In this episode of 20 questions, I’m delighted to introduce the ‘powerhouse’ that is Lorna Sixsmith (a name that, according to my friend Google, is derived from her occupation as a shoe-smith! Is there anything this woman can’t do?!). Lorna has combined her two passions – farming and writing, to create a series of books that offer a tongue-in-cheek view of life on the farm. Take it away Lorna!
1. Hemingway famously said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Where the hell do you find the motivation to stick at it?
Having a deadline is a great motivator and I give myself one every year by launching a book at the Ploughing Championships. It means July and August are crazy! I do write better though when there is a deadline looming.
2. Which would you prefer: monetary success or literary acclaim?
Monetary success please! I make more money per copy sold via my website or to gift shops than selling the “Nielsen” route so money over status please.
3. How do people typically respond when you say you’re a writer?
I don’t tend to say it that often to be honest, maybe it’s because I’m self-published and I’m still a bit self-conscious about it. I was at an event recently and introduced myself to a guy at lunch as ‘a farmer who writes a bit’. I got a lovely response then, as not only had he read my books but he was able to quote a couple of lines from my last one!
4. Social media – love or hate?
Love – it was a blog post that inspired my first book.
5. What would you classify as a ‘bad review’?
Someone who didn’t “get” my book but having said that, this happened to me recently with a review in a national newspaper and it kinda made me feel that I was now a “real author” as I’d got my first bad review. In hindsight, it was fine and intrigued people to buy it.
6. What’s the worst review you have ever given a book?
If I think a book is terrible, I don’t finish it and hence, don’t review it. I’m loath to give a book less than 3 stars although I have given the occasional 2 star review.
7. Your publisher asks you to write a sequel to your very successful debut, but you never planned on writing one and you’ve left those characters behind. Do you (a) Write it and be glad that ANYONE is asking you to write more books? (b) Write it, but spend the whole time in an almighty huff about the whole affair, taking your anger out on your characters by killing them all off – swerving the possibility of a trilogy? (c) Refuse to sell out and walk away with your integrity intact, but your bank balance in a shambles?
A but probably with a bit of B in that I’d kill off the annoying characters. But then I’d reward myself by writing what I want to write for the next decade.
8. What book do you wish you’d written?
I love historical fiction that’s quite dark so I think it would have to be Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Loved it.
9. If you could ask your favourite author a question, what would it be?
I’d love to ask Donal Ryan if writing such dark stories affects his mood. I can’t see how they don’t and wonder how he can leave them behind at the office.
10. Which is your favourite part of the publishing process?
Publishing is always such a busy time and I always intend to have the books printed at least two weeks before the Ploughing Championships so I can get them into bookshops in time for the press coverage. It’s getting easier though and the two Irish wholesalers, Argosy and Easons, both took the new book in straightaway this year. My favourite part has to be taking delivery of the books and sending out some to shops and wholesalers straightaway. Oh, and reviews, good ones hopefully.
11. What’s the biggest lie you’ve ever told a potential publisher?
I’m my own publisher but I do tell untruths to myself such as “I promise to be more organised next year”.
12. If money were no object, where would be your ideal place to write?
I’d love to renovate a derelict house on our farm, it’s very high up and only accessible with a jeep or tractor as it’s along a rough lane. It’s a fine two-storey house so a room in it with a wood burning stove would be perfect.
13. Do you think readers still value books in the same way?
I think so. I have a fan in Co. Donegal who texted me yesterday to say she has finished my new book and wants to know when next one will be out! High praise indeed from someone who loves books.
14. What genre are your books and do you find genres restrictive?
Mine are farming with humour but yet have practical tips regarding love and marriage too. A total mixture.
15. Do you have any unpublished books, buried at the bottom of the garden and doomed never to see the light of day?
No, but I have plans for about ten books – just have to decide which one is next.
16. What was your favourite childhood book?
Oh, I can’t choose just one. I devoured Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, some classics such as Little Women. Charlotte’s Web was a particular favourite though.
17. Do you have any other hidden talents you’d like to brag about?
18. Book launches: all fur coat and no knickers or a valuable rite of passage?
I had my first book launch with my third book and was terrified there was going to be empty seats as knew people might intend to be there but would be in another area of the Ploughing Championships. It was fine but I do hate that kind of thing. I love attending other people’s book launches though.
19. What did you dream about last night?
I can’t remember last night’s dream but I recently had a terrifying nightmare which was a mixture of Gone, Divergent and the Hunger Games. I’ve been reading my daughter’s books and chatting about them with her and I think Gone pushed me over the edge.
20. What would you like your epitaph to be?