Thursday, September 29, 2011

CLOCKWISE Book Review & Author Interview

I "met" author Elle Strauss about a year ago... I don't even remember how, but I started following her blog (link) because she always posted amazing video interviews or speeches by authors I liked.

I've used them as the basis for my own posts in the past--remember "Restless Anchovies" (link)?

Strauss
Anyway, I could tell Elle was smart and a good writer doing what she could to learn from other famous writers--mutual interests, right? Right.

Well, I was shocked when she told me she decided to self-publish her debut novel CLOCKWISE. She had an agent, and it was one I'd conversed with on two of my own MSs. I didn't know what to say.

Except that I'd help her get the word out. She sent me an ARC (advance review copy) to do a review. I also interviewed Elle, asking her about CLOCKWISE and self-publishing. Her answers follow my review. (Enter to win free books at the very end.)

Here's my review:

CLOCKWISE is billed as "time-travel-YA-chicklit," which piqued my interest right away. I really dig chicklit, and mixing it with time-travel sounded too unexpected.

But I wouldn't necessarily classify Elle's book as "chicklit." Don't get me wrong, it's very funny at times, and the main character Casey has a real problem: she time-travels uncontrollably, and it gets worse when she's stressed out.

She also carries people back in time with her if they're touching her skin when it happens--just ask her best friend Lucinda, who is also hilarious and determined that she and Casey are going to get dates to "THE Prom" by going to every HS dance that year.

Casey is opposed to this plan for one major reason: the last thing she needs is to get stressed out while dancing with a boy, much less the cutest boy in school, Nate, on whom she has an enormous crush...

Yep, that's exactly what happens. Nate asks her to dance and zhoop! they go back in time. (Read the teaser-excerpt of that scene on Elle's blog here, link. It's short and fun and will give you a feel for Elle's style.)

So she takes the cutest boy back in time... and here's the part where it stops being chicklit. (I know--unexpected again!) Casey time-travels back to the same place every trip, and it's a scary, volatile part of American history.

She goes back to Boston, at the start of the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln's just been elected President, boys are getting drafted into the Union Army, runaway slaves are being kidnapped and sent back south because of the Fugitive Slave Act.

Women have practically no rights, and a wealthy Bostonian sets his sites on the mysterious Miss Casey Donovon, who keeps disappearing and reappearing...

Source
Once Nate gets over his initial shock at what's happened (he thinks it's a prank at first), he wants to get involved, to help their new friend, a fugitive slave named Samuel.

Casey's more worried because she never knows when she'll travel back to modern times again, and if she isn't touching Nate when it happens, he could get left there. Waiting for her to come back again, whenever...

I'm going to stop because I don't want to spoil the story, but I'll tell you what I told Elle: I'll bet money this is the best self-published debut novel on the market.

I'm not kidding. And at $2.99 for Kindle (link) or £2.17 on Amazon.co.uk, you've got to get it. The ending is moving and sweet... Kudos to my friend, and I wish her the best with this new venture.

Now for our interview!

LTM: I loved the theme of time travel, and the way you linked it to possibly being hereditary. Have you always been interested in time travel? Was there a book, movie, TV show, or real-life event that sparked your idea for CLOCKWISE?

Elle Strauss: I’m not sure what sparked the interest in time travel—maybe it felt like a puzzle, and I like puzzles. My first time-travel effort had some merit, but not anywhere close to publishable. I did learn a lot from that first effort, though.

(Almost) All of the historical events take place in the same time in Boston during the very beginning of the Civil War. What made you choose that time? Is it your favorite time period in American history?

ES: I’d recently moved back to western Canada after spending a year in Boston. I was fascinated with the history there, the Freedom Trail, the 300-year-old pub, the cradle of America. When I decided to write another time travel book, I knew it was going to have to be set there. Having my protagonist, Casey, loop back to the dawn of the Civil War just made sense then.

To me, time travel is a very intimidating device. How did you prepare for it? Did you already have your where and when plotted out or did you pants it?

ES: Oh, I totally pants-ed it, which I’ll never do again. This novel was actually really hard to write, as I actually had two stories that needed to have a complete arc, and that overlapped into one complete story. I went grey trying to figure this one out. I’m part-way finished with a companion, and I’m definitely planning the structure ahead of time.

Is CLOCKWISE the novel that landed you your agent? How long did your query journey take? Care to share your experience?

ES: It feels so long ago now, I have to think. I queried more than one book, but this is the one that got me representation. I think I had it out for half a year or more. She was a new agent “hungry for clients,” which always helps I think, plus at the time, she only took snail mail. I was willing to do the extra work to get it to her, but I knew many people wouldn’t be. So that helped to get me to the top of the pile. I’m really grateful she fell in love with Casey’s story.

Your agent shopped CLOCKWISE, and then you decided to self-publish. Was she supportive of this decision? At what point did you decide to go it alone and why?

ES: Here’s where I tell you I’ve had two agents. My first agent shopped CLOCKWISE, but the general feeling at the time was that time-travel YA wouldn’t sell (it wasn’t trending). When she left the agency, I was picked up by her colleague. By then, time travel was trending, but the general feel was that editors wanted edgier time travel. At that point I decided it might be worth giving it a go on my own, and my agent agreed.

What did you do to prepare for self-publishing? Any tips for others considering this step?

ES: Oh, gosh. I’d been reading up on it for a while, there are a lot of great bloggers who focus almost 100 percent on this, including The Passive Voice (link) and also a lot of books. I’d spent time following other authors who had self-published to see how they approached it. I suppose it would take a full blog post (or more) to answer this question fully.

What's next for Elle Strauss? Any other books in the pipeline? Traditional or self-publishing? And if traditional, what are your thoughts on doing both?

ES: Yes, there are more books! My next book is going to be completely opposite in feel, a darker drama about a boy who grows up in Hitler Youth, tentatively called PLAYING WITH MATCHES. After that, look for another light and fun romance set in the Merfolk world called SEAWEED. I will indie-publish both of these, with a CLOCKWISE companion to follow.  As for both, that can work for some authors.

Thanks for having me, Leigh!

(Note: I've actually read/edited PLAYING WITH MATCHES for Elle, and I can tell you, I wept. It is fantastic.)

Elle's also hosting a great Contest! to help launch CLOCKWISE. You can win five books, so jump over to her site and read about it (link).

Now go buy Elle's book, reader- and writer-friends (link), and spend the week-end tripping through time.

Til Monday~ <3



37 comments:

Clarissa Draper said...

What a plot line. I don't really read this genre but I'm going to pick it up anyway.

Creepy Query Girl said...

fabulous! I loved getting to know more about the premise and about Elle's journey!

Kelly Polark said...

I love the twist in the premise that the main character time travels uncontrollably! Also, what an interesting time in history to be left with your crush!

Pk Hrezo said...

How great for Elle! I know she'd been considering and so glad she took the leap. It's the wave of the future and so fantastic! Sounds like an amazing story and I can't wait to read it.

Angela Felsted said...

Leigh, I love your review. It gives me so much more detail about the setting than anything else I've read thus far.

How cool that she goes back to a volatile time and gets to help Samuel. I am totally wanting to read this now.

J.L. Campbell said...

The book sounds very interesting. Given the circumstances, I understand Elle's decision to self publish. Well done and wishing her lots of success.

Hannah Kincade said...

oooh, I love time travel books!! I'm in.

Matthew MacNish said...

That really is quite the twist! And I know Elle from around the 'sphere, but somehow I wasn't following her blog until just yesterday, so I've been missing out!

Tara said...

I love the premise, and the twist. I hate that publishing houses are so focused on things having to fit into a specific market to be saleable. Most of the books I read have multiple genres, and that's what I love about them. *climbing down from soap box. *ahem!*

I wish Elle all the best. This one is going in my Amazon queue for sure!

Holly Ruggiero said...

I popped over to read the expert. It's wonderful. I love the premise of this book. I hope it goes off the charts!

Michelle Fayard said...

Elle, I find it very fascinating that even though you were repped by an agent you knew self-publishing was the right path for you. Congratulations on your new book! I'm a sucker for time-travel themes, and as the manuscript I'm shopping is set in the early days of the Civil War, you've just hooked me times two. :) Thank you, Leigh, for hosting Elle on your blog today.

amo said...

I love "listening" to you guys talk. I'm learning all kinds of stuff from both your questions, and the answers. Cool! (Among other things, I learned a new word: "to pants". Should come in handy, I do that a lot.)

Laurel Garver said...

You asked such great questions, Leigh! Especially I liked hearing about plotting a time-travel story and how hard it must be to keep two sets of storylines straight when they only periodically overlap.

Jennie Bailey said...

Wow - this sounds amazing. I can't believe a big publisher didn't pick it up! I'm glad she got it out there anyway. I look forward to reading it. GREAT interview!

Lydia Kang said...

Thanks Elle for sharing your agent and publishing journey with us. It looks wonderful!

Old Kitty said...

Good luck with Clockwise, Elle and thanks for the interview LTM! I have no idea what being "shopped" means btw but glad that her most unique novel (YA Time Travelling Chick lit! Yay!!!!) is out and about now. Take care
x

LTM said...

@PK--It is a fun story, and it'll be interesting to see how she does. I know getting the word out is the biggest hurdle. Thanks for helping! :o)

@Holly--Every time I read one of her excerpts, I want to read the book again! It really is tons of fun. See what you think~ :o) <3

@amo--Thanks! I like "talking" to author-friends, too! And I ended up having to ask what plotting & pantsing were... Plotting = planning/outlining your MS before starting; Pantsing = flying by the seat of your pants. I do a mix~ :o) Thanks for visiting!

DEZMOND said...

Seems like a lovely lady, and the story sounds imaginative.
I think the cover of the book still needs a lot of work.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Wow, after your review, Leigh, I definitely want to read this book!!!!!

Lynda R Young said...

Yep, I love the sound of Clockwise. It's on my TBR list.

Jemi Fraser said...

I'm loving the book! I've just met Samuel and I can't wait to see what happens next :)

Kari Marie said...

Sounds fascinating! Great interview Leigh and Elle. I love studying the Civil War - this sounds like a great read.

Julie Musil said...

Elle's books sounds amazing, and her answers to your questions were fascinating. I love reading about other writer's journeys.

amo said...

I just finished reading Elle's book, and it really *is* that good.

@Dezmond - there's nothing much wrong with the book cover; it's just right for the type of book it is (YA romantic comedy).

Elle Strauss said...

Leigh, thanks so much for hosting me today!! *big hugs* And thanks to everyone who stopped by!!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Leigh and Elle - sounds very exciting and very different - brilliant concept and obviously well excecuted .. something I'll definitely look out for later on .. I know Elle's around this blogging world! Cheers Hilary

LTM said...

@amo--thanks! I'm sure Elle appreciates the positive feedback! :o) <3

M Pax said...

Yea, for you, Elle. Fantastic. Sounds like a wonderful story.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Oh, that sounds like a great read! I love the twist on time travel.

Dawn Kurtagich said...

Good interview! Clockwise sounds interesting indeed :)

Janet Johnson said...

Seriously sounds awesome! So wishing I had an e-reader of some sort. But I'll be eagerly awaiting a hard copy (I hope!)

Talli Roland said...

Fantastic interview, ladies. I really enjoyed Clockwise and 'Playing with Matches' sounds intriguing!

DL Hammons said...

WOW...I'm so impressed. Pantsing a time-travel novel with overlapping story-arc's is really HARD!

Theresa Milstein said...

Thanks for the review. Now I know more about Clockwise than I did before. I like the twist of time traveling when stressed.

Shaik said...

Love your post and absolutely love your blog! Thanks for the creating and sharing this review!


Sample Contracts

LTM said...

@Dawn--Thanks! It really is a fun book and unexpectedly deep and serious. I think you'll like it! :o)

@Shaik--Thank you~ <3

Kitchen Benchtops said...

I loved how history was woven in. A fantastic read for anyone, adolescent or adult. I'll be looking forward to Elle's next book!