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Interview with Clay Gilbert Author of Pearl

This week, I spoke with Clay again. He’s a prolific indie author writing from SciFi to urban fantasy. Now he’s got a suspense thriller with supernatural overtones coming out called Pearl. We’re going to be getting into this interesting novel today!

Check out Pearl on Amazon!

First, let’s get to know Clay with some fun, quirky questions! Part Duex!

  1. What was your favorite subject in school? English
  2. What is the most dangerous thing you’ve ever done? Answering interview questions like that one, haha. 😉
  3. Favorite color? Purple. Royal purple, not that pastel stuff. 😉
  4. Does pineapple belong on pizza? Absolutely. Love me some Hawaiian pizza.
  5. If you could travel back in time, why would you do it? I’d like to attend every Grateful Dead show ever, not just the ones I actually saw between 1988 and 1995. Of course, it’d be fun to see some of the historical periods I missed out on, too.

Now let’s get down to brass tacks!

  1. Where did the idea for Pearl come from? Well, I’ve loved monsters for a long time, particularly the more sympathetic monsters, like King Kong and Frankenstein’s Monster. For years, I’ve thought about writing my own sympathetic monster story, but I wasn’t sure really how to go about it. Eventually I decided that nothing could be more sympathetic than a ‘monster’ who was a child. Many of my novels are written from the perspective of a female protagonist, so, in this case, my little monster was also a little girl.
  2. What sort of research did you do to bring the story of Pearl to life? I did some research on the history, folklore, and language of the Smoky Mountains, including specific legends involving supernatural creatures, and also the abandoned town of Elkmont, which plays a prominent supporting role in the novel.
  3. Writing a novel can, at times, feel like a chore. Did this novel ever make you want to rip your hair out, or did it flow smoothly from imagination to typed words? The initial composition of the book was smooth, but the editing process was unusually rigorous. This book is set more in the here and now than many of my novels, which are often set far in the future or on other worlds. This book has fantasy elements in it, but the elements which are not fantasy were things—and some real places—I knew people would call me out about if I got too off-base with. I wanted to make sure the fantasy elements were as believable, in their way, as the real-world aspects were. It’s also the first book I’ve written from the perspective of a child, and I wanted her to be as believable on the page as she was in my head. Pearl’s mode of speech was also challenging to handle. Anytime you deal with dialect in a book, particularly in the voice of a person of color, you run the risk of offending people or being accused of stereotyping. Since the book is itself so concerned with marginalization, it was important to me that neither Pearl nor any of the other people in the book come across as caricatures. I intend all my books to speak to the universal experience of being human, and both to acknowledge diversity as well as our commonalities as people, no matter what gender, ethnicity, cultural or educational background we spring from. Thankfully, I had an editor working with me on this book who really helped let me know when I was pulling those challenges off, and when I needed to work on some things. It was a lot of work, and I’m proud of how it turned out.
  4. Fans of what sort of books would enjoy Pearl? I think this book will appeal to a wide audience. Pearl’s wit, spirit and humor, and her determination to uncover the mystery of her own strange history will appeal to the Harry Potter audience, I think, and there is certainly magic here, too. Fans of 1980s horror, especially Stephen King’s work, will find elements here that echo the particular ethos of that era in horror history. I hope there are some elements of such Steven Spielberg films as E.T. and Poltergeist here, as well as books such as King’s IT and Robert McCammon’s Boy’s Life. It’s one-third coming-of-age drama, one-third horror novel, and one-third fantasy epic.
  5. Creative writing is opening your soul and exposing yourself. How much of yourself do you think made it into Pearl? A good bit. Matt Chandler, the writer who becomes a father figure to Pearl over time, is a good bit like me. And Pearl, with her childhood involving being treated like an outsider because of the way she was born and how she looks, reflects some of my childhood as well, even if I never outright got called a ‘monster’ like she does. My Christian religious beliefs and much of my personal outlook on the world found their way, I hope, into the book as well. Also, of course, my love of monsters, something I share with, among others, the filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. Fans of his work will enjoy this book, I think.
  6. What is a good habit for a writer to adopt? Discipline. Put your backside to the seat for a set number of hours every day, set daily word-count goals, and do not allow yourself to back out of them. Also, read a lot.
  7. Would you like to share a little preview of Pearl with us?

I’m not sure how little this is, but here you go.

* * *

Run, Pearl. When you get the chance, run. And don’t stop until you’re somewhere safe.”

That’s what Dr. Steve told her to do, and when the chance came, that’s what she did.

Sirens in the dark. Rain all around; on my head, soaking through my hood.

Don’t care. Gotta get away.

And she had. She ran until the sirens were gone and the branches of the thick trees in the woods rose between her and the rain. Mostly, anyway.

And then, Pearl was alone.

In five days, that would be a year ago: a year of white squares colored in on a calendar, like a brightly-hued sidewalk between then and now.

Bright squares on a wall, and peaceful woods, all around.

It was quiet, mostly, here in the woods. Quiet meant no people, and no people meant peace.

Pearl knew some people in the world hated silence; always turning on the TV or punching at their cell phones like they were scared to be alone in their own heads.

Pearl had some thoughts in her head she didn’t like, but she didn’t mind being alone, and she could live with the silence.

She’d lived with worse.

The bad place she left behind was worse: the lab, with all its chains, cold cuffs for her wrists, and the cage they kept her in, like she was a prisoner instead of a girl who’d done nothing but open her eyes one day and take a breath. But the cuffs and chains had stayed the same while Pearl grew and changed, and one morning, soon after her ninth birthday, she found the bonds that were so strong when she was little weren’t so strong anymore, and she broke them, and she was free.

In her first year of freedom, the woods were quiet; a place where Pearl could be alone with her thoughts, and with the animals, and once in a while, read one of the books she’d brought from the bad place with her in her backpack, or color in one of the coloring books she’d brought from there, with crayons from a box she’d found in a dumpster near a store, the first night she was on her own.

Not found; scavenged. She liked that word better.

She’d happened upon the cabin on the third night of that first year, and, after making sure no one else was there, she’d taken a bath in the nearby lake, put on some clean clothes, eaten one of the packs of Pop-Tarts from her backpack, and fallen asleep.

Across from the cabin, Pearl saw something that made her curious: a big house, with three levels. Nobody seemed to be home the night she first arrived in the woods. The cabin was enough for her. Besides, that house looked fancy, and she thought it might have some alarms on it, like the bad place had on its doors, so that if she went too close to it, the police would come running.

I sure ’nuff don’t need that, she’d thought.

* * *

Almost a whole year had gone by since the day she moved into the cabin, and all that time, the big house across the way from it stood empty.

Pearl knew, because she kept a watch on it.

She figured as long as the big house stayed empty, it’d be more likely folks would leave her alone.

Five white squares were left on the calendar before the one she’d circled in green (October 6th, she noted, tracing the circle with her finger). That green circle marked a whole year’s worth of white squares since the day she found the cabin; squares she’d filled in with her crayons, one by one, on the last three pages of one calendar and almost the whole first nine of another.

In all that time, she and the world had passed each other by.

This morning was different.

This morning, Pearl had seen something—something that changed everything.

It was the middle of the day, when the sun was high in the sky. Most times, it was a peaceful part of the day, but not now.

Two big trucks were pulling up the driveway of the big house, where none had ever pulled up before.

Both trucks had the same thing written on them: MYSTERY CREEK MOVING COMPANY.

Pearl knew that meant whoever it was the stuff in those trucks belonged to, they weren’t just coming for a visit. They were planning to stay, and that was something she hadn’t figured on.

* * *

Pearl wasn’t scared of sleeping in the woods alone. As long as all she saw were animals, she’d be just fine. Pearl wasn’t scared of any wild animals. They couldn’t do anything to hurt her.

Neither could men with dogs. They’d tried, too.

Men with guns, that was something different. But for a whole year now, they’d stayed away from her, except in her nightmares. For a year, everyone had stayed away from her. That was how she liked it.

Now all that was changing, in just one day.

Clay Gilbert says he’s always liked stories, and that from the time he knew there were people who told them for a living, that’s what he wanted to do. Clay’s work in various genres has been in print since his first short science fiction story, “The Computer Conspiracy,” was published in Scholastic magazine when he was just thirteen. Clay is the author of the science fiction series Children of Evohe, including the novels Annah and the Children of Evohe, Annah and the Exiles, Annah and the Gates of Grace, and Annah and the Arrow. He is also the author of the YA dystopian novel Eternity, the science fiction novel The Conversationalist: Out of the Blue and its sequel, The Conversationalist: Mission to Mercy Prime, as well as the vampire novel Dark Road to Paradise, and its sequel, Cassie’s Song, all published by Dark Moon Press. He lives and works in Knoxville, TN. His author blog can be found at http://portalsandpathways.wordpress.com/, and the official website for his Children of Evohe novels resides at https://childrenofevohe.com/.

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Interview: Clay Gilbert

This week, I got to get to know a new indie author. Clay Gilbert is man who writes what he loves: horror, urban fantasy, and science fiction! He’s just released his seventh novel onto Amazon, The Kind Memory’s Children: Book One The Golden Road. And that’s just one of his intriguing novels!

First, let’s get to know Clay with some fun, quirky questions!

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three books would you want with you.
The Bible, Moby-Dick, and Frank Herbert’s Dune.
Dune, that’s a good choice. My favorite science fiction novel, and there is a reason the Bible has endured the centuries whether or not you believe in god or even Judeo-Christianity. Lot of truth about reality found in there.

What animal best describes your personality?
Cats.
Interesting.

If there was one place in the world you’d love to visit, where would it be?
Oakley Court, near Windsor, in the UK, the location for much of the filming of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Are you a cat or dog person?
Cat
I had a feeling after your personality answer!

If you could have a dinner with one historical person, who would it be?
Hmm. Maybe Frank Herbert or Robert Heinlein.
Frank Herbert had such fascinating ideas about the great man fallacy.

 

Now let’s get down to brass tacks!

Besides writing, what are you passionate about?
My Christian faith, and the Bible; music of all sorts, but particularly the music of the Grateful Dead; movies, and books.

What drew you to the craft of writing?
I started writing and reading early, and from the time I realized that there were people who wrote as a job, the way that my father went to his office every day, that’s the job I wanted. I published my first short story at the age of thirteen, in Scholastic magazine. They paid me $25. I never really looked back after that.
Awesome! I never shared what I was writing with anyone at thirteen. Too scared. That, and I couldn’t finish a story before a new idea caught my attention.

When writing a novel, are you a detailed planner or do you fly by the seats of your pants?
Thank you for not using the term ‘pantser.’ I don’t outline. I don’t plan in advance, much. At the same time, my process isn’t as random as what ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ suggests. I usually start with a character, or pair of characters, and let them tell me what the story is. In other words, the conflicts, situations, end goals, and the world my story happens to be set in are all centered around and suited for the people in the story. And I find that they know what’s best for the story much more than I would, if I were to force things. Outlining to me seems like trying to have control over something I don’t want control over.
Interesting take on it.

What has attracted you to writing across such diverse genres as science fiction, urban fantasy, and horror? Of the three, which is your favorite to write about.
I probably consider myself mostly a science fiction writer, although I do have a strong love for horror and urban fantasy as well. I just published a second horror novel, Cassie’s Song, the sequel to my vampire novel Dark Road to Paradise, and I plan on publishing two more horror novels next year, along with more science fiction. The Kind, Book One: The Golden Road is the first of a two-part urban fantasy, and while I like that genre, I don’t know if I’ll have more to say in that area once the second book, To Terrapin and Back Again, is published this fall. We’ll have to see.

Tell us about Annah, the heroine from your Children of Evohe Series. What makes her such an intriguing character to read about?
I sometimes refer to the first book of that series, Annah and the Children of Evohe, as ‘Jane Eyre’ in space. Like Charlotte Bronte’s heroine, Annah is an outcast in her world, and an independent thinker. Also like Jane, Annah finds love with a much older man—the human Gary Holder, whose ship crash-lands on Annah’s homeworld of Evohe, and whom she nurses back to health. Unlike Jane, though, Annah becomes a messiah figure to her people, similar to Paul Atreides in Frank Herbert’s Dune. And that was one of the things I wanted to explore when I started that series—why are there no female messiah-figures in fiction, science fiction specifically? What would it be like to merely want to fit in, and to have this sort of destiny put upon you? Annah’s interesting because she has a strong desire to belong, but the other things she feels called to do can’t help but divide her from her people in some ways. She’s also not some kind of flawless, perfect heroine. She has many strengths, but she also has fears and weaknesses and failings, and certainly doesn’t always do the right thing.
That does sound interesting. Nice foundation to build off of!

Eternity and its City sounds intriguing. What was the inspiration behind Eternity’s quest to lead it to freedom?
I wrote the original draft of Eternity between my senior year of high school and my freshman year of college, or, in other words, between the ages of seventeen and eighteen, the same time period that passes for Eternity in the novel. I revised it a number of times, but it’s surprising to me that, in its published form, it’s still about 75% the book that seventeen-year-old me wrote all those years ago. The inspiration was twofold, really: I’ve also enjoyed dystopian books like Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’ s 1984, but I also enjoy coming-of-age stories like S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. I wanted to write a dystopian novel in which the broad political struggle was more a metaphor for the growing-up process of adolescence. It was very immediate struggle to me when I first wrote the book, because it was pretty much my life, or how I experienced it, internally. Revising it, later, as a adult, I was able to refine the raw emotions and the inexperienced prose style of my younger self into a form that, if seventeen-year-old me could see it, I think he’d say that was what he meant in the first place. Next year, I’m writing a sequel called Islands of Light. It takes place thirty years later, and, like the original book, will attempt to function on two levels. What do the struggles of youth look like to an adult, thirty years on? And also, what happens, politically, when you win a war? We won, but do we become the oppressors now? What does that look like? I’m looking forward to going back to the City and exploring those issues.

What do you have coming up next?
So far, in 2018, I’ve published The Conversationalist, Book One: Out of the Blue, the first part of a sci-fi romantic comedy, Cassie’s Song, the second book in my vampire series Tales of the Night-Kind, and the first book of the urban fantasy The Kind, entitled The Golden Road. This fall, I’ll be publishing Book Two of The Kind, titled To Terrapin and Back Again, the second Conversationalist novel, entitled Mission to Mercy Prime, and the fourth Children of Evohe novel, Annah and the Arrow.

Last, do you have any advice for a new or aspiring author?
Write what you love, not what you think is going to sell. You must be your primary audience, starting out. If you write a story you are passionate about, other people will be, too. Write from passion, not fashions or trends. Write every day. Treat it like a job. Same time, same place, every day, for as much time as you can spare. Dismiss the idea of ‘writer’s block’ from your mind. ‘Writer’s block’ is made up BS that people use as an excuse not to do their work. If you had a stopped-up toilet, and the plumber showed up and apologetically said he couldn’t do his job because he had ‘plumber’s block, would you stand for that? Don’t stand for it in your writing, either. Set a goal. I try for an average of 20,000 words, or ten pages, a day. Whatever your daily goal is, don’t stop until you achieve it, and eliminate ‘can’t’ from your vocabulary.
That is some great advice that I personally agree with. Writing is my job, and I try to keep a schedule for it.

Well, thank you for letting me get a chance to talk to you! I wish you well on your writing!

Clay Gilbert says he’s always liked stories, and that from the time he knew there were people who told them for a living, that’s what he wanted to do. Clay’s work in various genres has been in print since his first short science fiction story, “The Computer Conspiracy,” was published in Scholastic magazine when he was just thirteen. Clay is the author of the science fiction series Children of Evohe, including the novels Annah and the Children of Evohe, Annah and the Exiles, Annah and the Gates of Grace, and Annah and the Arrow. He is also the author of the YA dystopian novel Eternity, the science fiction novel The Conversationalist: Out of the Blue and its sequel, The Conversationalist: Mission to Mercy Prime, as well as the vampire novel Dark Road to Paradise, and its sequel, Cassie’s Song, all published by Dark Moon Press. He lives and works in Knoxville, TN. His author blog can be found at http://portalsandpathways.wordpress.com/, and the official website for his Children of Evohe novels resides at https://childrenofevohe.com/.

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