Oh! I’m sorry but not today. I have a super important guest!
Of course you are, but I managed to score an interview with Claire Gillian, and she’s going to talk about the Voice in her novel THE P.U.R.E..
I know, but all you want to do is…
Okay enough of that.
Without further ado, I am super-excited to have Claire Gillian, the author of THE P.U.R.E. with us.
If you haven’t seen my review of THE P.U.R.E. please check it out so you will understand why it is so incredibly cool to have her here today.
Claire: I’m thrilled I managed to hook you on story outside of your usual genre. Thank you, thank you! I’ve had several reviewers make similar preface comments, which makes me both worry and rejoice. Worry because how many will never give The P.U.R.E. a chance, and rejoice because for those who were brave enough to try, I accomplished what I set out to do—convince readers that even CPAs could be sexy and have intriguing stories.
Me: Ahem… Ummm… I think you managed to do that… I mean, Dang, Girl. (If you’ve read the book you’ll know what I mean by that) Anyway, how the heck did you manage to hook a Fantasy reader into a Corporate Murder Mystery?
Claire: I think most novels are mysteries really, otherwise, why would you read them if you already how everything unfolds (other than for analysis of writing techniques)? I know when I read a story, no matter what genre, I’m always thinking along the lines of, “I’ll bet she does such and such next.” In that sense, the only difference is that with a mystery, the reader is working on figuring out two stories at once—the protagonist’s own story and the mystery she is trying to solve.
Me: Hmmm. I guess that’s ture to some extent. I think what sold me on it was that I felt completely enveloped in your world, even though it was a boring office environment (at least to start). How’d you do that?
Claire: I’m not used to analyzing my own writing style, to be honest, but what I think you’re keying in on is probably my “voice”. At least this is what I’ve gathered from my four years of feedback. Even when my writing was and is utter crap, it has had a quality people seemed to like. I’m still not 100% sure what “voice” is because I have yet to give it any sort of boundaries. I assume it’s like a signature, with its own loops, swoops, slants, and sizing.
Me: You definitely have your own style, which I have found off-putting in some novels, but in The P.U.R.E. it was part of the “warm and cozy” feeling, I felt like I was experiencing it with her, like I could totally relate.
Claire: I tried to make Gayle relatable–a flawed but appealing character with a bright, funny side to overcome the “Oh, no, a CPA as the heroine? Seriously? Just kill me now!” She’s both naïve and brash, curious and cautious, blasé and hyperconcerned, confident and hesitant. I also attempted to poke a little fun at corporate America—the posturing, hierarchy and HR double-speak. Office types will hopefully get and appreciate it. Non-office types will probably skim over it to get to the good stuff. No harm, no foul.
Me: So how did you come up with this magical “voice”?
Claire: I think my writer’s voice is just how I talk. I like to make people laugh. I like non sequiturs, innuendoes, dirty jokes, and the ridiculous. I watch a lot of romantic comedy and comedy in general and there’s a rhythm there that I try to imitate and even use as a template. It really is like telling a joke. You have to know where to pause and where to have long sentences that leave you out of breath, and when to put in a series of choppy sentences with these pauses for the audience to “get” the joke and laugh.
Me: I noticed that, and it didn’t seem forced, it just seemed like part of the character’s personality coming out in her thoughts.
Claire: Sometimes those pauses are filled with a character’s observations or a snippet of internal monologue. I like internal monologues but they are easy to overdo, especially in a first person point of view book. I mean, we’re already in Gayle’s head because she’s the narrator, so the only difference is in tense. Her monologues are in present tense and her narration is in past tense. Too much jumping back and forth I think would feel herky-jerky and confusing to the reader. .
Me: I didn’t find it overdone at all. In fact, they seemed natural. Some of them were so simple, like her looking at her hot boyfriend and saying simply: “Yummy”. Tee Hee. It looks odd here, but in the context of THE P.U.R.E. it totally worked.
Claire: Thanks. Some authors use internal monologues to contrast to what the character says, but I tend to see internal monologues as telling vs. showing. Rather than have Gayle say out loud to Jon, “Oh gosh, golly, I’m so sorry you broke up with your girlfriend” but think, “Yippee-skippy! Ask me out! Ask me out!!” I’d rather have her “show” the reader how she feels with narration like “I hoped he couldn’t see me grinning like an idiot into my coffee cup.” Both convey that she’s not the least bit sorry but doesn’t want to show her hand. A few monologues are fine, like a dash of salt for seasoning. Too many is telling vs. showing and that ruins the meal.
Me: Yes. I think it worked because it was only here and there. I think it would have gotten monotonous if she was always talking to herself—you know—cliché and all. How’d you know when you had it right?
Claire: If it felt forced or out of rhythm with the story, I zapped it into the cornfield. In my head, I remembered movie scenes I liked and used them as templates. For example, one scene I built on the bones of a scene from When Harry Met Sally. In the movie, Sally tells Harry about a recurring dream she has where some faceless man rips her clothes off. Harry asks if the dream ever varies and Sally says, “Yes.” He says, “What part.” She says with this totally serious face, “What I’m wearing.” Same back and forth rhythm with Gayle’s narration to convey Jon’s straight man reaction.
Me: Yes, this is the kind of cadence that really helped me to relate to her. It’s brilliant. I could totally relate to her, like she was in my own mind
Claire: Great, then I guess I did my job!
Me: Tell us about the editing process. I’ve heard it can be pretty painful for an author to be ripped and shredded by a professional editor.
Claire: My editor did a fabulous job tightening up the manuscript, cutting out bits that were just clutter. No disagreements at all over those edits, because I know that is a writing weakness I have.
Me: Awe, come on! You must have disagreed with your editor some time or another.
Claire: Well, no one can ever understand an author’s vision of the story and its characters better than the author herself. When I felt we were drifting from the point of the narration or dialogue, I pushed back. Some bits I felt were really clear, but my editor disagreed. That’s when I had to acknowledge that while no one else could ever step into my shoes, I could never step into my readers’ shoes either. What’s that saying? “Strive not to be heard but to be understood.” Sometimes an author’s “darlings” need to be killed (or at least be given a little plastic surgery) if they are confusing or add no value from the reader’s perspective. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received, that I did not fully understand or appreciate at the time, was, “tell the reader what she needs to know, not what you want her to know.”
Me: Yeah, I’ve heard that too. But only the author knows what the reader needs to know. Sometimes you are leaving breadcrumbs that might seem pointless to an editor, that won’t make sence until later.
Claire: Yes. There were a few places where I rolled up my sleeves and prepared to do battle because I felt passionately about the suggested changes, mostly my red herrings in danger of being cut altogether.
Me: Red Herrings?
Claire: [[Grins]] If you read many mysteries, they all have red herrings—tidbits that blend seamlessly into the story but throw the protagonist and the reader off track. If they seem too arbitrary or random to a reader (or editor), they aren’t written properly. I had to tweak a few of those to make those seams less ragged.
Me: This is your debut novel. How long were you querying before you found a publisher?
Claire: I queried The P.U.R.E. with about twenty literary agents who all sent fairly prompt and succinct form rejections except for one who asked for a partial but then passed because she didn’t like Gayle. Queries, synopses and blurbs are not my strong suit, unfortunately.
Me: Ugh! Me either. It’s easier to write a novel.
Claire: I also entered The P.U.R.E. into the RWA Daphne du Maurier contest but it received mixed reactions. One judge gave it high marks and compliments while another felt it was unrealistic how the CPA heroine’s work situation was portrayed—ironic because I modeled those parts after my own real life CPA experiences.
After that and similar feedback when I sought critiques on my query letter (“CPAs are sooo not sexy; no one will read this.”), I accepted that a CPA-centered romantic mystery was an impossible sell, especially from a debut author. Although I loved The P.U.R.E. and so did my beta readers, I trunked it and moved on to other projects. The P.U.R.E. was only the second novel I’d ever written, so I just counted it toward paying my dues.
Me: Holy cow! So you almost shelved this? What a waste! What made you pull it back out again?
Claire: Well, I went on to publish a few short stories and I also wrote other novels and novellas. I had never submitted nor even considered submitting The P.U.R.E. to any indie publishers previously because I thought it was literary agent / NYC publisher or nothing. A writer friend encouraged me to try that route after she had some success, and so I did.
Me: Why do you think this worked out?
Claire:The timing was right for me, and I think indie publishers, especially newer ones, are more willing to take chances on debut authors who are a little outside of the box.
Me: So, what’s next for you. Can I convince you to explode something?
Claire: I promise you I have multiple explosions, shootings and chase scenes in an in-process manuscript called Sins of Our Mothers.
Claire: [Laughs] One day I’ll finish that puppy. The bits I’ve shown off have piqued a few interests so I have high hopes for it if I can ever buckle down and finish it.
Me: What else?
Claire: I have a couple of submissions I’m waiting to hear from the publishers on within the next three weeks. One is a superhero romantic suspense novella called “Prometheus Unstitched” and guess what? There are hand grenades and snipers in that one!
Now we’re talking!
Claire: [Giggles] I also have an urban fantasy series I pull out periodically and fiddle around with. It has nuclear weaponry of my own design, used for dispatching all evidence of dead supernaturals. Since that one’s probably going to be part of a trilogy of novels, I need to write or at least lock down the plots of books two and three before I shop book one. Hard to do for a pantser like me.
Me: So, what can we see soon? I’m impatient, you know.
Claire: In terms of pending publications, I have a short story to be included in a steampunk anthology called “Conquest Through Determination”, releasing any day now from Pill Hill Press. At the beginning of June, I will have a short story in an ocean-themed paranormal romance anthology called “Tidal Whispers” coming from J. Taylor Publishing.
Me: Awesome! I’ll be looking for them. Okay, the rule is that you need to be open for questions after an interview. Are ya up to it?
Claire: Sure! As long as there’s no math. Kidding. I’ll take the math questions too.
Me: Okay, here we go. I now leave Ms. Gillian in your capable hands. Ask away oh seekers of infinite knowledge. Don’t be shy!
But for those of you who can’t wait, pick up a copy at one of the links below.
Buy The P.U.R.E. online at Amazon (Paper or Kindle)
Buy The P.U.R.E. online at Barnes and Noble (Paper or Nook)
You can also buy The P.U.R.E. online at All Romance, Powells, Books on Board and Diesel.