An Interview with Author, Claire Buss


It's been awhile since I've featured a guest author, but never fear, I have one for you today. I met Claire Buss during an online fantasy writing event. When she offered to interview authors for her blog, I reciprocated. She lives in the UK, so I thought it would be interesting to hear about her writing during lockdown experience. (Note: I kept the British spelling of several words to maintain authenticity in her story.)

About Claire Buss

Claire is a multi-genre author and poet. She wanted to be Lois Lane when she grew up but work experience at her local paper was eye-opening. Instead, Claire went on to work in a variety of admin roles for over a decade but never felt quite at home. An avid reader, baker and Pinterest addict Claire won second place in the Barking and Dagenham Pen to Print writing competition in 2015 setting her writing career in motion.

Claire has written quite a few books including The Gaia Effect which won the 2017 Raven Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy. Her series include The Gaia Collection and The Roshaven Books. She hosts an interview blog, A Slice of Cake, and is the Deputy Editor for Write On! magazine.

Tell Us About Your Writing Journey in 2020

When you look back at 2020, you have to ask yourself where did it go? Every time I think, oh yeah, last year – it turns out I’m thinking about 2019. I don’t think my brain has acclimated to the fact that it is 2021. It has been an entire year where the UK has been under some kind of lockdown environment. I’ll tell you now, I was not one of those lucky creative people who managed to get more work done than they’ve ever managed before.

My writing plan for 2020 was to finish the second book in my humorous fantasy series, The Silk Thief. My husband threw the first spanner in the works by asking me why I was putting myself under fake pressure by giving myself a deadline. Surely it didn’t matter when I finished writing, and I should do what I could, when I could. Deciding to be kind to myself, I took his advice and threw my deadlines out the window. I would write when I could. It would be great. I’d finish my book. 

Of course, it didn’t quite happen that way.

What Did Happen?  

When we first heard there was a terrible virus out there, it seemed surreal. Things started to close. Slowly at first, as everyone was unsure what exactly was happening. People began wearing face masks, which horrified me. I had a panic attack the first time I wore one because I couldn’t breathe. Obviously, I’ve got the hang of them now. 

When they shut the schools, I thought to myself, okay, this is serious. This virus has scared the pants off the World Health Organisation and my country’s government. Now I’m  home all day long with my kids and can’t go out. Or write. But that’s alright because I don’t have any deadlines.

There were initial panic moments when the supermarket shelves emptied, and I couldn’t buy the usual food or provisions. My son is autistic. He won't touch certain foods, It's hard to give him alternative brands if the colour, taste or texture isn’t exactly the same. Plus, I needed pullups for him at night. They were like gold dust. 

Luckily for me, friends and family rallied round and sent me the things I needed--one of which was oat milk as I am dairy intolerant. Those first few weeks were strange. I didn’t do any writing or editing or even thinking about my novel. All I could focus on was not being able to shop, cook, eat, live, go out, socialise, visit or even think like I would do normally. 

I have a part-time job working for an organisation called Pen to Print online. I run author workshops for them as well as being Deputy Editor for their writing magazine "Write On!" We switched to a purely digital offering through lockdown with daily digests. I believe that work and community was the only thing that kept me sane and connected with others. It was literally a lifeline.

How Did You Get Back on Track?  

Throughout the entire experience, I kept saying to myself, this is not going to last. The kids will be back at school before we know it. Everything will go back to normal. Only it didn’t. The period of uncertainty continued to get longer and longer and longer. My inability to do any creative work continued. 

I managed to construct my own school timetable for my son and pre-school daughter and got them doing as much as possible to keep them off screens. My son earned a lot of Beaver badges. We went through an entire box of A4 white paper. And we played lots and lots of board games. Another staple for us was doing PE with Joe every morning. I actually managed to lose weight during lockdown and rekindle a love for exercise. 

But still I wasn’t writing. I had no deadlines. There was nothing pushing me forwards.

To be honest, I kept telling myself, my life hadn’t really changed all that much. I’m a stay at home mum who is just really staying at home. I’m self-employed and work from home, and now I’m just trying to do that whilst entertaining two children all day long. 

It’s a walk in the park, only we can’t go to the park. 

But I was lying to myself. I struggled through months of waiting to see what would happen next, obsessively watching the world-wide death toll growing and getting more and more resentful about not being able to finish writing my book. I was utterly blocked.

I burned out with worry and working late into the night for Write On! I made the decision to get ahead of myself with the day job and take a full two weeks off over Christmas. I would do no writing work – no new words, no editing, no marketing. Nothing. And I would try and get some sleep and not eat too many mince pies. 

And I actually did it. I spent some time figuring out what I wanted to achieve in 2021 with my writing. I made a plan. And I gave myself deadlines!

What Did Deadlines Do For You?

I am chuffed to bits to be able to tell you that I finished my first draft of THE SILK THEIF. I submitted it to my crit group and worked through the edits. It's now with beta readers. The pre-order for the book is live and the book will come out on June 4th. I am also 18000 words into book three, THE BONE THIEF.

Clearly I am a writer who thrives with deadlines, no matter how hard it might seem at the time.

Have Things Opened Up in the UK yet?

The kids only recently have gone back to school. That in itself is a huge adjustment. I still can’t go visit my family and the shops are all still closed, but we hope things will gradually be returning to normal (ish) soon. I still wear my face mask, and I’ve had my first vaccination jab. Propped up by my writing deadlines, I feel that I managed to exert a little normality back in my life. And of course, writing regularly brings me joy and peace and fulfilment that I was sorely missing last year.

Where Can We Find Your Books?

The Silk Thief, pre-order, book available on 4th June 2021.

What is The Rose Thief About?

Ned Spinks, Chief Thief-Catcher has a problem. Someone is stealing the Emperor's roses. But that's not the worst of it. In his infinite wisdom and grace, the Emperor magically imbued his red rose with love so if it was ever removed from the Imperial Rose Gardens then love will be lost, to everyone, forever. It's up to Ned and his band of motley catchers to apprehend the thief and save the day. But the thief isn't exactly who they seem to be, neither is the Emperor. Ned and his team will have to go on a quest defeating vampire mermaids, illusionists, estranged family members and an evil sorcerer in order to win the day. What could possibly go wrong?

If you want to know more about Claire and what she's working on, you can visit her website, follow her on Twitter  and catch up with her on Facebook.


Claire Buss said…
Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Barbara :)
Glad to have you! It's interesting to see how things worked for people in other parts of the world.

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