Economist, journalist, writer, painter, poet. Born in a Belgian diplomatic family, brought up on three continents (Africa, Europe and America), Claude graduated from Columbia University (school of Economics). In 1979, she started a 25 year career in the United Nations (at FAO, a technical agency operating in the rural sector) that culminated in the position of Regional Representative in charge of Europe and Central Asia.
Retired in 2004, she published books in several genres and contributed to a poetry anthology. Her latest novel, Gateway to Forever, is a daring foray into speculative fiction, imagining the fate of mankind 200 years from now. Currently she is a delegate for the Order of Malta at the Rome-based UN agencies and a Senior Editor at Impakter magazine. She is at work on a book about the United Nations and the follow-up to Gateway to Forever. She is married and lives in Rome.
What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book(s), but nobody has? Write it out here, and then answer it.
DO YOU WRITE TO ENTERTAIN OR DO YOU HAVE AN ULTERIOR MOTIVE?
Entertain, sure (who wants to be bored?), but I do have an ulterior motive. Let me explain. Literature has a special dimension compared to the visual arts and especially compared to movies. And that entails special responsibilities for the writer.
Consider this simple fact Literature can get INSIDE your mind, it is the only art form that can do that!
Take the movies (or reality TV) that bring you directly into other people’s lives. Yet a movie camera always stays on the outside, the best it can do is film the flicker in your eye but it cannot reveal exactly what you think at that moment.
But a writer can. He/she can put his/her self in yours, figure it out from your standpoint, and work you out of a situation/plot from there. I call that ability “empathetic imagination” – everyone has got it (or how else would society hold together?) but writers have it more developed than others – perhaps it’s something they’ve inherited genetically but it also something they develop through writing.
This means that good writing has the ability to throw a DEEP LIGHT into the human condition – makes us see and understanding things in a way we have never understood them before. That deep light is something I always seek as a writer. My books are meant to entertain but also meant to show the world in a different and hopefully deeper way. They are meant to throw a helpful light, for example, on the challenge of starting a new life after retirement (I did that in Crimson Clouds) or on what will happen to our world if we go on as we are doing now, with increasing inequality, pollution, jihad killing etc (the issue addressed in Gateway to Forever).
What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine or do you have any weird, funny, or unusual habits while writing and what are they?
Every morning, my best time to write! The afternoon is dedicated to work (I am Senior Editor at Impakter magazine, there’s a lot to read, edit etc) And of course, like everyone, I navigate the Internet, tweet out the articles I enjoy reading – and I just discovered a fantastic new social network called Thingser since it’s built around people’s interests, I regularly find there a trove of fascinating articles in the subjects I’m interested in (social issues, politics, publishing…)
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
I think sooner or later this is something everyone suffers from – not just writers! You’re suddenly bored/disgusted/ with the job you’re doing and feeling apathetic. The way out? The usual one do something radically different, take a vacation! It could be anything – travel, music, hiking, boating, museum-going, disco dancing etc etc – and it depends on the individual, where you live, who you live with…
What is the single most important piece of advice for aspiring authors?
Write, write,write. Don’t worry about book promotion. Keep on writing!
What are your current/future projects?
With my job at Impakter where I curate all articles about the United Nations (using my 25 year experience working for UN/FAO), I’ve decided to write a book about the United Nations, what are the real forces behind it (and they’re not the delegates from member countries!)
And I won’t leave my readers in the lurch! There’s a book coming to follow on Gateway to Forever.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
First I wrote a children’s book that won many awards (published in 1991 and only available in Italian – I also write in Italian since I’ve lived in Italy for the past 35 years!); next I wrote a YA trilogy (Luna Rising) that is a mixture of paranormal and historical (it’s set in Sicily); after that, I wrote Boomer Lit (Crimson Clouds) about what happens to a UN manager who retires and decides to become an artist; the latest is speculative fiction (Gateway to Forver) set 200 years from now as Man faces extinction.
How do I balance them? The short (and long) answer I don’t. They just happen. And non-fiction is next on my plate.
What do you think is the future for independent authors and do you think it will continue to be easy for anyone to be a published author?
No, it won’t continue to be easy to be a published author. A fantastic window of opportunity opened from 2007 to 2011with the Kindle’s advent and Kindle Publishing Direct. That window is shut now, blocked by the tsunami of self-published authors. The Kindle Store today has more than 4.5 million titles. That means book discovery has become impossible for anyone who hasn’t a huge fan following or at least a name as a traditionally published author. In fact, the authors who do best nowadays are those so-called “mid list authors” who self-publish online their back list.
Are you traditional or self-published, and what process did you go through to get your book published?
Both. All my books written in Italian are published by legacy publishers. Only those written in English are available on Amazon since I used Amazon’s services (KDP for digital and Create Space for printed books)
Have you ever changed a title, book cover, or even the content of your book after it was published? What was that process like?
Never for traditionally published books. But I have done so with my self-published books and Amazon made the process incredibly easy
If you are a self-published author, which platform do you prefer? (Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu, Author House, or something not mentioned), and why?
No question about it Amazon. Best book page, broadest market reach and easiest use both as a writer and reader. Unbeatable!
What do you do if inspiration strikes in an inconvenient place like (car, restaurant, bathroom/shower, etc..) and how do you capture that moment before it gets away from you?
I usually lose it – but sometimes I can find a piece of paper to scribble on. I’m pretty hopeless!
Do you have a target amount of words/pages for each of your books or do you just know when enough is enough?
No target amount, thank God. Life is difficult enough as it is without adding to it!
How do you think you have evolved as a person/author because of your writing and do you believe your writing has helped others, how/why?
Writing is me, I’ve written all my life, at first issuing a weekly “newspaper” (I was 8) and next with a romance/thriller (I was 15).
How much influence do you believe a title, cover, content, page numbers have in purchasing decisions of potential buyers/readers?
Big influence. The cover is the first thing that sells a book, the pitch is next.
Do you believe there is value in a Press Release, have you used any press release service, and what have your experiences been?
Sure, there’s value, especially if you have a big name and a platform. If not, don’t bother.
Do you believe there is value in a review? Do you believe they are under rated, over rated, or don’t matter at all?
Reviews all have value, even the bad ones. Hopefully, there are more positive ones than negatives! They all add up to create the famous “buzz” that sells books…
What are your thoughts on authors doing review swaps, paying for reviews, or reviews that just don’t seem right for the book?
Waste of time.
Do you believe there are competitors or general readers out to sabotage authors with bad reviews and what are your experiences with this?
Could be. Not sure.
With self publishing being so easy these days, do you believe there is an over abundance of books out there and how do you sort through all the hype or copycats?
Yes, book discovery has become impossible. Too much stuff out there,most of it hopelessly bad.
What is your biggest fear about having a book published?
To be ignored.
If you have multiple books published what do you feel is your greatest work, why?
My latest. Always my latest because (I hope) I’m getting better with each new one. But I know it’s not true. When re-reading an earlier work, I’ve surprised myself, hey, I was good even back then (chuckle!)
What is the intended audience for you book?
Give us a fun fact about your book(s)?
If you had the chance to get one message out there to reach readers all over the world, what would that message be?
“One need not hope in order to undertake, nor succeed in order to persevere”
I love that – it’s William of Orange’s personal motto.
Do you find it easier to connect with your readers with the advances in technology we have today like social media? What platform do you prefer, and why?
I use Twitter the most, but I’m on Facebook and Linked In, both very useful. Also on Pinterest – though it was fun at first, all those images but less so now, especially with the advent of Instagram.
The latest on the scene, Thingser, is really great, I highly recommend it – it cuts through the annoying self-promotion that afflicts all other platforms and zeroes in on the things of interest to YOU. I find that very relaxing, I go to it every time I have a free moment!
What makes a good story, why?
A good story is one that moves you, that gets close to your heart, that opens your eyes, that makes you see the world in a different way, that ultimately helps you understand the human condition.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
Names have to go with the characters – not so much a matter of sound as a matter of implied/indirect meanings the name evokes (often in our subconscious). It can take time to find the “right” name for a character.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I do read my reviews and a good one makes me really, really happy! I sometimes try to tell the reviewer how happy I am, it’s good to connect with a reader. But I never respond to a negative review (I did that once and learned it was a BIG mistake – never again!)
Were your characters based off real life people/events or did you make it all up?
All my characters are rooted in real life – usually the result of a combination of memories and observations.
Do you view writing as a career, labor of love, hobby, creative outlet, therapy, or something else?
Writing is both a career and bottom line, a labor of love. Not a therapy nor a hobby that’s ok for the occasional writer but not the professional one.
Do you proofread/edit your own books or do you send them off to an editor? If you send them off to an editor, who/what have you had the best experience with?
Editing is essential. But unfortunately even a good editor will let mistakes go past him or her. So if you are self-published, be prepared to take down your book, correct it and re-upload. Readers will always find a typo somewhere!
What are the advantages/disadvantages of self or traditional publishing?
Self-publishing means freedom and higher returns IF you sell (a very big “if” given the tsunami of books). Traditional publishing gives you lower returns but it ensures you reach a wider audience and have access to broader means (for example, the mainstream media like the NYT, the UK Guardian and literary prizes like the Pulitzer). Ultimately, it’s a matter of choice. For genre writers, self-publishing is probably a good idea. For literary and non-fiction, traditional publishing might be better.
Do you have a subject/genre you would never write about, why?
Porno. Not interested.
What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
You tell me!
Do you design your own cover? If not who does, why?
Yes and no. Some I have, others I haven’t.
What is your most/least favorite part of the writing process, why?
Editing the 100th time! But alas, it is necessary…
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