Author Lisa Thomas has always wanted to write a story people from around the world could enjoy. A lack of confidence for a long time, however, ensured this goal never became a reality. Alongside this, being quite musical, the thirty-six-year-old writer’s secondary goal as a child was to write a song that made people happy.
Speaking to Vatsarah Stavyah, founding editor-in-chief of The Literary Juggernaut, the author of Unprecedented Times, who dwells in Birmingham, the UK, says, ‘My daughter enjoys music as well and says she wants to become a singer. She, in fact, once asked me if this were something I would do as she believed I had a beautiful singing voice; I said I wasn’t brave enough. She then decided she wasn’t brave enough to pursue her dreams either.’
Taking a deep pause, the author, who holds a bachelor’s degree in English, Media and Communications, adds, ‘That’s when I realized my lack of confidence was rubbing off on my children, preventing them from attempting to achieve their dreams. So, I decided to lead by example, and this was what prompted me to publish my story rather than keep it to myself like every other piece of writing.’
SPECIAL TO THE LITERARY JUGGERNAUT
Vatsarah Stavyah: How has your journey with writing been so far?
Lisa Thomas: I have been writing since I was a child, and I won my first poetry competition when I was about eleven years old. I have never been particularly confident, however. As I grew older, I wrote less and kept whatever I wrote to myself. In 2012, while on maternity leave, I answered some adverts for content writers and quickly established a returning customer base. Rather than return to work, I decided to leave my full-time job. I, therefore, became self-employed and established my own writing company providing content writing services.
Nine years later, I still thoroughly enjoy my work; however, content writing isn’t the same as creative writing. It doesn’t give me the freedom to express myself, and it can’t provide me with the same level of satisfaction. So, in 2020, I decided to pull up my big girl pants, be brave and finally pursue my dream of writing a story I was proud enough to put my name on.
Vatsarah Stavyah: I would love to know about Unprecedented Times, your first published novel.
Lisa Thomas: Unprecedented Times is self-published. It is on my website and Amazon, available in both eBook and paperback formats. It is a COVID-19 fiction story, and through book sales, I am raising money for the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
In this sci-fi story, we follow my version of the COVID-19 pandemic across two different timelines and through the eyes of four very different characters: Clara, a wannabe scientist working as a secretary at the World Health Organization (WHO); Rosa, Clara’s twin sister, NHS nurse and new mother; Dr Vicente, the kind-hearted director-general at the WHO; and Ben, Rosa’s fiancé and a fun-loving police officer. As the virus takes a very different turn to reality, threatening humanity itself, we find out how far we are willing to go in Unprecedented Times.
It is a fact-meets-fiction novel that includes real statistics and data from the virus, all of which are referenced. The idea for the book came to me in January last, just after the virus had been discovered in China but before it had hit most other areas of the world, months before it became a pandemic. I began researching it almost immediately and started writing in March 2020. The book was later released in October, the same year.
Vatsarah Stavyah: Did you plot out the story in advance, or did it develop as you wrote?
Lisa Thomas: With this story, I began with a strong plotline. The characters came later, as I tried to find a way of showing the impact of the virus from different perspectives. I was initially going to have one main character, Clara; the other three characters were intended to be secondary characters only, but once I had created them, their personalities became too strong for them to be secondary.
I quickly saw how the story would benefit from being written from all their perspectives. In addition, one of my goals in writing this was to give future generations something to refer back to so that they can understand what living through this virus has been like. Having the story told through different eyes is more reflective of how this virus has affected everyone in the world today.
Vatsarah Stavyah: Intriguing indeed. Nonetheless, when do you generally write? Do you follow a schedule, or do you write when you have an urge to pen down your thoughts?
Lisa Thomas: I write as and when I find the time. And although I would love a schedule (I am very much a schedule and to-do list kind of person), I do not have one at the moment. I recently became a single mom of three children, aged between 1 and 9. Now I am self-employed. I have two underlying health conditions and never really know what the day is going to bring. Thus, I tend to do most of my writing when the children are all in bed and once the general mommy duties are done for the day.
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Vatsarah Stavyah: Who are your favorite authors?
Lisa Thomas: There are lots of authors that I love to read. I can’t say I have one favorite; it largely depends on my mood. I tend to have favorite books rather than favorite authors. For example, I love Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and I enjoy reading Dan Brown; his novels fascinate and educate me. The authors I enjoy reading are the ones who can create a story or a new world that I can completely get lost in.
Vatsarah Stavyah: How do you juggle writing and other tasks? What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?
Lisa Thomas: Around my children, work and writing, I also enjoy playing and listening to music. As a child, I had years of singing, piano and drum lessons; but performing was always terrifying. As I grew older, I decided to limit my pipe dreams to just one (writing) and didn’t play an instrument for fifteen years. I have always missed it.
Music is a part of what makes me who I am; it’s my coping mechanism for dealing with life, and it was my whole childhood. Not playing music felt wrong as if I weren’t allowing myself to be me. So, last year, I bought a drum kit and a keyboard, and I started playing again. Eventually, I intend to write a song, based on an idea from my story. Nonetheless, I haven’t yet had the time to focus on this. In addition, I also like baking; for the last few years, I have been perfecting my cookie recipe, and I have to admit, it’s delicious!
Vatsarah Stavyah: Tell us a bit about your works in progress. Do you plan on becoming a full-fledged author?
Lisa Thomas: Unprecedented Times was always intended to be the first book in a trilogy. The second book is in the planning stages now; I intend to start writing this up soon. Following this, I wish to focus on book three, the final instalment in the saga. And yes, I would love to become a full-fledged author.
Vatsarah Stavyah: What would you like to tell the budding authors who lose motivation if a few of their works don’t do well?
I would remind them of all the successful authors, artists, musicians etc., who have faced rejection, often time and time again, before making it. It is a competitive field, and it’s quite difficult to get noticed. I have been searching for a literary agent to represent me since releasing my book in October last year; I am still looking. But I refuse to give up because I only need that one agent to say yes. Regardless of whether or not your work does well, completing it is incredibly satisfying.
Therefore, I would tell these budding authors not to lose hope but to keep doing what they’re doing. Millions of people right across the world have a story idea, yet only a handful has the dedication and skills to write a story to completion; if you have done this and have a finished story, you need to appreciate just how amazing you are.
Vatsarah Stavyah: If there is one thing that you would like to change in this world, what would that be?
Lisa Thomas: I have a naïve view of the world and the people in it. I think the world is beautiful and amazing, and I see so much goodness in it. That’s largely due to the wonderful people that make up this world. However, I don’t think everyone can appreciate this beauty because there is too much pain and suffering. How can someone see how beautiful the world is if they come from a war-torn country or are forced to watch their children starve?
If I could change the world, I would do everything in my power to ease as much suffering and as much pain as possible, and instead, replace this with hope. I would remind everyone that hope is always there, in everything we do, that everyone is loved and worthy of being loved and that each person, in their unique way, is as beautiful as the world is through my eyes.
Music is a part of what makes me who I am; it’s my coping mechanism for dealing with life, and it was my whole childhood. Not playing music felt wrong as if I weren’t allowing myself to be me.LISA THOMAS
PS: Through book sales, author Lisa Thomas hopes to raise money for the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the WHO. Fifty per cent or more of the profits will be donated to the charity. She has also included a dedications section besides an honors one in her book. In the dedications section, the public has dedicated her novel to loved ones that they have lost to the virus. And in the honors section, the public has nominated people they think deserve to be recognized for their efforts during the pandemic. Besides, Lisa has also created a blog section on her website in order to provide information and support to all COVID-related things. She is now accepting dedications and honors for book two. While dedications can be sent to email@example.com, honors can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.