Today’s guest is Pam Lecky, author of The Bowes Inheritance. Her latest novel, No Stone Unturned, is published later this year. Pam has recently been signed by literary agents Herdman & Swainson, and her anthology of short stories, Past Imperfect, will be published on the 6th April. These stories feature settings as diverse as WW1-era Dublin, the sinking of the Luisitania, and a lonely haunted lighthouse.
Hi Pam. Tell us a little about your writing to date.
My father bought me the complete works of Jane Austen when I was eleven, which sparked a lifetime love of period literature. When the urge to write more than angst-ridden teenage poetry (yep – it was bad!), it’s not surprising that I plumbed for historical fiction. My debut novel, The Bowes Inheritance, was published in 2015. It is a Victorian romance and mystery.
The original premise was a young woman inheriting a property and having to fight to keep it. It had a beginning, a middle and an end (always a good thing!), but there was no flesh to its bones. I knew I wanted it to have an Irish flavour, but with a new angle perhaps. I have always been fascinated by the complex relationship between the Irish Ascendency and their British counterparts and that, and a wrangle over land, seemed a good place to start. It was only as I started to research, that the story took on a life of its own. Sub-plots popped up, often influenced by real events that I read about from old newspapers, books and on-line blogs. What started out primarily as a love story became tangled up in Irish history, Fenians and the English Lake District! The Bowes Inheritance was born.
Bowes has done very well, being shortlisted for the Carousel Aware Prize and longlisted by the Historical Novel Society. During 2017, I published some short reads for Kindle, mostly historical fiction, but with one contemporary ghost story. A collection of my stories, Past Imperfect, is out tomorrow!
Where did your inspiration for Louisa, your protagonist in The Bowes Inheritance, come from?
I have always loved feisty heroines and a particular favourite of mine is Deborah Grantham in Georgette Heyer’s Faro’s Daughter. So Louisa is essentially my nod to Ms Heyer’s wonderful heroines. But one of the difficulties of writing a Victorian heroine is how constricted the lives of women in that era were, particularly the land owning class (there weren’t many opportunities to be kick-ass!). To give me more licence, I had to make Louisa fall on hard times. Originally from a wealthy Irish Ascendancy family, Louisa is faced with the harsh reality of living in a tenement in Dublin with a sister who is extremely ill. When their fortunes appear to change on inheriting an English estate, what should have been the answer to their dreams turns into a bit of a nightmare. It was an incredibly fun novel to write and I think Louisa will always be my favourite protagonist.
What are your best tips for carrying out historical research?
I happen to love research and often have to pull myself back as I chase some elusive piece of information down a rabbit hole! Over the years I have built up an extensive library of reference books, covering the Victorian/Edwardian era. There are also some fantastic resources available on-line and my personal experience has been that fellow authors/academics are often only too happy to answer questions for you. For instance, on researching the London underground for my next novel, I sent a query to the London Transport Museum. Within 24 hours I had a response to my question plus a lot more detailed information than I even required.
Personal writing choice: pen or keyboard?
Keyboard for me. Luckily I did keyboard training in school (way back in the mists of time) and am lucky enough to have a fairly high speed. I’m afraid the pen is too slow for me.
When do you know a story is complete?
To be honest I don’t think they ever are! You can tweak forever. But there does come a point when you cannot bear to look at it anymore. That’s usually a good point to let your editor take over.
What is the best part of being an author? And the worst?
The best part for me so far has been the reaction of readers to my work. You can’t beat a good review. The worst is the constant self-doubt and frustration. Being an indie author is tough.
Is there another historical period you’d like to explore?
I would love to do a 1920s story and I am also mulling over doing a WW2 story based on my mother’s life. She worked as a bus conductor in Birmingham during the war and had some interesting experiences.
Who are your writing heroes?
A long enough list: Austen, Gaskell, Thackeray, Heyer, Wilkie Collins, the Brontës, and I also love crime writers such as Dorothy L Sayers, P.D. James, Elizabeth George, Anne Perry, M.R.C. Kasasian. You may see a bit of a theme here!
My next novel, No Stone Unturned, is the first in my Phineas Stone series of Victorian mysteries. It will be published in 2018. Here is a taster:
A suspicious death, stolen gems and an unclaimed reward; who will be the victor in a deadly game of cat and mouse?
London 1886: The Maharajah of Kashmir’s famous sapphires have been stolen and the main suspect, Charlie Lawrence, dies in what appears to be a tragic accident on Regent Street. His widow Lucy, intimidated by a London criminal, seeks refuge with her family in Yorkshire, only to be accused of stealing a famous family heirloom. Phineas Stone, an insurance investigator, comes to her rescue, but what is his real motive? As his investigation progresses back in London, their relationship blossoms and, as he unravels more of Charlie Lawrence’s dark past, he becomes convinced Lucy is innocent. Then unexpectedly Lucy bolts to Yorkshire, following clues left by her late husband. Mystified as to why she does not trust him, Stone follows her, but it is now a race against time. Who will find the sapphires first and live to claim the reward?
Thanks for taking the time to talk about your writing, Pam, and good luck with your publications this year!
Pam Lecky is an award-winning Irish historical fiction author, writing crime, mystery and romance. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and has a particular love of the late Victorian era/early 20th Century. Her debut novel, The Bowes Inheritance, was awarded the B.R.A.G Medallion; shortlisted for the Carousel Aware Prize 2016; made ‘Editor’s Choice’ by the Historical Novel Society; long-listed for the Historical Novel Society 2016 Indie Award; and chosen as a Discovered Diamond Novel in February 2017. Her next novel, No Stone Unturned, a Victorian mystery/crime novel, will be published in 2018.
Pam has recently signed with the literary agency Herdman & Swainson in London and her anthology of short stories, Past Imperfect, will be published on Friday 6th April. It is already available in paperback and preorder is live for ebook (Link: Mybook.to/Pastp)