This month’s featured author is Sian Claven. Find out about her novel Bullseye and her inspiration below.
What is your writing and publishing process like?
I must first have a cover. Yes, a cover comes first. And then it sits on my phone in a special folder and I look at it everyday until I have the story that has to go with it. Then I write a few thousands words of the story and scrap that because the real story comes to me. Then I sit down and write with all the passion I have. Once I’ve written a chapter it goes to my beta readers. Chapter by chapter, until they have done all the chapters. Then I go through their comments and do some light editing. Then it goes to my editor and once back I go through it again. Then to my proof reader and back to me for one last check before I publish it!
You’re published independently, would you ever consider getting traditionally published?
I don’t think so. Personally I love being self published and I aim to be a full time self-published author, that’s my goal. At the moment I work a day job, that I love, and I do all author related things before and after that job (and during if I can). I would hate to have all that hard work taken out of my control and have to ask someone what is going to happen or if I can do something. I would prefer to be able to make those decisions myself, just on a full time basis.
Do you ever draw inspiration from real life for your stories?
Most of my characters are based on people I know or have met so I would say yes. The stories are pure fabrication but sometimes something in life will happen and I’ll think oh what if this happened and then I’ll come up with a story so events in real life can be a catalyst for an idea, but its generally my characters who are influenced by real life more so than my stories.
What are some of the themes you love exploring in your writing?
I have never been asked this before! Oh, I’m not sure what to say. I like exploring a lot of themes but mostly I like to experiment with different kinds of relationships and how they are affected by the things that happen around them. I also like messing with people psychologically so I like to twist things around when people least expect it. In terms of actual themes though I would say that I like to explore with isolation a lot as well as motherhood. Definitely treachery and betrayal as well.
Can you remember the moment you realised you wanted to be an author?
Yes I can. I had to write a piece in first grade about a favourite memory I had. I wrote the same piece for a second time in the forth grade and it was published in a little book made by the school. But from first grade I loved telling stories and writing them, and I excelled quickly in my classes because of my knack for writing and reading. So I would say I’ve always wanted to be writer.
What one piece of advice would you give any new writers hoping to get published now?
Reviews are for readers, not writers. Seriously!
Do you have any writing rituals?
Whenever I’m about to write a particularly scary part of my book I’ll take a few long deep breathes to calm myself and then I will stare at the screen without blinking and get it out as fast as I can before I terrify myself… Just kidding, that’s not a ritual that’s just how I cope with being a horror writer. My ritual would probably be that I start every book with the dedication before I do anything else. It’s how I start or it doesn’t feel write and I end up not finishing the manuscript.
Do you have a Pinterest board, playlist or faceclaims (celeb casting) for this novel/series?
I have to admit I was quite bad with Bullseye. I was so excited about writing it I completely neglected to make the pinterest board for it but I’ll have one up nonetheless before publishing day because I do love creating them.
What’s next for you?
I’ve already finished the next two manuscripts. The next one is Belladonna which is released in September which is with my proofreader and the one after that is Buried which in my opinion is the best work I’ve ever written. That’s with my editor right now and is being released in October in time for Halloween. Aside from that I have Comic Con Africa coming up where I am hanging out in the Artist Alley signing and selling my books and taking photos with fans for fun.
Favourite Extract from Novel:
Jonathan had spent his entire life striving to have what he wanted. Born to a poor family, he knew what his chances were in this world and had fought against them from birth. His father, a raging alcoholic, killed himself in front of Jonathan when he was six years old and that had left a mark so deep that he never drank, not even a sip of alcohol, ever. He wanted certain things and alcohol had never been one of them.
First, he wanted to excel at school. This was difficult while trying to take care of his mother, Jo-Anne, who worked two jobs to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads, but Jonathan did it. He excelled when everyone thought he would flunk out and be a deadbeat like his father had been.
Jonathan once asked his mother how she could have fallen for his father, Andrew, and she said she was a hopeless romantic and his father had been one too back in the day. It was only after they had fallen on hard times that his father turned to alcohol; he hadn’t always been like that.
Jonathan finished school the top of his class and made valedictorian. He gave a beautiful speech about beating the odds, and it not mattering where you came from but rather where you went. He moved his class to tears and they had cheered loudly for him when he finally threw his graduation hat in the air. His mother had been unable to attend, as usual, because she was working, but she was so proud of him that she had taken him out to a special dinner at a relatively fancy restaurant, where they ate lobster tails and faux caviar, something she had saved up for when she realised how special her boy was.
Then college happened. He got a full scholarship to the college of his choice and Yale was his only choice. He studied hard, worked night after night while his fellow students partied their hearts out. He wasn’t interested in anything but studying and making it.
Until he met her.
Until he met Michelle.
She had been at the library studying as well, with just as much determination, and they met when they went for the same book at the same time. Of course, they each excused themselves and offered the book to the other, before giggling quietly. Michelle had suggested that they share the book since they were doing the same sections on the History of Law, and so they sat, studying together in silence, stealing little glances at each other.
Jonathan eventually said he had to go and she said simply, “Stay.” He wanted nothing more in life at that moment, so he did. That was how their budding romance started.
They met every night at the library and studied together, and afterwards they would get coffee at one of the late night student haunts and sit and talk about their fears and dreams.
Michelle hadn’t had an easy life either. She was older than Jonathan by a few years, and started to study late because she had been married for the first three years out of school to the most popular boy, who had beaten her down emotionally and physically, and it had taken all her strength to leave him behind, divorce him and never look back.
Jonathan told her his life’s story and together they began to heal the pieces of each other they didn’t know needed to be healed. Between studying and simply being together, they worked hard to achieve their goals, through the rough times and the easier, and life really put their relationship, and themselves, to the tests. They surmounted every challenge together, because they were a team, and there was nothing they were scared to face together.
When Jonathan’s mother died suddenly of a heart attack in his final year at college, he had been tempted to go down the dark path of alcohol, but Michelle had been there, his rock who saw him through what was the worst time of his life. Together they mourned the loss of this wonderful woman who had worked for Jonathan to have some semblance of a normal life, and who had always believed in him.
Jonathan had to let her go and Michelle filled every void left by Jo-Anne’s absence. She cared for Jonathan, cooked for him, looked after him even when he didn’t want to get out of bed, and together they graduated Cum Laude, ready to take on the world.
That had been five years ago and Jonathan hadn’t looked back. He had taken Michelle’s hand after graduation and told her that his life was hers, and that he would never leave her.
Their first home was a small apartment they bought together in the downtown part of the city. While they were both still new to their law firms, they were careful with how they spent their money. As time went on and they moved up their respective ranks, with Michelle in family law and Jonathan in Criminal Law, thus their lives improved.
They bought their second apartment in a more upmarket part of the city and soon after that they bought a small house together in the suburbs, in a nice clean area near a forest and a lake. It was beautiful out there and Jonathan knew they were going to spend the rest of their lives there, and started to fix the house up. He added a deck in the backyard with a barbecue area. Soon after, he added a pool and a Jacuzzi, before building a full-on bar off the side of the house where all their friends could hang out. In fact, it was where all their friends hung out and they had quite a few good close ones.
They built on more bedrooms and bigger bathrooms and put in other little bits and bobs, and then filled the house with art, sculptures and the latest gadgets. Jonathan’s bar was heavily decorated with his favourite sports team memorabilia and, whenever a game was on, he and the boys would retire to the bar to watch it, shouting and cursing and laughing.
Michelle and Jonathan were the happiest couple in the world, but it wasn’t until Michelle announced she was pregnant that Jonathan felt it was the right time to pop the actual question. They had taken it for granted that they would always be together, but Jonathan wanted it signed, sealed and delivered, so to speak.
He planned it out carefully. He was going to do it on their anniversary at Michelle’s favourite restaurant. Ragout’s was deceptively posh, and it served Michelle’s favourite mushroom dish, and had a romantic ambiance. It was absolutely perfect, in all aspects of the word, and Jonathan arranged with the manager to play Michelle’s favourite song after she said yes to his request.
All that was left was to pick up the ring. Sixteen years they had been together, sixteen blissful challenging years they had seen through side by side, and he wanted the ring to sing about that and had it custom made. A white gold band with eight diamonds set in the one side and eight diamonds set in the other with space on the top to add more if she wanted to as the years progressed. The jeweller had charged him an arm and a leg to design and create it, but Jonathan knew in his heart it still wasn’t worth what Michelle was to him.
The Saturday of their anniversary, Jonathan woke up to Michelle sitting on their bed looking contemplative.
“What is it, my love?” he asked, kissing the back of her neck.
“Nothing. I’m just so content with what we have that I’m scared the baby is going to ruin it all.” She hugged herself.
“Something that comes from you can never ruin anything, Mickey, you know that,” Jonathan said fondly, kissing her head. “The baby is going to add to us, not take anything away, and I will be here through it all.”
Michelle smiled brightly and turned to face him. “You always know just what to say to make me feel better.”
Jonathan chuckled and kissed her softly before jumping out of bed. “Right, so I have the whole day planned.” He clapped his hands. “Your mom is on her way to pick you up; you’ve got a whole day of pampering and spoiling and you can go pick out a new dress,” he explained to her delight, while taking out his one bank card and handing it to her. “As for me, I’m going to try and clean up my ugly mug as best I can so I can impress the lovely lady of my life tonight.”
“Ladies,” Michelle pointed out.
Jonathan chuckled, kneeling in front of her and kissing her tummy. “Ladies,” he murmured before standing up again. “So up and at ‘em, darling,” he declared and headed to the shower.
Michelle decided to join him and they had quite a lot of fun showering together before a car horn ended it. Michelle had to rush to get dressed.
Jonathan’s first stop was his favourite barber shop downtown. He walked in and said, “Hey, Lou,” before sitting in a chair in the waiting section. Lou’s Barber was always busy, because Lou and his team were good. Jonathan didn’t have to wait long before Lou called him to his chair and covered him in the plastic barber’s cape.
“What will it be today, Jono?” Lou asked, sharpening his straight razor.
“I have a lady to impress tonight, Lou, so give me the works,” Jonathan asked.
“Coming right up. Is it a special night?” he asked as he sprayed water on Jonathan’s hair.
“It is,” Jonathan responded. “I’m asking Mickey to marry me.”
The barber shop burst out in applause and congratulations and Lou quickly said, “Well, then, it’s on the house, Jono. This one is just for your lucky lady,”
“Aw, Lou,” Jonathan said, “I can’t let you do that.”
“You’re not letting me do anything,” Lou explained. “It’s on the house for one of my best customers; now let’s get you looking perfect for that lucky lady.”
An hour later, Jonathan emerged looking fresh and ready for his big night out. He walked over to the jewellery store because it wasn’t far off, and collected the ring. All that was left for him to do was to put on his best suit and he was ready to take Mickey out for the time of her life.
As he left the jewellery store he noticed a few unsavoury characters standing on the corner and decided to take a shortcut down an alleyway to avoid them as best he could. He whistled as he walked, glancing back to make sure he wasn’t being followed and, as he turned to face forward, a sudden impact made him fall backwards.
His lifeless eyes stared up at the sky and his hand was still in his pocket, holding onto the ring he had just picked up.
After a while, a man arrived at the body and inspected the bullet wound. It was off centre, so he simply picked up his suitcase containing his gun and left, without a backwards glance at Jonathan’s lifeless body.