Time for this week's featured author interview! This round I have Jayne Lockwood, author of The Cloud Seeker.
1. Please tell us about yourself.
Hi, I’m Jayne Lockwood and for my sins, I call myself a writer. I’m also a mother, a homemaker and a previously published author of erotic fiction, under the pseudonym Savannah Smythe. I try not to write “to a genre” but find myself veering towards romance and drama time and again.
On the home front, I run a book group and participate in a writing group, Four Writers in a Pub. We are working on an anthology at the moment, which aims to inspire other people who want to write but just need that extra push to do it. Sometimes it is all about having confidence in yourself. I always knew I wanted to write, and it only took one teacher to tell me I was good at it, for me to want to continue.
Books, films an all kinds of writing challenges interest me most. I hate reality TV, celebrity culture (an oxymoron if ever there was one) and love giving my opinions on books and films. Writing gives me the chance to be totally myself, without the obligations of motherhood and social expectation.
2. What is the name of your newest book and what it is about?
The Cloud Seeker was published on Kindle very recently. It tells the story of Max, a 9/11 survivor, who moves to an English village, to be near the boy he claims is his son. There he meets an alluring, free-spirited woman who senses he is not all as he seems. She is recovering from tragedies of her own, which become clearer as the story unfolds. I loved the challenge of merging together the themes of loss, cloud watching and 9/11 and making it work. At its heart is a good old fashioned romance between two unlikely people.
3. Is this book part of a series or a standalone?
It’s a standalone novel, although there is more insight into the characters on my website. I’m working on a series at the moment.
4. How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing since I was in senior school. Dark poems, strange stories, they’ve all gone now. I only began my first novel after my first child was born in 1996. But even then, I was really doing it for my own enjoyment. I really didn’t think I could ever be published.
5. From where or whom do you draw your inspiration?
Everywhere and everyone! Snippets of music, the glimpse of a stranger in a London Street, paintings. It can take the simplest thing to spark an idea. Writers I love include Daphne du Maurier and Quentin Tarantino. That is how diverse my imagination is. A writer’s brain is always working, whether they are aware of it or not.
6. What advice would you give new and aspiring writers?
Be confident in your own voice. I’ve always avoided creative writing courses or too much advice. Having said that, the technicalities, especially proofreading, should be done by someone else. You can never see your own mistakes.
7. Who do you see as your ideal reader?
That’s a difficult one because as I might alienate a whole readership! I didn’t set out to write “a woman’s novel” but I guess anyone over 18 is the obvious answer. I say “over 18” because of the themes and language, which can be quite feisty.
8. Tell us about your writing process. Are you a planner or an outliner?
I’m a bit haphazard. Sometimes I’ll get down the first thing that inspired me in the first place. It might be a conversation between two characters, or a random scene that’s been in my head. I never plan a novel until I’ve written at least five chapters. When I begin to sense that I’m losing my way a bit, I’ll storyboard the plot. I’ll also have a column for each character, and list their attributes, personality traits and likes/dislikes. This keeps me on track. In The Cloud Seeker, I had forgotten halfway through that Luca wears glasses. They were mentioned once then never again. I corrected it, thanks to the storyboard,which helps with continuity. It was a small thing, but things like that annoy me.
9. What are your thoughts on paying for reviews as John Locke is reported to have done?
Is that paying for reviews, or paying for good reviews? If it’s the latter, then no way would I do that, even if I could afford it. I want my work judged honestly, or not at all.
Having said that, if you have the requisite spare cash to pay for someone’s honest opinion, then why not? I don’t, so I don’t have that option.
Some people feel indie authored books are of lesser quality than those that go through the traditional publishers. Do you agree with them? If so, how can independent authors raise the bar and remove this stigmatism?
There is a lot of dross out there, and sites such as KDP do make it easy for anyone to publish almost anything they like. But you go into any large Waterstones and I can guarantee that amongst the thousands on offer, some of them will be amateurish, offensive, boring or just plain bad.
Self-published authors can raise the bar by making sure their work is as good as it can possibly be. That means having it proofread, brutal editing and honest evaluation of whether it is good enough. There is no room for laziness and sloppiness, just because it is easy to get it out there. If it isn’t fit for purpose, it lets every other indie author down.
10. Assuming you have an active blog, point readers to a post of which you're especially proud or think will be of particular interest to them.
The tone of my blog is tongue-in-cheek, but here's an entry I made recently in an attempt to help amateur authors. I hope it helps.!
11. R.S. Guthrie wrote a hard-hitting post (http://robonwriting.com/2013/02/05/i-...) on reviewers and the veil of anonymity some of them hide behind. Your thoughts on this subject?
It’s inevitable that when there is a public forum for opinion, some people will attempt to use that for their own agenda. There’s no way of stopping the vindictive from doing that. As an author, you hope not to attract the kind of person who enjoys spitting invective at your expense, but there is nothing you can do about it if it happens. You just have to grow a thick skin and hope that other readers will use their common sense and see through the bile.
I write reviews all the time, but try to make the criticism constructive. The only exception was last year, when I reviewed Fifty Shades of Grey. That book made me so mad! I review on Amazon under a tag name but anyone interested would soon find out who I was. I believe you should stand by your reviews, and take the flack just as you’d expect the author to. Every book divides opinion and in the end, that is what a review should be. It isn’t a statement of fact. Everyone reading them should keep that in mind and form opinions of their own.
12. Which retailer or other sites can our readers find your work on?
The Cloud Seeker is available as an eBook on Amazon.
The books I’ve written as Savannah Smythe are also on Kindle, and also available in paperback on various bookseller sites. I also have a free short story to download on Smashwords, or you can find it on my website. Any reviews are welcome!
13. Where can readers find out more about you?
On Facebook: Jayne Lockwood - Author
I've been writing for over 20 years. My first successful writing assignment was for the college newspaper of the County College of Morris, in Randolph, New Jersey, where I studied Journalism. My first article made the front page, and after that, it was just a choice of where I wanted my writing to take me.
Life and children soon intervened though, and it was another seven years before Virgin Books published my first novel for their Black Lace Series. Writing as Savannah Smythe, I have published five books in that genre, before collaborating with Abi Titmuss on her 10 Fantasies book in 2005.
Since then, I've been involved in projects closer to home, working closely with other authors to continue to improve and challenge their idea of good writing. I run a village book group and attend another, as well as a writing group (Four Writers In A Pub) which is working on an anthology of prose, poetry and short stories to encourage other people to explore their writing potential.