My author in the spotlight this month is fantasy and romance author, Zeba Clarke. Her latest fantasy release is Dream Guy, the first book in the Battalions of Oblivion series.
Dream Guy – Zeba Clarke
Every teen has dreams, but only Joe Knightley can make his dreams reality. Even the nightmares…
Joe has been falling asleep everywhere, and he has enough on his plate with wrangling his wayward best mate, suppressing the urge to murder his little sister and facing off with Charlie Meek, the knife-wielding bully who makes school a misery for so many.
Joe does not need the discovery that he can make his dreams come true. At first, turning a classroom into an aquarium and conjuring up a Lamborghini are amusing ways to use this new power. But Joe soon realizes he’s roused an enemy far deadlier than Charlie Meek.
Drawn into a duel with a being who has had centuries of experience, Joe must fight for everything he cares for. But deciding exactly what he holds dear is perhaps the biggest battle of all.
And now for my interview with Zeba:
Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose the setting for your current book?
Dream Guy starts off in a new town in south-east England, somewhere between Brighton and London…it was based on my years teaching in Sussex, and what really inspired me was the combination of a very ordinary every day student in a really down to earth environment discovering that he has the power to change the world around him quite radically. A whole mix of things led to my writing it – I needed a break from romance after writing four Regency-set books very fast over the space of two years, and my eldest son was also rolling his eyes because he wanted me to write something he was interested in reading…not some cheesy girly stuff with loads of kissing. So fantasy it was, probably strongly influenced by Doctor Who, which has been a family favourite since the rebrand by Russell T. Davies first began.
Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories? How do you go about it?
Stories come to me really easily – it’s finding the time to sit down and write that really stretches me, as I have a pretty demanding full time job as well. Currently on the go in my brain are a series of stories about a female artist in the early 17th century, an idea for a radio/tv series about the experience of women in internment camps on the Isle of Man during World War 2, another Regency story and the second and third books about Joe, the hero of Dream Guy…it’s story soup in there. I pick up ideas everywhere, from paintings, books, music. I keep folders on the computer and iPad and a notebook and just jot stuff down and try to keep it all ready for when I can actually focus on a particular book.
How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many more drafts will there be after that?
First drafts take me between two and three months. I have big cards with all sorts of random thought-maps, quotations, names, plus I collage using Pinterest and Scapple, so I collect images of characters, places, animals, art, anything that might just spark off an idea. My Pinterest page has boards for two of my series – the Oblivion series starting with Dream Guy, and Savage Mirror which is the series I’ve been writing about a young female artist who dresses up as a boy and then becomes a spy.
After I’ve collected all the images together and have a rough (very rough) idea of where the plot is going, I’ll start writing. I usually know what my final scene is going to be, but how I’m going to get there is often a surprise.
Redrafting depends. Once I’ve finished draft 1, I show it to my husband who is a mean and ruthless editor, and then I go back and rewrite. I’m still not convinced about the first part of the Savage Mirror series, and I’ve been through about four drafts of that, but Dream Guy only took three drafts before I felt confident it was ready to go to publishers. The whole process from the moment of starting the first draft to final submission is usually six to seven months. But that’s probably because the ideas have been stewing gently in my mind for some time before that.
What’s the hardest part of writing for you?
Sometimes the discipline. I know that to get my best writing done, I have to focus on writing every evening for two hours. I’m most productive between 9 and 11. That’s become my writing time, and there are evenings when it just doesn’t happen, when I noodle on the internet instead of getting the words under my belt, often because I am not fully committed to how the story is working out. Then there is revising and redrafting. Getting rid of chunks I’ve written which I really liked but which I know are superfluous to the story I’m telling. But it has to be done.
What do you enjoy most about the writing process?
Losing myself in the world of my character, hanging out with the characters. That seems to get more and more intriguing and absorbing with every book I write. Although I’ve only had six books published, I’ve actually written ten, and with every book, I find that although there are moments when I get stuck, mostly, the chance to spend time with the characters in their world is the best part of the process. When I’m in the middle of draft 1 and revisions, I can be found staring into space or walking almost without knowing where I’m going because I’m running a scene or a series of actions in my head and trying to work out how it will get onto the page.
Is there a recurring theme in your novels or is each one completely different?
Probably the most interesting theme for me is how we grow into ourselves. I’m a teacher, so I watch teenagers day in, day out, developing, growing, becoming themselves. Some of my favourite books are those stories about growing up, working out an identity and a place in the world, from Daddy Long Legs to Great Expectations and Mill on the Floss. I’m also fascinated by how people can seem to be one thing but actually be another, and I suppose in Dream Guy and its subsequent books, I’m really playing with the idea of exploring strengths and weaknesses through dreams, shape-shifting and messing with reality. I also really love a good romance. I love reading happy ever afters, but I’ve noticed that in my own writing, I tend to make things a little more bittersweet and messy.
Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?
I am currently redrafting Heirs of Hypnos, the next part of Joe’s adventures. I wrote a first draft, but the publishers think it may be a little too dark so I’m revisiting and trying to take a look at how it might be reworked. I know where I want the trilogy to end, but I have to review and revisit how I get there! It’s really fun messing with characters. We’ll see!
Zeba Clarke is a teacher and writer who has lived in China, Belgium and the UK. She currently lives on the Isle of Man and enjoys watching Game of Thrones with her teenage sons, walking by the sea and spotting seals.
Find out more about Zeba here: