Showing posts with label A Sister for Margot. Show all posts
Showing posts with label A Sister for Margot. Show all posts

Tuesday 3 February 2015

A book in flight

Yesterday was a significant day for me. I sent my new novel out into the world on the wings of an email. The laptop even made that little whooshing noise to signify that my book had finally flown the nest. My domestic thriller about a woman trapped in a ruinous marriage in 1970s Jakarta was off to make its fortune... perhaps.

Balinese dancer
My new novel, The Puppet Master, is
inspired by my childhood in Indonesia
I have been writing this new novel, The Puppet Master, off and on for nearly eight years and earlier this month I decided it was finally time to send it off to a few literary agents. As I published my first novel, A Sister for Margot, independently, the decision to venture once more down the traditional route has caused some angst. Would I be able to deal with all those rejections when they come bouncing back?

Hope is my antidote. The Puppet Master has enjoyed rave reviews from my harshest critics (my husband and my mum) so I'm feeling confident... or at least I was until I pressed the 'send' icon on the email. Whoosh! and suddenly the doubts came crowding in. Should have done one more edit, should have tightened up the third chapter, should have waited a bit longer... damn it!

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Shh! Don't tell a soul...

Want to hear a secret? Damn right you do! When it comes to other people's business, we have an insatiable curiosity to find out more. Or, as Rudyard Kipling called it in his tale The Elephant's Child, a 'satiable curtiosity. And, if that scrap of other people's business is little known, or somewhat juicy, all the better. Many a friendship has been sealed by a shared confidence or a tantalising piece of gossip.

There are also the people who carry those secrets like an albatross hanging around their neck. Rolf Harris, the disgraced entertainer who was jailed for indecent assault, springs to mind. What a grotesque secret he hauled around for so many years, along with his didgeridoo, his jolly songs and his paintbrush. You imagine, perhaps, that a small part of him was relieved to be found out - if only to shed the rotting albatross.

Wednesday 11 June 2014

A no-brainer

This week I tried something new. I attempted to step inside the right hemisphere of my brain and find my inner peace. Pardon? Yup, you heard correctly. So if you need me, that's where I'll be: connecting with the 'here and now', thinking in pictures and receiving energy streams. And before you dismiss this as a load of codswallop, I heard about it from a brain scientist. So there.

A tree blocking out the sunshine
Turning to the right-side of my brain
Let's backtrack a little. It has been a busy old week. I have been juggling the usual demands of family life with a promotion/sale of my book and preparation for a 45-minute presentation on self-publishing at the BritMums conference later this month. In between cooking supper and packing school bags, I have been padding back and forth to the computer to proof power-point slides and check the latest figures on my book sales.

By mid-week, my brain was firing on all circuits and refusing to switch off at the requisite times. I was completely plugged into my work, but also slightly removed from reality. And despite all the brain chatter, my focus was becoming slightly glazed. Cue neuroanatomist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, who gave an influential TED Talk back in 2008 about a stroke she suffered aged 37. (Don't worry, I didn't have a stroke.)

In 1996 Jill suffered a severe brain haemorrhage and over the course of a morning witnessed a deterioration in her self-awareness, speech and motion as the left side of her brain shut down. Despite all the trauma of the stroke, she found the experience of existing solely in the right side of her brain strangely uplifting. 

Saturday 28 December 2013

Happy new year!

I hope that you all had a very happy Christmas and I wish you a wonderful New Year! Thank you for reading my blog posts over the past year. I really appreciate your support and all of your insightful comments. I am especially grateful to all of you who have subscribed to the blog and receive my posts on email.

Here are a few highlights from 2013!

Prehistoric parenting
Bath-etic tragedy
How Jeremy Irons saved us
Time travelling
Pink wellies and cigarettes
Puppy love
The ghosts of Stationers' Hall

I thought you might also like to know that my novel, A Sister for Margot, is currently on SALE at 99p / 99 cents until the 31 December. Perfect for anyone who received a kindle or ipad for Christmas! The book is a historical romance with a twist and has been climbing up the UK bestseller charts on Amazon this week. Click here for information on the book.

Thank you once again and I look forward to hearing more comments from you in 2014!

Emma Clark Lam.

Thursday 14 November 2013

Reading for pleasure

Tuesday night found me discussing my novel, A Sister for Margot, with a book club from Nettlebed. The prospect of talking about my work with a group of strangers is always daunting, but the group's relaxed vibe made for an enjoyable evening. There's something about a book club that oils communication (or was that the wine?) and leads you down conversational alleys you may not have visited before. In two hours, we covered blighted potential, use of the present tense in A Sister for Margot, ebooks, the war dead and the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan.

Books on shelf
Books could keep you out of prison
I know from my own book club that discussion of a story or plotline is often a jumping-off point for more personal revelations. It is a cliche to say that women love to chat, but book clubs provide a few extra ingredients: literary analysis, escapism, a window on another world and the chance to exchange ideas. Girls consistently outperform boys at school and the popularity of book clubs amongst women perhaps harks back to a fondness for structured study and analysis.

Wednesday 19 June 2013

FREE novel: Sister for Margot

My novel, A Sister for Margot, is FREE to download on Amazon this week for three days only. This is your chance to load up your Kindle (or ipad) with a relaxing summer read! Escape the good old British drizzle with a few balmy days in Ibiza, wartime romance and a mystery to unravel. The book has been rated four stars (out of five) on Amazon with fifteen reviews. On Goodreads it scored 4.4 out of five.

Free days:
Monday 24th June, Tuesday 25th June and Wednesday 26th June. Visit the Amazon page and 'buy' as normal. The price will be £0.00 / $0.00 and you won't be charged!

A Sister for Margot
In a seaside theatre, with Hitler’s bombs raining down, the actress Maud falls in love for the first time. She dreams however of seeing her name in lights and part of her resists getting embroiled in an affair. But she can’t fight her feelings forever.
Forty years later in an English suburb, Margot is on the brink of divorce and depression after losing her sister in a tragic boating accident. Her orphaned niece Ruby is sent to live with her grandfather in Ibiza, and develops a morbid fascination with the past. Rattling the family skeletons will unearth a secret that touches all of their lives. 
In this debut novel, Emma Clark Lam writes a compelling family saga that examines the themes of wasted potential, sibling rivalry and romantic love. Three generations of women struggle to find their niche, while challenging the taboos of their time. Clark Lam’s forte is her vivid characterization – the three main characters continue to live with you long after you have finished the book. Underpinning the whole story is the cycle of life, with all its associated emotions of loss, grief and renewal.

Click here for more information
Download from
Download from
Reviews on Goodreads

When you have read the book, I would really appreciate a review on Amazon or Goodreads.

Thanks so much,
Emma x

"This was such an enjoyable read and the quality of the writing was what made it so. I could not put it down as the plot was so meaty with so many twists and turns." -- Amazon review December 2012

Thursday 28 February 2013

Adventures in literary criticism

If there is one advance in technology that I am most grateful for, it is satellite navigation. Last night my trusty Tom Tom led me from Reading, along dark and winding roads, to Winchester. The light at the end of my journey was a stylish sitting room with a wood-burning stove, several plates of pizza and two bottles of wine. 
Winchester book club
The book club ladies of Winchester

An old school friend had heroically persuaded her book club to read my new novel, A Sister for Margot, and had invited me along for the fun! Ha! The group included an inspiring line-up: four teachers, a management consultant, a doctor and a journalist. For a brief moment, I rather wished my satnav had left me stranded on the A33 Reading relief road. Seven sets of curious eyes alighted upon me. Feeling slightly sweaty, I wondered if Margot and her relations were up to this.

To date, I have chatted to journalists and I have been interviewed on radio, but this was the first time I had come face-to-face with a room of discerning readers. In some senses, this was the culmination of everything I have been trying to achieve: a book that people will read, enjoy and discuss. But like so many things, when you get there, you wonder what you've started.

There is a theory of literary criticism called formalism that strives to analyse a text by focusing on the work itself and disregarding the author. Last night we did away with formalism. The book and I came as package, and inevitably my panel of readers interpreted it through my experiences and influences. Were the characters based on real people? How did my becoming a mother shape the book? One of the characters loses her parents when she is nine. What happened to me when I was nine? 

But it wasn't all about me, I realised. Each of them brought something new to the book - their own response. There is another vein of literary criticism more concerned with the reader's experience: each reader is unique with different ideas, educations and values, and therefore interacts with the book in a singular way. The English teacher, for instance, shared her analysis of my syntax and imagery (terrifying) while the history teacher asked about my research on the second world war (slightly less terrifying). Another member enjoyed the scenes in Ibiza because it brought back memories of a teenage holiday.

By the time I climbed back into the car and handed myself over to Tom Tom's expertise once more, I felt quite exhilarated. It may have taken me ten years to complete the book, but two hours in Winchester made me feel it was worth it. (And, in the interests of formalism, I left early to give my readers a chance to say what they really thought.)

A big thank you to the book club in Winchester, and most particularly to Emily who stuck her neck out to arrange this.

Wednesday 20 February 2013

Good vibrations

A few weeks ago Marlow FM radio station invited me onto its Book Club programme to chat about my novel, A Sister for Margot. Other than producing the odd burst of audio for BBC News Online, this was my first time behind the microphone. For a few minutes, basking in the afterglow of my adrenalin rush, I felt convinced I had joined the ranks of Jane Garvey and Kirsty Young

Unlike Radio 4, Marlow FM is tucked away on the banks of the River Thames, amidst wooden chalets and a welter of outdoor pursuits. Avoiding a trailer full of canoes, I tip-toed through the mud and into the studio building, where a large sign instructed me to remove my boots. As luck would have it, I had cracked open a new pair of 60 denier tights that morning. Thankfully I was able to tread the studio boards with pride (my toes respectably shod). 

You can listen to this recording to hear how the interview went: 

  • Copyright Marlow Ltd  2012
  • By kind permission of Marlow FM  LTD

At the end of the programme, co-presenters Chrissy Hayes and Clare Bones chose A Sister for Margot to be Marlow FM's Book of the Month. Tune in online Friday 1 March at 9.30am to hear what they thought of it!

This much I've learnt about radio broadcasting:
  • Get as close to the mic as you can without eating it. Frantic handwaving from Chrissy at the beginning of the interview indicated I hadn't taken her quite literally enough.
  • Forget about maintaining eye contact. With your mouth up against the mic, there is no neck-room for turning to look at anyone. It made me realise how the art of conversation relies upon gauging your companion's facial expression, which leads me onto my next point...
  • Don't ramble. My lengthy answer about what inspired me to write the book was in danger of killing the interactive vibe!
Thanks to Vanessa Woolley of Marlow FM 97.5 who arranged the programme and provided the clip for me to post on my blog. Marlow FM is a community radio station in Buckinghamshire, staffed by volunteers.

Friday 25 January 2013

Nana was the inspiration

The Birmingham Post and Sunday Mercury newspapers have written about my new novel, A Sister for Margot, this week. The focus of both pieces was the inspiration provided by my grandmother, Jean Morton. Thank you Brum!

Click below to read yesterday's article in the Birmingham Post:
Nana was the inspiration for first novel - Post Features - Life & Leisure from @birminghampost

Jean Morton in the Sunday Mercury
And in the Sunday Mercury 20/1/13

Jean Morton in the Sunday Mercury
Close-up of the Sunday Mercury newspaper

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Ibiza press covers Sister for Margot

The news sites Ibiza Spotlight and The Ibiza Sun have both marked the launch of my new novel, A Sister for Margot. The island of Ibiza figures largely in the book and I spent a significant chunk of my childhood there so I am delighted that these sites have decided to cover its publication. An article is scheduled to run in the paper version of The Ibiza Sun next week.

A Sister for Margot is partly set in Ibiza
Ibiza features in many scenes of A Sister for Margot
As you may know from a previous post, I whiled away many an afternoon writing the book on the terrace of my grandmother's villa in Port des Torrent. I hope that my proximity to the subject has made the passages set in Ibiza that much more sensuous! 

One of my main characters, the orphan Ruby, is brought up in the expatriate community of Ibiza and she thrives under the influence of her grandfather's eccentric friends. The book attempts to portray the youthful, hedonistic side of Ibizan life, as well as the retired artists, diplomats and services personnel who have made the island their home.

Ibiza Spotlight, which launched online in 1999, is a source of news, information and services about Ibiza. The Ibiza Sun is an independent, free newspaper and website.

Click here to read the Ibiza Spotlight article on A Sister for Margot
Click here to read The Ibiza Sun's coverage of A Sister for Margot

Emma Clark Lam is the author of A Sister for Margot

Wednesday 28 November 2012

The mother of all careers

Women and work. It has never been an easy coupling when you throw children into the mix. Those of us choosing to stay at home are now domestic chief executive officers, according to The Sunday Times

Women who handle the family finances, childcare, school schedules, interior design, etc, etc, are no longer content to be called a housewife. I can understand why - it has become a demeaning label. However, to clothe maternal duties in corporate-speak is perhaps a ploy to satisfy our own vanity, or to convince our menfolk that we fulfill a vital role. It smacks of insecurity.

Unlike our mothers, our generation has been brought up to expect and foster a career. I have just finished reading The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe - the 1950s' answer to Sex and the City. What struck me was the tentative idea that women could actually choose a career over waiting for a marriage proposal. The main character Caroline Bender muses:

"It was good to be able to care so much about work. It must be something like the way men feel... except that men have to worry so much about the money. For her the thrill was in the competition and in the achievement."

Tuesday 16 October 2012

A Sister for Margot: Opening Scene

  A Sister for Margot

On a beautiful, sunny day in Ibiza some years back, I started to compose my first novel on a Palm Pilot with an impossibly small screen and a plug-in keyboard. Several computers (and two children) later, I finished A Sister for Margot.  

One of my new followers on Twitter recently advised me: "Go publish girl!" So that is what I shall do. The book will be available on Amazon's Kindle store in November 2012

Today I am posting the prologue - my opening scene - as a taster. Have a read and let me know what you think (be gentle).

I would like to thank the talented photographer Eileen Unwin for designing the cover.

Update: the book is now available on Amazon!



A PROLOGUE to A Sister for Margot

London, 1943

Stepping through the double doors with their smudged panes, Maud fancied she was crossing some magical threshold. Outside on the pavement, the growling buses and the rap of busy heels had grated on her nerves, but here in the fug of the teashop, she felt insulated and safe. Conscious that he might be inside, watching the door, she moved past the bread counter and slipped off her coat with her eyes cast modestly downwards.
No voice, however, called out from the row of tables to claim her, and after scanning the room for a particular set of uniformed shoulders, she experienced a stab of disappointment. She had counted on him being there. Already her notion of how their reunion would play out had been frustrated. With enforced nonchalance, she sat down at an empty table and picked up the tariff sheet to shield her face from any aimless stares. Then she occupied herself in removing her gloves, finger-by-finger, and laying them carefully on her lap.
While she waited for a nippy to take her order, she studied the brown filigree of tea stains on the tablecloth, resisting the impulse to drum her fingernails. She glanced surreptitiously at her wristwatch, not wishing to give the impression that she was waiting for someone.
“Can I help you, Miss?”
“Oh yes, a large cup of China tea please – it doesn’t matter about the milk – and a Chelsea bun if you have one.”
“Right you are.”
From a table to her side, she sensed the gaze of an elderly couple, intent on everything but themselves. She tossed her head with such defiance that a tortoiseshell comb worked itself loose. Yanking it free, she ploughed it back through her curls. Why was he so blinking late? She looked out of the grimy window, willing him to walk by. The West End looked drab in the slanted light of the afternoon.
A booth behind Maud came free so she decided to swap tables to escape the attention of the elderly couple. In her new spot, she retrieved a handkerchief from her handbag and swept away the crumbs littering the cloth. The nippy returned with the tea, her brow wrinkled in confusion until she spotted Maud’s impatient wave.
“You dropped your gloves, Miss,” she scolded as she set down the teacup.
Then suddenly, he was there, standing before her, looking desperately apologetic. For all her anticipation, it was a shock to see him, flesh and bone. It had been several months since their last meeting. She got up awkwardly to greet him, but the angles of the booth prevented her from straightening her legs. He bent to kiss her on the lips, just briefly.
“I’m so sorry Maud. We sprung a puncture. I thought we would never make it, but we fixed it in the end. I was hopping mad thinking of you here, waiting for me.”
“I was beginning to think you weren’t coming,” she replied. “How much time do you have?”
“About a half hour and then I’ve got to get back before they notice I’m missing.”
The relief of seeing him was beginning to dispel some of her irritation. His presence made her feel both shy and tearful. They held hands under the table. Despite everything that had happened, she experienced a frisson of excitement, sitting so close to him again.
“You are a real beauty, Maudy,” he said, squeezing her hand. “Is that a new blouse?” He studied her closely, his dark eyes appraising her with unconcealed intent. She was delighted that he had noticed her new acquisition.
“Oh do you like it, darling? Daddy let me have his coupons,” she said lightly. “Audrey’s going to be livid when she finds out.” Then, as she finished speaking, her smile fell slack.
“What’s the matter?” he said, sounding concerned. “What was it you so needed to talk to me about?”
“Why don’t you order first and then we’ll talk. There are sardines on toast, if you would like them,” she added, trying to sound composed. For weeks she had planned this encounter. Now she was stalling, reluctant to mar their time together. Absently, she rubbed at the smear of red lipstick soiling the rim of her teacup.
After placing his order, he turned to her, expectant. Something in her manner made him feel apprehensive. “You’re not going to finish with me Maud, are you?” He couldn’t bring himself to look at her in case the expression in her eyes confirmed his fears.
She made a strange, guttural sound, somewhere between a snort and sigh. Just as he was experiencing the first pangs of mortification, she started to tremble.
“Oh I have such bad news. I think… I mean I know I’m… Oh God, I can’t say it.”
He continued to stare at her, his lack of comprehension only too evident. She inhaled deeply and let go of his hand under the table.
“Darling,” she said, sounding more certain this time. “I’m going to have a baby.”
His mouth dropped open in disbelief, giving her a curious feeling of gratification. His thoughts jammed and he couldn’t think of anything worthwhile to say.
“Are you absolutely certain, I mean, is it definitely...”
She nodded her head.
The memory of their time together was still fresh, played over and over in his head like a favourite gramophone record. It had been a night to remember – after all it was not often that he swung from despair to elation in just a few hours. She alone had the capacity to inspire spectacular flights of emotion.
Watching him, Maud knew he was re-living those moments together, unwilling to re-cast them in this negative light. She had also reached back to that memory, before it had become sullied by the shock of her pregnancy. Now, sitting in the cafĂ©, she tried to recall the night, as it was then, without consequences. She had instigated it, goaded him on. It had felt like every nerve in her body hankered after his touch. It wasn’t rational. She had felt tipsy – though she hadn’t consumed a drop – and reckless. “Are you sure, are you sure?” he had asked urgently. As an answer, she had pulled him towards her, clenching his back with her grip.
“But we were careful,” he said wearily, shaking his head, still loath to accept the news.
“Not careful enough!” she said severely, taking a small piece of revenge for the anguish she had suffered alone for so many weeks.
“I just can’t believe this has happened,” his voice faltered as he held his head in his hands, stretching the skin across his forehead. For a fleeting moment, he thought: maybe it’s not mine, maybe she went with someone else. But then he glanced up at the pale, stricken face and felt only guilt for doubting her. With silent remorse, he laid his hand along the side of her face. His chest tightened as she nestled her cheek in his palm.
Then suddenly he was exultant. “We’ll get married!” It was simple, so clear. “We’ll turn this into something to celebrate. We’ll make it alright, Maud, you’ll see.” He was almost gabbling now. “There should only be a month or so before my next leave – ”
She interrupted him. “It doesn’t make a blind bit of difference. My life has already been ruined,” she said in a whisper. Her words deflated him and he knew what was coming next. “What about my work?” she hissed. “You know I don’t want a family, or not yet anyway. And everything is going so well – Harry told me that I could play the lead next month.”
The words tumbled out in spurts, while tears started to roll down her cheeks. He, now feeling unequal to the situation, tried to swab them away with his thumb.
“You don’t understand me at all, do you?” she said, knowing her words would cut him.
If he was entirely honest with himself, he wasn’t sure that he did. He could understand the glamour of the stage and the excitement it afforded her, but didn’t every woman dream about becoming a wife and a mother? It hadn’t taken long to realise that she was the girl for him – only her fierce and unnatural independence had made him wary of broaching the subject of matrimony. But he dismissed these thoughts, concentrating all of his being on soothing her.
“You mustn’t say that. I know it’s hard for you, but it will get better. When this bloody war is over, I’ll finish my degree and get a good job – I’ll have prospects. And then later, you can carry on with your acting.” He looked beseechingly at her and felt enormous relief as she smiled weakly.
“Yes, you’re right,” she managed, her passion spent.
“What are you going to do now? Are you going to go home?” he asked, anxious to settle practical details while she seemed more amenable.
“Well, I’ll carry on working for as long as I can. I’m catching the train home tonight for a few days – I’ll tell my parents that we are engaged to be married – shall I? Mummy would be horrified if she ever found out the truth. I doubt she would ever forgive me. Oh God, I’m so ashamed!” Maud covered her face with her hands.
“Sweetheart, it will be fine,” he said anxiously. “You just tell them that we are going to get married and we’ll have a ring on your finger before anyone knows any different. These things happen all the time, Maud. Would you like me to speak to your father?”
Maud sat up alarmed. “No, no, not yet. I’ll need to talk to him first. Of course they are over the moon at the moment because Audrey’s pregnant again.” She said this with some bitterness.
“Again? Gor blimey, they don’t waste any time!”
“Neither do we, it seems,” Maud replied tartly.
He decided not to risk a smile. Instead, he hung his head, waiting for Maud to set the tone.
“Oh poor darling,” she said, touching his cheek. “I’m so glad I’ve told you now. It felt horrible before when only I knew.” She looked at her wristwatch. “Oh no, you have to go,” she added regretfully.
He snapped upright in his chair as he registered the time. “Will you look after yourself? You have to eat properly Maud!” She looked evasive. “As soon as we have sorted this out, you’ll be allowed orange juice and cod liver oil in your ration.”
“How do you know that?”
“There’s a chap at the barracks and his Missus is pregnant. He says she’s allowed orange juice whenever it’s available.” 
After laying some money down on the table, he reluctantly began to slide out of the booth. On straightening his legs, he reached into his pocket. “Oh, I almost forgot. This is for you.”
He handed her a book in a brown paper bag. She pulled out The Works of Tennyson, bound in brown leather with gold lettering, and read the inscription on the flysheet. “Charm and beauty alone give me more happiness than good poetry.”
“I’ll treasure it,” she said, looking up at him. “When will we see each again?” she added plaintively.
“In less than a month,” he said, with more conviction than he felt.
“What about those rumours that they might be sending you to sea again?”
“I’ve heard nothing definite,” he replied, guarded. “Now you’ll let me know how your parents take the news. And make sure you tell them we’re eager to be married as soon as we can.”
“Yes darling.”
After he had left her, she reached inside her handbag for her compact. Licking her handkerchief, she rubbed away the sooty traces of mascara around her eyes. For a while longer, she sat there, her eyes fixed in thought, her fingers riffling idly through the pages of the book. Then, with sudden resolve, she snapped her compact shut and reached for her gloves. With the book clasped close to her chest, she passed back through the doors at the front of the shop and stepped outside into the smog-thick air.


"I absolutely loved this book and will miss the family that I became so involved with over the past few days. I hope Emma has another book in the pipeline!" 
-- Annabel at CountryWives 

I welcome reviews of my book on Amazon!

Friday 5 October 2012

Emma's debut on Blogger

Author of A Sister for Margot
A bit of window dressing. I am a journalist and writer based in the UK. This is the first post of my first blog.

My intention is to use the space as a platform to promote my work, specifically my first novel, A Sister for Margot, which I am going to publish on Kindle shortly.

A Sister for Margot is a family saga in three parts, partly set in England during the second world war, and also in modern-day Ibiza. It follows three women - Maud, a 1940s actress, Margot, the stay-at-home wife turned career woman, and Ruby, an orphan struggling to find her niche. There are men too, but the focus is on how these three different women adapt to the constraints society places upon them. At the heart of the book, there is a riddle that Ruby will attempt to unravel.

Soon I shall post the Prologue for anyone to read and comment on.

My blog is a work in progress, and I am still learning about the world of ebook publishing, so please do share any tips.

Update: A Sister for Margot is now available on Amazon!