In celebration of Indie Author Day, I sat down with indie author M. C. Clay and asked her some questions about her experiences as an indie author. Join us for the Author Interview Event over at Book Nerds Unite (on Goodreads) to ask M. C. Clay any of your still unanswered questions!
And now, on to the interview!
Tell me a bit about yourself.
My pen name is M. C. Clay, which is what most readers know me as, aside from my family and friends. I am 32 years old and I live just outside of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Crimson Tide. I was born and raised in a small town with a modest, if somewhat sheltered, upbringing. My parents have always encouraged education and creativity, which put me on the path that brought me to writing. My mother is an avid reader and she instilled that same quality in me growing up. I attended The University of Alabama, where I was awarded my BA in English Literature.
Now, I’m married to my amazingly supportive husband, Doug and we have a beautiful, intelligent daughter, Kassie. We also have many fur babies as well. They might as well be our children too. To sum it up, I’m a small town Southern girl, with a wonderful family and an addiction to literature. There isn’t much more to know about me.
How did you decide to start writing?
I fell in love with stories and storytelling at a young age. I’ve always been an avid reader, but when I would receive assignments in school to write short stories, essays, etc., I realized that I had just as much of a passion for writing. I’ve been writing since I was a teenager, but only began to pursue it as a more serious career in 2020 when I, like many others, found myself with a lot of extra time on my hands to focus on something I’ve always been passionate about.
As a child, what was your dream job? As an adult, prior to the point when you first started really writing, what was your dream job? Has it changed since then?
My dream job always seemed to shift as a child. I tended to circle back to being a veterinarian pretty often because I have an immense love for animals. I also considered various careers in the medical field, but I ultimately found I wasn’t driven to do that. As I went to college and majored in something practical (Office Administration), I decided that the one thing I’ve always loved was literature. So after getting the degree I had been working on, I continued my education and majored in English Literature. I didn’t know what I would do with that degree, maybe teach. I truly never dreamed of being a published author until I realized I had the ability to make that happen on my own. Now, if I had to choose a career now, as an adult, that wasn’t related to being a writer, I would have to say I would be interested in doing something with crime scene forensics. I think that would be incredibly interesting.
Did you ever see yourself where you are now?
Never. Not once growing up did I think I would be where I am today. I never would have thought that some day, I would have multiple published works that people are reading and enjoying. Sometimes I still can’t believe it now.
What was your inspiration, and what influences your writing?
The enjoyment I personally get when I read a good book is what inspires me to write. I want to bring that same level of joy to someone when they read my work. As far as my influences, some of them come from my favorite authors, even some from books I’ve read and didn’t enjoy. I also pull inspiration from things that might be going on in my life and I may layer some mood or undertone in a story that suits it. Music can also be a big influencer for me.
You currently have 4 incomplete series out — your debut series, Nokturn Rising (NR); along with Eyes of Days (EOD), Black Leaf Academy (BLA), and Kingsman, which was just recently released. What inspired you to write each of these series? How did you come up with the ideas for them?
This is a big question. Nokturn Rising was and still is my baby. It was the first brain child that I threw to the world and I worked on it for a really long time. Where it started is definitely not where it ended up when A Sword of Greed and Envy was published. I knew early on that I wanted to write in the fantasy genre. The whole Nokturn Rising universe was born from the idea for one character, and that was Sebastian ‘Ash’ Alsop. I created him and built around him the world that I felt was perfect for him. Everything else stemmed from there.
Now, Eyes of Days, that is one series that I am eager to finish as it is probably one of my favorite story lines. The basis for EOD came to me in a dream when I dreamt of a character who could see into the past. It took me a while to really map Kavera’s character out and get all the details about her that I wanted. Her story is a complicated and unexpected one. Between unrequited love, self-discovery, and overcoming all odds, Kavera’s journey is far from over and I can’t wait to get the second book finished.
Black Leaf Academy came about from my love of a good academy series. I’m a sucker for paranormal academies with all of these cool creatures and characters that still manage to have a very high school, adolescent quality about them that make them relatable. I wanted to create that on my own because I love books like that so much.
And as far as my latest release, Beautiful Mess, the first book in the Kingsman series, I knew I wanted to expand into a different genre, away from YA and fantasy completely. Romance is something that I personally enjoy reading and have dabbled in writing different stories to see how it felt to write for me. When I started writing Grace and Reed’s story, I knew I had found the couple I wanted to make my Romance debut with. It has been a major success since its release and I couldn’t be happier with the reception it has received.
You kicked off your Black Leaf Academy rather quietly with the release of The Awakening, which according to your GR review is quite different from NR and EOD series. I can see this for myself with just a quick glance at the descriptions of All the Eyes of Days and A Sword of Greed and Envy. Although this is still YA fantasy — and therefore still very similar — it gives me a very different and distinct vibe. What inspired you to try an academy fantasy series as opposed to the high fantasy series that are NR and EOD?
I, personally, am a complete sucker for an academy series. To me, it creates a world where the magical fantasy world can meld with perfectly mundane things. It also provided a different sort of challenge when writing since it was completely different from the high fantasy books that I’m used to writing. I also wanted to broaden my writing, as I would eventually love to be writing in all of my favorite genres.
Your Kingsman series is your debut Adult/New Adult series; how exciting is that! What was it like crossing genres? Did you have any issues, or was it no different from writing any of your previous novels?
Crossing genres was a little difficult at first. I had to shift my mindset completely. Normally, I’m always lost in my fantasy worlds, coming up with new ideas for that genre, so switching over to thinking about things that are more realistic and lacking the fantasy aspect wasn’t an easy task for me. But, once I was able to turn off the fantastical side of my brain, I was able to focus and I’m really pleased with the final product.
You already published three books this year — A Kingdom of Blood and Ruin, The Awakening, and Beautiful Mess, all of which are in separate series. That’s pretty impressive! How do you make time to do all this writing, and how do you keep everything separate? I’d imagine you’d have to be very organized, so you don’t write the wrong plot in the wrong book. . . . Have you ever done that? lol
Making time to write is the most difficult thing I have to do. I have a day job working at a local elementary school so from August to the end of May, I have difficulty finding time to sit down and write. I do a lot of writing over the summer break which is why my releases tend to land around that time as well. During the rest of the year, I usually find myself either jotting ideas into my notes on my phone until I can actually sit down and do something with it. I also have a family that I refuse to take time away from so it’s difficult to say the least. The good news is, this will be my last school year and then I will be writing full time.
Fortunately, I have never written the wrong plot in a book. I tend to stay pretty meticulously organized when it comes to my writing. All of my notes and any and everything pertaining to a certain series is clearly labeled and separated into different folders. I also tend to work on one project for days at a time so that way I’m not jumping around too much and won’t accidentally write the wrong character name somewhere.
Going off a similar vein, how do you conquer writer’s block? Do you just switch between series; is that what you do? If so, is that why it seems like you have so many projects going on? Or is that just me? Haha
I find it difficult to just center on one thing for a long period of time. The main reason I have so many open projects is because I’m constantly getting new ideas for stories that need to be told. So, I’ll begin a project, many times so I won’t lose the idea later, then I will revisit it. Now, I will admit, this does help when I’m having writer’s block since it allows me to separate from one story and step into another. I also like to listen to music and create mental soundtracks for my books (I’ve started including these in the books themselves as well). I try to only announce the projects I know I will pursue and finish. If you knew how many projects I haven’t announced, you wouldn’t believe it.
All your books seem to be on the shorter side (which is perfectly fine). How do you do this? Do you just cut a lot of content? If so, how do you decide what to cut and what to keep? Or is the book length just a consequence of finding cliffhangers? Or is it something else?
So, part of the reason my books are on the shorter side, with the exception of Beautiful Mess which is on the longer side, is just the way the story fell together. It was like I would reach a certain point that I felt seemed natural to end one book, in order to start the next one the way I wanted to. This is particularly true for Nokturn Rising which is going to ultimately be an 8 book series. This will also likely be the case for Black Leaf Academy, which will be 6 books. But for EOD, the other 3 books will likely increase in length as the story progresses.
I try not to cut content if at all possible. I could easily go on long descriptive rants about the details of one particular tree, but that just isn’t my style of reading or writing. As a reader, I tend to find myself getting frustrated with a 500-600 page novel because certain parts will feel like it’s dragging on forever. I didn’t want to produce something like that. I wanted to be descriptive enough to paint a picture for the reader, but also keep the story moving forward at all times.
Now, let’s talk to all those aspiring authors out there. What steps do you recommend they take?
Learn your market. That is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned. Do the research on your audience and find what they like, but also stay true to your own writing style. Also, don’t rush it. Take the time to read and re-read your work before distributing to an ARC team (also massively important). One thing that I know drives readers crazy, are silly errors, whether it be typos, small grammatical errors, or just a common misspelling or autocorrect error. Just take the time to go through it with a fine tooth comb. It will be worth it.
What is your biggest challenge, and how do you overcome it?
My biggest challenge is finding the time to write, as well as manage my social media pages and marketing campaigns. As I stated above, I have a full time job and a family. Finding time to juggle everything is really difficult. I’m still learning how to overcome this and make time for everything in my life. If I ever figure out the secret, I’ll let you know. Lol.
If you could go back and do everything over again, is there anything you’d change? If so, what?
I wish I would’ve done more research on the marketing aspect of things before I released my first book. I didn’t realize at the time how important social networking and marketing would be to an author’s career, especially an indie author. If I could go back, I would have probably spent a few months researching before releasing ASOGAE.
Thank you so much for doing this interview with me! :)
It was a pleasure! I really enjoyed answering these questions as it made me really reflect on my choices and think about why I do things the way that I do. Thank you for inviting me to do this author interview!
**This interview was conducted independently via a Google Doc, where I provided M. C. Clay with all the questions beforehand, which she then returned to me with the questions answered. This interview was completed between 13 August 2022 and 27 August 2022.