Whenever I pick up a Clare London book, I know I’m guaranteed a great read! Clare is one of my favorite GLBT authors! Recently I had a chance to ask her a few questions on TLR’s behalf about her writing process and upcoming projects. I’m salivating as I wait!
Welcome to TLR, Clare! So glad you could travel across the pond to be with us!
How long did it take from writing your first book to becoming a published author?
I wrote my first book – or at least, the one I first hoped to get published – in 2004, for the annual NaNoWriMo challenge, where many, many authors challenge themselves to write 50,000 words in a month, good or bad. Just for the fun of it! (yes, we’re mad…) I wrote The Gold Warrior, and then spent the next couple of years working on it now and then, improving it as best I could, in between writing a lot of fan fiction and other original fiction. Then in 2007 I made a New Year’s resolution to try for publication. I approached a couple of publishers – one wasn’t interested, one went out of business before they replied to me – then I was recommended to Dreamspinner Press by a fellow author on Live Journal. I submitted in April 2007 and was offered a contract shortly afterwards – plus a request for the sequel! The Gold Warrior was finally published in February 2008 and its sequel, Twisted Brand, in June 2008.
What’s been the greatest surprise you’ve found about the writing process?
I think it’s so frustrating that I can rarely get it all lined up – the inspiration for a story, the desire to write and the time to do it. How do people manage to get all that working for them at once? LOL. It’s also surprising how consuming it gets. When I have free time, that’s all I want to do. When I’m in the middle of an inspiring story, I have to be peeled away from my keyboard to eat.
Does your family support your writing? Do they know…gasp…you write fiction from the m/m perspective?
They’ve been great. My mum and stepfather have been tremendously supportive – they’ve read the books, too! My husband and two teenage sons look a bit bemused by it all, but they’re proud. The m/m subject matter is tricky for them, I think, and they don’t read my books. I also play down the explicitness when I talk to them about it. Hubby will help with the world building backgrounds, but then he complains I “mess it all up” with romance LOL, but Son#2 actually volunteered a plot for me recently. I wrote a short story from it, and that’s being published in the Dreamspinner Press To Have & to Hold series out in June, called Right Choice.
What do you hope every reader gets out of a “Clare London” book?
Entertainment, fun, suspense, stimulation, encouragement, emotional excitement. Does that make it sound like too much hard work? I hope not!
How hard has it been to market your m/m romances?
I was writing this fiction before I found all the outlets online, but the genre’s growth in popularity and accessibility has certainly helped me publish and market my work. I think e-books have played a major part in that. The subject matter is sensitive and often erotic, yet fans of the fiction can now find plenty of choice online and order it as an anonymous-looking e-book with no problem. But marketing is another job in itself! What caught me unawares was all the hard work that’s needed, all the mechanics and organization that needs to go on behind the scenes – and involves the author so closely. Luckily I was used to online life from my fan fiction days, and also used to business from my day job. I love chatting online and making friends and finding out what’s happening in the fiction world. But I can’t deny how tiring it is and how much attention is needed to keep up with everything.
What genre within the m/m domain would you like to explore in the future? Is there anything you’d consider taboo?
I’d love to do more mystery and crime thrillers. I’d like to write more paranormal. I wouldn’t say much is taboo to me – if it makes a good story, and I feel that story should be told – but I can’t say I’ve ever had any desire to write anything with weres or shapeshifting. It just doesn’t do much for me, so I don’t think I’d do it justice. I’m not particularly interested in historical fiction. But I really like trying different things, I must say. That’s why I have such a mish-mash of fiction in my portfolio!
You do a lot of “world building”. How much research went into Gold Warrior and Freeman?
Thank you for the compliment! They’re different worlds, and I approached the development in different ways. The Aza City of The Gold Warrior was created from a casual conversation Hubby and I had one day about the way a beehive works – a Queen in charge of all the drones and worker bees, who work for her and breed her, then face death. So a story and a society was born LOL. The setting for Maen, his lover Dax and his autocratic Mistresses Luana and Seleste is a pseudo-Roman world, but the ruling class is unique to Aza City. Maen serves his Mistress loyally for many years, finding casual sexual satisfaction with his fellow soldiers, which is the accepted way. Then along comes Dax, a young, rebellious, misfit of a soldier who challenges all of Maen’s previously held beliefs of how the City should be run, and who should expect and deserve respect. Maen falls deeply and impossibly in love. Freeman is dear to me because the world is my own – it’s set in London, though I never actually mention that. The research for this book was different. I spent more time creating the right places for the action to happen, rather than creating an alternative world for the characters. It’s set in a mixture of where I work, live and visit! Freeman is typical of many of the people in my city, who create their own world there, who can take advantage of the sophistication and opportunities in a large capital. Kit, the man he befriends and grows to love, is younger and new to the community. To me, Kit illustrates the rashness and vulnerability of young men who come there seeking their fortune without anything really to support them.
What do you find harder to write- multi-saga stories or single-format titles?
I’ve only written one two-book series, The Gold Warrior and its sequel Twisted Brand. So far, that is! I loved it because it gave me time to develop the characters and the gradual progress of their relationship. It also allowed me to spend time on their world and the other characters that populated it. To be honest, the word count doesn’t bother me as I’m far more likely to write too much than too little. But on balance, stand-alone stories seem to suit me better. I like to see a plot through to its end, whether it’s a get-together like Sparks Fly or a mystery like Freeman. I still like a long enough length to develop the characters properly, and that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to revisit many of my characters in another work.
What authors/titles do you feel are “classics” in your genre?
Ah now, I’ll have trouble answering this because I don’t really believe in ‘classics’. I believe that some books are better-written, some are lovingly-presented, some have characters that stay in my mind and heart for years, and some are just my “cup of tea”. But that’s all personal taste and I’m adding to my list all the time. Plus I don’t always like everything a particular author writes, or one special title will really attract me more than others. I suppose a ‘classic’ is a book where many people agree with the same assessment of it. Sorry, that all got a bit pretentious LOL. But what I love about reading is finding something and someone new all the time. I find quality and beauty and style in all genres, all times. I read many; many authors and only a small handful are auto-buy, regardless of blurb.
Where do you see your writing taking you in the future? Would you write f/f or m/f fiction ever?
Well, I just want to keep on doing what I’m doing now and enjoying it! I love being published; it’s a huge buzz for me, sharing my books with readers. I’d like to become a better writer in all the ways I can, and maybe seek a mainstream contract one day. That’s not in my short-term goals – there’s too much else going on! I’ve written m/f and in fact I’d love the time to revisit a steamy bodice ripper I wrote a few years ago, set in 18th century Devon, England. It had m/m, m/f and f/f in it and is probably long enough for three books. F/f is not a writing objective for me, though I do read it sometimes. I think I’m just too fascinated by writing and reading men at the moment to feel any draw towards f/f.
Who would be your “dream” person to collaborate with?
I don’t think that’s ever going to happen for me. Even if someone was willing, I’m a bit too set in my ways to collaborate, I’d drive any partner mad LOL. But at the moment I’d choose from a couple of female writers who are fabulously talented and also personal friends, so I’d stand *some* chance of staying on her coat tails. But there are many others I admire and would love to collaborate with; I’ve really enjoyed all my experiences with anthologies and writing projects with other authors.
What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Wow. There have been many. There’s the first contract, when I just stared at the email disbelievingly for ten minutes LOL. The first kind feedback I ever got for a novel. The recent comment when someone said I was pretty much an ‘auto-buy’ for her. The first (if small) royalty payment. Signing books at a convention, like some kind of celebrity! Every time I get a book to print and someone says (i) they bought it and (ii) they liked it.
Where do you get your ideas from?
Everywhere LOL. I listen in shamelessly to conversations in town, I watch people wherever I go, and I lift plot ideas from my reading and watching TV programs. Sometimes it’s just a phrase or a character’s attitude – sometimes it’s a situation, or a ‘what if…?’ idea. I like going in for submission calls and contests too, I respond well to a prompt or a theme.
I simply adored Sparks Fly! Do you ever plan on writing a sequel?
I’m so excited you liked it! Nic and Aidan are really some of my favorite characters ever. In fact, I started a sequel at the end of last year; I just haven’t had the time to spend on it so far. It starts a few months after Sparks Fly, when they’re still working out the terms of their relationship, still mad for each other, still as abrasive and conflicted as ever LOL. Nic is enthusiastically planning a social and resource website for young people, and Aidan is trying to reconcile having a full-time lover and losing touch with his previously very private life. I posted an excerpt on my blog recently. You can encourage me any time to keep going with that idea!
What do you feel is the most important element in your sexy stories?
I believe it’s the strength of character of the men. For me, they need to be real men – as far as they can be, in a contrived story – and I strive to create that. They need to be able to talk and act like real people, have their own ‘voice’, find excitement and conflict and drama as a couple. They need to be sexy and passionate in whatever way is appropriate for them and a mixture of strong, sensitive and stroppy. Just like all of us! They need to take the reader along with them, and make him or her care what happens.
Have any of your characters been based on any real people or events? Don’t be shy…let us know!
Good Lord no LOL. I used to worry when people said you had to write about what you know, because I didn’t feel I knew anything at all worth writing about! But then I discovered that imagination can be just as good a mistress. Though I admit the dating agency theme in Sparks Fly was inspired by the experiences of my best female friend (I think she’ll forgive me for telling you that…).
What advice can you give aspiring GLBT writers?
Write. Enjoy it. Write some more. Keep reading. Write more. Find your own ‘voice’ rather than trying to copy any other author’s work. Let your imagination and characters loose and weave your story around them. Oh, and if you can, ban any teenage children from your writing space LOL.
Please share with us your upcoming projects and new releases.
It’s been a busy year for me so far! At Dreamspinner Press I have True Colors just released. Two passionate, strong-willed, awkward men – just like I described above! – drawn irresistibly to each other, set in the world of modern art. Mix in some family tragedy, money, melodrama, mystery and attempted murder, and there’s your plot. I hope readers will take Miles and Zeke to their hearts. At MLR Press I have Freeman. It’s a different style, with Freeman narrating. And he’s a man who doesn’t give much away willingly. It’s only when the lively Kit bursts into his life and he’s threatened by Freeman’s ex-business partner George, that Freeman realizes he has to do more than just observe life passing him by. In June, I have a novella Footprints out at Dreamspinner, about two anti-terrorist men who are left on a stake-out for months together – and tensions rise. I also have two short stories in the Dreamspinner To Have and to Hold series out in June called Right Choice and Then and Now. I’ve just had the great news of a short story accepted for their Sindustry anthology in July. Add in some other projects awaiting confirmation at MLR, Red Rose, Aspen and Love You Divine, and I’m hoping to be kept busy for a few more months LOL.
Where can interested readers find you?
Now…onto some questions to get to know you better. Don’t be shy…it’s just pillow talk!!
What’s better…..girth or width?
*blushes* I truly believe it’s not what you have, but what you do with it. Unless we’re talking about my bum, where width is definitely *not* better.
What’s your favorite/least favorite word for penis?
My favorite is cock or dick. Least favorite is member or manhood or sword, or any other word that isn’t its plain name.
What’s your favorite sex toy? Ever used it in a scene?
Vibrator. Nod. But not in one you’ve seen yet. One day, I promise you *wink*.
What word or phrase gets you all hot and bothered when you read it?
It’s the *way* it’s said, not so much the words LOL. I like to hear a guy all hot and bothered himself and to *feel* that along with him. He can’t get the words out; he’s clumsy; he’s hoarse and dizzy with need. He groans and says things like …Now. Do it. Hard. *God*.
That does it for me, every time.
Is there such a thing as soul mates?
In my opinion, most definitely yes. Most of my books are about the search for it, and I’m married to mine. Obviously there are other special people in my life, but I believe you can find a person to be beside you romantically for ever. I know I’ve been lucky, of course. And it takes time as well, to build that into something robust, and sometimes a hell of a lot of work to keep up the optimism LOL.
How would your friends describe you?
Driven. Amusing. Compassionate.
Do you have any strange talents or habits?
I sing Frank Sinatra songs, does that count? I’ve done it in public too, and I’m singing a set at a friend’s party this summer. I may add a Shirley Bassey and an Eartha Kitt song in as well.
I write with an elastic band wrapped around the outside two fingers of my left hand. It has to be red. I protest it’s to do with preventing carpel tunnel syndrome, but the family just thinks I’m mad.
Finish this sentence: If I could choose one thing about myself it would be….
Not to get any older. Or maybe the ability to freeze time, just temporarily, now and then. Or a smaller bum…
Is there a question(s) you wish an interviewer would ask but never does? If this is so, please ask and answer!
Hey, you never asked the one about my favorite kink LOL (phone sex). Or what would be my epitaph (driven, amusing, compassionate). Or what I’d say to a heavy breather who rang me up late at night and wanted to know what I was wearing…Oops sorry, that’s from my latest short story! You’ll have to read it to find out the answer!Many thanks to Talking Two Lips for inviting me, it’s been a real delight to chat to you!Clare J
What a delight you are, Clare, to interview. Believe me, the pleasure was all mine. Hey, keep snapping that red rubber band because I’m eagerly awaiting that sequel to Sparks Fly!!!
Tina for TwoLips Reviews