I let the characters direct me as to how they want to get to the final goal. Sometimes that means these characters surprise me and lead me to their own deaths, but I love that! It ends up making such realistic characters, and I believe that characters are key to great books.
C.E. Clayton – 26 October 2017
The Back Flap
Monsters come in many forms, and not everyone knows a monster when they see one. After three hundred years of monstrous, feral elves plaguing the island nation of Selkirk, everyone believes they know what a monster is. Humans have learned to live with their savage neighbors, enacting a Clearing every four years to push the elves back from their borders. The system has worked for centuries, until after one such purge, a babe was found in the forest.
As Tallis grows, she discovers she isn’t like everyone else. There is something a little different that makes people leery in her presence, and she only ever makes a handful of friends.
But when the elves gather their forces and emerge from the forests literally hissing Tallis’s name like a battle mantra, making friends is the least of her troubles. Tallis and her companions find themselves on an unwilling journey to not only clear her name, but to stop the elves from ravaging her homeland.
About the book
What is the book about?
The Monster of Selkirk series, at its core, is about a young woman who is trying to find her place in the world. She doesn’t want to follow the roles and plans that her family has laid out for her, but she’s not all that sold on the idea of an insurmountable destiny, either. While she fights the demons in her head, she also fights against droves of feral elves who are ransacking her country. These aren’t the regal elves we’ve gotten to know in The Lord of The Rings. Something terrible has happened to the elves of Selkirk, plunging the humans into three centuries worth of fear and hiding in their towns and cities, away from the forests and the beastly elves. But then something changes, as it often does, and the elves seep across Selkirk hissing Tallis’s name and taking away the little she had. Determined to clear her name and save her country (whether they like it or not), Tallis and her few friends, and remaining family, plunge into the forest seeking answers, with none of them knowing if they are truly prepared to face what they find.
When did you start writing the book?
I started writing The Monster of Selkirk series in 2013, that was when the first book and the second book were still crammed together, before I decided that a nearly 600 page book would be far too unwieldly for readers.
How long did it take you to write it?
I finished writing the book in February of 2014, but I wouldn’t call it “done” by any stretch. I probably spent close to the rest of the year editing the first book, and by the time I was “done,” it had turned into two books, with the series nowhere near done.
Where did you get the idea from?
I’ve always been a huge fan of fantasy creatures, and RPG video games. So honestly, the idea first sort of sparked when I wrote a background history for my character in Bioware’s “Dragon Age: Origins”. I fell so in love with the character, I wanted her to continue outside of the confines of a video game. So, taking a little of what I love in the fantasy genre, and applying it to what I was interested in—a story of a flawed woman who doesn’t need rescuing, and doesn’t want to be a hero—I created the first draft of The Monster of Selkirk.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
Writing intimate scenes between characters. I can do drama and deep emotions pretty well, but when it comes to first love and capturing those butterflies, and making sure it didn’t come off as awkward to the reader, that was a challenge!
What came easily?
Writing emotionally damaging scenes. As cruel as it may sound, hurting my characters both physically and emotionally was the easiest to write. Not that I don’t love my characters, but writing their struggles just came much more naturally to me.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
I have borrowed a bit from people I know or characters I love. Rosslyn and Tallis are based off of a real-life friendship I have (with my best friend) and Donovan’s dedication to Tallis was inspired by my big sister. And Tomas is a healthy dose of my own husband mixed with the character Sam Winchester from the TV show Supernatural. I like to believe it makes the characters feel a bit more real, or makes them more likeable because I like the people that I borrowed from.
We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
I think I was influenced by authors like Terry Brooks, Brandon Sanderson, Terry Pratchett, and Pierce Brown (though people say that my book and stories remind them a bit of novels by Sarah J. Maas, as well). All of these authors create such detailed, realistic, and fun fantasy worlds, and most (outside of Pratchett) write these epic, long burn fantasy series that readers can just get lost in for a while. I love those kinds of stories, so I wanted to write stories like that as well. I also love Pratchett’s sense of humor and, while I don’t think I’m nearly as funny as him, I do try!
Do you have a target reader?
Readers who enjoy fantasy, not just young adult fantasy books, either. Tallis and her friends start as children, but by the middle of book one, they are closer to their twenties and embarking on their adult lives. So readers who enjoy journey based fantasy novels with strong female leads would probably be my target reader.
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
I am predominantly a pantser when it comes to the writing process. But generally, I think of a conflict that needs to be resolved, and a world I’d love to see come to life. From there, I figure out the core of my characters so I know how they would act in certain situations or how they would talk to people, but that’s about it. I let the characters direct me as to how they want to get to the final goal. Sometimes that means these characters surprise me and lead me to their own deaths, but I love that! It ends up making such realistic characters, and I believe that characters are key to great books. You can have a marvelous plot, but if your characters are bland, then that’s all people tend to remember. Not that you shouldn’t have a plot and good story, but you know what I mean.
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
I do minimal outlining. If I over outline, I tend to get bored very quickly of what I am writing. I end up doing a very broad couple of sentence outlines a few chapters at a time until I get to the end.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
I edit as I go, and then a few more times after I finish. It helps me remain in the flow of the story and, if I get writers block, going back and editing stuff I’ve previously written usually helps me get out of it.
Did you hire a professional editor?
My indie publisher hired one for me.
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
Yes! Music is so important to me while I write and edit, I’ve even made several playlists on Spotify just for my books in case anyone wants to turn them into movies. I tend to find playlists that fit the mood or the atmosphere of what I’m trying to write. So that can range from Folk / Americana, to Indie and Alternative Rock, to Jazz and Funk, to even a little Metal and EDM thrown in for good measure. It just depends on if I’m writing the aftermath of a death scene, or a battle scene, but I never write in silence.
Did you submit your work to Agents?
I did originally, but wasn’t putting all my eggs in that basket as it were. I was also submitting my book to publishers that didn’t require an agent, which is how I ended up with my small press publisher.
What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
I went with an indie publisher because, ultimately, I liked the freedom of it without having to shoulder the entire burden of publishing a book. My publisher provided a lot of services (such as finding an editor, providing a cover designer, putting the book on digital retailers, some forms of marketing etc.) which left me free to focus on the things I’m good at, and enjoy the most (like writing).
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?
Professionally done, and I love it! I haven’t the talent unfortunately to make as compelling a cover, and despite everyone saying you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, we all do…
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
I have my own marketing plan separate from what my indie publisher provides. I focus more on finding bloggers and reviewers and supplement that with a few paid email promotions, Goodreads giveaways, and Facebook / Instagram ads, and so far it works well for me. It’s nothing massive, but it’s about what I can handle without forgoing my writing.
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
Just because it’s easier now than ever to self-publish, don’t do it as soon as you feel your book is done. Be patient, and be willing to spend a little bit of money on it. Get beta readers to read your story ahead of time, and not just your family, but people who are either fellow writers, or extremely avid readers in your genre. Pay for a professional editor and designer (unless you are actually a gifted artist). I review books for indie authors as well, and there’s nothing that makes me sadder than a great idea for a novel ruined by countless editing mistakes or a “bad” cover. So be patient. Don’t just publish when you think it’s done, but take your time and put some resources into it, for it shows respect for your readers time (and money), and will go a long way in garnering long term fans and positive reviews!
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Los Angeles and stayed there almost my whole life, even stayed there for college and graduate school!
Where do you live now?
I currently reside in New Orleans. We moved here for a job opportunity for my husband since I can pretty much write anywhere.
What would you like readers to know about you?
My move across the US (almost) was completed very recently with two extremely displeased cats, one confused dog, a car full of electronics, and a husband squeezed in (he insisted on driving the whole time). I have a Master’s Degree in Communication Management from the University of Southern California and worked in the advertising industry for six years before focusing on my writing full time, and worked on accounts ranging from the Lottery, fast food, cars, and video games (my personal favorite). While this is my first published series, my prose has appeared in magazines such as Foliate Oak Magazine, and I’ll have a short horror story appearing in an upcoming anthology. I also enjoy dying my hair fun colors (such as mermaid blue) and tattoos.
End of Interview: