by Gina Lee Nelson
Happy New Year, members of North Texas. Let’s kick off 2013 by learning more about one of our new PAN authors, the lovely and prolific Clover Autrey.
Clover joined North Texas Romance Writers in 2008. She has served our chapter for three years as PRO Liaison and Web Director. She brings a quiet confidence and intelligence to all she tackles. I am thrilled that she will serve our chapter this year as president-elect and as president in 2014.
When did you write your first story? What was it about?
I wrote my first book way back in 1991. It was a journey-type fantasy and wasn't very good, but I learned a ton from being brave enough to show it to other writers who helped me see my mistakes. It's buried in a box somewhere. Actually, I think I have a copy on one of those old square floppy discs.
What led to the publication of your first book withThe Wild Rose Press? What was it called? How long did the whole process take, writing, proposal, and sale?
I had the book written before I started sending it out to agents and editors. This was in 2006 when e-book publishers were just gaining ground and were still the unpopular black sheep of the publishing world. I'd gone to World Con in Austin and hit it off with the editor of a no-longer-existing publishing company. She thought the book would be great for a Young Adult line she "might" be launching in a year. I didn't want to wait on a maybe. Turns out it was a smart move as that line never did launch, and I started researching the newer small presses. I liked two, sent out queries, and both wanted the book, so I went with The Wild Rose Press mainly because their covers weren't as awful as the others. (You have to understand that back then, a lot of the e-book covers weren't the quality they are now.) That book, too, is a fantasy about a species of people who are able to bond (or mind-meld) with eagles. It, uh, didn't exactly find its audience among the contemporary romance world.
What are your writing habits? Where? When? How often?
Right now, I write about an hour in the morning and get another hour in in the afternoon on weekdays. Forget the weekends. Sometimes I can squeeze more into the day, but more often than not, that's all I get in. It's surprising how much you can get written in just a few hours a day if it's consistent.
What challenges have you had to overcome to be a writer?
What challenges haven't I had to overcome? I've worked really hard at teaching myself the craft. First, with grammar. I devoured every grammar book I could find until I had a good understanding of what I thought I had learned in school. Then worked my way through style guides and conference discs. I couldn't afford to go to any national conferences, but there are so many other resources if you're willing to learn. And I wanted to be a good writer.
How many books have you self-published?
I've published eight books since June of 2011. It was a little scary with thoughts of "Is this going to blackball me from NY Publishers forever?" "Is this just a last ditch effort because my writing sucks?" "What's my agent going to think?" "What if I do it and I still don't sell any books?" But you have to be bold in this business and believe in yourself and your writing, so I took the plunge, publishing three short novellas. And, honestly, although they sold a little, it wasn't anything like the success you hear about, so once again, I was back to "dang, I suck".
It wasn't until I published Highland Sorcerer that the sales took off, which surprised the heck out of me.
How did you get from "dang, I suck" to success with e-books?
I was complaining about how my books weren't gaining any ground, when another author in here who was finding success with self-pubbing blinked at me and said these life-changing words: "Throw a guy with a kilt on the cover and it will sell."
So I said to myself, "I like Scottish hero books. I've read a truckload of them. I can do that." But being me, I had to weave magic into it and so the Highland Sorcery series was born, involving time-travel, witches, vampires, shapeshifters, dragons, gremlins, and any other magical, mythical creature I can pull in or invent.The one thing I didn't do is throw a guy with a kilt on the cover, because that doesn't fit with my author brand of writing what I call "Romance in the safety zone, safe enough to read with your daughter or grandmother, yet not so sweet it will put you in a sugar coma."
To my great joy and relief, Highland Sorcerer started selling, and then when I put up the second book, that sold even more. I started getting readers coming to my Facebook page and blog asking where the next books are. That's never happened to me before. Then all my other books started picking up as some of those readers decided to give my other stuff a try. Like I said, I'm having the best time of my writing life.
Self-publishing your stories led to becoming a member of PAN. It’s obviously a very successful venture for you. What part of the self-publishing process do you enjoy the most?
I like all of it. Making the covers. Deciding when to publish. Not having to wait on a publisher's slot. Right now I'm having the best time I've ever had in my writing career. I feel more relaxed and less anxious about what I'm writing and doing with my life. I feel successful. I feel completely in control of the whole process and am writing the books I want to write even though I know some will sell well and others will take a while to catch on, if they ever do. Maybe they won't.
Are all your stories fantasies? Why fantasy and what other sub-genres do you write?
Yes, almost everything I write has some touch of magic or unlikely occurrence. My favorite reads have all been fantasies starting with Andre Norton, Tolkien, and Terry Brooks, so that's what I write. Believe it or not, the story I just wrote for our North Texas anthology has no magic or fantasy in it at all, just two people fishing and not a magical talking give-you-three-wishes fish either. The next closest book would be The Sweetheart Tree where the only magic is time-travel. The heroine gets thrown back into the middle of the Civil War, and the guy she falls in love with is the guy she knows has to die in order for history to stay on the right course.
As our new President-elect, you will be attending RWA Nationals this year. How do you feel about attending for the first time? What will you do to prepare? Are you attending other reader or writer conferences this year?
I'm very excited about it. I hadn't planned on being able to attend until 2014 when it comes to Texas. Even without the aspect of meeting new people, I'm all worked up over being able to attend the workshops. You all know me, I love gleaning new ideas that will make my writing better. Even if I just learn one new thought from each workshop, it will be worth it.
I will be on the look out for my agent since I've never met her in person before, as well as several different groups of friends I've made online. I know a great deal of names, very few faces to put to them. I'll be taking lots of pictures and generally making an annoying fangirl out of myself. Professional? Uh, am I supposed to act all professional?
I hope to also be part of the Literacy book signing. We'll see how that goes.
If you could be any writer, past or present, which would you be?
Every once in a while I come across a writer that not only weaves a great story, but has a style and way of turning phrases that knocks my socks off. Marjorie Liu comes to mind. I fly through her books for the characters and story, butthen go back through all the dog-eared pages just for the language alone. Rob Thurman is another writer I can't get enough of. She amazes me.
If I had their ability...
Thanks, Clover, for sharing your writing journey with us. NT, let’s support her by checking out her books and her sites:
- Blog: http://clovercheryl.blogspot.com
- Website: http://cloverautrey.org
- Twitter: @cloverautrey
- FB: https://www.facebook.com/CloverAutreyBooks
All Clover's books can be found at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and several other online retailers. And except for the Anointed serialized series, they can also be ordered in print from Amazon.
Death and Kisses
The Sweetheart Tree
The Highland Sorcery novels:
- Highland Sorcerer
- The Vampire and the Highland Empath
- Highland Shapeshifter
- Highland Moon Sifter(coming soon)
- Upon Eagle's Light
- Chase the Wind
- Fallen Warrior(short teaser story)
The Anointed series:
- The Anointed: Demon Trackers
- Banshee's Cry
- A Haunting