Hey Space Cadets, how’s everyone doing today? I’m doing amazing, going through the scheduled panels to pick my RavenCon schedule. I should have that posted this weekend, so if you’re there you can say hello! Now, let’s get right to the point of my latest blog posting! Yes, I’ve gotten bit by the interview bug! They’re still super fun, because I get to talk to a lot of interesting people. Would you believe I was once called “motor mouth” as a kid? I know, it’s hard to believe! Anyway, enough about me, here is another installment of the SciFy Shenanigans. I took out my weed whacker – and cut the weeds back enough that I found MK Clark! Grab your popcorn and enjoy the ride!
Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, Children of All Ages……MK Clark
First, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
Obviously, I love to write. What I love most about where I’m at right now is that I get to write all day at work and then come home and write some more.
I currently live and work in the “keep it weird” city of Austin, TX. I work downtown as a technical writer, so I get to see all different kinds of people coming in for the conferences and the cons and SXSW, etc. It can be a lot of fun and it provides a lot of inspiration, even though it makes public transportation crazy.
When I was younger, I wanted to be an astronaut or a fighter pilot. As I got older, I figured out that you had to be good at taking orders or science, and neither of those was really my specialty. So, I had to figure something else out. And although I started writing when I was 14, but up until my junior year of college, it was just a hobby, not something I really wanted to pursue. So, with a year and a half left to go, I switched majors and broke out into the world of writing.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Before I switched majors, I was actually on the road to graduate with a degree in dance. My goal was to dance with the ballet corps in NY.
I’ll go out on a limb and assume that if you write books you also enjoy reading them. What other genres do you enjoy reading, and how have they affected your writing?
I really do enjoy reading. My husband and I have a whole library in our house. I really enjoy reading sci-fi and fantasy, although he is a fan of the dystopian and zombie apocalypse, but we both also really enjoy historical fiction as well.
So, I think a big one for me is that, I love science-fiction, but none of my friends did, because it was too “dry” for them, too technical. So when, I started to really think about writing and writing sci-fi, I had to look at the differences between sci-fi and fantasy and ask myself, why does my best-friend love this book, and not this one? And I’ve tried to use that to make my stories enjoyable to everyone, a way for someone to ease into the genre, without losing the wonder of sci-fi.
Who are your biggest writing influences?
Orson Scott Card has been a huge influence for me. I was captivated with his books and tried to get everyone I knew to read them. At the same time, I’ve been fascinated by Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, I love how real she makes things, how chaotic and yet relatable in a “I’ve been there” kind of way. And she’s funny. I admire that. I want that for myself.
Who are your favorite authors and books?
Brian Jacques will always be a favorite of mine. His Redwall series was probably my most read growing up until I found Card. But in addition to that, I have quite an eclectic collection of favorite books from the Nine Princes of Amber and the Golden Compass, to Grapes of Wrath and Life of Pi, to Momo and Howls Moving Castle, as well as The Book Thief and All’s Quiet on the Western Front.
What is your preferred writing style?
I enjoy writing in third person, past tense. I’m not a huge fan of present tense. I don’t do it well, even though others have. When they do, I am both impressed and flummoxed by it at the same time.
How did that lead you deep into the weeds of the writing life?
To be honest, I hated writing as a kid. I distinctly remember being in the fifth grade and getting straight A’s in all my subjects except English. I only really started writing because my sister used to write, and my father would read her stories and encourage her, and I was jealous. So, really, I have jealously and my fiercely competitive nature to thank.
When did you get serious about your writing?
That’s a hard question to answer. As I’m not entirely sure myself. I’ve already said how it started, but we moved in the middle of all that, and I was mad, so I threw myself into writing as an escape. Somewhere in those high school years, I realized, I had a real story here, and if I could finish it, I could do something with it. The best I can say is high school, even though I never intended to go into a writing career until half-way through college.
What is your current novel? Tell us a little bit about the premise?
My current novel, is actually my first. It’s call Space Jumpers and it follows the life of Don O’Hara, son of a well-known General in a long-running war with an alien race. But it doesn’t just follow Don’s life, the novel starts out about two decades after Don’s story begins. This snapshot provides readers a glimpse of how Don is known, he’s not the hero, almost everyone hates him and wishes he’d left their lives well enough alone. After that, readers are transported back in time to the beginning of Don’s story and how he started this journey to being the most hated man alive.
At some point in high school we were studying WWII and I happened across the history of Alexander the Great at the same time. I just couldn’t get over the idea of how this guy, who probably was responsible for the death of more people than Hitler was known as “the great.” The idea of hindsight being 20/20 and winner’s writing the history books caught me and I knew I wanted to write a story that embodied this and it just so happened that Don’s story was the perfect one for it.
Space Jumpers is obviously a series, where can we expect it to go?
Space Jumpers is just the first part of Don’s story. The series is called The Young Soldier. In the next book Pursuing Dreams, which I’m currently editing and getting ready to publish, reader’s will continue to see snapshots of the future in parallel with “present” events that provide readers with all the answers on how it happened and why. In this way, it really is left up to the reader on whether Don was justified or not in his actions and how he should be judged.
Where did you find the inspiration for Space Jumpers?
This book grew out of a different story I was writing, a very different story. It was going to have 5 main character’s and be told from their POV’s. I was developing the characters and giving them backgrounds and I just fell in love with Don’s character. So, I put everything down and started writing his story and the world he came from. And, if I’m remembering right, about three of the characters from that original story made the cut for The Young Soldier series.
Your characters from Space Jumpers are sent into a gladiatorial death match. Who wins?
Wow, that’s a lot of characters, but I’d say, probably the Suit, Nathan. He’s a minor character, but he’s ruthless and has a darkness in him that I think gives him a leg up.
What do you listen to while you write? Or do you prefer silence?
I have three Pandora channels that I’ve tweaked to my liking. They’re based off of Disturbed, The Halo Soundtrack, and the Skyrim soundtrack. Before Pandora was a thing, I listened to music composed by Justin R. Durban, and still do. His music is forever tied to the book for me.
What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve looked up in the name of research – or what do you think the government has maybe flagged you for?
So early on, when I knew this was going to be a book about war, I had to brush up on my military knowledge, including weapons, bombs, etc. At the same time, our high school had a bunch of bomb threats in a row, and I thought for sure someone would come knocking at our door.
What was your favorite part of writing Space Jumpers?
My favorite part was probably when I re-wrote the first three chapters. I’d always hated how the book started, so when I finally did something about it, and found that I liked the result, I was super happy.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing your main characters from Space Jumpers?
You know, I’ve never really seen any one actor or actress. I actually always thought it would make a good manga or anime series.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
These days I generally write at night or on the weekend as I work during the day. And I’m happy with that. I really enjoy working as a technical writer. I feel like I get the best of both worlds right now.
Do you aim for a set number of words/pages per day?
Nope, words or pages per day was never really my thing, it’s more about scenes for me. I try to get through one or two scenes based on the time I have.
When you develop your characters, do you already have an idea of who they are before you write or do you let them develop as you go?
I think it’s a little bit of both. There are characters that I know are essential to the story, but they are a part of a future book, so I know key things about them, but I’m not focused on them yet, I’ll develop them when I get there. Others I developed a long time ago, but sometimes I still learn new things about them as I’m writing.
If Space Jumpers had a theme song what would it be?
I don’t know about a theme song for this book, but I think, the series as a whole would be “This is your life” by Switchfoot. I think it really captures both the immediate question Don struggles with of who he is and what he’s going to do with his life? But it also embodies the idea of looking back on everything that’s happened and wondering if he is now who he started out to be. I’ve always wanted to do a music video to this song, I even did the story boards for it a while ago.
Space Jumpers is full of many amazingly talented characters and I imagine it was really fun to create some of them, but which one was your favorite and why?
Probably Tony. I really love Tony. I think he’s relatable. He hates mornings, likes his life and the comforts of home. He’s at basic because he has to be, but when it’s over, he’s just going to go back and return to his old happy life. He’s not caught up in the war like everyone else. He’s figured out that its ok that war isn’t his thing, it doesn’t have to be. I love that about him. He’s just very sure of who he is and what he wants.
Of course, most of this isn’t in the book because it’s about Don, not Tony, but that’s kind of the background behind Tony. And I really think it’s interesting that he’s the guy that is Don’s best friend, because all Don wants is war. It’s an interesting balance.
What advice do you have for writers who are just starting out?
Get someone to talk to. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of figuring it out yourself or thinking your idea isn’t good enough yet to share. Having other people’s input has been so valuable to this experience, and I’m not talking about Beta readers, I’m talking about people that act as sounding boards AS you are writing.
Thankfully, I had my sister as a sounding board in high school. She really helped me get through the beginning sludge and figure out what story I was telling. I could come to her with questions or suggestions and use our discussions and answers to help me develop my story. Even if I disagreed with her responses, I had to work through the disagreement to figure out why and then I had what I needed to move forward.
I hope you enjoy this little conversation, and if you want to find out more about [MK Clark] then follow the rabbit trail to their warren in the internet! If they don’t like it, beat ‘em with a carrot and keep on truckin’!
Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!
–> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are screen shots taken by JR Handley and used under the Fair Use Doctrine.
–> Some of these interview questions were inspired by my good friend TeacherofYA, and are used with her permission. If you have kids who love to read, she’s the girl who’ll make the literary introductions! You should check her out, after a lifetime of reading, your kids will thank you.