Sandra Clarke and I have known each other for a couple of years. With a few select other crazies, we form a goofy kind of family known as Muskoka Novel Marathoners. It’s funny, we talk all the time (virtually), we stalk each other on Facebook, but I think we’ve only actually seen each other four times; three times at MNM events, and once at a book signing in Montreal.
Sandra keeps a blog somewhat similar to Nine Day Wonder, supporting other authors. I want to turn that around and give her the recognition she grants others.
PF: You have the dubious distinction of being the first paranormal romance writer interviewed on 9DW. I don’t know much about the romance genre at all, but I have been seeing a lot more paranormal romance than any other kind out there. Is it actually a trend, and if yes, what do you think is driving it?
SC: Yes, PNR is a trend. It’s been hot for several years and there’s a big debate in the industry over how much longer the trend will continue. There’s also a lot of confusion about the genre. Write now, shifter and vampire themes predominate the PNR market and as soon as someone hears I write paranormal romantic suspense they assume they’ll get beasties and bloodsuckers. They won’t. My stories contain psychic elements. Many readers don’t realize those kinds of books – the shifter and vampire types – are part of a sub-genre of PNR called Urban Fantasy.
Why the confusion? Because book stores don’t have a separate department for every single genre. Even eBook sites don’t break it down entirely. You’ll find PNR books in mystery, romance, fantasy and even horror if the violence rates it. Each author selects a few BISAC codes (these are industry codes that categorize the books, and which booksellers and libraries base their purchases on.) but which shelf the book is ultimately placed is anyone’s guess. As for what’s driving PNR, good writing tops the list of course, but I believe readers want stories that are close enough to real life to be believable with enough of the fantastical to make the read a true escape.
PF: Mid-July, you and I were up at the Muskoka Novel Marathon. It’s been your second marathon. What keeps bringing you back?
SC: It’s official. I am a Muskoka Marathon addict. Writing is such a solitary trade. Even friends and family get sick of hearing about our characters and their latest escapades. Only another writer will sit there and nod in complete understanding when you tell them you might have to kill your hero. Or will stand up and let you hold a knife to their throat so you can choreograph an escape scene (Thanks Monika!). They get it.
And what’s not to love about the cause? We’re nearing the $15 000 mark for funds raised this year to support literacy in Muskoka. The marathon was a month ago and funds are still trickling in. Every person deserves the chance to absorb the written word. This year we found out about a new reader who took advantage of funds raised last year to learn to read through new YMCA programs. This new reader is considering participating in a future marathon. That right there is the reason I do it.
PF: Is a novel marathon something you would recommend to others? Why?
SC: I recommend this event all the time. I’m privileged to live in a community with strong artistic roots. I attend monthly breakfast meetings at the WCDR (Writers’ Community of Durham Region) with 150 other writers. Their motto is “Writing doesn’t have to be a solitary act.” It’s true! (Check them out here http://www.wcdr.org/wcdr/). For writers who don’t have this type of group in their community, start one. No, really, I’m serious. And come out to the novel marathon to experience the phenomena first hand.
PF: In a marathon, what’s better: off the cuff, or well-planned out? (Or as we like to say, Pantsters versus the Organization?)
SC: The right answer is whatever works best for you. If your goal is to reach a personal best for productivity during the event, it doesn’t make sense to change what works. However, if you’re in a rut and are looking for a way out, or you’re just bored with your system, sometimes changing it up makes a difference. Marathon rules only allow for one page of outline notes so if you are a plotter, most of the work has to stay in your head. I am a proud member of the Organization.
PF: How has writing at a marathon affected your style and craft?
SC: I’ve used the marathon to experiment with different techniques and learned my way is the right way, for me anyway. ☺ I believe in trying new things. Most of the time it doesn’t work, but every now and again a real gem shines through. When confined to a single room with a group of sleep-deprived intense writers, one can’t help but soak up the collective creative vibes and that adds a fresh layer the finished product.
PF: What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever had to research?
SC: I’m always amused by the tight spots I get my characters into, but I don’t think I’ll find it funny when government agents show up at my door wanting an explanation for repeated visits to websites featuring nefarious criminal activities. But I’m sure the day will come. The suspense in my stories tends to revolve around crimes like murder and often involve children. So please buy my book. I’m saving for legal expenses.☺
PF: You and I know that there’s something of a real sense of kinship among the Muskoka Novel Marathoners – we go out of our way to support each other. And I’ve heard (and seen) some awesome support by the MuseItUp Publishing crowd. What’s been your experience with MuseItUp and its authors?
SC: Peer support is integral to a writer’s success (and sanity). Marathoners top the list of my most enthusiastic supporters! As for my publisher, if you’re looking to promote your new release, put out the word and your inbox will fill with Muse authors offering a spot on their blog.
The MuseItUp house is known for their out-of-the-box thinking and operating style. Authors are often asked for input on major directions the house is considering, and they take our feedback to heart. They have Yahoo loops for the mainstream and the erotic lines, as well as one for Muse readers. Muse hosts weekly live online chats for authors on any subject, and the publisher is usually there to answer questions. If not, we have an open invitation to contact her via email or telephone. Muse is a small house with a growing reputation for quality and success, racking up awards in record numbers.
PF: Of course, not everyone is so helpful. What’s been the most ridiculous piece of writing “advice” someone’s ever given you?
SC: “Don’t do it,” has to be the worst advice I ever received. Following that, anyone who tells you there’s one right way to get it done is not serving your best interests. Part of the journey is discovering what way works best for you.
PF: I checked out your blog, and I was surprised to see so many guest authors. I know why Nine Day Wonder does its interviews– but why do you do it? And do you specialize in any one genre or another?
SC: The whole promotion end of things was rather overwhelming when I released Mind Over Matter. I stumbled upon a badge in the sidebar of a website I often visited and did some research. I ended up hiring (for a very reasonable fee) a company to set up and facilitate a virtual book tour on my behalf. I chose one who specialized in the PNR genre. This meant I benefited from their extensive network of contacts and was introduced to all the followers of each blog host. The tour company arranged a month’s worth of tour stops including guest posts written by me, interviews, promotions shout-out’s and reviews. I showed up on the day and engaged readers in conversation.
When the tour ended I had a slew of new followers and wanted a way to continue the momentum of traffic and brand recognition. I’m a voracious reader, as most writers are. I contacted that tour company, along with several others and set myself up as a tour host. Now I’m discovering all kinds of talented new writers, and I have readers who love my genre stopping in to my website on a daily bases. Most books I promote have to connect with at one of my specialties: romance, mystery/suspense or the paranormal. My readers are generally romance based, but I will include some YA geared to the older age range if it meets the criteria. Occasionally I blog about books I love that have no connection to any of those things.☺
PF: Tell me a little more about the anthology you co-authored – “Touretties.”
SC: This opportunity came about when my son was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome. It’s a common syndrome that really has no course of treatment, medically. The condition usually disappears on its own once puberty runs its course.
As an enthusiastic researcher (stop laughing) I scoured the net for tips on how to deal with the new normal of our lives. I was dismayed to find so little information from the perspective of the patient and their support network. Through posting on an online forum I connected with Chris Mason, the author responsible for putting the collection together. Most of the entries in this collection were written by adult patients or their adult family members. Mason is now working on a second book written directly by the youth.
Thank you so much, Patricia, for inviting me to appear on 9DW. It’s been a blast!
J. Clarke has published over fifty articles as a columnist and regular
contributor for a variety of lifestyle and human interest websites. She is a
grateful member of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region, and proud to sit on
the Board of Directors for The Ontario Writer’s Conference.
also co-authored Touretties, a touching tribute featuring testimonials from
patients and and their loved ones living with Tourette’s.
Over Matter, released in November, 2011 through MuseItUp Publishing, is her