Tuesday, January 17, 2017

WOTP: Fiona Claire, Young Adult Author

The third WOTP querying author is the fantastic Fiona Claire! Hers is a book that I would love to see published for totally selfish reasons--I want to read it! Fiona has a really interesting background, but I'll let her be the one to tell you about it...

To start on a personal note, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

In Ireland, I’m what is known as a “seanachai” (pronounced shawn-akee). That’s a story-teller. And, no that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m great at making up lies, although I can do that too. I carry on the tradition of oral story-telling as a Bard. I’m a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (or, a Druid, duh), which means I’ve done a good few courses and study on spirituality, my native Celtic heritage, meditation, natural healing, and eco-psychology. In short, I love nature, trees, and anyone with four legs. (*side note: this does not exclude two-legged individuals)

My first career was as a dancer with two different U.S. ballet companies, where I learned to tell stories without words. From there, I segued into an acting career and worked as an actress in L.A. for over twenty years, telling stories with words other people had written. Finally, I enrolled in writing courses and learned how to write my own stories. Sort of. That’s actually an on-going process, isn’t it. So now I’m the reclusive writer by the lake in the wild west of Ireland, where I have my own tour business and put together writers’ conferences combined with tours of Ireland, called Ireland Writer Tours. I love introducing people to this country, as well as meeting the successful writers and editors who teach at the conferences.

I was the sole reporter/photographer for the local village news, until it folded. My fiction has been published in Athenia West, Triad and Touchstone and my play “Sorted Out” won first place at the Beehive Theatre New Playwrights’ Competition. When not writing or guiding tours, I work as head cook and housekeeper for two demanding black men who worship tuna and catnip. I also enjoy dancing, late night horseback riding and discussing existential realism with the neighbours' sheep.

What novel are you currently querying? What is it about in a few sentences?

ISLE OF NO RETURN – It’s a YA thriller about two girls from Palo Alto, California on vacation in Ireland who get kidnapped and taken to a remote island. The query for this is a masterpiece thanks to Emily, Goddess of Query-topia, who assisted in its creation. (Oh, you make me blush!)

Who is your favorite character from this book?

Hmm. It would have to be the MC, I guess, because she’s a driven ballet dancer on the fast track to stardom. She’s sidelined by an injury, which is what lands her on vacation in Ireland, and she’s a total romance-geek. Write what ya know (ha)!

Have you written/queried other books before? 

Yes! A historical fiction opus that had two agents foaming at the mouth for a while, but they gave up before ever starting.

A YA time-slip about a miserable teen who moves from southern California to a remote lake island in Ireland and discovers her past life.

A middle-grade novel about a boy with Asperger’s whose condition sends him straddling a parallel dimension.

And I’m also currently working on a non-fiction manuscript and another YA thriller.

Plus ISLE OF NO RETURN cooooouuuld maybe be a duology, but Ima hold off on that and see if anyone takes the bait.

What is the hardest part about querying?

Pressing Send. Waking up in the morning and seeing an empty inbox. Getting back on the horse and doing it all over again.

How did you go about picking the agents you wanted to query?
  • Publisher’s Marketplace
  • Writers’ Conferences
  • Talked to loads of other writers – (for me that’s frequently via skype because I live in a really remote location)
  • Stalked agents on the internet
  • Read the Acknowledgements pages of books similar to mine
  • Joined a singles website (just kidding)

 How do you cope with waiting to hear back from agents?

Eat red licorice
Clean the kitty litter boxes
Write something else
Talk to friends and let them remind me I’m not a useless piece of goat poop.
And GOD BLESS OUR WRITERS’ GROUP coz they always help!

Do you have any tips for writers yet to query or people who are writing query letters?

Yes. Always brush your teeth after eating garlic.

Also, the usual stuff: Join a critique group and get as many people as possible to read your ms before you query (btw, we have one available spot in the group I’m in); REALLY consider feedback and rewrite before querying. Do. Not. Rush. Subscribe to Publishers Marketplace (you can split the cost of the subscription with another person. Study agents before you query. Who have they represented? What do they tweet? Do you hate their favourite books? If possible, talk to their clients and find out if that agent is an all-business-type or an isn’t-my-puppy-cute type. In other words, try to query people you’ll be compatible with. Go to writers’ conferences whenever possible, not only to meet agents, but also to take pitch workshops. These can really show you where there might be holes in your story.

Long ago, my college professor in Theatre Arts told us, “Practice does not make perfect. It makes consistent. And that is not success.” While a consistent writing practice is great, if you’re simply rushing to get 50K words down, you’re missing the point. Just putting words on a page does not make you a better writer, and it won’t necessarily get you traditionally published. We need an awareness of the QUALITY of our work. Also, how do people react to what you have written? And most importantly before we query, we need to know how we fit into the market.

Finally, how will you celebrate when you eventually get your agent?

Well, bless your sweet heart, Emily, for saying that day will come. Here’s how I see it: 

Points for using an I Love Lucy gif! My favorite show--EVER! Fiona's got such a fun way of writing, doesn't she, guys? I've got my fingers crossed for her because this a YA I want to read. It could be a distant cousin of my THESE WICKED WATERS. Which makes me adore it all the more. Who doesn't like scary islands?

If you want to keep up with Fiona and her writerly exploits (and check out the cool tours of Ireland that she does!) visit the following links:

Fiona's Website

Ireland Writer Tours



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