching as she whispered from the corner of her mouth, “Dull as a butter knife too.”

Clearly amused by her honesty, Fitzwilliam’s shoulders jiggled with silent laughter, and he smirked. Grace had never understood how Father threw her at suitors who were highly suitable on paper but wholly unsuitable in person.

AUTHOR BIO

Emma Lombard was born in Pontefract in the UK. She grew up in Africa—calling Zimbabwe and South Africa home for a few years—before finally settling in Brisbane Australia, and raising four boys. Before she started writing historical fiction, she was a freelance editor in the corporate world, which was definitely not half as exciting as writing rollicking romantic adventures. Her characters are fearless seafarers, even though in real life Emma gets disastrously sea sick. Discerning Grace, is the first book in The White Sails Series.

Connect with Emma: WebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagramGoodreads

Thanks so much, Emma, for returning to my blog today. I wish you every success with your wonderful debut novel. And readers, if you like historical fiction, do yourself a favor and buy this one now!

What’s Her Name? And NEWS!!

Y’all have to listen to this What’s Her Name? podcast interview featuring Victorine (and moi). It is so well done, featuring a virtual museum visit and a dialogue between friends Dr. Katie Nelson and Olivia Meikle interspersed with sound bites of my interview with Katie. She makes even me sound good!

To make it even better, the episode uses my husband, Barry’s, music in spots. (Remember that album he created for Victorine?)

And THEN the thing that maybe thrills my soul the most (maybe? IDK, I loved the whole episode…) first the magnificent hosts of HERstory on the Rocks created a classy, bespoke drink for Victorine, remember, last year?

Well now you can get…drumroll…the cross stitch pattern of Victorine Meurent! (I get no money from this pattern, btw. It goes to support the podcast’s projects. But I immediately bought the pattern and though I haven’t cross stitched in a very long time, I know what my next project is! I’ll add pictures when I’m done with it. I have some special plans for it!) The pattern was created by the talented Olivia Meikle. I’m so grateful for it! I feel every bit of attention and interaction Victorine Meurent can get she deserves.

I’m not sure if I did get around to sharing the drink recipe from HERstory on the Rocks over here. So since St. Patrick’s Day is coming up soon, here you go. (It’s a wonderful, mesmerizing green color.)

Recipe from Katie and Allie 

The Painted Lady
1.5 oz Gin
1/2 oz absinthe
juice from half a lime
top with Prosecco

Barry made them for us just before I was on their podcast and he recommends using a shaker to prep them in. (I like extra lime juice in mine, btw.) Warning: these are strong. I stopped at a few sips so I could keep a clear head during the episode. But it’s a beautiful green color, fitting for release day, which in addition to being the anniversary of Victorine’s death is also St. Patrick’s Day! 

Buy the cross stitch pattern on Etsy! I am posting the picture below — don’t you just love it?! It’s Victorine in the dress she wore in her self-portrait. I ADORE THIS!

Thanks so much, What’s Her Name?! You’re the greatest.

Now for the news I wanted to share! The ebook of Victorine is coming soon! Mid March is the goal — I’ll let you know when it’s officially available. So those of you who have been waiting for the ebook, it’s almost here!

My “Thanks Giving”

Thanks to DK Marley for the opportunity to guest post on her blog Hist Fic Chic. Please pop over and have a look if you want to read about the transformation of the architecture of Paris in the mid 1800’s and how it affected a group of painters you might be familiar with. (Think Impressionists and their ilk.) I even added in a poem by Charles Baudelaire for good measure. While you’re there, take a look around. It’s an educational and beautifully laid out site, for starters.

Since our household’s Thanksgiving will be dinner for two this year due to the Damndemic, I don’t have many preparations to make. We’re doing low carb (ugh!), so there are even fewer dishes to cook than usual. (I just wrote a flash fiction piece on the topic of low carb eating; if it doesn’t get published by the publication to which I sent it, I’ll share it with you here in the future.)

But there are dishes to be made, regardless. There is a turkey breast to be baked in the morning. Oh, and the Christmas Chronicles: Part 2 to watch on Netflix along with 84, Charing Cross that hubby does not know I found on Amazon Prime and now very much want to watch. Can you believe I never have?

Then there’s that book I didn’t know I was going to write that is almost up to 40,000 words to carve at. And the fact that I’m as lost as a white glove in a snowstorm as to how to stitch the parts together. (I wrote a loose outline, I did. But alas, I still took off in all directions. I think maybe I’m an “enjoy the journey” kinda writer. )

I really did not intend to join in on NaNoWriMo, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to hit that 50K without trying. (I’m a fast — if messy — writer.) I’m happy about that.

While I have once again taken on more projects than I probably should have, I’m in a productive phase so I’m going with it. All of the things I’m doing are blessings. Some of them have tedious parts, sure, but I enjoy them all.

And after all, being busy keeps you from missing those you can’t be with for the holidays quite so much. Here’s to next year.

A Book Giveaway: L’Origine!

First of all, let me say hello to my new readers. This week has brought an uptick of 150% over my usual readership, and I’m delighted to have you here!

Feel free to say hello, to share your thoughts, or just sit back and enjoy. May you become as obsessed with Victorine and art as I am!

My September newsletter comes out next week, and I am pleased to announce that Lilianne Milgrom will be offering one copy of her novel, L’Origine, to one of my subscribers. I recently reviewed her wonderful book about artist Gustave Courbet’s most (in?)famous painting and its journey after its creation.

So if you haven’t subscribed, now’s the time; trust me, you want to win this book! Subscribe here, or on most any page of my website. Instructions for entering the contest will be supplied in the September newsletter.

P.S. More to come soon about my Autumn of Woolf. It’s a real thing, to be featured over in my Facebook group The Painted Word Salon and here some as well; schedule coming soon.

Virginia Woolf enjoys a smoke and a think.

Blog Tour Stop #3: The Writing Desk

So many, many thanks to the generous Tony Riches for hosting me on his blog today, The Writing Desk.

I so enjoyed being interviewed. His questions were unique and fun to answer.

And…if you want to know what my next book is about, take a look over there! 😉

I couldn’t be more thankful! Thanks again, Tony!

P.S. How are we doing during this shelter-in-place time? I’ve been video conferencing with students and colleagues, which is a nice way to stay connected with the outside world.

It’s supposed to be warm enough today that a walk might be in the works as well.

Hubby is an extrovert; I’m an introvert, so he may get tired of this before I do, but with him working across the table from me, I think I could get used to this life!

Reach out if you need someone to talk to. I’m here: drema@dremadrudge.com.

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Edouard Manet: A Game of Croquet.

Can you guess which of these women is Victorine?

My Blog Tour Schedule for Victorine!

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436945

I’m thrilled to let you know the blog tour schedule for Victorine! A huge thanks to each of these generous blog hosts who are hosting me during my tour. I’ll individually mention each post when the actual day comes with the link to access the information about my book.

Spread the word to anyone you think might be interested in learning more!

Don’t worry, I’m going to put this under events as well, for easy reference. 🙂

By the way, I’m still accepting guests spots, interviews, reviews spotlights, Q and A’s and the like. Just contact me at: drema(at)dremadrudge.com. Thanks!

Tour Schedule for Victorine.

24/03/2020The Coffee Pot Book ClubReview
25/03/2020Tony Riches: The Writing DeskInterview
26/03/2020Elizabeth Keysian: Seduction, Scandal & Spies  Book Spotlight with Excerpt
27/03/2020Candle Light ReadingReview
28/03/2020Judith ArnoppBook Spotlight with Excerpt
29/03/2020Deborah SwiftGuest Post
30/03/2020Mary Anne BernalGuest Post
31/03/2020Amy MaroneyInterview
01/04/2020Mary Morgan: Mary’s TavernGuest Post
02/04/2020Mercedes RochelleReview
03/04/2020Elizabeth St.JohnInterview
04/04/2020Sarah DahlGuest Post
05/04/2020Samantha WilcoxsonGuest Post
06/04/2020Emma LombartBook Spotlight with Excerpt

Guest Post Over at the Coffee Pot Book Club

Hey there readers! I’m honored to have a guest post up over at the Coffee Pot Book Club, award winning author and book reviewer Mary Anne Yarde’s site which does more than its share for the literary community.

If you’re curious to know more about me and Stendhal’s Syndrome, or if you’d like to read an excerpt of Victorine, go here. Feel free to leave comments over there.

And many thanks to Mary Anne for allowing me to share.

Meet Emma Lombard, Writer, Twitter Expert

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!