Thursday, September 25, 2014

Another murder, another mystery...


        An interview with C. Hope Clark

C. Hope Clark's latest novel, a mystery, Murder on Edisto, has been released via Bell Bridge Books, and is available wherever books are sold. Hope is also author of The Carolina Slade Mystery Series, and she is the editor of She has been awarded Writer’s Digest’s 101 / Her newsletters reach forty thousand readers.

Linda O'Connell:

Welcome, Hope. Congratulations on your newest release. Please give readers an overview of your latest mystery novel, Murder on Edisto.

C. Hope Clark:

I’m in love with this book, though I wasn’t when I first started it. It’s made me grow like nothing else I’ve written:

When her husband is murdered by the Russian mob, Boston detective Callie Jean Morgan suffers a mental break and relinquishes her badge to return home to South Carolina. She has no idea how to proceed with her life, but her son deserves to move on with his, so she relocates them to the family vacation home.

But the day they arrive on Edisto Beach, Callie finds her childhood mentor and elderly neighbor murdered. Her fragile sanity is threatened when the murderer taunts her, and the home that was to be her sanctuary is repeatedly violated. Callie loses her fight to walk away from law enforcement as she becomes the only person able to pursue the culprit who’s turned the coastal paradise into a paranoid patch of sand where nobody’s safe. But what will it cost her?


Linda O'Connell:

You have an innovative approach to storytelling. Please tell readers a little about your writing process. Do you outline your novels? Do you have a feel for your strong female protagonists before you begin, or do you plot your characters and get to know them as you write?

C. Hope Clark:

I’m not sure that I’ve written any two books the same, Linda. Lowcountry Bribe was inherent, almost. It’s part autobiographical since I was offered a bribe in my once-worked federal capacity, and the ordeal was a stressful one. I drew upon what I knew, and I painted Carolina Slade as someone I wanted to be. Tidewater Murder had to become purely fictional, which was a challenge, but I chose to flesh out my characters more, get creative with the secondary players, and design the plot around them. The process worked well for that book. Palmetto Poison, however, made me realize I had grown into a deeper writer, with the capacity for more intricate plot. Since most of my characters were developed, I focused on plot, and became a little more of an outliner.

The new release, Murder on Edisto, however, became a completely different animal. Driven by location and a new protagonist (this is an entirely new series, the Edisto Island Mysteries), this character drove the story. She enters broken and shattered, and the book becomes as much about her regaining her strength and self-confidence as it does solving the crimes. Placing the whole story on Edisto Beach paints a sense of the romantic as well as the suspenseful with the gentle breezes and the roaring surf. She goes there to heal, only to face danger as bad or worse than any she’d faced as a detective.

The next book in the Edisto series is purely plotted, though that doesn’t mean the twists don’t turn into turns as I start writing a chapter. It goes where it goes, but I do have a mission plotted. If you’ll note, the first series is named after the protagonist. The second is after the location. That in itself tells you that it’s a different process . . . and focus.

Linda O'Connell:

What inspired you to write Murder on Edisto, and how did the premise come to you? Was it a voice, a character, an event, a location? Did you have any challenges along the way? Did you tap into your own life experiences, as you did for the Slade series?

C. Hope Clark:

Murder on Edisto was forced upon me, actually. While contracting for Palmetto Poison, the publisher asked me to diversify myself . . . write something outside of the agricultural arena. Not everyone appreciated rural life, they said. At the same time, however, they praised my writing abilities, saying I was talented enough to write in a new direction and stretch those unused muscles. To acquire a two-book contract, I had to agree to the new series.

I was given three general parameters: a law enforcement protagonist (no amateur sleuth), an attractive setting that could withstand all the books in the series (the Slade books are each set in a different rural SC locale), and a Southern family full of angst. I was scared to death at the challenge, and had no idea where to start: character, location or story?

After much tossing and turning, I chose a place I adore visiting. Now I could write off my taxes all my jaunts to Edisto Beach, an obscure beach south of Charleston, South Carolina. It’s secluded, very slow, devoid of franchises and neon. A family beach where nothing happens. The beach is its own island off the bigger Edisto Island, and the region is gorgeous with awesome history (think Gone with the Wind on steroids), ghost stories, and beauty to drop your jaw to your knees.

Edisto is where I go to mentally regroup, sometimes taking worries there to toss away on the surf. From that location, I began to see my character. I broke her to bits in the opening chapter, ruining her life. She heads home to South Carolina only to regret moving in with her domineering political parents. She’s closer to her father, however, and in a bit of fatherly wisdom, he hands her the deed and keys to the family’s beach house on Edisto, so she can have a place of her own and heal at a place where nothing could go wrong. Then before she can take a deep breath of those ocean breezes, murder happens.

Did I tap into my life experiences like Slade? Not really other than I knew the place to take a broken person.

Linda O'Connell:
Was it difficult to leave Carolina Slade, the main character who readers have come to know and love in your three book mystery series?

C. Hope Clark:

Oh, you have no idea. Ultimately, I backed the editor and publisher in a corner until they agreed to continue with Slade. They, however, want to see the Edisto series promoted first. They are super proud and confident about the Edisto series. I’m sure they envision Slade being done. I assured them she wasn’t, because if they didn’t publisher her, I was sure someone else would. But for now, we’ll focus on Edisto. Slade is taking a breather.

Linda O'Connell:

Directly above my computer, is a tiny little monkey cut-out hanging upside down holding a small seashell. That image encourages me to write, to quit monkeying around, and is a reminder that publication will lead me one step closer to the next beach vacation. Do you have any habits, addictions, superstitions you engage in as a writer? For me, it's barefoot and a cup of tea when I write. You?

C. Hope Clark:

Sweet iced tea and bedroom slippers. A map of Edisto Beach hangs on my wall full-time now, to keep me in the story. But I must admit I’m an ADHD writer. I write a paragraph then read an email. Write another paragraph and check Facebook. If the thought is flowing, I write. If I stall, thinking of a new word, up pops the email. I have to keep moving forward. Busy, busy, busy. But that’s often why you see me online late at night. I write most of my fiction when the world has gone to sleep . . . because nobody is bouncing around on my email and Facebook page.

Linda O’Connell:

How long did it take you to develop and publish your first mystery, Lowcountry Bribe?

C. Hope Clark:

Oh, you don’t want to know, LOL. The first should always take the longest, because you are not only learning how to write, how to plot, how to develop a character, and how to sit your butt in the chair for long periods of time, but you are most importantly seeking confidence. Second most importantly you are seeking voice. Lowcountry Bribe took about 12 years from thought to publication. Of course there was down time in there (four years at one stage) when I questioned whether or not to be a novelist. If I crammed all the active months together and added it up, I’d say six years.

Linda O’Connell:

Do you have a favorite writer quote? A favorite book? Which authors inspire you?

C. Hope Clark:

Funny you ask. I have a new favorite quote I’m toying with painting on a canvas, framing and hanging. It’s so appropriate for my life right now:

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea. ~ Isak Dinesan

My other favorite quote is:

Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. ~ Howard Thurman, an influential African American author, philosopher, theologian, educator and civil rights leader.

Favorite book? I cannot say because my tastes change, books change, authors come and go. Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy comes closest to my favorite. It dug deep into the author and you can read it in every line.

Which authors inspire me? Neil Gaiman and Stephen King, though I am not a fan of most of their works. I am inspired by their work ethic and wisdom that continually profounds me.

Linda O’Connell:

What do you do when you need to escape?

C. Hope Clark:

Go outside. Touch trees. Plant and get my hands dirty. Sit on the edge of water and watch it play. I’m a huge Mother Nature fan, having lived in the desert, on a lake, on the beach, in the foothills, at the foot of a mountain. I cannot get enough of Mother Nature. It’s the closest I can get to God. It’s where I know my spirit will return when my time is done on this planet.

Linda O'Connell
Tell us something we might not know about you.

C. Hope Clark:

I used to play 4.0 tennis, and miss it terribly. And I’m putty in the hands of a little one-year-old named Jack. Wednesdays are my days with Jack, and we pretend like we rule the world.

Linda O'Connell:

Please leave us with a little bit of "Hope."

C. Hope Clark:

The advice I’ve adhered to from day one as a writer is this: I will write through it all. That’s the best prescription I can hand to anyone. My second most important adage is: Write daily. Cannot emphasize that one enough.

Linda O'Connell:

Hope, thank you so much for sharing with readers. I sincerely appreciate your time. You have been an inspiration to me and many others. Personally, it is a relief to know you are a bit ADHD when you write. I have always imagined you hyper-focused on your projects, not at all distracted. It's nice to know you're much like the rest of us. Wishing you every success with your new series, especially your latest release. I can't wait to read Murder on Edisto.

I have not been compensated in any way for this post. I am grateful for this interview.



Sioux Roslawski said...

Linda--What a wonderful interview. You asked thought-provoking questions of Hope AND you slipped in a little of Linda. Thanks.

And Hope, I agree with Linda. It was encouraging to hear that you're ADHD when it comes to your novels, and that 12 years is not too long to produce a novel. Thanks for doing the interview. It's always interesting to get a glimpse into a writer's head.

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Great interview, Linda. I was fortunate to attend one of Hope's talks last year here in Atlanta and have read the first of her mysteries and her book"The Shy Writer Reborn" which was terrific as well.

Cathy C. Hall said...

My little reader's heart was ACHING for a book giveaway at the end of this post so y'all did a great job, promoting the book! :-)

I remember Edisto Beach, going there as a kid, and Hope, I think you're going to pull in a whole slew of new readers. There's something about a beach setting that pulls in readers like the incoming tide. It sounds like a winner!

Hope Clark said...

Cathy - my publisher has been pushing me to select such a setting and changed directions for a while. There's a reason there are publishers and writers who do different parts of the business. I'm sure they will love to hear your words.

Hope Clark said...

Oh, I'm definitely ADHD as a writer. I pop up and down, flip in and out of things online, get something to drink, a piece of chocolate, walk the dogs. LOL I'd probably write three books a year if I weren't so energetic.

Lynn said...

It gave me "hope" that your first book too so long. I loved that book and will get around to reading more of your work! I love, too, that you have ADHD. Even though I've met you, I got to know you better in this interview. Thanks for sharing. And Linda, thanks for the interview. It was great and inspiring!

Hope Clark said...

This was an excellent interview, thanks to Linda. Appreciate the kind words, Lynn.

Tammy said...

I don't know when I've enjoyed an interview more! I feel like I picked up so much inspiration and encouragement, not to mention great quotes. And my book list just got even longer. LOL.

Hope Clark said...

Tammy, you're making me smile! Thanks!

Bookie said...

I'm not much of a mystery reader but I did enjoy Lowcoubtry Bribe. I'm sure new book is good because Hope is a very good writer! Was sure Hope a controlled writer so surprised to read about the ADHD!!!

Pat Wahler said...

Wonderful interview! Particularly fascinating to me is the process Hope describes of growing into a better writer with each book. Truly inspiring and "hopeful" for all of us.

Critter Alley

Hope Clark said...

Oh, I'm driven, Bookie. No doubt about that. But after 15 minutes of writing, I do check an email or facebook for like 2 minutes, then I'm back to the work.

Hope Clark said...

No doubt we get better the more we write, K9friend. Just makes sense that practice makes perfect - or better, because I'm a far cry from perfect. I still have so much growing to do.

Beth M. Wood said...

Thought provoking questions Linda, and insightful answers Hope... Thanks to both of you for this post! Working on my first novel, it's so helpful to hear some of the same techniques, struggles and habits. The new series sounds fantastic - look forward to reading it.

Hope Clark said...

Great, Beth. Let me know how you like Murder on Edisto.

Unknown said...

What a wonderful interview, Linda. Your writing always inspires me, and in this case, your questions bring forth so much "hope." And Hope, thank you so much for your thoughts, and especially for the insights into your process. I once had an agent tell me that our work as writers, especially in the early years, is "growing into your talent." Your answers here confirm that, and I would add that of course we never stop growing, as writers or as people. I'm so looking forward to reading Murder on Edisto!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the great questions, Linda! You asked some good ones. And thanks for the great answers, Hope! It's always fun to read about the process for other writers and I may have to borrow your favorite quotes and keep them posted where I write. Best of luck on the success of your latest release. Can't wait to read it!

Hope Clark said...

So happy y'all are interested in reading Murder on Edisto. I look forward to hearing how you liked it. Pop a review on Amazon if you feel inclined.

Mary Horner said...

Great interview! Thanks for sharing this with us!

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