Robert Clark was born and raised in Eerie (Erie), Pennsylvania. He was brought up on Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella comic books, stories of Ax Murder Hollow, science fiction novels, and late night horror and science fiction movies. He delighted in scaring the neighborhood kids with stories he made up or swiped from comic books. His fifth grade teacher told his parents he’d end up either in prison or as an author. To the surprise of almost everyone who knows him, he graduated from college. After graduation he spent years teaching biology. While doing so his fifth grade teacher’s prediction (?) threat (?) curse (?) whatever, came true. Tired of reality, he decided to try writing fiction. The genres he writes in are science fiction, fantasy, and horror/supernatural, although these often overlap in his books. He and his wife live in northwestern Pennsylvania. Clark is no longer teaching biology, but is still writing. At this point he hasn’t been in prison and hopes to keep it that way.
Today’s Q&A is with author Robert Clark
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What is the worst thing you’ve written, how did you learn or know it was bad, and what did you learn from it?
Lanigan’s Woods. It’s the first book I had published. I think it’s an excellent story, but when I looked at it again, years after it was released, I found the writing painfully simplistic and amateurish. As far as the plot goes I don’t have any complaints. As I said, I think it’s a good story, but if I had it to do over I’d do several more rewrites, preferably with the help of a good editor. Now I do many rewrites on my novels, whenever possible with the cooperation of an editor.
Why did you start writing and when did you decide to go professional?
I can’t remember not being interested in writing. I was lucky enough to have public school grade, junior high, and high school teachers who encouraged me. In college, aside from the standard English courses and the technical writing I needed for my science courses, I took a journalism course and worked extensively on the college newspaper. When the union I was president of was forced out on strike in 1986, my wife realized I was stressed and suggested I write a novel to release my frustrations. I did, and ended up producing several as I kept writing after the strike ended. Later I attempted to market the books. The first was published in 1996. I haven’t stopped writing novels or getting them published since, and am always working on at least two, sometimes as many as four or five, at the same time. At the moment I’m working on three, a science fiction, one that could be considered either horror or fantasy, and one that could be placed in any of the three categories, depending on how you look at it. I’ll do a draft of one, let it sit while I work on the others, and then go back to it for a rewrite. I’ve had people ask me if the process confuses me, but actually it seems to work the opposite way and helps me concentrate on what I’m doing at any given time.
Do you write in more than one genre? Which ones and which do you like best?
My writing is in three genres, science fiction, fantasy, and horror/supernatural. I don’t actually have a preference. Something kicks in as an idea for a novel, and the basic idea more or less funnels me into a specific genre. It isn’t quite that simple, and the three areas often overlap in my writing. Bricks, for example, is a science fiction, but has strong horror elements. Depending on how you judge them, Boringville and Incubus could be placed in any of the three genres, although I consider them in the horror/supernatural category. The overlap isn’t always there. Askarjan is a straight science fiction; El Duende and Blade of Iron are straight fantasies. Lycanthrope Book 1 and Lycanthrope Book 2 are horror novels.
Do you read other author’s books when you’re writing? If so, do you read the same genre or something different?
Writing or not, I always have at least two or three books I’m reading. They may or may not be the same genre I’m writing in. I read in all three genres I write, but also in other fiction areas. I read about as much non-fiction as fiction, almost all the non-fiction in the fields of history and science.
What is the most difficult part of the entire writing process for you? Queries, pitches, editing..etc.
No question. Pitches. I love the initial writing. Rewrites aren’t bad, letting me add and delete things to improve the book. Editing is boring but critical. If I don’t love it, at least I don’t hate it. I consider writing queries drudge work. I don’t like writing them, but don’t agonize over the process. Pitching the book is something else. If I wanted to be in sales I’d get a job selling cars. I hate almost every aspect of it and am not good at it. Things like doing interviews or book signings are the only exceptions. I enjoy them because they give me a chance to interact with other people who share my interests.
If you could have the same type of career as any author currently publishing who would it be and why?
Me. Sure, I’d like to have a string of best sellers. What author wouldn’t? On the other hand, I value my privacy, and if someone’s work is well known their privacy is almost sure to take a hit. In many ways I’ve got the best of both worlds. I sell enough books to support my writing habit. After 36 years of teaching, saving for retirement, and being thrifty, I can afford the life style I want without having to make a living from book sales. It would be nice if I could sell a few more books and make an actual profit on my writing, but even if that never happens I still have the fun of writing the novels and seeing them get published. Hakuna matata.