Monday, November 09, 2009
Interview With Author Linda Clare
Today, I’m privileged to have as my guest author Linda Clare. Linda’s debut novel, The Fence My Father Built, was recently released by Abingdon Press. In addition to writing fiction, Linda is an award-winning author of short stories and essays, as well as a teacher of college level classes and mentor to writers. She and her husband Brad are the parents of four adult children, and live in Eugene, Oregon.
RM: Linda, when did you begin writing?
LC: When I was twelve, I had to stay out of school for days at a time due to illness. From my bed, I began pounding out stories and poems on an Underwood manual typewriter that a great-aunt had given me. When I was seventeen, some of these were published in a national market. After a twenty-five year hiatus because life intervened, I began what I consider a fifteen year apprenticeship in writing, mainly poems and short personal essays. Then I wrote my first novel, snagged a New York agent—who couldn’t sell the book, so I was back to square one.
RM: So you were successful in some areas, but didn’t sell your first novel. Did that stop you from writing?
LC: Not at all. I coauthored a nonfiction book, Lost Boys and the Moms Who Love Them, with my pals, Melody Carson and Heather Kopp. Then two more nonfiction projects, coauthoring with Kristen Ingram. And during all this, I kept writing fiction. The Fence My Father Built was my second novel, but it took more than ten years and dozens of rejections before Melody Carlson mentioned my novel to Abingdon’s Barbara Scott, who said “yes.”
RM: What's the most difficult part of writing for you?
LC: Time. When I first started writing, I ran a full-time day care from my home, in addition to caring for my own four children. During naptime every afternoon, I hauled our electric typewriter onto the stove top and typed standing up so I could keep one eye on the kids sleeping around the corner in the living room.
RM: How much of yourself do you put into your characters?
LC: In my first 3 books, which were nonfiction, putting myself in was required. Even though for fiction the characters should have their own personalities, early in my writing I noted some aspects of myself sneaking into my books. Now I look with a more critical eye.
RM: Have you had trouble learning to sift through critiques and suggestions and trust your own instincts?
LC: (Muffled laughter.) One of my co-authors once said I reminded her of the man who got up onto his donkey and rode off in all directions. I used to try to implement everyone’s suggestions and ended up pleasing no one, especially me. It’s still hard to know when something I write is pitch-perfect and when it’s a bomb, but God is a wonderful critique partner. God often shows me what to keep and what to cut, but only after I’ve let the draft “cool off” for several days. Or months. Or years.
RM: What can you tell us about The Fence My Father Built?
LC: It’s about Muri Pond, a laid-off librarian who always dreamed of finding her biological father. When she finally does, it’s too late. Joe Pond has died and left her his legacy: a remote parcel of rundown central Oregon property, surrounded by a fence made from old oven doors. Muri battles a troublesome neighbor, fights for her father’s Native American heritage and rediscovers the faith her alcoholic dad somehow never abandoned
RM: Did you experience a specific 'what if' moment in writing the story?
LC: Yes, I took a fiction workshop from Melody Carlson and I imagined this librarian who was desperate to belong somewhere. The setting was originally Arizona where I’m from. Then I visited central Oregon and found it so similar to Northern Arizona region around Sedona, I was hooked on the red dirt of central Oregon.
RM: What message would you like The Fence My Father Built to convey to readers?
LC: I hope readers get the message that we are all redeemable. Muri’s father, a half Nez Perce Indian, is an alcoholic who wants to preserve his native heritage. But he’s also a devout Christian and Muri discovers that being in God’s family is the strongest bond that love can make.
RM: Even though it sounds sinister, I always ask my guests if they have any last words. Do you?
LC: If you’re a reader, despite the instant-message world we live in, you have my admiration. Because of you, I’m able to imagine worlds for you to get lost in, just as I did as a kid with Oz books. If you write or even just wish you could be a writer, write it down now. Not tomorrow, or when the kids are older, when you’re retired or when there isn’t anything else to do. Write as if your life depended on it. Be prepared to learn a lot, cry some, and become the kind of ambassador for God that spreads the Good News wherever your writing goes. You’ll be glad you did.
Thanks, Linda. I hope my readers will check out The Fence My Father Built. I don't think your long "apprenticeship" was wasted, so we'll be looking for more fiction from you in the future.