Interview for Claire Gem, multi-award-winning author of contemporary romance, women’s fiction, and supernatural suspense.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
I’m a native New Yorker who grew up in a small town about 60 miles northwest of Manhattan. Mother of three, I’ve been married to the same wonderful man for 39 years. I think it’s why I chose romance as my genre—I’m living it, so I feel qualified to write about it.
I’ve always loved to write as a form of expression. Therapy, really. In the seventh grade I had an excellent English teacher who took me aside one day and said, “You have an exceptional talent for writing. Don’t waste it.” I never forgot her words, and they inspire me and give me confidence to this day.
But I’m dual-sided: by day, I work in the field of scientific research. When I come home from work, I let the creative side of my brain come out to play. I didn’t start writing seriously until about ten years ago, when the business of life and raising children allowed me the extra down time to nurture the passion.
- What inspired you to write your book?
Spirits of the Heart is set on the grounds of an abandoned mental asylum that really exists in the town where I grew up. I remember as a child feeling very haunted by the majestic old buildings and wondering what went on inside them. When I was about eighteen, I dated a young man who was a nighttime security guard at the facility before it closed down in the 1990s. He became my inspiration for Miller, although he and Miller are nothing alike.
When I decided to write the book, my sister (who is a photographer and still lives in the same town) spent a day driving around the mostly abandoned campus, taking pictures for my cover and book trailer. That’s when I decided on Talcott Hall—mysteriously, two weeks after that photo session, the building caught fire and burned to the ground. A local fireman took the fire photos and gave me permission to use them.
- What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
In every one of my books I try to address real life, big issues and show how my characters overcome them. Miller lives in the shadow of his alcoholic father and beats the addiction himself. Laura learns to accept her parents’ divorce and her father’s new choice of a mate. By the end of the book, both characters have not only fallen in love, but have grown as individuals.
- What drew you into this particular genre?
I have always been fascinated by the paranormal, and really do believe in ghosts—spirits trapped between this world and the next. For some strange reason, I love to wander in old graveyards—it’s called taphophilia. The histories of the lives commemorated there intrigue me. So, it’s only natural I would choose to write supernatural suspense.
- If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?
That’s a difficult question because in developing my characters, I get to know them so well that I know what all their answers would be. It’s my way of making them real. To me, they become real people who I actually miss when I’ve finished writing the book. My process of character development involves me asking them every question I can think of—by the time I’ve written The End, I know them intimately.
6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
I’m active on many social media sites but have found Twitter to be my most helpful. I have 21.6K followers, and it’s easy for me to put up snippets from my books with buy links, or teasers from the book I’m working on next. I have my Twitter account linked to Facebook, so my ~1000 Facebook fans automatically see what I post on Twitter as well.
7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
READ. Whatever genre you want to write in, read as many books as you can. I also highly recommend listening to audiobooks. I always have three books going at the same time: one in print, one in eBook, and one on audio. I believe an aspiring author can learn something different from consuming the same book in different formats—what you see with your eyes will be different from what you hear with your ears. I have some titles I have listened to and read multiple times. I learn something different every time.
Also, write what you are passionate about. At one time an editor at a conference suggested I write something in the YA genre because it as “hot” at the time…I’m not a fan of YA, and just couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm to write something I didn’t love. If you are passionate about what you write, that passion comes through on the page. If you love it, there will be other readers who will love it too.
8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
I just completed another supernatural suspense, CIVIL HEARTS, which is set in an abandoned antebellum home in rural Alabama. The idea for this book came to me in a dream, as many of them do. My heroine is a widow whose husband died from a dreadful form of brain cancer, and the hero suffers from epilepsy. The house my heroine buys is haunted by a Confederate soldier who’s come home from war looking for his bride.
Next is Sirens of Salt, another idea that came to me in a dream. This one is set on the Atlantic coast of Florida and revolves around some theories I have about the mysterious underwater stones off the island of Bimini. I’m in the research process right now . . .