Friday, 3 June 2011

Author Q&A with J A Clement

I rceently read and reviewed JA Clement's debut novel On Dark Shores: The Lady, available as an e-book, which showed me that actually despite previous reservations I do like fantasy.  JA Clement writes in many different genres - she says as the mood takes her but appears to have accidentally fallen into an epic fantasy series. She also wants to point out she is not at all obsessed with jellyfish.  

So now, on with the questions!

On Dark Shores: The Lady
When did you first think of becoming a writer and who or what got you interested in writing?
When I was a kid I was a terribly precocious reader simply because there was a huge room full of books and I could read anything I could reach - and probably most of the stuff that was on shelves taller than I was too, if I asked. It took me a bit longer to get the hang of the whole handwriting thing, but once I had, it was the logical flipside. Stories are written and you read them; the question of whether I’d written them or someone else had seemed irrelevant really. It was only as I got a bit older that it occurred to me that there were people who didn’t write stories; I just assumed they didn’t want to or something.

How would you describe your books and style?
My books do fall under the category of fantasy or dark fantasy, but I try to give them a realistic twist. I like reading all sorts of fantasy but I know there are a lot of people who find it too "fairytale", and given that the "wizard / elf / unicorn variant of fantasy is fairly well represented at the moment, I wanted to try and write something more visceral, that felt almost possible. Oddly, they've turned out pretty dark, which was an unintended consequence.

When you write do you have a particular routine you follow, and what do you find the most difficult part of writing a book?
When I write, I like to start by reading the last chunk of what I wrote last time and doing an initial edit on it as I go along. This gets me up to speed, but also means I have the pictures playing in my head, so that when I get to where I stopped last time I can just continue smoothly. I used to write longhand but these days my typing speed is up to the point where it doesn't intrude, so I just start typing.
The really difficult part is finding the time though. I spend my lunchtime and fragments of evening free time zipping through various forums and social media sites, where I try to contribute to the conversation – I’m not one for the drive-by spamming in conversation threads, for the most part – and researching sites that might be up for reviewing the book. Sometime soon I’m going to need to drop all that and get on with editing book 2; problem with that is that once you drop the publicity and the blogging and all the rest of it, you have to start from scratch when you pick it up again, which is a rather daunting prospect...

Do you start a book knowing what the beginning, middle and end will be or does it take on a life of its own as you write?
I can't plan it too closely or I get bored. The first few pages I write probably won’t make it into the finished cut - they are usually an exploration of situation and character in search of the hook that will set the direction of the whole thing. After a few characters have turned up the action starts to evolve as the characters simply react to events as they happen in a manner that is logical and human.
Once the problem is set - most fiction involves some kind of problem or obstacle that must be overcome by the protagonist - once I know what it is that is hindering them, I usually have some idea of what the ending will be, generally and to some extent what each character's ending will be. The only thing is persuading the characters to play!
Usually they get to the desired end-point in their own devious ways - but sometimes a character dies along the way who was supposed to have a happy ending, or fails to die inexplicably, or something of the sort. They can be an intractable lot, characters.

Are you self-published or traditionally published, and what has been the best and worst thing about the route you have taken?
I never bothered trying to submit my stuff to agents or publishers because, watching the trends, they simply weren't taking any risks and my book doesn't fall neatly in any slot. When I saw that ebooks were starting to take off, looked decent and were a sensible way of making my book available to the general public without having to spend a lot of money doing so, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. So far the feedback has been really positive, which I'm very pleased about, and I've suddenly found myself in a while new world of indie literature, lovely authors and interesting, unusual books, which is just fantastic.
I would say that the only downside of it all is the sheer amount of time that is eaten up by the publicity; I actually rather enjoy it, but as I work full-time and spend about three hours a day commuting, pretty much the rest of the evening is taken up with forums, Twitter, Facebook, reading and writing blogs and comments, and endless ongoing research into the latest developments in epublishing and ways to make my books easier to find, easier to use or more pleasing to read. It's utterly faschinating; but my partner refers to it as my second job, and he's not wrong with that.

If this isn't too much like asking a mum which of her children she likes best, which of your characters is your favourite?
Actually, this is a bit embarrassing but at the moment I have a real soft spot for a giant jellyfish called the Archangel. It doesn't turn up for another couple of books, has no personality, and lurks in a dark pool. It won't prove important on first mention really but I just realised what it is and why it's there, the other day, and it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Quite excited about that bit, actually....

What do you like to read and do you have any other passions?
I read pretty much everything. I like a good story or, if nonfiction, something a bit quirky. I also love gardening and cooking, and making grandiose sandcastles when on holiday. I love the sea. I love stories; theatre and cinema, music of many kinds. There are so many things I want to do but alas, no time for any of them!

Finally, what are you working on at the moment that you can tell us about?
Currently "On Dark Shores 2: The Mother" is in editing with a view to being released over the summer, and there's Book 3 queued up right behind it awaiting the initial edit. I might put together the paperback of Book 1, if there's the interest; and then in November Book 4 will be at least partly written during NaNoWriMo. After that, there's an assortment of snippets of backstory which it might be nice to release as free shorts, though we'll see how the time goes, esp given we’re in the middle of moving house at the moment.
Problem is, currently I'm following the long and tortuous path of this story, but already I've found so many other worlds to write about and so many other stories to tell - how can I possibly write all of them?

If you want to find out more the JAC can regularly be found at:

Last but not least a big thank you JAC for taking the time to share your thoughts.


Jules said...

Interesting interview - This is an author and book I haven't heard of before.

Anonymous said...

Now you've got me interested in that giant jellyfish...called Archangel. There's a story there somewhere!

TC said...

Jules, I really enjoyed the book because it's fantasy with a dark edge and no vampires/werewolves etc (not really my thing) and I'll be keeping an eye for the next book.

Stephanie, I'm curious about Archangel, and I'm sure you're right. I quite like jellyfish (though maybe not the one that stung me on the backside a couple of summer ago!)

Anonymous said...

It's a great bit, Stephanie...I quite liked the initial appearance of the Archangel but it took me by surprise when it turned into....well, quite what it turned out to be.

Thanks for the interview, TC!

Anonymous said...

TC, a couple of months should do it - in editing as we speak....