Thanks for doing this interview Clarissa!
Questions about writing.
1) How long does it take to write an average novel and how much research do you put into them?
It takes me about a year to write a novel and I do a ton of research. I break it down into two types; “mundane detail” and “in-depth.” In the case of STRUCK, mundane details like salary and the cost of living in San Francisco were things that needed to be researched. If characters like Gwynneth and Seth were being paid minimum wage, there’s no way they’d be able to afford an apartment in San Francisco. I had to make sure they had jobs where they could afford an apartment together.
“In depth” research may take weeks and require interviews. For a novel like STRUCK, I did research on lightning strike survivors and interviewed several. I also interviewed a mortician so I could get a better grasp of what Poppy did for a living.
For my novel BETWEEN, I did quite a bit of research into the Black Plague of 1300s Ireland, going so far as to contact the County Cork Library in Ireland for research materials. The librarian was awesome about sending me documents I couldn’t get a hold of through my local library.
For my latest novel VOICES, I was able to tap into a virtual program via UCD and experience what it was like to hear voices and see things as a schizophrenic person would. So yes, research is huge.
2) Struck was creepy in a really good way. What techniques do you employ to build tension and momentum?
I envision the story unfolding like a movie and write it from beginning to end. I think when you do something visually and in sequence like that, it makes the tension and momentum fall into place naturally.
3) I really love the individuality of your characters. How difficult is it to keep your characters, um..er..in character?
I don’t find that difficult, actually. My characters come to me completely formed with their own ideas and agendas.
4) Do you put any of yourself in your books? Have you ever lived vicariously through a character?
No. I may put a small experience in a book, but my characters are completely separate from me. The only vicarious thing I’ve experienced was the fact that Lucinda (from BETWEEN) lived in a house by the beach. I’ve always wanted a house by the beach…without the ghosts.
5) I love your use of imagery and dialog to build connections and move the storyline along. Do you have a technique you use to build conversations for your characters?
At the risk of sounding slightly schizophrenic, I hear them talking in my head and write it down. It’s that simple.
6) I liked the characters in Struck quite a lot, so I can only imagine how they grew on you too. Have you ever considered using any of them in other books, or maybe a spin-off for that character specifically?
I’ve been asked if I was planning on a spin off with the characters of Poppy and Dante. I don’t do sequels or spin offs. The story wants to be told—I tell it and move on. I have so many ideas that I don’t tend to dwell on one. Poppy and Dante were fun characters, though. They had a nice rapport.
7) Does your writing ever stall in the middle? How do you get it back on track when it happens to you?
Sometimes the characters will stop speaking to me or the story will hit a wall. That’s when I’ll focus on blogging or promoting, both of which can serve as a mental break, although I’m not fond of promoting. That, or I’ll go run a couple of miles!
8) Does Seth exist in real life and can he please make me dinner?….ok, this one is just for me…he is adorable.
Haha!! No, he doesn’t. Well…maybe he exists somewhere in the world. Gwynneth has quite the catch, doesn’t she? Seth is very devoted to her.
9) Did the history of Julian have a source or inspiration? or did you create his back story completely from fiction?
Julian’s back story came to me in a flash—it was there from the moment I typed his name. Typically, I’ll write character back story as it comes to me and research details later to make sure I have things right. I’m lucky in that historical details are usually 90% spot on. In the case of Julian (and after I wrote the first draft of STRUCK) I did research into tuberculosis and the methods of dealing with patients during the time period he was from. The details were pretty true to what I wrote.
10) Do you promise no creepy black monster shadows are gonna get me in the middle of the night? And will I eventually stop needing the nightlight?
No promises here! Just don’t go out in a lightning storm. 😉
11) Of all the characters in the book Struck, which is your particular favorite?
Julian. He was my tragic antagonist. I always fall for the antagonists.
My personal take on Struck, was one of surprised delight and humor, (despite the creepy shivers and the delicious anticipation that also came up just as frequently) I just really enjoyed the uniqueness of the characters and the incredibly genuine way they interacted. I really felt like they lived, and for this reason, will miss them now that the book is read.
Thanks Clarissa, I loved you before, but now I have a bit of fandom for you mixed in.
You can download Struck on Amazon here: Struck
And please, check out her upcoming Voices novel here: Voices
Moira Flynn is arrested for attacking a door-to-door solicitor with a knife. She claims a voice told her the man was intent on assaulting her. The trouble is, she was the only one that heard that voice. Moira strikes a plea bargain and is sent to a psychiatric hospital for voluntary treatment. Dr. Richard Cassano is hesitant to treat her as schizophrenic, as she does not show the standard symptoms. As their sessions progress, Moira confesses there are two voices–and they aren’t voices in her head, but the voices of ghosts. Are they imaginary? Or are they actual spirits, attached to her for reasons of their own? As Moira’s doctor uncovers more of her past, he begins to realize that her ghosts are real. And one of them is determined to drag Moira into the afterlife with him.