Interview with C.L. Denault, author of “Gambit”

What inspires you to write?

My inspiration for writing usually comes from a sudden idea that leads to a series of “what if” questions. I’ll be watching a movie or reading an article, and something will jump out at me. Sitting quietly, I let the ideas and questions connect, and if the urge to write strikes, I pursue it.

Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

I like to go where an idea takes me. Along the way, my brain works out the plot and I jot down background info, significant details, and so on. Sometimes I’ll plan ahead, but I keep it general. I want to be flexible in case inspiration moves me in a different direction.

How important is research to you when writing a book?

It’s critical. I put a lot of science into my writing, and if I want the story to be believable, my facts must be straight. Because I tend toward futuristic worlds, I can play around with it some, but the underlying infrastructure needs to be based in reality.

Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?

I do most of it on my own. I have a decent grasp of grammar and punctuation and feel confident about spotting errors. I go over my work several times and am thorough. When I turn the manuscript over to my editor, I want to be sure I’ve done all that I can to make her job easier.

How much of yourself do you put into your books?

I pour quite a bit of myself into my books. Not so much physical characteristics as perspectives, experiences, and memories. My characters tend to take on different aspects of my personality (one will have my quiet side, another my snarkiness, and so on). What’s really fun is when I create a character with qualities I normally suppress. In real life, I’m not a bold risk-taker, so adding one to my cast gives me the chance to live vicariously through them.

Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?

Actually, I have. I was sitting in my local coffee shop one morning, talking with a friend of mine, when he suddenly burst into song. He sang “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic Song” all the way through for me, and I couldn’t stop laughing. It was out so out of character for him! A few weeks later, I had one of my gruff characters do the same thing (with the same song). It was a cool way to put a little bit of my life into the story.

Do you make your own vocabulary words in your book or resort to the existing ones?

A little of both. My stories are often set in futuristic environments, where the culture has evolved far enough to change terminology. In one story, glue is called “sticky” and in another, hometowns are called “home-domes.” For me, the vocab needs to represent the trends of the time.

Writers are often associated with loner tendencies; is there any truth to that?

Writing is a solitary task, and because we spend so much time buried in our laptops, we’re automatically judged as loner types. I actually am a loner type, which makes it easy to put in long hours of solitude. But I know quite a few outgoing authors who write for hours and then offset that by spending time with family and friends.

Is it true that authors write word-perfect first drafts?

It’s not true for me. Maybe some do, but I’m prone to errors—a misspelled word here, a split infinitive there. My biggest weakness is repetitive words. With each story I write, my brain picks a go-to word or phrase and uses it a million times. I have to go back over the manuscript repeatedly before I’m satisfied with it.

How did it feel when your first book got published?

Like a dream come true. Literally. I’d always wanted to publish a book, and when the big release day came, I felt like I could touch the sky. There’s nothing like a “Yes! I did it!” moment to take your breath away.

How big a part does music play in creating your “zone”?

Music helps me quite a bit. Not only does it drown out background noise, it’s also inspiring. Sad songs put me in the mood for heartbreaking scenes, and action songs help with fight scenes or physical altercations. Feeling the emotion of a scene inspires me to write more accurately and sincerely.

Do you need to be in a specific place or room to write, or can you just sit in the middle of a café full of people and write?

As long as I have earbuds in, I can write just about anywhere. It’s easy to get lost inside my head and tune out my surroundings. The only exceptions are strong sensory distractions. An overpowering cologne, for example, will bring me out of my zone.

Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?

Yes. The first thing I look at when I’m thinking about buying a book is the cover. If the artwork resonates with me, I look inside for a sample of the writing. The writing style determines whether or not I buy it, but the cover appeal is what tempts me to open it in the first place. I think this is true for a lot of people.

What are your views about elaborate synopsis of books at the back of the cover? Do you think they reveal too much?

I’m one of those people who believe that less is more. I like back covers that tantalize me with promises, rather than lay out the bulk of the plot.

Is writing a book series more challenging?

I think so. With a series, you write yourself into a specific world with specific characters, rules, and laws of physics. The further you get into the series, the more limitations you run into. Finding inspiration that doesn’t conflict with your existing environment can be a challenge.

Do you blog?

Yes, I have two blogs. One is for my author work, and the other is simply a passion of mine. Sometimes it’s hard to stay on top of both of them and work on my novels. Maintaining balance is key.

How do you see writing? As a hobby or a passion?

It’s more of an outlet. My ideas and passions are always there, inside my head and my heart, aching for expression. Writing is the most natural way of getting them out. If I didn’t write about them, I’d be expressing them through music or sketching or some other means. So no matter what I’m engaged in—be it a fun hobby or plotting out a story—writing is the primary form of media I use to express it. It’s a tool I use to breathe life into the things I love.

Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?

My husband is definitely the most supportive. He’s done everything possible to encourage my writing, including working from home two days a week so that I could get out of the house and concentrate. He gives me pep talks when I’m down and always listens carefully when I need a soundboard. I couldn’t do any of this without him.

What’s your favorite movie which was based on a book?

Definitely the Lord of the Rings series. Love the books, love the movies.

What is that dream goal you want to achieve before you die?

I’d love to have one of my books become a bestseller. That would be the ultimate compliment and dream goal achievement. In the meantime, if I can manage to get all the stories out my head and into written form before I die, I’ll be happy!