22 September 2020

Special Guest Interview with Juliette Lawson, Author of A Borrowed Past (Seaton Carew Sagas)


Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Escape into William Harper’s journey of discovery, love and loss in the first book of the Seaton Carew Sagas series. A Borrowed Past is a historical saga for anyone who’s ever felt that they don’t belong.

I'm pleased to welcome author Juliette Lawson to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book 

A Borrowed Past’ is the first in the Seaton Carew Sagas series, set in the 1870s in Seaton Carew, York and Scarborough. What would you do if you discovered your life was a lie? Young aspiring artist William Harper runs away to find out the truth. But the pull of the past is strong, drawing him into a web of deceit. When tragedy strikes, can he make the right choices about who he should give his heart to and where his future lies?

My readers describe the story as heart-warming, intriguing and compelling, and they say the setting is almost a character in itself. My favourite quote from a review is ‘The writing was beautifully evocative of the era and the story skilfully documented, painting the page with words much as William longed to spill the images in his mind onto paper with a brush.’

What is your preferred writing routine? 

I like to rise early and get my words down first thing, so my subconscious can work on any knotty problems during the rest of the day. At the end of the session, I plan the next chapter ready for the following day, drawing on the detailed outline I created before beginning my first draft.

If I ever find myself struggling to get in the right frame of mind, I either go for a walk or put on my headphones to play the BrainWave Binaural Programs app while writing, overlaid with the sound of thunderstorms. It never fails to get me into the zone, like pressing a switch in my brain!

What advice do you have for new writers? 

Write the first draft only for yourself; don’t worry about what anyone else will think of it. We never see the first draft of books written by bestselling authors, but they won’t be perfect! This stage is for you to find your way around the story and get to know your characters properly. Acknowledge that it will go through lots of iterations, so don’t hold on to it too tightly.

In the second draft, think about how to grip the reader. Pay attention to the details: your descriptions, portraying the senses, how your characters behave and speak in their era and society, and factual accuracy. Your job is to keep the reader engrossed; don’t let them pull away from the story to wonder about any of these things. Leave spelling, grammar and punctuation checks until the last draft.

Finally, prioritise your writing. Don’t look too far ahead at publication and marketing until you’ve finished your book and edited it to the very best standard you can achieve. Just take one step at a time. I was obsessed with learning about the whole process from the start, but by the time I finished my novel, lots had changed! There’s a constant stream of new advice, so you can afford to wait. 

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books? 

Like most authors, I’m still working on that! My challenge with ‘A Borrowed Past’ was that I published it shortly before the Covid-19 lockdown, and it didn’t feel right to promote it initially. I have four years’ experience of writing nonfiction to draw on (as Julie Cordiner), where I’ve engaged with my readers online by posting interesting content, blogging and offering a newsletter. I’m doing the same with my fiction, but it feels much harder to build a following. 

My approach is to build a readership through common interests, sharing how I approach my research and writing, and recommending other books in the genre - we’re all united through a love of reading. Although I favour content marketing, I am testing out some advertising, but it will be more effective when I have more books in the series.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research 

The inspiration for writing a novel came from my research for a parish history, which I wrote in 2011 to help raise funds for my church’s restoration. I uncovered some strange stories, such as the wrong body being buried in the churchyard and a well-respected local solicitor ending up in court for an alleged assault. But the one that stands out was when a resident asked for a copy of a photograph I’d used in the book, showing a family at an upper window of his house watching the unveiling of the war memorial. 

He invited me round to see all the house deeds, which were on parchment with wax seals, and we worked out who the family members were. Then he said the landlord of the pub next door wanted to see me. We were taken down to the cellar, where the landlord pointed to a boarded-up space. ‘There’s a tunnel behind there,’ he said, ‘and I believe it runs underneath the cottages behind here.’

He wouldn’t open it for fear of finding dead bodies, but I already knew that soldiers had been sent to Seaton Carew in the 1700s to break up smuggling. This discovery certainly fired my imagination.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

The scene where William faces his father on the pier was particularly tricky. There was so much I wanted to convey: their relationship, William’s desperate need to understand why his Papa hated him, and the knowledge that he had to save him from jumping over the edge, for his Mama’s sake. But in that fraught situation, there would only be snatches of dialogue, half carried away by the wind. I therefore needed to find a way of conveying the emotion through narrative, using their actions and drawing on all William’s senses. I hope I managed to achieve that.

What are you planning to write next? 

I’m halfway through the second draft of book two in the series, A Maid’s Dilemma. This is the story of Grace, William’s childhood sweetheart, and what she gets up to while he is away. She’s a maid to Lady Forbes, who is making herself ill through drink. It’s a bit of a problem, since Lord Forbes is a staunch advocate of Temperance and is in denial about the whole thing! Grace decides she has to find out where the alcohol is coming from, despite warnings from her new love that she could put herself in danger. That tunnel just might make an appearance!

Juliette Lawson 

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About the Author

Juliette Lawson lives by the sea at Seaton Carew, part of Hartlepool, in north east England. A classics degree, a passion for local history and many years spent exploring her family tree meant that historical fiction was a natural choice when deciding to write a novel. The inspiration for her Seaton Carew Sagas series came from research undertaken for a parish history to raise funds for her local church. As well as enjoying historical novels, Juliette also reads contemporary fiction, thrillers, cozy mysteries, and books with interesting locations. She sings in the church choir and her local Ladies' Choir, plays violin and piano (badly), knits and sews, and loves spending time with her granddaughters. Find out more at Juliette's website https://juliettelawson.com/ and find her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter @juliette_author

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