Sunday, May 9, 2021

Interview with Pam Lecky

London October 1886: Trapped in a troubled marriage, Lucy Lawrence is ripe for an adventure. But when she meets the enigmatic Phineas Stone, over the body of her husband in the mortuary, her world begins to fall apart.

     When her late husband’s secrets spill from the grave, and her life is threatened by the leader of London’s most notorious gang, Lucy must find the strength to rise to the challenge. But who can she trust and how is she to stay out of the murderous clutches of London’s most dangerous criminal?” –synopsis for No Stone Unturned.

 

     For May’s Author of the Month, I’m doing something common yet uncommon. I’m profiling and interviewing Irish historical mystery novelist Pam Lecky. Anyone who knows the first thing about my work knows that historical mystery fiction is catnip to me, as I write and read it almost exclusively. This explains why I’ve profiled so many historical novelists. What’s more uncommon is that not only is Pam represented by Hardman Swainson in the UK, she also has a publishing deal with Avon. Author of the Month is typically reserved for independent and/or self-published authors. Yet, technically, Pam is part of the new breed of hybrid authors as her earliest titles were self-published. That, and her exclusive historical mystery bent made her lack of an appearance in this series something of an unforgivable oversight.

 

14) Pam, first off, I want to tell you how very excited I am to have you, not the least reason of which is because you and I write in exactly the same genre at exactly the same period: Victorian times. I’d like to focus for now on the Lucy Lawrence series. What gave you the idea to create Lucy?

 

Thanks for inviting me to feature this month, Robert. It’s always great to meet fellow historical fiction authors, particularly those who write in the same era, and, of course, to connect with new readers.

 

Funnily enough, I didn’t start out to create Lucy as the main character in the book at all. When I began writing (and indeed in the first draft), the story was told from the perspective of Phineas Stone, a highly successful insurance fraud investigator based in London. (I was trying to avoid the Victorian PI trope, after all, how can you better Sherlock Holmes??) However, I never really got into his head, although I love the character very much, whereas the unfortunate Lucy Lawrence’s voice was insistent on being heard. She was incredibly easy to write. So, as much as I loved Phin, I rewrote the entire novel from Lucy’s POV. My beta readers and agent agreed the story was the better for the change, and hence the Lucy Lawrence Mystery series was born.

 

13) What are Lucy’s strengths and weaknesses and why do you think she makes a compelling and original detective?

 

Lucy’s strength is curiosity, her downfall is she hasn’t a clue what she is up to most of the time. She is deeply flawed, which is why I love her so much. Part of her charm is that she tends to blunder into situations through her impetuosity. She is quite brave too, but of course, without always considering the consequences. That’s what makes her interesting for me to write. I don’t want some perfect society miss, tripping along gaily, solving crimes and putting the world to rights. (Lucy is a slightly older heroine, in her late twenties). Her success rate in solving crimes is down to either luck, stubbornness, or a little help from Phin. On the odd occasion, she manages to put two and two together herself.

 

As she is such a ‘normal and flawed’ person, it allows me to develop her character over the series. I want to show how her experiences shape her to become the woman she longs to be. Ten years of marriage smothered her, but she clung to it because the alternative was scandal and disgrace. By disposing of her naughty husband in No Stone Unturned, I effectively let her loose on the world, but within the confines of her status and the mores of the time. It is often that conflict that creates the tension in the stories. She is, after all, a typical Victorian lady and she sees the world through the smoky prism of late 19th century values. It is really important for me that she is authentic to her time.

 

12) I know you’re working on the third Lawrence mystery. The first, No Stone Unturned, takes place in 1886 London. The sequel, Footprints in the Sand, takes place in 1887 Cairo. At the pace you’re going, the upcoming third entry will be in 1888. Are there any plans to have Lucy confront Jack the Ripper during the Autumn of Terror?

 

The Art of Deception, which I hope to publish later this year, takes place as you rightly guess in 1888, however, the action takes place during the spring and summer of that year before the Ripper began his reign of terror. Lucy does venture into the East End of London during the book, but most of the action centres around Kent, Mayfair in London, and Edinburgh (one of my favourite UK cities). To be honest, I deliberately avoided the Ripper theme as I feel it has been done very well already and I didn’t see what I could bring to it that would be fresh or unique.

 

11) How difficult is it for you to research 1880s London, Yorkshire and Cairo? Or is that all part of the thrill of being a historical mystery novelist?

 

Luckily, I have been a voracious reader of historical fiction from my teens, so I had a good level of knowledge of the era to start with. I have always loved the 19th century in particular, and been fascinated by every aspect, from dress to architecture to everyday life. One of the reasons I write historical fiction is that I am addicted to research. Just love it! There is plenty of material available and over time, I have built up an extensive collection of reference books on the Victorian and Edwardian eras. My biggest difficulty is crawling back up out of the research rabbit holes to write. Invariably, research throws up lovely plot ideas or twists, which is probably why I am so addicted to it.

 

10) You have a launch coming up in October, a new series featuring another female protagonist and brought out by Avon Books UK/Harper Collins. It’s a WWII-era thriller. Can you give us a teaser for Her Secret War and tell us a bit about your protagonist?

 

I’d love to! Publication date for Her Secret War (pre-order link here), the first book in the series, is 14th October this year and pre-order is now live. I’m absolutely thrilled to have found a home for my two WW2 espionage novels with Avon Books UK/Harper Collins. The story involves a young Irish girl who survives the destruction of her home during the infamous Luftwaffe’s bombing of neutral Dublin in May 1941. The opportunity to write a WW2 thriller from the viewpoint of an Irish person was too much to resist. Here is the blurb:

A moment that ruins her life

On 31st May 1941, Germany drops bombs on neutral Dublin and Sarah Gillespie loses her family and home that fateful night. Days later, the man she loves leaves Ireland to enlist in the RAF.

A decision that changes her life

With nothing to keep her in Ireland and a burning desire to help the war effort, Sarah seeks refuge with relatives in Hampshire, England. But before long, Sarah’s family history catches up with her.

A mission that could cost her life

Sarah is asked to prove her loyalty to Britain through uncovering a spy at Vickers Supermarine, the manufacturers of the legendary Spitfire fighter plane. But to progress with her mission, she must become involved with a fifth columnist. And so the most dangerous game she’s ever played ensues…

The protagonist, Sarah Gillespie, was interesting to write. She’s feisty and independent, but her young life has been blighted by poverty and a violent father. Despite this, Sarah is well educated, crazy for books (she is a huge Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers’ fan), movies and nights out on the town dancing with the love of her life. There is a deep bond between her and her younger sister Maura, particularly since their mother died some years before. 

But the Nazi bomb which destroys the Gillespie home, leaves Sarah struggling with grief. Luckily, her mother’s family in England reach out to her, offering her a new start. Unfortunately, things don’t go smoothly, and she ends up immersed in the dark and murky world of WW2 espionage. I actually feel sorry for the girl because I put her through the mill, but that’s part of the fun of being a writer. There are lots of twists in the story right up to the last page which should have readers gasping at the end.


9) Describe your typical writing day, if such a thing exists. Do you write exclusively in notebooks, laptops, both? And do you set page or word goals and, if so, how much?


Since earlier this year, I have been writing full-time. It has been hectic, with edits for Her Secret War to be completed and writing the sequel. Basically, I have been working 7-8 hours a day, seven days a week. I have recently completed the sequel and am now on the final round of edits for the first book, so my intention is to have a less demanding schedule going forward. My plan is to write 9-5, Monday to Friday. A typical word goal would be 2,000 words a day, but I don’t beat myself up if I don’t get there. Some days the muse just doesn’t co-operate and others she is in flying form. Of course, I have to spend time on promotion and marketing, and this can typically take up to an hour a day. I’d rather be writing, but it is something all writers just have to do.


As I trained at a young age as a touch typist, and can type around 100 wpm, I do all my writing on my desktop. I find writing out in a notebook too slow – can’t keep up with the dialogue of my characters – they tend to lose the run of themselves! However, I do sometimes brainstorm using a pen and paper and I have a whiteboard I use for keeping track of chapters/timeline/character names. This is particularly useful when writing a series.


8) Being a historical mystery novelist myself, I understand very well that each book is essentially a friendly duel between the author and each reader. The biggest thrill for the reader, I imagine, is trying to anticipate the author’s ending. However, it’s like a dog chasing a car. Once it’s caught, it involves some anticlimax, a letdown. Do you feel this pressure to outwit the reader or do you focus exclusively on just telling the story?


Readers’ expectations must be considered. Writing in any genre brings its own rules, however, I don’t see the point of writing historical mystery unless you can keep the reader guessing. I see it as a challenge. I love a good twist, so sometimes even I don’t see what’s coming! Having said that, it’s important to write an original, and hopefully, entertaining story with well-rounded characters and a stomping plot. That isn’t always easy, but it is what I aim for. I’m lucky to have two fabulous editors; Bernadette Kearns for my Indie books and Katie Loughnane at Avon. Both ladies keep me in check.

 

7) Your debut novel from 2015, The Bowes Inheritance, was a romantic suspense novel that appears to be a standalone. However, I couldn’t help but note that it takes place in 1882 Dublin, hewing pretty close to Lucy Lawrence’s timeline. Is there a possibility of Louisa Campbell and Lucy meeting in a crossover in the future?

 

I’m afraid not, though I may at some stage write a sequel, but it would be about some of the secondary characters. The Bowes Inheritance was never intended to be a series and includes a ‘happy ever after’. Once a character’s story arc has come full circle, I tend not to want to take it further.

 

6) Plotter, pantser or plantser?

 

Essentially, I have been all of these. I started out as a pantser and really enjoyed it; just letting the ideas pop into my head and running with them. Traditional publishing doesn’t really allow for that as you need to submit a synopsis with sets out the main ideas/plot/characters, etc. Once the synopsis is agreed there is little room to veer from it. As my writing career has evolved, I can see the benefits of having at least an outline plot as it speeds up the writing process. I still have the fun of fleshing the story out as I research, and this will be the way I approach my work going forward.

 

5) On your blog, there isn’t an About section, so you don’t give any clues about your past (oddly appropriate for a mystery novelist). So, I have to ask, what did you do before your literary period and did your former career end up informing your novels?

 

Ah, but that is deliberate. I am a very private person. I’m happy to talk about my books until the cows come home, but my private and family life has no bearing on my writing.

 

4) I’ve always been meaning to ask a historical novelist this question, although I suppose it’ll invite subjective answers. But what’s the cutoff point for you beyond which a novel is no longer “historical”?

 

Officially, according to the organisations I’m a member of, such as the Historical Novel Society, back 50 years is the cutoff. For me, it’s probably WW2, anything more modern than that doesn’t interest me.

 

3) Has the pandemic affected your writing career in any way? Has it affected sales, output or not?

 

Ironically, 2020 was my best year ever as an author. My sales rocketed with the publication of the second Lucy Lawrence book, Footprints in the Sand, making a full-time career as a writer a reality. I was also lucky enough to sign two traditional contracts. As for writing, it was a productive year. Before the pandemic I worked part-time and only had weekends in which to brandish a pen. Working from home during Covid gave me more time to write (no commuting!!).

 

2) What piece of advice would you give to anyone of any age about to launch a writing career?

 

I was 50 when I first published so it doesn’t matter what age, you are. I do believe my life experiences have coloured my writing. If I had published at a younger age, I don’t think the stories would have been as well-rounded. If you have been bitten by the writing bug - just go for it. Tell your stories, your way. Be aware that your voice may not be commercial enough for a publisher, but you have options. Consider self-publishing but only if you are prepared for the financial cost of doing it properly, i.e., cost of editing and getting a professional cover. I was extremely lucky to sign with an agent several years ago, and I don’t believe I would be where I am today without her help and guidance. I’d also add that an experienced editor is invaluable; you will learn so much about the craft from them.

 

1)   So, aside from October’s launch, what’s next for Pam Lecky? 

A well-earned rest as the last six months have been fairly intense!

But not for long. The Art of Deception needs to be finished and launched into the big bad world. The sequel to Her Secret War has yet to go through the editing process (slated for publication in the autumn of 2022). After that, I will take some time to think about future projects. Ideas are already floating around in my head, including a contemporary suspense novel, future Lucy Lawrence adventures, and a possible sequel to the WW2 books. Guess I could be busy for the foreseeable!

If you’re interested in learning more about Pam Lecky’s work, then please make use of the handy links provided below.

Amazon Author page

Facebook Author Page

Twitter

Pam’s author blog

Instagram

3 Comments:

At May 10, 2021 at 3:52 AM, Blogger Pam Lecky said...

Thanks so much for hosting me today, Robert, much appreciated. Pam

 
At May 13, 2021 at 11:28 AM, Anonymous Jane Risdon said...

Fab interview Pam, good luck with everything. Thanks so much Robert, for hosting such an interesting lady.

 
At May 13, 2021 at 11:30 AM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

My pleasure, ladies.

 

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