Welcome to the six hundred and fifteenth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with poet and short story writer Clayton Bye. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Clayton. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Clayton: Hello Morgen. I’m a permanently disabled, 51 year-old author who spends my days stretched out on a couch with pillows at my back and who has a laptop that never sleeps. I’ve been writing since 1994, when I became old enough to understand I had collected the life-experiences necessary to write believable fiction and non-fiction. The disability, while unfortunate, has given me the opportunity to become a full-time writer (within the parameters of my illness). I live in Kenora, Ontario, Canada on the beautiful, world famous Lake of the Woods.
Morgen: I get sciatica and sometimes I can’t stand up straight but I’m very fortunate that it happens once or twice a year. My heart goes out to you, having to suffer that all the time. My laptop (a Mac) also never sleeps, and hasn’t since I bought it. Apparently with electrical equipment, what kills them is powering them up / switching them off repeatedly. I have mine set to open all the programmes I need when it does get rebooted so it would take a while. Do you write poetry to form or as it comes? If to form, what are your favourites? Are some easier than others?
Clayton: I seem to write to a natural beat or rhythm. This makes it easy to structure my poetry to that form. There’s no reason for any particular restriction: it’s like writing a song, actually. I get the sound and some written lines to go with that music, then I go through the process of making everything fit. This is important, as I believe that by imposing structure, we create clarity of meaning. For example, if my rhythm is 4/7/4/7/2, then I must search for words to fit that structure while also saying exactly what I mean. I also find that the cadence one can achieve when reading such poetry to an audience often brings a greater emotional meaning to those people.
By the way, the longer the poem, the more difficult it becomes. And because I’m a firm believer in enjoying myself, I write short poems.
Morgen: I write very little poetry so I always learn something when speaking to poets, part of the reason I set up http://poetrywritinggroup.wordpress.com. Do you generally write rhyming or free verse?
Clayton: I prefer free verse, but have been known to go on the occasional rhyming binge. It’s a bit like being a reformed alcoholic.
Morgen: 🙂 What have you had published to-date?
Clayton: I published a few poems in 2009 at Publishing Renaissance and (maybe) at the Write Room. But being a writer of books, rather than shorter forms, I decided to answer a certain inspiration and write a book of poems. This was self-published as an ebook in 2010 and as a paperback May 1st 2012.
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Clayton: I have had exactly one rejection slip in my entire life. You see, at age 18 I wrote a poem I knew was good. I sent it to The Fiddlehead and received the rejection slip with the comment “Great imagery if a bit wordy.” I decided right there and then that I would never write to anyone’s standards but my own. And I didn’t. When I decided to start writing in 1994, I formed my own publishing company—we do everything but the actual printing, and if it was economical, we’d have bought a printer years ago. As for poems? I never wrote another poem until 2009. They must have been stored away, because I wrote one a week for 50 weeks, then created my book, “What I Found in the Dark.”
Morgen: That’s good going. It’s a shame that the rejection put you off for so long, but you’ve been making up for it ever since. Do you enter competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Clayton: Never and No. I write to my own standards and couldn’t care less for others.
Morgen: The joy of self-publishing. 🙂 Do you deal with publishers directly or do you have an editor / agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Clayton: Obviously I believe independent publishing is a viable instrument. And the only thing vital to an author’s success, whether he has gone traditional or independent, is himself or herself. If you do not throw yourself into a year-long marketing campaign once your book is published, then forget about seeing any money.
Morgen: I released my debut novel last November so I have a few months to go, although I’ve not really promoted it yet. The plan was to get my second-written (in 2009, there have been four more since) online shortly after but I’m still in final edit mode (or I would be if I actually got to it!). Are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process?
Clayton: Yes, all my books are available as eBooks—at my eStore, on Amazon Kindle and, for the last 3 books, as a Sony PDF with worldwide distribution. As for involvement: since there is no printer involved with eBooks, I have been completely involved in every step, including marketing and distribution of the finished product.
Morgen: Which makes it all the more satisfying, I think. Do you think eBooks will change poetry? If so, how?
Clayton: eBooks are changing everything. Write an eBook and it can be in the hands of buyers around the world within a day—at virtually no cost to the author. This year, I have bought something like 3 hardcovers and a few mass-market paperbacks. However, I’ve bought close to fifty eBooks. I have a Kobo and a Kindle eReader. Also, on my computer I have the following readers: Mobi, Kindle, Calibre (for epubs) and Adobe Digital Editions.
Morgen: I used to use an Elonex (which I still have), then bought a Kindle which I since sold as I have a Kindle app on my iPad so didn’t use it. I love the option of both. What / who do you read? And is it via eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Clayton: As an editor and reviewer, I read every genre there is. And as my previous answer suggests, I’m reading far more eBooks than print books. It’s not hard to understand why: it costs the author or publisher almost nothing to create the eBook, which can then be sent for free by email. As an author, why wouldn’t I make that choice over the expensive to print and ship traditional book?
Morgen: That’s why I’ve gone that route. Although I was offered two publishing contracts (the first with editing / the second without) they weren’t right for me. Two ‘first readers’ went through it (after I had several times) and there are still things none of us spotted. Part of the reason for going eBook only was for that very reason. I want the novel to be perfect before I commit it to print. I’ve just gone into the Word document, done the tweaking and replaced the online version. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Clayton: It’s the same thing, and I devote one year to marketing every book I write. Now, I don’t market all day, but I do market every day. The average amount of time spent on that marketing would be 4 hours per day (my mornings).
Morgen: Wow, that’s a big chunk of your day. That said I’ve been spending pretty much all day, every day on this blog (emails, reading and posting) so I guess that’s constant marketing. Going back to your poetry, do you have a favourite of your poems or topic to write about?
Clayton: My poetry book is completely thematic. Its title is “What I Found in the Dark”. And, yes, I most definitely have favourite poems.
Morgen: Do you show / read your poems to anyone before you submit?
Clayton: Nothing I write is ever seen by anyone else until the first draft is complete. The reason for this is simple: ideas are fragile things that once spoken of do tend to die.
Morgen: Then brought to life on the page / screen. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Clayton: I have released 3 books in the last 6 months, so I am extremely busy with marketing commitments. However, I do know what my next project will be. I will be putting together a chapbook of absolutely horrifying short stories to sell worldwide.
Morgen: Wow. They sound great (short stories are my first love). You’ll have to send me the details and I’ll add it to my blog’s Books – Other People’s short story section. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Clayton: When working on a project, I do write every day. And I never suffer from writer’s block; I don’t believe in it. My approach to writing is to have several projects on the go at once. When stuck on one of them, I move onto another: the problem with the original story has almost always vanished by the time I get back to it. If not, I repeat the process.
Morgen: I’m very lucky that I don’t real blockages. Like you I write different things so if one starts grinding, I switch to another then my brain’s clear of the first when I come back to it. Why do you think poetry is such a difficult market to break into?
Clayton: The market for poetry is small, well read, intelligent and informed. The normal garbage that saturates the book and short fiction market is, in the poetry market, just booted to the corner with the rest of the trash.
Morgen: <laughs> Are there any tips you could give to someone wishing to write poetry?
Clayton: Have fun. Write what you are passionate about. Be willing to rip your soul bare. And no matter which publishing route you choose—Traditional or Independent—remember that someone somewhere will like your poetry, as long as it’s good. And that’s where critique groups and advance reviewers and complete strangers come in. If all three mentioned find your poetry interesting and enjoyable and will agree to buying a copy when it comes out, well then, you have a winner!
Morgen: Speaking of critique groups, I’ve just set up four blogs (for short stories, poetry, novels and scripts) primarily for authors to have feedback on their writing (I also post four 15-minute writing exercises daily) – see https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/online-writing-groups. You mentioned short stories, do you write any longer fiction or non-fiction?
Clayton: I have made the commitment to write in a different genre and/or format every time I write a book. So, yes, I’ve written them all.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Clayton: Most of my writing, poetry or other formats, comes out fully formed. But my grammar, punctuation and spelling doesn’t. So, I edit until I can’t look at the piece anymore, then I send it to a proofreader, and when it comes back, I proof the proofreaders work (There are always errors to be found). At this point I pull the trigger; there’s no way there will be anything left that could really bother a reader.
It wasn’t always this way. When I began, I edited and proofed myself. There were so many errors, I redid many of the books in 2005. But I was still self-editing. It wasn’t until last year that I actually began farming proofreading and book covers out to other professionals. It has made a world of difference.
Morgen: It’s always wise to get another opinion, and as I mentioned with The Serial Dater’s Shopping List, none of us are infallible. I used to write a lot of 60-word stories and found the more I wrote the closer they came out to the word count. It’s obviously not a direct comparison but do you find your poems come out at similar lengths, or do they really vary.
Clayton: My poems are whatever length they need to be. In book, short story and poetry writing, I use Stephen King’s suggestion of looking at the finished product as a dinosaur fossil that you must carefully excavate. Thus, the story / poem dictates what it will be. How’s that for a highway to the subconscious?
Morgen: Stephen King’s a very clever man. In my teens, I used to read every book he wrote and blame him for me wearing glasses – the books were so addictive I’d keep reading under the covers with a torch! Do you have to do much research?
Clayton: I spent the first 33 years of my life doing research. Now I just write about what I discovered.
Morgen: 🙂 I didn’t come to creative writing ’til my late thirties and whenever an author said they’d been writing since they were young, and / or had known they’d always wanted to be a writer, I felt I’d missed out but then I realised I had all that experience to write about. They do say write about what you know. I tend to kill some of my characters so I stray from that advice. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Clayton: I have things I tried to write prior to 1994. I should just burn them.
Morgen: Oh no, don’t. If you can’t whip them into shape, they will at least show you how far you’ve come. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Clayton: I hate dealing with anyone who’s a part of the “old school of writing.” They’re dead and they don’t even know it. As for surprises? I never imagined the day when I could send an email from Canada to my American printer, asking to have one copy of my latest book printed and mailed to a customer in Australia—and still make a profit on that book.
Morgen: Isn’t it brilliant. What advice would you give aspiring poets?
Clayton: Have fun, because you aren’t going to make any money (to live on, anyway).
Morgen: That’s certainly harder these days. With online outlets increasing, we have more opportunity but the internet has grown the number of writers – I’ve interviewed / booked in nearly 800 authors, with another 900+ having received the information pack. I think I’ve only scratched the tip of the proverbial iceberg. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Clayton: Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci and Thomas Alva Edison. I would offer a selection of wine, cheeses, breads and sliced meats / fish, for the simple reason that these are great conversation foods.
Morgen: Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Clayton: Courage is the capacity to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm. – Winston Churchill
Morgen: I like that. Another wise man. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Clayton: Having been forcibly retired, as previously mentioned, I do the following as I am capable…
- I am Editor-in-Chief at the review hub The Deepening World of Books.
- I have begun to publish the works of others. My first book was a collection of strangely different short stories by authors from around the world. It’s called “Writers on the Wrong Side of the Road.”
- I offer writing and editing services.
- I am a small business management consultant (more for writers these days).
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Clayton: I belong to 5 different Masonic bodies. I enjoy reading, watching movies and following a few TV series.
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites?
Clayton: The following are the sites I try to use on a daily basis (and networking is all you have on the net. If you don’t network, you have no one to sell to when that time comes):
- Editor-in-Chief, The Deepening
- Publisher, Writers on the Wrong Side of the Road
- My Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Clayton-Bye/e/B002BWULO0
- Homepage: http://www.claytonbye.com
- eStore: http://shop.claytonbye.com/index.php?route=product/category&path=58
- WordPress: http://thecontrarycanadian.wordpress.com
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clayton-Bye/88027077330
- Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2917641.Clayton_Bye
- Linked-in: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/guided?goback=.npe_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1&trk=optimize-started-prof_promo-nprofile-edit-success
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/claytonbye
- Klout: http://klout.com/#/claytonbye
Morgen: That’s very true, and my goodness, I thought I was on a lot! What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Clayton: The writer will work almost exclusively out of the home and on the net.
Morgen: I have been home-based since March (2012) and I love it. I can’t see me having a proper job again. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Morgen: Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Clayton: You’ve been so great about this opportunity. Would you like me to interview you?
Morgen: Absolutely. Just say when. Thank you, Clayton, for joining me today.
I then invited Clayton to include one of his poems and he said…“A Hole in the Clouds” is one of my favourites, because it captures the essence of a real moment I had with my daughter.
a hole in the clouds
speak out loud
a child’s eyes aglow
soul is livened
I drive slow
and a synopsis of his book ‘What I Found In The Dark’…
The mystery of the veil, of the dark curtain between this life and the next, between past and future or between mind and matter haunts all of us at one time or another. Yet… there is beauty in what we can’t see and must imagine.
Like most people, I’m certain my life won’t come down to What I Found In The Dark: there’s too much light for that. Still… I peer through veils of the past and the future yet to be, and I take what glimpses come my way.
Share those glimpses with me. Some are sweet; some bitter; and some will hurt: my hope is you will find all interesting and instructive.
And what others have said about Clayton…
“Clayton Bye is one of the most prolific and talented writers I know. He is an eloquent poet, insightful critic, imaginative novelist, and a self-help expert. The sheer volume of his work makes me dizzy, and he seems comfortable in all genres. From his compelling collection of short stories and essays to fiction winners like “The Sorcerer’s Key” and inspirational works like “How To Get What You Want From Life” and “Getting Clear,” he seems to find more hours in a day than most writers find in a week. He makes you think, touches your heart, and fights the good fight with his pen as his sword. You can number me among his great admirers.” – Timothy Fleming
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have http://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.
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