- What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?
I’m Clark Hays and I was born in Spearman, Texas. That was a long time ago now and I haven’t been back in 30 years, and it’s high time for a return trip. Currently, I live in Portland, Oregon, with my lovely wife and writing partner Kathleen. Portland is an awesome city, conveniently located between the scenic coast, snow-capped volcanic mountains and the beautiful sagebrush covered high desert. Plus there’s great beer and a gazillion food carts.
- Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
I got hooked on writing in fourth grade and despite a variety of interventions, was never able to shake the addiction. During my formative years, I wanted to be a mercenary but luckily that didn’t pan out. That’s a far cry from my current profession — communications — but I still do questionable things for money.
- When did you first consider yourself as a "writer"?
In fourth grade (see above). I distinctly remember writing some crazed fiction about monsters in Mrs. McGee’s class that earned a few laughs from my easily entertained classmates; I decided that using “my words” to move an audience was the way to go.
- Did it take a long time to get your first book published?
The first book, The Cowboy and the Vampire (co-written with Kathleen McFall) was surprisingly easy. We wrote it in about a year as a way to test out our recently rekindled relationship, sent it to a handful of publishers and it was accepted within a couple of months. That is an atypical trajectory and probably spoiled us for future endeavors and left us ill-prepared for the next avalanche of rejection letters. The second book, Blood and Whiskey, took ten years! But only because we wanted it to be just right.
- Do you work another job as well as your writing work?
Sadly, yes. I currently work in communications for a national financial services firm as a senior writer. It’s not nearly as glamorous as it sounds. But I do get to work with some pretty fun, creative people and to constantly think about how words can reach and influence people. But not words like robust, cadence or drill down. Those just deaden the soul.
- What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 words what would you say?
I just published an e-novella, Red Winter, that imagines the first Vampire showing up the Old West and crossing paths with an aging gunfighter.
Kathleen and I are almost finished with the sequel to The Cowboy and the Vampire, called Blood and Whiskey. Like the first in the series, it features cowboys and Vampires in the modern west set in an epic love story with lots of action.
- Who is your publisher? Or do you self publish?
The Cowboy and the Vampire was published by Llewellyn in 1999 and then rereleased by Midnight Ink, an imprint of Llewellyn, in 2010. Red Winter was published by Pumpjack Press.
- How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
Red Winter took me about three months. Blood and Whiskey, working with Kathleen, has taken us about a year; it’s not a straight shot though because during that time, we both work our day jobs and do the marketing for The Cowboy and the Vampire. I have inappropriate dreams of the day I can focus solely on creative writing.
- What can we expect from you in the future? More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
We are working on a trilogy that follows the romantic exploits of Tucker and Lizzie in present day Wyoming as they deal with their opposites attract relationship – he’s a cowboy and she’s a Vampire — and all of the romance, seduction and intrigues of a world in which powerful, scheming Vampires run things from the shadows. There are other paranormal thrillers in the works as well.
- What genre would you place your books into?
Literary paranormal romance thriller. Is that a genre? It should be.
- Do you have a favorite character from your books? and why are they your favorite?
Sheriff Early Hardiman, the protagonist of Red Winter, is one of my favorites. He’s self-contained and tough, a no-nonsense product of the harsh, beautiful environment of 1890s Wyoming. He’s lived a pretty interesting life, once considered one of the fastest guns in the West, and is now content to live out his days in remote LonePine with his beautiful wife, Miss Grace. Then a Vampire shows up and he will be tested like never before.
- How long have you been writing, and who or what inspired you to write?
I’ve been writing furiously and energetically since fourth grade and I’ve got the stacks of notebooks to prove it. Not sure who specifically inspired me to write, but I suspect it had something to do with the way mom and dad encouraged me to read. Some of my earliest memories are of the books they read to me and the hours I spent hidden under a table somewhere reading. Writers, I think (I hope), have an unshakable love of reading and that fuels a desire to add to the world of literature.
- Where do you get your book plot ideas from?
They never stop. Ever. It’s annoying really, because there are so many of them that I can’t act on. The real challenge is to try and capture them for that glorious day I finally have time to follow up. I recently got an iPad — best birthday gift ever — and it’s very useful in capturing the ideas. Before that, I relied on notebooks — and I still have stacks of them — filled with probably 50 percent of the creative ideas I’ve had during the last 20 years and about 80 percent of them are probably absolutely useless and indecipherable. It will make a good story when I die and someone wades through them all and thinks I was some kind of a crazy genius. They’ll be half right.
- Do you have anybody read your books and give you reviews before you officially release them?
Kathleen is the best, most consistent — and often brutally honest (seriously, sometimes I need body armor for my ego) — editor possible. On our shared projects, we rely on friends and family to beta read our books.
- Do you gift books to readers to do reviews?
Absolutely. Any suggestions?
- Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
Word for word. One of the most important things about getting better as a writer is knowing what criticisms to take in and which to ignore. It’s a process. When Kathleen is savaging my work, I know that she does it because she wants to help me get better. Occasionally, negative feedback isn’t usable and you just have to shake it off.
- How do you come up with the Title and Cover Designs for your book/books? Who designed the Cover of your books?
In a perfect world, I like to come up with the title first. It helps me stay focused on the actual writing. The title is like a compass that keeps me pointed in the right direction. Occasionally, during the writing process some better idea will come to me but that’s pretty rare. The cover of The Cowboy and the Vampire was designed by our publisher, but we designed the Red Winter e-cover. We’re working with a very talented artist for the cover of Blood and Whiskey and it’s going to be a humdinger. Graphic design is a lot to ask of writers, so it’s helpful to have a trusted designer to help bring the book to visual life.
- How do you market/promote your books?
I work in communications and have a great appreciation for marketing and PR work. It’s all about understanding the channels and trying to connect with people who might be interested in reading this work and then encouraging them to talk about it to their friends. We use the expected channels like our webpage, our facebook page, twitter, blog tours and other channels — and we’re just finally starting to explore Goodreads, for example.
- What do you think makes a book a really good/bestseller?
Awesome writing, tireless marketing and persistence. And an ego that assumes you will be successful. And it needs to be fueled by an appreciation for what makes other books great.
- Have you ever suffered from a "writer's block"? What did you do to get past the "block"?
Probably in my twenties. A professional career in communications has utterly debunked the myth of writers block. Deadline writing, when your paycheck depends on quality products submitted by deadline, means writer’s block is a luxury managers and clients simply won’t tolerate. It’s very helpful to learn how to crank out high quality writing anywhere, anytime. I’ve learned to come up with a title, a structure and a goal, and then get out of my own way and write.
- What do you do to unwind and relax?
I don’t know anymore. I read a lot. Nonfiction and graphic novels mostly. We hike a lot — it is Oregon, after all. Sleep late on the weekends.
- Have you ever based characters on people you know or based events on things that have happened to you?
All the time. In Blood and Whiskey, our main characters have a fight about how loud Tucker flosses his teeth. That’s drawn from our life! I think all characters are drawn from people we know and observe. Some have very specific traits from one person, others are a compilation — a greatest hits album of characteristics that stand out to us.
- Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesops Fables type of "The moral of this story is..")
I hope so. The hidden stuff, the big themes, are what resonate with the subconscious mind. Things like the clash of good and evil, questions about what it means to be human, spiritual quests, the nature of love — all of those things have been at the heart of stories for thousands of years. What makes writing compelling, hopefully, is treating these ideas with a new approach and great characters and an engaging plot. Red Winter takes advantage of the power of archetypes — cowboys and Vampires — to immediately spark associations about good and evil.
- Which format of book do you prefer, ebook,hardback, or paperback?
It will date me to say this, but I prefer hardbacks. I have a Kindle, and an iPad, and I really like them, but I love reading a good, meaty book — so big it’s hard to hold up — like Porius by Powys — at 752 pages, it hurts my head to think of all those pages crammed into a slender little Kindle!
- What is your favourite book and Why? Have you read it more than once?
I’m a big fan of Victor Hugo (Les Miserables and Notre-Dame de Paris), Wilkie Collins (The Woman in White, The Moonstone) and fiction by Sartre, especially Nausea. I’ve read all of these multiple times.
- Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favourite/worst book to movie transfer?
I think my favorite book to movie will be Red Winter! After that, I think the English Patient was successful. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, based on a truly epic comic series, stands out as my least favorite transfer of all time.
- What are you currently reading? Are you enjoying it? What format is it?(ebook, hardback or paperback)
I’m currently re-reading Cruelty: Human Evil and the Human Brain by Kathleen Taylor in hardback. It’s tremendously interesting and helped me really get inside the head of our Vampires. After that, I think I’ll finally tackle Porius by John Cowper Powys.
- Do you think ebooks will ever totally replace printed books?
No, I hope not. I like to think the cost of print on demand will go down and we can have “print kiosks” on every corner. I love the freedom of ebooks and what it is doing for publishing, but I think there will always be a place for printed books. Especially if we can figure out how printed books can be easily recycled.
- Is there a book you know you will never read? Or one you tried to read but just couldn't finish?
I started Being and Nothingness, by Sartre, maybe a dozen times. So far, I haven’t made it more than the page four.
- What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
The thing that has worked out well for me is marrying a writer who’s better than I am; I would highly recommend it to all writers. Short of that, the only advice I can give is read a lot, write a lot and understand that it is not an easy path. But it is very rewarding. Not financially, of course. Unless you are J.K. Rowling.
- Do you or would you ever use a pen name?
No, but it sounds fun. Like coming up with a porn name. Deep Inkwell. John Ruhfikshin. Paige Turner. Or Macon Hits. Dan Gling-Participle. Short E. Storie.
Where can readers follow you?
Your web site? www.cowboyandvampire.com
Your facebook page? www.facebook.com/cowboyandvampire
Your web site? www.cowboyandvampire.com
Your facebook page? www.facebook.com/cowboyandvampire
Your Goodreads author page? www.goodreads.com/author/show/816561.Clark_Hays
Your Twitter details? @cowboyvamp
Your Twitter details? @cowboyvamp
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