Monday, June 19, 2017

Interview with B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree Pam Lecky

Please join me in welcoming B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree Pam Lecky to A Literary Vacation today! Pam is an award-winning Irish historical fiction author. 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 published in 2015 and 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.

Currently she is working on two new novels; Kashmir Velvet, a Victorian crime novel set in London and Yorkshire and The Carver Affair, a Victorian crime novel set in her native Dublin. Earlier this year she published In Three-Quarter Time, a short love story set in the WW1 era in Dublin which will also form part of a US/Irish Anthology due to be published later this year. April 2017 saw the publication of The Lighthouse Keeper, which is a contemporary short ghost story.
First off, thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and answer some questions for me, Pam! Historical fiction is my all-time favorite genre and I’m always amazed at the myriad perspectives authors find to highlight for us readers. How did you decide where to set your award-winning novel, The Bowes Inheritance?

Hi, and thanks for hosting me, Colleen.

There are several settings in the book, both in Ireland and the North-West of England. As an Irish writer I wanted to use settings I was familiar with so it made sense to start off in my home town of Dublin. I have been lucky for most of my working life to be located in the beautiful Georgian quarter of Dublin, around Fitzwilliam Square. In the late Victorian era, many of the fabulous houses had become lodging houses and some were even tenements. So I start the story with the two Campbell sisters, Louisa and Eleanor, in a lodging house on Herbert Street. They are the last remaining members of a once affluent and proud County Galway family and are living in genteel poverty.

To up the tension I had to transplant them to unfamiliar ground, as the original premise for the story was a young woman inheriting a property and having to fight to keep it. I have always been fascinated by the complex relationship between the Irish Ascendency and the British gentry. Although often related, the Irish were always looked down upon as second-class. So, I decided to take Louisa and transplant her into a slightly hostile environment in England. As I have a great love of the sea, I searched for a suitable coastal location. I am also a keen family historian and had discovered that my great-great grandparents had spent time in Carlisle in the 1840s, so I centred my location search in Cumbria. You can’t set a novel in Cumbria and not use the Lake District! Lake Buttermere is the setting for a wedding which takes place in the book and is also the place where my two main characters finally admit their feelings for each other. Most of the action takes place in a fictional coastal town called Newton (which is a mix of several coastal towns on the Cumbrian coast).

Is there anything in particular that draws you to write historical fiction? Are there any specific times in history you gravitate towards or do you just enjoy history in general? Do you also enjoy writing contemporary stories?

There were a lot of influences in my childhood and the earliest one I can remember was actually television. Historical dramas in particular caught my attention, even though at that young age I didn’t really understand the stories. Ah but the costumes, the architecture and the way people behaved – something clicked. My father was a great reader and encouraged me to be as well; as a child and a teen I devoured books and I mean devoured. Then Dad bought me the complete works of Jane Austen and a foundation was laid. For those familiar with the 19th century world, I think I actually became a bluestocking! I munched my way through classics, dined on crime (modern and historical - Dorothy L. Sayers and P.D. James my absolute favourites – what fantastically twisty minds those women had), and supped at the feet of Georgette Heyer’s heroes and heroines.

So I suppose it was only natural that my fascination with the 19th century would influence my writing even though my love of history encompasses many eras. The late Victorian decades have a particular draw as they were a time of rapid change. Having said that, it was a chance remark by an uncle which prompted me to write a short story, In Three-Quarter Time, which is a fictional version of my grandparents’ love affair and is set in Dublin in the WW1 period.

One of the joys of being indie is that I have the freedom to explore many eras. My latest published short story is totally different to anything I’ve written before and is a contemporary short ghost story - The Lighthouse Keeper. It is likely I will keep trying new things as it is important to try to keep your work fresh and interesting.

What sort of research do you conduct when writing? Have you ever traveled to the locations before or during the writing process?

Research is the glue that holds your plot and characters together, and in my case, it suggested sub-plots and minor characters. I’m lucky in that I love research and often have to pull myself away from it to actually write. Those who buy historical fiction tend to know their history but as an author you find yourself in the tricky position of just how much period detail to include. You don’t want to bog the story down with it and yet you need to convey a sense of time and place. Authentic detail is my obsession but I try not to overwhelm the story. Many authors in this genre fall into the trap of bombarding the reader with historical reference to the detriment of the story. Your reader wants to be entertained not lectured. If you love the period you are writing in, it will show in the subtle detail of your work – how your characters speak and act in the situations you create.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible for me to travel to Cumbria while I was writing the book so I relied heavily on maps, google, blogs and old newspapers and even photo diaries of a climber for Lake Buttermere. Last year I was lucky enough to eventually get to visit Buttermere for a few brief hours. It was a wonderful and emotional day for me and someday I will go back and spend more time there. It is such a beautiful place.

My next novel is set in Yorkshire and London, both of which I am slightly familiar with but I do believe a research trip (or trips!) will be required.
I’ve noticed that a lot of authors are also big readers. When you have time for leisure reading what sorts of books do you gravitate towards? Have you read anything good lately?

I’m afraid I’m very predictable - I read mostly historical fiction set in the 19th century predominantly and have a particular love of Victorian crime. My reading time is very limited these days as I work part-time, need to squeeze in writing and researching and the dreaded promotion and marketing. So, if a book doesn’t grab me in in the first chapter, I generally don’t go any further with it. I recently came across the Victorian crime novels of M.R.C. Kasasian and they are my new obsession. They are wonderfully written with quirky characters. I can only aspire to write like he does. By the way, he is also a really nice guy as I discovered when we connected on Twitter. His latest book goes live on 1st June. I’ll be standing by my Kindle ready to pounce!
Because I’m always fascinated to learn an author’s journey to publication, can you tell us a little bit about your journey? What made you want to become a writer?

I wrote a little as a teenager - bad poetry which was truly awful angst-ridden stuff that will never see the light of day. Then life took over - marriage, kids, and work. It was while on career break from work after my third child was born, that the idea of writing a novel popped into my head - not to publish but just to see if I could do it. I did and it felt amazing. Several more followed; again I never intended them to be seen by anyone else. But then one story seemed a bit stronger and the rest is history!
What led you to independently publish The Bowes Inheritance? What would you say are the biggest pros and cons of independently publishing versus mainstream publishing?

I sent out the manuscript to lots of agents. Unfortunately, it was unedited and had every rookie error you could imagine. As you can probably guess, no one wanted to know about it. In desperation, I turned to an author friend. She advised me to get an editor and learn about the business. A self-publishing day in the Irish Writers’ Centre in Dublin clinched it. I felt I had burnt my bridges with all of the agents by sending the manuscript out to soon and I liked the idea of being in control - so I decided to go for it. I found a superb editor in the UK, Hilary Johnson, who whipped it all into shape and in July 2015 I hit the publish button.

Other than experiences recounted to me by traditionally published author friends, I have no first-hand experience of the big publishing houses. Thankfully, self-publishing is a very real option for someone in my situation. I have come to it in a roundabout way, and relatively late in life, but I’m very glad I did. This is where I have to confess to like being in control and self-publishing is incredibly powerful. My experience has been positive. Ok, I will confess to one weekend of pulling my hair out trying to get to grips with a print on demand template, but I conquered it. The biggest thrill of all is getting positive feedback from readers - you cannot beat that.

The downside, of course, is the reality - you are now a business and your book is a product. You must nurture your brand. Marketing and promotion are time thieves and like most other indies, I’d much rather be writing. But I suppose there is one positive to social media and that is the incredible people you meet online. I now have many author friends and I am involved in various writing groups worldwide.

Are you working on any other books that we can look forward to reading in the future?

I am currently working on my first Victorian crime novel, Kashmir Velvet, which I am hoping to publish later this year.

Thank you so much, Pam, for sharing your answers with me today!
You can learn more about Pam's writing on her website and can read more about The Bowes Inheritance on the IndieBRAG site. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
You can purchase a copy of The Bowes Inheritance on Amazon. You can also purchase copies of Pam's other books, Three-Quarter Time and The Lighthouse Keeper, on Amazon as well.
A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Colleen has chosen to interview Pam Lecky, who is the author of The Bowes Inheritance, our medallion honoree at
indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ® , a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as The Bowes Inheritance merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.



  1. Wow, I must read this book. Thank you for the interview with the author. My father's side of my family lived in Carlise until right after the Civil War in the United States and I have another branch of the family who lived in Galway! It is now on my list to buy!

    1. Wow, that's awesome!! And you are very welcome, I'm glad you enjoyed the interview!

  2. Thanks for hosting me Colleen - it was fun! Pam xx

    1. My pleasure! Thanks for answering my questions! xoxo