Friday, April 30, 2010

Author Guest Post - M. Clifford

This guest post comes to you from M. Clifford, author of The Book, a dystopian novel that depicts a world where the government controls what we read, what is available to us, and what we are allowed to think. Completion of The Book, ironically (or not) coincided with the release of the Apple Ipad, and the death of J.D. Salinger.

He can be found on Goodreads, Facebook, and he regularly updates his blog entitled: M.Clifford, Author.

In this guest post, Clifford discusses why he self-publishes, how his main character acquired his name and trade, and his experience as a quarter-finalist in the ABNA's.

A Conversation with M. Clifford, the author of The Book

I have to open with my thanks to Lori for allowing me an opportunity to reach fellow bibliophiles! Her charge to find the next best books is one to be admired and it inspires me, as a writer, to see how many of you lift a similar torch in your search for stories. The world needs more of you!

So, here's a bit about me. My full name is Michael Clifford. I've written steadily for fourteen years and have only now allowed others to read my work. I'm a native of Chicago and, unlike most writers today, I am self-published by choice. Yes, as unnatural as that sounds. I have never sought a contract by a major publishing house, nor will I at any point. Barring some outrageous contract that bursts at the seams, sending letters off the page like ninja stars, I plan on a long career wherein I am fully in charge of my writing, my characters, my word count, etc. regardless of 'the bottom line'. I'm fired up about the subject because I'm currently working on a non-fiction book about self-publishing called,
If You Can't Join 'Em, Beat 'Em. This may be a bit much right at the start, but I'll give you a taste because it relates to my novel. We are on the brink of a Gutenburgian revolution in the publishing world and it revolves around new eReader technology and the ability for the average voice to be heard on the world stage through the serene click of a button. Publishing houses have essentially been an old boy's club from the beginning. They controlled what we were allowed to read. That is rapidly changing. By supporting the self-published author, taking a chance on books that don't have sticky posters in the window at Borders, you are supporting the emancipation of free speech! Good for you!

Wow, this soap box has splinters…I'll step off.

Of course, my decision to remain self-published comes with a hefty share of difficulties - one being the ability to gain trustworthy readership. Yes, I could find success like other authors by pricing my book at $1, but then I'm saying my story is worth $1! And who wants to read a full-length novel when the author thinks it's worth the cost of a water bottle? Thankfully, there is a grass-roots movement starting about my novel,
The Book. This started with the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Competition.

ABNA began in February and ended (for me) this past Tuesday. It is an American Idol style competition where 10,000 previously-unpublished novels are submitted from across the world and 2 winners are given publishing contracts with Penguin. The top 500 quarterfinalists receive personal reviews from Publishers Weekly. When I heard that, I had to enter! My novel was judged first on my summary, then on the first 5,000 words and finally, the complete manuscript. I reached the quarterfinals last month (top 500/10,000!) and I'll be receiving my priceless Publishers Weekly review within the next week. I couldn't be happier!

When you're self-published it's difficult getting someone to trust your writing. There is quite a bit of bad writing out there and too many of you have been burned to continue risking. A bump from Amazon, Penguin and Publishers Weekly (and Lori!) has and will continue to solidify my ability to play in the same arena.

I currently have three books in publication and will be coming out with at least four more by 2011. I am in the process of planning a book tour across the US to begin in September due to the outcry from high schools that I speak to their students concerning the topics covered in
The Book.

The Book is a dystopian perspective of our future if we don't protect our digital words from being controlled/altered/deleted by those who publish the eReaders. In my story there is only one reading source - a government-issued, handheld digital reading device called
The Book. My main character is pulled into the deep conspiracy by finding a rare paper page preserved as "wallpaper" in his favorite Chicago bar called, The Library. His name is Holden Clifford.

Yes, I titled my book
THE BOOK and I gave the main character my last name…

Trust me, I'm not that arrogant. I've covered the title so let me explain the name. I gave Holden my last name because of what was happening in my life at the time. My father passed away - suddenly. It was such a shock to my family. There were so many questions I had for him that will never ever have answers. I needed to find a distance from the reality of his sudden departure so I instantly dove into the favorites of my youth -
Fahrenheit 451, 1984, and The Catcher in the Rye. As I began writing The Book, Holden became the pure combination of me and my father - down to his job as a sprinkler fitter and the geometric tattoo on his forearm. He was my glory-less hero, so that's how I wrote Holden and it brought my dad back to life for me.

On a less personal note, let me explain the book tour. English teachers across the country have been speaking with me over the past month because of their students. They don't want to read books anymore. They believe everything they read on the internet including easily-editable online resources and encyclopedias. These teachers are concerned with the future of our writing and they believe that my novel could make a difference. As do I. At the back of my book, I included tear-out letters that the reader is supposed to send to their senators, begging them to consider the state of our speech. How it is changing and how it needs to be protected. Essentially keeping fiction from becoming fact.

So, I guess I gave you an overview of who I am and what has fueled and is currently fueling my novel,
The Book. There are other controversial topics that light up the interior, but I'll let you find them as you slowly turn the pages.

Let me leave you with this sentiment. I was born in 1978 and my generation is probably the last to have a romantic attachment to paper books. I love the new technology, but if enough people read my novel and tell others about it, we may be able to encourage the youth to keep the tradition of reading from paper books alive for the future. A tradition that, in view of the newspaper industry, is hanging on by a thread.

Thank you kindly for your time. Feel free to find me on facebook, twitter, etc. and you can always contact me through my website: There you can read the first two chapters of The Book and learn more about me.

Many thanks to M.Clifford for taking the time to blog with me! Please keep an eye out. We will be co-hosting a giveaway/contest for a couple copies of his novel THE BOOK very soon. How Exciting!!!

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