Unlike most of the writers interviewed, I had no interest in writing a novel or even a short story until after I retired—at the age of seventy. I woke up one morning with what I thought an intriguing concept—an intelligent parasite attached to a human's neurological system. Analogous to having two heads controlling one body, with the parasite having ultimate control. I thought it would make a good story, because of the partnership that develops between the young girl and the parasite, which I called the Riss. Over the next several months, I not only wrote a 90,000-word novel but a sequel of equal length. Unfortunately, I wasn't ready for prime time. My first attempt was poorly written and never saw the light of day. Happily, five years later, the sequel The Riss Gamble has been published thanks to Jeanne Tomlin, who taught me the craft of writing.
Tell us about the fantasy and science fiction world(s) you make up.
I begin each novel with an imaginary historical background that forms the backdrop upon which the subsequent story is built. The actual story usually occurs years afterward. The Riss Gamble is a good example. It starts fifty years into the future using my original background—a race of intelligent parasites, who use a Gorilla-like creature as hosts. The original story began when a human shots a Riss-host and the Riss, in an attempt to save its life, transfers into a young girl. The story is her journey with her secret Riss companion. In The Riss Gamble the secret of the Riss parasite comes to light and the government decides to try an experiment using volunteers, promising them a college education and commissioning as an officer in the Navy. The story is her journey as a Riss-human, fighting raiders and people willing to discredit and even kill to get rid of her and the program
What are they like?
My worlds tend to be human-like and, therefore, vary more by time then type of fantasy. And my imaginary background determines the time, depending on whether the story feels like it belongs in the "past" (kings, nobles, and peasants), "present" (cities, governments, and technology of today), or the "future" (space travel). The original Riss story could have been set in any of those time frames, but the Riss seemed to be made for the far-flung future where strange worlds and aliens exist—one could assume. Therefore, The Riss Gamble is set in a star system with a space-travelling navy and many inhabited worlds.
How do you work out a magic system for your world? Do you prefer a lot of magic? Light magic? And why?
I tend to prefer light and limited magic. If a person has a magical talent, it would have limits in both power and ability. For example, a person maybe able to tell truth from lie, but not whether a person was lying—only whether he or she believed it to be true. A Fire Wizard may be able to create a fire ring to protect him and able to throw fireballs, but he would have to drop the fire ring to throw the ball and could only throw it effectively a limited distance. And a magical ability is usually limited to one per person. So, although the magic can be powerful and difficult to overcome, it has limits and weaknesses that can be exploited. The Riss Gamble, by the way, has no magic—except for spaceships that fly faster than the speed of light.
What is the hardest thing about making up a fictional world? Why?
For me the fictional world follows from my imaginary historical background, because it determines the existing conditions and the time frame. After that, I lose control—believe it or not—and I become a reader of the story. Yes, reader. I have no outline or preconceived notion of what will or should happen. The protagonist discovers the world, magic, and people as she or he journeys through life. So in a sense, the fictional worlds I write about just happen, which eliminates all the headaches, writer's block, and messy details of making up a fictional world. It may sound strange, but it works for me!
Tell us about your most recent main character. Would we want to share a meal with them? Why?
Many meals. Nadya is an interesting young woman who loves taking things apart to determine how they work, is not out to proved anything to anyone, and wishes to be judged on performance. Definitely someone who believes actions speak louder than words. She has a satisfying job but even as a young girl, dreams of seeing new worlds and meeting aliens. A compulsion so overpowering, she's willing to participate in an experimental project to host an intelligent parasite for the opportunity to fulfill those dreams. But the program requires her to be tattooed for identification, which marks her as an alien and subjects her to a variety of reactions from those she meets and interfaces with: fear of being infected, disgust that she allowed a parasite to infect her, and a hatred of anything alien. Nadya finds her parasite has an outrageous sense of humor, which helps her survive the almost daily harrassment. And the Riss's ability to control her neurological system, helps Nayda survive the multiple attempts on her life.
What about the villain of your most recent novel. How did you make them up? Would we be scared to meet them in a dark alley?
Again, villains happen as Nadya journeys through her life. She finds many antagonists: crew who hate her for being alien, those who feel she is an abomination, those who want her and the program terminated, and the raiders who come to consider her a dybbuk—demon—the cause of their bad luck and want her assassinated.
What is your next project?
My next novel has just been published, The Kazak Guardians, an Urban Fantasy. The imaginary background is that a group of men from Kazakhstan began a small bodyguard firm in Chicago during the roaring 20s when Prohibition existed and crime flurished. Their reputation grew over time, and they became the agency of choice for the rich and famous. But as demand for their services grew, they had trouble hiring people who met their high standards, so they started a school which eliminated all but the best. During the sixties, a powerful, unidentified group took control of the firm, and they became dedicated to guarding persons whose death would be detrimental to the interests of the United States. The heroine, runs away from the latest foster homes, looking for a new life. Through a friend she finds out about a unique school that trains elite bodyguards to defend America's VIPs against thugs, extremists, and profession Assassins with super abilities: Ghosts who can make themselves almost invisible, Illusionists, who can look like anyone, Liars who can tell lies everyone believes, and others. The story is about her life as a Kazak Guardian. Even I was shocked by the events of her journey.
You will find Clem's novels such as The Kazak Guardians and The Riss Gamble as well as novels he and I co-authored such as Talon of the Unnamed Goddess and Blood Duty on Amazon and other online retailers.