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Friday, July 15, 2022

Author interview Lisa Thomas/ Book review 'Unprecedented Times'

 πŸ₯³πŸ“šI’m in a party mood - woohoo!πŸ₯³πŸ“š 

This is my tenth author interview and book review and it’s been an amazing but mad, crazy-busy five months! I’m so grateful to all the wonderful authors who have given me their time. Thank you! 

To celebrate I’m thrilled to welcome Lisa Thomas to Tweetables, a debut novelist whose donating part of her book proceeds to charity. So, let's meet her!

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

I started by asking Lisa to introduce herself.

‘I live in Birmingham, UK with my three children and two cats, because I am clearly a sucker for punishment!  I’m a single mom (separated from my ex-husband in 2020) and a self-employed content writer and digital marketer, so life is pretty busy. 

My two childhood dreams were to write a story I could be proud of and write a song that made people happy.  I was told these were pipedreams and I needed to be more serious, I also suffer from a lack of confidence and a fear of performing, so I didn’t try to do either. I stopped playing and performing music at 18 (and missed it every day) and everything I wrote thereafter I kept to myself.

Then, when I was 35 years old (and feeling like I was barely living half a life), I saw my lack of confidence rubbing off on my kids and decided I needed to start leading by example.  So, I started to push myself out of my comfort zone.  Now I have a self-published novel which I am incredibly proud of, I am playing music again (I even have a YouTube channel), I’ve started lyric writing, and I’ve created my own GIF range which has over 25 million views in less than 12 months. 

I still shy away from the attention and the first time I performed I was shaking like a leaf… but I am not letting my fear (or the opinions of others) hold me back anymore.  While the last few years have been very difficult for me, I am finally seeing the rainbow after the storm and am actually (finally) living a full life, as me (and feeling like I am good enough for a change).’

Aww, it’s nice to hear that she’s coming out the other side nowπŸ€— So now to her book, ‘Unprecedented Times’, which is book one of a trilogy. She describes it as a dystopian Sci-Fi and it was published in 2020. She also has some unpublished children’s stories too but I asked what inspired her to write this book?

‘I had the story idea as soon as COVID first broke out in China (not expecting it to have THIS kind of impact in real life).  I started writing it up (with the intention of keeping it to myself), but later decided to publish.  Partly to lead by example for my children, but also because I wanted to help during the pandemic (I couldn’t due to having 3 young children, home-schooling, working from home and being high-risk myself).  I decided to sell the book to raise funds for charity, my way of giving back when I couldn’t help the world physically.’ 

Oh wow, that’s so lovely! In her book, she makes a point of mentioning how some characters were named but I wondered how she chose them?

‘The female characters were named after strong women throughout history. They are named after Rosa Parks (the black woman who started a civil rights movement when she refused to give her seat on the bus to a white man) and Clara Barton (the founder of the Red Cross). Dr Antonio Vicente’s name and Ben’s name just came to me and fitted perfectly. As there is a lot of cultural diversity in the characters, I have used Google to find names that suit the heritage of the character. If I’m really stuck, I ask my children (and get terrible answers).’

πŸ˜πŸ˜‚I’m laughing as I imagine what her kids might suggest! So, what does she enjoy the most and least about writing?

‘I enjoy the freedom it gives me to be who I want, create a world of my own design, and to share my view of the world we live in.  I’m a hopeful, optimistic person with a lot of love in my heart and this is reflected in my writing.  I get the chance to put ME into my work and until recently I’ve never felt like me is enough, unless I was writing.

The hardest part for me is marketing myself and my book, I worry about annoying people too much. I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone, but I am far from being confident, so approaching literary agents etc, is a little overwhelming.  Getting my book ‘to the next level’, is proving most the biggest challenge for me.’  

This is such a common theme with the authors I’ve interviewed and I wish I could wave a magic wand and make talented authors like Lisa realise how brilliant they are (and tease her out from behind that book cover!).

So, knowing that she’s not too confident of her work, I wondered if she reads the reviews of her work and how she deals with both the bad and good ones?

‘I do read them, I can’t help it.  So far, I’ve only had good reviews, so I guess when I get my first bad one I’ll sob a little… In all honesty, I expect a bad review at some point.  This story won’t be for everyone, the same way my favourite show won’t be for everyone, or my famous spicy curry, won’t be for everyone.  The beauty of life is that we are all different, so when I do get that bad review I intend to chalk it up to that person just being different to me and liking different things.  That is, of course, unless the reviewer were to be very negative about my writing capabilities, in that case, I think my confidence would take a little knock back… but it can be built back up again.’

Aww, that’s understandable but I have noticed that more experienced writers, such Amanda Sterczyk in April (read here) or Helen Sedgwick last month (read here) have found great coping mechanisms for negative reviews, so I think that comes with time.

So what’s her favourite book?

‘Jane Eyre.  I have lots of favourite stories, but this was my first favourite.  I love the era and I related to the character, I loved her defiance, her strong will and her desire to always do the right thing even though that’s rarely the easiest thing. She embodies the person I wanted to become, a strong person with a good heart.’ 

I wondered, if Lisa could go back in time and chat to herself, what advice would she give her younger writing self?

‘Don’t stop writing and DON’T throw away what you have written (I used to always throw my work away). Be brave enough to share your work and put yourself out there, perfection isn’t important and what people think isn’t important, if you be true to you and do what you enjoy.’

Ouch to throwing the work away (don’t ever do that!) but I’m cheering her positive outlook. I asked her, if she could say something directly to you, her potential reader, what she would say?

‘My story is in part devastating and heart breaking, but it also inspires hope and love, it encourages you to reflect on yourself and question yourself, most of all it reminds us that we are all equals and we are better together.  My message to my readers, “please look after each other, help those less fortunate than you, never forget that we are better together and always remember that I think you are amazing!”.’

I feel so fortunate that my 10th interview is with such a wonderful author – I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking she’s amazing (and that she deserves to know that too!). She told me that she has a fabulous mantra too, ‘Live a full life. Learn with no constraints. Laugh with no control. Love with no conditions.’

I think that’s something we should all aim for! To finish up, I asked Lisa for a tweetable synopsis of her book (click here):

‘An alternate history where a fragile balance holds tragedy at bay. In a world far darker than it once was, will we risk losing our humanity, for the sake of humanity? Either way, millions will die in these unprecedented times…’

And I also asked for a tweetable-sized favourite extract from the book too (tweet here):

‘…the mind is ever-evolving and learning.  While the heart on the other hand, feels what it feels, no amount of reasoning or data can change it.  As such our hearts can change our minds, but the mind is powerless against the heart.’

BOOK REVIEW

I was attracted to ‘Unprecedented Times’ because I wondered how an alternate take on the pandemic would work. It seemed a clever idea, weaving real facts through a dystopian story, but is Covid still too raw? I didn’t know but as this was a debut indie novel and the author was donating some of the sale proceeds to charity, I had to give it a try!

I liked the concept of the novel from the start. Using a phone screen image with messages to begin the story felt fresh and modern. This is how we meet Clara, an interesting protagonist who I instantly connected with:

‘Settling into an oversized armchair for one, Clara opened her book and found her place. It was a book she had selected from the reading list of the master’s degree she desperately wanted to study, but was still a year from being able to afford.’

Lisa embeds real facts in the action, rather than giving you pages of dense information, which was great. As readers, we have a unique perspective on the unfolding events, one the characters don’t enjoy and it makes for an interesting dynamic. Here’s an extract from when Clara’s boss at the WHO calls her into work but she doesn’t know why, and she ponders it over on her journey in:

‘She had no way of guessing what the problem was...but that didn’t mean she wasn’t going to try. Was it another humanitarian crisis? Perhaps the civil war in Yemen had suddenly escalated causing more people to need humanitarian aid? Or perhaps it was another emergency, like last year, when Cyclone Idai seriously damaged over 50 healthcare facilities in Mozambique and the WHO stepped in to help.’

The story is told through multiple points of view and I loved the unusual way it unfolds - we follow Clara moving forwards in time, whilst her twin Rosa’s tale is told backwards. This means the first chapter is with Clara at the start of the pandemic, but the second is Rosa’s story a year later, then we bounce back to Clara at the start again and so it continues. It’s very interesting and Lisa minimises confusion by signposting whose point-of-view we’re following, along with a date-stamp, and it was very satisfying to see how the timelines merged at the end.

You can feel the characters’ angst as events unfurl, much like the horror we’ve all experienced, and Lisa paints it extremely well. The pace is great and I flew through the book (more late nights as I read another chapter, and then another!) although I was slightly frustrated that it’s series because I wanted to know what happened next! Being super-impatient (yes, really!), I asked how long I would have to wait and was relieved to find out she hopes to have the second book out before Christmas, the final being published in 2023. However, she’s a busy mom so there are no promises but I’ve got everything crossed - I’m ready!

I can highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys sci-fi /dystopian fiction but as we’ve all lived through the pandemic, I think this could engage a far wider audience. I can see it making a great TV drama! This is a fabulous debut novel from an exciting new author and I’ll certainly be following Lisa’s career with interest.

Why not find out more by visiting the link to all of Lisa’s sites at: https://linktr.ee/lisathomasauthor.

Or visit:

Website: http://www.lisathomasauthor.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LisaThomasBooks

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLisaThomas

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lisatomauthor/

You can also find her on YouTube, TikTok, Amazon Author profile, Goodreads author profile, GIPHY, links to her media mentions and lyrics.

Feel free to pop a comment below - I'd love to hear from you😁

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6 comments:

  1. I've read this book and absolutely loved it - I can't wait for the next instalment. It's so nice reading the author interview too, it somehow brings a book more alive when you know a bit about the person who wrote it.
    Fabulous post, I will definitely be visiting this blog again.
    Off to read the other articles now. Thanks so much.

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    1. Hi Sara, thanks so much for the positive feedback and I'm delighted that you enjoyed the book too πŸ₯°πŸ₯³ Let's hope we don't have to wait too long for the next instalment!

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  2. Wonderful review! Happy 10 🀩

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    1. Jane - TweetablesJuly 15, 2022 at 9:57 PM

      Thanks so much for the lovely feedback Heather πŸ₯°
      I have to admit, I'm looking forward to the next 10 books too! Happy reading!

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  3. Congratulations on your 10th interview and review Tweetables. I've just read them all, great blog, really enjoyed the content.
    This book sounds amazing too, will be buying.

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    1. Jane - TweetablesJuly 15, 2022 at 9:58 PM

      Thanks so much for the lovely comments and I'm delighted to hear that you'll be buying this fab book. And do let us know what you think of it!

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