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Friday, 22 September 2017

Interview: Stephen Clark

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be an author of thrilling political fiction? If so, you're in luck, as indie author Stephen Clark is here to tell you all about life as an author as he releases his novel Citizen Kill.

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.
I’m a former award-winning reporter who served as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and as a politics editor for the Washington bureau of FoxNews.com. I grew up in the suburbs of Philly and I currently reside in North Jersey with my wife and son.
How did you first become interested in writing?
I’ve always had a passion for writing, from my journal entries as a kid to the church plays I wrote as a teenager to working as a journalist as an adult. I didn’t consider writing a novel until I left journalism behind. Then I wondered what took me so long.
citizen-kill, stephen-clark, book
Image: Stephen Clark
Tell me about Citizen Kill.
Citizen Kill tells the story of a covert effort to finally end the War on Terror after the president loses her son in a devastating explosion. Her administration authorizes the launch of a CIA program that targets for assassination U.S. citizens suspected of radicalizing Muslims. Among the recruits is Justin Raines, a suspended operative determined to redeem himself after a botched assignment overseas. But when he is assigned to kill a mysterious Muslim educator that he believes is innocent, he grows disillusioned. Now he must find a way to prove her innocence and derail the program before they both are assassinated.
How do you get inspiration?
I was inspired by then-Attorney General Eric Holder’s declaration in 2012 that it was constitutional for the government to kill U.S. citizens overseas without any judicial review if they were deemed a terrorist threat. Holder’s remarks came after a U.S. drone attack killed an American-born Muslim cleric in the Arabian Peninsula. Given my experience covering national politics at FoxNews.com, I thought it would be fascinating to write a story that took that policy to its logical conclusion.
Writing political fiction must require a lot of research. How do you go about the research process?
Even with my experience covering politics, writing this book required extensive research. I voraciously devoured news reports on domestic terrorists, international terror groups and U.S. counterterrorism efforts (the FBI probably has a thick file on me), and CIA memoirs, including Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy by Lindsay Moran. Although the character for the nation’s first female president was not based on Hillary Clinton, her memoir, Living History, provided me with a strong frame of reference for an ambitious woman living in the White House.
What draws you to writing thrillers?
The thrill, of course! Seriously though, when executed correctly, there’s no greater feeling in the world than to build suspense to an incredible climax and end a story on a satisfying note. Much easier said than done, however.
What’s your writing process?
I start with a basic outline of the story, including the cast of characters and what happens in each chapter. Then I flesh out the details as I research the characters and the story. Once I reach a minimum word count, I celebrate the completion of the first draft and prepare for the rewrites.
stephen-clark, author
Image: Stephen Clark
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
Without question, rewriting is the hardest part. Maybe not the first or second rewrite. But after several rounds of retracing the same ground, examining identical passages line for line, it becomes a form of sadistic torture. As most of us know, rewriting is essential to producing our best work. But it’s also the leading cause of writer insanity.
Which authors inspire you?
That’s quite a long list that goes back years starting with Albert Camus and includes James Patterson, J.K. Rowling and Stephen King. In recent years, Gillian Flynn has inspired me to start reading psychological thrillers, a genre that I’m now obsessed with, like so many other readers.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Yes. Don’t bother wasting your time writing a novel for money, fame or recognition. Most books fail; most authors toil in obscurity, and the road to traditional publication is paved with rejection. If you want to write a novel, do it only if the passion is burning so deep that you have no other choice.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
Again, that’s a long list that goes back years starting with The Stranger by Albert Camus. The only book I’ve read in recent memory, however, that I could not put down or stop thinking about from the first page would be Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
To make a boatload of money, gain international fame and to be recognized as the voice of my generation. LOL. Just kidding. My main goal is to improve my craft with each book and entertain readers with thought-provoking and memorable stories.
What are you currently working on?
A psychological thriller centred on a deadly police shooting that sets the shooter on a collision course with the victim’s family.
What are you reading at the moment?
I just finished The Passenger by Lisa Lutz. Next, I’ll be reading Storm Shelter by JL Delozier and The Green Reaper by Elizabeth Fournier, both fellow label mates.
Citizen Kill is available to buy now. For more information about Stephen and his work, check out his website.

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

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