Interview – Naomi Clark, author of Undertow
Self-Publisher’s Showcase: Today we are joined by Naomi Clark, author of Undertow: Book 1 in the Ethan Banning series. Welcome to the Showcase Lounge, Naomi. For any of our readers that haven’t come across your work previously, can you take a moment to tell us all a little about yourself?
Naomi Clark: Sure! I’m an urban fantasy/paranormal romance writer with a love of all things werewolf, Lovecraftian, and wacky. I live in Cambridge, UK with my fiancé, my cat, and two snakes, and when I’m not writing, I make perfume and drink fancy tea.
SPS: What are your perfect writing conditions, and how often do you write?
NC: If I waited for my perfect writing conditions, honestly, I’d never write. In a perfect world, it would be me, one of my writing playlists, essential oils in the burner, and a cup of vanilla chai tea. In the real world, I generally write on my lunch breaks at work. I work in a hospital, so as you can imagine, it’s not very peaceful! But I’ve learnt to tune out my surroundings. I try to write daily, but I have an arm injury that occasionally makes that impossible. I just snatch moments wherever I can at the moment!
SPS: Can you put your finger on the moment where you decided that you wanted to publish your work?
NC: I think as soon as I was old enough to realise being published could be a job that was the job I wanted. I’ve always, always written – one of my earliest memories is filling little notebooks with stickers and writing stories about the pictures. So I don’t know if there was one moment where it clicked for me, more of a dawning realisation.
SPS: Why do you think it is that you have found yourself writing in the style/genres that you do?
NC: I love mythology and folklore, always have. I always went for fantastical stories as a kid, anything with dragons or magic. Urban fantasy appealed to me because it combined the magic with the real world – I love the idea that our mundane world could be hiding witches and werewolves. Discovering the genre was a definite light-switch moment for me. There was just too much potential for fun to be ignored!
SPS: Can you take a moment to tell us all about Undertow?
NC: Undertow is the story of Ethan Banning, a demon-possessed private eye who loves whiskey, smoking, and his dog, Mutt. More than that, it’s a story about addiction, despair, fighting back against impossible odds, and finding reasons to keep fighting. Also sea monsters.
SPS: Where did you draw inspiration from when creating Ethan’s character?
NC: Growing up, I had a real fascination with PIs and noir. I love James Ellory’s books, the Tex Murphy video games, The Maltese Falcon…The hardboiled, cynical characters and tone really appealed to my sense of humour, and I put all that into Ethan. But I think there are also parts of him that come from my first love of epic fantasy. The idea of the downtrodden hero thrust into a world he doesn’t understand – that’s a big part of him.
SPS: What can you tell us of the intentions of the demon that has hitched a ride in Ethan?
NC: They’re bad. The Voice feeds on misery, so it needs to keep Ethan miserable to survive. To quote Ramsay Snow, “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”
SPS: You strike us as someone who likes to add humor to a situation. Is there plenty of dark humor to be found in your Ragnarok publishing debut?
NC: I like to think so! I think it’s needed – there are a lot of dark things happening in this book. Self-harm, addiction, murder, demons…you need the occasional light moment. I think Ethan has a certain wit to him (although I also think he’s not as funny as he thinks he is), and I love dry, sarcastic humour myself, so I try to balance out the nasty stuff with flashes of levity. I think Ethan often finds himself in situations where it’s “laugh or go mad.”
SPS: Did you create the ‘quaint and creepy’ seaside town of Beacon’s Point from your own experiences in seaside towns?
NC: Partially. I do love seaside towns, and we visited a lot on holiday when I was a child. Some of them I revisited as an adult and found that my childhood memories – where everything was bright, exciting and gleaming – were a little off. I wanted Beacon’s Point to evoke a Lovecraftian setting, somewhere like Innsmouth or Kingsport, where on the surface everything looks normal, but if you pay attention, you start to see the rot.
SPS: Who else of note character-wise could a reader look forward to meeting in Undertow?
NC: Mutt! Ethan’s canine sidekick and moral compass. And I have to confess, I do enjoy the Voice, for all that the demon is the villain of the piece. Bad guys get the best one-liners, after all. You’ll also meet trainee necromancer, Corey Decker, who is just too nice to not help Ethan, despite Ethan clearly being a walking disaster.
SPS: How far ahead have you mapped out the series? Do you have several stories in the works or is it one at a time and see where it takes you?
NC: I’m about two-thirds done with the sequel, Descent. I’m not a plotter – I generally have a vague idea of where I want a story to start and finish and everything that happens in between is a surprise to me. I don’t think it’s always the most efficient way to write, but I don’t seem to be able to change it! And I do have a couple of other projects on the go, so if I get stuck on one thing, I switch to the other.
SPS: What kind of responses have you received from people who have read your work?
NC: I’ve been honoured to get great responses. I feel like my stuff is quite niche, so when you get a good review it’s a huge boost and reassurance. My friends have all been massive cheerleaders when I’ve gone through periods of self-doubt, and Undertow would probably still be languishing on my hard drive if not for that.
SPS: What’s next on the indie-publishing horizon for Naomi Clark?
NC: More Ethan! Look out for an Ethan short story later this October. I’m also working on another urban fantasy that’s extremely close to my heart, and I’d love to get that into the world in 2015.
SPS: Was the Self-Published/Indie-Published route always your preferred route for your work?
NC: When I first got serious about being published, self-publishing wasn’t really a viable option. I feel lucky to have seen it turn into a solid career path for writers, and to have found books that otherwise would never have been published. Ideally, I want to be a hybrid author – combining self-publishing with working with e-publishers. It suits my style, and it fits around my day job and my perfume business.
SPS: Has the experience so far been all that you thought it would be?
NC: Yes – it’s been hard work, but the hard work means the pay-offs feel even more rewarding!
SPS: If you could give one piece of advice for someone looking to get into writing, what would it be?
NC: Just write. Give yourself permission to write crap (because sometimes you will), be passionate about what you write, and read widely. Those are the basic tools I think you need.
SPS: Before we bring this interview to a close, it’s your chance to name-drop. Anyone who you feel is deserving of more recognition at present or someone whose writing you have recently enjoyed? Now is your chance to spread the word…
NC: My super-talented friend Olivia R Burton has her first novel, Mixed Feelings, coming out this year. It’s a really funny urban fantasy that I was lucky enough to beta-read, and I can’t wait for people to get to read her work! I also recently read, and loved, Shane Berryhill’s Bad Mojo. I think people who loved that will enjoy Undertow, and vice versa. It’s really gritty, southern-gothic urban fantasy, and that’s a winner for me. And I’m currently reading Iron and Velvet by Alexis Hall, a new-to-me author. It’s GLBT urban fantasy set in London, the dialogue is fantastic, and it has a PI in it. I definitely recommend people check out all these authors!
SPS: Thank you for joining us today Naomi, and all the best for the future.
NC: Thank you for having me!
SPS: For more information on Naomi and her work, please do visit her Showcase Author page here.