Instead of doing a book review, I’m bringing an interview with Clarissa Johal, author of some pretty intriguing-looking books…
Hey, Clarissa, tell us a little about yourself and your background?
My name is Clarissa Johal and I write paranormal and dark fantasy novels. That sounds like a confession, doesn’t it? I just released Poppy, which makes my sixth novel. My husband and I have been married for 23 years and we have two daughters. Before I wrote full-time, I worked as a veterinary technician and zoo keeper assistant.
So, what have you written?
In the order of release; Pradee, my one YA fantasy, Between, Struck, Voices, The Island and Poppy, which are all paranormal novels for adults. I’ve also written a play, several short-stories, and numerous magazine articles and non-fiction pieces.
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
Poppy was beyond difficult. She’s a mortician, and with that came a ton of research. I researched mortician job duties, the chemicals and machines they used, read mortician blogs (yes, they exist), and interviewed a local mortician about what it was like to work at a funeral home. I even watched YouTube videos on embalming procedures (I don’t recommend watching those, they’re quite graphic). I came face-to-face with my mortality and it was quite depressing. There were times I had to set my research aside in order to breathe. The story and characters weren’t depressing, but the research was kicking my butt. To complicate matters, a dear friend of mine passed away during the final editing phase. I had to take a break because the subject matter was too close to home. That said, Poppy is one of the most upbeat characters I’ve ever written—even in the face of peril. Like many morticians, she views her job as “the last help” she can offer the newly departed. Kudos to her, and kudos to the profession. I couldn’t do it.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
Poppy (the main character from my latest release Poppy) is a mortician who speaks to the dead. You can only imagine how complicated that gets.
What do you think makes a good story?
Sympathetic antagonists and flawed protagonists. My antagonists are never evil for the sake of being evil. They have back-stories and I hope readers feel ‘slightly’ sympathetic to their plight. As far as my protagonists – they make bad decisions because people make bad decisions. It’s what humans do.
What are you working on at the minute?
I’m currently working on my seventh book, a dark fantasy titled Whispers in the Wood. I can’t tell you any more because my characters don’t like it when I do that. Once my draft is finished, I’ll post a blurb on my website.
Where do your ideas come from?
My characters usually come to me through dreams. They tell me what to write, not vice versa, as odd as that sounds. I keep a pen beside the bed for when I wake in the middle of the night. I’ll write on my arms and legs because it’s convenient, and then transfer my notes to paper in the morning. Once I have all my notes, I’ll write the first draft from beginning to end. After that, I do my research and gazillion edits.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
It takes me a year. I write five days a week from 8-3pm, and then from 9-midnight, after my family goes to bed. I usually take a week to go “on location” in order to get a feel for the book itself. For The Island, I took a boat to a remote island off the coast of Canada and spent the week alone, writing and hiking.
Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors.
I like Neil Gaiman, Robert Holdstock, Gerald Brom, Graham Joyce, Amanda Stevens, Simone St. James, Keith Donohue, and Melissa Marr. I also read a lot of world mythology and folktales.
What do you think of “trailers” for books?
I used to think book trailers were a weird concept. Why would someone watch a movie about a book? A month ago, however, I decided to give it a try. I found myself hooked on the media form. There’s an art to it, right down to the music. I’ve made two so far (Struck and Poppy) and plan to make one for each book. My YouTube Channel is here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoddfPN3W_Id7nAtN1HWIwA
What is your favourite film and why?
Big Trouble in Little China because I’m a geek. As far as my genre goes, The Woman in Black, The Others and Crimson Peak are right up my alley.
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
I would love to meet Charlie Chaplin. I think he was brilliant, and have all his films.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I like to spend time with my husband and two daughters. I’ve been dancing for 20 years (ballet, modern, tap and jazz) and keep up with that. My latest passion is trapeze. I’ve been taking trapeze classes for about a year with the goal of becoming good enough to perform. It’s very similar to ballet, but in the air. What’s not to love about that? I also run a special needs pet-sitting business and volunteer at the SPCA. I love anime, photography, running and fencing…I have lots of hobbies!
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
“Why are you so weird?” “Stop posting photos of your cat.” You know, standard stuff. Kidding. I love interacting with my readers and hear from them quite a bit. The main question I’m asked is if I’ve ever seen a ghost. Yes, I have. And yes, my cat is damn handsome and he knows it. 😉
Clarissa Johal is the bestselling author of paranormal novels, Poppy, The Island, Voices, Struck and Between. When she’s not listening to the ghosts in her head, she’s dancing, taking pictures of gargoyles, or swinging from a trapeze. She shares her life with her husband, two daughters, and every stray animal that darkens their doorstep.
Find Clarissa Online: