|C. Hope Clark
C. Hope Clark is founder of the renowned FundsforWriters.com site and family of newsletters, recognized annually by Writer’s Digest Magazine. Her weekly missives reach 43,000 readers via her website www.fundsforwriters.com But her love of writing is intense in the mystery genre, and she proudly announced the release of Lowcountry Bribe, the first in the Carolina Slade Mystery Series, last month from Bell Bridge Books – www.bellbridgebooks.com You can learn more about Hope at www.chopeclark.com She’s currently touring the country and guest blogging in promotion of Lowcountry Bribe. Hope also freelances, having appeared in Writer’s Digest, The Writer Magazine, TURF Magazine, Landscape Management, American Careers, VOYA and many other publications, in print and online. She lives in South Carolina, on the banks of beautiful Lake Murray.
Jan: C. Hope Clark, I just discovered your website and I’m so impressed. It has been listed as one of Writers Digest 101 Best Web Sites for writers every year since 2001. Why did you decide to build it? Tell our readers about the kinds of information your website provides? What makes it special and well-worth the “tour?” www.fundsforwriters.com
Hope: FundsforWriters began by mistake when I was asked by a shy website editor to speak on her behalf to a small women’s writing club in Atlanta. The topic of Writing for the Web turned into counseling about how to afford a writing profession as the conversation got underway. When I returned home, the emails started as each lady contacted another friend, and so on. I became a counselor of sorts, and turned to a newsletter in hope of streamlining the emails so I could write the novel! No such luck. In two months I had 200 followers. A couple months later, I had 1,000. Didn’t take a rocket scientist IQ to recognize a niche, so I pursued it. Besides, my novel had been rejected, and I’d about decided that I ought to be writing nonfiction instead of mysteries. –>
FundsforWriters consists of a website, various social networking venues, and four newsletters. The original FundsforWriters provides advice and calls for submissions for contests, grants, freelance markets, jobs and publishers. All of these opportunities pay. I don’t post calls that do not pay in cash, because writers depend on me to point them to ways to earn a living. The second newsletter is FFW Small Markets, again with paid calls but paying less than FundsforWriters. WritingKid offers markets for children who are trying to find ways to publish their work. TOTAL FundsforWriters is the paid subscription – $15 per year for 26 biweekly issues of 75+ contests, grants, markets, jobs and publishers, just like the original newsletter. Just much bigger.
The venues are vetted. I visit each one and discard many to cull what’s worth keeping. I’m reachable to answer questions. The voice of the newsletters and website as well as the blog (www.chopeclark.com/blog and www.chopeclark.blogspot.com ) tend to draw people. We’ve been around for 13 years. That still stuns me.
Jan: I understand that your new Southern crime mystery, Lowcountry Bribe, was originally a WIP under the title Hog-Tied and was named a finalist in the Romance Writers of America Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence for mystery/suspense in 2009. I must say I like the title change better, but tell our readers about why you changed the title? What other changes did you make in the current final version of the novel.
Hope: I had no choice in the title change. That was purely editorial via the publisher, Bell Bridge Books. Coincidentally, Lowcountry Bribery was the original title of the 14-year-old manuscript, back when I wrote that horrible first draft. You have to realize that going with a traditional publisher can often result in changes, and those changes are often a negotiation. But many times, the editor wins, and since they are funding the book, I can understand that. There was a particular beach scene that got axed, but I hope to recall it in a sequel. The logistics of a death scene was altered. What alcohol a character drank was debated. But the story line and characters remained solidly intact. I was proud of that.
Jan: Your novel, Lowcountry Bribe, features a heroine, Carolina Slade, who deals with crime. You’ve been compared to writers like Patricia Cornwell, Janet Evanovich, JD Robb or Jan Burke, in a recent interview by David Roth of Tampa Bay Writer Examiner. com. What elements in your work are similar and what makes your particular mystery/suspense novel different?
Hope: Actually, I’ve read those authors, and often times, when I needed a boost in the midst of a chapter, I would read them. I relied upon Evanovich particularly for the tight-tight writing and touch of humor, but I didn’t want the book to be a cozy, so I also visited Grafton, Burke, Cornwell and JD Robb for a darker, more serious side. I like the plotting in Grafton. I also read Lee Child for action ideas and representation of personal introspection. But what makes LCB different is its rural setting in the South, the protagonists’ children, and a very real, vulnerable character who is basically an amateur. These other authors have PIs, forensic scientists, military police, and detectives as protagonists. Mine has to scramble and grapple via trial-and-error, often against her wishes to even be a sleuth, and I think that is resonating with readers. The rural South is unique, and while people don’t think of crime in the country, it exists, in very unusual ways, and I love tapping that niche.
Jan: Tell us more about Carolina Shade’s character. You’ve said that you’ve defied the unwritten rule of the proverbial female sleuth with Carolina Slade. Tell our readers about how she’s different. What do you admire about her? What makes you cringe about her?
Hope: As stated earlier, Slade is an amateur, offered a bribe in her very sterile, bureaucratic setting, which slings her into a new world of investigations, often acting against her will and good common sense. But she’s also unique in that she’s a mother. Many agents and publishers think of mothers and instantly categorize a story as cozy, as if moms can’t be taken seriously in the crime world. I didn’t write LCB as a cozy, so I had to be careful in keeping the story edgy and the parenting routine minimal so as not to detract. Add that to the rural setting, and you have a unique combination you will not find elsewhere. And people seem to love it, especially the characterization.
I admire Slade’s drive, and ultimately her curiosity. I have that drive, but my curiosity isn’t as strong as hers. Guess that’s why I love her so much. She can sometime be a tad caustic in her responses to people, sometimes regretting her words, but that goes far in making her oh-so human.
Jan: Tell us about your experience with your publisher Bell Bridge Books: www.bellbridgebooks.com and, of course, what’s next for Carolina Slade?
Hope: My publisher is headquartered in Memphis, TN, so they understand Southern. That’s why I pushed my agent to pitch to them, and I love the result. We work well together, and they are great in promoting their authors above and beyond what the authors are doing on their own. A nice relationship. The company started as Belle Books, specializing in cozies and women’s Southern fiction, but they branched off with an imprint that caters to mystery and suspense – Bell Bridge Books. In my work via FundsforWriters, I keep up with the industry, and when I noted the imprint and how it was taking off, I wanted to be a part of that.
Slade has two more stores already written. What people might not realize is that the series is set in South Carolina, each story in a different part of the state, and centers around a different rural environment. For instance, LCB takes place in Charleston County, but not around the historic city. Instead, the events occur on Edisto Island, and the antagonist is a hog farmer that will send creepy-crawlies up your back. The second book is set in Beaufort, also along the coast and there’s tomatoes, a migrant situation, and voodoo involved. The third book comes inland to Pelion, and incorporates peanuts and some pretty high-up politics. I love my state, and I’m loving presenting it to the world.
Jan: Writers often talk about “unbreakable rules” for writers. So tell our readers which rules are the most ridiculous rules that should be broken and why?
Hope: Just as there should be no “unbreakable rules” for writers, there should also be none that SHOULD be broken. I’ve always taught the writers in my consultations and conferences that they have to know the rules of writing before attempting to break them. It’s not okay to write any way you like without understanding what rules you might be breaking. In that way, you consciously alter them to your advantage, with an understanding as to why. Writing has to be smart. It is not happenstance. You aren’t “discovered” with your first novel and you don’t write a quick novel and hope it’s good. You don’t just write, you study writing and you write to improve, and the only way to do that is to understand the writing process, with all its rules. Then you decide how to step outside the box in a savvy way to attract the attention of agents, publishers and, ultimately, readers.
Jan: Why do you write?
Hope: I adore reading back what I’ve struggled with and realizing it makes sense or spins a neat scene. Then when someone else reads it and gets just as excited as I do, I feel like I’ve tapped my soul and shared it with the world, leaving a piece of me for remembrance. Writing is one of the few careers you can teach yourself to do and be fully responsible for the outcome. I love stretching my parameters, and writing lets me do that.
Jan: What’s the worst advice you’ve ever been given about writing? What’s the best advice that you would like to pass on to aspiring writers?
Hope: Worst – To cut out the kids from my fiction. A male thriller author didn’t like them. He wrote a story full of action scenes, so kids bored him. Best – Keep writing better. Writing a lot is not writing better. We can write for 50 years and never get better if we do not seek instruction and read successful writers that traveled before us. I’m a firm believer in a critique group to do this. You need one that is strong, not passive, and you need to toughen up and learn how to sift through feedback for the gems that will catapult your writing to another level.
Jan: Tell our readers and writers how they can locate copies of this book or other nonfiction books you’ve written about writing. And thank you for a great interview.
Hope: Lowcountry Bribe is available at:
Bell Bridge Books – http://www.bellebooks.com/shopexd.asp?id=153
Jan Bowman’s work has appeared in Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, Broadkill Review, Trajectory, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes, and others. She won the 2012 Roanoke Review Prize for Fiction. Her stories have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best American Short Stories and a story was a finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest. She is working on two collections of short stories and currently shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection. She has nonfiction work pending publication in Spring 2013 Issues of Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers. Learn more at: