Author Interview: John St. Clair

coffee with a spoon beside a candle; text says 'author interview'

Be sure to check out Stalin’s Door!


1. Paperback, hardback, eBook, or audiobook?

I honestly love all formats. For long term collecting, I prefer hardbacks. I do find myself buying and reading a lot of indie paperbacks, especially in 2021. My Kindle is also jam packed with lots of reading material. I will listen to the occasional audiobook, however nothing beats printed words on a page in my humble opinion.

2. Pick a genre, any genre!

My debut novel is Russian historical fiction. That said, I have read more science fiction than any other genre over my lifetime. If I’m not reading that, I’m likely reading something in non-fiction, and you can bet it has something to do with financial crime / true crime.

3. What is the first book you remember reading?

I love this question! I can clearly remember picking up Andre Norton’s novel “Daybreak 2250 A.D.” (also known as “Star Man’s Son”) at a school book fair when I was in the second grade. I was reading several grade levels ahead by that time. This is an excellent book—written by a woman in the 1950s, who broke ground within a genre heavily dominated by men at the time.

4. When did you first start writing?

I’ve received this question across multiple author interviews, and I am delighted to give the answer. I very clearly recall a short story I wrote in the second grade entitled “Star Gate 9.” For an 8 year old at the time, it was a pretty ambitious space opera! What I wouldn’t give to find and read that story again! In one way or the other, I’ve been writing ever since.

5. What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

I’m not entirely sure, except to say, I think I’ve always found it rewarding to tell stories. I do consider myself a creative person, and putting words on paper is not only fun, it’s also tremendously gratifying to hear from folks that have read my work. All of this certainly holds true today—and I am so very fortunate to do it full time.

6. What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

Without a doubt, it has to be my debut novel “Stalin’s Door,” which took me 5 years to research, write, edit, and publish. I’ve never poured so much effort into anything else in my lifetime!

7. Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

I did! “Stalin’s Door” was published in March 2021 as a paperback and eBook. In October 2021, I also published a hardcover version.

8. How many books/collections have you published so far?

Just the one novel so far. That said, I have written lots of short stories that have been submitted, and won, in writing competitions!

9. What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

Well, my debut novel is Russian historical fiction, and the second novel I’m working on is contemporary literary fiction. That said, I wouldn’t discount any genre if the story was right for me! I’m equal opportunity. I’d hate to be “typecast” into any particular genre, if I can help it.

10. Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

My debut is Russian historical fiction, so research was a critical component. I can’t overstate that enough! I felt it was crucial to take the time to research a country I’ve never lived in, in a time period I wasn’t alive, and for a language I don’t speak. I believe that the arduous research has paid off handsomely.

11. To plan, or not to plan your plot?

Ah, the eternal question: “planners” versus “pantsers*” I do a lot of both actually. It’s what works for me.

*writing by the seat of one’s pants.

12. What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

I chose the self-publishing route via KDP on Amazon for my debut novel. I have the greatest amount of creative control that way. I am planning this route for my second novel as well. That said, I am not at all against the traditional publishing route! I would certainly entertain any offers that come my way—and I would also seriously consider going the route of querying. I’ve not ruled anything out.

13. If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? (Ex: Middle Earth, Narnia, etc.)

Fascinating question! My answer is wholly subjective, and “as of this moment.” The Isaac Asimov universe of “Foundation” would be a neat one to visit, I think!

14. Do you currently have a WIP?

I am working on a second novel, as we speak. It’s entitled “Lucky Dainéil McElheney” and loosely involves the local mob in Boston in the year 2007. That’s all I can say for now!

15. Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

Reader’s of my novel “Stalin’s Door” may be surprised to learn that one of the main characters, Lera, is my favorite. She’s a wise grandmother, who is forced into exile, and bears a crucial responsibility to her granddaughter Zhenya.

16. Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

I do not listen to music when I write. In fact I cannot listen to anything at all! I must have complete silence, and I even wear earplugs!

17. Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)

I don’t have any character art, per se, however I do have a hand drawn illustration by the artist Matt Soffe, which is prominently featured on the cover of my debut novel. It’s the neckerchief woggle—which plays an important part in my story. Matt’s work is featured here. He’s terrific and über talented!

18. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

I would say there’s never a wrong time to begin! Whether you’re a teenager or a senior citizen, I think it’s great that you want to write your stories. So—just go and do it. Believe me, once you start getting your thoughts on the page, the rest will take care of itself. Don’t worry if it’s good enough—just write for yourself. If you’re passionate about your story, and take the time to hone and craft your work, then it’ll find an audience! Just keep in mind that like anything else, it takes time. The more effort—blood, sweat, and tears you invest—the bigger the payoff with your readers will be. And if your work never connects with anyone else, just remember that it connected with the most important reader of all—yourself! If you’re thinking of writing—remember the adage about planting a tree. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is right now!

19. Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!

I have! I am a regular participant in the NYC Midnight writing competitions. They have various contests throughout the year at all lengths—from 100 and 250 word “microfiction,” to 1000 word flash fiction, to their flagship contest, the 2500 word short story challenge, which kicks off in January 2022. I’ve participated in them all, and they offer real cash prizes, and real written critical feedback at every level. What’s neat is that every competition will group you into other like groups with randomized story prompts: genre, keywords, actions, etc. They’ve been around for over 15 years, so it’s one of the major league contests. Thousands of writers participate, and there’s even a very active message board where you can get instant feedback on your work! In 2020, I took 6th place (out of approximately 2000 writers) in the Writers’ Police Academy “Golden Donut” short story contest. You can read more about it, and my winning entry here.

20. Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?

Not in any order of preference:

Ursula K. Le Guin
Frank Herbert
Orson Scott Card*
Vernor Vinge
Ray Bradbury
Joe Haldeman
Jon Krakauer

*not an endorsement of the man’s personal beliefs

21. Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

I’m most active on Twitter, and you can hit me up! I’m @uusaint.

Here’s a direct link to my Goodreads author page.

Here’s a direct link to my debut novel “Stalin’s Door”.

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