The Story Behind My Blog's Title

The Story Behind My Blog's Title
Why is my blog named "My Father's Oldsmobile"? Click on the car and find out.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Author Interview: Linda S. Clare

I'd like to welcome Linda S. Clare to my blog today. Linda's new book, The Fence My Father Built, has outsold all other Abingdon (the book's publisher) titles on paid Kindle downloads. (I got a copy) So congratulations to Linda! Now let's hear about you and your book.

For starters, would you please tell us a little about yourself?

I was born in the desert of Arizona, but secretly loved the lush green of the British Isles. I read every English author I could find—even did my senior class project on John Donne. Now I live in the lush green of Oregon (which is similar in climate to UK, they tell me) and I write about life in the desert of Central Oregon. Along the way, I’ve had a career as a public school art teacher, directed a preschool and operated a daycare from my home. Oh, and don’t forget the four children, including twins, a patient husband and too many cats, dogs, hamsters, mice and lizards to remember.

You're an animal lover like me, I see. When did you first become interested in writing?

Since I was a sickly kid who had to miss a lot of school, I amused myself by one-handedly typing out (I am a polio survivor who can use only one arm) stories on a huge black Underwood typewriter given to me by a great-aunt. Mom and my teachers encouraged me by submitting some of the stuff to children’s magazines. I didn’t publish until I was 16, though—I sold a poem to a national publication and got three dollars for it.

That's really inspiring! Can you tell us a little about the ups and downs on your journey to publication?

After that first sale, I didn’t get so lucky again for a long time. You know that 10,000 hours of practice we hear about? I’ve done mine. After high school, where I was an editor of the newspaper, I stopped writing for years, too busy teaching and too sensitive to critical college professors. Then, when my twins were about 5 years old, I started the daycare because child care was too expensive to pay on 4 kids. I had up to 8 young ‘uns, and I’d get them all down for a 90 minute midday rest in the living room, zip around the corner to the kitchen and type standing up. By now, I had an electric Royal typewriter, which I set upon my stove top. I stood up because it helped me peek around the corner in case a tot was stripped naked and running around. Which happened frequently. Fast forward several years and I finally published nonfiction books with some friends. Then, finally in 2009, my first novel, The Fence My Father Built, was published by Abingdon Press. Whew. My wonderful editor, Barbara Scott believed in my story, and I’d finally learned enough to write with skill. I am a perfect example of how the three Ps: Practice, Patience and Persistence pay off. Or maybe I should call one of the ps Prayer.

Lol! Or just make it four P's. That'll work. How do you approach a new project? Do you research and plot before you write? Or do you have a general idea and just go to it and see where it leads?

I’m pretty much a seat-of-pants writer, although I know the general arc of the story. I often begin with a question. What would happen if character A had this problem and wanted X? Sometimes I stumble upon a story by thinking about someone I’ve observed and wondering how they got that way. Kind of a reverse plot.

People are interesting though, so you have to wonder. Tell us about your latest release?

The Fence My Father Built was released in October 2009. It’s about Muri Pond, who’s always longed to know her biological father. But she’s too late—Joseph Pond, a half Nez Perce Indian, has died and left her property in the high desert of Central Oregon. She’s shocked to find that’s a ramshackle trailer surrounded by a fence made out of old oven doors. Since Muri has lost her librarian’s job and her husband has left her, she must rely on her father’s sister, Aunt Lutie and her dad’s journal to find out who he was and why their conniving neighbor is trying to take over. With help from Aunt Lutie and the Red Rock Tabernacle Ladies, Muri rediscovers the faith her alcoholic father somehow never abandoned. Although it’s been out awhile, they tell me it’s doing incredibly well for an old title. I recently had a free Kindle promotion on Amazon and it resulted in more than 20,000 downloads. I got to be number one on Amazon, which was fun.

That's a lot of downloads! I was one of them. I feel a little guilty and think maybe I should send you a few bucks.

I have to say, word of mouth can be really powerful promotion, which is the idea behind the free Kindle downloads. But it also puts the book in the "hands" of people who may not normally read the genre, and sometimes this can result in an onslaught of negative reviews. The Kindle group are voracious readers and can be harsh critics, but I noticed that The Fence My Father Built is bringing in some great reviews from this crowd. Congratulations on that too.

What inspired you to write this story?

I was adopted by a step father early in life, but never stopped trying to find out who my bio dad was. When my adoptive father passed away, I felt free to pursue this longing. Like Muri, I just had to know. Unlike Muri, my bio dad is alive and lives in Arizona. But bio dad is also part Cherokee, which I only learned when I located him in midlife. It feels good to know my roots. Sure, there are things I wish I didn’t know, but I could never stop looking.

Can you give us a little history on the characters, including how you developed them , and what endears them to you?

Teenaged Nova, Muri’s daughter, is based upon a girl my eldest son once dated. She died tragically of a drug overdose, but she was smart, funny and prone to having multi-colored hair, just like my character. Aunt Lutie’s appearance is based upon a neighbor of mine, but her personality is similar to my adoptive grandmother Gypsy, a devout Southern Baptist. Muri is a librarian because I come from a family of educators, and my aunt retired as head librarian of a large Phoenix-area school district. I take the things I love (or not) about people and I strongly believe in writing composite characters. If you lift your characters too much from life, they tend to limit what you can write. What “really happened” pins you down.

Plus it might come back to haunt you if someone figures out one of the characters is based on them, and they don't like how they're portrayed. That's not to imply any malicious intent. Everyone has flaws, but we'd rather not read about them. Though, it's funny, because our flaws are often the very thing that endears us to others, and them to us. It helps us to relate. Even more-so to characters in a story, because no one's perfect and reading about the things that make us human is comforting -- let's us know our struggles are normal, and not beyond God's Grace.

Sorry, I went off on a mild tangent there. Back to you. What do you hope to be able to accomplish through your writing? Any long term goals?

(Muffled laughter) I want to write a bridge, a story bridge that connects me to you the reader. If you set foot on this bridge of story, I will try my best to meet you more than halfway. I hope readers who cross this bridge will see the love of God in every step.

My long-term goals are always about the next book, the next challenge. Right now I have finished an edgy novel called Hiding From Floyd. It’s edgy because it deals with grief after the accidental death of a child. It’s about the strange younger brother who survived but who refuses to speak about his possible part in the tragedy. It’s about how we grieve, how we heal, how God can redeem even awful things like losing a child.

Wow! That's a tough topic. Any ideas for future projects?

I’m about a third through an historical “western” that’s set in the 1880s. Right now it’s called From Where the Sun Now Stands, and it’s about a young woman, Dinah Clark, who is sent to the Presbyterian Mission to the Nez Perce Indians in Idaho. There, Dinah meets the colorful McBeth sisters, real life missionaries who bicker over everything and yet have hearts for the souls of the “heathen.” Dinah has a penchant for falling in love with the wrong man. This is a love story about survival, redemption and listening to God’s still small voice.

Now for some fun stuff. What's your favorite movie, food, and place to vacation? And also, any interesting hobbies to share?

My favorite movie(s) are kind of silly: I love Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, The Goonies, and Far and Away. More recently I really liked Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino and Avatar. I love Mexican food and vanilla wafers (not at the same time!) and for a vacation it has to be the ocean, especially the Southern California coast and Baja. My husband was born and raised in San Diego. Hobbies include reading (natch!) gardening and walking, preferably the beach.

Other than your book, do you have any recommendations you'd like to pass along?

I recommend anything by Tom Davis, and I simply loved The Help by Kathryn Stockett. My only other recommendation in general is if you want to write, read everything you can and write as often and as much as you can. Don’t try to write well. Just “junk it through” as the famous Ken Kesey once said, and go back later and fix it.

I post writing tips on my blog, Linda Clare’s Writing Tips, ( and I’m happy to answer any writing questions you may have. Or you may contact me on Facebook, Twitter (@Lindasclare) or by email: Thanks, Shawna, for having me on.

You're most welcome Linda. Love to have you back in the future!

BIOGRAPHY: Linda S. Clare grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and taught art as well as elementary school in public and private schools. She has published four books, including her debut novel The Fence My Father Built (Abingdon Press 2099). She has won several fiction awards, teaches college writing classes and works as a mentor and editor. Her husband of thirty-two years and their four adult children, including a set of twins, live in Eugene, Oregon, along with five wayward cats, Oliver, Xena Warrior Kitty Paladine, Melchior and Mamma Mia!


  1. I read this book! I checked it out from our library. It appealed to me becasue of the cover, all those car hoods made into a fence. Very interesting, with great characters. I also recently read "The Help" and could not put it down. I applaud you, working hard and perservering to overcome difficulties that might otherwise render you withdrawn and uninvolved. Thanks for a wonderful interview, Shawna. Celia

  2. Hi!
    I'm one of the people who downloaded the Kindle book, so it was nice to learn more about it. (Haven't got to read it yet, but I'm looking forward to it.) How wonderful that it isn't a new release but is still having a strong shelf presence. Congratulations Linda, and nice interview, Shawna.


  3. Hi Linda,
    I read your book and thorougly enjoyed it. I just read it on my Kindle. I'm glad it's done so well for you and congratulations on your wonderful success with it!

    By the way, loved reading about your home daycare. I had a small preschool in my home when our children were young.

    Great interview, Shawna and Linda!


1970 Olds 442


If you're curious about the story behind the name of my blog, click on the car. :)