Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Clare. We are very excited and can’t wait to learn more about you. Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Hi and many thanks for welcoming me here. I’ve been writing m/m romance and adventure fiction for many years, but I’m also in full-time work, with a husband and two lively almost-grown up sons to look after.
What was your first book and how long did it take to get it published?
I’d tried getting an agent for a historical romance novel I wrote back in 2000, but didn’t have any luck. Then in 2004 I joined the NaNoWriMo challenge and wrote a fantasy m/m book called The Gold Warrior. Over the next couple of years, on and off, I honed it to something I was proud of. Then in 2008, I nervously contacted an author friend who’d just been accepted at Dreamspinner Press, to ask her what the new e-presses were like. She encouraged me, I took about 3 weeks before I plucked up courage to press the ‘send’ button – but they came back to me within a couple of months, and I’d been accepted. What’s more, they wanted me to write the sequel as well! I’m very excited that it’s still in print and still selling well – in fact, in October it was re-launched as a single volume called “Branded”. And many, many thanks to the thoughtful and enthusiastic review your site gave it.
How many books have you written thus far?
Published, I have five novels, an anthology of shorts, four novellas and over twenty individual shorts. And a few more shorts in publisher anthologies. And in the yet-to-be-published category, I have…many more lurking LOL.
When did you start writing m/m romance fiction? What about this genre interested you the most?
I didn’t even know it existed until around 2000 when I started reading fanfiction and discovered there was a healthy world of m/m fiction. I loved the dynamics and excitement there could be in fiction between two men, rather than the more traditional male/female relationship. It didn’t take me long to realize I wanted to try writing it myself. And the rest, as they say…
Do you write full time?
No, I work full-time for a media company as an accountant. I also have those three menfolk to look after. And *then* I’m allowed the time to write!
Looking back was there something in particular that helped you to decide to become a writer? Did you choose it or did the profession choose you?
It most definitely chose me. I’m sure a lot of authors say this, but I’ve been writing since I was at school and I love it. When ideas strike me, I want to write them myself, even more than reading someone else’s words, or watching a movie.
On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?
If I have a whole day to myself, I make sure I have fresh coffee and a quiet room, and hopefully a large vase of flowers beside the laptop. Then I’ll immerse myself in the story or the characters and let things happen. If I only have a small amount of time, and although I find it difficult to start writing from a standing start, I’ll try to add a scene to an existing WIP, or edit something I’ve already written. Or just jot down some ideas of a scene for a future book, to motivate myself.
When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?
Hmm…I’ve always been a pantser – I’ve let my characters tell the story for me most of the time. But since I’ve had less time to write, I find it useful to spend more time planning in advance.
What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?
Many of my books are romance and character-led, and are often concentrated in just one or a couple of settings. I also mainly write contemporary. So a lot of my research comes from the existing knowledge and language I have in my head. But if one of my heroes has a particular job I don’t know much about, or there’s a scene in a place I don’t know so well myself, I’ll research it. And that happens all the way through writing the book.
How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters? How do you approach development of your characters? Where do you draw the line?
I don’t put myself physically into the books – as I’m female! – and my nearest and dearest menfolk wouldn’t necessarily like to appear in a book either. But sometimes I draw on my attitude and beliefs and possibly even the way I talk. However, the characters are fictional, and also they have to be plausible and unique so I try to keep their scenes and dialogue true to the way *they* would act, not me. I often speak the dialogue aloud, to make sure there’s enough differentiation in the characters.
How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read?
When I had some concentrated free time, I finished a 90k novel in four months. And to be honest, I work best under deadline pressure. But depending on how long and complex the book is, I’d rather have around 6 months.
If you weren’t sitting there right this very moment answering our book of questions, what else would you be doing?
Eating supper LOL. Or reading. Or snatching a quiet moment on my own in front of the TV!
Do you write straight through, or do you revise as you go along?
I revise all the time. Sometimes I have to boot myself quite hard to move forward, or I just keep going over the same sections again and again.
Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?
LOL of course I do. In my case, it tends to be tiredness and burn-out that defeat me, as I still have ideas to write about – just not the energy! And we all suffer from lower self-esteem sometimes. I try to take a break if that happens, I like to read a lot to refresh my love of fiction. I also revisit any project I have that I’m really looking forward to working on again, even if it isn’t in my immediate schedule.
When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they gain, feel, or experience?
I just want them to enjoy it! I’d love the reader to feel sympathy with the characters, to find them sexy and fascinating and fun – and maybe fall in love with them a little. And then, my greatest hope is that the story and the enjoyment stay in their mind for times to come.
Does the title of a book you’re writing come to you as you’re writing it, or does it come before you even begin the first sentence?
Oh no, it often follows on quite late. My book “Freeman” was named after a working title, because I kept meaning to find something more apt – and then couldn’t imagine it called anything different!
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?
I like verbal wit, I like gentle but dry jokes, sometimes just silly things. I love comedians who can pick up on any impromptu conversation – especially about general, real life – and make a sympathetic joke. I love humour about books and movies that we all know, as well – like the 5-minute movie bunnies!
What is the most frequently asked Clare question?
How do you manage to juggle everything – work, family, writing? (don’t ask me to answer that, I don’t know and often don’t make it LOL).
What are you working on now?
I’m (hopefully) finishing a novel that charts a slow-burning romance between two guys working on an undercover police job. One is quietly contained, the other a lively wild card. They tease each other for a long time, taking each other to their favourite place for a date despite it apparently being the opposite of what the other would like – but gradually they find more agreement than conflict. And then, of course, the romance is barely started before it’s hijacked by sudden danger. Cruel of me, eh?
I’ve also just submitted a humorous short story about two very different young men who are pushed into flat-sitting each other’s home. One is obsessively tidy, the other’s a slob – you can see where the fun will start!
What was the best piece of advice you’ve received with respect to the art of writing? How did you implement it into your work?
Make the first chapter grab the reader’s attention. I can’t say I always manage it, but I made a conscious effort to put my best into the opening scene of “Blinded by Our Eyes”, when a murdered body is found in a pool of blood in my hero’s art gallery – and I’ve had feedback from readers telling me it’s a powerful opening.
What is a typical day like for you?
Work, work and work. I’m in the office by 8am, work until 6 then drive home through London traffic. Then I do my ‘Mum’ job and try to get meals and chores sorted (though I’m a rubbish cook, don’t think I’m some kind of apple-pie Mom LOL). Then maybe work on catching up with email or preparing promo or – god forbid, the final thing on the list! – writing.
When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order to increase reader-awareness of your work?
I’m a Brit, we’re not marvellous at self-promotion you know LOL. However, I attended Yaoi Con in San Francisco this year (a large anime m/m convention) and helped out on the Dreamspinner Press table. I wore a T-shirt that one of my best friends told me I *had* to buy for the Con – it had a scene from London on it, with LONDON in huge black sequined letters across my chest! And she was right, it drew attention *blush*.
Writing is obviously not just how you make your living, but your life-style as well. What do you do to keep the creative “spark” alive – both in your work and out of it?
That’s a lovely way to describe it – it *is* a lifestyle, or at the very least, what I love to do with my leisure time. I think it’s important to keep my eyes and ears open, watching life and people around me, being open to new experiences, absorbing lots of inspiration for future work. And I read a lot, and watch TV and movies when I have time. It all keeps me alert and stimulated.
What kind of books do you like to read?
I read a lot of m/m but I love non-m/m crime and mystery too. I like humour and well-observed satire. I also like to mix up, with drama one day, then a YA book, then some erotic m/m. Keeps me interested.
When it comes to the covers of your books, what do you like or dislike about them?
I love the freedom that the e-publishing industry has in creating covers, though I think we can all still spot the skill in a really good one. The immediate effect is most important to me – the colour scheme, a unique and eye-catching design. I like torsos, I like a sexy, half-dressed man, and I have deep admiration for the cover artists who can also draw their covers and create original work. I *don’t* like the covers where it looks like two people from different worlds have been snipped out with scissors and stuck together to represent a couple LOL.
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
I enjoy the cinema and theatre, and I collect Japanese anime art work. Doesn’t my life sound exciting?
Any special projects coming out soon we should watch for?
I’m excited about a paranormal erotic mystery novella coming out at Carina in Feb 2011 called “The Tourist”. It’s cheeky and sexy and I’d love to do more with the central character Ace, an uninhibited Victorian street boy turned … ghost!
Here’s the blurb and a lovely new cover:
“Visiting isn’t a science, at least not for me. It’s just what I do. Not that I mind, though. It’s not a bad thing, you understand, to find yourself in someone else’s body, stepping into a hot shower stark-naked and sporting a decent-sized morning wood.
Ace is a tourist. A spirit who spends his time visiting the lives of others for entertainment and sexual satisfaction. He can’t make anyone do anything they aren’t willing to do—but he is able to push them to their personal limits.
He’s currently visiting Dan and his lover, Ricky—a couple struggling with jealousy and words left unsaid. Emboldened by Ace, Dan becomes more sexually aggressive, a pleasant surprise for Ricky. But when an abusive ex threatens their newfound happiness, how far will Ace want to get involved? Will his fascination with the couple’s sexual games tempt him to protect them from a very real physical danger?”
New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?
Just keep writing. Enjoy it and your characters, it’s ok to be in love with them LOL. Let the words flow any old how. But if you then want to share it with others or seek publication, I’d add a couple more hints. Practise re-reading your work as if you were new to the characters, or find yourself a sympathetic but helpful critique partner or reading group. Then based on that feedback, work on crafting the story into an equally rewarding experience for the reader as well.
Can you please tell us where we can find you and your books on the Internet?
All the details are at my website, blog and other popular social network sites: