Interview with Naomi Clark
by Michele Lee
Naomi Clark is the author of Afterlife and most recently the werewolf novel Silver Kiss.
ML: You've had quite the trouble when it comes to writing and being published, from agent problems to physical issues. What makes fiction so rewarding for you?
NC: This isnít an easy one to answer... Iíve always written, absolutely all my life. I canít imagine stopping. Even if I wasnít aiming for publication, Iíd still write for my own pleasure; Iíve just been lucky enough recently to do both! Thereís an endless sense of accomplishment and joy to be had in seeing your name on a real live book, and thatís a huge motivator to keep going. I think the short answer is that I donít know how to not write, and even though Iíve had a lot of ups and downs, a lot of periods of doubt, I canít imagine living without writing. Iíd be a different person.
ML: You've published a lot recently, Wolf Strap in the Queer Wolf anthology, which led to Silver Kiss, a novel featuring a the same lesbian P.I. couple, and there's also been Afterlife, another urban fantasy/mystery style novel featuring all manner of undead. Are all your books special to you, or do you have a favorite? Has the reading public had a chance to see your favorite work yet?
NC: Theyíre all special for different reasons. Wolf Strap being published was a moment of great pride for me, not only because it was my first professional publication, but because it came at a time when I was really questioning whether I could ever ďmake itĒ as a writer. Afterlife is special because itís my first published novel, and Silver Kiss is special because itís my first contracted novel! But no, the reading public hasnít seen my favourite work yet Ė mostly because I havenít written it yet. Itís a series Iíve been trying to write for years Ė I have everything worked out from character arcs to plot developments through four or five books Ė everything except a plot for the first book! Thatís kind of holding me back... But once I figure it out, Iím going to do everything I possibly can to make sure the reading public can read it.
ML: Silver Kiss touches on elements including sexual identity, family, honesty, and drugs, and yet doesn't smack readers upside the head with a message or overwhelm them with dark realism. Did you find it hard to maintain that delicate balance to maintain a strong character identity?
NC: It was difficult. I was very worried about accidentally writing an ďissuesĒ book, where the messages perhaps overwhelmed the plot Ė particularly because I donít want my personal opinions to be part of the plot. You know, Iím not my characters and I donít want readers to think Iím using my characters to get up on a soapbox about anything. At the same time, I want to my work to be relevant, and all the things you mentioned are eternally relevant. I think the trick is to create the characters first, make them strong and real, and let their opinions shape the message. Does that even make sense?
ML: Have you found any difficulties in getting a GLBTQ book published in speculative fiction or in marketing to the genre audience?
NC: So far, Iíve found the response to Silver Kiss and Wolf Strap to be overwhelmingly positive, which is fantastic! A few people have commented that theyíd never read anything with a lesbian as the main character, because they just arenít that widely available right now. I think the rise in popularity of ebooks will change that, as ebooks allow for more niche markets to develop.
we be seeing more of Ayla and Shannon from Silver Kiss, or Yasmin Stoker from
NC: Absolutely! Iím contracted for two more Urban Wolf novels, so Ayla and Shannon will be back soon J I plan to write at least one sequel to Afterlife, as thereís a lot of Yasminís story left unfinished at the moment. Iím also working on a novella about Ethan from Afterlife, which I would love to find a home for.
ML: Can you
tell us about any of the pros and cons of being a UK writer versus a US one?
NC: I think thereís generally a bigger market for urban fantasy and speculative fiction in America, although that is definitely changing thanks to shows like True Blood. In the UK we seem to have been slower to get into the paranormal wave, and I do think that impacts on writers. For a long time I resisted writing anything set in the UK because hardly any publishers or agents over here were interested in the genre. But again, that is starting to change.
ML: Like me, you share an absolute, unapologetic love of Jem and the Holograms, She-Ra and My Little Pony. Care to profess the utter awesomeness of 80s cartoons and how they've affected your tales, if at all?
NC: Oh man, look. Itís just a fact that kidsí TV was better in the 80s. I donít care what anyone says. There was so much fantasy and colour and craziness. And yes, that definitely influenced my writing Ė I loved anything set on another world, involving magic or monsters. Shows like Dungeons and Dragons and She-Ra really fired my imagination (and still do, if truth be told). And 80s cartoons always had that neat moral message at the end warning you off drugs or bullying. I personally think society would be a lot better off if kidsí cartoons still did that!
ML: Most of your work is available in digital form, often first or primarily. What do you think the future of ebooks are, especially to libraries and universities?
NC: I think the ebook is only going to grow and grow in popularity. As I mentioned before, they allow niche markets to develop, and theyíve become a sort of proving ground for many writers who go on to be published traditionally. As technology gets better and better, ereaders are going to become cheaper and more accessible, and as people become more environmentally aware, many of us will choose ebooks over paper for that reason.
That said, I donít think print books will ever go away or become obsolete. I donít think itís comparable to, say, video tapes and DVDs, where one form of technology replaces the other. Print books will always be valuable for many reasons Ė historical and sentimental, for example. Working for a university as I do, I know our libraries are a main point of attraction for visitors who want to see original works by people like Newton and Churchill. And really, you canít safely read your Kindle in the bath ;)
ML: You remain one of the biggest readers and genre fans I know of. Can you recommend some great reads that you think people are overlooking or haven't heard of?
NC: Right off the bat I have to recommend Laura Bickleís debut, Embers. An excellent urban fantasy that Iíve been raving about to everyone. Iíd also urge people to check out Kalayna Priceís debut, Once Bitten, and anything by Thomas Emson Ė especially if youíre looking for something more horror than fantasy. I also donít think enough people are reading Caitlin Kittredge, frankly.
ML: What's next for you?NC: Next up is Bad Dogs, the sequel to Silver Kiss. I also signed with a new literary agent last year, and hope to get a very different kind of werewolf novel out on submission soon, so fingers crossed for that. Really, I have about a dozen new ideas every day, so once Bad Dogs is done and dusted, itís just a matter of picking whichever one appeals to me most at the
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