Indie Spotlight is Siobhan Daiko’s monthly column on self-publishing. This month she talks to indie author Marco Lobo.
Award-winning author Marco Lobo is a Portuguese national who was born in Hong Kong. Educated in Asia, the UK and the US, he has travelled in six of the world's continents. Exposed to intercultural issues from an early age, Marco utilizes his insights to explore historical connections between people and culture - assimilations as well as collisions. Winner of 2012 Contest ‘50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading’, he holds university degrees in business and economics and currently makes his home in Tokyo, Japan. Marco has published two books: The Witch Hunter’s Amulet and Mesquita’s Reflections.
Please tell us about The Witch Hunter’s Amulet.
The Witch Hunter’s Amulet is an adventure story set mainly in Portuguese India in the sixteenth century. The Witch Hunter, an opportunist taking advantage of religious fervour during the Holy Inquisition, goes to India on a mission to rid non-Christians from Portuguese territories, enriching himself along the way. He soon finds himself totally out of his depth in lands he knows nothing about. He falls ill and is duped into believing that he needs a navaratna, a nine-jewelled amulet, to cure him.
What inspired you to write a novel set in sixteenth century India?
My father’s side of the family arrived in Hong Kong via Timor and Macau, both former Portuguese colonies. It made me curious about the histories of other Portuguese territories; what drove the early settlers to travel so far from home and what their lives were like. I started to explore the themes of religious conflict, the part technology played and the sense of entitlement one culture believes it has over another. On a visit to Portugal, I started to ask myself what had become of the plundered wealth and then began looking into where the wealth originated from. India was one of those places.
Your second novel published, Mesquita’s Reflections, is set in nineteenth century Macau. Is this story based on a real historical character?
Yes, Vicente Nicolau de Mesquita was a soldier in Macau. He is famed for attacking and destroying a Chinese fort, a prelude to Macau eventually being handed over to the Portuguese as a colony. Again, like my previous book, it explores a theme of cultural conflict.
Does your own background influence your writing?
Certainly. Coming from mixed parentage, a desire to learn about my ancestry has been a great driver in my writing and storytelling. Research into the past often brings ideas for scenes as well as giving me insight into how my ancestors may have lived.
How do you go about research?
The internet is obviously a great source, but additionally I have accumulated a good number of books on subjects like Chinese culture and different religious beliefs. I tend to read quite a lot of non-fiction, particularly about inventions or exploration, giving me some understanding of what the world looked like at whatever time I'm writing about.
Why did you become an indie author, as opposed to taking the traditional publishing route?
After writing a draft of my first novel, I joined several author-related groups and through that decided that the indie route was best.
Any advice you can give to others thinking about following the independent pathway to publication?
The best advice I can give is to have as many people as you can read your work and give honest advice before you publish. In my case, I belong to several different writers’ groups and try to get as much feedback as possible in trying to improve my work.
How would you describe your target readership?
Readers who are looking for a historical adventure story, set in an out of the ordinary place.
How do you reach out to and connect with potential readers?
The age of the internet provides opportunities to reach far and wide. So, everything from blogging and connecting via book clubs and social networks is a daily necessity.
Can you tell us a little about your work-in-progress?
I am currently writing a story set in California at the start of the Gold Rush. My characters are immigrants and cultural clashes between them provide a way to explore a time and a very exciting place. One of the characters is Chinese and another is from Scotland.
What is a typical writing day like for you?
I usually give myself a word count target depending on how much time I can devote to writing on any particular day. At other times, say when I am riding on a train, I scribble notes, ideas to use when I am able to get in front of my computer.