It’s a pleasure to welcome fellow author Susan Lodge over to my blog this evening. Like me, Susan writes historical dramas set at sea; I’ve just started reading her wonderful novel Rebellious Cargo on my kindle. Here’s what Susan had to say about her writing and the road to publication:
Hello and welcome. We’d like to know a bit about you, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Thanks for inviting me to your blog Emma.
I live close to the Hampshire coast but have worked in various ports in the South of England during my career in the Civil Service including London and Bristol.
I have written stories ever since I can remember, but it was after I joined a writer’s group that I started the rocky road to publication. Most of the stories came back with a ‘no thanks’ but one day, about five years ago, instead of the usual returned manuscript, a long white envelope landed on the door mat. I had actually sold a story to The People’s Friend. This was a turning point, which gave me the confidence to finish and seek a publisher for my novels.
What are your favourite books? Which authors inspire you?
I am a great fan of the late Patrick O’Brian. His novels are set in the time of Nelson’s navy and portray life on board ship with incredible detail and atmosphere. His stories go far beyond the battles with the French, as they explore the constrained, colourful and disciplined community that existed on-board a naval ship.
I admire Georgette Heyer for her wit and authentic portrayal of the Regency period and I am also a Philippa Gregory fan. But I tend to dip into all genres and have recently finished the last of the Stig Larson trilogy.
Electronic devices make it so easy to sample books now that I have a huge backlist of titles that I want to read.
Your novel, Rebellious Cargo looks intriguing. Can you tell us about it?
I wanted to write a story set at sea during the early part of the nineteenth century. As a romance writer, one advantage of basing your hero and heroine on a ship means they can’t run too far from each other.
My heroine is a code breaker wanted by the Government to solve her father’s last dispatch. Captain Marston has been sent to the Aegean to enlist her services and escort her to Malta. But Jane harbours bitter memories of the last time she had dealings with the Admiralty. Sparks fly when Code breaker and Captain share the same quarterdeck.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to see as the lead characters?
Oh! Got a bit of a crush on Hugh Jackman. Although he is probably getting a little too old for the part of Captain Marston.
Did you choose the title and cover for your book?
I had an idea of the images I wanted and Crooked Cat Publishing turned them into a great cover. I am really pleased with the result.
What are you working on at the moment / next?
I have written another historical, Only a Hero Will Do, which is being republished early next year.
This story follows the optimistic Hetty Avebury, who covertly uses her gambling skills, to raise funds to avoid an arranged marriage. Her plans go astray when she is picked up by the press gang and finds herself aboard a man-of-war. Placed under the watchful, albeit reluctant, care of the ship’s physician Hetty strives to adapt to her new and dangerous lifestyle.
How often do you manage to write? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
I get up early in the morning before anyone else has stirred in the house. I find this time very productive. I often solve my plot problems during the early hours so when I get up hopefully they are still fresh in my mind.
I don’t believe it’s all about, how much time you have to write, but how effective you are with that time. If you are really serious about wanting to write a novel, you will find the time.
Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it
I have a vague idea of what the character are going to be up to, and their goals. But I am definitely not a planner. I love the way my characters evolve, as the story progresses and I am happy to let them guide me, most of the time.
Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
You have to get the reader on the side of your main characters. They need to care about what is going to happen to them and empathise with their strengths, flaws and ambitions. I do a lot of people watching and find this an excellent way of gaining material for character development.
In choosing a name I consider things like: do I want them to have a nick name; can the name be shortened; does the name suit the character; and of course, is the name suitable for the period. I don’t like elaborate names, they just irritate me.
Sometimes, I come across a memorable name by chance, and I just know I need to create a character around it, so I make a note for future use.
Do you have to do much research?
Yes. I have various sites and books to which I constantly refer. I am also lucky to live reasonably close to some great Regency settings which transport you back to the era. Jane Austen’s house is one of them.
I am also constantly checking the etymology of words. But I wait until I have written the book first to avoid too much diversion. Getting the story down comes first. Then I set out to eliminate any rogue words in the dialogue. The technology of the era – or lack of it – and the flora and fauna can also catch me out at times.
Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Oh, yes. I have an extensive collection. I always do a bit of teeth grinding and cursing when this happens. Then I just cross off that publisher and concentrate on the next on the list. The submission process is a lot easier now with electronic manuscripts, but the competition is fierce. So I try not to take rejection personally.
How do you market your published works or indeed yourself as a ‘brand’?
I recently made a logo which I like to add to things like, my Amazon account, web site and face book. But I find marketing a time consuming chore and would happily, if funds would allow, hire someone to do it all for me. Work In progress should be a priority in my day, but sadly the media stuff seems to suck up the time.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Usually thinking that I should be writing. My piano is my stress buster. I am not very good, but I like to play for my own enjoyment. I have a lovely family who I like to spend time with.as much as possible. I also enjoy travelling, swimming and long walks along the sea shore. The one thing I would love to do is go on a space fight. For now though I am quite content to discover the nooks and crannies of this planet.
Where can we find out more about you and your writing?
I have a website, www.susanlodge.com where you can find excerpts from the books. I also can be found on my blog, Face book and Twitter.
Website – www.susanlodge.com
Twitter – Susan Lodge @pagehalffull