A Conversation with Author Regina Clarke

Today in the Library we have Regina Clarke, who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into her life as an author.

You are very welcome, Regina, please introduce yourself:

Hi Pam—Thanks so much for having me in the Library! I’ve switched careers three times, but now spend my days writing—just a joy. First, I taught English Lit at a university and then worked as a corporate writer, which often meant moving house, which I’ve done to date (gads) eighteen times to three coasts and overseas. But it wasn’t until I left the corporate workplace behind (happily!), that time and space came into sync and I began to send my fiction out into this real world. That was in 2012, and since then my short stories have appeared in Thrice Fiction, Kzine, Bewildering Stories, Subtle Fiction, Mad Scientist Journal, Over My Dead Body!, T. Gene Davis’s Speculative Blog, and NewMyths, among others. At one point I wanted to be a screenwriter and was a finalist in the Hollywood SCRIPTOID Screenwriter’s Feature Challenge for my script about a mother seeking the disabled child she had abandoned, in “Second Chances.” I began Indie publishing my standalone novels in 2014.

Life includes creative friends and a brilliant, talkative, and very green eclectus parrot named Harry. Home (at last) is in the evocative and hauntingly beautiful Hudson River Valley. It pleases me no end to live not very far from where Rod Serling grew up and Jane Roberts encountered Seth.

Which genre do you write in and what draws you to it?

I write in several genres, but have been most recently drawn as a writer to the cozy mystery. I’ve read them all my life but didn’t plan to write one—my usual realms are sci-fi, fantasy, and standard mystery. But I entered a cozy mystery short story contest at Reedsy last December, just for fun. And won their prize—which astonished me! They posted my story on Medium.com and I pinned the story to my Twitter page after that, but when people said I should make it into a book—I just didn’t see how. For months it wasn’t even on my radar.

Then in mid-April, thinking about what to write next, I got this sudden—it felt like a download of a cozy mystery book series, based on that short story—and the plot for Book 1, the cast of characters, including making the main character an amateur archaeologist, the expanded setting of the town and valley, even the red herrings—all of it was clear to me. And within a week I’d set up a reader’s group, created a closed group FB page, and begun writing—it was such a sudden thing. One of my readers asked if she could create a map for the town I’d invented, so I said absolutely and sent her my PowerPoint version with streets and shops and landscape (I am no artist…J ) and so Book 1 has a great map because of her. Now I’m working on the next book in the series, called Messenger Out of Time. It’s set near where I live in a real place, an abandoned state hospital/insane asylum that Ria learns might have been built over a Neolithic village.

Are you an avid reader? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?

I read many genres but for a good while I’ve been focused on reading cozy mysteries. I especially like the Maisie Dobbs mysteries by Jacqueline Winspear that were recently recommended to me, and I have found them enthralling. I also like biography a lot, and alternate history.

Are you a self-published/traditional or hybrid author?

A long time ago I had some nonfiction traditionally published, but since 2014 I have Indie-published all my books. It is SO incredible and wonderful that writers have this option, this new world to create in, thanks to the platforms out there.

Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?

Oh, so hard to narrow it down. So many grand influences teaching me and reminding me of this creative force. I guess I’d best name the ones I look at as bringing happiness over and over again—Ray Bradbury, Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie, Shakespeare, Jane Roberts (her Seth books), Stephen Donaldson’s first trilogy, the Venerable Bede, Edgar Cayce, and no question, the Star Trek universe.

Has your country of origin/culture influenced your writing?

It has, a lot. I was born in England, though I grew up in the U.S. I had an ancestral background in England—I even found my name in a 12th-century charter (of course, it was the male Reginald Clarke, not Regina Clarke, who got mentioned in those days). I’ve visited England often and find there such evocative sense of my roots and of course, the mysterious landscapes of ancient monoliths, especially in Wiltshire and Northumberland and West Riding, Yorkshire. In the U.S. which I’ve travelled through a lot, I have this sense of expansion and open spaces and a different kind of heritage, one shifted out of what Longfellow called “the forest primeval” in a poem, speaking of a New England at the time still mostly unexplored. I feel a deep affinity for all the cultures here, for the music, and the sense of a creativity that seems to exist in the land itself. Both England and the U.S. show up in my writing, one way or the other.

What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?

That would be the element of logic—giving it a proper veneration in the plot! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to track turning points in Agatha Christie’s books to see how she worked it. And not just her—I do that with books by Carolyn Hart, Lynn Cahoon, and Kate Carlisle, among others, not to mention analyzing the plots of Murder, She Wrote, the television series. It helps me remember I really have to have it all make sense!

What was the best piece of writing advice you received when starting out?

It wasn’t “write what you know,” it was “write what matters to you.” My intent is for the stories and books I write to bring others a good read, a respite from the frenetic pace we sometimes live, and most of all, a path into other ways of seeing.

Do you have a favourite time of day to write?

I do—and discovered it is apparently embedded in me now. I write from 9:30 to 1 p.m., usually seven days a week. Afternoons for a couple of hours or in the late evening I’ll write my essays on Medium.com or edit my stories.

If you weren’t an author, what would you be up to?

I suspect I’d be a scribe in a monastery somewhere in a past life! In this life? I’d be an archaeologist, hands down. I’ve spent a lot of my life exploring quarries as a teenager and digs and monoliths in England and here.

If a movie was made of one of your books, who would you like to play the lead roles?

That’s a wonderful question—now I have stars in my eyes … I’d have Emily Blunt as Ria, Tom Welling as Gareth.

If you could live the life of an historical figure for one day, who would you choose and what would you get up to?

Merlin. Give almost anything for that. (Always better to say an “almost” when dealing with a real wizard…)

If you could travel back in time, what era would you go to? What draws you to this particular time?

The Neolithic period, 6,000 years ago. I spend a lot of time studying and imagining that world. I feel as if I know it, somehow. It played a big part in my novel The Magic Hour, and when I wrote that book I was so immersed I lost track of time completely. I’d give my eyeteeth to get back to the year 4000 B.C. and wander through the Avebury stones, among others.

You have been chosen as a member of the crew on the first one-way flight to Mars – you are allowed to bring 5 books with you. What would they be?

What would I choose? Wow. I’d have to say The New Testament. The Complete Plays of Shakespeare in one volume. Ray Bradbury’s October Country and Dandelion Wine in one volume. Melville’s Moby Dick, and Jane Roberts’ Seth books—these three in one volume: Seth Speaks, The Nature of Personal Reality, and The Unknown Reality.

Please tell us about your latest published work. 

HIDDEN IN STONE: On a cold March day, Ria Quinn, amateur archaeologist, arrives in Shokan Falls in upstate New York to claim an inheritance—but who was Aunt Harriet, her benefactor? No one she has ever heard of! Ria discovers there is a mysterious, prehistoric stone circle in the nearby woods that has an impossible connection to the girl’s boarding school her aunt attended thirty years before. Along with this, on her first day she finds a dead body in the snow, gets an anonymous call in the night, and encounters a set of quirky townspeople with too many secrets. How is she supposed to make sense of any of it? When a second victim is found, Ria wonders if she should just return to London, where until recently she had a lowly job as a film researcher with no dead bodies lying around, no real ones, anyway.

Yet against the sheriff’s orders that she stay clear of his work, Ria intends to find out who the killer is and what link the ancient stone circle has to her aunt’s past.

Hailey, the golden retriever who befriends her, is a joy to have near, reading Beowulf in Old English keeps her calm, and Ria finds the local sheriff more than easy on the eyes, even if he does find her irritating. Those things, together with the gorgeous and ancient Shawangunk and Catskill mountain ranges of the Hudson River Valley, already have a hold on her.

But Ria’s desire to get at the truth threatens someone in Shokan Falls, someone who is willing to put her life at risk.

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