Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Author Interview: Linda Weaver Clarke

Today, I had the opportunity to learn a little about Linda Weaver Clarke (www.lindaweaverclarke.com), who teaches Family Legacy workshops as well as writing historical fiction.

Jennifer Walker: When did you first become interested in family history and historical fiction?

Linda Weaver Clarke:
I have always loved historical fiction because it’s entertaining and at the same time I learn something about history. I became interested in my family’s history when I began reading about them. My mother and grandparents had written their biographies and that was when I realized how intriguing their stories were.

Jennifer Walker: Describe your Family Legacy workshops for us. What should someone expect when they attend one?

Linda Weaver Clarke:
I teach people how to take their family history or their own autobiography and turn it into interesting stories. 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. In my workshop, I encourage people to research the area their ancestors settled and the time period. First, find out everything you can about the area. If possible, go there and walk around, find out where your ancestors lived, went to school, and played. If you can’t go there in person, then do research and find pictures. To read samples of what you can do with your stories, visit my website at www.lindaweaverclarke.com and read the “short stories” of my ancestors.

Jennifer Walker: How did your Family Legacy workshops begin? How did you grow it into what it is today?

Linda Weaver Clarke:
After my book was published, I decided to teach people how to write their stories. So I began teaching in my own area, and then gradually expanded further and further from home. Before I knew it, I had libraries from all over the U.S. signing up for my workshops. The libraries sponsor me and the class is usually free to the public. Libraries provide many ways of education for their communities as long as they have an active Friends Group to support them.

Jennifer Walker: What if someone is interested in preserving their family history but don't feel like they can write it themselves. Do you ever provide writing services for them?

Linda Weaver Clarke:
No, I encourage them to write it themselves. You see, these stories are dear to us and we need to put our own heart into it. After I began writing my ancestors’ stories, I became closer to them. I felt as if I really understood them and how they must have felt as I wrote their experiences down. It is a blessing to write your own stories. I’ve had many people tell me that they didn’t know if they could do it, and after my class was done they couldn’t wait to go home and begin writing. One woman from Boise, Idaho said to my daughter who assists me, “I felt as if I had handcuffs on my wrists and your mother has just unlocked them.” This statement really touched my heart.

Jennifer Walker: Tell us a little about some of your favorite writing projects, past and present, and what do you have planned for the future?

Linda Weaver Clarke:
Past, present, and future? Okay, as for the “past,” I have a historical fiction series called A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho. Each story has its own plot and can be read separately, but the main characters grow up. One of my secrets in writing this series is inserting real ancestral or family experiences into my novels. To me, their experiences have always intrigued me. It brings a story to life. In my family saga series, I have set my story in Paris, Idaho…the place that my ancestors settled in 1863.

My great grandmother, Sarah Eckersley Robinson, was my inspiration for David and the Bear Lake Monster. Sarah lost her hearing as a child but 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. Sarah was known as one of the most graceful dancers in town. 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 while swimming, that people would actually throw coins in the water so they could watch her dive after them. Once an intruder 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. What a courageous woman!

As for the “present,” the last book in this series was just released. Elena, Woman of Courage. It’s about a “Happy-go-lucky Bachelor” who is completely fascinated with a woman doctor: Elena Yeates. Of course, women weren’t encouraged to go to college back then, let alone become a doctor, and this fascinates him to no end. With the 1920’s rise of women’s rights, this novel gives you an insight at the struggles women had to go through, while watching a young love blossom! To read an excerpt, visit my website at http://www.lindaweaverclarke.com/samplechapters.html.

As for the “future,” I’ve started a new mystery series. You can check it out on my website.

Jennifer Walker: How did you first get published? Has the process become easier with experience? How?

Linda Weaver Clarke:
First, there’s a book called Writer’s Market. It’s full of publishers and it tells you exactly what each publisher expects. Remember, do exactly what is written for each publisher. If it says to send a query letter or a synopsis, only do that and nothing more or they’ll trash it. If it says to send the first three chapters, do it. Don’t send the whole manuscript. Publishers are sticklers and won’t give you the time of day if you don’t do as requested. The Writer’s Market will teach you how to write a query letter and a synopsis. It’s a very good book. If the publisher likes your work, then they’ll send you a contract to sign and you pretty much remain with that publisher unless you’re unhappy with them and want to move on. For me, I’m quite happy with my publisher. They assign me an excellent editor and I get to request what kind of book cover I want from the design department.

(Note from Jennifer: there is a lot of good resources on the website, www.writersmarket.com, but I found the print copy of the book itself to be highly educational!)

Jennifer Walker: Tell us about your family. Are they supportive of your work? Do they have similar interests?

Linda Weaver Clarke:
My family is very supportive. My husband and I are now empty nesters but when I have to travel somewhere, I just ask one of my daughters if they would like to go with me. I don’t like going alone. Out of my six daughters, I’ve taken four with me on tour. I have two married daughters with children so they can’t come. My husband loves going with me, too, but he only gets three weeks off work in a year.

As for similar interests, I have one daughter who loves writing. She’s written several stories that are really good but she isn’t interested in becoming published. She writes them for her own enjoyment and then gives them to her sisters to read. She’s a graphics designer and is also attending college so she can get a degree in graphics design.

Jennifer Walker How much time, on average, do you spend on research before writing each piece?

Linda Weaver Clarke:
I love research. I usually do about a month’s worth before writing my story. Each book was fun to research but Elena, Woman of Courage was a blast to write because of all the fantastic words in that era. For example: It’s set in 1925. I found words that I didn’t even know such as: Cat’s pajamas! Ah, horsefeathers! Attaboy! Baloney! You slay me! When referring to a woman, they used doll, tomato, and bearcat. When a person was in love, he was goofy. If a person was a fool, he was a sap. And when a woman wasn’t in the mood for kissing, she would say, “The bank’s closed.” I was able to use all these words and much more in my book. The language was great!

In my research for David and the Bear Lake Monster: A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho
, I found that people really believe in this legend. The mystery of the Bear Lake Monster has been an exciting part of Idaho history ever since the early pioneers. Some people claimed to have seen it and gave descriptions of it. 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. Of course, it only came out in the evening or at dusk. 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? Whatever conclusion is drawn, the legend still lives on and brings a great deal of mystery and excitement to the community.

Jennifer Walker What is your favorite pastime--besides research and writing?

Linda Weaver Clarke:
I love camping in the mountains and breathing in the fresh air, the scent of pine trees, listening to the sounds of nature, hearing a stream of water bubbling over rocks. Just talking about it makes me want to leave this second, although I can do without the mosquitoes, but I usually take along enough “Skin-so-soft” oil to protect me. Of course, my husband doesn’t care for it because he thinks it smells like a woman so he has his own mosquito repellent.

Jennifer Walker: Where is your favorite place in the world besides home?

Linda Weaver Clarke:
Southern Idaho, where I grew up! I miss it and long to go back for a visit but my parent’s home isn’t there anymore. When my father passed away, it was sold. But my brother owns our grandparents’ home and all the farmland so when I do visit we stay with him. It’s a day’s drive from here so we try to stay for a few days before leaving. The land is so beautiful and green. I love it.

Thank you, Linda, for dropping by!

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