About Zeba Clarke:
I wrote my first story age 5, I tried my hand at castaway adventures, wrote my first (unsold) novel at 19 and my first published short story in my mid-20s. I’ve written eleven novels and one book on natural gas, and I’m currently finishing my twelfth. I’m also a teacher. Probably my biggest claim to fame is that I directed a production of Hamlet which was performed on the Great Wall of China.
What inspires you to write?
Pictures and photographs really kickstart my imagination. I love art galleries and sitting in places like cafes and parks to people-watch. While I’m writing, I listen to a lot of different music. I build long playlists for each of my books. I also love epic poetry and mythology. I recently re-read a book of mine because I wanted to see whether, now I’ve got the rights to it again, I wanted to self-publish it, and I realised that I had borrowed names, appearances and sometimes a little dusting of personality from both students and colleagues that I’ve worked with.
Tell us about your writing process.
Although I would like to be a strict outliner, I know I’m not. The openings of my books tend to be a particular moment that I’ve had in my mind’s eye for some time, and I always know roughly where I’m going to end up, but in between can be a roller-coaster. I like being surprised by both the choices my characters make and by the consequences of their choices. I’ve tried to use a whole different range of software for planning, Trello, A Novel Idea, IThoughts, Index Card. I’ve got used to using Storyist, which I really like, but mainly for planning it’s huge sheets of cards, post-it notes and Sharpies. I still tinker with software. I always have a folder for the WIP where I put research, photos, collage, character studies in first and third person, but when I’m writing, it’s all about the big white card, which gets filled with quotations, names of characters, unexpected connections, family trees.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I’m an eavesdropper. I do listen to my characters all the time, but they don’t know I’m there. I watch them, try to give them alternatives, play around with how they might react to a particular bit of news. When I’m in the middle of a scene, it is almost a case of just recording their behaviour and speech. They are very real for me. I hope I make them half as real for the reader.
What advice would you give other writers?
Write from the heart. Go for a first draft with no turning back, no editing, no re-reading. Just go for it, and let your heart take you where it will. Let the unexpected and surreal happen, let your people off the leash, spend days building up their world. Then proof-read, edit, revise, redraft, reshape, and don’t be afraid to cut, slash and burn. So, plant the jungle, feed the jungle, then shape the jungle.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I have always published through others. I’m at the point with my five romances that I have my rights back and I’m considering self-publishing, but it will be a lot of work, because I will have to revise and rewrite quite a bit to tighten them up. I wrote them in a hurry, and I think it shows!
Self-publishing is a hard road to travel. To build a committed audience, produce a terrific quality product with amazing writing and attractive covers is hard work and very time consuming. Even with a traditional publisher these days, writers have to spend a lot of time working on marketing and sales, speaking, going out into schools if you are a YA/children’s writer, offering workshops and so forth. So my feeling is that if I can build a partnership with a good publisher that will protect my writing time, then that is worth sharing the rights and royalties. But if I were in a better position to give up the day job and produce my own books, I would go down the self-publishing route, I think.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
We live in an amazing time. People are forever proclaiming the death of the book, but more people are literate now than ever before in human history, and every year, more people learn to read. However, I don’t think the current situation where writers are squeezed more and more by publishing houses and by very low prices is sustainable. People want good quality stories – it’s not always possible to produce those.
What do you use?: Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer
What genres do you write?: YA, Fantasy, Historical, Romance.
What formats are your books in?: eBook
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit to allow you the reader to hear the author in their own voice.