We interview the author of the new Frome Town Hall history book Lorraine Johnson, on her take on the publishing industry and researching material for writing a history book:
How many books have you authored and published?
The book on the history of Frome’s Town Hall will be my third published book. The first one, published by The British Library, was based upon research I had undertaken for my PhD. Entitled The Ladybird Story: Children’s Books for Everyone, it charts the history of the firm that created Ladybird books for many decades. My second book, The Butler and Tanner Story, published by Frome Society for Local Study, relates to a more local topic and features the history of a firm of printers. Butler and Tanner formed an intrinsic part of Frome’s industrial past.
What’s been your most fascinating find upon researching local history books?
It’s difficult to pin it down to one particular find but the best thing for me researching local history is meeting a whole host of interesting people. It is the stories that people tell me that really bring the history to life and it is definitely the most fascinating aspect.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
As I research and write non-fiction and it is the material I find that tells the story, writer’s block is not relevant in this case.
Which book do you wish you had written?
In terms of financial gain it would have to be the Harry Potter series of course. However, I really enjoy the research and writing of historical non-fiction so I am happy with the books I have written even though this type of authorship is in no way financially lucrative.
What has changed the most about publishing in the last 5 years?
The proliferation of self-published titles, the increase in number of e-books and audiobooks all made possible by advances in technology.
What advice do you have for budding writers?
Having worked in publishing for over twenty years in editorial roles and as a managing editor I would say not to be discouraged by rejection. If a manuscript isn’t accepted it is generally not because it isn’t good, it just has to fit in with the commercial aims of the publishing company.
What is your favourite childhood book?
I used to love almost anything by Enid Blyton – I know that she is not popular with critics but as a seven-year-old reader my imagination was truly fired by such offerings as The Enchanted Wood, The Faraway Tree and all her adventure stories.
Tell us an interesting fact about somewhere local to Frome…
Frome Heritage Museum, itself situated in an imposing and interesting building, is full of fascinating information relating to the town and is free to visit.
Are you a sweet or savoury person?
Well I love almost all food. I really enjoy cooking meals so they are always savoury, of course – the spicier the better. However, I absolutely adore ice cream and love trying as many different flavours as possible.
What do you like best about Frome?
There is so much to like about Frome – I really like the fact that there is so much going on covering such a diverse range of interests. We are so fortunate to have some excellent venues hosting a multitude of live music events and theatre. I also love the independent shops especially those on Catherine Hill and Cheap Street.