I am very happy to have historical romance author Joanna Lloyd with me today. Her new release, Shadow Beneath the Sea, is now available. Joanna has been kind enough not only to answer a few of my questions, but to share an excerpt with all of you! Let’s get started.
This book is set in 1915. Britain and Germany are at war and the waters off Great Britain have been declared a war zone. In six days the luxury ocean liner, Lusitania, sails from New York to England with 1,959 passengers on board.
The story of the 202nd Atlantic crossing of the luxury liner, Lusitania was one of the great maritime disasters of the last century. The actions of the German U-boat captain, as the great ship cruised the Irish coast, spawned a flood of conspiracy theories, investigations, a court case, hard questions of the British Admiralty, and targeted Captain William Turner as the scapegoat. The whole truth of this disaster was closely guarded to protect the actions or non-actions of the Admiralty.
However, there sailed on this ship a group of fictional characters whose motives for travel were as varied as their personalities. In the time it took to cross the Atlantic Ocean, in the microcosm of this floating universe, lies and deceit festered, secrets changed lives, money was made and lost and a deep and lasting passion ignited between Lillian Marshall and Edward James.
Tell us about your background before you started writing.
I grew up in Papua New Guinea and came to Australia for secondary and tertiary education. At university I studied Psychology and then did professional training as a mediator. I spent many years working in remote Aboriginal communities with traditional elders assisting with social justice issues and with re-establishing the old ways of justice and mediation. I then spent some years specializing in Family Law mediations and workplace investigations until my physical ability meant I could no longer go out to work (I have muscular dystrophy). I now write psycho-social assessment reports for people applying to be foster carers and, of course, write my novels!
What drew you to writing romance? Are you a long-time reader?
I have always been a voracious reader and read Gone With the Wind when I was thirteen years old. I was in boarding school and reading was the way I found solace in a cold, unloving environment. I probably prefer books with romantic elements than romance being the focus but when I first decided to write, a friend told me her greatest support and learning came from Romance Writers of Australia and I should join. She was right, I never want to lose the contacts and the endless pool of support, knowledge and compassion I found in this organization. I now can’t imagine writing a story where love does not take flight and change the characters radically as they see themselves through the eyes of the person they love.
When you begin writing a book, do you have the story all outlined in your mind or do you wait and see where the characters take you?
You have just touched on my current dilemma, Amanda! I am such a panster but have a strong part of my personality which insists on order and organization. Because of this I decided to do Cathy Yardley’s “Writing your Lightning Draft” workshop. Cathy provides all the processes to plot enough to allow a draft to be whipped up in 2 months (so she tells me). So for once I have GMC, a premise, Plot points, pinch points, a black moment and resolution. But then I got stuck again because I really didn’t know the details. Cathy has now dashed up on her white charger and provided me with an amazing template for scene outlines and I’m about to become a plotter! Stay tuned!
What writers have influenced your own writing?
I love the energy and edge-of-the-seat adventure in Diana Gabaldon’s books as well as her characters which burst off the page. Rosamund Lupton’s style (“Sister” and “Afterwards”) is superb and I would love to have her as a tutor. Also Sara Donati writes wonderful historical and contemporary stories which intertwine amazing character studies with romance and adventure. I aspire to the level of prose and character portrayal as writers such as these.
How difficult was your hero/heroine to write? How do you view their characters?
Normally, my heroines are easy as I can naturally relate to the female psyche better than the male. However, in Shadow Beneath the Sea, I had my heroine as a very working class gal with rough ways and habits and when we did the edits with the publisher, they wanted her to be of middle/merchant class so I had to do a complete class change which effected most parts of the novel. So the heroine was not easy by the end! I knew the hero well and his role was not as prominent as the heroine’s. I have to really like my characters – good or bad – to write them well.
How important is the portrayal of families in your work?
I am aware that everyone’s present actions, belief systems, aspirations and self-esteem are the result of early childhood/family influences. To know a character, I must know his/her family and upbringing. Only then can my characters be three-dimensional. I always find interaction with their family within the story tells the reader why they make certain decisions or act in certain way in a far more realistic way than a narrative or the action in isolation.
After a long day of writing, how do you indulge yourself?
I live alone so I like to go and sit on my veranda where I can look out over the hills that surround the valley where I live and enjoy the sound of the birds and my wind chimes singing. Oh and a nice cup of ginger tea (alcohol doesn’t work with me – a sip and I’m a giggling moron).
Tell us about your research for the book.
I love the research part of writing and surround myself with every book on the subject I can get my hands on from the library. For Shadow Beneath the Sea, I read everything I could about the shipping line, the actions of war up to the time depicted, and of course, the Lusitania itself. I needed my descriptions of the ship to be exact, including the food the passengers ate, the number and positioning of lifeboats, activities on board, the attack by the German U-boat and the aftermath, to be described in detail. There were a few different versions of the event and so much conjecture and intrigue surrounding the incident. The British Admiralty had secreted arms on board which made it a target for the Germans but passengers were under the impression they were safe because it was a passenger liner. The research is as rewarding as writing the book.
What haven’t you done as a writer that you’d like to attempt?
I haven’t written a twisty-turner crime/mystery type novel and that interests me. I don’t know if I have the capacity for one of those yet. I so admire the imagination required for a really good mystery.
What are you planning next for your readers? What’s next?
I am now writing my first contemporary novel which is a bit of a coming of age for the heroine. I also have not got the usual beautiful heroine and handsome hero this time so they have to sell themselves through their personalities. I am enjoying the challenge but the outcome will determine whether I was up to the challenge J.
Excerpt from Shadow Beneath the Sea:
“We’ve been hit. It’s a torpedo.” No sooner had the words left the man’s mouth than there was a second explosion. “God protect us. It’s two torpedoes. We’re all going to die.” He turned away from the water and sobbed like a child. With her hand still covering her face, Lilian slid down the wall, shedding silent tears. She hoped death would at least be quick.
Without warning the ship listed to starboard and her flailing hands grappled for purchase. Paralyzed with fear, her screams were no more than silent bursts of terror wedged in her throat. Unable to find a hand-hold, she skidded towards the edge, her nails clawing the deck in desperation.
Lilian closed her eyes, ready for the chilling drop to her death when suddenly strong arms circled her waist and she was pulled into Edward’s firm embrace. His arms trembled with the exertion of holding onto her while battling against the pitching ship. He dragged them both back from the edge and braced himself against a column of steel.
She twisted her shivering body enough to face him. “You came for me.” She drew in a sobbing breath. “You cared enough to risk your life for me.”
“I have no life if you’re not there to share it with me. What else could I do?” He buried his face in her hair.
Thank you for being with us today, Joanna!