|The Midnight Land|
E. P. Clark
Tell us a little about yourself:
I spent my early childhood in Western KY, riding horses (I was convinced I was going to be on the US Equestrian Team one day, despite all evidence to the contrary) and running around pretending to be a unicorn. I was homeschooled, which was a tremendous advantage as far as my creative and academic development was concerned. Then when I was a teenager my family moved to Russia, and I went with them. I spent the next several years first in Russia, then in England, then in Italy, before returning to the US for good, this time to North Carolina. I got my BA from UNC-Charlotte and decided to apply to grad school. To my surprise—I still can’t explain how it happened—I got into an MA program in Russian at Columbia, which I was NOT aware was a big deal until I actually showed up. Other adventures happened, and I ended up getting my Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures from UNC-Chapel Hill. I’ve worked teaching Russian at various places, including Notre Dame and Wake Forest University, which is where I’m currently working.
What genre do you write in?
Fantasy! Epic, epic fantasy!
Tell us about your latest book:
The Midnight Land: Parts One and Two is the story of Slava (Krasnoslava Tsarinovna), younger sister to the Empress of all of Zem’. Her family has powers of clairvoyance that manifest themselves differently in every generation, and Slava, to her sister’s disgruntlement, is the only who has inherited them. She’s basically empathic, although she also has occasional visions in a more traditional sense, and can sometimes affect other people with her thoughts. Anyway, she’s pretty miserable in Krasnograd, the capital city, where she’s the target of bullying because of her gifts, and, we discover as the story goes on, even worse abuse as well, so she takes off with an exploring party going up to map the area beyond the sunline, i.e., the Arctic Circle. In Part One she makes this long journey through Zem’, somewhat a la Gogol’s Dead Souls, up to the sunline, and discovers that her magic is growing stronger and stronger. In Part Two she has to deal with intrigue, treason, plotting on the part of the gods, and most of all her own fears, as she returns to Krasnograd and has to face her sister and all the other princesses. It’s set in a matriarchal, matrilineal society that somewhat resembles Russia (all the names are in Russian, for example, so be warned!). I think of it as feminist although it’s not exactly feminist in the same way as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for example. Slava isn’t really a woman of action, despite her journeying. It’s just that everyone assumes that women should hold power because of their obvious natural advantages such as longer life expectancy, greater facility with reading, writing, and interpersonal relationships, lack of a tendency to commit violent crimes, and most of all, because matrilineal descent is very easy to keep track of. Gender roles and relationships are pretty similar in many respects to how they are in our society, it’s just that daughters generally inherit and rule, not sons, so the reader is given a strong sense of inversion and estrangement as the characters, for example, pray for the birth of a daughter and worry about how they’re going to raise and take care of their sons.
When did you first know you wanted to be writer?
When I first learned to write. It’s been my goal ever since.
Are there any books or writers who have particularly influenced or inspired you as a writer?
So many! From the fantasy side, I’d have a hard time choosing between George R.R. Martin and Terry Pratchett, although I’d say my writing is probably on the surface more Martinesque. I also LOVE Jacqueline Carey. And of course J.R.R. Tolkien is a huge influence. You can find more or less explicit references to all of them in The Midnight Land. From the Russian side, I deliberately weave in references to Pushkin, Tolstoy, Gogol, Pavlova, and various others throughout the narrative. For example, the phrase that keeps repeating itself “Somewhere far to the South—perhaps on the Middle Sea” is a reference to Pushkin’s “little tragedy” “The Stone Guest,” and the discussion in Part Two about being starved for love is a reference to Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. And that hardly even scratches the surface! I have so many conscious and unconscious influences on my writing that it’s hard to keep track of them.
What is your proudest moment as a writer so far?
Hmm, it’s been really great to have friends and family call me or write me to tell me how much they love the books. It was also really exciting to get my first 5-star reviews. And right now as I’m writing this I’m giddy because I’m doing a free promotion on Kindle and I totally overfulfilled the plan like a true hero of labor and blew past the sales goal I’d set for the entire week in less than 24 hours. So that’s awesome!
Have you ever considered branching out into other genres? If so which other genre/s would you like to write in?
I originally wanted to write detective novels and even wrote some drafts, which never went anywhere, but I like to keep a slight “detective-y” flavor in my fantasy novels, I can tell when I read them. Right now I’m really into romance and have been reading a lot of that. I’d kind of like to give it a whirl but I’m not sure I’m ready yet!
Why did you decide to be an independent author?
I’d tried to get agented several years ago when I first decided to get serious about writing, but with no success. Not that I tried all that hard—I think I only submitted to 12 agents—or that I necessarily deserved any success at the time, but it wasn’t like anyone was throwing contracts at me, and I just kind of moved on and decided to work on my writing career in different ways. Then I ended up in the absolutely brutal world of academic publishing and the academic job market, and I was like, “I just cannot handle any more rejection or criticism.” I wanted my novels to be something I could be proud of and something I could take joy in, not something that, by the time they came out, I felt nothing but alienation and revulsion for. And the independent publishing platforms have come a long way in recent years, enabling indie authors to gain a much bigger toehold in the market and put out good quality products, so it seemed like something worth trying out.
If one of the big 5 publishers offered you a contract tomorrow would you swap indie for traditional publishing, stay as you are or try to do both?
That would depend on how much money and artistic control they offered me. If they offered me a lucrative contract, lots of marketing support, and final say on the finished product, then of course I’d say yes. If they wanted to take away a lot of my rights and artistic control, then I’d have to say no.
What's the biggest challenge you've faced as an indie?
Getting the word out to readers! It’s really hard to reach readers. As a reader, I’ve also realized that there are loads of talented authors out there that I’d never heard of before and I might never have heard of if I hadn’t taken up indie publishing myself. So I now read interviews like this one and connect with authors on Twitter and Goodreads to find most of my reading material.
What are you working on at the moment?
The Breathing Sea, the next book in the series begun by The Midnight Land. Between marketing The Midnight Land and my actual day job, I haven’t been able to focus on it as much as I’d like, but it’s still coming along.
Where can people buy your books and connect with you?
My Website: I’m trying to read and review a lot of other indie authors, so if you’re interested in my recommendations, check any of those sites out!
N.B. This author interview does not constitute the endorsement of the featured writer or their work by this blog. This interview is provided as part of a free promotional opportunity for indie authors.