Kev’s Author Interviews Presents:
Central Pennsylvania, USA
A Short Bio:
Mae Clair opened a Pandora’s Box of characters when she was a child and never looked back. Her father, an artist who tinkered with writing, encouraged her to create make-believe worlds by spinning tales of far-off places on summer nights beneath the stars.
Mae loves creating character-driven fiction in settings that vary from contemporary to mythical. Wherever her pen takes her, she flavors her stories with mystery and romance. Married to her high school sweetheart, she lives in Pennsylvania and is passionate about cryptozoology, old photographs, a good Maine lobster tail and cats.
Kev: What is your latest book about?
It’s a combination of mystery and romance set in a tiny rural town tucked on the edge of a lake resort where a local girl went missing fifteen years earlier. The core of book revolves around two brothers who have been estranged for that same period of time. I enjoy writing about family dynamics and conflict, especially when I’m able to spin that into a tale of redemption. Eclipse Lake is a combination of all of the above. Perhaps the blurb will better clarify:
Small towns hold the darkest secrets.
Fifteen years after leaving his criminal past and estranged brother behind, widower Dane Carlisle returns to his hometown on the banks of sleepy Eclipse Lake. Now, a successful businessman, he has kept his troubled past a secret from most everyone, including his seventeen-year-old son.
But memories in small towns are bitter and long.
Ellie Sullivan, a nature photographer for a national magazine, has a habit of ping-ponging across the map. Her latest assignment leads her to Eclipse Lake where she becomes caught up in of enmity between Dane, his brother Jonah, and a vengeful town sheriff. When freshly-discovered skeletal remains are linked to an unsolved murder and Dane’s past, Ellie is left questioning her growing attraction for a man who harbors long-buried secrets.
Kev: Who or what influenced you to write it?
I’m almost always driven by characters when I write a novel—and the characters in ECLIPSE LAKE definitely demanded my attention—but the setting was the initial catalyst to spur the idea.
I was visiting my sister and her husband who have a vacation home in an area similar to the fictitious one I depict in the novel. I was swimming in the lake when I noticed a park ranger making his rounds through the woods. I couldn’t help thinking….”What if he found a body?”
That’s not exactly how events unfold in the novel, but it was the spark that pushed my muse into overdrive, dreaming up family entanglements, long-buried secrets, and a town that never forgets.
Kev: Did you do any specialised research for your story?
Oddly enough, this was the first novel where I didn’t have to do research. Most all of my novels have aspects or story threads that have involved hours of haunting computer sites, reference books, and (in one case) even traveling to a specific locale, but in this case, I didn’t need to.
Kev: What challenges did you face while writing the story?
Finding the right balance of mystery and romance. Most romance books don’t have enough mystery for me and most mysteries don’t have enough romance. I just know there have to be other readers out there who feel like I do—craving an equal balance of both. Don’t get me wrong—I enjoy a good romance and I love a great mystery, but most times I’d like to have my cake and eat it, too.
Once written, however, it’s even harder reaching the right audience. I’ve been told by a few romance reviewers that my books are too complex. That can be disheartening, but I believe that’s due to the amount of mystery and the supporting characters I factor into each romantic story.
Kev: Who is the protagonist?
Dane Carlisle. Growing up, he was a troubled kid with a chip on his shoulder who ended up going down the wrong path. His choices led him to a stint in prison and a bitter split from his family. Fifteen years later, he returns a changed man, hoping to repair the damage he’s done. He’s now a successful businessman, a widower of three years, and has an adopted teenage son he wants to introduce to the brother he deserted. Unfortunately, he has a lot of fences to mend, and he’s returning to a town where his past reputation hasn’t been forgotten—or forgiven.
Kev: What would you say is the protagonist’s greatest weakness or obstacle and why?
Dane’s greatest weakness is definitely his love for, and loyalty to, his teen son, Jesse. It’s also an obstacle for him, because he’s purposefully avoided telling Jesse about his past. When Dane’s secrets are discovered in a way he never intended, it causes a rift between him and Jesse, setting in motion a series of events that force Dane to acknowledge a painful truth he’s kept hidden for fifteen years.
Kev: What would you say is the main antagonist’s greatest strength?
My villain is the town sheriff, Roy Harland, also the man responsible for sending Dane to prison fifteen years earlier. Oddly enough, Harland’s greatest strength is his love for his daughter, Brenda. Despite the fact she harbored nothing but bitterness for him, Harland would do anything in the world to honor her memory—including doggedly following a path of injustice.
Kev: Could you provide a short passage from your book to give us a taster?
Sure. Since I’ve been talking about Dane and Jesse, I’ll share a short excerpt with the two of them when they first arrive in Eclipse Lake, where Dane grew up:
“You get unpacked?” Dane asked.
“Yeah.” Jesse jerked a thumb over his shoulder, indicating the loft on the upper level of the cabin. “I took the bed upstairs.”
Dane nodded. He closed his empty suitcase and shoved it into the closet. The cabin was clean, not overly large, but roomy. A kitchen, living area, two bedrooms and bath were situated on the main level with a loft wedged beneath the roof peak. When he was a kid, the cabins had attracted hunters and fisherman. While that was still true, the appeal had grown, extending to recreational tourists, nature lovers, and a few oddball travelers like the New Age Cultists entrenched around the bend.
“I don’t care if they worship toads, the man in the moon or Starbucks, as long as they pay and don’t trash the place,” the chatty woman who’d given him a key to the cabin had explained. “Sign here and Cabin Twenty is all yours.”
“So, this is where you grew up?” Jesse pulled him from his thoughts. He plopped onto the bed looking comfortable in faded denim shorts and a baggy green t-shirt.
“More or less.”
Except for the year he’d spent in Wells City Juvie, followed by six months in an adult prison. How did he tell his kid that? Jesse excelled in everything he did: honor roll, student council. He was even a regional archery champion. Nothing like learning your millionaire dad had been a royal screw-up.
“So when are you going to see your brother?” Jesse prodded.
“Uh-huh.” A pause said he wasn’t buying it. “Why’d you leave in the first place?”
Because I was a thief who slept with my brother’s girlfriend. A screwed up kid with nowhere to go but down.
Kev: When you write, do write off-the-cuff or do you use some kind of formula?
A little of both. I’m mostly an off-the-cuff writer but I do make a few pages of notes prior to starting a new novel. Mostly character drafts detailing the backgrounds of my main characters, along with defining moments in their lives and anything that influences their current behaviour. I’ll even outline the first 2-3 chapters of a novel, but I never know the middle of a book, or even the end, when I start. The way everything turns out is often a surprise to me.
Kev: How do you deal with writers-block?
Hopefully, I’m not jinxing myself by saying this, but I can’t remember the last time I had writer’s block. It’s been years. *knocking on cyber wood* What I do experience are moments when the words don’t flow as smoothly as I would like. On those occasions, I force myself to doggedly plod along. What I write is normally crap, but I know I can always fix it later. It’s better to write a scene that needs to be tweaked and enhanced rather than writing nothing at all.
Kev: Preference for writing: Day or Night?
Day. Part of rarely getting bogged down by writer’s block is having a disciplined schedule. At least that seems to work for me. I have a standing appointment with my muse every Sunday afternoon for 5-6 hours. Just as if I was going to a regular job, I retreat to my office/den and force myself to work on the WIP of the moment. For the most part, my muse cooperates. In the beginning, I had a rough time sticking to that schedule but now it’s second nature.
I will also do some writing in the evenings after I get home from my day job, but that is usually only blog posts and/or making notes.
Kev: What is your process for editing your work?
I like to edit as I go, so I’m constantly going over the same scene multiple times before moving on to the next. It slows down my writing process as a whole, but on the plus side, by the time I reach the end of the novel I have a fairly clean first draft.
Kev: How do you come up with your book covers?
For Eclipse Lake, I wanted something that reflected the setting, and was fortunate enough to find a premade cover that had the look I wanted. The only problem is the colours were wrong, a wash of blues and lavenders that felt wintery to me. I contacted the cover artist, had her change the overall tone to reflect a warmer setting in June, and flesh out the lake shoreline with more trees.
The cover for Solstice Island, a romantic adventure novella involving a sea creature, I did myself. For that, I chose cover models who closely matched my hero and heroine, and I went with a breezy coastal feel to match the setting. My newest, Myth and Magic, releasing June 9th is about ghostly happenings at a secluded lodge. For that I wanted something atmospheric and spooky. I love the old, brooding house on the cover!
Kev: Do you think the book cover is important?
Absolutely! It’s the first impression you make to the reading public—sort of like the lobby of your novel. It has to be your best foot forward, because you only get one chance at a first impression.
I think of covers as eye candy—glittery, enticing treats that beckon you to look further. Personally, if I don’t already know an author, I shop by covers. If the cover intrigues me, I’ll read the blurb, and then I start checking reviews (although they only influence me to a small degree). Covers are the starting domino in the string that determines whether or not I’m going to purchase a novel. I want my cover to be fab!
Kev: Which publishing platform do you prefer and why?
I’ve only used mobi so far, in order that I could publish on Amazon. I’m a Kindle girl, so when I started looking at platforms, that was the first one I wanted to master. I’ve looked at epub, but just have to take the time to work out the quirks. After that I’ll eye up Smashwords. The amount of time involved in indie publishing is daunting, especially when you work a full-time job. It’s finding the time to learn everything, yet still having the time to write, blog, and promote on social media. Ack! I often feel like I’m doing a balancing act on a high wire and one misstep will bring the whole thing crashing down.
Kev: Do you face any daunting obstacles during the publishing process?
Everything is really an issue of time for me. Like many authors, I work a full-time job, so finding the time to not only write my novels, but to format, publish, and promote them is a challenge. Most days I long for a clone. I rarely lack for creative ideas, motivation, or desire. If the sand runs out of the hourglass it’s because there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. What I really need is a genie or a Fairy Godmother to wave a magic wand. I’d love to spend more time as Cinderella at the ball.
Kev: What methods do you use to promote your work?
I’m fortunate to have a network of online friends, so I generally call on them for blog support when I have a new release. I do a lot of blogging myself, haunt social media sites, aren’t above paying for advertising with various sources, and generally always do a paid blog tour. Something new I’m just venturing into is starting a newsletter, which I plan to send out four times a year. I’ve also been known to do giveaways, blog hops, and pretty much anything that is going to make a splash for readers.
Do these sources work? Eh. Some better than others. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a crapshoot, but I always feel the need to play.
Kev: Do you have any advice for new authors?
Stephen King said it best. All I can do is repeat advice I frequently chant to myself when I’m feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and stretched in too many directions with too few results (which is most days).
Per Mr. King: “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”
To me that’s what it comes down to…work, more work, and a plethora of work on the horizon. I would write regardless, because it’s in my blood and I’m passionate about it. That said, there’s no escaping the fact that to achieve even a small measure of success, you have to be willing to commit one hundred and ten percent.
Kev: Which social media platforms do you use the most?
Blogging is my favourite. I can be found at From the Pen of Mae Clair where I’m happy to showcase other authors (look me up!). I also blog every Monday about creatures from mythology, legend, and folklore on a regular feature I call “Mythical Monday.” I’m a fan of cryptozoology and most things of a slightly off-kilter nature, and that tends to come out on my blog.
I also love to tweet. You can find me on Twitter @maeclair1. Of all the social media platforms, it’s my favourite. I’m also active on Google+, Pinterest, Goodreads, and Facebook. I’m not a huge fan of Facebook, but I do have a fairly active author page there and make an attempt to keep it updated. Of course, the best place to find me these days (other than my blog) is to sign up for my newsletter. Because I’m just launching it, I’m doing a $10.00 Amazon gift card giveaway to one randomly drawn winner simply for signing up. I’d love to have new subscribers. 😀
Kev: Is there anything else you would like to add?
In addition to my indie titles, Eclipse Lake, and Solstice Island, I have a several titles through a small press publisher—Myth and Magic, my contemporary romantic suspense, Weathering Rock, a time-travel paranormal romance, and Twelfth Sun, a contemporary romantic mystery with an older woman/younger man that several reviewers said reminded them of the game “Clue.” I hope it’s okay to mention them here.
In closing, I’d like to thank you for allowing me the opportunity to visit your wonderful blog and to connect with your readers. I’m delighted to have found you, and truly appreciate all that you’re doing for indie authors. Indie publishing has opened a door to the publishing world that was previously closed for many of us. But in opening that door, it also means we’ve had to become marketing gurus and social media geniuses. That’s a hard adjustment for most writers who just want to hammer out stories in our small nook of the world. Fortunately, we have others who are willing to help us master the learning curve and spread the word about our accomplishments. Thanks for being one of them!
MAE CLAIR, EVERYONE!