Sunday, June 25, 2017

GUESTOPIA: Kidlit Author John Clewarth

John Clewarth

It's GUESTOPIA time again! And this month, we welcome...

John Clewarth loves to read scary books and watch scary movies. He has a scary wife and two tall, hairy sons, who could very well be werewolves. So, naturally, he writes scary books for kids!

And off we go with the interview...

Is this your first published book?

No, I’ve had two novels published previously, under the Mauve Square Publishing banner: Firestorm Rising (mg) and Demons in the Dark (teen)

What’s it called?

This one only has a working title at the moment, as it is still in the drafting stage, before I start badgering agents.

Which genre?

Supernatural horror

Which age group?

Young Adult

Is it a series or standalone?

I’m aiming for this to be part of a series; though the story itself is very much a complete tail in itself, the ending leaves a definite doorway for a sequel (said he, mysteriously!)

Are you an agented author?

No. I’ve previously self-published but I intend to get this one agented.

Which publisher snapped up your book?

No one yet – as I said, it’s in the drafting stages at the moment. I was going to publish it myself but I’m really keen to be part of a team that can help the book reach its wider audience. If it’s good enough, it will break through in time.

How involved have you been in the whole publishing process of your book?

I enjoy being – and always have enjoyed being – fully involved in the process. For me, it’s fascinating and almost magical to see the journey of the story, from its conception in my fevered brain, to the polished, finished article.

Do you have another job?

I do! Oh boy, yes. I’m a full time teacher. I teach English to 10-13 year olds. It’s highly-demanding but highly-rewarding too. Of course, it does mean that my writing time is a bit more limited than it is for some writers – so I guess I’m a bit vampyrrhic in my writing habits (nocturnal that is, not biting necks…)

Did you receive many, if any, rejections prior?

Not on this one as it is still not quite ripe, but I had my fair share before self-publishing my first two. I’ve learned a heck of a lot from that – and since that.

What created/what were you doing or watching when the first idea for this book sneaked up on you?

A snail was making its steady path in my garden and it left the inevitable slime trail behind it, in its wake. Innocent enough, but my mind transplanted that trail into the conception of a story idea (and a darn scary one at that!)

How long did you plot/plan until you started writing it?

Sounds terrible, I know, but I didn’t plot or plan at all, in the beginning. The first 15,000 or so words gushed (as if from a slashed artery – mwa ha!) on to the screen; that gave me a really solid bedrock upon which to build.

Once you started, did the story flow naturally or did you have to step in and wrestle it into

Unfortunately, work conditions and commitments altered (there’s a horror story wrapped up in there somewhere!) for a while, and I had a hiatus from the story. I regathered my momentum a couple of years ago, recovered the mind-scent, and the story layered itself beautifully.

How many drafts did you write before you let someone read it? Who was that someone?

One draft! That someone was my very good friend and sister-in-words, Annaliese Avery – and I am strongly tipping that you will be hearing a lot more of her in the very near future.

Did you employ an editor/proofreader or did you have a critique partner/beta readers before you started querying?

Annaliese was/is my critique partner – but others are currently in the process of beta-reading for me.

Roughly how many drafts did it take before you sent the manuscript off into the real world?

It’s on draft 3 at the moment.

How many drafts until it was published?

Not too many more, I hope!

Has the book changed dramatically since the first draft?

A number of things has been tightened up – POV, pace, characterisation – but the basic idea that Sid the Snail gifted to me remained pretty much intact.

Are there any parts you’d like to change even now?

No. It sounds clich├ęd but it would be kind of like sending one of your children for cosmetic surgery. I love it just the way it is (he sings to the gently-lilting tune of Barry White).

What part of writing do you find the easiest?

The bit where people go, ‘Hey, John, that’s really good!’ Now for the sensible answer: really, I find the easiest part, the beginning. It’s all so pure and fresh and eager for life!

What part do you find hardest?

Re-drafting. Yep. Definitely. But the benefits are undeniable.

Do you push through writing barriers or walk away?

With the day job, I have to walk away at times – or I’d be a wine-stained heap of gibbering loveliness. But once I get stuck in, I tend to keep pushing the barriers until they see my way of thinking!

How many projects do you have on the go at the same time?

I had a sequel to Firestorm Rising in progress, whilst writing this one, and I have two super ideas for middle grade novels with an adventurous but humorous edge. Could anyone offer me another 4 or 5 hours in the day, please? 

Do you think you’re born with the talent to write or do you think it can be learned?

It can be both, I believe; though being born with a talent must always be a bit of an edge. I mean, there are so many dimensions to writing. These days, the writing curriculum is definitely geared towards grammatical correctness, rather than creativity and imagination – and those latter two are probably the hardest to learn.

How many future novels do you have planned?

Four at the moment – including the sequel to this one, the sequel to Firestorm Rising, and the two middle grade ideas. Thing is, more ideas keep scratching at the door each day. A nice problem to have though, that!

Do you write other things, such as short stories, articles, blogs, etc?

I love writing short stories, when I get chance. I’ve got one coming up in the summer, Amelia’s Labyrinth - as a podcast, from I’m really looking forward to that – and I hope listeners have a good, spooky time with it!

What’s the highlight of being published so far?

Getting out and about and meeting happy readers, signing books, sharing the whole fantastic experience.

Give me one writing tip that work for you.

Getting up early and getting the writing done before the family are up and around and the world has woken. It’s great to get a good stint in whilst the energy levels are good!

And one that doesn't.

Set word counts. Because of the nature of my teaching job, I can’t guarantee to myself that I’ll get a certain amount done each day. I always try to do at least a little each day though, and some days the flood gates fly open.

Can you give us a clue or secret about the next book?

When a freak electrical storm hits an island, a long-kept secret surfaces. One that changes the destiny of the lives of a group of teenage friends. And there’s that slime trail too… Best read in broad daylight. But more fun in the dark.

What question have you always wanted to be asked but never have? What would the answer be?

Q. So how do you feel now that you have won the Waterstone’s Book of the Month award?

A.  Fantastic!

Awesome! Thanks for joining us, John. And, here are our future congratulations for winning that Waterstone’s Book of the Month award!

If you would like to find out more about John and follow his journey, then these links will help.


Twitter:  @johnclewarth

And, YAtopia readers, come back in a few days as we have an AMAZON BESTSELLING YA AUTHOR joining us on the Guestopia slot to talk about her brand new book!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Writing the Summer Nights Away

June’s theme for YAtopia is Summer Nights, and so I thought I’d write this late at night with the window open and the lovely/muggy summer air blowing through the apartment and see how it affects the post!

In both the US and UK, June is the official start of summer. It also houses the longest day of the year (20th in the US, 21st in the UK). What better way to while away your long summer nights than to write?

For me, the evening brings with it an excitement that the daytime just doesn’t have. Mornings are synonymous with new beginnings and bright possibility, whereas evenings are mysterious; foreboding even, and the summer heat can give the air a charged, buzzing feeling that can carry onto the page when you write.

Matching the time and mood of the day to the theme and temperament of your writing can go a long way. In the most simplistic sense, if you’re writing about a cold nippy evening while on your balcony with numbing fingertips, a red tipped nose and the soft wool of a scarf tickling your neck, you have a host of sensations to call upon that you know your characters are also experiencing. For example, I’ve just edited a scene in which my character is at a renaissance summer garden party which I wrote a while ago, and sitting outside in this lazy heat, blowing air over my face to cool myself down and glugging water, I was able to intensify the feeling of summer in that scene in a way I wasn’t before. My characters moved slower, the lethargy that swarmed in the air around me seeped into my scene, and made it all the better.

Of course, we usually don’t have the luxury of being able to match the scene you’re writing to the right time of day or temperature, but next time you’re enjoying a summer evening, perhaps partaking in a glass or two of wine, try to concentrate on all the sensations around you. You might find that the way the breeze blows your hair from your face or the pure joy you have at soaking up the long stretch of the waning sun finds its way into your next chapter!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Current Writing Status

The theme of June is: Those Summer Nights for YAtopia. As a result, I’d like to discuss where I am in my writing process since it’s June.
I sent a bunch of submissions out last Friday for a YA LGBTQ Fantasy novel to publishers that accept un-agented submissions. Sending that project out the door felt good. The manuscript was something I first got the idea for in February. But I didn’t really start developing it until two months later in April.
I have also finished revising my MG (Middle Grade) Fantasy gender swapped thematic Alice and Wonderland retelling, and will send that novel to MG publishers that accept un-agented submissions. This particularly revision is something I’m proud of. And I mean that in the least arrogant way possible. This revision shows a lot of growth in my writing. I increased the word count from 38K words to 53K words, which was necessary. Sure. MG lets writers have a shorter word count than Young Adult books. But I still needed to flesh out the plot more. One way I fleshed out the plot was with pushing the story forward after the original ending. And I didn’t just add a series of chaotic events. I found a way to organically connect the novel’s two main plot. However, the twist has some clues so it doesn’t feel melodramatic. Being able to connect the dots is important so the readers can look back and understand the logic even if they didn’t see the twist coming. I also like my MG revision since it leaves the door open for a trilogy despite standing alone as a novel.

I’ll start drafting my YA LGBTQ Mystery/Thriller after I send out the MG manuscript in the next week. I’m super excited about my YA LGBTQ Mystery/Thriller. It’s a voice driven quirky mystery. I also have an idea for a YA novel that can be thought of as the A game of Pretty Little Liars/I Know What You Did Last Summer in a fantasy setting. Furthermore, I got the idea for another YA novel the other day. It was the most random thing. It’s a mystery in a quirky fantasy setting. I might work on that idea over the A game of Pretty Little Liars/I Know What You Did Last Summer YA Fantasy novel. It’s less complicated. Anyway, the point is writing the next project is important. It will keep me busy while waiting to hear back from publishers about my YA LGBTQ Fantasy novel and my MG Fantasy gender swapped Alice and Wonderland thematic retelling.