Gregory S. Lamb
We have a wonderful treat today... Gregory S. Lamb author of The People In Between: A Cyprus Odyssey has stopped by!
Tell me, were you a reader before you were a writer? What do you enjoy reading?
I've considered myself a reader first and writer second. There are so many great authors out there these days. When I was a kid Jack London inspired me because he wrote about the places where I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. His stories were full of place descriptions and adventure of a bygone era.
As an adult I was introduced to Paul Watkins who made his mark at age 23 with Calm at Sunset Calm at Dawn. I was taken by his talent for realistic dialogue and the voice of each of his characters. I've corresponded with Paul Watkins since 1995 having read most of his works. I even received a congratulatory email from him when my first novel was published.
Is The People In Between the first book you’ve written?
It is the first book that I actually completed and published. I always knew I wanted to write a novel and three years ago one of my neighbors convinced me to participate in National Novel Writing Month better known as NanoWriMo. I cranked out my fifty thousand words, which revealed that I could actually produce a novel. What came out of that first effort was at best a learning experience.
Last year during NanoWriMo I completed another novel based on a story I made up about a gold miner. Many years ago, I told that story to my sons when we sat beside the fire on camping trips. I hope to have it published before the end of October. The People In Between required a completely different approach to writing since it is a historical novel.
Were there some particular inspirations for the character’s development or character traits for The People In Between?
This is an excellent question because I chose a young woman for a protagonist. My goal was to write about what happened over the course of three generations in Cyprus where there are displaced populations living in close proximity to their family lands. Cyprus today is the only country in the world that has a divided capitol. In order to be as objective as possible in presenting such a controversial history, I thought best that the story be presented from a woman's point of view.
Most of the men in the story were compilations of people I've encountered in years past. In particular, the people I met while living and working in Cyprus.
Additionally, the turbulent history in that country is recent enough, that people in my generation (I'm not afraid to disclose that I'm 52 years old), are still able and willing to share their stories. I heard first hand from people slightly older than I am, what it was like for them to experience the violence and the uncertainty of becoming a displaced population among the many refugees and survivors of those conflicts. Many of these personal stories are told through the voices of the characters in my novel.
There are many roads that lead to becoming a published author, each one littered with its own potholes. What was the most challenging aspect of writing The People In Between?
Before I started writing the first sentence, I knew I needed to outline the characters that would guide the reader through the turbulent history of Cyprus, where the story is set. I also knew that if I wanted to present a different view of Cypriot history than other authors with novels set in Cyprus, it required that I strike a good balance between plot and character. I wanted the dialogue to convey the history rather than throwing it out there with narrative. The problem with this approach is the risk of losing pace when the plot needs to move forward.
How did you tackle this challenge?
The cultural make up of Greek and Turkish speaking Cypriots made choosing names for the characters very important. Not just for historical purposes, but to make it less burdensome for the reader. I also chose to make the protagonist an American. It was easy because the history allowed for it, giving me an inroad to balance between Greek, Turkish, and British points of view.
Centering the plot on a family history and spinning a little mystery in for good measure gives readers a choice of what aspect of the story they might prefer to focus on. During the first half of the story, Nora, the protagonist wants to learn about her deceased mother, while her twin brother struggles with demons of his own. Nora later discovers she has a lost aunt who she is determined to find.
Nora also finds herself in love for the first time with a native Cypriot who is on a quest of his own. There is romance past and present and these combinations of characters. Their motivation to discover truth in their lives provided a platform for the history.
Being an author is so much more than just writing a good story. Besides the “pen and ink,” what is one of the most difficult things you’ve encountered on your journey as a published author? What helped you get a handle on it?
I thought the historical research and mapping out all the character arcs so they would fit the history was going to be the most challenging aspect of writing this novel. I've even been quoted as saying that having to do it over again, I would never attempt this genre, as it is exponentially more challenging for me than pure fiction writing.
I've since discovered that the writing was the easy part. I made what I thought was a well-calculated decision to write and publish independently. I still stand by that decision because I have a novel in print and any reader with a Kindle or an iPhone can download a digital copy. I had a story that was burning to get out and now it is out there.
If I had gone with an agent and tried the traditional publishing house approach, I'd still be working on drafts if I were lucky. Some of my Cypriot friends will love me for writing it and others will be questioning its accuracy. I hope that American and the British readers get riled up over the roles their countries played in Cypriot history also.
The hard part about the "Indie" scene is marketing. I only sold 35 copies the first month after release. These were probably relatives and their friends as well as a few acquaintances that I keep tabs with on Facebook and Goodreads. Since then, the sales have trickled in but I'm still pedaling really hard to catch up to where I should have been had I done my marketing homework. An "Indie" author should have a marketing strategy already in place before publishing.
Marketing as an independent involves a lot of work. I've been nurturing the social networks, blogging, guest blogging, blog hopping, and even writing flash fiction for the first time. Having the opportunity to interview here with you is a great example of talking up a self-published novel. I hope other novelists are granted the same opportunity to showcase their work.
People In Between: A Cyprus Odyssey
Kiraz Nora Johansson and her twin brother never knew their mother who died while giving birth.. By invitation of a family friend she spends a summer in Cyprus and uncovers a family history that was nearly lost to her and her troubled brother. She finds true love and becomes connected to the Cypriot people and their unforgettable island home.
A "Green Line" on a map splits a nation and its capitol. Not long ago the people of Cyprus were torn from their lands by external forces. No matter which side of the divide they live on today, they are a united people in a country divided. They are the people in between.
Gregory S. Lamb
Gregory S. Lamb is a retired United States Air Force Colonel. He studied Geography as an undergraduate, earned his Masters Degree in International Relations, and was awarded a fellowship in Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He's a graduate of several formal professional military education institutions to include the Joint Forces Staff College and the Defense Language Institute. He piloted the U-2 High Altitude Reconnaissance Aircraft for much of his operational military career and also served as a senior member on Air Combat Command's Headquarters Staff.
His novel, The People In Between: A Cyprus Odyssey is the first of three novels he plans to publish in 2012. He lives with his wife Cindy in Portland, Oregon. The Lambs have three grown sons.