Interview with Wayne Clark

Published 2017-08-02.
What is your writing process?
After I've convinced myself I have an idea, a character, a situation, worth exploring I make myself sit down at the keyboard first thing every morning, seven days a week. If nothing comes, that's fine because I know from experience that if I stay loose and let my fingers go where they want a scene will start to take shape. In the past I've tried blocking out each scene for an entire novel but that frequently tended for freeze me. I think my nature is better suited to "running with it" because there is more discovery in the writing process, and that can be exhilarating.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I’ve always wanted to write a historical novel. For many years my favorite escape was reading books set in the Age of Sail, 17th and 18th century naval adventures, and of course pirate tales from any era. I daydreamed about being captain of my own ship, the ultimate freedom to my mind. After publishing he & She, which was a work of literary fiction with much of the action taking place only in the protagonist's head, I had an urge to write something different. I toyed with the idea of indulging myself by writing a pirate novel. However before a pirate story solidified in my head I found myself remembering a visit I once made to the Bordeaux waterfront. In the 18th century the city was booming and its port was the most important one economically in France. On its waterfront you would hear a babble of languages from seamen and merchants from around the world. For some reason, the character of my protagonist, Sarah, started to rapidly take shape. I could see her on those congested docks and that’s why in the book I gave her the gift of learning languages, which facilitated her father’s business.

In the early days of planning the book, the idea behind having her and her brother be kidnapped and taken to New York as virtual slaves was to give myself the chance to write about life at sea. Even though the story moves to New York, the focus remains on the docks, on the East River waterfront and the international trade that flowed in and out of the city. Sarah becomes what in those days was often called a she-merchant.
How do you approach cover design?
I read as much as I could about the kind of cover images that stand out and look professional online, when mine might be one of 20 on the page. The cover needs to be clean, not cluttered with type or a confusing image. I then found a graphic designer and asked her to read my book before we discussed ideas. I don't know how many cover designers would be willing to do that. I have a feeling I got lucky, but I'm glad I took that route.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I do my e-reading on my laptop but I still prefer reading a physical copy.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I post a lot to Twitter and Facebook but I still can't say that they are particularly effective. In that statement, I include the purchasing of Twiter campaigns based around a sale price, or a glowing review from an important source, or receiving some kind of award. However, I have had decent results from paying to be included in e-mailings featuring discounted books. I think Twitter users are inundated with authors pitching their books. Email seems to work better.
Describe your desk
The impression of clutter, in the room or just on my desk, sabotages both my thinking and writing. Although I'm fairly religious about keeping my desk orderly, I'm now finding the most effective way to concentrate on writing is to vacate my desk and place my laptop on a TV table where there is basically no room for anything else. If I need to consult resource materials I make it an ergonomic break as well by standing up and taking the three steps to my desk.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
My father was in the military and postings meant that I grew up all over the place. The downside is that I have little memory of childhood friends but the upside is that it made me adaptable and not afraid of change.
When did you first start writing?
I've always been writing, but not necessarily fiction. When I was 14 I decided I wanted to be a newspaperman and began creating my own newspaper on scrapbook paper by rewriting news items I'd heard on the radio, or writing accounts of ballgames I'd listened to. I would paste the articles onto the scrapbook sheets, laying them out like a newspaper. My only readers were my parents. I also kept journals, but I don't recall taking a real run at fiction until my early 20s, when I wrote an hour-long radio play. However it was never produced because there were far more characters — 20 or so — than the show's budget allowed for, even with actors doubling.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Simply put, I ran out of patience after about eight months of aggresively approaching agents and traditional publishers. The more I read that traditional publishers nowadays offer most authors almost nothing with regard to promotion, and very little with regard to royalties, going the traditional route no longer made sense to me. I wrote a good book and I wanted it out there.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Discovery. Characters or scenes evolving in ways I never imagined when planning the book. At those moments I feel the book in progress is a living thing, somehow independent of me. It can be exhilarating.
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