Name: Claire Gem
Where are you from: Born in NY, USA. Now I live in Massachusetts, USA
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc:
I have been happily married to the same man for 38 years, and have twin sons and a daughter, who gave me my handsome grandson four years ago. By day, I work in scientific research for Tufts University. I’m a writer the rest of the time.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My first self-published title, Hearts Unloched, was named Runner-up in the New York Book Festival! I was thrilled and honored to attend the awards ceremony at the luxurious Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan. A very exciting event indeed!
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve always loved to write, but it became more of an obsession after the death of my Mom in 1998. It was therapy for me—my way of expressing thoughts about her, to her, even though she had passed. When I realized how writing filled a long-existent hole in me, I couldn’t stop. In the next few years I wore out the keyboards on two laptops: literally wore them out. One just quit working, and the letters were worn off the other so you couldn’t read them.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
The day my first historical article was accepted for publication in Renaissance Magazine was, for me, “historic.” I stopped thinking about my writing as a hobby and realized I might just have some talent I could put to good use. Two years later, a creative essay of mine won a contest in a literary journal. That was the day I decided I wasn’t limited to writing nonfiction.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
The magic of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We lived for a short time in the foothills of western North Carolina, and I was enchanted with the beauty and mystery of the region. I wanted to capture that somehow, and share it with others. So I created a fictitious town, set an old library there (another obsession of mine), and the result was my debut novel, Phantom Traces.
My true first book, the one I’ve written and rewritten at least a half dozen times, still isn’t finished. The story came to me in a dream one morning, almost in its entirety. I still believe it will be my “magnum opus,” but I’m not good enough yet to write it.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Mornings are my best times to write, so I get up an hour early on workdays and write, usually ending up late for work. On weekends, I love that my husband likes to sleep in late—I get up the same early hour and have 3-4 hours of writing time. I’ve also gotten in the habit of playing soft instrumental music while I work, the genre depending on the tone of the scene I’m writing.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The titles usually just pop into my head, but with Hearts Unloched, I couldn’t come up with one I was happy with. I wanted word-play on the word “loch,” since it takes place on a lake in upstate New York called Loch Sheldrake. My son is actually the one who came up with this title, and I think it’s brilliant.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The messages in my ghostly romances are these: there is life beyond life, and we not only must not forget the ones who have passed before us, but learn from their experiences.
My contemporary romances all cling to the theme of soulmates, happy ever afters, and true love is worth waiting for.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Many elements in my books come from my own experiences, or that of my family. Some of my characters are modeled after friends or relatives. Sometimes I tell them, and sometimes I don’t J
The opening scene of Hearts Unloched reflects an actual story as told to me by my husband about when he was a young man, working as a valet in the parking lot of a resort in Sullivan County, N.Y. Yes, he and a friend really did take the keys and joy-ride the guests’ cars in the wee hours of the morning!
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
After reading the Boonesboro Trilogy by Nora Roberts, I made up my mind I wanted to write those kinds of books: a little spooky, a little sexy, with great character development and wonderfully intense emotions.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My late father. He always encouraged me to pursue my dreams relentlessly, never losing sight of the goal. When I held my first book contract in my hands, I actually picked up my phone and dialed his number…unfortunately, by the time that happened, he’d already been gone a few years. And I don’t have his number in Heaven.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Most definitely. My goal, within the next 5 years, is to retire from my day job and write full time.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I would have done more pre-release marketing, gathering reviews from Advance Review Copies. I intend to do this with my next book coming in September, a contemporary romance/women’s fiction, The Phoenix Syndrome. This manuscript was the winner of its division in The Beacon Contest in 2014.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Yes, I do. I was in the seventh grade and had a wonderful English teacher, Nancy Prather. She gave us an assignment to write a creative essay, and the day she returned them, she called me up to her desk to receive mine. She fixed me with a very serious expression and said, “You have a unique talent for writing. Don’t waste it.”
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
My work-in-progress is another ghostly romance. This one is set on the grounds of an abandoned mental asylum in New York, in the town where I grew up. Working title: Spirits of the Heart. The short blurb:
A mental health counselor and a security guard are thrown together in a search to reunite a little girl and her father, two spirits trapped within the walls of an abandoned mental asylum.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
The mushy middle. I start out with a bang, and usually write the ending of the book before I’m halfway through. Then the characters stop talking to me, and I have to force myself back to the page.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I may not have to, but I love to travel, as does my husband. Taking a trip to “research” for my WIP, or to scout out a new story idea, is a favorite excuse of ours. In my recent travels, I try to locate a local bookstore in advance to set up a signing for my published books while I’m in town.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My brother’s wife is a graphic designer, a children’s book author, and truly a sister to me. Terri DelNegro designed the covers of both Hearts Unloched and A Taming Season, and is busy at work on the covers of my two upcoming titles.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Hitting “Publish.” I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and I am always afraid there’s one typo or missing word that I overlooked.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead.
*laughing* At my age, I might qualify to play the heroine’s mother, but definitely not the heroine!
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Don’t give up. Believe in yourself and your ability, and write what you love to read. If you love it, I guarantee there are others who will love it too.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Please, please, please, leave a review. Even if you don’t care for that particular book, leave a review and tell me why. This way I can write more toward my readers’ particular tastes.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Nuts, by Alice Clayton. A fun, spirited contemporary romance set in the Hudson Valley of New York, an area near where I grew up.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Little House on the Prairie. Or Black Beauty. Both, at about the same time.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
My grandson’s quirky remarks and giggles make me laugh. Putting him and my daughter on the plane to go home makes me cry.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
I would love to have lived in the late Middle Ages and met some of the great painters/miniaturists of the day, like Jan Van Eyck.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
I am a taphophile: I love graveyards. Ever since I was a kid, I loved to explore old graveyards, reading the stones and feeling the vibes. So my headstone should read:
Ghost Story: New Release, Coming Soon
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I raise freshwater angelfish. I have six tanks throughout the house, two of which are in my office. I love watching a spawn of eggs hatch and mature into teeny, tiny wigglers, then into the tiniest angelfish you can imagine. When they grow to quarter-sized, a local aquarium store buys them from me to rehome. And I usually cry on the way home.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Very few. I am slightly addicted to Ghost Adventures, but those two hours spent on a Saturday night are usually my only TV time.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Having come from an Italian family, I love exotic forms of seafood, including snails, squid, and octopus. When I find a restaurant who knows how to grill an entire octopus, I’m in seventh heaven.
My favorite color used to be my least favorite: purple. I read somewhere it was a “power color,” and it seems to work for me.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I love marketing, and would love to have pursued more of a background in the field when I was in college.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Hearts Unloched: http://amzn.to/1TkE8fv
A Taming Season: http://amzn.to/1UwbK9d
Amazon Author Page: http://www.emotionalcontemporaryromance.com