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Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Gwendolyn Clare here to share about her YA fantasy INK, IRON, AND GLASS. It sounds like a fantastic story with diverse characters, a page-turning plot, and an amazing world. I can't wait to read it. Before I get to my interview, I've got two things to share.

WriteOnCon Is Back

WriteOnCon is back! It's an online conference, and this year's conference is Friday, Feb. 9th through Sunday, Feb 11th. It looks really good and has a lot of good agents and writers. I think I'm going to go. The new organizers do charge a fee, but the maximum is $15.


LoveAtFirstChapter is a new online service launching on Feb. 14th by some YA authors who are friends. You can sign up to receive free first chapters of YA books and if you are an author, submit your book to them. If they like it, they may offer your first chapter too.

Now back to my interview with Gwendolyn!

Here’s a blurb of her book from Goodreads:

Can she write a world gone wrong?

A certain pen, a certain book, and a certain person can craft entirely new worlds through a branch of science called scriptology. Elsa comes from one such world that was written into creation by her mother—a noted scriptologist.

But when her home is attacked and her mother abducted, Elsa must cross into the real world and use her own scriptology gifts to find her. In an alternative 19th-century Italy, Elsa finds a secret society of pazzerellones—young people with a gift for mechanics, alchemy or scriptology—and meets Leo, a gorgeous mechanist with a smart mouth and a tragic past. She recruits the help of these fellow geniuses just as an assassin arrives on their doorstep.

In this thrilling debut, worlds collide as Elsa unveils a deep political conspiracy seeking to unlock the most dangerous weapon ever created—and only she can stop it.

Hi Gwendolyn! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

In college I was very focused on becoming a scientist. I double-majored in biology and geology, and in winter I practically never saw the sun because of all the labs. But then I took a year off before grad school and had some time to breathe, and that's when I started writing seriously with the aim of publication.

2. That's awesome that you were able to take a break and write like you wanted. Where did you get the idea for your story?

I'm a big fan of the Myst video game series, and I wanted to write a story about an artificial world that explicitly addressed the parallels to colonialism. This idea began as a short story about Elsa's mother, but as I was writing it I realized that the implications for the next generation were fertile ground for a novel. So Elsa became the protagonist, and that entire story became backstory.

3. What a fun way to come up with a story idea. I love your world building. The scriptology, magic ink, and steampunk sound really unique. What was your world building process like?

The Agatha Heterodyne law (or the inverse of Clarke's law) states that any sufficiently analyzed
magic is indistinguishable from science. My world-building process leaned on this principle -- scriptology is effectively portal magic that has been analyzed and harnessed into a scientific discipline. That's my speculative element, from which the rest can be extrapolated.

So how would Italian history change if scientists had access to magical abilities? Probably the biggest world-building challenge was figuring out how to not send all of European history completely off the rails. For that I needed a secret society of scientists whose primary goal is to keep their amazing skills away from the political field -- a goal which may not always align with Elsa's mission to rescue her mother.

4. Wow! You're making me wish that I had a science background like you. In INK, IRON, AND GLASS, scriptology is a branch of science. Did you draw on your scientific background in creating your story? If so, how?

My love of science definitely influenced the decision to write a novel that centers a bunch of mad scientists as main characters, instead of casting the scientists only as villains. But real-life science is often slow, meticulous, tedious work that wouldn't make for very compelling reading, so it was actually a challenge to strike the right balance between realism and reader expectation. I hope the story communicates the excitement of science without getting too bogged down in the frustration of it.

I did draw on computer science as a direct influence when figuring out how scriptology should work. While I couldn't make that connection explicit in the book -- there aren't any computers! -- scriptology functions a lot like an object-oriented programming language, where ink is the code and the universe itself executes the program.

5. Your story has been described as a real page turner with a fantastic plot and plot twists. Are you a punster or plotter and how did that work for you when writing this story? Share some of your plot secrets with the rest of us.

I used to think I was a plotter, until I met serious plotters and realized they actually wrote down their outlines. (Weirdos.) So I'm somewhere in the middle of the spectrum -- I like to know where the story begins, where it ends, and a few of the major set-pieces I need to hit along the way before I begin drafting. More of a plot skeleton than an exact road map. While I still mostly identify as a plotter, I also believe that no outline survives contact with the first draft, nor should it.

The best plot twists arise organically from decisions the characters make. Surprising the reader with plot twists isn't the most important part; the most important part is that the twists feel consistent and believable in retrospect. To set that up you need a deep understanding of your characters, which you may not have yet at the outlining stage. So I do like to leave room for the characters to run off in an unexpected direction, and not cling too tightly to the original outline.

6. I'm more of a plotter like you, so your advice is really helpful. Tell us a bit about Elsa as a character. Was there anything that surprised you about her?

lsa's a socially maladjusted introvert who's too smart for her own good -- which makes her probably the most similar to teenage-Gwen of all the characters I've written. But she does still manage to surprise me, because her homeworld is so different from Europe and she's observing everything with an outsider's perspective. I set the novel in Italy partly because I'm half Italian, and there's something particularly delightful about Elsa's mental commentary on a culture I identify with.

7. You’ve also written a lot of short fiction, poetry, and flash fiction. Did any of that help you with writing your novel?

When I was teaching myself how to write for publication, I exclusively worked on short stories for the first couple years. Short fiction is a great training ground for developing your craft toolkit. While not all of the techniques transfer over to novels, short stories have the advantage that you can practice the whole process -- drafting a beginning, middle, and end; revising; even submitting and dealing with rejections -- all with a relatively low investment. So my time focusing on short fiction absolutely prepared me both to write the novel, and also to survive the (occasionally soul-crushing) submission process.

8. Your agent is Jennifer Azantian. Share how she became your agent and your road to publication.

I landed an agent the old-fashioned way, through the query process. (And you can too, I promise! There's only three ways to stop being an aspiring writer: you quit, you die, or you get published.)

That's not to say it wasn't a struggle. INK, IRON, AND GLASS was the fourth novel I completed and queried. Partly it was a matter of improving my craft with each project, and partly it was a matter of getting the right material in front of the right agent at the right time. I also did an epic quantity of research on how to write query letters and on the agents themselves, so I could aim my queries in the right direction. Even after you sign with an agent, the need to keep yourself informed about the business side of the industry never goes away, so best get used to it now!

9. That's great to know that querying works! I saw on your website that you went to the Baltimore Book Fest and the SWFA Nebula conference this year. How did you arrange those events? How else are you spreading the word about your book?

Some YA book festivals are pretty exclusive and your publicist has to wrangle you a spot, but with science fiction and fantasy conventions, it's often just a matter of volunteering to participate as a panelist. I don't know that I'd recommend festivals and conventions as the best return on investment -- the travel expenses add up quick -- but if you enjoy going to cons, then the promotional and networking opportunities are nice side-effects.

I am also promoting in the usual ways -- a blog tour, a local release party, etc -- but the truth is that writers don't sell books, at least not directly. Readers are the ones who determine which books become successful. So my philosophy is to focus on having genuine interactions (online or in meat-space) with other people who are passionate about the genre, and hopefully some of them will fall in love with my book and advocate for it.

10. What are you working on now?

I've just finished a draft of the sequel to INK, IRON, AND GLASS, so while I'm waiting on editorial comments, I'm giving the creative coffers time to refill.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Gwendolyn. You can find Gwendolyn at:
Website: www.gwendolynclare.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/gwendoclare
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gwendolynclare/

Gwendolyn has generously offered an ARC of INK, IRON, AND GLASS for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through February 10th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is international.

Here's what's coming up:

Friday, February 2nd I'm participating in the For the Love of Books Giveaway Hop

Monday, February 5th I'll have a Q&A with agent Peter Knapp

Wednesday, February 7th I have an interview with debut author Brenda Rufener and a giveaway of her YA contemporary WHERE I LIVE and my IWSG post

Monday, February 12th I have a guest post by debut author Linda Williams Jackson and her agent Elizabeth Bewley and a giveaway of her MG contemporary MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON

Monday, February 19th I will be off for President's Day!

Monday, February 26th I have a guest post by debut author Kaitlin Sage Patterson and her agent Brent Taylor with a giveaway of her YA fantasy THE DIMINISHED and a query critique giveaway by Brent.

Hope to see you on Friday!


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great interview! This looks like an interesting book. I wish I could outline in my head...my memory isn't that good!

Greg Pattridge said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Greg Pattridge said...

I love the science aspect in this one. Her story to get this one to the shelf is a good one for aspiring writers: Don't give up! I won't need to be in the drawing as I have a stack of MG books a mile high to get through.

TL said...

What a unique concept--this one sounds so great! The cover is beautiful. Best of luck, Gwendolyn.

And The LoveAtFirstChapter is a fantastic idea.

Christine Rains said...

Congratulations to Gwendolyn! The book sounds fantastic. Myst is a great series.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Hey, I'm one of those weirdos!
Inspired by a computer game. That is too cool.

Brenda said...

Ink, Iron and Glass sounds wonderful, love the concept of science blended with the Italian influences. Lovely interview. Congratulations on its upcoming release. I also tweeted about it.

S.P. Bowers said...

What an interesting concept. I need to keep up on my new releases. There are so many good ones coming out. Congrats on the release, Gwen!

Patchi said...

I love novels that mix science and magic. I'm adding this one to my TBR :)

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Congratulations to Gwendolyn. I love the idea of Scriptology having the power to create new worlds. (Really, isn't that what fiction writers do in general? But Scriptology sounds . . . elegant.) I'm also intrigued by a Steampunk Italy. Usually I associate Steampunk with England. I liked her approach to novel-writing, working on short stories and flash fiction first to hone her craft. I would definitely be interested in this book. I'm mentioning this contest on Twitter and my FB author page as well.

Sherry Ellis said...

I can imagine how busy having a double science major kept you! I tried doing that with music and biology. Didn't work so well. Music won.

So, you think plotters who outline are weirdos? That would be me. LOL!

Congratulations on the new release!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That's wonderful to hear WriteOnCon is back.

You really have to research your cons and festivals. Some are not good fits for book sales.

cleemckenzie said...

Authors with a background in science always seem to have the most interesting books. Thank you for introducing this author to us, Natalie.

C. D. Monson said...

History, science, secret societies, AND magic. I'm in!!!

Karen Lange said...

Wishing you all the best, Gwendolyn! The book sounds intriguing. It was great to learn more about you.

Natalie, thanks for another great interview. I'll pass on the giveaway this time. Enjoy your week!

Nick Wilford said...

Congrats to Gwendolyn! This sounds really different and intriguing, especially the mix of science and magic.

Pat Hatt said...

A science background sure elevates many a story. Finding the right mixture has to be a challenge sometimes indeed.

Megan said...

Congrats to Gwendolyn! I'd love to enter the giveaway, I shared here: https://twitter.com/WordsThatStay1/status/958104730479267840

My email is megan(dot)clarsach(at)gmail(dot)com

Jemi Fraser said...

Love the mix of science in with the story - sounds terrific! :)

Natasha said...

This books sounds like an amazing read!
I love science and magic!
Thanks for the chance to win!
natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

Kristin Lenz said...

Wow, I love how so many influences came together for this story and how you persevered and continued to grow your craft. Congrats on all of your hard work, Gwendolyn!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I really enjoy books with real science in them even when it's mixed up with the fantastical. Congrats to Gwendolyn.

Jennifer T said...

It sounds an interesting concept. Thanks for this great interview.

Lexi said...

Great interview! And she actually got her agent through the slush pile! Persistence is key.

eyesofblueice (at) gmail

sherry fundin said...

Congrats Gwendolyn and thanks for sharing your thoughts. I love interviews.
sherry @ fundinmental

Marianna said...

I follow - mannasweeps

Chrys Fey said...

Scriptology...now that sounds like a form of science I'd want to learn. ;)

nikkirae said...

Nice interview. Thanks for sharing. I follow.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Interesting interview. Enjoyed meeting you, Gwendolyn.

Andrea Mack said...

Intriguing! Thank you for the interview!

Tyrean Martinson said...

I love your reaction to outline plotters. I create outlines that are more like guidelines. I have fun doing it, but it's more of a "what might happen" than a "it will happen" sort of thing. It's a place to throw ideas on a page and fiddle with them, but then the real writing begins with the first scene and then the last scene and then some others in the middle. :)
Great interview!

Anonymous said...

I'd love to win a copy!

Valentina B-v said...

The book sounds fantastic and the cover looks amazing! This book goes directly on my TBR list. Thanks for the chance to win!
GFC: Valentina Belea
Shared: https://twitter.com/ValentinaByVy/status/958796093583777793
E-mail: bv_byby27@yahoo.com

MorganeG. said...

Sounds great! Followed :)

Unknown said...

Go Gwendolyn! Love that cover - it's awesome! Wishing her much success!

Angie Quantrell said...

Oh, fun! This sounds like a great book! Way to go!

Nas said...

The story line sounds interesting and intriguing!

Danielle H. said...

This book has been on my TBR as soon as I read about it. Now that I know the author's background and her writing process, I'm excited to read this as soon as I can. I shared on tumblr: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/170433539297/gwendolyn-clare-interview-and-ink-iron-and-glass

Unknown said...

wow i'm happy. finally something free

Unknown said...

This book sounds terrific! I'd love to read it. Following you on Instagram.

susansmoaks said...

Thank you for the chance to win. I would love to read this.

Patsy Ayres said...

Looks like a fun book to read.

binabug said...

following Literary Rambles as binabug ..omg I so want to read that..just the cover alone makes me want to read it lol...I am not sure if its a real book or ebook, but if its a real booK, pLEASE Count me in

Betty C said...

This sounds like an awesome book. It is definitely going on my TBR list. I'm a follower and tweeted here - https://twitter.com/willitara/status/962195252181393408

Leela said...

Thanks for the giveaway!

Princess Seronica said...

I enjoyed the interview with the author. It sounds like a great read. Thanks.

Janet Boyanton said...

Sounds like a good book. Thanks for hosting this giveaway.

jules mcnubbin (buttmuffin) said...

I would love to read this book! it sounds fantastic! thank you for the chance :)