10 Questions with Paul Clayton
Front Row Lit wanted to see what makes writers tick. Our most recent installment of “10 Questions With…” features author Paul Clayton
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a father, divorced, a writer, commercially published and ‘indie’ published, a searcher still, at the late age of 63, for what… everything, maybe nothing. Don’t know yet.
When did you first decide that writing was in your future?
Probably after coming home from Vietnam in 1969, or more accurately, two years later after coming out of a drug-fueled ‘decompression.’
Describe the process of finding the right publisher for your work.
Actually, this amounted to finding ‘a’ publisher. When you’re looking to sell that first book, any publisher (almost, unless you’re lucky enough to be represented by a supremely savvy agent) is the ‘right publisher.’
How would you describe your writing style?
It’s hard to describe my writing style. This is like asking me how to describe my lovemaking. If I had to I would use the same words for both, probably…at first, tentative, but sincere… then, as more confidence sets in, strong, yet tender, and hopefully, after many years, assured and passionate.
What inspires your creativity?
The lessons life has forced on me, my own failings, the failings that I see in others, the roads taken, the roads not taken. Injustices, but not the popular ones that have already been taken and done to death. The injustices done by the righteous (the new righteous, not the old bible waving kind) against the ordinary and inarticulate middle class.
Bullying by the ruling class. I was taking a walk in the woods the other day and came upon a large fifty five gallon drum that had been hastily buried. Inside were tens, or hundreds, of thousands of bumper stickers
– Question Authority. Now that the proper people are in authority, no more questioning is required… or allowed.
How often do you get writer’s block and how do you combat it?
The biggest block between me and my writing is time. Even though I’ve been writing for close to forty years, I still have a day job. Actually, any mid-list authors reading this will laugh, as they know it’s the norm. Very few writers live to make a living out of writing. But we get something else out of it besides money. Obviously.
Along with praise for your art, rejection and negative criticism is inevitable. How does that affect your focus and momentum?
I don’t have a problem with the praise. But the rejection and negative criticism make me angry. I think ‘criticism’ has become less critical and more negative. And I think that for some reader/reviewers, there is no longer any respect for the ‘writer.’ Sadly, I guess that is just a consequence of the ease with which a book can now be published. A writer, no matter how talented, puts something of himself or herself out on display for all. As a reader, if I am asked to review a book and don’t like it, feel it has no redeeming merit, I simply will not review it.
And if I feel that it does have merit, but it is not great, I will try and find the positive in it and include that with the review. A famous series writer was asked how she felt about the reviews on Amazon. This writer is a best seller and sells in the millions. She said quite a few of them were so negative and personal that she no longer reads them. I’ve read this about other successful writers also. I think this is something I will try and do also. Unfortunately, on Amazon and other web stores, negative and spiteful reviews are often coupled with low, one-star (out of five) rankings, which can sink the prospects of good, but controversial works. I think that Amazon and other sites should consider policing their reviews more and maybe updating their guidelines. (Yes, I’ve had my share.) Personally, I read the bad ones and go on. It’s a bit like living in a bad neighborhood. You get beat up once in a while. But you just toughen up and go on.
If you weren’t writing, what career path would you choose?
It’s a shame that working as a scribe in an ancient, mountaintop monastery is no longer a career option or I would look into that. I’m a loner and a big fan of civilization, and having three square meals, actually, probably two square meals would be more accurate, a day, and a dry place to lay down at night, soft conversation, an occasional sing along in the chapel…all this would really appeal to me, especially with the rest of the world down below hacking each other to pieces. Actually, this line of work may come back as civilization is again under assault (see Occupy) and maybe if I can hang in there I might secure a position like this in the future. Another career path would be piano player in a whorehouse. The patrons would initially have only my rendition of chopsticks to warm them up as they made small talk. But I think that with enough practice I could work up to some good blues stuff, as long as I can keep the arthritis at bay.
Please tell us a little about your next project.
Titled, In the Shape of a Man, my next work is a dark tale set in sunny California. It is the intertwined stories of two families, one boomer, with children, the other gen X, no children, just a pet boa constrictor, a very large one.
What advice can you offer to aspiring writers?
Don’t do it. There’s no money in it, if there ever was. Forget the occasional stories of people writing one story that makes millions.
There are people who labor all their lives in furniture factories that occasionally purchase winning lottery tickets and make millions too, and the odds for both are the same. With the rapid deterioration of the private business sector, it’s probably better to consider a career as Government Employee Valet, or maybe Government Employee Nanny, maybe Dresser. That’s where the money is today. Good luck!
To order Strange Worlds, go to http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007TY4D1W
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