Please welcome C. Hope Clark, author of The Carolina Slade Mysteries and The Edisto Island Mysteries.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
I love peace and happiness, two feelings I promised myself when I chose to leave the political, stressful nine-to-five and write full-time. Waking up slow, a hot breakfast, and a sunny day around 80 degrees makes for a good start. Then some solid, productive writing with breaks to walk outside with the dachshunds and feed the chickens. Then a light supper with hubby on the back porch, then with our bourbon and cokes and puffs on a good cigar (yes, he shares with me), he listens as I read aloud a chapter or two as we overlook the lake. A television mystery or two on television then I return to the keyboard to write a few hours. I fight for these days. They absolutely keep me satisfied. I could never see the city again and never miss it.
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
Two phrases, actually, are posted in my study:
- If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. ~Marcus Cicero
- Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. ~Howard Thurman
Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
All three of my inspirational people are most likely unknown to whoever reads this, but they impacted me in a big way. Without them in my life, I would not be published.
- Janet Hilton, my 10th grade English teacher. She was the first teacher who pressured me to write. She required my contributions to the yearbook, and I ultimately wound up editing it. We still keep in touch, and with each book I publish, she has her book club invite me over for a discussion. She always seems so proud, and it warms my heart.
- Pari Noskin Taichert, a New Mexico mystery author. When I escorted her to her own book signing, she asked me what I wrote. I mentioned my freelance activity, and she corrected me and asked what did I write for myself. I mentioned a manuscript I’d been unable to sell. She told me to pull it out and start again or I’d regret it. I did. It’s Lowcountry Bribe, book one in The Carolina Slade Mystery Series. Without her prodding, I would have left it on the shelf and not polished and published it four years later.
- Sidney T. Blake, a critique partner I’ve had for over a decade. She lives on the other side of the world in France, and we’ve critiqued each other for a long time. She can help me see rough edges better than anyone I know, and I do not know how I would be able to write without her.
Do you listen to music when you write?
Nope – absolutely cannot manage music and writing. My brain is very focused and linear. I need to be in the character’s head without distraction. But put me in a car, subway or plane and I can write. There’s something about white noise that works.
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Ooh, I’m a chocolate freak! Milk chocolate with caramel and sea salt in honor of Edisto Beach, the setting of my latest series. The community is laid back, and of course the ocean gives it the salt. Smooth and salty. Yep, that’s perfect.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
Actually, I went into this story kicking and screaming, yet it became the best I’ve ever written. I would have written The Carolina Slade Mysteries for the rest of my life if my publisher hadn’t pressured me to create a new series. After giving me suggested parameters of 1) a law enforcement female protagonist (no amateur sleuth), 2) Southern family angst, and 3) my favorite location in South Carolina, I found a new home for my writing. Starting with the location of Edisto Beach, I molded a character with Southern roots who does the in-your-face act to overbearing parents of marrying a Yankee and moving to Boston. Then I ripped away her husband, robbed her of a child, and thrust her back home to begin again. I wanted a damaged protagonist so I could see how she would cope facing her professional and personal worlds devastated. Initiating the Edisto Island series proved a writing challenge that served me and my abilities well.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Flawed women with families, finding their way back through personal tragedy while making mistakes along the way. They are loyal almost to a fault, with their families and friends commanding her attention more so than the women’s own safety and well-being. They are women you can realistically envision, and would love to have as a best friend.
Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Callista Jean Morgan (Callie) is an independent woman who left the south to become a highly respected detective in Boston. She was in command and self-assured until one of her cases resulted in her husband’s murder. Having lost a baby one year earlier, Callie finds her world rocked hard by situations out of her control. Suddenly she’s not so self-assured. To protect her teenage son, she gives up her career and returns to her Southern roots only to have danger follow her to Edisto Beach, where crime isn’t supposed to happen. I knocked her down over and over, keeping her very unsteady on her feet until she loses her desire to do much other than exist to tend her son, and he’s about to go off to college. Murder on Edisto is her story of how she fell from her pedestal, and learned how and when to clamor her way back to some sense of dignity and control. She’s still groping for a strong foothold, but she is more solid now, just more aware of her flaws and foibles which make her second-guess herself at times. But her son is her world.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Let’s start with Detective DD Warren, one of Lisa Gardner’s female protagonists. The woman is stubborn, but she’s learned that close friends and family have a way of reining in her over-the-top dominance. Then let’s add Reese Witherspoon with her Southern charm, and her ability to play the tough yet flawed woman who has to learn from her mistakes to finally take that stand and kick ass. And finally, throw in Tess Gerritsen’s Dr. Isles – the book version, not the television version presented nothing like the written character. She’s strong, smart, and tries so hard to hide her faults and misgivings, yet she possesses a huge, soft heart for certain people, and her emotional side conflicts with her professional side. Yes, I can see Callie Morgan as a mash-up of these three women.
If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Lisa Gardner, Sue Grafton, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Harper Lee, and Joshilyn Jackson. I’m not an outspoken individual, and I’m sure these personalities would overwhelm me, but I’d love being the silent hostess at the head of the table watching these people wander with their ideas and comparisons, contrasts and indignations. An intense setting that would give me insight into their writing, and hopefully help me glean gold nuggets as a bystander to use in my stories.
What’s next for you?
Books two and three of The Edisto Island Mysteries, for sure. Books four and five for Carolina Slade probably. I have a third series in mind that is unique and odd, but it never leaves my thoughts, so that must mean it’s meant to be written. But I’ll keep producing at least a book a year until such time my hands or mind quit functioning. None of this four-books-a-year stuff. I want depth into my stories, and I want to feel assured that the stories are worth publishing.
Hope Clark has authored two mysteries series with Bell Bridge Books: The Carolina Slade Mysteries and The Edisto Island Mysteries. Her most current release is Murder on Edisto set in a secluded South Carolina beach community where crime never happens until former detective Callie Jean Morgan moves to get away from it all . . . and fails to do so. Hope Clark is also editor of FundsforWriters.com, a website chosen by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 14 years, and her Friday newsletters reach 40,000 readers. She is a frequent speaker to writing groups, book clubs, conferences, civic groups, libraries and nonprofits and lives on a lake in central South Carolina when she’s not walking Edisto Beach.