Friday, May 16, 2014

Pamela Kelt, The Lost Orchid, plus #free #giveaway

Pam is graciously offering a giveaway to the best comment and/or botanical anecdote in response to the blog. Be sure to leave your contact information, too!

AUTHOR: Pamela Kelt           

Please tell us about yourself.

I was born in Edinburgh and my family moved to England when I was just a toddler. After school, I did two degrees in Spanish (Manchester and Oxford), specialising in 17th-century comic drama, which was fascinating. I worked as a journalist in subbing and features on provincial newspapers before moving into educational publishing and online editing. I now live in Warwickshire and I’m lucky to be able to write full time. This year has been especially manic and this is the sixth book to come out in 12 months.

Please tell us your latest news.

The Lost Orchid had a great launch day, reaching #23 in the Victorian historical fiction genre charts. I’m now busy doing further promotion in botanical circles - and making a start on the sequel, a tale of skullduggery in the peaty bog of the Trossachs where are characters are engaged in a mad tale of pteridomania (a passion for ferns).

How do you organize your writing time?

Very badly. I used to be disciplined. Now I struggle to maintain a routine. In fact, I think I’ll stop trying to watch the clock and just write when I can.

When and why did you begin writing?

One day, I found myself walking the dogs round Guy’s Cliffe, a beauty spot by the River Avon, not far from Kenilworth in Warwickshire. I was transfixed by the Gothic mansion situated on the banks of the Avon and wondered if anyone had written a book based there. No-one had, so I began to ponder a story. The botanical theme popped into my brain because the place was rife with the invasive plant Himalayan Mountain Balsam. My grandparents had told me the story about how plant collectors sometimes brought back precious species that ‘escaped’ the greenhouse and took over the natural flora. The plot blossomed and I took the plunge into writing for myself.

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?

Think about writing! It’s true. I never stop. If I’m walking the dogs, waiting at the dentist or sitting on a plane, I’m usually plot-wrangling.

What are your thoughts about promotion?

It’s a necessary evil! I did enjoy some of the contacts I made promoting The Lost Orchid. I had lovely messages from people around the world, from Hawaii by way of Manhattan, Cape Town and even Moscow. The first write-up was in Russian!

What was the toughest criticism given to you? What was the biggest compliment?

I’ve been lucky to have had tactful editors. They’ve carefully weeded out (if you’ll forgive another botanical reference) my writing quirks. I do tend to write rather long manuscripts, and cutting them back down is hard. The solution is to write less. Biggest compliment? ‘When’s the sequel coming out?’ I love that.

Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?

I don’t get writer’s block as such, but I do get swamped with all paraphernalia of social networking and PR. I should instigate a ban for so many days a week.

Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?

While I was researching orchids and people’s passion for them, I became an orchid maniac myself! I started a blog, too, and I love digging around the subject. My windowsills are full of orchids, as well. They have a serene quality that is wonderful when your head is full of ideas, fighting with each other to escape.

What comes first: the plot or characters?

Usually the plot, although in The Lost Orchid, I wanted to share some of the amazing stories about Scottish plant collectors, who trawled the Empire for new species for the burgeoning middle classes and their suburban gardens.

Did your book require a lot of research? If so, what kind?

Yes! And I loved every minute of it. I started out with some rather expensive coffee-table books on the history of botany, which I still leaf through. (Sorry, botanical expressions are getting the better of me!) As for the rest, I trawled the internet. I found out so much, I thought it would be fun to start a blog, where I could share some of the juiciest snippets. I also love visiting botanic gardens, especially the classic Victorian ones. I’ve been to quite a few now - although none in the States, which is a shame. There are so many I’d love to see. One day …

What are your current books out right now?

The six titles are a mix of historical fiction, contemporary fiction and teen fantasy. Half Life is a 1930s ‘film noir’ thriller set in Norway (co-written with my husband_ while Dark Interlude is a post-World War One mystery set in the UK when revolution was in the air. Tomorrow’s Anecdote is a 1980s newsroom thriller, while Ice Trekker and The Cloud Pearl are teen/tween adventures. Quite a mix!

What are your current projects?

In a total contrast to The Lost Orchid, I’m just gearing up to promote a book by my late father, Peter A. W. Kelt. I acquired his manuscripts 18 months ago. He retired in the 1980s to write but sadly never got published in his lifetime. When I read the first book, I was stunned. It was a taut, Cold War thriller which packed a real Chandleresque punch. I scanned the typewritten pages and submitted it. The first publisher I tried accepted it. My stepmother and I laughed and cried at the same. It comes out in May, from Crooked Cat Publishing. In addition to the PR, I’m working a website in my father’s memory. Meanwhile, of course, I’m limbering up to write the sequel to The Lost Orchid, currently entitled The Ladyfern Conspiracy.

What advice would you give a new writer starting out?

Work hard, give it time and let someone read your manuscript before you submit it.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?

I’m also on Twitter and Facebook

BOOK TITLE: The Lost Orchid
GENRE: Historical fiction
PUBLISHER: Bluewood Publishing

The Lost Orchid is a new Gothic historical adventure set in the 1880s when orchid fever was at its height across the world.

The upper and middle classes craved new, exotic flowers, and the most sensational were the ‘lost orchids’, rare plants that had been identified, but which plant hunters were subsequently unable to locate, and for which vast rewards were offered.

Young Flora McPhairson is on the brink of social disgrace and seeks refuge with her bachelor uncle, veteran plant collector-turned orchid expert John McPhairson. But things are far from peaceful in their leafy sanctuary and they find themselves tangling with scandalmongers, rival orchid houses, thwarted suitors, religious zealots and foreign spies. Soon, they discover that there is much more at stake than their own livelihood – the reputation of the British Empire itself is at risk from dark forces.

The story is historical fiction, based on actual characters and events from the orchid world at the time.


  1. Replies
    1. Hi, Suzanne. Thank you! Super questions had me thinking.

  2. Sounds like an interesting story!

    1. I love a good Victorian adventure. I'm also rather fond of orchids, these days, too.