It is my great pleasure to welcome a special guest to the blog. I’ve been a fan and follower of C Hope Clark for longer than I can dare guess. She is the founder of Funds for Writers which is an awesome source for grants, publishers, agents, competitions, and jobs in the writing world.
Here to promote her latest novel, Clark has graciously offered to be interviewed for us here at bookblogarama.
Q: Tell us about your writing process. Do you aim for a daily word count, page count, or a couple of scenes each day?
HOPE: When it comes to writing my novels (I write a lot of freelance and editorial material, too), I strive for 1,000 words per day. I go over and under, some days easy and other days like sludging through mud. For instance, I started writing on the current novel on March 2. So by March 31, I need 30,000 words. I’m behind due to the release of the current book, Dying on Edisto, but I have through Sunday to catch up. I keep track on a spreadsheet along with where the 25%, 50% and 75% marks are in the book, because those need to be major turning points. Sounds formulaic, but I don’t get more detailed than that. It helps maintain the pace and avoid the sagging middle so many writers struggle with.
Q: What gave you the inspiration for the book? Is it part of a series?
HOPE: Dying on Edisto is indeed past of a series – book five in the Edisto Island Mysteries. However, it is unique in that it is a crossover book. In other words, the protagonist of this series runs across the protagonist in my other Carolina Slade Mystery Series. The inspiration for this book came from my publisher, who wanted the fan bases for each series to learn more about the opposing series they might not have read. Smart, actually.
The Edisto Island protagonist is Police Chief Callie Morgan who used to be a top-notch Boston detective until the Russian mob killed her husband. She went crazy chasing the killer, took to the bottle, lost her job, and moved herself and son back down South, planting herself on South Carolina’s Edisto Beach, her childhood vacation place. Recognizing the talent, the beach offered her the badge, and there she resides and solves crime. . . crimes most of the lazy beach community never knew it had.
Great detective, but still needs to work on herself.
Enter Carolina Slade, aka Slade because she hates the feminine sound of her first name which says a lot about her from the outset. Originally a Department of Agriculture bureaucrat, she once found herself in the middle of a bribery investigation, and after almost losing her job, family, and life, still decided she loved solving cases. Coupled with federal agent Wayne Largo, whom she met on that case, they travel the state of South Carolina handling department criminal activity. You haven’t seen crime until you see it in the country where you can more easily get away with all types of creative wrongdoing.
You haven’t ever seen crime solved Slade’s way.
The combination turned out to be so much fun to write, though the initial concept scared me to death. To keep the characters true to themselves, I wrote Slade in her stereotypical first person voice, and kept Callie in third. Worked beautifully.
Q: Are you a pantser or a plotter? A bit of both?
HOPE: I handwrite story ideas, a loose sort of outline, for three to five chapters at a time. Then I write the chapters. When I’m out of my handwritten notes, I go back to my porch and bounce ideas until I have enough scribble to go back to the computer for more chapters. I do not know the ending of the book until I’m within eight to ten chapters of it. (My books run about 30 chapters.) I like discovering the plot and unraveling the mystery just one step ahead of the protagonist. To have it all outlined sucks the energy out of the story, in my experience.
I have a notebook reserved for said notes, and a dry erase board on my wall to remind me of the ends that need tying up as well as the long list of characters so I don’t misspell names.
And I read chapters aloud. Every two to three chapters, I go on the porch and read aloud to my husband. At the end of the book, I read the entire manuscript aloud. Sometimes I hire an editor to go over it again, then I send it to my publisher. The publisher then puts it through at least three more detailed edits.
Q: Do you prefer a certain type of music to listen to when you’re writing, or are you better with silence?
HOPE: Dead silence. If I can hear a television, I have to close my door. I used to reserve my fiction for the middle of the night, but when my parents were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and one parent entered the hospital for eight weeks, I learned I had to rise early and write whenever and wherever. But whenever I write, wherever I write, I much prefer silence so that I can dig deeper. I firmly believe that the best magic happens in silence, when nothing else steals your attention.
Q: What books are you reading now?
HOPE: I try to read at least two novels a month. I’m reading Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier right now. I just finished The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn. I have a TBR stack of forty books, but the next ones appear to be The Case for Jamie by Brittany Cavallaro (a YA, female Sherlock Holmes set in modern times….love this series), Behind Her Eyes as well as Cross Her Heart, both by Sarah Pinborough. In my to be Reread stack is The Lewis Man by Peter May and all the Paul Pine Mysteries by Howard Browne (yes, I spent $60 for that book). I like mystery, suspense, and especially love noir. I do not enjoy cozy or romance. I’m a believer in reading what you write to better your craft, and I firmly believe that nobody accidentally plagiarizes another author. It’s black and white – you do or you don’t.
Q: Anything else you’d like us to know about this book or any others (past or future)?
HOPE: Well, the Slade books originated from my own life with agriculture. I met my husband during a briber investigation, where I was offered the bribe and he was the federal agent assigned the case. The roller coaster was so crazy, I felt it deserved a book. . . which became a series.
Callie and the Edisto series originated because the publisher wanted me to diversify my portfolio. I’m glad they pushed me to write it. The Edisto Series does very well in the Carolinas.
There is a third series on the back burner, but I believe that to elaborate on a work-in-progress is to lose its power, so I’ll let folks know more about that one when it’s closer to a release. But….I love it! A female protagonist. . . again. Only she’s a private investigator.
Q: Just for fun, what TV shows or movies have you really enjoyed or disliked recently?
HOPE: My favorite all-time series is Justified. Such fantastic story telling in that one. I binged on every episode, bought the DVDs, and intend to rewatch it one weekend when I want to veg in my recliner. I’m binging on Breaking Bad now, and I adore its plotting, loving the foreshadowing. Fantastic character development. I’ve seen 24 seasons of Midsommer Murders. Very nice series to learn how to plot. I love Lucifer for its dialogue. Terrific one-liners. I enjoy Blacklist for Raymond Reddington, but I can do without his daughter Elizabeth Keen. She has only two or three facial expressions and adds little to the story advancement, but Reddington…God, I love him. Fantastic dialogue lessons to be learned there. I can watch dark FX shows as well as Hallmark stories. I just want good storytelling, and when it rings plastic to me, I’m done with it.
As for movies, I’m a friggin’ comic book lover! Avengers, Marvel, etc. etc. I may not be an aficionado, but I have loved comics since I could read. But when it comes to movies that stick in my head, I can think of Casablanca (the best movie to teach storytelling and dialogue), Gone with the Wind, The Kingsmen (yep, both one and two), and too many others to name. The Maltese Falcon. Almost anything noir. Even Sin City. It’s all about the storytelling.
On behalf of bookblogarama, I want to thank Hope for her time. You can find her at her website: chopeclark.com, her author bio on Goodreads, as well as her social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter. And if you don’t already subscribe to Funds for Writers, do yourself a favor and head over there as well for everything related to the writing community.