He is a tutor at Columbus State Community College and a committee member for the 1Girl Project, an initiative that seeks to develop the leadership potential of middle school and high school girls. He also supports literacy and arts programs, especially in his home community of Worthington. Clay tries to live by the Golden Rule and hopes to leave the world a better place than he found it.
Welcome Clay! Thank you for joining us today at Reader Views Kids! Tell us about your book, The Bullybuster.
What would happen if some bright students who were being bullied built a robot to defend (or avenge) themselves against their tormentors? The Bullybuster answers that question and shows that revenge often causes innocent people to be hurt. The story also features a budding interfaith romance between a student newspaper reporter and a Jewish girl who is a top-notch Physics student.
What inspired you to write this story?
Two of the biggest issues today are bullying in schools and the expansion of technology into nearly every phase of human life. In writing The Bullybuster, I saw the opportunity to bring those issues together in a story that also makes a strong statement about the danger of revenge.
How long have you been writing and what called you to write in the Teen/YA genre?
For over 25 years, I was a speechwriter and editor for Ohio’s Superintendent of Public Instruction. Even before I retired in 2008, I started writing my first YA novel, Fast-Pitch Love (Astraea Press). I enjoy writing in this genre because through my characters I can be a lot more confident and “cooler” than I actually was as a teenager.
How do you think writing for a YA crowd differs from writing for a more mature audience?
YA readers need to identify strongly with the characters in the stories they read, and they need to see the characters struggling with problems similar to their own. Older audiences don’t necessarily have these needs.
Talk about a couple of the main characters in the story – what motivates them?
Owen, the protagonist, wants to start a romance with Erica. At the same time, he wants to solve the mystery of who or what is attacking bullies at his school. He faces a major dilemma when these two goals come into conflict.
Erica, too, would like to start a relationship with Owen, but she also wants to stop the bullying some of her classmates are suffering.
Do you identify with any of the characters? Who and why?
Having worked in education at the state level for many years, I can somewhat identify with Wilma, the high school principal. I know that like other principals, she has to be an expert multi-tasker and answer to a wide variety of people, including angry parents and a superintendent.
What was your biggest challenge in writing The Bullybuster?
I had to walk a fine line between making the story’s robots believable and not overloading readers with technical details about them.
What distinguishes your book from others in the genre?
The Bullybuster is more “cerebral” than most YA books. Although it avoids technical jargon, the book uses robotic terminology accurately. The robots in the story push the envelope a bit but are grounded in sound physics. The book also stands out for its blend of an interfaith romance with mystery and a touch of sci-fi.
What do you hope is the main take-away from reading The Bullybuster?
Bullying has both short and long-term effects, but taking revenge against bullies can get out of hand and hurt innocent people.
How do you come up with the topics for your YA novels?
Fast-Pitch Love was inspired by my son’s mishaps and adventures in little league baseball. The Bullybuster emerged after I read a series of articles on bullying in schools and then watched a segment of the movie Robocop.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
It took me nine years to complete Fast-Pitch Love. During much of that period, I worked full-time as a writer and often did not feel like writing when I got home. As a result, the novel spent a lot of time on the shelf. The Bullybustertook about three years to finish. Being retired made a big difference.
So what’s next, do you have another story in the pipeline?
I don’t have any immediate plans for another novel, but I will be writing some short stories soon that will deal with cancer.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy biking and running. Indoors, when not writing, I like to read. My current reading challenge is to graduate from the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle by reading 12 books on their approved list. Most important of all, I enjoy spending time with my grandchildren and seeing the world through their eyes.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, about writing or about life in general?
Write because you love to do it or because you have a story that you must tell. Don’t worry whether it will sell or not. If your writing brightens the life of just one person, it will be worth the effort.