INTERVIEW AT REVIEWS BY JESSEWAVE, July 2009

 At Reviews by Jessewave

The Clare London Interview

On the blog today is Clare London who writes fantasy as well as contemporary romances. Clare is based in London, England and has been writing for more years that she cares to recall and has published six novels and numerous short stories. . I’m going to have her tell you her story and then we’ll move on to her books, of which there are many.:)

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Hi Clare and welcome again to the blog. Although you come by frequently (at least when Blogger allows you to log on)*g* the readers here don’t know a lot about you. What can you tell us about Clare that will surprise us?

Hi Wave, always great to be here! How about I’m the same age as Madonna, Sharon Stone and Michelle Pfeiffer? (I know, me and Madonna, easy mistake to make…).Or I once kissed Lennox Lewis, the heavyweight boxer? Or I was born in Brighton (Sussex, UK) and want to win the Lottery so that one day I can afford a holiday home back down there? And I’ve never gamed in my life. Hubby says I should boast about winning UK Universities’ Ladies’ Championship in tenpin Bowling (which is, astonishingly, true). I say Hubby should concentrate on mowing the lawn.

Tell us a little bit about Clare the writer and the person (only as much or as little as you would like).

Clare the writer loves her work and is thrilled and astonished at the fun and success she’s had so far at sharing her books. It’s a second career for her, and is fast becoming her (second) favourite leisure activity. You can guess the first, but it inevitably includes chocolate. She loves being involved in the publishing community and feels strongly and deeply about the current issues, though she may not be the loudest voice. She’s also an avid reader and is excited at all the m/m books she’s now found, and she’s greatly heartened by the great friends she’s made. She has control issues and is fiercely possessive of every one of her adverbs.

Clare the person runs around on a daily basis like a headless chicken trying to keep all the plates in the air! All the above is true of me as a writer, but I also have a full-time job as a Financial Controller for a media firm, plus a hubby who teaches engineering and two teenaged Sons. They’re great, loud and active and lazy and caring and bright and challenging. I call that ‘lively’ in interviews, but privately I sign myself as living in Testosterone City.

I’m online most waking hours, though Net Life alternately thrills and exhausts me. It’s a portal for human nature, I know, there’s nothing new there. I’ve learned quickly about publishing, marketing and the communities, but its always very important to me to be civil and friendly to people, and to offer encouragement and support if I can. I like to be professional in my writing life and enjoy it.

Whenever an author is interviewed a lot it’s always difficult to come up with original questions. Here’s one I don’t believe you have been asked before (I hope). What do you believe is wrong with the M/M sub genre (if anything) that, in your opinion, if it isn’t fixed will probably drive readers away in droves?

Okay, so here comes the first of your easy (!) questions that I’ll bravely attempt to answer, while steering a path through tact, honesty, political correctness and pretension! Just remember, these are all solely my opinions. I don’t actually think there is anything wrong with the genre, in itself. It’s made up from authors and publishers and readers, is run to similar business models (I believe) and has the same enthusiasm and commitment and commercial aspirations as any other genre. And probably the same abuses and shortcomings, in its own context. But it attracts readers and I think always will.

Your recent blog discussion about the quantity and quality of m/m fiction being released was thought-provoking and impassioned – I loved it. And yes, I’m disappointed in some books on offer, but that’s always been the case, whatever genre I buy. To me, the issue is that the blossoming of the m/m genre is happening in the very public eye. The growth of e-publishing – which I support and find astonishing and fabulous – has meant the fiction is accessible, affordable and immediately available. And there’s LOTS more of it! Everything that happens, good and bad, is immediately communicated. Authors can be published in a matter of months – readers can share their reactions and opinions more easily than ever before. It’s tremendously empowering. I admire the wide range of readers’ tastes out there, and the efforts of authors. But there’s a danger to being so visible, and yes, probably some product is not as robust as it should be. I think we’re still steering our way around all this. Of course, I use that ‘we’ without permission of the publishers and all the authors involved LOL.

What I would like to see – and believe will happen – is the genre find its level. Then readers will have the confidence to make more discriminating choices and publishers will decide and concentrate on what they do best. And some authors will go from strength to strength, and some will drop away. I don’t think M/M can or will hold itself in, in the one category. It’s already spreading its wings and reaching out into all the sub-genres – romance, historical, SF, fantasy etc. – and many of us are maturing every day. The last few years have been thrilling, and the next are going to be even more so!

A lot of M/M writers, more than in any other sub genres, seem to have come to writing through fan fiction – (must be the Spock/Kirk thing).:) I believe you did as well. Did you find fan fiction to be a help or hindrance in furthering your writing career?

Yes I did, I wrote in the Gundam Wing fandom. Five cute male pilots, huge mecha (!), battles and political intrigue and dangerous drama – what’s not to love? It was my writing training ground, my comfort and my excitement for years. I made lots of friends, too. I could write in any genre, any style, and experiment to my heart’s content. And I won’t deny the benefit of immediate feedback. On a practical level, I wrote almost entirely in Alternate Universes i.e. my fiction wasn’t dependent on the series canon. This has helped if and when I have an old story I think has potential to reach a wider audience as re-written original fiction. Which, in a way, it always was. I contributed recently to a great series of posts in the meta_writer community on Live Journal, where many writers shared their experience of the relationship between fanfiction and published fiction. There were many different points of view, but I think all of us agreed that the important thing is to *write*, whatever it is. And fanfiction was one of the things that got me to go public with mine!

You write fantasy as well as contemporary stories. In terms of contemporaries there’s not a whole lot of plot choices that haven’t been done before, so, as a writer, how do you keep your contemporary stories fresh and original? Is it always about the characters? How do you ensure that your characters are not copycats?

I really enjoyed writing fantasy, like my books The Gold Warrior and Twisted Brand. I have fantasy short stories too, like the Masquerade anthology. I’d like readers to see more of it from me – watch out for my latest release from LoveYouDivine and my dip back into vampires! I know there are only so many basic plots – in fantasy as well as contemporary of course – but I genuinely believe that an author can always make their book unique. It’s totally about the characters for me, it’s what drives me to write, and to find new plot inspiration. In Sparks Fly, it’s the tension between two very different men, Nic and Aidan, that draws the plot along. Then in True Colors, Zeke and Miles are another pair of conflicting personalities – but in a different way.

All my heroes struggle with something in their life, mostly from inside themselves. At the end of both of those books, the romantic journey has just begun, but the heroes have established the most important theme for me – that they want to make it work. Contemporary is slightly more difficult to keep fresh because of similar settings in time and place, but I still think there’s so much scope in the range of human nature, I’m always finding new inspiration. My personal method is to try to immerse myself in the character’s ‘voice’, and that determines the rest of character him/herself. It’s like method acting for writing LOL.

I know you’re British (if I didn’t, your pseud gives you away*g*). My question has to do with choosing locations for your stories that the readers can relate to without them being too “foreign” or so familiar that they can question aspects of the cities or towns. Do you deliberately try to pick a location (real or imaginary) that readers can’t say – so and so isn’t where Clare has it in the story OR there is no such building?

Yes (a perfect closed question, Wave! LOL). No seriously, you summed it up well. I do deliberately create a location that isn’t really any place in particular. Some of that is because I like to spend my effort on writing the people rather than the setting, but also because it means the reader can use their own imagination. And yes, not catch me out!

Freeman was the first novel I wrote that I specifically set somewhere – England – and yet I still avoided naming the city where he met Kit and struggled (there we are again with the struggle!) to overcome his past history and his own communication difficulties. I think you can still get a sense of ‘place’ without direct reference, though I love to read books where the author has set it in a place they obviously know and love personally.

Since you write for a predominantly North American market, what are the concerns that you always have to keep in mind (other than the weird spelling)? *g*

The phrasing is important, the way words are used in NA is different from the UK. Some of our style is different too, notably using passive voice a lot more. And we probably use more words in general! I still won’t accept ‘gotten’, though LOL. And of course, it’s been a treat recently to use British vocabulary in Freeman, and some British settings in my short stories at Dreamspinner’s To Have and To Hold series.

In the US some publishers include “interracial” or “multi cultural” protagonists in their submission calls, so it’s an area that they are promoting. London is a pretty multi cultural and cosmopolitan city, maybe not as much of a melting pot as Toronto where I live in terms of the number of races or New York, but its up there. Yet you have never written an interracial romance even though you probably have contact with other ethnicities on a regular basis. Is there any reason why you haven’t explored this? Some authors have said that they don’t know enough about other ethnicities to write them in a way that wouldn’t present minorities poorly, yet a number of Caucasian authors have written wonderful culturally diverse characters.

This is another careful tread. I’ve no desire or intention to offend anyone. Yes, London is very multi-cultural and I’m surrounded by many different ethnic backgrounds. But where I personally live and work, we’re all just part of the whole. It’s difficult to express without sounding naïve, but I can only describe how it is here, where Clare is.

In my writing, I don’t choose to include or exclude characters on the basis of ethnicity alone. I know my view may be seen as somewhat narrow – but I write from the basis of my own culture and society. That way, I feel that characters can appear as people, first and foremost. I don’t really have the knowledge or confidence to write from any other viewpoint, and it’s the one where I feel I can be confident and true. I wouldn’t shirk it either, though, if it were right for the plot. But not only race – I’d attempt to bring in a variety of characters as per background, educational ability, disabilities, practical skills etc.

One thing I will say, I see no reason in including characters who are of note purely because of their ethnic looks. If the ethnicity or social background is important to my character and/or the story development, I’ll do my best to illustrate it well, without distracting from the story or the shared emotions.

I read somewhere that you enter writing contests. Since you’re so successful, I’m wondering why you would want to do so.

In real contests, I rarely come anywhere LOL. And it’s not about the money for me (not that I’d turn it down!). But challenges and submission calls are part of my writing life’s blood – they give me inspiration, kick me to get started, give me a deadline to work to and stretch my boundaries. It’s just what works for me. I also meet lots of new friends and get to try different publishers and sub-genres.

As you know, this blog is M/M so we don’t review other sub genres, especially menages.*g* However a number of M/M writers also write M/F. When you outline a story (I assume that you must have done so for The Gold Warrior and its sequel Twisted Brand set in Aza City because the story seems so complex), at what point do you decide whether it’s going to be either or both? Other authors tell me that their characters demand to be heard – is this also the case for you?

Yes, I think the story demands to be told. My Muse gets very fractious if he’s pushed into a narrow corridor LOL. And seriously, I think it’s ultimately unsatisfying for both author and reader if authors are discouraged from investigating a wide range of themes and characters. Like you could stop us.

In the case of Gold Warrior, it was a complex story of a man’s many relationships. His heart is captured by a young man, but his sexual partnerships include other men, and in the case of his Mistress and Queen, other women. That was Maen’s world and his story. It was always that way for me, from the beginning of both books, and I loved being in that world. I think that reflects real life, too. A story can major on m/m but especially if it’s in a contemporary world, there are m/f relationships too, you can’t really ignore that in a novel-length book and still make your story totally plausible. And other degrees of relationship, too, not just sexually.

I have written some (mainly) m/f in the past, but in anything longer than a short story, I found I was always including m/m relationships. Last year I had a brief moment of worrying I was ‘forcing’ all my ideas into m/m even if they didn’t call for that, so I started a m/f – humorous, romantic, a ghost story that I thought would fit the genre quite happily because the theme was universal friendship and romance. One chapter in, I had to rewrite it as m/m. The characters yelled at me for it! LOL

What sub genre do you find most difficult to write? Why?

Like I said before, I’ve been excited to get back into some fantasy writing again recently, though I found it more difficult – or just harder work – because of the additional world building needed.

I’m reading your latest book Footprintsabout two anti terrorist agents who are on an assignment for 9 months and develop feelings for each other. It seems to me that the story was as much about the location as the characters. How important is it for you to get the right setting for your stories? Have you ever written a book where you thought that the story could have been improved had you chosen a different location?

Footprints was so much about the setting – it takes place close to the sea – that I was worried sometimes it’d overwhelm the characters. It was a generic town, a generic coastline, but it was meant to reflect their own characters, the development of their relationship, so the setting was critical. It’s also my selfish homage to the seaside where I was born. I don’t think I ever questioned the setting for a book. I’m recently leaning toward setting more stories in the UK but that will be reflected in the whole of the tale, not just the backdrop. But I agree with your point, that a location can be far more than just a convenient address.

One of your stories that I really enjoyed was the first one I read. It was a Torquere Sip called Deep Cover which taught me never to assume. One minute I was reading the story going ho hum, and the next you kicked my ass with a great ending. You totally surprised me. How did you come up with the plot for this story?

I’m so glad it worked for you! There’s not a lot of scope in short stories to build background, but sometimes an idea for a scene isn’t going to run to anything longer, at least in my Muse’s hands. That doesn’t mean I don’t like building the back story. The idea came from a challenge (see above re contests LOL) for a story where boys are making out without the girls knowing, something like that. This mischievous idea just hit me.

What do you think is fun about writing? What absolutely turns you off?

The fun and joy writing for me is creating the characters and the new worlds and the situations I put them all through. I love using language and finding the best phrases to create a scene or describe an emotion. I love crafting a book, seeing it come together (when it does), knowing I can make it happen. Power complex? Creator envy? Who knows! And sharing it is even better – reaching readers is a tremendous buzz of its own.

Against that is the slog of creating the characters and the new worlds etc etc. No seriously, I hate being tired and unable to think of the right words. I hate it when I see I’m writing the same stuff, or the voices aren’t unique enough, when Muse is just going through the motions. I have to stop then and step away from the keyboard. What’s worse is when the inspiration won’t come – yet I have a rare couple of hours to myself to write!

Recently I did a mini poll on the blog about whether an author’s on-line behaviour turned off readers and affected their buying decisions. 46% of the readers surveyed said yes they were turned off and stopped buying an author’s books, while on the flip side 37% of readers purchased books because of a positive experience with an author. You have a large online presence – you blog on different topics and frequently. Do you find that this has helped in the sales of your books?

Wish I knew, Wave, it’s almost impossible to tell! I’ve sold some books so I suppose something must connect. And I just like sticking my nose in and chatting anyway LOL. But I’m pleased if that’s the impression of me that comes across. I don’t know if all readers are aware, but sales information reaches me many months after the event, and even website activity can’t always be tied to something I’ve deliberately done or been involved in (I’m hoping for a huge spike in activity after this is posted, *wink*).

I joined in that poll, my net presence is important to me. A large part of the m/m community spins on the net. E-publishing gave me my first opportunity. And, according to the Sons, I’m a geek. But personally, I find it all interesting and much of it rewarding, so I want to give back that inspiration. Let’s face it, I snark and moan as much as anyone. But not publicly, I hope (many apologies to my friends who suffer instead). And if I do get out of my pram on any issue, I hope my comments are always civil.

I’m running another Blog Month in September, I hope some readers – and you, Wave?! – will come and join in.

Which of your stories is your absolute favourite? Why? You have to choose.

I can’t choose. Well, okay, just two, I’ll bend the rules to say my favourite published, and favourite not. Freeman is very dear to me for personal reasons, because it’s set in Britain, because I loved drafting it, because I love the man himself / couldn’t live with him, and I see parts of myself in both him and Kit. And the other story is only started but it’s the one I ALWAYS want to be writing. Felix is tired, on the bus home from a late shift at his job when someone pinches his bum – but there’s no one there for him to yell at to keep his hands to himself. Bryn is a spirit, trapped between states, pissed off and invisible to other humans and seemingly always horny – then he meets Felix who really isn’t interested in Bryn’s angst and most definitely NOT with his lecherous attention. And off the story goes…

What do you consider your most important accomplishment as a writer?

Creating characters that people have chosen to read, who have inspired sympathy and enjoyment and interest and emotion (though not always good). Sharing my ideas and stories. Improving my style tenfold over the last few years. Damn, was I only allowed one?

Which of your books, if any, would you re-write if you had the opportunity? Why?

Well, none really. Never go back, I say, unless there’s a specific reason to do so, like a re-issue. That’s not to say something can’t be improved, because obviously everything can. But I cling to my stuff way longer than I should anyway, so once I’ve got to the end – well, that’s how they’re going to be. I move on. Having said that *cough* a couple of my older shorts make my fingers itch for a good spring clean on grammar and POV, with my now-more-skilled hindsight.

What’s next for Clare London and what do you have coming up within the next 3 – 6 months? Is a sequel to Sparks Fly on the drawing board? Will the fans see Nic and Aidan in another hot adventure?

Next 3-6 months? I think I exhausted myself in the first half of the year, but I’ve never pretended to be anything but driven… LOL. On July 6 I have a humorous short story releasing in Sindustry at Dreamspinner, then I’m hoping my vampire tale Out of Time will be coming out at LoveYouDivine. Later in the year I have a fun short story at Red Rose called That’s Entertainment! about the adult movie business, and a steamy novel due out at Aspen called Sweet Summer Sweat.

Yes, I have a sequel started for Sparks Fly! just no time yet to expand it. Nic’s pursuing new and exciting business ideas, while Aidan’s trying to cope with being part of a couple. And they both continue to be completely, lustfully, emotionally mad for each other! LOL. I also have ideas for a follow-up toTrue Colors, for the secondary couple in that novel, Red and Carter. Then there’s a short on its way from the Gold Warrior universe, and a fantasy novella mapped out. And at least two stories set in London that are begging for attention…


CLARE LONDON UNPLUGGED

I’m sure you have seen this section in my interviews so you know what to expect *g* This is where we both fly by the seats of our pants or go commando.*g*

Hope it’s not a leather seat.

You said that your husband helped you with the world building for some of your stories. Do you also ask his advice about some of the reactions (???) in your love scenes between 2 men to make sure you get it right? For example, does he tell you “a guy can’t do it as often unless he’s 18 years old or on a double dose of Viagra)?”

LOL no way! He helped a lot with Aza City and its military, but on the society/technological issues. My real-life men are at the far hetero end of the romance scale *cough* and anything else rather bemuses them. They’re tolerant and supportive, but not necessarily empathetic to hot m/m sex! And I don’t ask them to be. I will ask general ‘male’ questions of Hubby – you know, like why don’t men listen and why can’t they cook and put in the washing at the same time and would they really say some of that lovey-dovey stuff I read without a gun at their head – and when he’s stopped accusing me of getting at him, he does his best to help LOL. Though someone said the other day that I’m getting mentally more male myself day by day. It must be the Testosterone atmosphere in my house.

I know that you’re married, but if you could, which of your characters would you go to bed with, in a fantasyland of course so there would be no cheating? Would you like to do two of them? (Most authors lie or mumble here but I know you’re a straight shooter and would tell the truth)

Yeah, that’s me, Ms Straight-shooter – but maybe I’ll let you down here, Wave, though not through being coy. I’d go straight to bed with Maen and Dax from Gold Warrior. They’ve had all that training in sexual pleasure, they’re indoctrinated to be submissive to a Mistress, yet they’re soldiers and All Male. But… I suspect I’d want more time watching them together than pleasing me!

I know why I like to read about two hot men together (or three) but why do you write M/M? Is it the hawt factor? Is it the thought of two dicks in play that excites you? What’s your dream scenario that you haven’t written about as yet?

That’s way too hard to answer quickly, though I admit I like examining my motivations. Part of it is obviously, like you say, the sexy delight of two men together – I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit that’s what I like reading and writing. Also, I like the idea of writing two characters who are coming from the same physiological base. It levels the playing field from page 1. For me, in a m/f story (explicit or otherwise) too much is already invested in the characters’ gender. I like to create the conflict and attraction in a m/m story from a reliance on their characters alone, rather than their gender background. Hope that makes sense.

And maybe it’s my fantasy as well as the reader’s – to express a man’s view. To escape from the pre-ordained ideas of romance in my womanly life, and create a new dynamic of my own. Not sure that’s the same as penis envy, of course LOL, but I’ll personally admit to some of that, and a fascination with all it implies as regards power and influence. My dream scenario…? Stop exposing my works-in-progress *smirk*. There’d definitely be voyeurism involved, as overt and risky as I could get it. And phone sex. Oh wait, I just wrote about that in Sindustry

When you write M/M romances do you have a rule about how many times the guys would have sex or do you play it by ear and let them go at it as many times as they want, if they’re horny bastards. Some writers find sex scenes uncomfortable to write and it comes through in their writing. Would you say that you find it hard 🙂 to write about sex between two men?

Play it by ear, most definitely. Or by other bits. You know what I mean LOL. Seriously, you shouldn’t force these things if the story doesn’t support it. Poor souls don’t need a checklist as well as the life struggles (!) I give them.

I’ve never found it hard 🙂 to write sex scenes at all, except perhaps to keep them fresh. I was terrified at first I’d write something wrong – and I do still worry – but I love writing the emotion and passion. I don’t deliberately set out to write explicitness – and some of my stories have very little or none at all – and I love Unrelieved Sexual Tension. But I also see no reason to stop at the bedroom door. Or the back of the car. Or the closet. I never have, even when I wrote m/f.

What do you think is the best part of a man, other than his brain? (You thought I was going to say something else didn’t you?) *g*

My dear, I know you better than that! I’d say his singlemindedness. His ability not to be distracted. Of course, that’s probably his worst part, too. “Physically, I hear you cry? Backs of the legs and butt. Why else do you think I’ve adopted my hinnie from your site?

What would you REALLY like to say to me after all these questions? 🙂

Where’s the bar?? And pass me that jug of margaritas.

Thank you Clare. She was a good sport about answering all of my questions. I did give her the option to delete some of the more sensitive ones but like a trooper she waded right in and give some pretty incredible and thoughtful answers. I did apologise to Clare for delaying her interview by one week because I had some RL issues so I thought I would make the interview worth her time by including many questions I had never asked before.

In closing this interview I would like to offer a general comment. My question about writing stories featuring diverse protagonists was meant to illustrate that we live in a global economy where people are more disparate than 10 or even 5 years ago — whether it’s their ethnicity, the fact that they are physically challenged, their sexual orientation, or they are culturally or religiously different — and writers whose books embrace these differences perhaps have an opportunity to move beyond their present sphere of influence and expand their readership; we all like to see ourselves reflected in books. The majority of M/M writers, being female, know nothing or very little about the lives of gay men yet despite this they write terrific stories about gay protagonists. Similarly, they create wonderful paranormal worlds and characters and I’m sure they have never met a werewolf or a vampire.:) The world population is expanding exponentially at an unprecedented rate and every day I grow more and more excited at how far we’ve come, and the incredible opportunities that await those who choose to take advantage of our new global environment.

I look forward to reading and reviewing all of Clare’s new M/M books unless Jenre beats me to them (she usually does – damn her!) *g*

Clare will be giving away three of her four DSP print books, signed by the author, to bloggers who leave a comment on her interview. She’ll draw the names at the end of the week and offer the books on a first drawn, first choice basis. Here are the books

Clare London’s contact information

http://www.clarelondon.co.uk
http://clarelondon.livejournal.com/
http://bookworld.editme.com/Clarelondonbooks