I read and reviewed Louder Than Words by Iris St. Clair back in September, and I really enjoyed this story – in fact it has stayed with me, as I often think of Ellen and Rex and wonder what they’re getting up to. This is definitely a book that deserves more recognition, you can check out my review for it here. Today, not only do I get to interview the author, but I also get to host a very special international giveaway – the winner not only gets an eBook of Louder Than Words, but also gets to name a character in the follow-up companion novel!
R: Introduce yourself and tell Book Geek readers a little more about you.
ISC: Thank you for having me over today. Iris St. Clair is the pen name I use for Young Adult and New Adult works. I have also published under two other pen names (essays, romance and erotica) for adult readers. My YA debut novel, Louder Than Words, released September 16, 2014 from Swoon Romance, and is currently available exclusively from Amazon.
R: I’ve read Louder Than Words, and can definitely recommend it, though I’d love to read some of your adult fiction works too! What inspired you to become a writer?
ISC: Christmas card “brag rag” inserts, a fitness journal I kept online and an unhealthy obsession with a television show shared by an entire community of fan fiction writers. Say what? Let’s just say a few encouraging words from people telling me how much they laughed at, or enjoyed, what I wrote was all it took. Writers aren’t much different from actors and comedians – we’re all laughter and applause junkies to some degree.
R: Louder Than Words, your YA debut, deals with some heavy issues in a realistic way – how much research did you do for this story, and where did you find your inspiration?
ISC: The inspiration for Louder came from a news story that grazed my family. A man who would have been my son’s freshman science teacher was arrested for having a sexual affair with a student. In reading the news as the story unfolded, I learned more about Washington state law (I live in the same town Louder takes place in) concerning the age of consent. I also had a neighbour whose battle with drugs and alcohol resulted in her son being raised by his aunt and uncle. But really, I was more concerned with the heroine, Ellen’s emotional journey to find her voice and courage by learning to trust, to love and to believe herself loveable. Since she’s the first person narrator, and an unreliable one at times, I felt like feeding everything through a sixteen year old’s perception of the world allowed some wiggle-room in terms of research.
R: How do you know when your books feel “done”? How do you recognise that time when you are completely happy with them?
ISC: I wish I knew. This would make future books so much easier to write. I’ll confess that Louder at one point was 25% longer than the finished product. I wrote and wrote and wrote, and then did a lot of chopping and trimming and rearranging to get it just so, assuming I’d recognise it when I saw it. I’m more of a “pantser”, but in the end I knew it was ready, or close to being ready, when Ellen’s story felt as familiar and coherent as my own memories. Beta reader feedback was also a critical ingredient.
R: Introduce Louder Than Words to Book Geeks in one sentence.
ISC: A troubled, cynical girl learns to love and trust, and through that knowledge finds the courage to emerge from hiding.
R: That’s an excellent description. Are you an avid reader? Who are some of your favourite authors, or your favourite books, and why?
ISC: I am an avid reader, but not a very fast one. I set a goal every year on Goodreads and make sure I exceed it, even if that means I’m reading mostly novellas in November and December. I try to balance reading and writing. Always.
My favourite authors and books change all the time because what’s going on in my life can determine if a story will resonate or not when I read it. I pick my top ten favourites every year, give them 5 stars (I don’t otherwise rate or review) and put them on a special Goodreads shelf. The most recent YA books I gave 5 stars to were Scarlet by Marissa Meyer and Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley.
R: It was a revelation to me to discover that some authors have minimal or no say in their book covers. How much input do you have in the final cover-art, and are covers important to you?
ISC: While you can’t necessarily judge a book by its cover, you can judge whether a potential reader will pick it up, or buy it, by its cover appeal. Covers are critical. That said, it’s still highly subjective, and therefore, this is going to be a long answer!
I had a fantastic experience with Louder’s cover, which I absolutely love and will state is exactly what I was looking for. Georgia McBride, the owner of Swoon Romance, and Najla Qamber, the immensely talented cover artist whose work I had previously admired, deserve the credit for developing the perfect cover. To me, it’s perfect because it also aligned with what I envisioned and asked for.
Every publisher I’ve worked with (all indie) has solicited varying degrees of input early on in the process. Sometimes, if an author is lucky, they’ll also get an early draft to look at and be given the opportunity to offer additional input. With Swoon, I suggested a change in the cover tagline, and Swoon took my suggestion. My experience was probably more collaborative than many other publishers would allow, but I was also lucky that the first draft I saw was so good and so close to what I’d requested!
For my author and book information worksheet, I was asked to name at least two covers for books in my genre that I liked and why. I chose Colleen Hoover’s Hopeless and Katja Millay’s The Sea of Traquility (the self-published version), and Cath Crowley’s Graffiti Moon (with the yellow paint spray can). I wanted something more somber and abstract than a cute boy or couple on the cover.
I recently wrote to Najla to ask how she created the final product. She was very enthusiastic and gracious, and wrote:
“[Georgia McBride, the owner of Swoon] actually just sent me the genre of the book, the book title, your name and this simple idea, “My vision is to have an image of a bullhorn with the title coming out of it”. At that point, there was too much going on in my head, I didn’t know what ideas to narrow it down to, so I had Georgia pick out what type of bullhorn she wanted and then asked for the summary of the book. I remember I started the cover in black and white, with red colours, but that just seemed too “adult”, so I did a complete 360 and went for more playful colours.”
Najla also told me she crafted several different covers from which Swoon made the final selection. I’m dying to see the ones that didn’t make the cut, because I’ll bet they were just as amazing. However, this is where I also trusted my publisher’s experience with sales and marketing.
R: Personally, the cover was the first thing that drew me to this book, so it’s great to hear the story behind it. What is your most favourite, and least favourite, part of the writing process?
ISC: Most favorite part is writing “The End” to the first draft. Least favorite is writing lengthy sections only to realize it’s not working or is inconsistent or is extraneous or distracting from the main story. Having to cut and then spackle holes and smooth out continuity issues is exhausting, tedious work.
R: Weigh in on the eternal debate – eBook or hard-copy?
ISC: I’m a price-point gal first (whichever format is cheapest), impulse buyer (available when I want it) second.
R: Do you prefer to type stories on a computer, or hand-write in a notebook?
ISC: Computer. I HATE to hand-write.
R: What is your favourite word?
ISC: “The” (LOL… okay, if you want something flashier and less utilitarian, I’ll say “serendipitous”).
R: Which 5 fictional characters (books, TV, film etc.) would you invite to a dinner party?
ISC: Mattie Winston from Working Stiff by Annalise Ryan, Jamie Fraser from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, George Orr from The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula LeGuin, Amber from The Last Hour of Gann by R. Lee Smith, and Harper Connelly from Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris.
R: Which do you prefer in books – contemporary or classic?
R: What is your favourite non-fiction book?
ISC: Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters by Jean Shepherd
R: Do you prefer the hero or the villain?
ISC: The villain.
R: When you read, or write, books do you believe in book monogamy?
ISC: No. While I’m usually monogamous as a reader, I write under three pen names for three audiences. I have something in process for all of them, always.
R: What are you currently working on that we can look forward to?
ISC: Writing as Iris, I’m currently working on a Louder sequel, Lizzy’s story, working titled More Precious Than Rubies, which is a modern retelling of The Scarlet Letter. It’ll be more New Adult and set about four years in the future from Louder. Writing adult romance as Claire Gillian, I recently released a contemporary novel called Boss Overboard. I also have two short stories, one sweet and one spicy, contracted to be published in anthologies in February 2015.
About The Author:
Iris St. Clair is the author of the contemporary young adult novel, LOUDER THAN WORDS. She believes in the two-year “fish or cut bait” dating rule and has a 20+ year marriage and two teenaged sons as proof of concept. She lives, writes, dreams and dances in the rainy Portland, OR area. Connect with Iris here: