A pleasure today to be one of the bloggers opening the blog tour for The Red Gene by Barbara Lamplugh, published by Urbane Books on 18th April and available as an e-book and in paperback. My thanks to Kelly at #LoveBooksGroupTours for the invitation and tour support. This was – rather sadly – a book I just couldn’t fit into my reading list in time for the tour, but it’s most certainly one I’ll look forward to catching up with later.
When Rose, a young English nurse with humanitarian ideals, decides to volunteer in the Spanish Civil War, she is little prepared for the experiences that await her.
Working on one front after another, witness to all the horrors of war, she falls in love with a Republican fighter, Miguel. In 1939 as defeat becomes inevitable, Rose is faced with a decision that will change her life and leave her with lasting scars.
Interspersed with Rose’s story is that of Consuelo, a girl growing up in a staunchly Catholic family on the other side of the ideological divide. Never quite belonging, treated unkindly, she discovers at a young age that she was adopted but her attempts to learn more about her origins are largely thwarted.
It falls to the third generation, to Consuelo’s daughter Marisol, born in the year of Franco’s death and growing up in a rapidly changing Spain, to investigate the dark secrets of her family and find the answers that have until now eluded her mother.
Looks good, eh? I really liked some of the review quotes too:
‘Quite simply, this is an enthralling novel with real historical heft.’ – Judith Keene
‘This is a touching tale of motherhood under pressure: of love, loss and reparation… a fascinating read’ – Jane Sullivan
‘An evocative story of Spain set against the background of civil war and its aftermath.’ – John Simmons, author of Spanish Crossings
I’d already decided that this was a book I’d like to make time to read, and when I received the author’s guest post I wanted to read it even more. I’m delighted to welcome Barbara Lamplugh to tell us more about her publishing journey.
If anyone asks me now what it takes to become a published writer, I’d say without any hesitation, persistence. Back in the 1970s, when my travel books were accepted by the first publisher I approached, my answer would certainly have been different.
I’ve been writing fiction on and off since then. The manuscripts of six unpublished novels languish on obsolete floppy discs or in folders of yellowing paper on my shelves. I came very close as far back as 1990. The editorial department of Michael Joseph loved my story and were keen to publish but couldn’t get it past their marketing department, even after three attempts. They recommended an agent, who also loved it. Confident of success, she took me on, tried her hardest with that novel and a subsequent one, but in the end had to give up.
I persisted, wrote more novels, sent them out to agents and publishers, coped with the rejection and carried on. I couldn’t imagine living without writing. Nothing else gave me the same satisfaction. And yet it remained important to be published – not for the money (I had no illusions of becoming rich through writing) but for the recognition, the right to call myself a writer and believe it.
I was already a grandmother by the time Secrets of the Pomegranate came out in 2015. Time and technology had moved on and self-publishing had become a realistic option. I’d tried repeatedly with agents and the few small publishers who accepted submissions directly from authors, and been knocked down time and again. I attended courses and workshops and heard how agents were swamped with as many as 10,000 manuscripts a year, of which they accepted two or three. And as I already knew from experience, an agent was no guarantee of publication.
So I self-published, with the help of SilverWood Books, an excellent company that provides services for authors and takes care of all those aspects authors don’t necessarily want to get involved in: design, formatting for e-books and all the technical side, as well as giving advice on marketing and promotion. I’ve never regretted that decision. My book was beautifully produced, it gained many five-star reviews and gave me more confidence as a writer. However, there were drawbacks to being self-published. My goal was still to find a ‘proper’ publisher willing to invest in my writing.
In The Red Gene, I was convinced I had a good story and, equally important, a story that needed telling now. A historical novel spanning nearly eighty years, set largely in Spain with Spanish characters, presented quite a challenge. It was a project that took about five years to research and write – a little longer than my other novels. Having completed it, I was faced with the usual dispiriting process of sending out cover letters, synopses and sample chapters, the long wait for responses that often never came, the brief but polite ‘thanks but not for us’ emails.
After such a long journey, the thrill of acceptance by Urbane was incredible. At last, my lifelong ambition would be fulfilled. The contract was signed. From here on, it would all be plain sailing, I assumed. A long wait lay ahead before the actual publication date but I could cope with that.
Not such plain sailing, it turned out. The rollercoaster ride of hopes raised and then dashed hadn’t yet ended. I’m not going to say any more about that except that once again persistence paid off and in the end, all turned out well. Now I just have to keep my fingers crossed that The Red Gene will get good reviews and satisfy my readers.
A rather inspiring story – Barbara, I wish you every possible success with this one…
About the author
Barbara Lamplugh was born and grew up in London. An experienced traveller, she described her journeys in Kathmandu by Truck and Trans-Siberia by Rail published by Roger Lascelles. In 1999, spurred by the challenge of living in a different culture, she headed for Granada in Spain, where she still lives, inspired by views of hills and the Alhambra from her sunny terrace. A regular features writer for the magazine ‘Living Spain’, she has also written for ‘The Guardian’, ‘The Times’ and published her first novel Secrets of the Pomegranate in 2015.