May 20, 2014

Struck Interview with Clarissa Johal

When did you realize that you wanted to become a writer?
I wrote my first short story in grade six. I was asked by the teacher to read it aloud to the class, which terrified me.  After I was finished, I realized that I actually had everyone’s attention!  I was shy and we moved every year, so I was always the new kid. When you’re in that situation, it’s kind of like being invisible. Finding my voice through story-telling made me realize how powerful writing could be.

Is being an Author all you dreamed of, or did it just happen? The best and worst thing about it?
I have dreams of hitting the best seller list, I think all writers do.  I’ve managed to contract every book I’ve written with a publisher, so I can’t complain. A lot of it is luck and timing. The best thing about writing is that I choose my own creative projects. The worst thing is that I have yet to meet with Tim Burton to discuss a book to movie deal. And I can’t get Neil Gaiman to return my calls. (haha)

What was the very first thing you ever wrote?
Well, like I said, I wrote a short story in grade six. It was about a shark attack and ridiculously dramatic and scary. That was around the time Jaws came out. I don’t think I took a bath for a week after I saw that movie.

What made you create (your book)?  How did it come to you?
STRUCK came to me while running on a forest trail near my house. It was during a thunderstorm, which I find invigorating. At the time, I wondered what it would be like to be hit by lightning. Survivors suffer aftereffects that are anything but entertaining. Being a writer, however, I pondered upon receiving such a huge burst of energy. I write about ghosts and things that go bump in the night and in essence, those entities are energy. What if a portal was opened by a lightning strike? And what if that portal allowed the energy from those entities to escape? The idea was intriguing and I went to bed still thinking about it. That night, I had a dream that I was standing in a field, with lightning striking the ground all around me. But the lightning wasn’t just releasing electrical energy, the lightning was releasing negative entities from the Otherworld. I woke from the nightmare in a panic, thinking those entities had somehow attached themselves to me. And so a story is born. I went on to research the effects of being struck by lightning, interviewed several lightning survivors, and the story unfolded from there.

Who is your literary hero?
I don’t have one. Heroes are not my thing. The concept is too subjective.

How much of your characters are based on your traits or someone you know personally?
My characters come to me fully-formed, so they aren’t based on anyone. I write what they tell me to, and they can be very bossy! Sometimes, I’ll see someone who will intrigue me and I’ll put them in a character file, but it’s based on their appearance, rather than personality. I’m a very visual person.

Describe your main character in six words.
Gwynneth is creative, supportive, trusting (although that’s tested quite a bit!), loyal, protective and compassionate. You know, the good traits that get you into trouble.

Describe the world you’ve created in six words.
Dark, multi-layered, secretive, dynamic, possibilities, cyclical

What scene was your favorite to write?
The scene where Gwynneth is trying on a dress and sees what she sees in the mirror (no spoilers!). I saw that scene in a dream, so it was like watching a movie unfold. The scenes between Seth and Gwynneth were fun too—they know what makes each other tick. You can see the potential for a relationship beyond a friendship but they haven’t “gone there” yet. The dynamic between Poppy and Dante was fun too.

What scene was the hardest for you to write?
Saying good-bye to Julian was SO hard. I have a very difficult time letting my antagonists go. I always try and present (to the reader) why they are the way they are. I wanted Julian to be redeemed in some way and wrote the last scene over and over. Is he consumed by the dark entities? Does he decide to help Gwynneth in the end? No spoilers, but I’m happy with the way the book ends.

What are you working on now?
I was just offered a contract for my paranormal horror novel, VOICES. I’ll keep readers posted on that in my website. I’m working on another novel right now titled THE ISLAND. I expect to be done with that by the end of the year.

Goals? Accomplishments? Improvements?
It usually takes me a year to write a book—so my goal is to publish a book a year.

Are there any authors or books you recommend?
Anything by Neil Gaiman, you can’t go wrong with him. (And yes, I have a little writerly crush going on, don’t tell anyone.) Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Wood series will get under your skin. It’s one of my favorites, I highly recommend it. I just read Simone St. James novel, Silence for the Dead. I love her writing, it’s very atmospheric.  If you like paranormal thrillers, the Graveyard Queen series by Amanda Stevens is good too.

What's your favorite thing to do when you're not writing?
I’m a dancer, so my ballet room is where you’ll find me!