Saturday, January 27, 2018

From Africa to Amsterdam: meet Lucinda E Clarke

It's been a long time since I did a weberview here, so I'd like to offer a very warm welcome to Lucinda E Clarke, whose amazing books set in Africa have entertained me on many a long cold evening in Europe. 




Lucinda has written three full length memoirs, one humorous novel and a four book action adventure series. Apart from the humorous book, all her writing is set mainly in Africa, which is where she has lived most of her life. She now lives in Spain, but I can tell from her books her heart, like mine, still lives in the southern hemisphere.



Lucinda's memoirs and her humorous novel
Unhappily Ever After


So Lucinda, I'm going to mix my questions up a bit, but they are all things I've been curious about since I started reading your memoir 'Walking on Eggshells'

Firstly, then, I've read all your books (I think) and have enjoyed every one of them (I know), but which of your books have you most enjoyed writing?

Val, firstly thank you for the opportunity to talk about me, myself my books and my life – no one I meet in person is the slightest bit interested (sad eh? I don't believe it! VP)
I most enjoyed writing the 4th book in the Amie series “Amie: Cut for Life,” because I was beginning to feel like a proper author. I knew where I was going with it, even though I never map out of any of my books. It took longer than the others, but I believe the end product was the best. I think I’m getting a bit better with practice. Only another 50 or so to go and I should have cracked it.

Well,  I've just finished your Worst Riding School in the World, Parts 1 and 2 and I laughed my socks off, so I think you've more than cracked it if you can write both humour and drama so well! Anyway, I saw you mentioned how much you loved Botswana. Is that the country you have in mind when you are writing your Amie novels and how well did you get to know Botswana before you moved to South Africa?

I lived in Botswana for almost 3 years and it’s the real Africa. South Africa is more a first world infrastructure (shopping malls, high rises, excellent road network etc) dropped down in the middle of the African bush. There was none of that in Botswana, though we were beside ourselves when they opened the first cinema and a Spar shopping supermarket in Francistown, such luxury!

Lucinda's action adventure series set in Africa

I can imagine that. It sounds wonderful in your books, though. Can I ask which you find it easier to write: fact or fiction and why?

The fact is so much easier – you are simply recounting what happened so the story is all mapped out in your head. You don’t get to page 149 and suddenly realize your heroine can’t come to the rescue because you’d put her in a wheelchair and left her in a prison three thousand miles away!

Haha, true, but fact has its own challenges, doesn't it? Do you think your travels have helped you as a writer? If so, in what way?

Goodness yes! Despite the reviewer who told me I didn’t know what I was talking about (she had never been to Africa, but she had seen it on the television news). You get to meet people who have a different mindset, opinions, knowledge, education and you realize that everything you have been taught until then, was only from one point of view – possibly the media in your own country. Our thoughts are shaped by the propaganda we are fed. “Travel broadens the mind” is one of the truest sayings I’ve ever encountered.

I so agree with that. But how do you think living in Africa has influenced you and your writing?

I was just so incredibly lucky. Like you, I was far away from the suburban areas, living in the bush. My filming took me to chiefs’ kraals, witchdoctor’s huts, agricultural projects, schools, hospitals, local government – I could go on and on and on. I was so privileged to be welcomed to places where I would joke with my African crew “Look after me guys, I’m the only white person for miles and miles!” So many of the people I met touched my heart, so few possessions, so brave, so accepting and often bewildered by the fast-paced modern world that was trying to drag them into the mainstream.

One shoot I remember was when the African government official could not understand why the San (Bushmen) should be allowed to hunt and live as they had for centuries. No, the official policy was they must live in houses with running water and send the children to school and the men must get jobs. They had rounded them up and pushed them into this housing estate miles from anywhere and the San looked so miserable. It was so sad; they didn’t want to live what we call a conventional life.

Lucinda with an African chief

Strange how even Africans can totally misunderstand other Africans. Now, as writers we are always striving to improve, aren't we? Is there anything you find difficult in the writing process, and if so, how are you trying to overcome it? (Sorry, this is a boring question, but I really am curious!)

There are some days when the words don’t come – onset of word retrieval or lack of. Other days I can’t type fast enough to keep up. I get twitchy if I don’t write for a couple of days, but then I’m writing up blogs, or the newsletter or commenting on social media or composing reviews. Basically, I live to write and that’s what was so wonderful about my work in the media. I would be bouncing out of bed screaming “Yeah! It’s Monday!” – although I’d probably worked right through the weekend as well! 

I’m a workaholic and was heartbroken leaving the production work behind when we left South Africa. If I feel I’ve hit a brick wall in a book, I plough on, even though I might delete a whole lot later. I’m very disciplined having worked to deadlines so often, I occasionally have to tell myself that it’s not a train smash if I didn’t get 5,000 words done today – I am supposed to be retired after all.

My word, I'd be delirious to write even 1000 words every day. That's amazing, but Lucinda, I know you've been writing for years; do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?

Oh yes, it was a report on the Sunday School class I was teaching (to win brownie points to get into teacher training). It was published in the church magazine, but I think I was the only one ever to read it, as I snaffled all the copies and took them home to read! I cringe when I think about it now.

Now you're being too modest, I'm sure! Are you writing anything at the moment. Can you tell us what it is, and when it's likely to be available?

I am currently writing book 5 in the Amie series. She’s the young English girl I uproot from the London suburbs and dump in Africa and then, when war breaks out and the last evacuation plane takes off, she is left behind to survive as best she can. Since book 1 I have put her through all kinds of hell, and in this book she gets mixed up in high level international politics over mineral rights which are necessary for nuclear devices. I can’t give much more than that away at this stage but she is still under threat from the government forces who are using her. I hope to have it out sometime this year, but I’ve been so busy marketing I’ve neglected the writing side. I need an extra 6 hours a day!

Well, that sounds as if it's going to be as unputdownable as the others! I won't keep you any longer now, Lucinda, as I'm going to pack you off to your keyboard to get writing! Thank you so much for joining me here today. It's been great to have you on my barge for a chat. At least it hasn't been windy today so you haven't had to cling to your cuppa.

The day I met Lucinda on her flying visit to Amsterdam
A meeting I enjoyed because I admire her immensely


For anyone interested in sampling some of Lucinda's great books, click here for her Amazon author page.
Lucinda is also active on Facebook 
And on Twitter

Have a good week allemaal. I'll be back with all that's wet and watery next time!

10 comments:

  1. Hi Val and Lucinda - great to read about your books, your meeting and how you work out your books. I guess filming must make such a difference ... as you've been places most of us haven't - I've been to Botswana, Namibia, Zim and SA .. but not in the depth you've been able to 'see into' ... fascinating and I'm so pleased you've written your stories down.

    Lovely post to read ... and to meet Lucinda - cheers Hilary

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    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Hilary! I did too :)

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    2. Hi Hilary, Like me I'm sure you found Botswana a special place the Okavanga is so unique. Val and i really connected because we found the same vibes that are unique to Africa - can't wait to meet up with her again - it will be soon :)

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    3. Me too, Lucinda! Hilary also lived in SA for many years, so she knows, you know :)

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  2. Fascinating! Now I have to start reading the rest of her books. Thanks, Val. This was inspiring. What a fun and interesting interview. (Steph)

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    1. You should, Steph! They are great!

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  3. What can I say Val you are just too kind :) Your questions are among the most interesting I have ever been asked and thank you too for the invitation to an interview on your barge.

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    1. They are all things I've wanted to ask you, Lucinda! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

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  4. Thank you Val and Lucinda for the interesting interview. I follow both of you, as I’ve also got the Africa bug and love reading all things African. Correct me if I’m wrong, Lucinda, but I think you are fairly unique in writing African based fiction. Especially a series - other than Wilbur Smith of course. I find I come across many more memoir/travel books on Africa. “See” you both in WLM later!

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    1. Thank you, Colin! I do know of a few other writers who've written fiction about Africa, but not many. Do you know Deon Meyer's books? He mostly writes about Cape Town, but not exclusively.

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