Today we welcome author Linda Weaver Clarke. Her book, Melinda and the Wild West was chosen as a semi-finalist in the 2007 Reviewers Choice Awards in the Reader Views Literary Contest. Her latest book is titled, David and the Bear Lake Monster: A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho. We’ll talk to Linda about her work, some of the other amazing projects she’s involved in and what her fans can look forward to in the future.
Welcome to The Book Connection, Linda. It’s wonderful to have you here. Let’s start off by having you tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
I was raised on a farm surrounded by the rolling hills of southern Idaho and have made my home in southern Utah among the beautiful red mountains. I am happily married and the mother of six daughters and several grandchildren. I travel throughout the United States, teaching a “Family Legacy Workshop” at libraries, encouraging others to turn their family history and autobiography into a variety of interesting stories.
When did you first begin writing and when did it turn into a career choice?
I have always loved writing but I didn’t really do anything about it until my children were mostly raised. When my youngest was in high school, I finally sent my work to publishers. After about a year of searching, a publisher finally got in touch with me and I signed a contract.
How many of your books have been published?
Seven books have been published but the last two won’t be released until the professional reviewers have reviewed them. That’s their policy.
Tell us about your Family Saga in Bear Lake Valley series.
I love inserting real ancestral or family experiences into my novels. To me, their experiences have always intrigued me. It brings a story to life. In my family saga series, I have set my story in Paris, Idaho. It’s the place my ancestors settled in 1863.
Where did the inspiration for these books come from? Did you plan them as a series when you began that first book? My inspiration came from true experiences and every day life. After discovering how much fun history was in this area, I decided to make it a series. My first book, Melinda and the Wild West, was inspired by a true experience that really happened within my family. A former teacher labeled a young girl as a troublemaker and put her behind some bookshelves so she wouldn’t be a menace to anyone. I told my husband that I wanted to base my story after this experience, teaching others that negative labels tear down and positive labels build up, but I also wanted it to be a love story. After discussing it, he said to me, “Then have this young girl be a child of a widower.” Thus, my story began to unfold. This book eventually won an award as one of the top ten semi-finalists for the “Reviewers Choice Award.”
In Edith and the Mysterious Stranger, I based this story around the courtship of my parents. They didn’t meet the conventional way. They wrote letters to one another before they ever met. She said that she fell in love with the soul of my father, what was deep down inside 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. I knew this would be the basis of my next novel, but there’s one difference. In my story, you don’t know who the mysterious stranger is until the end of the book. Some readers guessed correctly while others were pleasantly surprised.
Jenny’s Dream was inspired by events that happened to me in my youth. I learned that forgiveness was essential for true happiness and well-being. I have a lot of myself in Jenny. She must learn to forgive and put her past behind her. While Jenny is trying to pursue her dreams, she realizes that her kindred friend means more to her than she thought. He isn’t the stereotypical handsome man that writers portray. I believe it’s important to get to know a person deep down inside first, to get to know a person’s inner soul. That’s what matters. Now Jenny has to make a decision whether to follow her dream or matters of the heart. This story is about accomplishing one’s dreams and the miracle of forgiveness.
My great grandmother, Sarah Eckersley Robinson, was my inspiration for David and the Bear Lake Monster. Sarah lost her hearing as a child but she never let her deafness stop her from developing her talents. I took a lot of her experiences from her biography and gave them to my heroine to bring some reality into my story. Sarah was known as one of the most graceful dancers in town. She was known for gliding across the floor with ease, with just a touch of her partner’s hand. Sarah had such agility and gracefulness while swimming, that people would actually throw coins in the water so they could watch her dive after them. Once an intruder hid in her bedroom under her bed, thinking he could take advantage of her since she was deaf. He must have thought she was an easy victim but was sadly mistaken. She swatted him out from under her bed with a broom, and all the way out of the house, and down the street for a couple blocks, whacking him as she ran. What a courageous woman!
What was it like to have Melinda and the Wild West be a semi-finalist in the 2007 Reviewers Choice Awards? Did you do anything special to celebrate?
Oh my! I never expected it to win because there were hundreds of books to consider. Since I was a first time author and it was my first book, I was surprised. I remember feeling stunned at first and then I called my husband. We had a delicious meal that night and he prepared it.
What about book promotion? What have you done to promote your books in the past and what are you doing to promote David and the Bear Lake Monster: A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho?
Interviews from radio and TV stations are the best promotion. Being interviewed online is very good, also. It’s a good way to spread the word.
Let’s move away from your books for a minute and talk about your workshop. You travel all over the United States with your Family Legacy Workshop. Why don’t you tell our readers a bit about this.
It’s important to teach our children their heritage. Who are your ancestors? What were their traditions? 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. For a sample of what you can do with your family histories, read the short stories on my website.
And this workshop is totally free, correct?
Yes. The libraries sponsor it and it’s free to the public. If a library has a supportive Friends Group, they try to give programs like this to their community.
Do you have people from all walks of life attending these workshops?
Yes. The ages have ranged from ten to ninety. All ages have attended this workshop. I’ve also taught the bereaved and the abused as part of therapy. Writing helps to express one’s innermost feelings. To write can be a healing process.
What is it that motivates you to keep traveling and offering free workshops to people?
The comments that people make! That’s what keeps me going. For example: At the Idaho State Historical Society Library, a patron said to my daughter who travels with me: “I felt as if I had handcuffs on my wrists and your mother has just unlocked them.” That’s only one comment out of bunches that I get, and every time it touches my heart.
How would a library go about contacting you to host a workshop for them?
The Adult Programming Director usually e-mails me and I arrange it with them.
Is this also where they can order copies of your books?
Yes. They can also order them from Amazon or any local bookstore that orders from Baker and Taylor.
What is up next for you? Any exciting news your fans can look forward to?
Elena, Woman of Courage is the last in this series and should be released soon. It’s set in 1925. 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 or romance, 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” who 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. With the 1920’s rise of women’s rights, this novel gives you an insight at the struggles women had to go through, while watching a young love blossom!
Thanks for spending so much time with us today, Linda. We look forward to seeing you again when your next book comes out. Good luck with your work!