Author Linda Weaver Clarke, with the support of family, went back to college after thirty years of raising children. She now has a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Southern Utah University. She has a music CD out called Romantic Love Songs of Sigmund Romberg and Victor Herbert. A semi-finalist in the 2007 Reviewers Choice Awards, her titles include: Melinda and the Wild West , Edith and the Mysterious Stranger, Jenny's Dream, David and the Bear Lake Monster, and Elena, Woman of Courage. She also travels all over the country teaching people Family Legacy, a way to turn their family history and autobiographies into stories. She resides in Utah with her husband, six daughters, and four grandchildren.
#1- Tell us a little about yourself outside of your writing career…
I was raised on a farm surrounded by the beautiful rolling hills of southern Idaho. After I was married, my husband moved us to southern Utah where we enjoy warm desert winters, hot summers, and colorful red mountains surrounding our home. I have been happily married for 36 years. After receiving my Bachelor of Arts degree in my later years, I now travel throughout the United States, teaching a “Family Legacy Workshop” at libraries, encouraging people to turn their family history and autobiography into a variety of interesting stories. These workshops are always free to the public, sponsored by the libraries.
#2- You write historical fiction. Can you tell us a bit about that and your books? I enjoy putting real experiences of my ancestors into each of my stories. It makes the characters come to life. In fact, my ancestors were the first settlers in Paris, Idaho in Bear Lake Valley so that’s the reason I set my five book family saga in this area.
With each book I write, I always insert some true experience that happened to my parents, grandparents, or great grandparents. I also include a love story in each of my books. My first book, “Melinda and the Wild West,” was inspired by a true experience that happened to me as a substitute teacher. A former teacher labeled a young girl as a troublemaker and her classmates would not let her forget it. The teacher put her behind the bookshelves so she wouldn’t be a menace to anyone. A similar experience actually happened to my own daughter and my brother way back in the early ‘50s. I wanted to tell this story but in the form of historical fiction, bringing out the importance of not labeling students, that negative labels tear down and positive labels build up. This book eventually won an award as one of the semi-finalists for the “Reviewers Choice Award 2007.”
In my second book, “Edith and the Mysterious Stranger,” I based this story on the courtship of my parents. They didn’t meet the conventional way. They met through letters. She said that she fell in love with the soul of my father and they didn’t even know what one another looked like. The day they met, my mother told me that her heart leapt within her and a warm glow filled her soul and she knew she would marry this man. In my story, you don’t know who the mysterious stranger is until the end of the book. Some readers guessed right while others were pleasantly surprised.
In my third book, “Jenny’s Dream,” Jenny learns to forgive. This also comes from a family experience, something that a family member had to learn. Jenny has many dreams and wants to accomplish something remarkable in the world. She has read about the courageous women who were self-reliant, daring and determined such as Susan B. Anthony who fought for Equal Rights, an important part of American history. This was one of Jenny’s Dreams, to make a difference in the world. There is one thing standing in her way of focusing on her dreams, though. She must learn to forgive and put her past behind her. In this story, childhood memories begin bothering her and she realizes that before she can choose which dream to follow, she must learn to forgive those who have wronged her. She learns that forgiveness is essential to our well being, that we’re only hurting ourselves by not forgiving. This story is about accomplishing one’s dreams and the miracle of forgiveness.
My new novel in this series, “David and the Bear Lake Monster,” is all about deep-rooted legends, long family traditions, a tender love story, the Bear Lake Monster and a few mysterious events. Deep-rooted legends, long family traditions, and a few mysterious events! Once again the Roberts family is reunited with David trying to solve personal issues and overcome his troubles! David quickly becomes one with the town and its folk and finds himself entranced with one very special lady and ends up defending her honor several times. She isn’t like the average woman. Sarah is different. This beautiful and dainty woman has a disability that no one seems to notice. He finds out that Sarah has gone through more trials than the average person. She teaches him the importance of not dwelling on the past and how to love life. After a few teases, tricks, and mischievous deeds, David begins to overcome his troubles, but will it be too late? Will he lose the one woman he adores? And how about the Bear Lake Monster? Does it really exist?
#3- How do you handle the negative reviews and critiques you receive?
That’s a very good question. Before my first book was released, I decided to do some research and check out comments that were made about my favorite authors. I went to Amazon and read a comment on one of my favorite books. The reviewer was insulting and said that the author really went down hill in his writing when he wrote that book because she could not connect with the characters and they seemed so fake. The next reviewer raved over the book, saying that she connected with the characters and they seemed so real. She loved the story. That was when I realized that people have so many different opinions. Some are insulting, others don’t recommend it, and some are positive.
Here’s another example. My first book, “Melinda and the Wild West,” won an award for Reviewers Choice 2007, so I thought it would get only good reviews. Not so! One reviewer said that it was slow and had too many historical accounts. (Shortly afterward, I found out this reviewer usually reviews suspense thrillers.) I read another review that raved over the Melinda book, saying that she couldn’t put it down and how intriguing it was. So you see, everyone has an opinion. The sad thing about opinions, though, is why can’t we be kind in our reviews? Why do we have to insult a writer?
#4- What inspired you to do your Family Legacy tours and can you tell us a bit about that? I became interested in teaching a Family Legacy Workshop because of my own experiences with writing my ancestors’ stories. As I put their lives down on paper, I felt real close to them. It was an awesome feeling. When I teach my classes, I tell my audience that it’s like Leon Garfield said, "The historian, if honest, gives us a photograph; the storyteller gives us a painting." I teach people how to paint, how to tell their stories.
I’ve had many people tell me that they didn’t even know where to begin. Writing was foreign to them and they needed help and how to go about it. I’m grateful for the opportunity I have to teach others in an atmosphere of a library. I’ve had many people ask me what a Family Legacy Writing Workshop is. It’s important to teach our children their heritage. Who are your ancestors? What were their traditions? Did they fight for a cause and what was it about? Each of us has a story from our ancestors or even our own story to tell. If these stories are unwritten, then how are your children going to know of their parentage? It’s up to us to write these experiences down. Turn your family history into a variety of interesting stories, something your children will be proud of. For a sample of what you can do with your family histories, you can read the short stories on my website at http://www.lindaweaverclarke.com.
#5- You also have a musical CD out. Can you share with us what that is about and how you came to do that? When I went back to college in 1998, I decided to major in music and theatre. In doing so, at the end of two years, I cut a CD of romantic love songs by Victor Herbert and Sigmund Romberg. Shortly after that, I tried out for a part in Guys and Dolls at the university, and low and behold, I got a part as the elderly missionary over the mission. Since I majored in theatre along with music, it really helped me to overcome a slight shyness that I had when it came to speaking in public. It sort of prepared me for what I’m doing now, teaching people and being interviewed over radio and television station. Little did I know that choosing this major would help me in my new career.
#6- Are there any upcoming releases we would like to know about, and could you give us your web site so readers can check it out? Yes, I have the last book in the Family Saga left to go. “Elena, Woman of Courage” will be released August 3rd, 2009. It’s set in the 1900s. It was a blast to research. I found out about 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, they were goofy. If a person was a fool, they were 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! It’s about a “Happy-go-lucky Bachelor” that 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. You can read an excerpt from each of my books at http://www.lindaweaverclarke.com/samplechapters.html.
#7- This about concludes it. Thank you again for joining us. Is there anything else you would like to share? To those who are interested in writing their own “Family Legacy,” I wouldn’t put it off. The importance of family legacy can never be over emphasized. I believe we are the people we are because of our ancestors. Who are they and what were their traditions? Did they fight for a cause and what was it about? Each of us has a story from our ancestors or even our very own story to tell. If these stories are unwritten, then how are our children going to know of their parentage? It’s up to us to write these experiences down. We must record and share these stories with our children.
There are just a few things to remember. First, collect your thoughts; write down any experiences that you remember. Talk to family members and discuss memories. You can make several short stories, making the history into segments. Or you can write the whole history as a continuous flow. Your children will want to know their heritage, what their ancestors stood for. Make your Family Legacy something your children will remember, something they will be proud of.
Emotion is one example how you can make your story come to life. It’s the secret of holding a reader, the difference between a slow or dynamic recounting of a story. When you feel the emotion inside, so will your readers. By giving descriptions of emotion, it helps the reader feel part of the story as if he were actually there himself. It helps us feel satisfied because we can feel what the character feels. Emotion is part of our lives, so why ignore such an important element in a story? But remember: Show, don’t tell.
If an ancestor had to defend her home from marauders, how did she feel? If she were frightened, then her heart would be pounding against her ribs. If an outlaw challenged your great grandfather, what were his feelings deep down inside? If he were angry, did his face turn red with defiance? If your grandfather was faced with a grizzly bear in the wild, how did he react? If he were shocked, did his face turn pale and was he trembling with fear? These are questions that you must research. Find out all you can so you can tell your story. If your ancestor didn’t record his feelings, then imagine what it would be like in a given situation.
For those writing their own autobiography, don’t forget descriptions of love. You know what it feels like to be in love or to be loved, so describe it. Tell how you met your husband or wife and how it felt when you realized you were in love for the first time. Did your heart swell within, sending a warm feeling down your spine, and making you feel as if life was worth living? Remember, emotions are part of life and can be an essential part of your story.
After finishing a workshop in Boise, Idaho, a woman at the Historical Society Library said to my daughter, who comes along to assist me, “I felt as if I had handcuffs on my wrists and your mother has just unlocked them.” I was so touched by what she said.
For a sample of what you can do with your family histories, you can read the short stories on my website at http://www.lindaweaverclarke.com. That will give you an idea of what you can do.