Learning To Fly by Jane Lambert
Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?
A) I was always writing stories as a child, but growing up got distracted by horses, boyfriends, university, teaching abroad, air hostessing then acting.
It wasn’t until my forties that I rediscovered my passion for story-telling and wrote my debut novel which was published in 2015. The following year I did a screenwriting course and am currently adapting “Learning To Fly” into a 6-part comedy drama for television.
Forty-year-old air stewardess Emily Forsyth has everything a woman could wish for: a glamorous, jet-set lifestyle, a designer wardrobe and a dishy pilot of a husband-in-waiting to match. But when he takes off to ‘find himself’ (forgetting to mention the bit about ‘…a younger girlfriend’), Emily’s perfect world comes crashing down. Catapulted into a mid-life crisis, she is forced to take stock. She ditches her job and enrols on a drama course, positive that, in no time at all, she’ll be posing in Prada on the red carpet, and her ex will rue the day he dumped her. Right? Wrong! Her chosen path proves to be an obstacle course littered with rejection and financial insecurity.
While juggling a string of odd jobs with some humiliating auditions, Emily meets dashing chef Francesco. But her plans for a romantic happily ever after are turned upside down when she’s offered the role of a lifetime in Vienna. The adventure she’s about to step into will change her in ways she could never have imagined.
“Learning To Fly” is a romantic tale of self-discovery about how we sometimes have to hit rock bottom in order to find the courage to make a positive change.
Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?
A) While on tour in the play, “Lettice & Lovage” I was invited to talk to a group of drama students about the life of a jobbing actor. I told them in a no-frills but humorous way how it is for most performers; the auditions, the waiting, the hoping, the rejection, the bread-and-butter jobs, the ecstasy of finally securing 2 minutes’ screen time on “Casualty” playing WOMAN IN A COMA. I was concerned afterwards that I had been a little too frank, but the Principal told me it was good for the students to know success requires dedication, determination and a good dose of positive thinking. As I left he said, “You should write a book.” And so the seed was sown. I wrote various drafts while on tour in trains, grotty digs and freezing cold theatre dressing rooms. But the final push to publication came thanks to my divorce. I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and create something positive out of an unhappy situation. Through my writing I rediscovered my sense of humour, my self-esteem and the determination to make my publishing dream come true.
Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?
A) David Nicholls, Helen Fielding, Jane Austen, Nicholas Sparks, Alexander McCall Smith (I have strong links to Edinburgh), Victoria Hislop (I love everything about Greece), Elizabeth Gilbert, Maeve Binchy, Marian Keyes.
For any struggling creatives reading this I recommend “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert. I don’t normally read self-help books but this is my go-to read when I’m having a severe case of the you’re-a-rubbish-writer blues.
“The Understudy” by David Nicholls. This is an earlier book from the writer of the hugely popular “One Day”. I have been an understudy on many occasions and can identify with the main protagonist in this laugh-out-loud book. But even if you don’t work in the acting profession it will give you a hilarious insight into the “glamorous” world of Thespian land. I guarantee you won’t be able to put this down. One of my favourite lines from the book is “…understudying is a little like being a lifejacket on a jumbo jet: everyone is pleased that you are there, but God forbid they should actually have to use you.” You get the idea.
“The Jane Austen Book Club” by Karen Joy Fowler. Don’t be fooled into thinking this a boring account of a group of women sitting around discussing old books. Jocelyn, Bernadette, Sylvia, Allegra and Prudie are all dealing with the complex challenges many of us face on life’s journey – just as Elizabeth, Mary, Elinor, Fanny and Emma did over two centuries ago.
“A Parcel for Anna Browne” by Miranda Dickinson. I was lucky to be asked to record this book for Soundings Audio. It’s a lovely, gentle story with a colourful cast of characters led by the unassuming receptionist Anna Browne. She begins a journey of self-discovery when mysterious parcels, each with a hidden message, start arriving for her. I like stories about ordinary people who dare to take an unknown path and blossom as a result. The identity of the mysterious sender will keep you guessing until the end. If your TBR pile is too high you can always listen to the audio version while on the go!
Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?
A) As a horse-mad child any books about ponies. “Black Beauty” was my favourite. When I was a teenager my mum gave me a copy of “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier. We lived by the sea and as a shy, gauche teenager I identified with the new Mrs de Winter. This book taught me to not go by first impressions, that being shy is not a weakness, to be true to yourself and not try to be what you think others want you to be.
Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?
A) Being invited to present my book at Edinburgh’s oldest book shop as part of Blackwell’s Writers at the Edinburgh Fringe last year.
Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?
A) As a child my late mum always encouraged me and said she believed I’d be a writer someday. Life has taken me on various detours, but now I’m finally on track, doing the thing I love most. But without my dad nagging me to get on with it, my manuscripts would still be lying hidden in a drawer somewhere.