Welcome to the Author Spotlight! In this blog series, I showcase an indie author and interview them to find out more about their writing life.
This month, the author in the spotlight is Genevieve Clovis! Genevieve is a fellow Canadian author and editor, and I had the pleasure of working on her debut novel, Tea and the Transcendent. Genevieve also owns a bookstore in Toronto that I hope to visit one day!
Bio: A stranger once called Genevieve Clovis “Empress of the Written Word” and she aspires to live up to that title. Genevieve is building her book-based empire in Toronto, Ontario, where she reads, writes, edits, and sells books. She also dabbles in bookbinding and other book related creative projects.
Q: Can you tell readers about Tea and the Transcendent: A Novel in Stories?
A: Tea and the Transcendent is a weird little book about two women who are intrinsically tied to the supernatural world but would really rather do anything else. Imagine a typical urban fantasy demon-hunter type story and then imagine the main characters really just don’t wanna. What Nova-Marie and Elliot do want is for everyone to be happy and chill out so they can go drink some tea.
Q: Nova-Marie and Elliot are both delightful characters with their own quirks and strong personalities. How did you come up with them?
A: The entire concept of this book was developed during a conversation with a friend that went something like this: “Imagine if we were demon hunters?” Cue several minutes of hysterical laughter, followed by “we’d be so bad at it.” When we could breathe again, she asked what my demon hunter name would be, and I said Nova-Marie. I asked hers and she said Elliot Hanlon the Sixth. Months later, I was still thinking about those names that we’d both had on the tips of our tongues. By then they had become full characters who had taken on lives of their own, so I used them in a story.
Q: What exactly is “A Novel in Stories,” and why did you write the book using that format?
A: A lot of people have asked me this and I realize it was a bit of an odd choice. A novel in stories is a book-length collection of interconnected stories. With Tea and the Transcendent, I was trying to make each story self-contained while following the same characters and hanging it all together with an overarching plot.
Originally Tea and the Transcendent was only supposed to be eight stories that I was writing as a Christmas gift. They were just a bit of fun and there was no overarching plot. Things obviously got a little out of control somewhere along the way, but the short story format persisted. On several occasions, I contemplated changing it to a full novel, but the format was working for me and I really loved the freedom it provided. With stories, I could write non-chronologically and shuffle things around until I found the best order, and I could leave out the parts I didn’t feel like writing. Also, I was thinking of my reader (because initially there was only supposed to be the one) who was in a bit of a reading slump and was struggling to get through full novels. Interconnected stories seemed like a good way to help someone ease back into a reading habit.
Q: There are so many supernatural creatures in these stories. Where did your knowledge of these creatures come from, and how did you decide which ones to write about?
A: I love monsters and creatures and beasties. I will always be drawn to books, shows, and movies with interesting creatures, new or old. Because of that, I have a fair few of them floating around in my head at any given time. Many of the stories in Tea and the Transcendent started with me having little to no idea what the creature they were going to come up against was. Eventually, to stop from defaulting too often to ghosts and demons, I wrote out a list of creatures that I thought would be interesting to incorporate in the story.
I didn’t do too much of it in this novel, but I am a big fan of making up my own creatures to suit the needs of the moment. It adds something fresh and keeps everyone on their toes.
Q: If you had to choose one creature from the book to live with, which would you choose and why?
A: Hands down Finger Quashy, because I’m so very much a cat person. Though maybe Quashy doesn’t count because she’s a cat and not quite supernatural. If I have to choose a supernatural creature, then I’m going the practical route and choosing a brownie. I mean, come on. It’s a teeny little house spirit that keeps everything tidy! What’s not to love?
Q: Finger Quashy is one of my favorite POV characters, and it’s unusual to see stories from a cat’s perspective in this way. What inspired you to write from a cat’s POV, and how did it compare to writing from a human perspective?
A: Honestly, I don’t know. I think it kind of just happened and then after I wrote the first one I realized it was not only a great way to portray information that none of the humans could know but also a good way to mix things up when the humans weren’t really doing anything interesting. Though I would say the POV is actually Sorkoth’s and not Finger Quashy’s, but I won’t get into that right now, and the answer still applies.
Q: Why did you choose the self-publishing route?
A: When I finally decided to share this with more than one person, self-publishing seemed like the best option. I didn’t think I’d have much luck pitching a novel in stories to agents and I really didn’t care to go through that super slow process. Not to mention I wanted it to be illustrated and I wasn’t about to give up my creative control.
Also, I was curious about the post-editing self-publishing process since I work with a lot of self-publishing authors. Though I don’t intend to add helping authors through this process to my services, I did want to have more knowledge so I could give them a heads up about hurdles they may not see coming or point them to resources that I found helpful.
Q: What advice would you give authors who are looking into self-publishing?
A: Think really hard and realistically about what you hope to achieve by publishing and define what success means to you. There is so much information for self-publishing authors out there, but not all of it is for you.
I really struggled towards the end when my formatter and cover designer were doing their thing. I was reading a lot of books about how to self-publish and how to market. Despite the end being in sight, I hit a point where I questioned whether I should bother because all the marketing advice was stuff that felt beyond my energy levels. That’s when I was reminded of my definition of success and it changed everything. My entire mindset shifted because I was able to acknowledge that most of what I was reading didn’t apply to my goals. If you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve, then it’ll be easier to determine what advice to follow and what can be ignored.
Q: Do you have any writing rituals? (e.g., lighting a candle before you write, meditating before you write, going for a walk to get ideas)
A: Does excessive procrastination count as a ritual because that’s probably as close as I get. I am an eclectic and temperamental writer with no fixed routine or ritual, though if I am writing by hand, I do prefer a very fine-tipped black pen.
Q: What does your research process look like for your writing, if there is one?
A: Hahaha! What’s a research process? For Tea and the Transcendent, I wrote first and told myself I’d research things later. Then, when it was later, and I saw places in my writing that needed researching, I rewrote them so they didn’t need it. I was also fortunate enough to have people in my life who I could ask random questions of for the few things I was unsure about but didn’t want to change.
Q: Do you have any specific authors or books that you’ve learned from on your writing journey?
A: I firmly believe that we learn from everything we read. There are a ton of books that I’ve read and think “someday I hope to write like this,” but I don’t know that any of them had a huge impact on Tea and the Transcendent because it was off doing its own weird thing. Somewhat unexpectedly, there is a pretty strong A. A. Milne influence in the poetry Nova-Marie writes. Also, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody was very helpful when it came time to sort out the order of the stories and figure out if I was missing any key elements.
Q: What’s your number one tip for tackling imposter syndrome?
A: I remind myself that we all start from a place of not knowing. None of us are born knowing how to write. I had to learn like everyone else and somewhere along the way I decided this was a thing I would embrace. We are all on our own journeys and they are not comparable. If you write when no one is telling you that you have to, then you are a writer. There is nothing more to it than that.
Q: How do you refill your creative well?
A: I spend time with other creative people. Sometimes that means other writers, but just about any creative pursuit fits the bill. I like talking about other people’s creative projects, helping them brainstorm, plan, and just acting as a bit of a sounding board for each other. Experiencing other people’s creativity always seems to bolster mine.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: A sequel! Earlier I mentioned the number of stories in Tea and the Transcendent getting out of hand. I went from only planning to write eight stories to writing thirty-six for the first book. And then I just kept going, so it seemed like a wonderful opportunity to use the other title idea that I loved. Based on that logic, there is a good chance this is going to turn into a trilogy with some fun side projects.
Q: Bonus question: Besides being an author, you are also an editor and a bookstore owner! Can you tell readers about these careers?
A: Clearly I have a bit of an obsession. Like many readers, it was my dream to one day own a secondhand bookstore. I’ve had my bookstore, Cliffside Village Books, for almost a decade now and I love it as much today as I did when I first got it. Cliffside Village Books is really what launched me into a lot of what I’m doing now. Through the shop, I started running writer’s groups. A fair bit of Tea and the Transcendent was written during these groups and a lot of the pressure to publish came from the people who’d heard my work there.
As I’m sure you can imagine, a small secondhand bookstore is not the most lucrative of businesses, so really I got into editing to help supplement my income. But I realized very quickly that I love editing and the editing side of my business has grown because of that love.
If you'd like to follow Genevieve Clovis on her writing journey or find out more about her stories, this is where you can find her: