First, a disclaimer. I’m a huge fan of Jody Klaire, both as a person and as a writer. She is immensely talented in a lot of different ways. I sat down to talk about her time with the Writing Academy and about some of her recent work.
Let’s jump right in with your book La Vie En Bleu. I might be a little biased because this was your Writing Academy book, but I just love this adorable romance. Pippa is such an amazing, albeit flighty character and the story is so charming and sweet. Can you talk a bit about your process writing this book?
I’m delighted you’re biased! La Vie En Bleu was my first romantic comedy. I spent time on holiday (on vacation) in Provence growing up and studied French (and French culture and people) as an adult. I wanted the book to bring France to life and that needed a careful and deliberate way of bringing the setting and the research to life without it reading like a textbook.
I was also at a stage in writing where I wanted Pippa’s accent to come through in the prose, so I let her voice dictate how I started sentences. I wanted to try and pull out the differences between how English speakers emphasize their words and how the French do. To put it in perspective, I’d spent two books in Aeron’s voice trying to create the feel and rhythm of a Welsh-American character so it was important to me that Pippa “sounded” different.
In the WA, I learned how to use analysis in a new, exciting way when I looked at other works. This really helped me to understand how to improve my own writing and spot and understand how other authors worked so I could develop new skills.
After taking La Vie En Bleu through the WA, I reworked how I implemented research into the prose. The goal was to do this without the reader realizing so they could just enjoy the light-hearted romance. Hopefully, I pulled it off.
You definitely did. Speaking of the academy, you’ve been a student, a teacher, a mentee, and a mentor with the WA. What advice did you take from your academy experience as a student that you brought to your experience as a guider of new writers?
First thing I learned from a GCLS perspective was “passing it forward.” That ethos is so important. I benefited from the great ladies before me who took the time to get involved and share what they know. As a student and as a mentee, I had amazing people to learn from. Their positivity and their empathy really made an impact on me. I wanted to pass that forward and show any poor soul lumped with me, that writing is the three Ps: passion, pizazz, and whole load of perseverance.
It’s so exciting what you can do with a blank page. I want anyone who works alongside me or is led astray by me to feel the sheer joy that you’ve taken a scene from a draft idea to a vivid, engaging, masterpiece that has the ability to do something incredible: move someone.
I mean, little old you, yes you—you’ve thumped out a story, re-worked it, edited it, probably cried over it. You’ve sworn a lot, you may have thrown things and consumed vast amounts of chocolate (or liquor.) You might have told yourself to give up because curing the common cold would be easier than getting this stupid hunk of novel right, but you did it and because you did… you made something utterly magical happen: you reached through the pages to someone thousands of miles away and made them feel something for a character you’ve made up in your head. How cool is that?
Super cool! We love your passion for writing and teaching. We also totally love how you give away so much on your webpage https://jodyklaire.com/ I read one of your short stories recently, “Fields of Gold.” It was so poignant and gently loving. Do you ever hear back from readers about those short stories?
I often find myself referring to J.K Rowling and in the WB Studio outside London, there’s a quote of hers on the wall that, “no story lives unless someone wants to listen.” I loved her example of giving something back to her readers by giving them free stories so when I set up my site, I wanted to create a place for readers to discover and enjoy extra snippets whether that is a short story, a downloadable series to run alongside The Above & Beyond Series, a poem or two or even just my characters taking over a blog. I wanted it to feel interactive and welcoming but most of all I wanted it to be transparent. I don’t touch those stories or correct things I know not to do now. I want readers and my fellow writers to see that I don’t always get it right but I’m working on getting better. What truly counts is if I’ve told you a good story that was worth listening to.
I’m very fortunate to have readers who will let me know if they have liked something I’ve written. It really means a lot when someone takes the time to say they enjoyed my work whatever form it’s in but I know that my poem Patient’s Plea in particular has been shared a fair amount and I get a lot of people saying they connected with it which is very cool.
”Fields of Gold” was written for the Shelter anthology to raise money for homeless and at
risk of being homeless people in the UK. I normally write short stories specifically for a good cause (like the GCLS WA Anthology Written Dreams.) This one is special because it was the first time I’d tried romance at all.
PS – their follow-up is “22 Carrots in The Snow.” https://jodyklaire.com/blogs-poetry-short-stories-and-other-musings/stories-and-poetry/22-carrots-in-the-snow-alina-part-ii/
I love that title and will definitely be reading that story. Do you prefer writing in short-form or long-form?
I like both for different reasons. I started off writing novels, but I view short, medium (novellas) and long forms as separate skills and I learn something from writing them all.
I love novels because I can really take the time to explore and twist a story in ways that takes the careful maneuvering of the plot and subplots. The same is amplified for a series because you can really get to know a character in a way that makes them so special to you and hopefully the reader too!
In short stories and novellas, I love working on how to give a snapshot of a story in a short space in time. Sometimes that turns into more as with “The Understudy” for the GCLS WA Anthology. I had so much fun writing it that it sparked “If The Shoe Fits” which is the play the characters create during the story and a retelling of Cinderella.
“The Understudy” was a great story. But let’s get back to your novels. You have a couple new releases. Full Circle is part of the Above and Beyond series, right?
Full Circle is book Seven of the Above & Beyond Series. I left readers on a bit of a cliff-hanger during book Six, so the expectation is high. Aeron is locked in Serenity Hills, a max-security institution for the criminally insane, where she began her journey seven books ago. She’s incredibly sick, fading fast and is being targeted by someone who wants her out of the way. Her team, including the woman she adores (Renee) are desperately searching for her. The problem is they are being out maneuvered… but by whom… Book seven brings the series to a nail-biting conclusion and answers the question readers ask the most: will Aeron and Renee get together?
It’s too exciting. I can’t take the pressure! This is an amazing series. Before you and I had ever “met,” I knew who you were because The Empath was getting so much buzz in our literary circles. But I’m really curious about Blind Trust. That was the second book in the series and one that you worked on with a Golden Crown Literary Society mentor, Redhawk. https://www.bellabooks.com/category/Bella-Author-DJordan-Redhawk/ Can you talk about that experience and how the mentoring program differed from the Writing Academy?
Working with a mentor on the mentoring program is one-to-one experience for, I think, the first fifty or so pages of your manuscript.
I learned so much from Redhawk and it helped me work on bringing the setting to life. That’s always been the part I have to work on that little bit extra because I tend to give far less vivid detail than I can. I also tend to eventually add it in layers with each work through of the manuscript which was a process I started to learn while being mentored.
Redhawk was a brilliant mentor for me and a wonderful match. She challenged me to make St. Jude’s (the town in the book) come to life… I often hear her questions which make me smile and think at the same time. My favorite being, “well, if it’s such a #@*!*# dream of a place then what does it look like?”
I felt like my writing jumped levels after working with her (and in combination with my amazing editor.) I feel like I created a setting that really brought the story to life.
The WA on the other hand, is like a self-edit course, add in masterclasses, a large touch of mentoring and some cozy chat sessions with a successful authors in the genre; mix that together with a tight camaraderie between students and you have the GCLS at its best.
I can happily say that, if you’re willing to listen and put the time in to get the most out of it, you’ll come out of the academy a better writer and with some buddies you will probably keep in your heart for a long, long time.
Both mentoring and the WA are fantastic programs. The mentoring is great for those with a finished manuscript and they want a professional eye to look at the opening chapters or a newer author who is looking for a professional to give them some personal guidance. This is short term and great for those who can’t commit long term. It’s also a great taster.
The WA is great if you want to explore writing and its technical aspects in more depth or if you have a manuscript that you really want to beat into something special. It runs from September to the con in reality and you get out what you put in. It is worth the effort though, it really is.
As with anything else in life, you’ve got to work for it. Writing a series takes a lot of work. Do you have any advice for crafting a successful series?
I think knowing what you want from the series is the big part. I knew that I didn’t want a series that fizzled out or became predictable. I wanted it to build on each book to become an over-arching story of its own. I also needed to make sure each book was stand-alone, but I wanted every book to be better than the one before it which is not an easy feat when book one is your debut novel!
I knew where Aeron was going when I started. I’ve had that closing few scenes in my head when I began book one. I intricately plotted every detail and character but then characters like Renee and Frei changed the entire perspective, so I had to replot all over again.
I’ve re-written Full Circle so many times because I had to get it right. I want it to be the best book of the series and for readers to gripped, battered, desperately turning each page to find out how Aeron does!
You have another book coming out soon. Is Hayefield Manor a stand-alone?
Hayefield Manor is a romantic intrigue novel and may be standalone. Think Rebecca crossed with a Sherlock Holmes Mystery set deep in the English Countryside.
Ex-detective and reluctant private investigator, Morgan Lloyd, has been ushered into proving the innocence of Lady Sophie Haye. It would be difficult enough considering the weight of evidence against Lady Haye and the fact Morgan’s old colleagues are on the case… but Morgan finds herself drawn to Lady Haye’s smoldering temper, striking beauty, and sensual magnetism.
The closer Morgan strays, the more crucial evidence points to Lady Haye’s guilt. So, will Morgan follow her instinct to bring a suspect to justice or trust her heart and hope she’s not being played by a killer?
Hopefully that made you go “oooh.” There’s a different feel to Hayefield Manor and a steamier side to the characters than readers will be used to with my books. Sophie is a character I loved putting on the page because she’s so cutting, so aloof, so untouchable and so dangerous. Yeah, she’s a dangerous, rich, unattainable woman who Morgan doesn’t stand a chance of resisting… But then Morgan isn’t exactly a damsel and brings to life touches of what it is to be a police officer (and when they make mistakes!)
It was so much fun writing it and creating Hayefield Manor which is more like an ancient castle with sweeping lawns a huge lake and a house that is full of mysteries itself.
You live in a small town in Wales, right? Is there much of a writing community there?
To put it in perspective, Wales has a population of about 3 million; Scotland has a population of 5 million, and our lovely neighbors, the English, have a population of about 57 million.
Most of the population in South Wales live along the M4 corridor (an interstate) between Newport, Cardiff and Swansea. Although they are very close by American standards (less than 100 miles apart) and we boast authors like Dylan Thomas and Sarah Waters, let alone a rich theatre and musical history, there still aren’t massive opportunities for arts here. That being said, UK-wide and international groups like Jericho (online writing organization,) the GCLS and societies like the Romantic Novelists Association are very welcoming and easy to access.
So, I would guess that’s a bit like the States and Canada in that, if you are near a city or community, then there’s more groups to get involved with.
Wales is dual-language country so a group would have to really accommodate both Cymraeg (Welsh) and English. The Welsh speaking community is far more active in promoting cultural heritage but I’ve not translated any of my books to my native Welsh… yet…
I’m saying all this and I can imagine someone emailing me and telling me there are groups and I’m wrong and how dare I insult writing groups… etc… so, if there are, I’m sorry and I’m a hermit.
I understand living in a small town! Thank goodness for the internet. Do you still keep in touch with any of your former Writing Academy classmates?
Oh yeah. I was lucky enough to go through the academy with some wonderful ladies who have become great friends. It’s always exciting to see how they do and cheer them when they win awards and publish books. We catch up when we can and cheer in between.
Also, I tend to keep a beady eye on students and mentees too. It’s so cool to see them get published, get awarded or even just get the story down that they have been trying to pull from their head.
I will also say that I love staying in touch with all the staff at the WA and Mentoring Program. I’m always cheering them on even though they might not hear it all the way from Wales, but I do hope they know I’ve always got a smile for them. I love you, ladies!
We love you, too. And we value your wisdom. What piece of advice do you have for writers just starting out?
Ooh, see now people come out with things like “read, read, read” or pull the good old “write what you know” but I never feel comfortable with them. I’d say learn to read analytically, maybe or make writing what you don’t know easier by learning about things you want to write about (or, in English, research.)
But, probably my piece of advice is this: Be a nut and have fun being one.
Confused? Work with me here…
You already know if you want to be the next J. K Rowling or if you just want to get one short story down to say you’ve done it. If you’re writing, you want people to hear you (a wise writer once told me) and so enjoy saying what you have to say. Do what fills you with joy, write what makes you happy, write what subject captures your imagination and do it with all your heart.
The business stuff, the publicity stuff, the awards or sales numbers might mean something if you sell massive amounts, but you can’t control that. You might outsell James Patterson or be lucky if your mother glanced at the cover once.
What you can control is if you have fun doing something you love. Like the little quote that pops into my head often says, “the tallest tree in the forest was once a little nut that stood its ground.”
So, dearest nut, stand your ground and have a great time spreading those roots and growing those branches because every knot just makes you stronger.
I love that. So – be a nut. But reading is also important. What do you have on your nightstand right now?
Now that’s a good question. I don’t normally tell anyone but as you’re so persuasive (Ed. Note. We plied her with chocolate.) I’ve got Harlan Coben on my kindle, Emma Darwin and Julie Cohen. Lesfic wise, I recently read Kiki Archer, Gerri Hill, and Radclyffe among others.
I’m heavily into non-fiction so I have the entire Blackstone’s Policing Manuals, Kumar and Clark’s Clinical Medicine, there’s a load on sports’ psychology, German, Spanish, French. I’ve just finished a great book on Forensic Science, Eric Shepard’s fantastic book on interviewing techniques… and City & Guilds Barbering workbook because I’m into barbering (which sounds odd but I like short hair and doing cool things to it. Give me a clippers/electric shaver, and I’m happy!)
Wow! No wonder you’re so full of interesting information. I have to admit, as much as I love talking about writing and books, I’ve been waiting this whole interview to talk about your furry best friend. Can you tell us a little about Ferb, aka Fergus.
Ah, my furry pain-in-the-butt? Fergus is a very special pup (he’s four but he’s still a baby.) He’s a golden retriever with an incredible set of skills. We needed an assistance (service) dog for me and there is a charity in the UK that works alongside people to train their own dogs to help them with things like taking their socks off etc.
I wanted to have a golden retriever because I’m crazy (ask any other Goldie owner.) They are incredibly intelligent dogs, but they also have ingenuity and the kind of loving nature that really does make you forget they are piranhas with paws when they’re puppies.
We trained him from fourteen weeks with the charity and followed a “flawless” plan that saw Ferb running around the car to bite Em’s butt and us spending a lot of time looking at each other going “positive reinforcement, call him with a happy voice… happy voice… come ‘ere, you little…” etc. (check out “Puppy Sitting for Numpties” short story on my website for a taster.) https://jodyklaire.com/blogs-poetry-short-stories-and-other-musings/stories-and-poetry/short-story-puppy-sitting-for-numpties/
Then during training with an ADPT registered professional we started to learn how to teach Ferb to de-sock me, and help me undress and walk alongside me. Fantastic, I hear you say… er… no… I walked around without socks (and other items) for months and Ferb was like a husky on Red Bull with the wheelchair.
He was supposed to have a “free run” at certain times during the week. This means off the lead/leash which would result in my mum stomping through the doorway saying “I hate him. Do you have any idea what he’s done this time?” and this was only helped by talking to other Guide Dog trainers who said they had assessors fill in forms for their dogs after two years with statements like… Sit and stay: good. Refusal of food from stranger: good. Recall: ha, ha.
So it wasn’t just us which made me feel better.
But Ferb slowly and painfully came into his own. He was fast becoming a great assistance dog but then showed he has an extra special set of skills: He can tell apart the different medical conditions I have an alert me to each of them in a different way.
If any of you have been to a UK event, you’ll have seen him telling me off. It often confuses people because they assume he’s a Guide Dog (which are the ones in a harness who guide those with sight problems.) Ferb is multi-faceted: he detects/warns/tells me off with medical conditions; he is an assistance dog; he creates and maintains a spacial comfort zone; he actively controls my levels of peripheral awareness – which means he will interact with me to give me a “reset” period which prevents a lot of problems; He is my temperature gauge – I don’t have one and my conditions are triggered by changes in temperature. He tells me if it’s too warm or too cold; He is a guide dog when I suffer from visual impairment and he is also a hearing dog because I am deaf.
Ferb is also my link to Em and those who help her in events when she’s letting me wander off. If I’m too far from her or them, he lets us know. If I need to find her, he will lead me to her because he is scent driven. If she needs to come to me, I can let go of the lead and he’ll find her and bring her back or he can lead me to her. He can do all this with a verbal command from me; a click or hand signal or he can do it just by a noise I make when I’m losing my ability to speak.
So the furry pain-in-my-butt is beyond special. It’s a bond that is far and above him being a service dog. He has never been food orientated or toy orientated, he’s love-orientated. He actually does all the things he does because he can. He just likes doing it and me thanking him.
Off-duty, he likes to roll in mud or anything disgusting, play with his best friend and labradoodle, Dolly, like a pro-wrestler. He loves his grandma so much he does a special dance for her and sings to her as she comes up the driveway… and he can skin a tennis ball in seconds.
Some ball of fluff, huh?
He’s utterly lovely. Last question – is there anything you want us to know that we didn’t ask?
I would say to people that if they are thinking about going on the mentoring or WA then past students are always happy to have a chat (in my experience anyway.) Even if you find that halfway through the WA, your book isn’t working, work and real-life stuff has driven you mad and you have three pages of drivel for your highly-successful and awe inspiring mentor to sneeze at, you’ll find that your classmates really come into their own.
The core of the GCLS is friendship and that friendship is so vital to some but so welcome to all. Weirdly, taking up something that seems solitary actually connects you to other…enthusiasts… who also have imaginary people running around their heads and, like you, they talk about them as if they are real.
What more could you want?
Thank you for letting me be part of the blog. Ferb is telling me it’s time to go and snooze. Big Smiles from us to you 😊
Feel free to say hi:
Instagram: Jody Klaire
The GCLS Writing Academy is a yearlong intensive program for new or relatively new writers who have written at least part of a novel. In this course, students will learn the critical components of quality writing. The Writing Academy goes beyond craft of writing and takes students through all aspects of writing and publishing a novel.