Fan Fiction Taught Claudia Gray Who She Was as a Writer—2014
December 2014 – An Exclusive Authorlink Interview
By Columnist Doreen Akiyo Yomoah
| A Thousand Pieces of You
by Claudia Gray
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Claudia Gray talks to us about her new science fantasy novel, A Thousand Pieces of You.
AUTHORLINK: You had several careers before becoming an author. Can you talk about how you made the transition?
GRAY: I went to law school in New Orleans and practiced afterwards in the 90s. I left to work in magazines, and I moved back three and a half years ago. People always ask me why I left law to write books, except for lawyers, who never ask that. I was in legal marketing for a while, and because I wasn’t using any creativity during the day, I was able to come home and work [on writing fiction].
|“I always wrote but it took me a long time to get up the confidence to believe in myself to try to do it professionally.”
I always wrote but it took me a long time to get up the confidence to believe in myself to try to do it professionally. I don’t know why I psyched myself out so much, but when you’re young and you say to people “I’d love to be a writer,” they never say “That is such a great career plan! You won’t end up broke and living in my basement!” but at the same time, people weren’t discouraging. I wrote so much fan fiction. It didn’t teach me everything I needed to know, but it taught me who I was as a writer, which is a huge part of learning to write. I learned things about myself, like, do I need to plan ahead? What kind of stories am I drawn to? What do I need to do to revise? What time of day do I get my best work done?
AUTHORLINK: What do you like to read? What inspires you to write?
GRAY: Everything. I don’t read Westerns or hard science fiction, where we’re talking about how the robot works, but I read everything else. I read a ton of nonfiction, biographies, science, crime thrillers, mysteries and cozies. I have four books on my shelf right now about The Beatles. When I’m writing young adult fiction, I don’t read as much of it. I like a lot of historical fiction, I read a ton of that. I really will read just about anything.
AUTHORLINK: I’ve been all about chick lit lately.
GRAY: I went on a weird kick about a year ago. I read everything I could find about Jonestown [a mass suicide/murder in Guyana]. For about six weeks, I read all of this depressing stuff. Sometimes you’re just drawn to different things at different points in life. Sometimes I reread all my Sophie Kinsella. I was reading a lot of nonfiction which ended up feeding the universes in A Thousand Pieces of You. You get inspiration from the most unexpected places.
|“A lot of the people have the idea that you have one idea. Really what happens is you have a lot of ideas and they have to meet each other. “
AUTHORLINK: Does any of that inspiration come from your own life?
GRAY: Every once in a while things will creep in, but they tend to be minor things. Inspiration is such a weird thing. A lot of the people have the idea that you have one idea. Really what happens is you have a lot of ideas and they have to meet each other. You have ideas for characters, scenes, and then these things connect. There’s an alchemy to it.
AUTHORLINK: Why decide to use a pseudonym?
GRAY: I thought it would be fun. When I was a kid, I thought it was cool that you could write under a different name, and thought if I ever got the chance to do that I would. But, it ended up being hugely helpful in ways I didn’t anticipate. I can have different websites and Facebook pages. It’s very useful to be able to keep those things separate. It helps with having the thick skin you have to have as a writer. Having people talk about Claudia Grey is a constant psychological reminder that they are talking about my writing and not me.
AUTHORLINK: How did you come up with the idea of Firebirds [the time travel machines in A Thousand Pieces of You]?
GRAY: I was on a book tour with Dan Wells and Lauren Oliver. I flew from Los Angeles to Australia, and I went all over, from Sydney to Perth. The only person with me was my publicist. It was something like waking up in a different world every day. I started thinking about this idea of different world, same people. I wanted the travel to be done by a device, not just some magical thing. Originally I wanted to it to be super easy, like Dr. Who. Working out what the Firebird would do was the hardest part. It had to have rules for how it worked, limitations, and it had to operate on a set of principles that felt like a scientific reality.
AUTHORLINK: What era are we in in A Thousand Pieces of You?
GRAY: There’s no time travel in the book. A lot of people feel that there is because she goes to eras that feel older, or futuristic. We are in the very, very near future; within the next five years possibly. In the second book, she goes to into a universe and I dropped a little clue about that world being our world. She’s a universe over from us. About now, but in a world a little different.
|“Without being spoilery, the title of the first book will have a whole new meaning after you read the second book.”
AUTHORLINK: What’s the future for the Firebird series?
GRAY: It’s a trilogy, so this next book is the middle book. I can’t give away the name yet. Without being spoilery, the title of the first book will have a whole new meaning after you read the second book. You find out a little bit more about the actual purpose. There’s something sinister at work. You learn a lot in the first book, but you don’t really learn what the sinister force is attempting to do. You finally see that in the second book. And not only does Marguerite get to a bunch more new universes, she goes back to one she had visited before, and she has to look at the consequences of her actions. She’s not trying to screw up their lives [Marguerite, the narrator, travels through in the bodies of other versions of herself in different universes], but at the same time she’s in someone else’s body and making other choices. When she goes back to this universe, she sees that this has had real effects on this other person. I plan to do short stories and novellas, each universe has its own stories. I’m really looking forward to exploring that a little bit.
AUTHORLINK: What do you have coming up next?
GRAY: I’ve many things coming up. Next year, I have both my final Spellcaster [another trilogy by Gray] book which will come out in March and the second Firebird book in November. I can say I will have another book in September, but I can’t tell you anything about that.
AUTHORLINK: That’s a lot of stuff coming out at once.
GRAY: A lot of this year is me going “I haven’t seen my friends in a month, what’s going on??” Anybody in any sort of creative professions will tell you, there are no opportunities and then there are all the opportunities. When they’re there, you have to jump on them.
|About the Author:||
Claudia Gray is the pseudonym of New Orleans–based writer Amy Vincent, the author of the New York Times bestselling Evernight series. She has worked as a lawyer, a journalist, a disc jockey, and an extremely poor waitress. Her grandparents’ copy of Mysteries of the Unexplained is probably the genesis of her fascination with most things mysterious and/or inexplicable.
|About Doreen Akiyo Yomoah:||
Doreen Akiyo Yomoah is a nomadic freelance writer, currently living in Dakar, Senegal. www.doreenakiyomoah.co.uk