Glowing Author Interview #2
For the second of our Wednesday Glowing Author Interviews, I am proud to welcome fellow Abingdon author and my friend, Linda Clare. Linda’s previously published books are non-fiction (like mine!) She is a writing teacher (like me!) And she’s tons of fun! (Okay, maybe I’m not that much fun, but Linda is!)
Linda’s new book, The Fence My Father Built—published in October as part of Abingdon Press’ fiction line-up–has garnered some really nice reviews. So I’m really pleased to introduce: Linda Clare!
Linda, tell us a bit about your book.
The Fence My Father Built, set in Central Oregon’s high desert, is the story of Muri Pond who has always longed to find her bio father, a half Nez Perce Indian named Joseph Pond. But when she arrives, her father has died, leaving her an inheritance of a rundown trailer surrounded by a fence made from old oven doors. Muri struggles with a conniving neighbor, a rebellious daughter and her own disillusionment, and finds the faith to face both the present and the past.
Don’t all novelists claim they wrote from birth? I’m no different. I will say, I was a sickly kid (I had polio as a baby) who had to miss a lot of school. I’d type up my stories on my great-aunt’s enormous black Underwood typewriter. Those whose bodies let them down a lot (mine still does!) usually are voracious readers and many become writers. I built a crazy world for myself.
Those tough, early years have served you well. Is there a part of the writing process that comes especially easily to you?
Thinking of stories comes easy to me—I watch people, take note of news stories, and instantly ask myself, “I wonder why or how this person got into such a predicament?” I love to read the obituaries, reading these gems of lives lived. I especially like the obits of people with unusual names.
That’s a clever approach. What part of writing do you find most difficult?
BIC—Behind in Chair. Ask any writer. Doing it. Getting the words down, fixing them up. So many want to have written. If you want to write you must, ah, write. Thousands of words.
I really liked the Native American theme in The Fence My Father Built. How did you come up with the idea for the book?
I had the theme of a woman who longed to know her birth father. Big surprise: that’s my personal story. My parents separated when I was very young. I always wanted to know Dad—whom I didn’t meet until I was middle-aged. That pervasive theme was smushed with a feature article about a guy who’d built himself a fence out of old oven doors. Voila!
Did the plot or characters surprise you with any unexpected twists or turns?
Oh, yes. My style is SOP or Seat of Pants. I didn’t see the writing on the wall that the fence was the important symbol in the story until a friend pointed it out for me. But she still thinks Aunt Lutie is portly, which is wrong, wrong, wrong. Aunt Lutie looks just like my neighbor—as thin as a fence post. Just shows that people can imagine characters any way they wish no matter what the writer tells them.
You are also a writing teacher, so I know you are chock full of writing wisdom. What would you say is the most important thing for new writers to know when they submit their work?
A writing mentor once told me the old adage, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” In writing I think this is very true. I’m that way myself, often dashing off work that should sit and mellow and then be revised. Don’t rush your apprenticeship. Yes, writing requires an apprenticeship. Keep practicing. Take workshops, classes. Join a peer critique group. You may want to consult a well-published writer when you think you’re ready. Ask several opinions if you can afford it. Meanwhile, aim for short markets—devotions or anecdotes, short articles or essays. Then when you ARE ready, you have publishing clips to back up your proposal or novel.
Great advice! Is there anything you think takes up too much of a writer’s attention?
I wonder about some of the promotional ideas. Will we have to give away free toasters next? I’ve been involved in a discussion with veteran Christian authors in which some are saying they doubt some of the stuff we’re encouraged to do (such as branding, videos, fancy websites) really adds much to readerships. I, too, have talked to authors of secular books and have been amazed at how little promoting they do. The one part of this Christian book promo phenom that annoys me a little is the branding idea. Why should an author break their brain or their bank account trying to think of a catchy phrase? I don’t buy books based on them and I’ll bet few others do. A good title, a compelling first line, yes. But a catch-all phrase? I suppose it’s to identify a writer’s “niche,” but I see that as self-limiting too. Keep your jingle and give me a great read. If I’m wrong, I’d like to know why.
Can you tell us the writers and/or books that made a great impact on your own life?
As a kid I loved the Oz books and Alice in Wonderland. As an adult, Barbara Kingsolver and Animal Dreams inspired me. These days? I love Marilynne Robinson, Elizabeth Berg, Alice Munro, Alice Hoffman, Kent Haruf and Sherman Alexie.
I know you are a blogger, Linda. What do you see as the advantages and/or disadvantages of blogging?
I think as long as the blog entries are short with a reader takeaway of some sort, they’re great. Mine, GodSongGrace, has a weird title but I mostly do writing tips. Because I teach writing, I have a built-in audience with my students. If you can blog while offering pithy writing and you have a theme, angle or already-cultivated readership, I think it’s wise to blog. The disadvantage to blogging is the sheer number. I cross-link my blog to social networking sites like FaceBook and Twitter in order to increase the audience.
Tell us one thing that would surprise us about you.
You might be surprised to know that I type one-handed. The polio I mentioned paralyzed one arm and hand. People who know me say I can burn up the keys when I’m drafting. The same great-aunt who donated the Underwood to me was a high school business teacher who also sent me (when I was about 11) a book called Typing for One Hand. I never used it but instead have developed my own style.
What book is on your nightstand right now?
A wonderful book by a friend of mine, Gina Ochsner, called The Russian Dreambook of Colour and Flight. It was published in the UK first. Gina is an amazing Christian whose message is delivered a bit differently than many Christian writers. She has won all sorts of literary awards, including the Flannery O’Connor Award and the O. Henry Award. Her stories have appeared in tony places such as “The New Yorker.” She’s very talented. I’m also reading Thin Places: A Spiritual Memoir by Mary De Muth. She’s a wonderful writer as well.
Can you tell us what’s next for you in the writing arena?
I’m in the waiting room right now. Isn’t that where God keeps us a lot of the time? I’m finishing a contemporary stand-alone novel called Hiding From Floyd. It’s a big departure from The Fence My Father Built, but Floyd is set on the northern Oregon Coast. I’m also waiting to hear if I’m going to get to write more about Muri Pond, the oven doors fence and the rest from my debut novel. If I do get to write it, it will be called The Hallelujah Gate.
When you write it, I’ll be in line to read it! Or anything else you write, for that matter. Any final word of advice for new writers?
Dear New Writer: You will sometimes feel as though you’ll never make it. Writing is too hard, the business too unstable, you aren’t making enough progress. Fight through the negative stuff and keep writing. One thing I cling to: Name one of the main ways God chooses to reveal Himself to us. Through His words, His Word. If you write, you will surely discover a richer life with God.
Contact Linda Clare on her blog: www.GodSongGrace.blogspot.com
“Fight through the negative stuff and keep writing. Keep reading. Keep learning.”