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Interview with Patrick LeClerc

He makes good use of his history degree by working as a paramedic for an ever-changing parade of ambulance companies in the Northern suburbs of Boston. When not writing he enjoys cooking, fencing, and making witty, insightful remarks with career-limiting candor.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
I was a nationally rated saber fencer in college.

Q.2 Are we going to read more from you in the near future? Any new project you’re working on?
I'm working on the sequel to The Beckoning Void right now. I have about half a first draft of a prequel to my Space Marine story, but I put it aside for a bit. Probably will try to finish that soon. I like to have a few different things going. That way if I bog down on one project, I can switch gears and work on the other one for a while. That helps clear my head and often I resolve my block on the first.

Q.3 What inspired you to write The Beckoning Void?
I love the Victorian era. It has so much great story fodder. It's a time of huge changes, technological and societal, and the historian in me wanted to play with that. And I wanted to write a real swashbuckling story, with witty repartee, swordfights, and that arch, outwardly polite, double-edged banter, like you'd hear from Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone. Adding a vintage science fiction aspect was a lot of fun as well. And a light sprinkle of eldritch horror. So it's a mix of some of my favorite things.

Q.4 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Everything. Well, that's not really fair. The most important thing is to develop them as fully formed characters, not as a shorthand sketch. Give them strengths and weaknesses and motives and desires.

Then get a reader of that sex to look at it. Don't be upset when they roll their eyes, and make sure you listen to their feedback. There are things that just don't occur to you if you've always looked at things from your own point of view. 

I had a scene in my first novel where a character did something and I had women readers say that it was unrealistic. A woman would never do that. And I was like “No. It's normal. I do that all the time” and was told “Yes. Because you're a man and don't have to worry about x, y, and z.” And I thought about it and yeah, I never thought of that, because, as a man, I never did have to worry about it. So I changed the scene. If you write about characters of the opposite sex, you will probably get some stuff wrong. That's OK, but use beta readers and take their advice.

I like writing women. But I have to do a lot of polishing from my first draft to get them right.

Q.5 How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
I start with the characters. I come up with a character and I put them in a situation, to see how they would deal with it. I only discover the plot when the characters show it to me. I'd rather have the characters down and tailor a plot to them than bend the characters into a plot.

Q.6 Do you believe in writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?
Yes. It is a thing. You will hit a spot where you don't know how to move on. The way I deal with it is to write something else. If you just stop writing, it's hard to get started again. Newton's Laws apply to writing as well as physics. An unwritten manuscript will remain unwritten. So I will work on another part of the book. 

I just write [SCENE MISSING] and move to a part I do know how to write. That keeps my momentum and often I will get a revelation about how to resolve the stuck point. Sometimes I will switch projects entirely, which also keeps me writing but lets me change my perspective and come back to the original with a clear head.

Q.7 What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Getting a good villain. I wanted an antagonist that readers could connect with, not just someone to oppose the heroes. Coming up with a motivation that would allow him to be part of these terrible things but let the audience still be able to see his point of view, even if they don't go so far as agreeing with him was a challenge. But it was fun. I really do like the way he came out in the final version. I think this is the first time I've spent so much time on building the antagonist, and I think it was worth it.

Q.8 Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Well, I'm always going to make up stories. It's just how my brain occupies itself. I used to do a lot of drawing and painting, so I'd probably go back to that.

Q.9 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
So far I've written six novels, a novella, and a handful of short stories. They're all different, so which one is my favorite depends on my mood. Right now, I think The Beckoning Void is my favorite. I think in writing, as with any craft, you learn as you do more, so I think I've honed my skills and put together a better book.

Q.10 Is it vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing, tell us about your marketing campaign?
I'm sure it is, but I haven't found a good way to do that yet. I've had some success with group promotions through Bookfunnel, I have built a good-sized mailing list. Entering the Self Published Fantasy Blog-Off got a lot of exposure. I did make the finals with Out of Nowhere and met a lot of people through that. I've tried some paid marketing, but that never seems to pan out.

My latest plan is my sword-based marketing, where I post pictures of swords and talk about which weapons the characters would use. So rather than buy ads, I buy swords. Even if that doesn't work, at the end of the day, I have a sword.

Q.11 If you could be a member of any fantasy race, which would you choose and why?
I have a big streak of Hobbit in me. I'd be quite happy living in a cozy little Hobbit hole, filled with good food and drink. I would need to go on the occasional adventure though.

Q.12 What is one stereotype about fantasy writers is absolutely wrong? What one stereotype is dead on?
Probably that we're all reclusive hermits, living in our own fantasy worlds. Most of us are pretty friendly and outgoing, in the right circumstances. I think this comes from working alone.

An accurate stereotype I think is that we all hate editing and marketing. We want to just tell the story and be done and then move on to the next book.

Q.13 If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Be bold. Learn to take rejection. And keep plugging away.

Q.14 Do you ever research real events, legends, or myths to get ideas?
I do a lot of research. Not so much for ideas, but to make sure I have certain things correct. I get ideas from mythology and folklore and songs and other stories, but that does not really research, just being open to influences.

The Beckoning Void is quasi-historical, and the characters reference real events, so I tried to make sure those were accurate. I also had a number of different languages that characters hear or speak, so I tried to make sure I wasn't off on that.

It was similar to my immortal character from my urban fantasy. He would reference places he'd been and events he'd seen, and I wanted to get those right. It matters less in more traditional fantasy.

Q.15 Who designed your book cover? How do you select him/her?
A. Jake Caleb
of J Caleb Designs did The Beckoning Void cover. One of my author friends, Kevin Wright, whose stuff you should read, had gotten covers done by him and pointed me in his direction

Q.16 How do you select the name of your characters?
Mostly be liking the way the sound, if I'm being honest. At least in fantasy books. I do try to keep them consistent sounding. Like characters from the same region have similar-sounding names, I'll make a few rules for myself.

The characters in The Beckoning Void got more deliberate names since they exist in a version of our past. Emelia Du Mond took the name when she left her past as a servant for the stage. “Emelia” is a fancier version of Emma, her birth name, and she chose “DuMond” because she aspired to be a woman of the world. “Du monde” in French. Alyah Abdullah-Brooke has an Afghan first name and a hyphenate Afghan/English surname to reflect her background. That would have been scandalous in Victorian Britain, but that's very much in character for her. Connolly was an Irish name I could easily convert to Khan Ali. He served as an officer of a native cavalry for the British Raj, and I liked the idea of his men calling him that.

Q.17 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
I read them all. Good ones are great. You can use them for blurbs, and I've contacted people and thanked them, offered them ARCs of other books. If you know they like your stuff, then they are your people. Treat them right and they will pay it back.

I try to learn from the bad ones. Some people just picked up the wrong book for them, and there's not much you can do about that, but sometimes they will point out something you screwed up, and you can take that as an opportunity for improvement.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Probably Dorothy Parker. I love her writing, and I love the quick wit she shows. She really does need more credit. And she was very active in social causes, civil rights. And she was probably a lot of fun to drink with.

Q.19 What is your favorite book from other authors and why?
My very favorite book is Going Postal by Terry Pratchett. Like so many of his books, it works on a number of levels. It's funny, and the characters are enjoyable, but it's also a pretty scathing social satire.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
My journey actually goes back to college in the late 80s. I met some other writers and we formed a critique group and that turned into a short story ezine, Quantum Muse, which published short stories for quite a while. My first novel came out in 2012, followed by five more to date. The SPFBO did give me a boost.

Overall I have been just writing what I want to read and my marketing strategy has been pretty much-throwing things at the wall to see what sticks.

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