A humble conversation with self-published author Clover Autrey
Writers are very humble people, looking to entertain with their words and incredibly grateful when others read and comment on their work. Clover Autrey is one such humble writer who is finding great success through self-publishing on Amazon, already having quite a few books under her belt and more on the way. “I’m just your average introvert who would rather spend quality time with my nose in a book than go to a large party and attempt to make small talk and eye contact,” Autrey said. “My husband’s the complete opposite. He loves being the center of attention when I let him loose.” Both Autrey and her husband are in the arts and both support one another’s artistic work. “He’s always been supportive in that we both do our own things, have our own creative outlets. I write. He’s a musician. We tend to stay out of each other’s wheelhouses,” Autrey said.
Autrey has been writing for over twenty years, having started before her oldest was born. Now, her daughter is twenty-four, married, works as a freelance editor, and is about to bless Autrey with her first grandchild. Autrey writes her stories rather quickly and thus is able to publish them just as fast. This is very pleasing for her readers and followers for they don’t have to wait for long stretches of time to read her next work. “I try and write every weekday, getting in several hours. My creative juices flow better when I write longhand with pen and paper so I continue until my hand aches. Sometimes that happens in the middle of a really good scene and I have to push through or quickly jot down notes so I won’t lose it later. I can get a book written in about three months. And get it typed into my laptop in less than a week. I use that as my first round of edits before I’ll send it off to my editors. And yes, my daughter gets a look at it as well,” Autrey said. “With the freedom of publishing through platforms like Kindle Direct Publishing, I have full control over how soon after the final edits I want a book to be released. With the Highland Sorcery series, I published each book once it was ready so readers could have the next one as soon as possible.”
The stories Autrey writes are incredibly intriguing, housing multiple factors that will peak the interest of readers following her already as well as many new future readers. Not only does she write about romance, but also about time travel, fantasy, and history just to name a few of these factors. “There’s something about Scottish historicals that appeals to me. I love the romance and epic settings of books like Outlander and Prince of Time, but I also cut my reading teeth on Andre Norton’s Witch World series and J.R.R. Tolkien. Combining all the components I love into a world inhabited by fantasy creatures, sorcerers and witches in the Highlands of Scotland? Priceless. Why wouldn’t I? And then I got to time travel my characters to modern day Seattle, WWII Scotland, and even into a dystopian future,” Autrey said. “Honestly, I’m simply writing the books that I want to read. The series will conclude with the eighth book, Highland Chieftain, which will fling our hero Dez from the year 2084 back in time to thirteenth century Scotland right at the beginning where the first book in the series began. I wanted the adventures through all eight books to become one eternal circle.”
Readers are briefly introduced to Dez in the seventh installment of the Highland Sorcery series, Highland Illusion, and this installment is also the second time Autrey introduced vampires to her series since book two. When it comes to how vampires are written in today’s fictional world, it can be tricky for writers to capture the attention of readers outside of teenage girls. “Whenever you write about a creature or being that is already a huge part of literature, you have to decide which of the standard rules of that creature to follow,” Autrey said. “There have been myths and lore about vampire-like creatures and demons all over the world that suck blood from their victims. Not all were based upon a dead person clawing out of the grave. Some legends of the dhampirs and shtrigas have them as being born, not made, so I took some liberties with that angle.” Before Autrey wrote anything about her vampires, she created a series of questions to ask herself as to what “vampire rules” that have been used since Bram Stoker’s Dracula in the late 1800s to today that she wanted to either keep or play with.
Are they born or created?
Can they go out in the sun? Will they burst into flames? Weaken? Sparkle?
Can they see their reflections?
Are they preternaturally strong? Swift? Have better senses?
Do they reproduce easily?
Crave blood? Need blood to survive?
Can religious artifacts ward them off?
Are they immortal? Or live long lives? Do they age?
How can they be killed? Staked? Beheaded? Blood starvation?
By doing the research on both traditional and modern day vampires and by asking herself these questions relating to both, Autrey created and wrote a fascinating new take on vampires. “I wanted my vampires to be more a part of the supernatural world I have throughout the books. Within the series, there are gremlins, goblins, Fae, ogres, trolls, and even dragons to complement the magical humans. All of them are creatures born as they are, with the exception of the Sifts. I wanted the vampires to fit in with that world mythology, to be a natural species as part of the world. I also wanted them to not be the strongest, baddest creatures out there, but have vulnerabilities, something to fear from the new monsters in the world who can eat them at will, just like what was happening to the humans. And then having my heroine be a vampire who is a devout cross-wearing Christian thrown together with a hero who is physically weaker, nor as long-lived as her, and has his doubts about God and religion in general was just too good of a juxtaposition to pass up,” Autrey said.
And what exactly are the Sifts? For the readers who don’t come into the Highland Sorcery series until later, the Sifts are first introduced in the third book and they are a monster that strike fear into the hearts of both human and supernatural being alike. “They are nasty, magical beasts who delight in killing and eating. Unfortunately, they have a modicum of intelligence and have the ability to move through time within 100 years of their own birth time so they are very hard to kill. They can open a portal and rush away or appear right behind their prey during a fight. Complete unfair advantage. By the year 2070, they have pretty much eaten the human race down to a few thousand scattered survivors,” Autrey said.
As readers read through Highland Illusion, not only will they come across the name “Sifts” for the monster, but they will also come across the name “Trogs.” It can be confusing while reading, readers wondering if Sifts and Trogs are two different monsters; however, Autrey clarified that Sifts and Trogs are the same. “The humans call them Sifts since they know the monsters were spawned from Shaw, the only Moon Sifter born in the last thousand years. I figured that since the vampires had gone to ground to survive the monsters, they wouldn’t have been corresponding with the human survivors to know what they called the monsters and would, instead, have their own name for them, hence two different names for the same monster,” Autrey said. “Their body shape reminds me of troglodytes or Trogs for short. I also had fun letting some characters refer to them as Morlocks from The Time Machine. It’s always fun to give a nod to the classics when I can or even plant Easter eggs from my other books not of the same series.”
Along with writing and self-publishing her books, Autrey serves as the current president of the Keller Writers Association. The Keller Writers Association is a small group of writers who meet once a month to critique one another’s stories and poems. “We read what we’re working on out loud while everyone follows along, marking up their copies. There’s something about reading what you’ve worked on out loud for others. [First,] you get a feel for if the rhythm is working. [Second,] you can see by expressions or spurts of laughter when something is confusing or if you hit the mark. We have a broad range of genres represented and expertise from beginners to multi-published authors. Plus we’re all able to get along. No one has been voted off the island yet or gone home sobbing,” Autrey said.
Talking aloud about one’s story ideas with other writers can be incredibly helpful in multiple ways. It not only makes a writer’s current work stronger, but it also can spark new story ideas. Even though Autrey is nearly done with her Highland Sorcery series, she has plans for a few more upcoming series in the near future. “I’m in the middle of writing a contemporary series centered [on] siblings that run a family-owned inn out in the hill country of Texas. It’s new for me in that there is no magic or science fiction involved. I’m also plotting out a spin-off series to Highland Sorcery called Highland Dragons with an elite corps of half-dragons (part-man, part-dragon, who can shapeshift into both) during WWII, who are working counter intelligence to keep magical artifacts out of Nazi hands,” Autrey said. “The new series I’m writing at this time, I plan to hold back until they are all written. Even though two of them are ready to be published, I want to release all five books on the same day so that readers won’t have to wait for the next installment. I love being able to make choices like that regarding my own books.”
With struggles along the way, Autrey has written through them to help get her mind off of the difficulties life can throw at anyone. She has centered her characters off of these difficulties to make them more realistic. Her characters fight monsters, stare down darkness and uncertainty, and hope for a better future. “I created characters who stood strong and defied everything thrown against them. I wanted them to win their battles. I needed them to win. They had to win,” Autrey said. Just like her characters, Autrey has not allowed dark times to get her down, being a true inspiration for people and writers everywhere through writing of her own. “Don’t shy away from letting what is happing in your life spill emotionally over onto your pages. Inspire yourself. Don’t hold back and be fearless. Let your characters do, say, feel, be everything. Let them fight the unwinnable battles.”
Originally published at www.examiner.com on April 24, 2016.