Lucinda E. Clarke describes herself as being born in Dublin, dragged up in the Cotswolds and finished off in Liverpool. She’s led an appalling life, jumping counties, often one step ahead of the creditors. Produced by a mother with NPD, then marriage to a Walter Mitty clone, there has never been a dull moment – and she’s a bestselling author with awards and numerous medals for both her television scripts and her books.
Ana: First, I would like to thank you for taking some time off your busy schedule to answer some questions.
How did you find your calling to become an author?
Firstly:- As a precocious brat, aged 4 reading Enid Blyton, I thought this looks easy, I could do this.
Secondly:- Writing a report on the Sunday School activities for the local church magazine, although sadly no one else got to read it as I snaffled all of them from the back of the church and read each and every copy in the privacy of my bedroom.
There is a long gap, despite my pleading I wanted to be a writer as I was leaving school but was told to get a proper career.
Finally:- When I applied as a continuity announcer on the South African Broadcasting Corporation (a dismal failure) then invited to the drama department and the producer picked up on the content of my audition (self-written) and told me to go home and write. So, I did and won the Playwright of the Year Award – after that there was no stopping me.
Ana:Where do you get your ideas? What and Who inspires you?
Ideas drop from the sky. I’ve no idea what sparks them, often in the shower, or when half asleep and I spend the next week trying to remember what they were. A word, a mannerism, a shop front, it could be anything. I’ve been an avid reader as long as I can remember, preferring my own world to the one most people inhabit.
What other career allows you to kill with abandon, chop arms and legs off, and torture and manipulate your characters? I love Jean Plaidy, Harrison Ainsworth and Wilbur Smith. It was probably the latter’s stories that encouraged me to go and live in Africa.
Ana: What message do you want to get across?
Most of my books are set in Africa and I have tied hard to portray the continent as I saw it while living there for almost 40 years. It’s not The Lion King, nor Born Free and those images of poverty and war you see on the news have an eye on viewer statistics and donations. I’ve tried to show a typical African country seen through the eyes of a new expatriate (Amie) much as I experienced it when I first stepped off the Kenyan Airways plane.
Of course, in the series she becomes a trained spy and has plausible adventures, but I had a few hairy moments of my own too. If I have enlightened even a few minds and opinions, then I shall have succeeded a little.
Ana:What is most challenging about what you do?
I was tossing up whether to mention the dreaded marketing or fatigue. I’m only pretending to be retired, and yet I drive myself on – my brain races but my body would prefer to crawl or curl up with a good book.
I’ve worked hard all my life, mostly with 2 jobs and I should really relax and do the coffee morning/Zumba routine, but I’d love to get the New York Times Bestseller sticker just once.
Since I’ve earned my living writing radio and TV scripts for decades, I know I can write, and hundreds of people have loved my books but getting the word out? I’m hopeless at that and I don’t enjoy it. The networking yes, the chatting to readers yes, but the buy my books shout out makes me cringe.
Ana:Imagine you meet today yourself when you were just a child, what would you tell yourself-child?
This is a bit weird to answer as I would have reassured my younger self that my upbringing was not normal and that I was on OK person – it was my mother who had the problem. She suffered from NPD but I only discovered that 6 decades later, having been terrorised and guilt-ridden about her for most of my life.
Ana:For you, what makes a great story?
A great story has a character I can bond with, it must be fast moving with twists and turns and keep me guessing until the last page.
Ana: Tell us a story, an anecdote you would like to share.
I’ve written 3 memoirs. The first chronicling my life through 8 counties, 2 husbands and a wealth of experiences. These include interviewing Mandela, fainting in an abattoir, meeting Prince Charles, broadcasting live with a bayonet on my shoulder, managing a rock band, running from a tear gas attack, breaking down in a game park with no defence, being abandoned with a 9 week old baby in the bush with no food, transport, communications or electricity.
There are a few more incidents which I can’t recall right now, but there are plenty more. I morphed from a shy, low-esteemed primary school teacher to a successful businesswoman running my own video production company. Yes, I guess I made it and still miss the media life.
The true story of how Lucinda set up and ran a riding school while afraid of horses and not the slightest idea of how to care for them.
Ana:How did you find your writing style? Has it changed over time?
I was never trained in journalism or took a higher degree in English, preferring History and Sociology. I learned scriptwriting by trial and error for both radio and TV and won several awards. Later, after freelancing for the SABC I produced the scripts I wrote for corporates, conference presentations, governments, banks and so on. On retirement I turned to books. This was a whole different ball game. No longer could I scribble pan across room to show… Now, I had to describe the room, how the characters were behaving and learn the ‘show not tell stuff’, although the dialogue was easy and I had been commissioned to write a couple of books by a couple of the Big Five traditional publishers in the ‘90s, it was like starting again at the bottom of the ladder.
Ana:What does it mean to be an author for you?
Indulging in my passion, I get withdrawal symptoms if I don’t write. Also, the high I get from leaving behind something tangible when I’ve gone to the big writing desk in the sky, or, more probably, the other place.
Ana: If you had to choose one current character of a TV show, whom would you choose and why? In other words, have you ever attempted to emulate her or him somehow?
Absolutely not. I hate this hero worship of ‘famous’ people. In the media word you work with these people and they are just very ordinary folk. Some are nice, some narcissistic, some positively revolting. It can be infuriating when they get all the accolades for pretending to be someone else, speaking the words written by THE WRITER, made to look beautiful by the makeup department and the lighting crew, told how to cry etc by the Director and their mumbled words rendered intelligent by the sound crew. Oh dear, you didn’t invite a rant did you! But it’s all true.
I used to tell my students that if they wanted to be famous, then they should pack up now and go to the drama department and forget the film production side. Viewers seldom care about the team which put it all together, they are too busy putting the cat out, racing to the loo or putting on the kettle.
Ana:Do you have any moving story that changed your mind, life, somehow, and you would like to share?
The nearest I can come to this is the number of times I thought I was going to die and surprisingly, I survived. A good example is that bayonet pricking into my neck in the broadcasting studio, or the time we were charged by an elephant and the car stalled, or the crowd that surrounded me and my daughter in her pushchair at a public hanging. I won’t bore you with more! Live each day.
Ana: So, if you hadn’t chosen to become an author, what would your alternative career have been?
I trained to be a teacher, and I rather think that writing chose me, since I was at that SABC audition having been given notice at the school, and I was desperate to get another job, any job at the time. Broadcasting was the only other skill I had.
Ana:General words of wisdom you live by?
Live and let live. Respect other cultures and beliefs and seek to understand others.
Travel and retain your curiosity, take an interest farther afield than your immediate environment.
Learn something new each day.
Ana:Finally, let’s talk about your last work (book, story, writing …) and your future plans.
There is that NYT sticker I’d (almost) kill for. I’m not going to write any more biographies I think I’ve used up most of my escapades.
There are 5 books in the Amie in African series, and I plan one more. I’d like to do a sequel to my fairy tale satire, but, to my surprise, my Psychological Thriller, has been my most successful so I’m currently writing a follow on.
Ana: Thank you, Lucinda, for this amazing interview.
For those wishing to find out more about Lucinda E. and her writing, check out these links: