So, a million years ago when I lived in Japan, there was a group of us gaijin who were aspiring writers. We banded together to for the Fukuoka Writer’s Circle, which was a crit-group, shoulder-to-cry-on, idea-bouncing-board, drinking buddies, and cheerleaders all rolled into one. I was VERY PLEASED to be contacted by Wendy Clark a little while ago, what of my fellow FWCs. She told me that she too had continued to pursue the writing dream and had some books out. So, naturally, I asked if I could introduce Wendy to you! She said yes, so enjoy the below interview. Wendy’s got a great turn of phrase.
1. The worst question to ask and have to answer, but the most satisfying to read is, as always: Why Write? Why be a writer?
I have an insatiable sweet tooth.
Yet, the world seems to be set on feeding me a fat-free diet of extremely bad news. From a young age, I escaped into science fiction (Anne McCaffrey, Keith Laumer) and, later, romance (Nalini Singh, Jennifer Crusie). This was entirely self-preservation. My parents love NPR, and I can only take so many hours of disaster/injustice/genocide before I find myself anorexic for a different kind of content.
For every sugar-free hard fact, I have to take in two scoops of homemade blackberry gelato in happy endings. For every fiber-filled historical tragedy, I need at least one lavender cream cheese cupcake where good triumphs, worthy people succeed, and the best ideas are always awesome.
At some point, consuming wasn’t enough for me and I had to get in the kitchen.
2. What was the instigating moment for you being a writer? What was it that made you think, “Yeah, I want to do that!”
My fourth grade teacher noticed that I was writing pages and pages during free time and suggested, “Maybe you should be a writer.” I still have those 100-ct spiral-bound notebooks. My cursive was way better back then.
3. So far, what’s the been the awesomest thing about being a writer?
Giving the best friend a happy ending! Seriously, how often do you watch a movie and think to yourself, “Hey, that not-main-character is pretty funny. He’s obviously going to die tragically and soon.” Thanks to imagination, I can spend an entire sleepy Sunday rewriting the story, whether it’s introducing a new super weapon to save Bill Paxton (Aliens, Predator 2) or a new super power to save Colin Farrell (Minority Report). I feel like, “Ahh. The people I care about live. The world is at peace.”
Then I import my new super weapon/power into one of my stories–which are not linked to any major franchises–and get two benefits out of one enjoyable brainstorm.
4. What’s been the least awesome thing, and what have you learned or taken away from it? Do you have a teachable you can share with us?
Being self-employed in the United States is like ice fishing during a global heat wave. You pray for good health and/or tie yourself to a day job with benefits, just in case.
Another risk in digital publishing is pirates. I love pirates myself, and I’ve got nothing against sharing a favorite book with loved ones, but here’s how to report to Amazon that someone jacked your book and is pocketing your profits.
As far as personal teachables, I haven’t been in this business long enough to screw up too badly yet. *Grin* Unless the mistake was waiting too long for someone else’s permission to publish, and honestly, I think I needed that extra time to become a better writer.
5. What’s the next big goal for you, and how are you working towards it?
Publishing a full-length book! I am playing with two big ideas right now:
1) A Romeo & Juliet “magnetpunk” set on a desert planet; or
2) A reverse Cinderella romance where a high-class gallery assistant has to get a backwoods artist over his creative block.
I’m story-boarding both right now to see which one I’m most excited about.
In the farther-out future, I’m also looking at enhanced ebooks for bringing a Cyrano de Bergerac/World of Warcraft story to life. It could be a Kickstarter project once I have a cool proof of concept.
The world of publishing is so exciting right now. I’m thrilled to be writing in it.
6. What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever found yourself researching, or the weirdest fact?
I recently had to look up the statistic of hot tub owners in America. Did you know there’s an International Hot Tub Association that keeps track?
I also really needed to know the symptoms of mercury poisoning at 3am, and the most useful description came from a handbook distributed by terrorist organization HAMAS. I’m probably on a CIA watchlist. And I’m not even writing thrillers. My stories are sweet romances!
7. You and I know each other from the long-lost Fukuoka Writer’s Circle (A group of English-speakers who lived in Fukuoka-ken while on the JET Programme); I know I learned a lot not only about writing and storytelling, but also about critiquing and beta reading and taking notes. What do you think the most important part of belonging to a writing community is, and why should people be part of critique groups? What have you learned?
First of all, a writer always needs an editor. You can’t see your own blind spots. If you are in the unfortunate position of having an editor who does not actually edit (a common state these days in publishing) then I hope you are blessed with a great beta reader who can articulate the missing pieces.
I came to the Fukuoka Writer’s Circle at a time when I needed help with the fundamentals of story. Transmitting images from my head to another person’s via the written page is one of most intimate acts of our modern society, and although I’d been writing carelessly since about fourth grade, I needed guidance to tame my wild ramblings into a story someone else actually wanted to cozy up to at night.
Having said that, I’ve only been a member of one writing group since ours, and it scarred me for life. I need kudos and bonbons to keep me focused on improving, but one member of the group was Edward Scissorhands bent on carving up every piece I offered to her. It got to the point where my stomach churned whenever I saw her name attached to an email. I made excuses not to open them for weeks. What’s the point of having a critique group if you can’t open their emails? Even though she made excellent points and I loved everyone else, I felt a thousand times better the day I gave myself permission to leave the group. Claudia Dain once wrote to be careful not to kill your inner writer-girl. I was definitely running out of bandages!
Now I have an editor, a copyeditor, and a super-supportive fan base to give me kudos and help me write the best possible story. And every one of them is fearless — but gentle–about pointing out my blind spots!
8. Being both a debut and a self-publishing author, there’s a lot of work that goes into building your platform and your personal brand. Can you tell us a bit about what you do to self-market?
The first thing I did was actually announce the publication to my friends and family. I have been published before by an established print publisher (Adams Media) and I even co-hosted a well-attended book signing, but my own fears and the imposter syndrome held me back. So literally just announcing that I AM AN AUTHOR has been a huge step forward for me.
Making a sweetly satisfying story that nibbles at your heartstrings and yet leaves you with a delicious happy feeling afterwards is my number one priority. I ensure this happens by vetting my stories through my award-winning editor Christina (Berry) Tarabochia and my detail-oriented copyeditor before they are meticulously formatted for ebook and print. Being a bit of a tech and graphics geek, I do my own covers and uploading.
Since I am just starting out, I take opportunities for guest-blogging, interviewing, article-writing, and networking as they come. I send out a monthly newsletter to my website subscribers with exclusive freebies and behind-the-scenes. In October, I’ll be signing the print anthology at the Emerald City Writers Conference in Bellevue, Washington (just east of Seattle). You can follow the news and appearances on my website too.
Some experts say that there’s no better advertisement than the next excellent book. With that in mind, I am always writing!
9. Tell us about your upcoming stories and books, please!
“Fatty Patty“, which released on July 15, is the first in a series of sweet romantic short stories set around a five-year high school reunion in the San Juan Islands. Here is the tasty blurb:
“Fatty Patty” is the cruel nickname that followed Pepper to high school graduation. Five years later, she’s back at her reunion to prove it hasn’t defined her. In her slim Kate Spades, she’ll show them all — her underachieving classmates and especially the boy who broke her heart.
But Pepper’s not the only one who’s changed in five years. She’s not the only one who has regrets about the things that were, and especially weren’t, said.
And she’s not the only one who plans to use this chance to rewrite history…
The second story, “Chance of Happiness,” releases on August 15, and the third story, “Artful Dodger,” releases on September 15. Those plus two more stories will be gathered into a print anthology available just in time for the holidays.
The San Juan Island Stories are short stories designed to be enjoyed over a lunch break. They capture the essence that every journey — no matter how far — is about discovering yourself and finding your way back home.
10. Where can we buy your books?
The San Juan Island Stories are available at Amazon, Kobo, and Smashwords. Check at my website–I’m adding retailers every day.
11. Where can we follow you on social networks?
The tastiest tidbits are saved up for my monthly newsletter. It’s like a care package of happy endings in your inbox. I’m also on GoodReads and Facebook!
BIO: Wendy Lynn Clark is an award-winning author of romance, young adult, and science fiction. Find out the latest at wendylynnclark.com.
Thanks, Wendy! (So, that book I read half of in 2005… you done that yet? I’ve only been wondering how it ends for eight years.)