Thursday, September 24, 2009

Meet Linda Weaver Clarke: An Interview

Book Give-Away!

[Author's Note: Linda is graciously offering the first book of this series to one of my blog readers! An award-winning novel and a semi-finalist for the Reviewers Choice Award, this is the perfect book for this occasion. In order to be selected, make sure your comment or question for Linda is thought-provoking, pithy, or amusing. I will select the comment or question on October 1st.]

Interview with Linda Weaver Clarke:

I am delighted to announce this special interview with author Linda Weaver Clarke! Not only does she provide a look into the research aspect of writing, but she encourages us all to ground our work in the details of life, those experiences unique to us and our circumstances. Thank you, Linda, for taking the time to join us today for this interview.

Give us a brief overview of your journey as writer into the world of publishing. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? How long did it take to finally commit to the dream? How did you eventually get published?

It all started with writing my own ancestors’ biographies. Their experiences were so intriguing that I turned them into a variety of interesting stories for my children to read. After I finished that job, I couldn’t stop writing so I turned to historical fiction. Since my ancestors’ stories were still vivid in my mind, I couldn’t help but add a few of their experiences to my fictional characters. After completing a five-book family saga, I decided to become brave and find a publisher. It took me a year to find one. I was told that was a miracle because it usually takes longer than that for many authors. After signing the contract, I realized my new adventures were just beginning.

David and the Bear Lake Monster is your fourth book, I believe. What was the first tickling inspiration for the plot? How long did it take from first impression to final product?

Each of my stories surround the Roberts’ family but I always like to add a bit of Idaho history. When I found out about the Bear Lake Monster, I did some digging and found that it was the most interesting part of Bear Lake history. In my research, I found that people really believe in this legend. The mystery of the Bear Lake Monster has been an exciting part of Idaho history ever since the early pioneers. Some people claimed to have seen it and gave descriptions of it. The monster’s eyes were flaming red and its ears stuck out from the sides of its skinny head. Its body was long, resembling a gigantic alligator, and it could swim faster than a galloping horse. Of course, it only came out in the evening or at dusk. Throughout the years, no one has ever disproved the Bear Lake Monster. A bunch of scientists tried to discredit the monster and said it was a huge codfish that was shipped in from the East but could not prove this theory.

In 1868, a man by the name of S. M. Johnson was riding his horse alongside the shoreline when he saw an object floating in the water. He figured it must have been a tree until it opened a gigantic mouth and blew water from its mouth and nose. Some time later, a group of twenty people spotted the monster and among these were prominent men of the community. Does the Bear Lake Monster exist? Whatever conclusion is drawn, this Indian legend still lives on and brings a great deal of mystery and excitement to the community.

It only took about three months to write. I already knew what my story was about but just needed some Idaho history. That was when I decided to add the Bear Lake Monster. Does David believe in the monster? Of course not! That’s why he’s bound and determined to prove that it doesn’t exist.

What is the synopsis of the book?

Deep-rooted legends, long family traditions, and a few mysterious events! While visiting the Roberts family, David finds himself entranced with one very special lady and ends up defending her honor several times. Sarah isn’t like the average woman. This beautiful and dainty lady has a disability that no one seems to notice. He finds out that Sarah has gone through more trials than the average person. She teaches him the importance of not dwelling on the past and how to love life. After a few teases, tricks, and mischievous deeds, David begins to overcome his troubles, but will it be too late? Will he lose the one woman he adores? And how about the Bear Lake Monster? Does it really exist?

What aspect of David and the Bear Lake Monster are you the proudest of?

My research! It was a blast. My great grandmother, Sarah Eckersley Robinson, was my inspiration. I wanted to use her experiences for my heroine to bring some reality into my story. As a child, she lost her hearing but she never let her deafness stop her from living life. I took a lot of her experiences from her biography and gave them to my heroine to bring some reality into my story. Once an intruder hid in her bedroom under her bed, thinking he could take advantage of her since she was deaf. He must have thought she was an easy victim but was sadly mistaken. She swatted him out from under her bed with a broom, and all the way out of the house, and down the street for a couple blocks, whacking him as she ran. What a courageous woman! Because of my admiration for my great grandmother, I named my character “Sarah.”

In my research about the “hearing impaired,” and talking to a dear friend who became deaf in her youth, I became educated about the struggles they have to bear. It was a surprise to find out that some struggle with the fear of darkness. I didn’t realize that concentrating on reading lips for long periods of time could be such a strain, resulting in a splitting headache. After all my research, I found that I had even more respect for my great grandmother and her disability. What a courageous woman!

In your talks and reflections, you have stressed the importance of creating conflict and emotion in writing: What strategies can you offer my readers on these key ingredients to a great plot?

Emotion is the secret of holding a reader. When you feel the emotion inside, so will your readers. By giving descriptions of emotion, it helps the reader feel part of the story as if he were actually there himself. But remember: Show, don’t tell. If a villain challenged your character and he didn’t have a weapon, how did he feel deep down inside? If he were faced with an angry grizzly bear in the wild, how did he react? These are questions that you must research. Read about other people’s accounts, so you can adequately describe your character’s feelings during a situation.

Here’s an example. When I was writing Jenny’s Dream, I added Old Ephraim, a ten-foot grizzly bear from Idaho history. He was also known as Old Three Toes because of a deformity on one foot. He was a ferocious beast. He wreaked havoc wherever he went, slaughtering sheep and calves, and scaring sheepherders so badly that they actually quit their jobs. With one blow of his paw, he could break the back of a cow. He bit a thirteen-foot log, twelve inches in diameter, into eleven lengths as though they had been chopped. He also bit off a six-inch aspen limb in just one bite, which was nine feet and eleven inches above the ground. I found that he was the smartest bear that ever roamed the Rocky Mountains. No one could catch him. Every bear trap they set was tossed many yards away from where they had put it, and the ones that weren’t tripped had Old Three Toes tracks all around it. He was too smart to be caught. It took one man that could outsmart this bear: Frank Clark from Malad, Idaho! In this story, I included every detail about this bear and his deeds. Since my story is historical fiction and my hero is Gilbert Roberts, I renamed this grizzly “Old Half Paw,” in honor of “Old Three Toes.” Since I have never been in this situation before, I had to do some research. I learned what it was like to be approached by an angry grizzly by reading people’s accounts, including Frank Clark’s. Conflict makes an interesting story and is hard to put down. The reader wants the hero to win.

What writing quirk of yours makes your family smile?

I didn’t know the answer to this question so I called my daughter Alaina and asked her. She said, “In all your stories, you have female independence. They don’t take guff from anyone.” My daughter Serena said, “You tend to base your characters on family members and their personality.”

How has your family background and/or childhood flavored your writing?

My background has flavored my stories a lot. I was raised on a farm, so adding bits and pieces about farm life was easy for me as I wrote about the Roberts’ family. I could see Jenny dancing in the meadow near her parent’s home, feeling free and unfettered from life’s problems. Since I had done it myself as a child, I could picture Jenny doing this, too. Also, having six daughters has really flavored my stories. I tend to add family experiences to my stories. My daughter Felicia wanted to go fishing with us one day so we took her along. After watching her dad catch one fish after another, she became worried and asked her father to let them go because they were suffering and wanted to be with their family. She even asked me, “How would you feel if you couldn’t see your family ever again?” Then she begged, “Please tell daddy to let them go.” The story was so precious that I added it to my book, “Melinda and the Wild West.” Another time Felicia had tied some pans to her feet and was clomping around the house. The noise was unbearable so my husband said, “Seize and desist from all this noise!” She finally took them off but I just had to add it to my book. Yes, a person’s life does tend to flavor your writing.

What advice do you have for published authors who need more exposure or PR assistance?

Interviews on radio stations, TV stations, or even on blogs is great. People get to know you as a person and what you write. Let libraries know that your books are available or even give them a book. That’s important because people will read your books at libraries. If they’re interested enough, they’ll buy them. Getting out in the public’s eyes and giving lectures is very important, too. Thank you, Alex. I really enjoyed this interview.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tackling Eliahna

Thank you, everyone, for your brilliant advice regarding the tedious Eliahna. Not only have I (hopefully) resolved this character issue, but I've written about the process (& your help) over on the Adventures in Writing blog.

Just a reminder that every Tuesday you can find me there -- but don't just visit on Tuesdays. Every day is a treat since each is filled by a different delightful and skilled writer.

Here's to you, dear ones. Many, many thanks.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ennui: Writer Style

Okay, so I don't talk about my WIP so much, but I do want to ask a question of all the lovely writers meandering through this blog on occasion:

Do you ever tire of a character?

See, I've a highly organized WIP, which means I've been planning and strategizing and outlining (while still leaving room for creativity, I assure you) for great deal of time. When I finally started writing the novel, it poured forth. It's still pouring forth. (*Knock on wood*) Life is good; no complaints.

Except for Eliahna. She is vital to the plot. But every time I write a scene with her in it, I feel careless, bored, like I don't want to write. Every other scene writes itself. Scenes with the dear girl plod along -- I can barely make a thousand words in a sitting.

Have you ever experienced something like this? What did you do? Did you plow through or throw her out? Any suggestions?

In the meantime, I think I'm going to beat her up rather badly so that I at least feel sorry for her...

Friday, September 11, 2009

I Am a First Responder

In pace leones, in proelio cervi.
In peace, they are lions; in battle, deer.

I fell in love with today's Latin proverb (provided by the ever-gracious Laura Gibbs). I tried to put a positive spin on the pithy thought [peace time brings the regal bearing; battle reveals the deft speed], but in reviewing Gibbs' post on the subject, gravity prevailed. Deer are proverbially cowardly.

If you know anything about deer (in the forest; not those populating your lawn, nibbling your begonias, or whatever they do in (sub)urban areas), you know they're skittish beyond belief. They'll blow and dart away --> if they're bucks -- those great regal creatures with the curving, pointed antlers -- they blow once, maybe twice, and then scram for the next county. Maybe even the next state. If they're does, they'll blow a dozen times, run, stop, turn around, and blow some more, before running off for the hinter lands.

This is such typical human behavior. Oh, I pray it's not mine. Makes me think, though. And you? Do you know anyone like this? All bluster, no blow? Can't walk the talk? When push comes to shove, they skedaddle?

I don't want to be a writer like this. I don't want to be a human like this. I guess I want to walk softly always, stand strong when duty calls, bend with willow-strength when required.

On this day, especially, strength and valor and heroism seem so important, so worthy a goal, so difficult to attain. On this day, especially, I remember those who refused the easy way out, those who did the right thing, the hard thing, the thing which required their all.

Anthony is right: the only way to honor such sacrifice is to be a first responder.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Query Inspiration Strikes

I haven't got a bloody clue, but somehow inspiration struck with a vengeance last week. I've nearly completed my new query letter and I am 100% (or more) happier with the results.

It occurred to me -- amidst your many and varied and encouraging comments -- that my query said nothing, whatsoever, about the actual plot.

In fact, it read like any young adult fantasy; nothing set it apart. Truly. Curses, ghostly figures, talking cats, magical potions -- all things currently littering the YA fantasy world. Ad nauseum.

But I didn't mention the historical angle at all: the Mongolian intrigue; the Papal letters; the explorers who never returned from the Silk Road. I didn't mention my own creations: the Sylvan, a shape-shifting creature who mind-melds with humans, taking on their personalities and characteristics, or Xavier, a renegade priest who discovers the secret of eternal life, sentencing his followers to centuries of service. I didn't even refer to the Lady of the Lake, who makes a brief appearance and is somehow romantically linked to Maryn, the talking cat -- who isn't at all what he seems (who among us are?) and has more to hide than young Kalen can discover.

No. I didn't mention any of this. I simply talked about the ho-hum and the known, leaving what makes my story unique a complete and total mystery. And I wondered why no one snapped up my query? Yikes.

So, I'm not blue. I'm furiously composing. And I will soon be taking the agent-world by storm. Once moore. : )

Wish me luck.