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20 Sep

 

A retired journalist who keeps on going, meet Roland Clarke…

 

JR: Tell us about yourself, and how would you describe yourself?

RC: I’m a retired equestrian journalist attempting to keep writing while living with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. As I’m in a wheelchair, I am not as active as I was in my working days but I accept invitations to get out of the house – even if it is a demand on my partner-wife-carer.

 

JR: When did you first realise you want to be a writer? Who spotted that talent and what was the first thing you did knowing that?

RC: I first realised that I wanted to write – part-time – in my teens although I had scribbled some stories as a kid and made them up. I’m not sure my first creative writing teacher saw any real talent but I think a librarian in Montreal did when I was at college in Canada, aged about eighteen. By then, I was writing science fiction and fantasy shorts.

 

JR: Do you have any formal education in creative writing? Do you think formal education in writing is necessary?

RC: I’m discounting the English Lit and Languages at school, although they did give me a grounding that has helped my use of words. As for creative writing education, I did evening classes with the late great poet, Roger Woddis. He pulled me up for my ‘purple prose’ and probably made me a better writer in doing that. Whether a writer needs formal education depends on their ability to learn writing techniques in other ways, for instance from ‘craft’ books. I learnt from a mix of formal, books, other writers and writers groups plus the essential element – reading widely.

 

JR: Are you a full-time author? Do you have other activities as main source of income? How do you organise your schedule and time in writing a book?

RC: As I’m retired, I can write as much – or as little – as I want. My work, which varied over the decades, supported my fiction writing and now I depend on savings and retirement income. My schedule revolves less around my writing than my health so my books emerge sporadically and take months/years of writing, editing, and re-writing etcetera.

 

JR: What made you decide to start writing something? What or who influences you?

RC: As a teenager, ideas would come to me and get explored as short stories and even a lost novel idea – I still have some of the notes from my first scribblings back then. My first published novel, Spiral of Hooves, began as an idea when I first worked in the horse world in my twenties but never found its full form until I was approaching the end of my journalism career. New ideas come partly from dreams and partly from random thoughts – like ‘what if the Vikings had stayed in North America’; the inspiration for Eagle Passage one of my WIPs.

 

JR: What is the greatest lesson you have learned and/or greatest achievement you have reached as a writer?

RC: Although having my first novel published as an eBook in 2013 was great, holding the paperback of the second edition in early August 2017 was awesome. The lesson is probably to persist and be patient.

 

JR: Do you have habits in writing? Any specific time and/or place to write?

RC: Habits are hard to break and my worse one is not setting a time to write – well’ except I try to write once my emails are dealt with. Place is dictated by my wheelchair, so I write at the computer in the office. I scribble notes by pen but my handwriting has deteriorated badly since I was diagnosed with MS – that means I can’t decipher my own hieroglyphics.

 

JR: How long do you normally finish writing a book? What is the hardest part in the process?

RC: Spiral of Hooves took thirteen years, but I aim to finish my current Welsh detective mystery, Fates Maelstrom, this year so that will be about five years since the first draft was shoved in the bottom drawer. But then I switch from project to project as the ideas swamp my brain. So, there are nine novels in various draft stages, as well as numerous short stories.

 

JR: Do you have professional editors to furnish your books? If you do, any recommendation you would like to share to fellow authors?

RC: I’ve used several editors and the choice can depend on the genre. My immediate choices are first, Sue Barnard, https://vanessacouchmanwriter.com/2015/04/10/the-role-of-the-editor-guest-post-by-sue-barnard/ , who works primarily for Crooked Cat http://www.crookedcatbooks.com/. Second is Yen Ooi, http://www.yenooi.com/, who edited my debut novel. However, I have also started using an editing programme, Fictionary – https://fictionary.co/.

 

JR: How do you think you have evolved creatively?

RC: Haphazardly but over the decades there has been an improvement in my word use, my phrasing, and my plotting – well, I hope there has been. As writers we never stop learning.

 

JR: Do you ever face Writer’s Block? If you do, how did you overcome the situation?

RC: I suffer not so much from Writer’s Block as from Writer’s Impatience or Boredom, so I switch projects or create a new one. Perhaps that is why I have so many unfinished works. I am also a computer gamer so escaping into an MMORPG recharges my brain cells and even generates ideas – like my Wyrm Scales mystery series.

 

JR: Do you have a professional designer to design the cover and/or interior of your books? If you do, any recommendation you would like to share to fellow authors?

RC: Spiral of Hooves had a cover designer for the first edition that the publisher commissioned. For the second edition, I contacted another writer and she recommended her cover designer, Jonathan Temples – http://www.jonathantemples.co.uk/ – and I will use him again as I highly recommend him.

 

JR: How do you promote your books? Any marketing technique you can share?

RC: I tend to use social media and aim to get as many good reviews as possible, although I also do ‘giveaways’ via Goodreads and other blogs. I have done a tiny bit of advertising with no noticeable results.

 

JR: Give your thoughts about traditional publishing Vs. self-publishing?

RC: I’ve only experienced having a small press publisher and self-publishing the second edition of the same novel. I feel that the ‘big publishers’ can only cope with a small amount of the writers that have something good to read, and that the small presses and self-publishing are the route for the majority of us to take.

 

JR: How many books have you written (published and non-published)?

RC: I’ve only published one or if you count editions – two. Written, I have six others that have got to the first draft stage or further – Fates Maelstrom being the nearest to completion. There are three others in development – elements written in the sense of chapters as well as completed outlines.

 

JR: What genre that you normally write, and what draws you to this genre? Do you always write in the same genre?

RC: Most of my writing tends to be in the mystery/thriller genre. However, glancing at my nine draft novels, five are mysteries, three are post-apocalyptic SF/fantasy, and one is alternative history. But the latter four have mystery elements, especially the alternative history which is a mystery set in a parallel present-day.

 

JR: Of all the books that you have written down, which book that you think the best one? And what do you think readers will find most appealing about this book? What’s the “real story” behind this book?

RC: Although Spiral of Hooves was the first, has a horse theme and there is a sequel written, I sense that I’ve moved on – or should that be matured. Fates Maelstrom feels like the best one. The characters seem more rounded and grittier, and I hope readers will find the North Wales setting plus the different themes appealing. The ‘real story’ behind Fates Maelstrom should be the setting of North Wales where I used to live. But that doesn’t explain the plot which is purely imaginary, although the theme of misunderstood minorities, in this case, ‘gypsies’, resonates with many communities.

 

JR: Any other works in progress?

RC: Nine others as mentioned above. Fates Maelstrom and its sequel, Seeking a Knife; Tortuous Terrain, the sequel to Spiral of Hooves; Book 1 of the post-apocalyptic Gossamer Flames  saga, Storms Compass, that needs a final rewrite, plus its outlined sequels Blood Tapestry and Renascence; my alternative history mystery Eagle Passage; and two online gaming mysteries, Wyrm Bait and Wyrm Blood in my Wyrm Scales series. I need to avoid dreaming up new ideas that aren’t short stories so I can focus on these nine WIPs – I was recently diagnosed with blood cancer so I need to learn to focus on one project at a time.

 

JR: What advice would you want to give to an aspiring writer?

RC: Never give up writing and never give up learning as we are always writers. Does that mean I’ll die clutching a pen?

 

JR: How can readers discover more about you and your works?

RC: At Writing Wings, my website www.rolandclarke.com.