Today I am welcoming the adventurous, multi-talented Jacqueline Lambert to my blog.
Jacqueline (Jackie) Lambert is a dedicated adventure traveller, doggie travel blogger, and author.
BC (Before Canines) she rafted, rock-climbed and backpacked around six of the seven continents. A passionate windsurfer and skier, she can fly a plane, has been bitten by a lion, and appeared on Japanese TV as a fire-eater.
AD (After Dog), she quit work in 2016 to hit the road permanently with her husband and four pooches. Initially, they were Adventure Caravanners, who aimed To Boldly Go Where No Van Has Gone Before.
Now, they’re at large in a self-converted six-wheel army lorry, with Mongolia in their sights.
Jacqueline has published five books about how she and Mark went from wage slaves to living the dream. Fur Babies In France, Dog on the Rhine, Dogs ‘n’ Dracula, It Never Rains But It Paws, and Pups on Piste all fall within one of her favourite genres; light-hearted travel memoirs. Her forthcoming books will chronicle their tour of Poland in a pandemic, and their new life as Trucking Idiots.
All Jacqueline’s books have received multiple five-star reviews and Dogs ‘n’ Dracula was a finalist in the Romania Insider Awards for Best Promotion of Romania Abroad. Dog on the Rhine has been a bestseller in Amazon’s German Travel and Rhine Travel categories, and on release, Fur Babies in France outsold Bill Bryson, albeit for a short time!
Contact Jackie here:
Welcome to the Indie Spotlight, Jackie. What made you decide to publish your books independently? What was your path to publication?
Writing has always been a passion. At school, I loved composition, kept journals, wrote newsletters and had pen friends. Of course, it is every writer’s dream to be published, and I investigated writing as a career a few decades ago.
Like so many aspiring authors, I took creative writing courses, read Writing for Pleasure and Profit, invested in The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, approached literary agents, and printed out towering piles of double-spaced manuscripts, held together with paperclips, to please editors.
I could have wallpapered my entire house with the rejection letters – even though most speculative approaches are never even dignified with a reply!
I put my publication ambitions on hold, which placed me in august company. No fewer than twelve publishers rejected J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Apparently, one letter advised Ms. Rowling not to quit her day job.
Literary leviathans such as John le Carré, Rudyard Kipling and Agatha Christie were all rejected many times, and Beatrix Potter’s never had her work accepted. Fortunately for generations of children, including me, she had the confidence to self-publish.
My path to publication was rekindled, if you forgive the pun, when my husband, Mark, and I gave up work to travel full time in a caravan with our four dogs. I posted photos on Facebook, and being irrepressibly garrulous, couldn’t help adding captions and commentary. Then one friend asked, “Do you have a blog?”
I am a Luddite, born and educated long before the computer age, although I enjoy learning new skills, and don’t like to be thwarted. It took me two months to work out how to add a title to my new WordPress blog. But after this personal, technological Big Bang, followed by a slightly protracted gestation, http://www.WorldWideWalkes.com was born.
It provided a welcome outlet for my travel stories and musings, and attracted readers from all over the world. My goal was to entertain and inform, because so many people asked how we toured with four dogs, and how we retired at 50 without winning the lottery or inheriting millions. Then one follower, Nicola, whom I have yet to meet in person, left a comment that changed my life:
“You have absolutely got to write a book… I read a lot, and have never met anyone who writes like you. Even your blog about toilets was a joy to read.”
I emailed her back to relate the catastrophic deforestation that had resulted directly from my previous attempts at authoring.
“Have you not heard of self-publishing?” Nicola replied. “My friend did it – I’ll put you in touch. Besides, if you publish a book, that’s my Christmas presents sorted for this year!”
In three sentences, Nicola gave me my inspiration, motivation, and a two-month deadline. Abandoned in a blizzard up a mountain in Italy, awaiting a ski season, with Mark a thousand miles away in the UK, nursing his mother and brother, I also had time to learn about this ‘self-publishing’ lark.
I was astounded to find that new technology had transformed Caxton’s dusty old world of folios and printing presses. Print on Demand (POD) made expensive print-runs a thing of the past, since a single physical book could be downloaded and printed to order. Some commentators declared that eBooks (books which are delivered electronically to a reading device) were a growth market, which already constituted around a third of all book sales. With no need to produce and hold expensive inventory, the costs and risks involved with publishing had plummeted.
There are many routes to self-publish, but I chose KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) for my own project, since its marketplace is with global giant, Amazon. Also, I haven’t figured out the others yet! With the comprehensive guides to self-publishing written by Joanna Penn and Mark Dawson, even I found it a relatively straightforward process.
With basic computer skills, you can self-publish a book. The KDP website works like a Wizard. Once you have typed up your book, KDP walks you through uploading and formatting your manuscript for publication, and the cost of doing so is…
KDP even allows you to design your own cover. It is the oldest cliché in the world, but people do judge a book by its cover. In my opinion, there are a few necessary expenses associated with self-publishing a book. Along with editing and proofreading, a professionally designed cover is one of the biggies!
My memoirs are based on my blog, so after two years of scribbling travel stories, I was already sitting on complete first drafts of two books in what became my Adventure Caravanning With Dogs series. That said, finding and briefing cover designers, editors and formatters was all new to me, as was navigating the impenetrable array of publishing terms such as ‘imprint’, ‘perfect bound’, ‘ASIN’, and ‘Legal Deposit’.
Sophie Wallace, Nicola’s ‘friend who did it’, held my hand from afar. She proof-read my manuscript, introduced me to Mark Dawson’s very helpful SPF Community on Facebook, and gave me support and encouragement when I inevitably got my first one-star review. I am hugely grateful to Nicola and Sophie for lighting the blue touch paper and launching me into my self-publishing journey.
Sophie has authored a multitude of books in her Deerhound Rhodry children’s series (Rhodry is the canine star of BBC and HBO series Gentleman Jack!) When I published my first book, she told me,
“Publishing is addictive!”
In three-and-a-half years, I have published five books. Number 6 is bursting to get out. My mind is full of ideas and outlines for many more. For me, finally getting into print was like releasing the valve on a pressure cooker that has been bubbling away for fifty years!
What made you decide to write in your specific genre rather than other genres? Have you ever written in other genres?
I write comical travel memoirs because I believe that is where my natural talent lies. I adore travel and love observational humour. I am not averse to penning the odd poem, although my favourite metre is Limerick; suffice to say, I don’t aspire to be the next Dylan Thomas.
My professional qualification is a degree in biochemistry. When I worked, I wrote training courses and articles for scientific journals. A piece on the recycling rates of London Underground trains for the magazine Local Authority Waste and Environment is obviously one of my proudest bylines. It’s best not to go through life with regrets, but I never made Plastics and Rubber Weekly.
I was always a willing volunteer to provide material for work-related newsletters. Windsurfing is one of my many sporting passions. As a Team Rider for the UK’s National Watersports Festival, I was also the principal contributor to their windsurfing blog, and wrote regularly for the Seavets windsurfing club newsletter. As a slightly overweight, middle-aged lady shredding the waves amid suntanned, bleached-blond twentysomething men, my aim was to encourage more people, particularly women, into the sport.
I contribute ski-related blogs to the website Ratoong – ‘Trip Advisor for Skiers’ – and have penned the odd guest post for doggie travel blogs, such as Travelnuity, Dog Friendly UK, and Eurotunnel Le Shuttle.
You will note that my writing laurels all lie firmly in the genre ‘factual’. In my creative writing classes, I attempted other genres, which convinced me beyond doubt that I lack the imagination to write fiction! A lady in my class could look at a daffodil, or watch a woman crossing the road and create a whole world around it. Me? I simply cannot envision any plausible scenario concerned with what might happen next!
Do you only read the genre that you write?
When I was younger, among many other potential careers, I variously saw my future as a stuntman, a spy, an astronaut, a circus performer, a test pilot, a volcanologist, or a nomadic Bedouin crossing the desert, with a gentle Arabian horse living in my tent. One reason I now travel permanently is because I want to experience EVERYTHING. Every culture. Every life.
Reading memoir is the perfect genre for a curious person. It is a ringside seat, granting insight into how different people make sense of their time here on spaceship Earth. To me, it seems a natural progression to write what I would love to read.
Yet past lives fascinate me as much as the present. Since I read to relax, I would find historical textbooks too dry, so historical fiction is my other favourite genre.
When I was a kid in the 1960s, Tutankhamen was all the rage. The stunning artefacts and legends surrounding the discovery of the tomb and the Valley of the Kings captivated me. I still recall the palpable excitement of learning in class about mysterious civilisations, such as the bull-jumping Minoans, seafaring Vikings in their dragon-headed longships, and the Roman armies’ invincible battle tactics.
I tried my hand at jousting, and still fancy myself as a Mongolian horse archer, so collections like Conn Iggulden’s tales, chronicling Genghis Khan’s rise from childhood exile, to uniting the disparate tribes, then achieving near world domination is a thrilling bareback gallop across the steppes for me!
What are you currently reading? Watching on TV? Is there a type of music you listen to for inspiration?
I am fortunate to be reading an advance review copy of Jules Brown’s upcoming travel memoir, Watch Out for the Pirates – and I can’t recommend it enough. That kind of witty, offbeat travel writing is exactly what I aspire to emulate, and it is an absolute pleasure and inspiration to read such an entertaining and beautifully crafted travel compendium.
I have to completely agree with that one! Jules’s writing is very witty and informative.
I love a film, and stream or watch DVDs on my laptop. For many years, I chose not to have a TV at home. Now, as a permanent nomad, currently in Southern Italy en route to Albania, I have no access to TV. I think of TV as a great time-waster – there are usually 1001 more interesting and fulfilling things to do, and I find many of the popular programme formats too confrontational, depressing and negative. In addition, I dislike the fact that even I, with my cast-iron mind, am not immune to advertising…
My current home is a converted six-wheel army lorry, which contains almost all my worldly possessions. I feel very fortunate to have everything I need. There is nothing I want that could make me any happier than I am – but contentment is not a state of mind that any advertiser ever aspired to induce in a customer!
When I was stuck ‘in the brick’ in the UK during lockdown, after a decade without TV, I suddenly found myself feeling dissatisfied with my lot. I put it down to constant exposure to TV advertising. Thankfully, I pinched myself, gave myself a reality check, and snapped out of it, but it came as a profound shock that I fell for it in the first place. In a materialistic society, dissatisfaction makes the world go round. A lot of clever people make it their business to tap into it, and make themselves and their bosses rich.
Musically, I enjoy anything from opera to punk. As a wordsmith, lyrics are important to me, so I love musical poets such as Joni Mitchell, and the razor-sharp comedic verse of Tom Lehrer and Tim Minchin. Kit Hesketh-Harvey, of Kit and the Widow fame, is my absolute hero of crafting witty lyrics!
My teenage years spanned the 1970s, and am a rock chick at heart. Queen, most notably frontman Freddie Mercury, was my first love, and the first band I ever saw was an unknown Australian outfit called AC/DC, who played locally at Blackburn’s King George’s Hall in 1978. It was the original line-up, with Bon Scott on vocals. I did not realise quite how cool a claim to fame this would become!
There is scientific proof that music can affect your mood. Sound can even alter the taste of food. The music that most inspires me is anything that can pick me up and throw me out of the window. This includes the killer combination of powerful vocals, throbbing bass, and/or, an electrifying guitar riff. Whether it’s Brünnhilde’s Immolation by Wagner, Angel by Massive Attack, or Ian Gillan, ‘The Hairy Scream’, performing Child in Time with Deep Purple, it makes me feel glad to be alive. To me, rock is a much more effective pick-me-up than a pint of Italian espresso.
If you have never listened to The Sound of Silence by heavy metal band Disturbed, go to YouTube right now and see if my killer combination, overlaid with Paul Simon’s poetic lyrics, makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Publishing a book is easier now than it has ever been, so if that is your dream, go for it.
Like anything, it takes hard work and commitment, so keep at it. Whoever said, “It took me ten years to become an overnight success!” is lost in time, but there was never a truer word spoken.
Also, know that even the most successful authors suffer self-doubt. I recently read Stephen King’s excellent memoir On Writing, and it surprised me to learn that even the multi-millionaire King of Horror is not immune. All artists bare their souls and put themselves in the firing line for criticism – and none more so than an author, particularly if your genre is true-life memoir.
If you produce any creative work, you are making yourself vulnerable, so you need to be prepared when the criticism comes, which it inevitably will. Unfortunately, many reviewers tend to be one dimensional in their views – “I don’t like it, therefore it’s rubbish”, rather than “I don’t like it because it is not to my taste, but I can see and appreciate the merits.”
Do reach out to other authors – we are a friendly and supportive bunch, often facing similar challenges. If you do, you will find that every author, no matter how successful, has received poor reviews. Many say that reviews are for readers, not authors, and simply do not look at them. I almost stopped writing for ever when I got my first one-star review on Amazon. With Sophie’s (and others’) help, I came to terms with the fact that it is not possible to please all the people all the time. Like many other authors I have spoken to, even very successful ones, that one critical review blinded me to the many more excellent reviews. Eventually, I rationalised that I am proud of my work, and that is all that matters. Anything else is a bonus.
That said, the scathing review I received from one of my brother’s old university friends when I rejected his inappropriate advances was comical. Check out my reviews on Amazon.co.uk and you can follow the timescale exactly. Somewhere between books 2 (five star) and 3 (one star), he forced me to remind him politely, “I am a happily married lady!”
The other important thing to determine is your criteria for success. For some, success is all-out fame and fortune, which is not an easy target. For others, it may simply be to produce a family memoir as a memento for the kids.
For me, publishing a book was a long-held dream. As a self-published author, completing the manuscript was the easy part. Without the might of a large publishing house behind me, everything else, from marketing to filling out my tax returns, is down to me. I do not expect to retire on the proceeds; I consider it a success to have covered my costs, which funds an enjoyable hobby.
I spent most of my previous career in sales and marketing of scientific equipment. While writing an excellent and well-presented book is the Number One criterion for success, marketing has got to be Number Two. If you launch a product without marketing, it’s like winking at someone in the dark – you know what you’re doing, but nobody else does.
Also, in these days of media-filled clamour, most of your marketing efforts will be very short lived. If I post on social media, it has an effect on sales for a day, if I’m lucky. If I devoted more time to marketing, it would undoubtedly yield results. Some self-published authors do make a comfortable living from their writing. However, I choose to spend my time travelling and writing, rather than pitching to magazine editors, radio producers and book bloggers; writing guest blogs; arranging talks and book signings; writing email newsletters; and crafting creative and interesting posts for every social media platform under the sun.
My own definition of success is that I am retired, and write for pleasure. I would consider it a failure should that pleasure become a chore, or simply a replacement for work.
Overall, self-publishing has been a wonderfully positive, fun and very satisfying experience. The icing on the cake is the new friends I’ve made, along with hundreds of positive reviews and comments from strangers around the world. It’s a lovely feeling to know that there are those who clearly enjoy reading my scribbles as much as I enjoy writing them. The cherry on top is the few who have contacted me to say I have inspired them to take a trip, or given them the confidence to do what hubs and I did; jump in with both feet, and Live their Dream!
What are you working on right now and what can we look forward to seeing from you next?
My fifth book, It Never Rains But It Paws – A Road Trip Through Politics And A Pandemic, which is number 4 in my Adventure Caravanning With Dogs series, just launched on 6th May 2022. Launch day was tiring but fun – a combination of getting my publicity sorted and spending the morning consulting a vet in Italian, trying to get the required health certificates for our four dogs to enter Albania.
The first draft of To Hel In A Hound Cart, the fifth and final book in this series, is in the bag. I am currently refining and editing the manuscript with a view to publishing later this year.
I am working hard to get my blog up to date on our current travels – we moved into The Beast, our self-converted army truck, in July 2021. Due to COVID and family reasons preventing us from leaving the UK until April, our travels to date have been a bit more Manchester than Mongolia. (We bought The Beast to drive to Mongolia via Russia, which has also dropped off the list of desirable destinations since it started its ‘special operation’ in Ukraine this February.)
Nevertheless, adventure has not abandoned us. We drove The Beast to the top of a mountain, got our four-wheel-drive ‘Go Anywhere’ truck stuck in a Gloucestershire field, and discovered Yorkshire’s answer to Fred Dibnah under our chassis one Sunday morning, inspecting our axles!
After being on the road for nearly a year, I already have enough material for at least one book, and am considering calling the series Truckin’ About. What do you think?!
Through lockdown, I transcribed my old travel journals, and last year, was delighted to receive invitations to contribute several chapters to various travel anthologies, such as Alyson Sheldrake’s Travel Stories collection. So often, my life feels like a soap opera, and BC (Before Canines and Before Caravan!) I adventured my way around six of the seven continents. It was a joy to revisit a few of these experiences – in Zimbabwe, the Galápagos Islands, Costa Rica and Romania – for the anthologies.
I have so many stories I want to share, which I hope will bring laughter, pleasure and inspiration to my readers. All I need is to find time to write them down!
Thank you so much for joining me today, Jackie – your adventures sound really amazing! I think ‘Truckin’ About ‘ is a great title for the next series!! (I also liked ‘Trucking Idiots’ in your Bio up above). Good luck with your latest book and all of your other projects.
Adventure Caravanning With Dogs Series
Year 1 – Fur Babies in France: From Wage Slaves To Living The Dream
The true story of a couple who accidentally bought their first caravan – then decided to give up work, rent out the house and tour Europe full-time with their four dogs. Year 1 – Fur Babies in France is the story of their first year on wheels, involving lots of breakages and a near-death experience on Day 1…
- “Laugh out loud funny and a great travel guide.”
- “Great book, a lovely insight into how you can give up the daily grind and head off into the sunset.”
- “Well written, full of bounce and fun, and a great book for wannabe caravanners or full time travellers.” Valerie Poore, Award-winning author
Dog on the Rhine: From Rat Race to Road Trip
AMAZON NO. 1 BESTSELLER IN GERMAN TRAVEL
Now with some actual caravanning experience under their belts, the crew get a bit more adventurous and cross Germany, before going for a brief bark around the Balkans. (The Czech Republic, Slovenia and Croatia.) But lest they mislead you into thinking Livin’ the Dream is all sunshine and rainbows, they return home to a huge Fidose of Reality…
- “An inspirational travelogue.”
- “Amusing and informative.”
Dogs ‘n’ Dracula: A Road Trip Through Romania
ROMANIA INSIDER AWARDS FINALIST
Told they would be robbed, scammed, kidnapped by gypsies, eaten by bears or attacked by wild dogs or wolves – if they manage to avoid the floods and riots, the team Boldly Goes Where No Van Has Gone Before. They explore Europe’s largest wilderness, adopt a street dog, and tow a caravan across the Carpathian Mountains on one of the world’s most dangerous roads.
Amazon & Other Reviews:
- “Armchair travel delight.” Amazon.co.uk
- “A delightful book about the nomad lifestyle.” Sharon, book blogger at Gum Trees and Galaxies
It Never Rains But It Paws: A Road Trip Through Politics And A Pandemic
Five years after giving up work to travel full-time, Jackie and Mark race against time to leave the UK before Britain exits the EU. If Brexit happens, their four precious pups may lose their pet passports and be unable to travel. But Brexit isn’t their only obstacle. A few months into their trip, the pandemic leaves them trapped in the epicentre of Europe’s No. 1 coronavirus hotspot.
- “The mix of fun, humour, travel exploits and anecdotes is lovely. A great romp through (Jackie’s) world, and very entertaining. Alyson Sheldrake, Artist and Author.
- “Her nimble writing rivals Bill Bryson and Paul Theroux.” ARC Reviewer on Booksprout
Adventure Travel With Dogs Series
Pups on Piste: A Ski Season in Italy
Jackie, Mark and The Fab Four, their canine crew, spend three months in Monte Rosa, a little-known ski resort tucked under the second highest peak in Western Europe. It also happens to be in the world’s Top 5 off-piste ski destinations. With parables from on piste and off, our team get lost, stranded – and are told by an instructor, “Don’t miss the turn or you’ll go over a cliff…”
Amazon & Other Reviews:
- “Excellent reference book! Jackie’s story telling and informative approach has not only relieved me of some of my anxieties (about an upcoming trip) but really inspired me!”
- “Highly recommended for dog lovers, ski enthusiasts and adventurous travellers.” Louise Capper, Waggy Tales Book and Dog Blog.