Clare Austin: I’ve been so many things in my life: actor, mom, wife, healthcare professional, musician and a horse trainer. Now I am adding published author to that list. I’m one of those people who needs several lifetimes to explore all my interests and I don’t seem to be capable of doing anything half way. I have been inspired by many authors throughout my lifetime. The first romance I ever read was Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss. I was enchanted and still hold her as one of the very best in the genre. More recently I have been captivated by the intensity and vastness of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. The lady can really spin a tale!
Phoebe: Did you know what type of romance you wanted to write about or did you experiment with different genres before you chose the one that you felt was for you?
Clare: Early in my ponderings, before I actually started putting words on paper, I envisioned writing Historical romance. I love history, I’m a stickler for facts and bristle at anachronism. I started writing contemporary because I simply wanted to write a book and I thought I was taking a simpler route to that goal. Then I found out it isn’t really easier, but is a great deal of fun. I have a number of historical ideas and they will get written someday I’m certain.
Phoebe: What was the first fiction you ever wrote? And do you still have it with you?
Clare: The very first fiction I wrote was when I was eight years old. I can’t remember the title, (probably something like Máire’s Big Day)… but it was about a little girl (me?) who takes a grand adventure on her pony through the hills near her home. I submitted this to a publisher and got a kind rejection. I don’t have that manuscript or the rejection letter…wish I did. The first contemporary romance I wrote four years ago is called Land Of Ahhs. It is unpublished and needs a major re-write. I’ll hang on to that one.
Phoebe: How much research do you have to do for your novels and does it take you a long time to gather that research?
Clare: Much of the “research” for the Fadό Trilogy was already in my head when I started the stories. I love research for the sake of knowledge though and I am constantly reading and studying. I spent quite a bit of time in Boston and in Ireland while I was writing Butterfly and Angel’s Share. When I have a question or am not sure of a particular fact, I look it up or go to an expert. Butterfly has a scene at a Red Sox game. It was really cool to research the game and include the actual plays in my scene. If a Sox fan happens to read it, it is accurate. No one else will care particularly, I’m sure.
Phoebe: How did you come up with the concept for your debut novel, Butterfly, which is also the first book in your Fadó Trilogy? And what are your titles and plans for the next two books that will complete your Fadó Trilogy?
Clare: Butterfly was a complete surprise to me. I wrote the first few chapters as an exercise for my critique group. I based the main character on one of my sons who is a professional musician and on some young Irish fiddlers I have known… (Come back on Thursday, August 20 to find the full response to this question)
Phoebe: How do you come up with each of your characters for your novels? How do you choose their names out of so many names out there?
Clare: My characters are sometimes based very loosely on people I know, like Flannery being a bit like my son. But, the similarity stops at their both being dedicated musicians. Flannery is like a best friend I wish I’d had when I was in my twenties…fresh, adventurous, talented and devoted to music and family. Names are fun for me to make up. I love playing around with the sounds and meanings. The names I use often have an underlying hint to part of the story. I search through baby name lists until I find one that suits. I try to think about the character’s parents and why they would choose a particular name. I picked Hunter Kincade (Cade) because it sounds aristocratic but has a nickname this guy would be comfortable with. His middle name—read the book—reflects his mother’s ethnicity.
Phoebe: Do you have a favorite character that you really enjoyed writing about in your debut novel, Butterfly? Did you have a character that you felt you could really relate to in your debut novel, Butterfly?
Clare: I absolutely loved getting to know Flannery. She was fun to write and carried the story easily. The other character I truly have a “crush” on is Jamie MacFallon. He is so endearing and I think he deserves his own book someday. I relate to all my characters in a special way. They are like my children, each having a place in my heart. One may give me trouble while another is easy.
Phoebe: Do you have a process of how you start to write your novels?
Clare: They all start in my head. I can almost visualize the various components whirling around like different colors of paint that come out as a picture. Then I start to pound away at the keys and, even if it isn’t great prose, I get the basics down. Since Fadό is a series I have had to stick with some characters who are already part of the story and I plotted a bit more detailed than I sometimes like. I like to write from the seat of my pants…that’s the most fun.
Phoebe: Which do you like best, writing a series or writing stand alone novels? How is writing each different for you?
Clare: A series is hard. The stories must stand alone but be connected. I think one could easily pick up Angel’s Share and enjoy it without first reading Butterfly. I have actually been a bit concerned about the release of Angel’s Share for readers who really love the humor of Butterfly, because Angel’s Share is a suspense and rather serious in comparison. It was a chance I took because the story of Kerry and Aidan called out so strongly to me. I have a stand-alone novel, Hot Flash, coming out early in 2010. I was inspired to write it by the women in my “girls only” gym. We felt there needed to be a love story about a woman who is older, wiser and won’t let a little cellulite on her thighs get in the way of having the hot guy. It was really fun to write.
Phoebe: What process did you have to go through to get your first book published and did it take you long?
Clare: Butterfly sold rather quickly by industry standards. I think it was about six months of really putting it out there. I like to email query. Sending manuscripts and partials by post is just too slow a process for me. I got a few nibbles and requests for submissions from my query letter. I was offered one contract and turned it down because, after seeing the contract, I realized that publisher wouldn’t produce the kind of product I wanted. I’m thrilled with the production standards at TWRP and feel I made the right decision taking their offer.
Phoebe: Do you ever get writer’s block? What do you do to get rid of it so you can get back to writing your novels?
Clare: At one point in my writing I never thought I would get “block.” Never say never. I get past it by shackling my reluctant muse to my computer desk and feeding her dark chocolate. I lock up my inner editor and refuse to give it sustenance. Then I just write. Even if it is garbage and I toss it out later…I write. Writing is a creative process for me, but it is also a job. I don’t make excuses about going to work. I show up and do the best I can.
Phoebe: What is your biggest reader pet peeve, if you have any? (stock characters, unresolved endings, predictability, everything wrapped up hurriedly in the end, etc.)
Clare: Anachronism. As an example, one writer of a 19th century historical who used the term “Ms.” throughout her manuscript as a title for an unmarried woman. She really didn’t know that the term was coined in the middle of the twentieth century. It drove me nuts! Get an etymological dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary. Editors know a lot but not everything, so don’t assume they will catch a mistakes.
Phoebe: Which aspects of writing do you enjoy the most and why? And what is your biggest writing pet peeve? (overuse of exclamation points, adverbs, bad guys named Wayne, etc.), if you have any?
Clare: There isn’t any part of the process I don’t like but promo is hardest for me. I limit exclamation points if my editor will let me get away with it. I detest word repetition and I try very hard to scan my documents for such. One time I found I had “mumbled” about ten times as a dialogue tag. After I quit laughing at myself, I went through and fixed it. When I read I think it’s ludicrous when a writer can’t think of more than one term for…well, the male sexual organ…and I don’t mean his brain.
Phoebe: What is the one writing tool you cannot live without?
Clare: My laptop.
Phoebe: How do you handle your writing schedule and your personal life without going insane?
Clare: I am insane so I don’t worry about it. I don’t have children at home, but I have a husband, three horses, a little dog, and grown up sons who sometimes need a mom. I have a part-time day job that I really like, a beautiful garden, and I play my violin in a small chamber ensemble. Three times a week I swim for exercise. I’ve never been good at staying up late at night or getting up early in the morning. I should be honest…I really don’t cook. Maybe that saves me time.
Phoebe: What do you do to relax after having spent a long day while writing? Do you have any hobbies?
Clare: I often takes breaks from writing by spending time playing my violin or going out to ride a horse, swim or take a walk. I knit socks…fancy, striped and very colorful socks. I like to knit while I listen to audio books.
Phoebe: Is there any advice that you would give to an aspiring romance writer that you wish someone had given you?
Clare: Write to a specific market. I learned this pretty quickly with the help of Colorado Romance Writers. Get into a critique group. Learn what you can about promo before you sell.
Phoebe: Do you have a favorite genre you like to read? Who is your favorite author(s)?
Clare: I read just about everything: history, narrative non-fiction, all kinds of fiction. I enjoy true adventure such as On Celtic Tides by Chris Duff or anything by Jon Krakauer. I’m waiting for Erin Hart to write another book like Haunted Ground or Lake of Sorrows.
Phoebe: What are you reading now? And what do you plan to read after that?
Clare: Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran, Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, and The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory by Brian Greene. After I’m done with those, I’ll start The Subtle Serpent by Peter Tremayne and Shannon by Frank Delaney.
If you would like to read excerpts from my other books or know more about upcoming projects please go to my website. Thank you for having me on your blog today.