Monday, September 9

Guest Interview & Giveaway: Carlyle Clark, author of The Black Song Inside

Tuesday 10 September 2013 has a little red circle on my calendar. That’s the day that my #1 Amazon bestselling medieval thriller, The Fifth Knight, is released on Audio. (You can find it here!) That’s very exciting for me. But another Thomas & Mercer thriller writer, the wonderful Carlyle Clark, is having his debut on the same day. I asked him to stop by so we could celebrate our red letter day together. Oh- and there’s a giveaway: check the end of this post!
Fellow Thomas & Mercer author, Carlyle Clark

E.M. Powell: Welcome, Carlyle! Tell us all about your debut, The Black Song Inside

Carlyle Clark: The Black Song Inside features Atticus Wynn and Rosemary Sanchez, a pair of newly engaged PIs who find themselves ensnared in the violent border drug war in San Diego shortly after Atticus’s ex-lover blackmails him with a secret about Rosemary that even Rosemary doesn’t know. The story is filled with action and dark humor and hopefully some very memorable and compelling characters.
EMP: That’s an intriguing pitch and promises a heck of a story. Love the cover, too. What first attracted you the thriller/crime/mystery genre? Have you written in other genres? 

CC: What turned me on to the genre must have been that as a kid I stumbled onto thirty-odd stories from the series The Three Investigators YA books. I read and reread them constantly. My loyalty to them even had me sneering dismissively at the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries with such certainty that I never even bothered to read them to see what I was dismissing. I showed ‘em!

EMP: Another Three Investigators fan! It’s been years since I heard anyone mention that series. I absolutely loved it. I did venture into Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew territory, but they could never hold a candle to Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw and Bob Andrews.
The Three Investigators- we're both fans!

EMP: But I’m interrupting (as usual)- other genres?    

CC: Yes, I have co-written YA Sci-Fi dystopia and Fantasy. In fact this dovetails nicely into your next question!

EMP: Yup, the inevitable co-writing question! I’ve heard you co-write with your wife, Suki Michelle Clark. How does that work? Do you ever have disagreements about a novel? If so, who has the last word? 

CC: Although it seems, at times, the word “work” is a wildly optimistic description, it’s worth it because the end product is always better than either of us could have done on our own. We often have disagreements, and we don’t really have any set pattern on how they’re resolved other than who is the most passionate about the issue. Our mutual respect as writers greatly helps in the process.

EMP: Have you any advice for authors who might be considering co-writing?

CC: Think it through multiple times and try to talk yourself out of it. If that doesn’t work, both of you have to understand that there is major compromise involved. If possible, work out a synopsis or, even better, an outline. Discuss in-depth where you want the novel to go, what you want it to evoke, and what “tone” you want to have. Ideally, you’ve read something by your co-author that shows she or he can write in the tone you’re both looking for. The more of a stylist either of you is, the harder it might be to match tone. Lastly, have a “pre-nuptial.” What are you going to do if you each work six months and have irreconcilable differences, but one or both of you want to finish the project on your own?

EMP: That’s really good advice about a writing pre-nup. I would think that would help to keep things above board and save a load of potential conflict. And of course it’s not needed when things have gone as well as they have for you and Suki.

CC: Co-writing can be TREMENDOUSLY rewarding and exciting when it goes well, at least it was for me. I have a talented and dynamic co-writer, my wife Suki Michelle, who focuses on making as strong a story as possible. No matter how experienced you are, sometimes you just can’t see issues with your own story. Each of us has another set of eyes and a somewhat objective perspective on the other’s ideas and drafts, which can save a lot of time killing unworkable plot points, character developments, and ideas. Each writer has their own strengths and weaknesses. The benefit is that often the other writer’s strength is your weakness. That allows for the novel to be much stronger overall, which is the case with Suki and me.

EMP: And how strong it is! You create intriguing characters like ‘The Priest’, a former child soldier for a Colombian rebel group. How do you make these characters so believable? Do you do a lot of research? 

CC: I do a lot of research to get the general details of the character’s life correct, but I’ve found is that the thing that makes a character believable is the richness of their inner world. For that, I focus on the tapping into what makes them human and relatable, so no matter how twisted they are like the Priest, or wild they are like Tornancy, you can understand them and “feel” them. For instance, in Silence of the Lambs you may not approve of Hannibal Lecter’s plans to have his sadistic former “warden” for dinner, but you understand his motivation and would have wanted some revenge yourself (though hopefully not topped by cannibalism).
One Revenge Option (though not for Carlyle!)
EMP: Every writer has one thing they find the most difficult when writing a novel. What’s yours?

CC: For me the most difficult thing is the first revision where I may still make major changes. I know I should take copious notes, and storyboard, and use index cards like other authors do, but I’m sporadic at best when it comes to that. I have to old the entire novel in my head and it’s nerve wracking making a change and then mentally working the change through the book, only to discover that the whole book now doesn’t work because of that change. However, after I’ve waded through the wreckage, what I’ve pieced together has always been much stronger than what was there before, so I never “leave well enough alone.”

EMP: “Wading through the wreckage”: that’s one of the best descriptions I’ve heard about revision! Do you enjoy getting feedback from readers through reviews etc.? Do you have a favorite review that you received? 

CC: I love getting reviews because it’s such an honor that someone took the time to share their experience (hopefully positive) with my story. At the On the Lam Conference, Thomas and Mercer author Gregory Widen who is also a screenwriter (Backdraft) and director (The Prophecy starring Christopher Walken) talked about how great it was to go to the theater just to watch the audiences react to his work in real time. As a novelist you don’t get that, so reviews are as close as I can come. I value them immensely.

I do have a favorite review from ABDbalou on Amazon because the reader really got the nature of the humor and noticed that there was character development with the villains as well as the heroes.

However, I am always immensely tickled by my beta readers and critiquers who—some with very diplomatic sidling and others just flat out—ask if I meant X, Y, or Z scene to be funny because they found it hilarious. Fortunately, so far the humor has always turned out to be intentional.

EMP: I’m sure it has. Anyone who can write such a funny bio must surely translate that to fiction! Carlyle, best of luck with The Black Song Inside. I’m sure it’ll be a great success. Thank you so much for joining me.


Atticus Wynn and Rosemary Sanchez, newly engaged private investigators, have seen the dark and violent side of life. Nothing, though, has prepared them for an explosive murder investigation that threatens to tear their relationship apart as they struggle to solve a case that could leave them in prison or dead.
Atticus’s manipulative ex-girlfriend bursts back into their lives wielding a secret about Rosemary’s family that she exploits to force the couple into investigating the execution-style slaying of her lover. The case thrusts Atticus and Rosemary headlong into the world of human trafficking and drug smuggling, while rendering them pawns in Tijuana Cartel captain Armando Villanueva’s bloody bid to take over the cartel.
The Black Song Inside is a vivid crime thriller rife with murder and madness, melded with gallows humor and the heroism of two flawed and compelling protagonists who, if they can save themselves, may learn the nature of redemption and the ability to forgive.

Carlyle Clark was raised in Poway, a city just north of San Diego, but is now a proud Chicagolander working in the field of Corporate Security and writing crime and fantasy fiction. He has flailed ineffectually at performing the writer's requisite myriad of random jobs: pizza deliverer, curb address painter, sweatshop laborer, day laborer, night laborer, security guard, campus police, Gallup pollster, medical courier, vehicle procurer, and signature-for-petitions-getter.
He is a married man with two cats and a dog. He is also a martial arts enthusiast and a CrossFit endurer who enjoys fishing, sports, movies, TV series with continuing storylines, and of course, reading. Most inconsequentially, he holds the unrecognized distinction of being one of the few people in the world who have been paid to watch concrete dry in the dark. Tragically, that is a true statement.


Twitter Handle: @Carlyle_Clark
Carlyle is offering a free Kindle copy of The Black Song Inside. To enter, leave a comment on this post. He will choose a comment at random. Comments posted by Tuesday 17 September 2013 will be eligible. 

1 comment:

  1. That's a great interview. I had never heard of the Three Investigators, I need to check them out - and The Black Song Inside, too. And good luck with the audio book.


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