JAMES GAULT MEETS AN AUTHOR ... SHERRY LECLERC
Sherry Leclerc is a Canadian author of Science Fiction and Fantasy novels. Her current project is a series of novels called THE SEERS SERIES, the first book of which, THE GUARDIANS OF EASTGATE, is available on Amazon. She combines her writing with her duties as a working mum and a teacher.
Hi Sherry, thanks for agreeing to submit to this grilling. I hope it’s not too painful.
Can you describe your genre and tell us what attracted you to it?
My genre is fantasy, though it has also been referred to as cross-genre because it has elements of action & adventure and romance as well. As for the fantasy portion, it is more of an epic or high fantasy. However, the way I am approaching it lends to having five or six 70,000 – 90,000 word books as opposed to two or three longer tomes.
The big attraction to the fantasy genre for me is that there are really no limits to what you can write. From a reader’s perspective, I have always loved being able to immerse myself in fantasy worlds and characters that stretch the imagination. It teaches you new ways of looking at things and forces you to consider new perspectives that you may not have thought of before.
Fantasy novels tend to pit good against evil and teach moral lessons – kind of like Aesop’s Fables for teens and adults. At the same time, they can show that there is no true black and white. There are many shades of grey as well.
On a more basic level than all of that is the fact that, when times are difficult, or you find yourself in a bad mood or situation, you can immerse yourself in these fantasy worlds and imagine yourself as the protagonist. It provides a means of escape and a way to unwind. Sometimes the characters can go through such trials and difficulties that we think, “Well, maybe life isn’t so bad for me after all.”
From a writer’s perspective, the fantasy genre forces you to expand your understanding of the world and the universe. It makes you ask, “what if?” It causes you to test the limits of your imagination. When, as a writer, you can create a world that seems real, that makes sense even though it is not based on reality, you know you are really getting somewhere.
I believe you are a big fan of J.R.R. Tolkien. What attracted you to him and does he influence your writing?
Yes, I am a big fan of J.R.R. Tolkien. In high school I took advanced literature courses, and the first book in the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, was required reading for one of them. In all honesty, my teenaged self had a difficult time getting into the book. It was the longest book I had read to that point, and it was very detailed. Sections of the story felt long and tedious to me.
Yet, by the end of the book I was hooked, and I was glad for all the detail he wrote into the novel. I went on to read the whole trilogy, then The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and the Unfinished Tales. The Silmarillion reads more like a history, and I’m sure it wouldn’t be every reader’s cup of tea. However, I found it fascinating. The kind of detail he put into his world building and the depths of the history and character building are truly amazing.
Tolkien most definitely influences my writing. In the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, we actually get to see the perspectives of a number of different characters. The movies were much more limited in this respect. In the books, we get to see the journeys, trials and difficulties of a number of the main characters.
In my Seers Series, I wanted to do the same deep world-building, and to show a shared quest from a number of different perspectives, as Tolkien did. At the same time, modern readers are not the same as readers were in the early to mid-nineteen hundreds. These days, there are many readers who would enjoy the genre, but have neither the time nor attention to devote to huge works of literature.
I tried to write my series with these readers in mind. The story is huge, with many important players. The first four books of the series all look at the same threat from different perspectives, yet the protagonist of each book has his or her own personal challenges to overcome as well. So, though the characters are all working toward the same end goal, the books will actually be quite varied and different. Then in the fifth (and possibly sixth) book, they will all converge and move forward together. It is kind of like if someone had taken Tolkien’s way of structuring, pulled the pieces apart, and reassembled them into more manageable bits. At least, this is my goal. Time will tell if I succeed in reaching it.
I have also written some short stories based in the same world as The Series Series, and I will be adding more. They give a little background on some of the main characters from the series. Readers can get a free copy of these short stories in exchange for signing up to recieve my author newsletter, which I send out about once a month. They just need to visit my website, scroll down to the cover of The Guardians of Sterrenvar, and click on the image. This will bring them to a page where they can sign up for a free ebook version of the stories by putting in their email address. My website is: www.sherryleclerc.com
I know you’re a mum and a teacher as well as a writer. How do you find time for writing?
Very simply, writing, and activities related to my writing pursuits, are all I do in my spare time. I don’t watch TV, play computer games, or spend a lot of time on social media, for example. I am also good at compartmentalizing.
When I am at work, I am completely focused on my job and my students. When I come home from work, I spend time with my kids. After they go to bed I either write, read, read about writing, or do other writing, publishing, and promoting related tasks. I also watch videos and webinars and take on-line courses related to writing, publishing, marketing, and so on.
There are evenings where I don’t have time to write at all. However, as long as I am doing something to forward my writing career, I feel I am using my time well. I try to catch up on weekends and holidays as well.
I don’t really know any other Canadian writers apart from Margaret Atwood. We Brits tend to think of Canadians as sort of Americans, at least culturally. Is that fair? Is there a Canadian style? And do you think that being Canadian has any makes a difference to your writing?
This is a very loaded question. I think if you asked any Canadian, we would all argue that we are very different than Americans. At least when it comes to culture, ideology, and so on.
Yet, there is a lot of cross-border shopping, and we read many of the same things. Canadian libraries and book stores promote and support Canadian authors, but there is also a big American influence in what we read, and sometimes in how we write.
As an example, I am a Canadian author and, as you may know, Canadian spelling is very similar to the British way. Our slang and terminology can be quite different, but we still have maintained the British way of spelling. Politically speaking, and personally for many people I know, we also still very much think of our selves as a British colony, with our Governor General being the figure-head of the monarchy.
However, if you read my book, you will see that I use American spelling instead of Canadian spelling. This was a very deliberate choice on my part. We Canadians are used to seeing both Canadian and American spellings, but from what I understand (though I’m not American and don’t spend time in the US, so I can’t say for certain) Americans are not accustomed to our spelling.
Of course, being Canadian makes a difference to my writing – both consciously and subconsciously, I’m sure. For example, I have travelled from the farthest east to the farthest west provinces in the country and have visited all the provinces in between. I have even lived in four of the ten provinces. In my travels, I have met many interesting people and I’ve seen beautiful sights and amazing landscapes. Many of these have ended up as part of the fantasy world I’ve created.
I’m interested in the fact you both teach and write, because I used to teach myself. What’s the relationship between your teaching and your writing, if there is one? Do you see it as part of your role to encourage youngsters to ‘take up the pen’? And if you do, how do you go about it?
Yes, there is a relationship between my teaching and my writing. My first university degree was a Bachelor of Arts with a major in English Language and Literature, and a minor in French Language and Literature. I knew I wanted to be a writer, but this was more than twenty years ago, when self-publishing was a virtually non-existent concept. Becoming a published author, I knew, could be a long and tedious process which was largely out of the writer’s control (beyond the writing of the book, anyway).
So, I knew my B.A. degree would be a stepping stone to something else. Though I wanted to be an editor and writer, I was a poor student and my education was completely funded by student loans, which I would have to pay back once I graduated. I couldn’t afford to just up and travel to somewhere where the opportunities were greater or cross my fingers and hope to land a publishing contract sooner rather than later.
So, I decided to focus on something that would still allow me to enjoy an area I loved and be able to share that enthusiasm with others, and I pursued a Bachelor of Education at the Intermediate and Secondary level. My goal, of course, was to be a high school English teacher, where I could share my love of the written word with students.
Funnily enough, though, I never taught English, aside from during my practicum and a few supply teaching jobs here and there along the way. Canada is an officially bilingual country, where we are all required to learn the other language, but where French speakers are a minority outside of Quebec and New Brunswick. So, since I am an anglophone who studied French and became bilingual (though you can still tell I am a native English speaker when I speak French), and there was a great need for French teachers, that’s what I ended up teaching for the majority of my career.
My job as a language teacher serves a very important role. Rather than encouraging youngsters to take up the pen (though it would be great if they did), I try to encourage them to open their minds. I try to teach my students that communication is a very important thing. Learning about others’ languages and cultures is very important. I personally believe that there would be a lot less conflict in the world if people truly tried to understand and appreciate one another rather than just saying, “My language/culture/country is better than yours and everyone should do it our way.”
My love of language and literature is linked to this as well. How language is formed, the expressions people use, the differences in structure, and so on, all give us clues to how that other culture thinks and functions. This is even true on the individual level within a language and culture. The words a person uses and how he or she uses them can give us a great insight into their personality (I try to use words and manners of speaking to show elements of personality in my writing as well).
One of my goals is to get my students to go from saying, “Why do they do it that way? It doesn’t make any sense,” to “Oh, that’s why they do it that way. That makes sense.” This is a goal because this can signify that “Aha!” moment when someone goes from learning about another language and culture to truly trying to understand.
I do encourage my students to read, and read a lot, because this is another excellent way to learn about and experience other cultures and ways of life, and to look at things from perspectives they may not have considered before.
Are you a feminist? I’m asking because women seem to be very important in the worlds you create.
That is a very interesting question. I do not consider myself a feminist as such, though many of my beliefs wold fit into that ideology, and I am sure many who meet me or know me would consider me a feminist as well.
Women are important in the worlds I create because of who I am as a writer, what I identify with, and the points I’m trying to make. One of those points is, yes, that women can be as strong, capable and independent as men. While there are undeniable differences between the genders, there really is nothing there physically or mentally that says women can’t be tough and independent. That we can’t like being strong or learning how to fight. Or that men can’t like to read or write emotional stories, or prefer passivity to violence.
But this is only a small part of the larger point I am trying to make.
My belief in equality expands far beyond gender roles. I also believe that all humans should be treated fairly, regardless of gender, race, culture, or socio-economic status. There are so many factors that create differences between people, but that doesn’t mean that one person, race, culture, or gender is better than another. It just means we have lived different histories, have had different experiences and opportunities, have different priorities and goals, and so on.
I personally believe that if, throughout history, people had been more willing to try to actually understand one another, to learn about each other and to value differences, and to value people for who they are rather than just say, “My way is better than yours,” there would have been, and would be, an awful lot less conflict in the world. And that is one of the points I try to make in The Seers Series, starting with The Guardians of Eastgate.
The Guardians of Eastgate, Book 1 of The Seers Series is now on sale. Where are you with the rest of the series?
My second book in The Seers Series is a completed draft now and is currently with beta readers for early feedback. There will still be a couple of rounds of editing to do once I get it back, but I expect it to be ready to publish in the next couple of months.
I am also creating an audiobook version of the first book in the series, The Guardians of Eastgate. The recording is complete, and I am currently in the editing process. It has been slow going, since I have so many other things going on at the same time, but I hope it will be complete, uploaded and ready to download in a couple of weeks to a month from now, depending on how much time I get to put into it.
I am also about 25% of the way into the third book of the series and have the rough outlines of the next two books in the series.
To sum up, could you say what your hopes and ambitions are as a writer?
I think my hopes and ambitions are the same as those of any writer. I hope to increase my fan base and the number of readers who get to experience my stories. I hope that my books might cause people to consider different perspectives, to look at the world and all its people a little differently. I hope it inspires people to value differences instead of expecting everyone to conform to one specific set of expectations. I hope it makes people think about what it means to be human and, even deeper, what kind of people we want to be.
I hope my writing can touch others’ hearts and souls, and to help them open their minds.
More on a surface level, of course I hope that my writing will eventually help me to be successful financially. However, the big reason I hope for financial success is so I can afford to keep writing, because I have a lot of other ideas I would love to put on paper and get out there to the world.
Beyond having the rest of the books in my current Seers Series either written, partly written, or outlined, I also have ideas for three separate science fiction novels. So, my ambition is to complete and publish all these works, and to improve my writing and my sense of what the readers need as I go.
I also have a fair bit of poetry that has been sitting around. My novels contain some of my poems, but I hope to one day publish at least one book of poetry as well.