|Posted on December 6, 2010 at 2:00 AM|
Welcome to my blog interview. I am honoured to have had an interview with a great friend from the Writers Retreat, Claudette Young. Clauds, as she is called by me, and many others is a very busy lady. She is about to embark on a journey that many of us can only dream of. So, I hope you will enjoy reading about the person behind the name – learn about her as a person, as a writer and now as a traveller.
Please tell us something about yourself?
I grew up in Indiana. I was and am a country girl, who found fodder for my imagination in fields and forests surrounding whichever rental property we happened to inhabit at the time. My parents were also country trained, during the Great Depression, which led to some interesting lessons taught during those formative years.
My father was both hunter and gatherer. My mother assisted in that endeavour with a few tricks up her own sleeve. My brother and I learned from an early age that food doesn’t originate at the table but must be procured from its natural state. Whether fish or foul, venison on the hoof or beef from the back pasture, we learned what, when, how, and why to eat those things nature and the parents’ ingenuity could provide. Our parents taught much by example, working hard and saving for that rainy day to come.
In short, we learned how to survive with what God provided for our use, just in case we couldn’t always get to a grocery store. It gave us a different perspective on life and its exigencies than city kids had. I could run a household by the time I was eleven.
My brother had his first paying job when he was ten years old. He worked hard for that money, too. Bucking hay isn’t easy for a young kid. We thrived on the work and the instruction, and we matured much more quickly than many our age.
Dad began my weaponry training when I was eight--rifle training with a .22 calibre short stock. Archery came when I was ten. Knives came later still.
Most people don’t understand that part of our early education when I speak of it. It was expected that we could take care of ourselves if necessary. Dad wanted us capable of protecting and feeding ourselves. Most of the country kids back then had the same kinds of lessons. Dad merely expected proficiency.
Lest anyone think me undereducated at that point, from a little country school, I also read everything I could get my hands on. I had only one children’s book—“The Little Red Hen” and I had it memorized. Since my mother’s old high school books were available, I read those—especially her literature book. I fell in love with Tennyson and Shakespeare. Homer became a favourite, too.
Why and when did you start writing?
By the time I arrived at the ripe old age of eleven, I’d begun writing down everything that popped into my head. My imagination had blossomed along with puberty, giving me all sorts of scenarios to work with. I wrote my first play and then zeroed in on my first romance novel. I still have it somewhere in storage. I was so proud when I finished it--one hundred and twenty pages of pure rebellious angst, centered on a main character of eighteen who just had to get off her island or die.
From there I moved onto other literary attempts. I did high drama and melodrama. If a person could read it, I tried to write it. I guess I still do. I loved doing poetry, though didn’t write much of it.
What genre do you like doing the most?
I concentrated on SF/Fantasy for many years. That’s what I read most of the time and enjoyed. When I began ICL (Institute for Children’s Literature,) I moved more toward children’s short stories, picture books, and some non-fiction.
In the past several months, though, my enthusiasm has flowed over into adult creative non-fiction, as well as children’s non-fiction and poetry. There are so many forms of poetry to learn and try out.
Do you have a favourite age group to write for?
I suppose I’ve come to focus on the middle grade crowd and older as those readers I’m most comfortable with. I love thinking up stories for the younger groups but my brain works better when I can use more advanced language. That means older readers.
Is there any particular reason for this?
I have difficulty simplifying my language enough for young ones when it comes to stories. It’s a flaw on my part, I guess. I don’t deal well with putting things together for the under six category.
What is your favourite reading book, and why do you like it so much?
My favourite all time book of fantasy fiction is Elizabeth Moon’s “Deeds of Paksennarion” because it holds so much training in one volume. It’s a frame story at the same time as it’s high fantasy. It covers several years of the character’s life without dragging the reader along. I liked it so well that I ended up writing an epic poem that summarized the storyline. My favorite non-fiction book is “Salt.” That was an amazing book.
Is there another writer that you aspire to be like, or do you prefer just writing in your own unique style?
I like the writing of so many authors that choosing to be like any one of them would be difficult at best. I’m afraid that I’m stuck with my own style. I wish I had the humor and creativity of Robert Aspirin, the devilish satire of Spider Robinson, the world-building skills of either McCaffrey or Lackey, or the thriller/mystery skills of Grisham. Of course, I wouldn’t mind the productivity of Jane Yolen. I just love that lady.
If you were ever stranded on a deserted island, what are the 3 main things you would like to have with you?
I’m one of those writers who would have only three things with me on a remote island. I would have to choose, sunscreen, a really large tablet with pen (as a set, you know), and a knife. Everything else is available for negotiation.
If you hadn’t become a writer, is there anything else you would have wanted to do?
In many ways I was trained to a military mind-set, though I don’t think that was deliberate on the part of my parents. It’s simply how my father thinks. My mother, though an artist at heart and in her spare time, had a very self-sufficient attitude. If I’d gone into the Air Force straight out of high school, like I wanted to, my life would have been much different. My father, though, forbade me to even considering that path. He didn’t approve of women in the military. How’s that for irony?
As a result, I did the Jill-of-all-trades thing, sampling here and there until I grew tired of the usual pursuits. That’s when I came back to writing and took it seriously. I’ve done well enough in my life. I could have continued to teach, but I was teaching for all the wrong reasons. I didn’t love it enough for itself; at least, not in the classroom.
Can you give us one highlight of your writing career?
Right now, I’m looking at the world in a different light than ever before. I’ve come to a point where my writing must carry much more with it than just a tale. I’ve embraced creative non-fiction in a big way. Whether it’s memoir or instructive, I love creating it. I think my highlight of writing so far has been having a long essay of mine on immortality that was accepted by Creative Non-Fiction journal. I have my sights set on Carpe Articulum now.
Of course, there’s our book of travel exploits, too, and my books of poetry. I still write articles for writers and children’s stories. A sprinkling of many genres keeps me interested.
Is there anything else you’ve never been asked but would love to tell others?
My responses to things are a bit skewed, you know. No one has ever asked me if I regret the loss of most of my eyesight. I figure they’re too embarrassed to ask something they consider cruel or intrusive. If someone had asked, I’d tell them that I only regret not using my earlier time to write down everything that I experienced at the time. Eyesight is a terrific sense, and I would never want anyone to lose it. However, after I lost the majority of it, I learned more, travelled more, and experienced more life than before the loss. I’d like to tell people that a loss can be as much a gain as any other gift, if your perspective is good.
Where or how do you get your ideas for your books and/or stories?
My problem is not getting ideas but having the time to write them all down. I can get ideas from overhearing someone’s conversation, a commercial on TV, finding an article online. It doesn’t really matter. Some of my favourite stories come from questions I want answered.
Do you think it is a good idea to do an outline or some sort of planning before starting on a writing project?
I’m an organic writer most of the time. I have some vague suspicion of what my character will do and trials that will have to be overcome, but that’s usually as far as it goes. Then again, I’ve begun lately creating arcs to use instead of outlines.
Don’t get me wrong. I create very detailed outlines on work that’s going to run very long, like a fantasy novel. As a general rule, though, I dispense with them until I know the characters well enough to figure out what they’ll do in upcoming circumstances.
Thinking about your writing career, if you could do anything differently, what would it be and why?
If I could do anything differently, I think I would have gone back to serious writing much sooner. That’s not to say that I could have. I think I had to mature enough within myself to accommodate that commitment to my early dreams of writing. I had to arrive at a point where what others wanted for me didn’t matter so much as what I wanted for myself.
Have you ever been asked something about your writing (stories, books or career) that you really didn’t want to answer, but had to? If you have are you willing to share it, and tell us how you dealt with it?
I honestly don’t mind answering questions. No one’s been intrusive enough to get to embarrassing parts of my life, so there’s been no shying away from questions.
Why did you start writing children’s books and/or stories?
People always want to know why I write stories for children when I’ve never had any kids of my own. It’s because I didn’t have children’s books when I was a kid. Our town’s library didn’t have much of a selection when I was that age. Not like now, of course. Plus, my folks never thought about taking us to the library. It wasn’t a big part of what we did.
You are in the process of packing up to go on a new journey. A new phase in your life. Can you share with us your highs and lows, and your fears and happiness surrounding this journey?
Hah! Our journey around the country, living in a tent, will be a definitely highlight of my life, writing or otherwise. My adopted sister and I are taking this opportunity to travel around the lower 48, two senior women, a small car, and the bare necessities, such as the tent and sleeping bags. We want to see the country like our ancestors did. Along the way we’ll be writing travel articles about the journey as well as others types.
At the end we’ll put together the book about our individual and personal journeys during those months on the road. A high point of the trip is as much anticipation as anything. Imagining those places we want to see, those people we wish to visit along the way, and those lessons we’ll learn about ourselves and each other make the whole thing dreamlike. The low comes in knowing how frugal we have to be and how careful. We can plan for only so much. The rest we’ll have to improvise along the way.
Any fear we might have comes from possible health issues that might crop up. The happiness rides a big horse named Adventure that will be shared with each other.
To finish, if there is anything I didn’t ask that you would like to share, please tell us here?
I suppose the one thing I’d like to say is that I waited almost too long to begin this chapter of my life. I’ve had many big and small adventures in my life, but they were solitary ones. This one involves someone else who’s as much a gypsy as I am.
If I’d known thirty years ago that having this kind of adventure, whether in writing or on the road, could be a simple matter of giving myself permission to do so, I would have started much earlier. I breathe words each day, and they give me strength. I hope everyone can find that freedom and passion in their lives each day.
My final comfort is knowing that whatever comes our way, we will always have the Good Lord in our corner, wherever we are. I tend not to worry about things when I stop to remember that.
Clauds, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, especially during this time of a great change in your life. I hope my readers get a good insight into a lovely person. It is a pleasure and privilege to know you.
Now it just remains for me to say good luck in your new venture, keep in touch with all of us at every opportunity. Enjoy your travels, and stay safe. May God go with you on your journey.