Today it's a privilege to welcome stunning author J A Clement as my guest.
I’ve been writing forever and always knew that I would get a book published. I was a bit baffled at how this was going to happen, though, as statistically speaking my chances of being offered a publishing contract were minuscule. Besides, the publishing industry is shrinking so fast; fifteen years ago traditional publishers released far more books every month than they do now, and the whole submission process is so inefficient and time-wasting ! I decided I’d rather spend my time writing, which turned out to have been a good call.
I first heard of ebooks when the iPad came out. Researching epublishing suggested there was a lot of potential for growth and a much more efficient way of getting my stories to an audience, so when the Kindle arrived, I decided to throw my story to the lions and let the readers decide. I am SO glad I did! I have utterly loved the whole process and a couple of novellas later, I’ve just combined them into my first paperback and between my editors, my fabulous cover-maker, and my slightly OCD need to have it perfect, I’m really proud of it.
That book? I did that.
- What genre do you write in and what genre do you prefer to read?
I read pretty voraciously in several different genres – classics, detective, action, fairytale, humour, sci-fi, poetry... I’m thinking of venturing into steampunk too, when I have a moment. My ‘home’ genre is fantasy, especially long, complicated series with a lot of characters so that’s just what “On Dark Shores” is!
- Where do you sell most books, USA or UK, Amazon or Barnes and Noble?
My ebooks sell mostly in the UK. In the US my sales are small on Kindle but trickling away on B&N. They just started to move suddenly – I have no idea why. I’ll be really interested to see how the paperback does, but it’s early days yet.
- During your childhood who was your biggest influence?
A huge influence generally was the part of Yorkshire where I grew up; it is wild and beautiful, and there’s a corner of it in my soul. As a child, if I didn’t have my nose in a book, I’d be climbing a tree or making a den or trying to dam the stream. We lived in the middle of nowhere and I had the run of a couple of fields and a secretive wooded ghyll with a dark little stream in the bottom, so after school I would just disappear down the fields and potter about amid the great open quiet of the hills. Such freedom; I was very lucky.
In more specific terms: my Mum introduced me to and made me value musicality of many kinds, which I find extremely relevant to the use of language. My family made me realize that being conventional is an interesting concept but not one that we feel bound to take any notice of. And literary influences would include my older sister Cath (another fantasy fan whose library books I used to read bits of when she wasn’t looking) and the fact that I had the run of a huge bookcase, so if it looked interesting I’d read it. No-one told me that LoTR was not normally something that an 8-year-old should expect to be reading, though my Mum did have to explain to me that I might be mistaken in declaring that Gandalf had fallen into an abcess.
- Are you fortunate enough to write full-time?
Alas no! I work fulltime and have a four-hour daily commute, so writing happens in my lunch hour and on the train home at the end of the day. When I started, I was writing in the evenings as well but that meant I was spending virtually no time with my partner, which wasn’t going to work long-term. We only have an hour in the evenings, but now rather than firing up the computer, I curl up on the sofa with him instead, and really enjoy it!
- If Hollywood came knocking who would you want to play your main character?
That’s actually quite difficult because Hollywood goes for beautiful or handsome and most of my characters are just normal people. However, an important character is Vansel, a smuggler, and I could see him being played by Eric Bana. He’s not quite as I imagine Vansel, but it’s not far off...
- Name 6 people, dead or alive, you’d love to have as guests seated around your dinner-table.
The obvious dinner party guest is Stephen Fry, who appears to be endlessly knowledgeable and amusing, but also interested in other people.
JK Rowling should have an utterly fascinating tale to tell about her progress from rejection slips to multi-millionaire. It’s always difficult to tell from someone’s public persona, but she does seem to be working hard to retain her integrity in a variety of ways. And working with the cream of English acting talent on the films must have been incredible.
Sandi Toksvig has such a facility with words and such a sly wit that it’s always a pleasure to listen, especially in combination of Stephen Fry, as they seem to spark off each other.
Leonardo da Vinci, amongst other things, discovered the circulatory system 500 years before medicine did, only his notebooks got lost so he didn’t get the credit. Also his future-casting was spectacular, so it would be fascinating to discuss ideas for some sci-fi.
Maya Angelou, whose poetry I love. Her words really sing from the heart and the personality that shines out between the lines is wise and witty.
Aldus Manutius would LOVE to be in on the whole indie printing argument. He basically invented branding; he was one of the earliest and most successful printers in Venice, then a huge centre of trade between East and West. The printing press had only recently been invented and the idea of printing by machine rather than having monks copy manuscripts by hand caused uproar in the learned world. The literati feared that if just anyone could print a book cheaply (rather than go to the expense of having it hand-copied onto vellum by monks) it would mean the market was flooded with unedited texts of no intrinsic value at all. Deja vu, anyone?
Of course, in such august company I’d pretty much be handing out the plates and sniggering at the jokes, but it would be one hell of an evening!
- What one piece of advice have you found the most important in your writing career?
“Passable” is worse than no good, and “it’ll do” needs to fall out of your vocabulary. You might be tired, you might be impatient, the deadline might be looming but if you push the “publish” button before your text is the most excellent thing you can produce, you’re cheating your readers and they will know it. You owe them your best effort, nothing less.
*(Thought I had made this up myself but watching Bill & Ted the other day, I discovered the full phrase is “Be excellent, dudes!!” Sigh.)
- What are your plans for the coming year?
Short-term: I’m having an impromptu launch party in London at the end of the month! There are a couple of other authors with releases to celebrate, and a bunch of readers, so it should be a good laugh. Anyone’s welcome, so do drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to come along – the more the merrier! Probably Thurs 25th, probably at the Southbank though this still tbc.
Mid to long-term, I’ll be working on the next part of “On Dark Shores” as well as two shorter stories set in the same world. One of the ‘shorts’ is a novella currently at 33k words and the other is about 10k words but I haven’t really started working on that yet.
I have a short story in “Christmas Lites II”, an anthology due out in December for the charity NCADV, and am looking at re-releasing last year’s story to try and raise awareness of the anthology a bit.
I’m also giving a hand to four other writers working on their first novels or stories, so that they don’t have to make all the rookie errors that I did.
Mostly I’ll be working on “The Mother of the Shantar” though. It’s currently about 90k in length but my readers have asked for something a bit longer this time so I’m aiming for 100-150k, depending on when it gets to a sensible stopping place. Series make endings quite problematic and partial at best, so we’ll see how that goes. Then I just have to get it through multiple corrections with 2 editors, and it’s onto Book 4!!
- And finally, if you were stranded on a desert island what 3 books would you choose to have with you?
The Complete Sherlock Holmes, so I could go through, collect together all mentions of “the case of the politician, the trained cormorant and the lighthouse” and other such references with which Conan Doyle teases us by never telling the actual story; and then go back and construct some highly elaborate tale behind each.
The Unfinished Tales by Tolkien, because I’d finally have time to read his backstory and reconstruct his mythology (yes I am a geek).
Errr… A book of paper and a pencil, because with those to hand I would never get bored. I might have to evolve the teeniest writing known to mankind though, so maybe I should work in fountain pen and just wash it off the paper every time I finished the book!!
Author pages have links to all books.
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/author/j.a.clement
Website/blog : http://jaclement.wordpress.com