Confession: I have a love hate relationship with Twitter. On the one hand, I get to read great articles and have chats with interesting people from around the world. On the other, I have to scroll through miles of spam. Why on earth authors think promoting their book involves repeatedly Tweeting its merits is beyond my comprehension. From the outset, I made a silent pact never to respond to these Tweets. Or to any others that consistently jammed up my newsfeed. But…have you ever noticed never is a dangerous word. Once declared, the words, 'Oh, well, just this once,’ do begin a battle in your head.
One of the things I do on Twitter is search for people with common interests. One of my perennial hash tags is #historicalfiction. While scrolling through this feed, I noticed one book, Leap the wild water, by Jenny Lloyd clogging up my feed. I also noticed it was getting consistently good reviews. Now Lloyd is a Welsh name and, in case you haven’t noticed, I have a mild (cough) interest in all things Welsh. When I realised this was a historical novel, set in Wales, written by a Welsh author my resolve began to cave. I clicked over to Amazon, found the novel was set in the nineteenth century, my particular era of interest, and thought damn: I’m going to have to buy this book.
I did and, thanks to Amazon’s ‘one click’ buying process Leap the Wild Water was downloaded before I had a chance to re-think my decision.
Now, here’s the thing about caving in – you must be magnanimous in your defeat. I read Leap the Wild Water in one weekend. I enjoyed it so much, I asked the Historical Novel Society whether I could write a review for the Indie section of their website. As it turns out, they were interested, so interested, that Indie reviews editor Helen Hollick shortlisted the review on her blog. Meanwhile, I contacted Jenny Lloyd, told her about my extensive blog readership (even bigger cough) and asked whether she would like to do an interview. Turns out, she not only wrote a great first novel, but she is also a nice person. I am pleased therefore, to present you an interview with Jenny Lloyd:
Thanks Jenny for taking the time to answer my questions.
Thank you, Elizabeth, for inviting me.
I notice you have an interest in family history. Is Leap the Wild Water a family story? If yes, what came first, the intention to write a novel or family history research?
The intention to write a novel had been with me since childhood but it was finding this story during my family history research which inspired Leap the Wild Water.
How long did the novel take you to write?
Following the research, writing the first draft to publication took over four years. It took that long because I suffered two bereavements shortly after finishing the first draft which rendered me incapable of writing for a year. When I went back to it, I cut the first fifty pages and rewrote them. I then redrafted the rest of the book.
Did you begin with two alternating voices or did that come later? How did the process of drafting and redrafting unfold?
In the first draft, I just let the character’s voices pour out on the page. Initially, the book was written in two parts; the first part was from Megan’s POV, the second part was written from her brother’s POV, with their individual stories converging at the end. I took a risk in writing each character in the first person because it meant their individual voices had to be very strong but both viewpoints were integral to the story.
I played around with the narrative structure for ages until it made my head spin. I don’t know how others do it, but I found it impossible to make major changes without typing off the entire manuscript. I laid out all the individual chapters on the floor and rearranged them into a pattern which I felt gave the narrative and plot more power and suspense. In making these changes, I then needed to alter the beginning and ending of each chapter so the whole blended together seamlessly.
In retrospect, and with the benefit of all I learned during the writing process of that first novel, I realise that I made my task all the harder by not making decisions about the structure before beginning to write. The writing of the sequel (coming soon) has been infinitely easier in that respect because the outline of the story structure was in my head before I began. Having said that, it is the characters, and the choices they make, which ultimately drive the narrative and they constantly throw up surprises.
Are you part of a writing group?
I’m not part of a writing group. I’m a self-taught writer and most of what I’ve learned about writing has been through reading. I read the very best in the genre, and read the worst, and all the ones in between. My advice to anyone wanting to improve their writing skills is to read, read, and then read more until you have absorbed the rules of good writing and what makes the difference between good and bad writing.
When researching a historical novel you have to know so much more historical detail than what finally appears in the finished product. Was there anything you'd love to have shoehorned into the narrative but simply couldn't find a place for?
When I first began researching my family history it was with no idea that it would lead to the writing of a novel. The discoveries I made during that time led me to want to learn all that I could about how my ancestors had lived and survived. I researched every aspect of their lives; what they wore and ate; how they travelled around such rugged terrain; their daily tasks; their religion and superstitions; and the inequalities and constraints women were subject to. I amassed a large collection of books on every aspect of Welsh life in the past.
There was so much more I would have liked to include but I was wary of how much of the background stuff I weaved into the story. I felt that to include too much would have got in the way of the story and altered its pace. For me, the main purpose of all that research was so that I was able to vividly imagine the lives of my characters. When I think of the novel now, it seems more like recalling personal memory than recalling a work of fiction that I have written. I feel like I have lived in that time and place.
Your descriptions of the Welsh countryside are so evocative. Can you tell me where you live? What aspects of the landscape inspired your writing? Are they real places? Would you consider writing something set outside of Wales?
I was born in mid-Wales and have lived here for most of my life. The wild, open mountains are the most special places in the world to me. I’ve been keeping journals of my walks for many years. In them, I have recorded the wildflowers I find, and also descriptions of the weather and the landscape, along with some poetry. I never thought of them as an aid to novel writing until I began Leap the Wild Water. I then realised that I had a wealth of descriptive detail which had been written with immediacy and detail that I would never have attained if recalling from memory alone.
Though the landscapes in Leap the Wild Water were mostly imaginary, they were certainly inspired by the area where my ancestors lived. The Welsh landscape and the difficulties my ancestors went through have been my inspiration. For those reasons, I can’t imagine writing a novel set outside Wales, but you never know.
Is this your first work of fiction? Did you seek traditional publication? What are the advantages of Indie publishing?
Leap the Wild Water was the first full length novel I’d written. It was so long in the research and writing that when I felt I’d made it the best it could be, I was impatient for it to be published. I’d heard of so many people trying and failing to get published in the traditional way that I chose not to go down that route. The downside of indie publishing is that the author, however good their work, never gets to see their novels on the shelves of mainstream bookstores. The best thing about being an indie author is that the novel I published is exactly as I wrote it; nobody else has come along and changed it in any way, which seems to be what happens to traditionally published authors.
You can buy the book on Amazon but before you do why not check out the review on the HNS site.