Linda Weaver Clarke is an author and lecturer. She travels throughout the United States, teaching a “Family Legacy Workshop” at various libraries, encouraging others to turn their family history and autobiography into a variety of interesting stories. Clarke is the author of Melinda and the Wild West, a semi-finalist for the “Reviewers Choice Award 2007.” The historical fiction series, “A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho” include the following novels: Melinda and the Wild West, Edith and the Mysterious Stranger, Jenny’s Dream, and Elena, Woman of Courage.
Tell us a bit about your current project.
My new novel, “David and the Bear Lake Monster” is all about deep-rooted legends, long family traditions, and a few mysterious events. David quickly becomes one with the town and its folk and wonders why they believe in this Bear Lake Monster. It just has to be a myth. While visiting the Roberts family, he 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?
The mystery of the Bear Lake Monster has been an exciting part of Idaho history ever since the early pioneers arrived in 1863. The legend of the Bear Lake Monster made life a little more exciting for the pioneers. Some people claimed to have seen it and gave descriptions of it. 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. Does the Bear Lake Monster exist?
The interesting thing is that all the reports have pretty much the same description. 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. It had small legs and a huge mouth, big enough to eat a man. Of course, it only came out in the evening, at dusk. Is the Bear Lake Monster fact or fiction? Whatever conclusion is drawn, the legend still lives on and brings a great deal of mystery and excitement to the community.
We are all about journeys…unique ones at that. How convoluted was your path to your first published book? Share some highlights or lowlights from your path to publication.
After writing the biographies of my ancestors, I couldn’t stop writing so I turned to historical fiction. When I finally decided to be brave and submit my work to publishers, it took me a year to find one. I thought this was such a long time but have since found out that was a short time compared to most authors. So I felt very blessed for finding one that wanted my books.
Do you experience self-doubts regarding your work, or struggle in a particular area such as writers block or angst driven head-banging against walls? Please share some helpful overcoming hints that you’ve discovered.
Whenever I feel discouraged regarding my work, I remind myself that my publisher wouldn’t have taken a chance on me if my work were crappy. Whenever I get a bad review, I have to remind myself that everybody has their own opinion. That doesn’t mean my work is bad. I’ve read some bad reviews on books that I absolutely loved so that helped me to realize that everyone has an opinion.
What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?
Life experiences! I have taken many of my ideas from real life. My first book, “Melinda and the Wild West,” was inspired by a true experience that happened to me as a substitute teacher. A former teacher labeled a young girl as a troublemaker and her classmates would not let her forget it. The teacher put her behind the bookshelves so she wouldn’t be a menace to anyone. A similar experience actually happened to my own daughter and my brother way back in the ‘50s. I wanted to tell this story but in the form of historical fiction, bringing out the importance of not labeling students, that negative labels tear down and positive labels build up. Even though this was the inspiration behind my book, I always like to include a love story. This book eventually won an award as one of the semi-finalists for the “Reviewers Choice Award 2007.”
In my second book, “Edith and the Mysterious Stranger,” I based this story on the courtship of my parents. They didn’t meet the conventional way. They met through letters. She said that she fell in love with the soul of my father and they didn’t even know what one another looked like. The day they met, my mother told me that her heart leapt within her and a warm glow filled her soul and she knew she would marry this man. In my story, you don’t know who the mysterious stranger is until the end of the book. Some readers guessed right while others were pleasantly surprised.
In my third book, “Jenny’s Dream,” Jenny learns to forgive. This also comes from a family experience, something that a family member had to learn. Jenny has many dreams and wants to accomplish something remarkable in the world. She has read about the courageous women who were self-reliant, daring and determined such as Susan B. Anthony who fought for Equal Rights, an important part of American history. This was one of Jenny’s Dreams, to make a difference in the world. There is one thing standing in her way of focusing on her dreams, though. She must learn to forgive and put her past behind her. In this story, childhood memories begin bothering her and she realizes that before she can choose which dream to follow, she must learn to forgive those who have wronged her. She learns that forgiveness is essential to our well being, that we’re only hurting ourselves by not forgiving. This story is about accomplishing one’s dreams and the miracle of forgiveness. Like I said, this story was inspired from a real life situation.
My great grandmother, Sarah Eckersley Robinson, was my inspiration for “David and the Bear Lake Monster.” Sarah became deaf at the age of one and was a very brave and courageous woman. She never let her deafness stop her from developing her talents. I took a lot of her experiences from her biography and gave them to my heroine to bring some reality into my story. To me, the experiences of my ancestors have always intrigued me.
Sarah was known as one of the most graceful dancers in town. She never sat on the sidelines at dances because of her natural ability. She was known for gliding across the floor with ease, with just a touch of her partner’s hand. Sarah had such agility and gracefulness, not only on the dance floor, but also while swimming and diving. People would actually throw coins in the water so they could watch her dive after them. They would applaud, letting her know how much they enjoyed watching her, and then throw another coin in the water. Once an intruder actually 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.
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 self-esteem and 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!
To read excerpts from each of these novels, visit this page.
Have you ever had one of those awkward writer moments you’d like to share with us, the ones wherein you get “the look” from the normals? Example, you stand at a knife display at the sporting goods store and ask the clerk which would be the best to use to disembowel a six foot man…please do tell.
In my new adventure series, I’ve chosen to solve a mystery. In doing so, I had to call up the Fish and Game and ask them how much cyanide accidentally spilled in a river would kill fish. He answered my question but I knew I had to tell him why I was asking or he might think I was about to do such a thing.
With the clarity of experience what advice would you offer up to the wet-behind-the-ears if beginning this writing journey today?
Research is an important part of writing. Learn everything you can about the area your story takes place, the time period, non-fictional characters, and historical facts you would like to add, to both educate your readers and to make the setting feel real. While the reader can’t be there physically, they can be there mentally. Description is very important in a story. Paint a picture like an artist, describing what you see and feel. Make the scenery believable by describing the crunching of pine needles beneath your feet or allow the reader to smell the pine trees in the forest. When doing research, it makes the book come to life and it’s so much fun to imagine what things must have been like as we learn more about history. Research is an important part of writing.
What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why? (Doesn’t have to be one of your books or even published.)
The biography of my parents! It was so much fun to write. I had love letters that my dad wrote to my mother and letters he wrote home as a missionary in Florida. Those letters are precious to me and I got to know my father in a completely different way. I found out that he was a very romantic person in his letters to my mother. I was so impressed with the person he was deep down inside. I inserted these letters into his biography. Using his autobiography, things I remembered about my parents, and black and white photos from the “old days,” I felt this was my best work, probably because it was personal. It won’t be published. I wrote it for my children.
Share a dream or something you’d love to accomplish through your writing career.
I would like to uplift others through my stories, to make people feel good deep down inside, causing them to smile or laugh.
What gives you the greatest writer buzz, makes the trip worth the hassles (besides coffee or other substances, or course )?
When someone e-mails me and tells me how much they enjoyed one of my books and they can’t wait to read the next one. When a young teenager gives me a hug and says thank you. That makes all the hassles worthwhile.
What aspect of writing was the most difficult for you to grasp/conquer? How did you overcome it?
Description. I tended to be brief with my description of scenery and characters. In the beginning, my editor had to remind me, “Add more description.” After being reminded several times, I finally got the hang of it.
What is the first thing you do when you begin a new book?
I outline everything I want in my story, listing the things I want to include so I won’t forget.
What is the most difficult part of pulling together a book? Ex. Do you have saggy middles, soggy characters, soupy plots during your first drafts…if so, how do you shape it up?
In the beginning, I create my story and don’t worry about it being perfect. The second time around, I make sure I’ve developed the characters to my satisfaction. The third time around, I add all the extras, sort of fill in the holes and add a little spice to the story. I’ve come to realize that I can’t concentrate on everything the first time around.
Have you received a particularly memorable reader response or peer honor? Please share.
I receive e-mails from readers of all ages. I remember an account that really touched my heart. A woman wrote me and said that her mother had lost her sight and had to order books on tape for the handicapped. She said that her mother usually listens to the tapes only once and then sends them back. Then she said, “I wanted you to know that my mother listened to your tape 3 times before sending it back. She wanted to know when the others would be on tape.” Wow! That made my day!
Have you discovered any successful marketing/promo ideas that you’d share with us?
Radio and Internet interviews are wonderful. It helps the public to get to know you better and what you write.
Parting words? Anything you wish we would’ve asked because you’ve got the perfect answer?
I would like to encourage everyone to write their family stories down. It’s important to teach our children their heritage. Each of us has a story from our ancestors to tell. If these stories are unwritten, then they’ll be lost forever. It’s up to us to write these experiences down. Our children need to be proud of their ancestors. Leon Garfield said: “The historian, if honest, gives us a photograph; the storyteller gives us a painting.” In other words, paint your story and teach your children their heritage.
My last book in this series, “Elena, Woman of Courage,” has just been released. As a celebration, I’m having a free book give-away for the first book in this series: Melinda and the Wild West. This book was a Semi-finalist for the “Reviewers Choice Award 2007.” Go to my blog and leave a comment on the “Elena, Woman of Courage Press Release” along with your e-mail address. I will announce the winner on my birthday: Oct 2nd.