Today we have another interview, this time with Lucy May Lennox, author of The Adventures of Tom Finch, Gentleman.
1) What is your author name and in what state do you live (or country if not in the US)?
My name is Lucy May Lennox and I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, USA
2) What is the title of your newest book and what is the genre?
The Adventures of Tom Finch, Gentleman, historical fiction
3) What is the book about?
The setting is London, 1735, the early Georgian era. Tom Finch, blind from childhood, works as an assistant conductor in a Covent Garden theater, and as a composer of popular tunes. He doesn’t let his blindness get in the way of living the high life with his low-class friends. If people condescend to him, that’s their problem. Tess Turnbridge is an aspiring opera star who auditions at Tom’s theater. She’s not about to let anything get in the way of her rising career, certainly not a lowly assistant conductor who keeps flirting with her.
This witty, lively novel is a picaresque romp through high and low Georgian society among rakes, rovers, thieving whores and demireps, highway robbers, bigamists, and duelists, bisexual opera divas, castrati, mollies, and cross-dressers, lecherous aristocrats, and headstrong ladies.
4) Where did you come up with the idea?
I was frustrated with the stereotypes and clichés about blindness and disability in historical fiction, particularly the 18th century. So often, the plot is about an impossibly wealthy man who is recently blinded, and is angry and bitter, until a self-sacrificing woman comes along and by passively loving him, helps him get over himself. Often the happy ending can only come after his sight is miraculously restored, as if people with disabilities can’t live full, rich lives.
If we look at real history, though, there were blind men who achieved great professional and social success in Georgian London, such as John Fielding, brother of Henry Fielding, and John Stanley, a composer and conductor who was an inspiration for Tom.
I wanted to write something that is the complete opposite of the usual stereotype: a man who has been blind all his life and is already fully independent and capable when the story begins, who doesn’t need a woman to be a nursemaid or carer; people at the fringes of polite society, rather than only the super rich; characters who are gay and bisexual, because they definitely existed back then. And I wanted it to be funny and exuberant. I dislike historical fiction that is grim and dark, or self-serious. It’s frustrating when characters with disabilities only exist to create angst. The 18th century was a peak of satirical, funny writing, and I wanted to reflect that.
5) How long did it take you to write it?
From start to finish it took me ten years! But I wasn’t working consistently the whole time. I wrote the first draft in 2010. In 2013, I published my first novel, Love in Touch, with a small indie press, although I actually wrote that novel second. The press very kindly had a professional editor look over the first draft of Tom Finch, which was tremendously helpful, but then the press went out of business and all the rights reverted back to me. For a while, I tried to get an agent interested but didn’t get anywhere, and I realized I didn’t want to be locked into producing a high volume series or creating a brand. Then I had children so it was many years before I got back to writing seriously. Finally in 2019 I decided to do the major revisions suggested by the editor. It took me almost a year to go through many rounds of revisions, with suggestions by other readers as well.
6) Did you learn anything from the project?
I did a lot of research, and I learned so much about the Georgian era. You can read my other blog posts about some of the research I did on disability and homosexuality in the eighteenth century, and about Baroque opera in London.
About the craft of writing in general, I learned how important it is to go through multiple rounds of editing with lots of feedback from different kinds of readers. The first draft was definitely not the best draft.
7) Do you have an author website and/or blog? How about a book video?
Follow me on Goodreads: Lucy May Lennox.
8) Do you have any success tips to pass on to fellow authors? How about any great editors/cover artists?
Freelance professional editors are expensive but absolutely worth it. It’s also good to be part of an online community of writers who will read your work critically and give more detailed feedback than you might get from a friend.
9) What genres do you like to read? Are you open to reading new authors and reviewing their work?
I enjoy classics and literary historical fiction, but I also read a lot of comic books and graphic novels.
10) What is your favorite book of all time and why?
It’s hard to choose just one, but at the top of the list is Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susannah Clarke and the Master and Commander series by Patrick O’Brian. I love historical fiction that feels true to the time period, that is funny and fun to read.
11) Fun Question: Do you have any pets? If so, what kind?
No, taking care of small children is enough mess and chaos for now.
12) Fun Question 2: Do you own an electronic reading device? If so, what kind and how do you like it?
I use the Kindle app on an iPad. I love it because it’s so fast and efficient. I almost never buy hard copies of books anymore.
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