Clarissa Johal and The Island

Since time immemorial people have gathered around the fire to tell stories and wondered what else might be lurking close by in the shadows. I recently caught up with Clarissa Johal, author of Paranormal, Gothic Horror & Fantasy books and stories. She knows a thing or two about those shadowy realms – and their inhabitants…
Q1. Congratulations, Clarissa, on the publication of your latest novel, The Island, through Booktrope, Forsaken Imprint. What was your journey to publication with this one?  
The Island is my fifth book, but I’ve had three short stories, a play, and numerous magazine articles published. To date, I’ve worked with five different publishers. They’ve run the gamut from smaller houses (Musa Publishing), to larger ones (Permuted Press). My latest (Booktrope) is a hybrid publisher. Hybrids are a new concept in the world of publishing, but I think authors will see more of them pop up in the future. Publishing is a journey. As an author, I look at each book, the requirements to make it successful, and my own time-frame. Then, I choose which publishing model works best for me, and run with it.
Q2. Have you always been drawn to the paranormal on the page or off it?
I’ve had experiences, and consider the paranormal a part of the world we live in. I never considered writing in the genre until about five years ago. While working on a fantasy trilogy, I was hit with the characters of Cronan and Lucas, my Death Spirit and Guardian from Between. I would wake with their back-stories in my head, I’d get flashes of their homeland and people they knew—it was weird. They wouldn’t leave me alone, and they certainly didn’t belong in my fantasy trilogy! Finally, I set the trilogy aside, and started writing Between. I joke that I was pulled into the Otherworld with that book. I’ve been writing paranormal and gothic horror ever since.  
Q3. Is there a paranormal experience of your own you’d like to share?
I’ve had quite a few. One, in particular, happened last October. My husband and I were watching television one evening. Suddenly, there was this pop of light right in the middle of the living room, about five feet from the ground, followed by the scent of an electrical charge. We both saw and smelled it. My husband decided to go to bed, but I stayed up. As I continued to watch television alone, the living room began to feel crowded. I kept catching movement in the peripheral of my vision, but when I’d look, there was nothing there. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that night. I’ve written about several other experiences in my blog, and even to me, they sound odd. But after years of the unexplained, I’ve come to the conclusion, “it is what it is.”
Q4. What was the inspiration for The Island?
You get the exclusive on that, because I don’t think I’ve told anyone!  When I was twelve, my parents sent me to camp for the summer. The camp was located on a small island off the mainland, and kept solely for campers only. In addition to standard camp activities, the kids were allowed to explore on their own as long as they stayed together in groups of three. Unfortunately, because I was a new kid, my group of three was just me. When the camp counselors asked if we had found our groups, I kept my mouth shut. Free time came, and off I went to explore on my own. There were designated paths on the island which campers were supposed stick to. But you know how that goes—kids do what they do. Most of the kids headed towards the beach, but I decided to forge my own path into the woods. While waist-high in foliage, I literally fell into a small cave. The cave was empty…but not empty. Have you ever had that feeling? It felt like whatever resided inside, suddenly fixated on me. The hairs on the back of my neck stood, I felt icy cold, and the prick of tears was close, though I didn’t know why. It almost felt like I had stumbled into someplace sacred. I managed to climb out, and literally made myself walk away calmly. Quite honestly, it felt like I was being watched at that point. That night, I tossed and turned, unsettled. The feeling persisted into the next day, so I returned to the area—wanting to make peace with it. But try as I might, and no matter how many times I combed that area, the cave was nowhere to be found. That cave (and the feeling associated with it) stuck with me, and so The Island was born.
Q5. What authors have inspired you?
Paranormal, horror and fantasy authors who combine complex mythological concepts into their story-telling are at the top of my list. BROM, Charles de Lint, and Robert Holdstock are all inspiring in that regard. I grew up reading the classics, which I think gave me a good base as to what constitutes “good” literature. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser, and The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, are two of my favorite books.
Q6. It would be remiss of me if I didn’t ask, “What’s with the trapeze?” 
Ha! I’ve studied ballet for over twenty years. Last year, I decided to take trapeze classes offered by Cirque de Vol, and fell in love with it. When I hear music, I choreograph trapeze routines in my head—that’s how obsessed I am! I’ve even had a trapeze installed in my living room so I can practice. There’s something about the trapeze arts that strikes a chord. When I’m on the trapeze, it feels right.Does that sound bonkers? It probably is.
Q7. Do you have a writing process?
My idea usually begins as a flash of the location (usually in a dream, or when I’m in the shower, oddly enough). That gives me a locale. The characters seep in later (again, they’ll usually come to me completely formed in dreams, or in the shower). Then, I’ll sit and write the story from beginning to end. At the risk of sounding cuckoo, the characters tell me what to write, not vice versa. I do my “details” research after the first draft is completed, and then work on my edits.

Q8. Where can we find out more about you and your books?
I’m everywhere….
Author Website
Amazon Author Page
Twitter @ClarissaJohal
Q9. What are you working on next?
My readers were intrigued by one of the side-characters, Poppy, from Struck. They kept asking if I was going to do a spin-off with her. Typically, I don’t do spin-offs or series books, but decided to give it a go. Let’s just say, she had a story to tell! Poppy should be completed by December 2015, and published sometime in 2016. Take a peek at the blurb:
A red-headed, pink-loving mortician who speaks to the dead.
A socially awkward funeral director.
Poppy and Dante from Struck are back.
Something is lingering around Skyview Funeral Home–and it’s stealing souls of the departed. With Dante in tow, Poppy is determined to put a stop to it. Will she be able to protect those who are trying to cross over? Or will her soul be next?

That said, you can keep up with my latest releases by following my Amazon Author Page


  1. Carol Browne says:

    A brilliant interview. They say there are no experiences for authors, only ideas for stories. (I'm pleased to have been one of your intrigued readers too, Clarissa!)

  2. Rhea Rhodan says:

    I enjoyed Between, Struck (definitely can't wait to read more about Poppy and Dante), and Voices (great angst). Excellent reads. But The Island? Sooooo scary. Jeez.

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