Author Claire Buss

Write and Author is interviewing Claire Buss, author of The Gaia Effect.

Claire Buss is a science fiction/fantasy writer currently based in Barking, Essex. 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 with The Gaia Effect and set her writing career in motion.

What genre do you write and why did you choose it?
So far I write in the sci-fi & fantasy genre - The Gaia Effect is a dystopian novel set two hundred years in the future with advanced technologies but I never consciously set out to write it that way. I do read a lot of sci-fi & fantasy so that obviously influenced my writing, after all - you write what you know!
How do you create your characters?
I listen to the voices in my head. Sound odd but when I sit down to write I don't have any pre-conceived thoughts, I just write and it's the character voices driving the story. Once I've written my first draft I do create character profiles for each main character and fill in descriptions, likes & dislikes, hobbies etc so that I have all the information I need even if I don't use it all in the book. 
Who designs your book covers?
I used Shutterstock to choose the artwork for The Gaia Effect and New Generation Publishing created the layout for me. 
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?
It's incredibly hard work and writing down the initial idea is almost the easiest part. It takes a great deal of self motivation to keep working on your book, sometimes you feel like you couldn't bear to read it again and I'll admit I don't find editing as enjoyable as writing. I've also been pleasantly surprised at the friendliness of the indie author scene and the willingness of fellow writers to share their experiences and advice. Writing is often a very isolating experience so it's good to know there are others out there you can talk to.
Do you prefer to read traditional books or ebooks?
I prefer to read traditional books - I like the feel of the book in my hands, turning the pages, that lovely book smell. That being said ebooks do have their place, they are incredibly convenient to get hold of, store and carry around. I do have a Kindle and tend to take that with me if I'm travelling. I guess it's nice to have the choice and if ebooks means more people are reading then that's not a bad thing.
How do you market yourself and your book?
I have been building up my social media profile, trying to make sure I am present across various platforms and using the same photograph so I'm instantly recognisable. I've joined various Facebook and Goodreads groups to chat with other writers and find out what has worked for them as well as connect with potential readers and get involved in discussions about books etc. I am very fortunate in that my local library is extremely supportive, they are holding an author event for me on the 16th March and I managed to get an article in my local paper. I am in discussion with a local radio station and have approached local independent book shops. Today I will be speaking at a local writer's group and my library's book club just read my novel. I am also attending a sci-fi convention at the end of March where I will be speaking on a couple of panels so really I am doing as much as I can to get myself out there. I think it's important to be able to demonstrate a bit of personality and not just try to sell, sell, sell all the time. I think it's important to be consistent, friendly and approachable - I always try to thank every new follower and I share fellow indie writer news. 
Why do you write?
I write because I love words. I love sitting down to a blank page and just letting the words flow not knowing where they will take me or what on earth will happen next. When I sit down to write it's usually with no plan, I love being surprised. It feels like a very organic process and it helps me to deal with day-to-day stresses if I can write down those emotions, thought and feelings. The thought that someone else will read my words and enjoy them is amazing and humbling. 
How often do you write and what is your process?
When I am in the writing stage of a project I try to write every day and at least 1000 words. That can take me about half an hour if inspiration is flowing. I am a stay-at-home mum so I have other commitments on my time besides writing, I try to write either first thing in the morning - getting up an hour earlier than anyone else - or I write after my little boy has gone to bed. Having a 1000 word goal is important because then I feel like I'm always achieving which keeps me feeling positive about the process. I will sit at my laptop, open the Word file and type. I don't read back on what went before, that is left to the editing stage. I find when I'm writing the general story bubbles about in the back of my head 24 hours a day so I don't have to worry about where I am. Often I have no idea what will happen next and that is all part of the fun. Once I feel like I've written the whole story I start the editing process. While I can write straight to laptop I can't edit so I must print out a copy, pull out the red pen and begin. I keep an A4 pad nearby and this is where I start to create the character profiles making notes on anything I've mentioned in the book - this helps with continuity as well. I also keep a list of all buildings, streets and towns etc so I can draw up a map and make sure it works. I keep a timeline so I can make sure my characters rest and eat at appropriate times and aren't trying to do too much at once, it's also handy to make sure I haven't referred to unachievable time lines in the story. Once I've been through once, I make changes to the electronic file and fill in plot holes - now it's ready for my husband to read so I can discuss any issues I have and make sure he understands all the complicated bits! I have a little checklist of things to avoid in writing based on books I've read like Stephen King's On Writing so that's my next job. Then is goes to beta readers while I record each chapter to listen back to. I will then work through all of those changes and leave it alone for a few weeks before a final read through. 
What writing advice can you give?
Write everyday if you can, it's like a muscle that needs exercising so the more you do it, the better you will become. Also it's a habit that you need to form and then not break! Read as much as you can, in your genre and as widely as possible. Try to get involved with writing groups to give you the chance to critique other people's work and learn how to accept critique on your prose. Write what feels right to you, don't try to write for someone else - it won't feel authentic. There is no wrong way to write, share it with others if you want to and above all enjoy the process!
Can you create a short writing prompt?

A colleague gives you a huge bunch of flowers - what did you do?

The Gaia Effect
by Claire Buss

It is the year 2215, one century since The Event – a world war that unleashed high energy radiation weapons wiping out three quarters of the population, devastating the natural landscape and leaving the remains of humanity sterile. What remains of the Earth's population has been divided up into isolated cities across the world with barriers protecting them from the toxic levels of radiation. The Gaia Effect is set in City Forty Two where an organisation known as Corporation is in control and an invasive social media system known as the News Sweeps is used. Babies are grown in a lab and assigned to citizens, there are no natural pregnancies. A movement known as Anti-Corp use their student roots to protest against the totality of Corporation rule.

Kira and Jed are excited to have won the Corporation's Anniversary Lottery and are due to collect a baby however Jed, a Force detective, is called away by an emergency at work leaving his wife alone. Kira has no time to come to terms with being a mother as her best friend Martha arrives on her doorstep, a victim of rape. Jed and his partner Pete delicately interview Martha and soon apprehend the attacker. Both Martha and her attacker mention a mysterious blue lady, who has also been seen by both detectives, but no-one knows who she is or what she is doing.

We meet the rest of the main characters at the baby's homecoming party – Jed's sister Ingrid and Kira & Martha's friends Ruth and Dina. Nearly all of the women mention an encounter with the blue lady. A couple of months pass as the group become closer and Pete & Ingrid began a relationship. Then two life changing events happen - Dina suffers a painful miscarriage on the day Martha finds out she is pregnant. As the group of friends try to process what has happened we learn that Ruth secretly works for Anti-Corp as a student recruiter.

Ingrid tells the group she is pregnant and Ruth comes clean about her double life explaining the need for a mole at Science Division, Dina bravely volunteers. The group hope they will be able to find out why the pregnancies have happened and also discover why Anti-Corp want a spy at Science Division. Dina uncovers Corporation using high energy radiation treatment on the city's water supply and keeping the population sterile.

The pregnancies are leaked to the news sweeps causing civil unrest and leading the group to blame Ruth but when they confront her she tearfully announces her own pregnancy. Dina and Ruth continue to pretend to support Anti-Corp by attending a rally with Martha. It ends badly as Martha is confronted and attacked. At the same time a radical offshoot of Anti-Corp, known as the 42nd Army, launches a terrorist attack against Corporation. Ingrid dies in the attack and Corporation decide not to save her child. This decision is leaked to the news feed and the city's population start to question Corporation.

A grief-stricken Pete goes on a revenge-fuelled killing spree and wipes out the leaders of Anti-Corp and the 42nd Army. Details of the water treatment are released to the public causing a riot. The group learn of a science base outside the city walls and decide to leave the city for safety. Jed remains behind and joins the remaining city leaders in executing city breakdown procedure. During talks the city leaders speak to the women in the science camp and discover the existence of a clean, fresh water supply. They make plans to resupply the city and put Martha into the role as City Governor.

Where Claire’s book is sold

Claire Buss