For several years now, I’ve subscribed to the Funds for Writers newsletter put out by C. Hope Clark. So today I am quite honored to share an interview with Hope. Be sure to sign up for her newsletter, too.
1. Tell me about your latest project.
My latest project is my proudest to date – Murder on Edisto. It’s the first in the Edisto Island Mysteries, and a deviation from my Carolina Slade Mystery Series. Creating a new world after having immersed myself in the Slade series was difficult for me, but the result of the struggle was some of my best writing. A SC native, Callie Jean Morgan escaped her overbearing political parents in Middleton, SC to marry a Boston-native and US Marshal and move up north. But when one of her cases retaliates and kills her husband, leaving her alone to raise a 15 year old son, Callie breaks and returns home. She retreats to the family’s vacation home on Edisto Beach only to face the murder of her childhood mentor and the decision whether to return to her detective roots to solve the crime . . . and nail the stalker who’s decided Callie’s deserves anything but peace.
Book two, Edisto Jinx, is in progress to follow Murder on Edisto in 2015.
2. What role, if any, did books, writing, and reading play in your childhood?
Books were my escape. I was a shy child, and I read every book in the house, spending my summers in the library. While I recall writing stories, I didn’t take up the pen seriously until high school when an English teacher recognized my interest. That 10th-grade teacher keeps up with me to this day, and each time I have a book out, she invites me to her book club. It’s so marvelous maintaining the connection, and with a smile I’ll have to admit that pleasing my teacher still matters. Words were the glue in my childhood life. I remember always having a book at hand.
3. What is your writing practice, your writing routine?
I’m a hodge-podge of writing practices. I may write early or write late, though late is more my practice. I’m trying to alter that routine since I’ve learned my brain works differently when writing in the AM. (AM means 10 to 12, BTW. I don’t awaken until 9-10 AM.) But I freelance, maintain a subscription list for 40,000 readers, and write mysteries under contract, so I’m often at the keyboard. I usually handle emails and social media first and foremost around mid-day. I work on my freelance and subscription information, which often requires research, in the hours after that. Then at night, I write my fiction. I put in about 8-10 hour days for six days a week.
4. Who are you reading now?
Lee Child – I’m a mystery/thriller/suspense fan and like to read what I like to write so that I’m learning the craft through osmosis while at the same time entertaining myself.
5. What are three of your all-time favorite books? Why do you love those?
Prince of Tides – Pat Conroy – Gorgeous, remarkable writing with such strong sense of place, a brand I am developing for myself. Setting is intensely important to me.
The Lewis Man – Peter May – I’m relatively new to Peter May, but this book stuck with me. His creative use of POV involving an Alzheimer individual was brilliant and aided in the suspense. He’s amazing.
Gone – Lisa Gardner – This is one from her FBI Profiler Series, and in my opinion, Gardner is who I’d love to become when it comes to mystery writing. Her plotting and depth of character comes through best in this series, and this book is the best in the series.
6. How do you balance “building a writing platform” and the actual writing to set on that platform?
I probably spend my time doing 50/50, and at times I feel I’m not doing enough platform work – or I’m not doing it strategically enough. But if I can write more, I do, but unfortunately, I see the work as being a 50/50 compromise in order to remain alive as an author. But I platform before I write, reminding my self how urgent it is to remain alive. Then when the world settles down at night, and the emails stop coming in, I sit and write in the quiet.
7.What is a typical day like for you?
Arise around 9-10. Breakfast in front of a recorded mystery on TV/movie. Email, social media, research for 2-4 hours. Dinner. Another mystery. Writing until 2 AM. I like my day broken up, and as a gardening and chicken maven (a dozen birds), I find myself outside in the daylight. But I put in 8 hours minimum 6 days a week with Saturdays usually being my light day. If I’m editing a novel, I sit on the porch facing the lake and read it aloud. I love my seclusion and crazy routine. It’s very in-your-face to the 8-to-5 I worked for 25 years.
8. Describe your dream writing space?
It’s my study. I designed it to be my dream space. One window faces the trees. Another faces the lake. I have a built in counter across one wall housing my computer, printer, books and such with file drawers for other material. An antique sofa on one wall for guests. A dry erase board on the wall with my WIP. A heater under the counter on my feet. A window seat under the lake-view window for the dachshunds. It could easily be a bedroom, but since it’s just my husband and I, it’s 100% study, so IRS ought to be happy about that since I claim it off my taxes. No television. No sound, except that I admit I hear the wildlife at night – sometimes coyote, sometimes raccoon, in the summer the ducks quack in their sleep. The frogs and cicadas stop their noise around 10 PM. I can watch geese, herons, eagles, osprey and duck from my window. I’m a nature lover.
9. What is the hardest writing critique you ever received? How did you respond?
I had an agent tell me in the early days before I was published, that my novel sounded like a soap opera. He was rude in no uncertain terms. It caught me off-guard, and I’m not ashamed to say I left the pitch session, went outside and cried. I never pitched face-to-face again.
In terms of a writing critique, I belong to an international critique group, and one gentleman is a British author of thriller. He ripped me up over and over, almost chasing me away. Yes, I got mad, I cried, but in the end, that novel was a breakout for me. I was determined he would not make me quit. We are fast friends to this day, and we laugh about those times.
Write every day. Do not write only when you feel like it, because in the end, when you read your story, you won’t be able to tell the hard days from the easy days. It is what it is. And if you want to take your job seriously (and it is a job), you need to report to it each and every day to make the advances you dream about.
Author of The Carolina Slade Mysteries and The Edisto Island Mysteries, award-winning author C. Hope Clark lives on the banks of Lake Murray in central SC with her federal agent husband she met on a mutual investigation. There they spin tales on the back porch, bourbon in hand. Her most recent release is Murder on Edisto, a murder mystery on secluded Edisto Beach, SC. Hope is also editor of FundsforWriters.com, chosen by Writer’s Digest’s annual 101 Best Websites for Writers each year or over a decade. Her motivational newsletter for writers reaches 40,000 readers. www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com