David P. Elliot's debut novel ‘CLAN’, a historical, supernatural thriller, was published in December 2008 and so far has sold in 14 countries. The supernatural is a recurring theme in much of his writing. He now lives in Abingdon, UK, with his partner, a native of Munich. He has 3 grown up children and 2 grandchildren one of which inspired the novel. Thanks to David for playing 5 questions with me.
1- The theme of “The Clan” draws heavily from the Clan system in Scotland, what sparked your interest in this particular period of history?
My father bought me a book, ‘The Steel Bonnets’ by George MacDonald Fraser (author of the best-selling ‘Flashman’ series.) But Fraser’s real passion was the history of the Borders of Scotland during the era of the ‘Border Reiver’ – a 300 year period from the late 13th to early 17th centuries. These so-called ‘riding families’ invented Blackmail, the protection racket and cattle rustling 300 years before Chicago was founded! They raided with impunity often putting hundreds of men in the saddle to raid or ‘Reive’ on both sides of the Border. I soon discovered the ‘Elliot Clan’ was one of the most outrageous and active of these families and I began to trace my family history, which led me back to ancestors who were associated with Robert the Bruce and William ‘Braveheart’ Wallace. When I discovered a man just as real as these giants of Scottish legend, William de Soulis, who was powerful enough to challenge The Bruce and Wallace, had a reputation for being truly evil and was apparently boiled in lead on a bronze age stone circle - well – a novel had to be written! ‘Clan’ was the end result.
2- “The Clan” is successful throughout the globe. How do most of your readers find you?
‘Clan’ has sold in 14 countries so far and continues to sell well since it was first published at the end of 2008. It appealed initially to what you might loosely refer to as the ‘Scottish Diaspora’ Not only was it popular in Scotland but everywhere where people of Scottish descent lived. Given the nature of the Scots, this is almost everywhere in the World, particularly in English speaking countries, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa etc As the book became known, it then became popular also with those who just enjoy historical fiction, with a great deal of accurate history included. Add a supernatural element, and a modern day thriller thread as well and readers of many genres have found it entertaining.
3- There’s a supernatural element to the novel, so it’s hard to define the genre—that’s good for readers, but does it make it difficult to market?
Genre is a double edged sword. Many booksellers and some readers are very prescriptive about genre and as a result if you get it wrong you can miss out on readers who have preconceived ideas about what they will like. I personally call ‘Clan’ a historical supernatural thriller, others have called it fantasy or even horror. I think the story is pretty much beyond genre frankly, having elements that would appeal to many types of reader. A common comment is, ‘I would not normally read this kind of novel but...’ and similar. The only description I don’t like really is fantasy, because that genre suggests whole fantastical worlds. Supernatural for me involves strange things happening in the real World, which is far more accessible to me and requires a lower level of suspension of belief. Personally I think it is great if readers are open to giving a book the benefit of the doubt for a chapter or two. If the writer cannot grab the reader by then, then that is probably the fault of the writing.
4- Tell us about your online magazine.
‘Clan Magazine’ had an interesting genesis. The editor of a local print magazine asked to do a ‘meet the locals’ type article on me as a locally based author. During the course of that interview she also asked if I would be prepared to write a short article for the magazine, which I did. Based on the format of a popular TV series in the UK called ‘Grumpy Old Men’, I wrote an article about some things in modern life that often people find irritating. The article was apparently very popular and as a consequence she asked if I would be prepared to contribute every month. These became known as ‘Monthly Grumps’ where I was able to vent my spleen, hopefully in an amusing way on issues both serious and not so serious. After several months of this the print magazine went out of business! Suddenly I started receiving emails from all over the world, mainly from fans of ‘Clan’ asking me what had happened to my ‘Monthly Grumps’. I had no idea anyone outside the immediate area was reading them, but apparently unknown to me the magazine was also published online and they were being read as far away as Australia, Canada and the USA! I said I would try and find a mechanism to keep them going online and hence ‘Clan Magazine’ www.clanmagazine.com Over time it has grown somewhat to include other things, including Scottish Matters, Alternative Health, Fun and Games etc and I have a few other contributors as well.
5-With the digital age upon us, where do you see the majority of your readers purchasing your books 5 years from now?
I love books. Perhaps it is my age, but I find e-book readers or trying to read on a computer screen uncomfortable. I would personally much prefer to curl up with a paperback than an e-book reader. I also conducted a very unscientific survey of my readers and far and away the major response was that, with certain exception, they preferred traditional books to. However I want to engage with all readers and I am also very keen to encourage reading amongst the young, so I always publish books both in the traditional way and in digital format. I believe quality is an issue with digital publishing as there is very little in the way of ‘quality control’ in digital publishing – often no human intervention is involved at all. Personally, even if I used e-book readers, I would be resistant to buying a book that had only been produced in digital format. It seem to indicate to me that nobody, even the author was prepared to invest in the book. It is the equivalent to me of a film that ‘goes straight to video’ and is never seen in cinemas. I will always provide both options but I really cannot see digital books taking over entirely in the next 5 years. I foresee a major shake-up in the e-book market, I suspect that most e-book readers will probably lose out to tablets of one kind or another. If I were to predict, I still think I will be selling more paperbacks than e-books in 5 years time, but the market will decide and hopefully I will have that covered whichever way the market goes.