Don’t let Claire Applewhite’s quiet nature fool you. She’s a woman with great ideas about what a publishing company should strive to be. Claire is quick to state that she is simply trying to “make her authors’ dreams come true.” An author herself, Claire knows what that feels like. Years ago she found a publisher who made her dreams come true and she says she still remembers what that felt like. The first books Claire penned found a home with L & L Dreamspell. But when one of the owners passed away the company closed its doors and Claire found herself with the daunting task of completely starting over. She decided that instead of searching for another publisher that would be as welcoming as the one she’d been with for years, she’d try to publish her own work and see how it went. That led to the July 2013 founding of Smoking Gun Press. But, as Claire says, “it took on a life of its own, and before long I was working with other authors who needed to find a good home for their work. Writers came to us,” Claire says. “I don’t know how they found us, but they just began to send us queries. It was almost like destiny.” She hesitated for just a second and then added, “Whatever it is, it works.”
|Half Price book signing in the Ozarks.|
|Claire Applewhite at a Barnes and Noble book signing.|
When asked about the best piece of advice she could give a writer before they query Smoking Gun, Claire quickly said that it would be to “know what they want from her.” “What do they think I can give them,” she adds. She suggests that also before querying her press, a writer does a little research to find out what types of books they take. And that they must know exactly what genre they’re writing, and be sure it’s something she would be interested in.
Writers Week in St. Louis.
What does Claire wish she saw more of? Subtext. She says she loves a story with many layers. With stories inside stories and characters that are multi-layered and interesting.
She wants to “see the story beneath the lines, a passionate and compelling story told with the personalities of the characters explored.” She used an example of a couple who loved each other, then all of a sudden they are separating with no explanation. “That isn’t real life,” Claire says. “We need to know what happened to them to get them from true love to wanting to split up. There has to be a whole lot of story there that hasn’t been told. That’s the subtext I want to read.”
|Sixth North Cafe|
When I asked why she rejects a novel, she said she doesn’t really reject all that many, maybe half of what she receives. Which is a rather low amount of rejections. Most publishers claim they might only take 5% of the stories they receive, sometimes even less. But Claire is adamant that the only time she turns down a story is if she just doesn’t think she can do anything for the author, or that she’s just not the right publisher for them. She will often recommend other publishers that might be a better fit.
Claire is always looking for the story that she can’t put down. Often times it’s a story that she is too tired to read, or something that at first she isn’t sure she’ll like, then she finds herself unable to put the thing down. That’s what she hopes for every time she reads a manuscript. She hopes for something gripping that she just can’t stop reading.
When asked whether she likes a story driven by strong characters or a strong plot, Claire said that if you’ve got strong characters they will drive your story and give it a strong plot. She says a “good strong character will do some wild things.”
Claire admits that she was a little surprised when she finally began publishing books for others, that there aren’t really any hard and fast rules. If you have unique characters with a unique story to tell it needs to be written. And sometimes the rules that are used in one book, won’t work for another one. “It’s not an assembly line,” Claire states. “It all comes down to the dream of the author, and making that dream come true,” she says with a soft laugh. “It’s just so much fun to see how excited an author gets when they see their story unfold in book form. It’s what I love about the whole business.”
Smoking Gun Press has three new titles coming out soon. A Science Fiction novel titled Third Contact, Harvesting of Sol, by Engineer James A. Wilson, is available for preorder on Amazon now. Judicious Murder, by Val Bruech, a Joliet, Illinois Assistant Public Defender, is a thriller that will hit the shelves on December 4th. And Charles “Chaps” Harper, well-known Ozarks writer from Hot Springs, Arkansas has a thriller due out in February of 2017 titled Under Cuba.
After publishing both her own books, and other authors under the Smoking Gun banner, Claire finds the business is more than she thought it would be. She’s learning that there are a million stories out there searching for a publisher, and she feels as though it’s her obligation to bring a few of them to life.
I talk to a lot of publishers during the year, and what surprised me the most while talking with Claire is how passionate she is about making her authors happy, and helping them realize their dreams. Most people who also publish their own titles are honestly more interested in themselves. Not Claire. She seems to be able to keep her writing separate from that of the people she offers a contract to. She wants their dreams about their own books to be first and foremost when dealing with her company. In my opinion, that’s the way it should be. Truthfully, not many of us do it for the money. Most of us do it for the love of story, and for the love of the people who write those stories. But Claire says it best when she told me, “Knowing how happy we are making our authors when their book finally comes out makes me feel like Santa Claus.”
Drop Claire a line or two.
Smoking Gun Publishing
Drop Claire a line or two.
Smoking Gun Publishing