Friday, November 13, 2009

The Cudas Speak, Part Two: Dhonielle Clayton, aka Baby Cuda

Before the interview I want to make an exciting announcement: In honor of the December release of Cuda Lindsay Eland's SCONES AND SENSIBILITY, the Cudas are hosting their very first ARC contest!!! Details and entry information coming soon!

And now, join us as Baby Cuda, Dhonielle Clayton swims to the top of the tank.

1. Tell us about yourself.

Hmm, I am a twenty-six year old 3rd grade teacher. I have my masters in Children's and Young Adult Literature and haven't read an adult book since I graduated college four years ago. I love Asian foods, particularly clumpy white rice, sauteed onions and the taste of sesame oil. I am plagued with chronic heartburn due to my penchant for spicy foods. I haven't grown an inch since 7th grade, maxing out at 5'1''. I love to travel, having lived in Japan, England and France. And my favorite thing to do is sleep in hammocks. I have puffy, brown hair. I am scared of whales and most sea mammals. My Irish heritage has made me obsessed with all forms of cooked cabbage. I don't enjoy the smell of fish. I am so happy to be part of the Cuda camp, they are my surrogate mothers, friends and confidantes.

2. You have an interesting agent story. Can you tell us?
I researched and obsessed over the whole "land an agent" thing. I wrote and re-wrote my query letter. I sent it to the Cudas who chomped on it. Then, I sent my agent an excerpt from my little 30,000 word terrible first novel. She told me she loved it AND it needed a lot of work. This wonderful, stellar, spectacular and patient woman signed me, sent me gigantic revision letter and off we went into a failing children's book publishing economy. But two years later we are still going strong and now I must hurry up and give her something new to sell.

3. You write in a few different styles. Can you tell us a bit about that?

I am scatterbrained and get bored with myself easily so I try to switch things up and continue to try different writing styles. I tend to write first-person, lyrical prose loaded with strong images and the internal machinations of the main character (which often leads to NO plot, my big problem). I am drawn to people who write that way and most of the time it's the way the words come out. But, I am trying to dabble in the third-person with an plot-oriented and high-concept novel. Wish me luck!

4. In your young life, you've been a bit of an adventurer. Can you tell us a few highlights and also tell us how these adventures have informed your writing?

I travel because I thrive on exciting isolation to help my writing: sitting in Parisian cafes alone with my notebook, sipping cafe au lait and nibbling on a crepe while staring at fashionable French ladies; perched over a 24-hour ramen noodle bar slurping up tonkatsu ramen with chopsticks and a chugo spoon while curious Japanese onlookers steal glances at me as I write; wandering the cobblestone streets of North London marveling at the way people speak; laying on pink-sand Bermudian beaches asleep instead of writing. I like to borrow small details from each place I have spent a significant amount of time in to pepper into my writing. I tend to produce more written work when I am traveling versus when I am at home, teased with millions of distractions.

5. What books/ people/ experiences inspired you growing up?

Harriet the Spy
by Louise Fitzhugh
The Hobbit
by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Westing Game
by Ellen Raskin

I was mostly inspired by my grandparents and parents habit of dragging me down South every summer. Going to my grandmother's Mississippi farm and my mother's hometown in North Carolina has really shaped my imagination. Southern imagery, people, food, and preoccupations live strongly in my imagination even though I was raised slightly below the Mason Dixon line in the Maryland, right outside of Washington, DC. I have written strong scenes and loads of pages from the sticky booth of a Waffle House (one of my favorite places on Earth).

6. Tell us something surprising about yourself.
I still leap onto my bed every night afraid there is someone underneath it who will grab my ankles (I should not have watched "IT" as a child).


  1. I'm so excited you're only 5'1" - good writers come in small sizes (I nod vigorously). Thanx for being so candid!

  2. Hmmm....sea mammals and cabbage?! So a cabbage loving sea mammal is your nightmare?!