Interview with Gwendolyn Clare
Who are you? What’s your genre/history/etc?
Gwen: I’m Gwendolyn Clare. I’ll write (and read!) any genre that falls under the speculative umbrella, though I tend to write short SF and long contemporary fantasy. I’m also a PhD candidate in biology, so I research and teach nonfictional science for my day job.
What’s your Race score?
Gwen: Right now, 12, which is low but I’m not stressing about it. After all, if a story is fattening up your race score, that means it isn’t selling anywhere. I do think it’s important to keep sending ’em back out until either they sell or you decide to trunk them for good — I’m just not a particularly numerically motivated writer, I suppose.
When did you “get serious” about being a writer?
Gwen: 2006. I took a year off after college and wasn’t doing much besides working part-time and writing grad school applications, so I had some room to breathe for the first time in a while. It gave me the chance to examine my priorities and figure out that I needed to put the spec fic back into my life.
What are your goals with your writing?
Gwen: Back when I started writing seriously, I would have said my main goal was to get a story published in one of the Big Three. Well… check! My story “Ashes on the Water” appeared in the Jan ’11 Asimov’s. My next big hurdle as a writer is to publish a novel, and I’m toiling away toward that goal now.
Where do you see your career in 5 years?
Gwen: Pretty much where it is right now, only more so. It would be nice to keep selling short stories and start selling novels, but I don’t intend to quit my day job anytime soon. If I did, I’d probably spend most of the time engaged in “cat-waxing” activities and not actually get that much more writing done. Luckily for me, writing is one of those careers that doesn’t have to be performed in the 9-5 timeslot.
Do you have a particular story or idea you are dying to write? Or, if you could write a tie-in to any established universe/franchise, what would it be?
Gwen: I’m not much for tie-ins, but I do have much love for www.shadowunit.org, the greatest fanfic-inspired collaborative project ever. I’m drawn to collaborative efforts in general, and particularly those that explore creative uses of different media. I’d love to write a graphic novel someday, for much the same reasons.
What are your hobbies outside writing?
Gwen: I practice martial arts more-or-less seriously, my current style being I Liq Chuan, a Chinese-Malaysian style of kung fu that’s very subtle and challenging. I’m a lapsed artist in plenty of other forms — modern dance, acting, pottery, painting, photography, folk music — but it’s impossible to keep up with all of them. I’m focusing my energy on writing and martial arts for now.
What’s your writing process like?
Gwen: Like a tortoise. I write maybe one or two pages a night before bed. Sometimes on weekends, I’ll go wild and write a whole five pages in one sitting. I pick away at stories, always slowly, often with difficulty. I don’t wait for inspiration; I think “the muse” is a metaphor writers use as an excuse to not write. Not writing is easy. I could not write any day of the week (and sometimes do). Putting words on the page is work — enjoyable work, yes, but definitely work.
What’s been toughest about your journey so far as a writer? How do you keep yourself going?
Gwen: The toughest part, I think, is coming to terms with the fact that those first couple novels probably aren’t going to sell, ever, period. It’s easy to trunk a short story because the investment is much less, but it’s hard to accept that your novel — a labor of love that cost you months of time and effort — may be just not up to snuff. That’s part of growing as a writer, though. Most writers have to fight their way through at least one crap novel before they figure out how to do it right. The important thing is to not let past failures shake your faith in the awesomeness of your current project, and that’s something I struggle with.
Any tips or tricks you’ve figured out for improving your writing?
Gwen: There’s a plethora of writing advice out there, so my tip is to only follow advice if it works for you. Everyone’s creative process is different. If a particular approach isn’t helping improve the quantity and quality of your finished products, toss it out the window. Take the topic of revision, for example: some writers swear by it, others swear against it, but the reality is that different stories require different amounts of revision to get where they need to be. Applying any one dogma to all situations not only runs the risk of failure, it will fail reliably at least part of the time.
And finally, got anything you want to pimp?
Gwen: Watch the Clarkesworld website for my recent sale, “Perfect Lies,” which goes live on March 1st. I also have a story in Ekaterina Sedia’s forthcoming anthology Bewere the Night (Prime Books, available April 19th). I blog semi-regularly over at gwendolynclare.livejournal.com
Thanks to Gwendolyn for doing this interview. I’ll try not to hunt her down in her sleep for getting a spot in “Bewere the Night” (I had a story held for it (for 5 months!) and then rejected at the last minute, but I’m not bitter. Yet *grin*). Be sure to check out her Clarkesworld story, it’s pretty freakin’ awesome.