Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
Clarissa Johal is the author of paranormal novels, THE ISLAND, VOICES, STRUCK, and BETWEEN. When she’s not listening to the ghosts in her head, she’s swinging from a trapeze, or taking pictures of gargoyles. She shares her life with her husband, two daughters, and every stray animal that darkens their doorstep.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest release THE ISLAND is #1 Best Seller in supernatural horror on Amazon UK and Amazon Canada, which is really exciting! Books generally take me a year to write, but the idea for this one has been kicking around since I was a kid. Here’s the story behind it…
When I was twelve, my parents sent me to camp for the summer. The camp was located on a small island off the mainland, and kept solely for campers only. In addition to standard camp activities, the kids were allowed to explore on their own as long as they stayed together in groups of three. Unfortunately, because I was a new kid, my group of three was just me. When the camp counselors asked if we’d found our groups, I kept my mouth shut. Free time came, and off I went to explore on my own. There were designated paths on the island but you know how that goes—kids explore. Most of the campers headed towards the beach, but I decided to forge my own path into the woods. While waist-high in foliage, I literally fell into a small cave. The cave was empty…but not empty. Have you ever had that feeling? It felt like whatever resided inside, suddenly fixated on me. The hairs on the back of my neck stood, I felt icy cold, and the prick of tears was close, though I didn’t know why. It was almost as if I had stumbled into someplace sacred. I managed to climb out, but it felt like I was being watched. That night, I tossed and turned, unsettled. The feeling persisted into the next day, so I returned to the area—wanting to make peace with it. I looked and looked, but the cave was nowhere to be found. That cave (and the feeling associated with it) stuck with me, and so The Island was born.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I keep a pen beside the bed for when I wake in the middle of the night. I dream characters and back-stories and will write them on my arms and legs (I never seem to have paper). I probably look a bit demented by morning, but it works!
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I really like Neil Gaiman, Robert Holdstock, Gerald Brom, Graham Joyce, Amanda Stevens, Simone St. James, Keith Donohue, and Melissa Marr.
I have a soft spot for Gerald Brom’s character of Krampus from his novel, Krampus: The Yule Lord. He’s the epitome of a sympathetic antagonist, which I feel is important. My antagonists always have a back-story. They’re never evil for the sake of being evil. I hope readers feel ‘slightly’ sympathetic to their plight.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a re-release of my paranormal gothic horror STRUCK and a new spin-off from that book titled POPPY. Both should be released this year via Booktrope. I’ll leave you with the blurbs:
Struck by lightning…claimed by shadows.
Caught in a terrible storm, Gwynneth is struck by lightning. She wakes in the hospital with a vague memory of a mysterious stranger. Following her release, the stranger visits her at will and offers Gwynneth a gift—one that will stay the hands of death. Gwynneth is uncertain whether Julian is a savior or something sinister… for as he shares more and more of this gift, his price becomes more and more deadly.
A red-headed, pink-loving mortician who speaks to the dead.
A socially awkward funeral director.
Poppy and Dante from STRUCK are back.
Something is lingering around Skyview Funeral Home–and it’s stealing souls of the departed. With Dante in tow, Poppy is determined to put a stop to it. Will she be able to protect those who are trying to cross over? Or will her soul be next?
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I’m on Facebook quite a bit, I like to interact with readers and friends. In addiction to that, I’m on Twitter, Blogger, Pinterest, Goodreads, etc.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
The road to publication is trial and error and different for everyone. Self-publishing is huge right now. If you go that route, you need to understand and be comfortable with promotion and social media (this goes for traditional publishers too). There are many, many books out there, and it’s easy to become lost in the shuffle. Don’t be the book that’s been poorly edited or formatted, because it gives people an excuse to pass over your awesome story. As far as going the traditional route—get used to rejection and don’t take it personally. A lot of it is timing, and finding a publisher who “gets” your vision. That said, if you’re getting the same rejection feedback, take another look at what they’re saying and approach your writing with that in mind.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
The more books you get “out there,” the more readers and publishers take notice of you. The first book is always the hardest, because you’re getting your foot in the door. Spend more time writing and less time talking about it.
What are you reading now?
Research books! I have a stack of them, but I just finished, ‘Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns, and Goblins: An Encyclopedia’ by Carol Rose.
What’s next for you as a writer?
After the release of POPPY and re-release of STRUCK (both dates TBA), I’ll finish up WHISPERS IN THE WOOD, a dark paranormal fantasy. It’s half-written and will take me to the end of the year. Once I submit that, I’ll start on my next book!
What is your favorite book of all time?
Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock. The story is steeped in ancient mythology and gets into my head every time I read it.