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Bio: Linda Weaver Clarke travels throughout the United States, teaching a “Family Legacy Workshop,” encouraging people to write their family history and autobiography. She is happily married and is the mother of six daughters and has several grandchildren. Clarke is the author of eight novels: the historical romance series, “A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho,” which includes: Melinda and the Wild West - a semi-finalist for the “Reviewers Choice Award 2007,” and a new mystery series, “The Adventures of John and Julia Evans.”
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1) What inspired you to write the books you write?
It all started when I began writing my own ancestor’s stories. Their stories were intriguing to me. After that, I couldn’t stop writing, so I turned to historical fiction. I tend to put true family and ancestral experiences in my novels. It brings my story to life. I felt close to my ancestors and wanted to add their experiences to my books. For example: my great grandmother, Sarah, lost her hearing at the age of one when she was very sick. Even though she was deaf, she was known as one of the most graceful dancers in town. She was a beautiful woman with black hair, blue eyes, and was 5’ 5” tall. Nothing held her back. She was an independent and spunky woman. One day, she felt that an intruder was in her home so she grabbed her broom and searched the house. She found him under her bed. With all the power and strength she had, she swatted him out of the house and down the street, pummeling him as she went. My great grandmother was an inspiration to me, so I gave her experiences to my character in David and the Bear Lake Monster: A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho. I even named her Sarah, after my great grandmother.
Another example is the courtship of my parents. They didn't meet the conventional way. They met through letters. It was the most romantic story I had ever heard, so I decided to write a story with my parents' courtship in mind and I called it Edith and the Mysterious Stranger: A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho. Why mysterious? Because she didn't know who he was? But each letter intrigued her more and more, revealing the soul of a man she never realized existed. My mother fell in love with my father because of his letters... before they ever met!
2} How did you start writing?
After writing my family history, I went to the library and read one book after another about writing historical fiction novels. I found out that it's very important to add bits of history from that time period. Using the inspiration of my ancestors and their experiences, I began my research. I needed some historical facts in my story. I put a great deal of research into my novels. For example, the subplot for Jenny’s Dream: A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho is about Old Ephraim, the ten-foot grizzly bear. The research about this old grizzly was exciting to me because I grew up with the stories of Old Ephraim. He wreaked havoc wherever he went, slaughtering sheep and scaring sheepherders so badly that they actually quit their jobs. With one blow of his paw, he could break the back of a cow. I found that he was the smartest bear that ever roamed the Rocky Mountains. No one could catch him. Every bear trap they set was tossed many yards away from where they had put it, and the ones that weren’t tripped had Old Three Toes tracks all around it. He was too smart to be caught. It took one man to outsmart this bear: Frank Clark from Malad, Idaho! In this story, I included every detail about this bear and his deeds. Since my story is historical fiction and my hero is Gilbert Roberts, I renamed this grizzly “Old Half Paw,” in honor of “Old Three Toes.” To read excerpts from my books, visit www.lindaweaverclarke.com.
I did the same thing with David and the Bear Lake Monster. I found so much information about this monster and read many accounts of the sightings from different people. I even got an email from a woman who said that her grandfather had seen the monster and described it to her. It was exciting to research and I found many interesting facts, too.
3} Why did you choose this type of book?
I have always been interested in history but historical fiction brings it to life. I feel that I learn so much and I'm being entertained at the same time.
4} Who is your favorite author?
I have many favorite authors. It's hard to just name one. I absolutely love the historical fiction series Prelude to Glory by Ron Carter. He wrote about the Revolutionary War and how we received our freedom. His characters brought his novels to life and I learned about American history at the same time. He did great research and includes his bibliography at the end of the book.
5} What advice would you give a new author?
Research is so important. It brings that time period to life and you can understand what people are going through.
6} Out of the books you write what has been your favorite
Out of the "Family Saga in Bear Lake" series, my favorite is Elena, Woman of Courage. It was so much fun to research and write. For example, the “Roaring Twenties” was a time of great change, when women raised their hemlines and bobbed their hair. It was a time of independence, courage, and adventure. In the 1920s, the new generation spoke a language that their parents didn’t understand. They used words like: 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 was not in the mood for romance, she would say, “The bank’s closed.” Elena, Woman of Courage: A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho creates the mood of the “roaring twenties” and is filled with courage, romance, and humor.
Another thing that made it fun to write was the plot. Elena is a courageous woman who went to college during a time when women were not encouraged to be educated beyond high school. The 1920s was a time of change when women began fighting for their rights. After getting her degree as a doctor, she moves to the West to set up her own practice. When she arrives in a small town in Idaho, she meets those who oppose her from day one but Elena’s stubborn nature will not allow her to give up. In her fight for equality, she learns to love the people of Bear Lake Valley and realizes she has found a home at last. This is a love story, also. And I loved the romance and humor in this novel.
7} Was there a part that was hard to write in any of your books?
When I changed from historical fiction to mystery was a difficult change. The writing process between romance and mystery is quite a change with a completely different mind set. With romance, you plan out the plot around the meeting of a couple. As you write, you develop some sort of charisma between the characters, making the reader feel excited that one day they're going to hit it off and fall in love. You, as the reader, know the outcome.
But with a mystery, the reader is in the dark. The author has to come up with a plot that no one knows about until towards the end of the story and hope they haven’t figured it out. In a mystery, you may or may not allow your reader to know who the bad guys are, according to whether it’s just a mystery or mystery suspense. In a mystery, the reader doesn’t know who the bad guys are until the end of the book. With mystery suspense, the reader knows who they are and it makes for a more suspenseful outcome.
8] Is there anything you would change in the way you write the books?
Of course, every author notices that their writing abilities improve with each book they write. But other than that, I can't think of a thing. I like the plot of all my novels. The love stories all have different plots, according to the time period.
9} If you could ask any author dead or alive a question what would it be?
What was Jane Austin's family life like? What was her father and mother like? Were they like some of her characters in her novels? Why did she pick romances to write about? These would be my questions.
10} How has your life changed since becoming a author?
I now travel throughout the U.S., teaching people how to write their family history. I never dreamed this would be part of my life after raising my children. Who would ever have guessed? Not me!
11} What was the inspiration behind your first novel in the Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho series?
Teachers have a great responsibility. They are not only teaching young minds, but they are shaping the future. Teachers should not label their students. Once he or she is labeled, it’s a stigma that stays with him until something changes. Name-calling, labeling, and demeaning only hold a student back from a greater future. In my novel, Melinda and the Wild West, I included one of my own experiences as a substitute teacher in which an eight-year-old student had been labeled as a troublemaker by her teacher. The students had listened to the teacher and steered away from her, not wanting to be her friend. This not only made her feel degraded, but she wanted to fight back and she did. She stopped doing schoolwork, refused to be part of the class, and got into a few fights. She seemed angry at the world but after working with her for a while, I soon learned what a sweet and wonderful child she was. She had characteristics that I was impressed with. When she realized that I really cared, she was willing to do her work, just to please me.
When I wrote a note to her mother, telling her what a wonderful child she was, her mother came to me with tears in her eyes as she tried to express her gratitude for this little scribbled note. In turn, I tried to control the tears that stung my eyes, not wanting to show my emotions. I´ll never know how this young girl´s life turned out, but in my novel I chose a happily-ever-after ending, just because a new teacher cared and made a difference in the girl´s life.
12} What is your novel about?
In 1896 Melinda Gamble—a very elegant, naïve young woman from Boston—decides to give up her life of monotonous comfort for the turbulent uncertainty of the still untamed Wild West. Driven by her intense desire to make a difference in the world, Melinda takes a job as a schoolteacher in the small town of Paris, Idaho, where she comes face-to-face with a notorious bank robber, a vicious grizzly bear, and a terrible blizzard that leaves her clinging to her life. But it’s a rugged rancher who challenges Melinda with the one thing for which she was least prepared—love.
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