Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Claire Chilton

Claire Chilton has written numerous works including, short stories, poetry and now her debut novel:  Whatever Became of the Squishies. She holds an English Literature BA Hons degree from the York St John University and won the 1997 Editors Choice Award from The International Library of Poetry.  

Check out her website HERE.
And you can buy her book at Amazon.
You can also follow her on Twitter , check out her Blog 
, find her on Goodreads  And Facebook  .

Let's get the plug out of the way. Tell us a little bit about Whatever Became of the Squishies   - who will be interested and why?

CC: This book will appeal mostly to children and young adults. It is a child-friendly fantasy adventure. Although is has been popular with adults too, for its social satire and entertainment value.

Carla Mainston is a rebellious purple teenager, living in the hygiene-obsessed, green-skinned colony of Derobmi. She's encountered racism throughout her young life, and been arrested on many occasions for crimes against cleanliness. Life is lonely and hard for Carla. She craves adventure and a new life - somewhere she belongs.

She lives on the planet of Dumfollab: A world with a misplaced history dating back millions of years to when the Squishies occupied it. History was formed from the rubbish they left behind, and today the planet is a melting pot of cultures and colonies.

In the colony of Derobmi the people are green and clean. They worship the gods of soap powder, and consider it a deadly sin to 'dirty another's carpet'. Colonies developed from empty beer bottles, broken Persil washing balls, and faded crisp packets. Gods, laws, and entire societies have developed from abandoned junk, and after thousands of years, simple phrases like 'how white are your whites' or 'Bud-wi-serrr' have become ancient testaments. Carla's green-hued brother becomes ill with a mysterious disease that runs rampant throughout Derobmi. While looking for a cure Carla is drawn into a dangerous adventure, which spans from the ancient archives, to the dark caverns beneath Foamy Mansion. With new friends, new love, a killer on the loose, early death prophecies, and ominous super powers, Carla must discover more about her own dark history to survive.

TAS: What aspects of being an author do you most enjoy?

CC: The thrill of writing under the influence of pure inspiration has to be my all time favourite moment. There's a wonderful feeling that I can't even begin to describe, when you are suddenly inspired out of nowhere and you sit up and start writing it down. It's a rollercoaster ride and you don't know when it will end, or where. I love those moments, the best story lines happen during this time and you're not just writing an adventure, you're on one!

I read somewhere a long time ago, that writers don't invent stories, they are given them (be it by a muse, the cosmos, or a little story demon sat on their shoulder). I don't know what gives me my stories, but I do love it when he/she/it drops by to take me on another journey.

TAS: What aspects of being an author do you least enjoy?

CC: Editing! The word itself sounds pretty harmless, but editing is like a spreading disease on your lovely pages. You start, thinking it won't take long. Only to find that four months later you're still editing because you keep finding new things you need to do/change/fix. It's an important process though and it does provide your readers with a perfect book, or as close to perfect as you can get. So I do it even though I really don't want to. I suspect if I'm ever driven insane, it will be during the editing of one of my books.

TAS: What moment as an author have you experienced that you are likely to remember 20 years from now (good or bad)?

CC: I've had so many moments where my heart jumps into my mouth in shock and awe, as an author. My first royalty cheque, my first award, my first book sale, when a major UK agent contacted me, when I published my book for the first time, when I got through the first round of ABNA, when I joined Fantasy Island Book Publishing. All of these moments are ones I'll remember for the rest of my life. I don't think I'll ever take life as an author in my stride. At the end of the day I'll always just be Claire writing a story, and then jumping up and down in excited awe that people actually like the stories I wrote. I never really believed my little novel would get off my bedroom shelf and meet the world, but I'm overjoyed that it has.

TAS: What bad habits do you have when it comes to writing/promoting your books and/or what do you wish you could do better?

CC: Oh I'm awful at promoting myself and my book. I babble far too much and always say what I think. I call it 'foot in mouth syndrome'. I'll always be a bit silly, a bit childish and tad inappropriate. I wish I could be one of those people who is always well presented and says the right thing at the right time. But I'm not that stylish, so I'll probably always trip over red carpets, landing with my skirt over my head and mumble 'bollocks' to the cameras. Luckily for me, some people find it endearing or amusing.

TAS: Do you have any specific procedures you follow when you write?

CC: I always start a new project with a short story, to capture the feel of the story as it happens in my head. I find if I take too long to write down the inspiration, it fades away. A short story is a great way to record my ideas in a format that will maintain its original inspiration.

I also still handwrite my novels, it takes longer sure, but I'm a pen and paper addict, I love handwriting my manuscripts. After the first rough version is written, I edit it and type it up on my laptop. I feel a bit like a dinosaur doing that these days, but its how I've always written my stories, and it's how the inspiration flows.
TAS: Do you prefer to write when the room is quiet . . . or do you like to have some background noise?

CC: I can write with some music on not too loudly, although every once in a while I'll get distracted by the lyrics of the song. But I find music is a great motivator for writing powerful scenes. Generally I'll listen to a song while thinking about a scene and turn the music off for the actual writing.

Other people making noises while I'm writing can bring out the 'wrath of Claire'.

TAS: Do you think bestsellers are typically better books than books that don't sell as well? Why or why not?

CC: The cynical marketer in me says bestsellers are the ones that got the best marketing and promotion. People read what they've heard of, so by recommendation more than anything else. In my experience people tend to buy books by the same author, one they enjoy. If they need to find a new author, they look to the book stores, magazines, lists and their friends for recommendations. So regardless of how well a book is written, its sales are controlled by popularity, not quality. Awareness of a novel or an author is more likely to land a book on the bestsellers list, than the quality of the book.

That said, a bestselling book has to be enjoyed to be recommended. So quality does come into it. But there are millions of enjoyable books in the world, and the defining factor between those that are bestsellers and those that are not all comes down to marketing and awareness.

If readers haven't heard of a book, they probably won't try it, no matter how good it is. So no I don't think bestsellers are better books, I just think we're made more aware of their existence.

TAS: Have you ever changed the way you worded something you were writing because you weren't sure the grammatically correct way to say it as originally imagined?

CC: Yes, although Google is my best friend if I'm not sure. But I have had some seriously sticky sentences in my time. Sometimes it's best to sacrifice that inspired sentence for something that makes sense (Oh the pains of editing!)

TAS: Tell us about the most interesting person you’ve ever met.

CC: I've met quite a lot of interesting people in my life. I seem to be drawn to them. The most famous one I know is Derek Landy, he's a lovely interesting Irish guy, with a wicked sense of humour.

TAS: Tell us a little bit about your home town and what makes it special.

CC: I live in York in England. It's a beautiful city with some unique qualities. It's ancient, with Roman walls and the odd Viking wandering the streets. I believe historically it's been a city since the Roman era, where it was called Eboracum. The city today has 365 pubs, one for every day of the year. It also has a large amount of churches in it, and they say you can't walk anywhere in York without walking over a grave, because it's so old, people have died in every spot here. Most recently archaeologists found the graves of gladiators in someone's back garden in York. So it's an old and unusual city. Visitors often find it very beautiful and very nice, because it is. The crime rate is low, the place is scenic and it's a nice city to live in. I've lived in York my whole life, so I don't think anywhere else will ever feel as much like home.

TAS: If you had the opportunity to eat human flesh . . . and no-one had to die, it was already, just sort of there and had been prepared by a chef . . . would you try it?

CC: Not if you paid me! I'm a vegetarian so I wouldn't even eat a well prepared cow, let alone a human being. I'm a firm believer in life is precious, unless it's the life of a carrot, which I have no qualms about munching on. I'm also a big believer in the right to live how you choose, so don't expect any vegetarian lectures from me. People choose their own paths in life; I'd never try to enforce my opinion on others.

I follow a very simple moral code: Live and let live - except for carrots of course, pesky orange blighters!

TAS: Have you ever made up a lie to get out of something, and if so, can you tell us more?

CC: I'm sure I have, but I just can't think of any. I prefer to tell the truth in most things and avoid lying. But I'm not perfect; when it comes to delivering bad news I use little white lies sometimes to soften the blow. Honest to a point of stupid, would describe me perfectly.

If I lie about something, the guilt usually gets to me and I confess the truth about twenty minutes later. I'm awful at keeping secrets!


Alison said...

INcredible interview from an amazing author. I LOVEDWhatever Became of the Squishies!

Anonymous said...

Great interview. I always love getting to know the authors better and getting a look into their writing world.


Anonymous said...

As always, a wonderful interview, Gary! Claire Chilton is one of my favorite authors and 'Whatever Became of The Squishies' has become one of my favorite books. I agree with what Claire says in regard to the quality of books and the awareness of their existence. i have been digging deep into the works of indie authors and there is much gold to be found there!

Sue said...

wow bril interview, thanks for following me, im now following you...

Johanna said...

Paper and pencil! That's amazing but I bet it slows you down enough so that maybe you don't need to do as much of the dreaded editing.

Danielle Raver said...

Sounds like such an interesting book, and an interesting author :)

Claire Chilton said...

Thanks to Gary for doing a great job on this interview and to everyone who's commented on it :)

Claire Chilton said...

Johanna it does help a bit in the editing process. I can handwrite using pure inspiration and put it all together as I type it up - unfortunately it's also a bit like writing two books sometimes. But I do get to sit in the park on sunny days and catch a tan while I'm writing, with just my notebook and my pen in my bag. (I say catch a tan, but in reality the sun reflects off me lol)

Dean Lappi said...

A great interview Claire! I'm looking forward to reading "Whatever became of the Squishies". It has gotten fantastic reviews! Cheers.