Joanne Larner Interview
Self-Publisher’s Showcase: Today we are joined by Joanne Larner, author of the Richard Liveth Yet series. Welcome to the Showcase Lounge, Joanne
JL: Thank you, it is a pleasure to be invited.
SPS: For any of our readers that haven’t come across your work previously, can you take a moment to tell us all a little about yourself and your work?
JL: Well, I always wanted to write a novel and I started quite a few, but never managed to complete any until I was inspired by Richard III. I am a little bit obsessed actually.
It began when I saw the TV documentary ‘The King in the Car Park’ about how they found his remains and the lady who was the driving force behind the project was so passionate about him, it was quite weird – after all, he has been dead for over 500 years! But this intrigued me and I started reading about him; the more I read, the more I believed he had been wrongly portrayed by history.
There were lots of novels about him too, but I began to get tired of knowing how they were going to end – with his death at Bosworth – so I looked for an alternative history, but I couldn’t find any. My sister said: ‘Why don’t you write one, then?’ So I did, helped by National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I need the deadline and the target or I will procrastinate. I used the device of having Richard III arrive in modern times to find out he is going to lose the battle and die, so he has to research what went wrong to try to go back and change things.
This first novel was well received and I was pleased that my readers were asking for a continuation of the story – I had always planned to make it a two-parter. But while writing the second part, I realised that there was too much material for the second book and decided to turn it into a trilogy. The second part involves the first book’s heroine, Rose, inadvertently travelling back to Richard’s mediaeval times and the third part is mainly set in the future – a bit like ‘Back to the Future’ with Richard III!
SPS: What are your perfect writing conditions, and how often do you write?
JL: I think the only time I experienced perfect writing conditions was when I began the first novel. I and my husband were supposed to be holidaying in Center Parcs but he was offered a new job just before we were due to leave and he decided he could not go. So I went on my own with just the dogs for company. The TV in the villa wasn’t working but I didn’t report it as it helped me focus on the novel. I spent about five hours a day writing on my laptop and came back, after five days away, with 35,000 words. It was great to know I had nothing else I had to do apart from take the dogs on a few walks. But at home I generally write in the early hours of the morning. I try to write every day, but not always novels. I am easily distracted, which is why I try to do NaNoWriMo at least once a year.
SPS: Can you put your finger on the moment where you decided that you wanted to publish your work?
JL: No, not really. I suppose I always thought I would publish it, since self-publishing is now so accessible. I didn’t find that as daunting as actually finishing the novel and, when I sent for my first proof copy, it was the best feeling, like the culmination of my lifetime’s ambition. I also think that I wasn’t expecting many people to actually read it – maybe a few friends and relatives, so I was writing for myself really. I know I felt much more nervous after publishing the second and third volumes whereas with the first I had no fear.
SPS: Why do you think it is that you have found yourself writing in the style that you do?
JL: That’s a good question. I am not a wordy writer and when I edit, I usually find I am adding rather than taking away. I think that this makes the story faster paced. Fundamentally, I write in the style I like to read. I like variety, so I write using contrasting moods: some of my scenes are sad, some are humorous, some emotional and some light-hearted as I feel this mixture of light and dark emphasises the contrasts.
Most of all, I write to entertain. For me, escapism is not a dirty word; it is essential for human sanity to get away from mundane life and be taken away from reality. My books are light reading and I’m quite happy to leave heavy realism to other authors.
SPS: What would you say, if anything, best differentiates you from other authors?
JL: I would like to think that my books are a little quirky. I enjoy anything different and I think I am quite eccentric, so I hope this comes through in my work.
I also try different devices that make it more original. For example, in the ‘Richard Liveth Yet’ books, I use song titles as the scene headings – it also added to the musical motif which was important to emphasise the importance of music in Richard’s life. Plus it was the most fun part of writing the novels!
SPS: Where does the inspiration for your work come from?
JL: Well, as I said before, Richard III was my inspiration for the story but memorable experiences form the basis of many of the scenes in the books. I like to look at people and use those I know as the foundations of different characters as it helps me to differentiate the personalities of my protagonists. I have also found that some plot ideas just seem to fall into place. Several times I have been researching something only to find that I discover something else that will fit seamlessly into my story or add another dimension to it. Synchronicity working with the creative process.
SPS: Have you received a favourite review of your work?
JL: Yes, this one:
‘I knew from the outset that this book was different. The author has brought Richard III into the present day, and he has to cope with modern day life, gadgets, pastimes and so on, and she pulls it off with immense dash and believability . . . and with humour and sadness too. It is a heady mix that kept me glued to the pages for a whole day, cover to cover.
Just how might Richard III react to finding himself in present-day England? Well, it would be only too easy to make him irritating, not understand anything and being constantly taken aback by the latest electronic whatnot. That is not how he is at all. We all know he was a quick-witted, intelligent, masterful man, and so he is. Nothing in Rose’s (the leading character of the 21st century) world fazes him completely. He’s ready for anything . . . except perhaps the Trick or Treat children who knock at Rose’s door on Halloween, and he finds himself confronted by mini-witches! His superstitious mediaeval self surges to the fore! Poor Richard, in his time witches are a great dread, and here is Rose, holding out a bowl of sweets to them. Our hero is not amused.
When it comes to bringing his mediaeval prowess to the present day, however, he is in his element. Now Rose can really appreciate the phrase ‘knight in shining armour’. His riding skills are matchless, he takes part in re-enactments and can out-joust them all. He even takes part in the re-enactment of Bosworth—and suffers the insult of playing Henry Tudor! His thoughts about that can be imagined. However, his knightly skills are in evidence in other ways too, and it isn’t very long before poor Rose is all at sixes and sevens about him. How could she not be, sitting with him outside a pub, while he enjoys a pint and packet of crisps, crunching away while telling her exactly what happened at Northampton and Stony Stratford in 1483. It is touches like this that make him—and the book—so endearing.
I will not say more to spoil the experience of this book for prospective readers . . . except to grin at the thought—my own, I hasten to say, because the book does not end as you would expect it to—of all those wondrously qualified people at Leicester University discovering that Richard’s remains sported a handsome 21st century tooth implant! Wonderful.
Thank you, Joanne, for a terrific excursion into Richard’s time travel adventures, and the ending is superb. “Richard Liveth Yet” is thoroughly recommended. Anyone who reads it will not be disappointed. If I could give it six stars, I would, but as only five are the norm, I must be content with that.’
SPS: What’s next on the self-publishing horizon for yourself?
JL: I was asked by another writer if I would collaborate with her on a different genre of book, still based on Richard III (she is also a Ricardian), but with a completely different slant.
She started a Facebook Page called ‘Dickon for his Dames’ in which Richard III (Dickon) writes to his loyal subjects about everyday life in his castle. It is written in ‘Mediaeval style’ but juxtaposed with modern life so, for example, Dickon sends his henchman, Lovell, to modern day Tesco to buy his favourite Jaffa Cakes and has to contend with all the Dames swooning whenever he passes by. He sends them messages through his ‘pingyng flashbox’ (mobile phone) and purchases new additions to his ‘My Little Destrier’ collection on Ye Bay. The humour is rather like ‘Carry On’ or ‘The Two Ronnies’ with double entendres and farcical situations.
So, having agreed, I had then to match my style with hers. Luckily, we have a similar sense of humour and I think it has worked well. We have just published ‘Dickon’s Diaries’, which is really a book of humorous short stories, and we are now working on a second volume.
SPS: Was the Self-Published/Indie-Published route always your preferred route for your work?
JL: Not at first. You tend to be brainwashed into thinking you’re not a ‘real’ author if you have to self-publish. But then I found that many authors who have already had books traditionally published now prefer self-publishing. Plus I am a bit of a control freak, so I like that I can decide exactly what to write with no outside interference. Also, I think self-publishing allows for more originality and ‘rule-breaking’ – some rules should be broken occasionally.
SPS: Has the experience so far been all that you thought it would be?
JL: I didn’t really have any expectations. As I said, I was very naïve when I published the first novel and was quite shocked when so many people read it. I was lucky that my first reviews were 4 and 5 star; it might have discouraged me if the first ones had been poor. Obviously there have been some negative ones too, but overall I have been very pleasantly surprised.
SPS: If you could give one piece of advice for someone looking to get into writing, what would it be?
JL: Just do it! Get it down first and then make sure you have an objective person or people to read through and make suggestions, and proofread for typos and grammar mistakes – you can’t do this yourself as you will miss your own errors because you know in your head what you mean, but it makes such a difference.
SPS: Before we bring this interview to a close, it’s your chance to name-drop. Anyone who you feel is deserving of more recognition at present or someone whose writing you have recently enjoyed? Now is your chance to spread the word…
JL: Well, it is another Ricardian author, of course! Liz Orwin has written several Ricardian books and she writes emotion so well. She is also excellent at vividly bringing a different time and place to life in her descriptions: she paints an accurate and detailed image of Mediaeval England. Her latest publication is a two part story about Anne Neville, Richard’s wife, written in the first person. They are: ‘The Maid’s Tale: Anne’ and ‘The Maid’s Tale: Johanne.’ (Here is a link to her author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Liz-Orwin/e/B00CTFHX7W)
SPS: Thank you for joining us today, Joanne, and all the best for the future.
JL: Thank you for the opportunity to say something about my novels.
SPS: For more information on Joanne and her work, please do visit HERE.