Welcome to the 2nd featured interview on my blog. Today, author Lucinda E. Clarke is featured. I posed a series of questions Lucinda so that she can tell us about herself and her wonderful work. Lucinda has had powerful personal experiences and an interesting career both of which she draws upon for inspiration. Please join me in thanking her for sharing her story with us.
DM: What is the title and genre of the book you want to tell us about?
LC: I’d really like to tell you about all of them, and this is difficult as I’m just about to publish book #6 and they fall into 4 separate genres. There is the partly serious one about my mother who had a personality disorder, and two light-hearted memoirs in the Truth, Lies and Propaganda series about my career in the media. But I guess I should focus on my first in the Amie series, as she is my ‘marmite’ book. She’s also the book with the biggest number of awards, largest number of reviews and most often best seller.
DM: Can you summarize your book in one short sentence?
LC: Amie is a naive, newly married English girl who unwillingly goes with her husband to Africa, where she becomes involved with government forces and then civil war breaks out and she is left fighting for her life.
That is rather a long sentence isn’t it – sorry.
DM: Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?
LC: Anyone who enjoyed Wilbur Smith – two readers have compared my books to his – but also people who are curious about Africa, or who simply enjoy a good action adventure book. It’s not chick lit, even though Amie is the heroine, it’s suitable for men and women.
No, forget all that – anyone on planet Earth who can read English and has a few cents to spare.
DM: How did you come up with the title?
LC: Ah, I thought I was being clever here and after googling any books with that title – there were none, I chose her name as it would appear early on in the alphabet.
DM: Tell me about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?
LC: Peter Bendheim, my old boss in Durban South Africa, ran the Communications Department and is quite a famous photographer – he freelances for National Geographic occasionally – offered to find a suitable photograph and then he fiddled with it. I was thrilled with it. He also did the cover for the second Amie book.
DM: What are your biggest writing influences?
LC: This is really, really difficult. I was put off great writers at school, as many of us were. Later while writing educational radio programmes for the South African Broadcasting Service I had to write and dissect about a huge number of famous books and I would hate to choose any one. I suddenly found out why they had stood the test of time. I’ve been an avid reader from the age of 4 and I adore Jean Plaidy, William Harrison Ainsworth, Wilbur Smith, the early James Patterson, Len Deighton, Lee Child, Norah Lofts – actually the list could go on and on.
DM: Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
LC: I guess it has to be Amie, as she starts out as such a whining wimp. For the first third of the book you want to grab her by the neck and strangle her. But as her situation becomes more and more dangerous, she wises up and shows incredible strength as she struggles to survive.
DM: How about your least favorite character? What makes him/her less appealing to you?
LC: That has to be her husband. He does not play a large part in the book, but he’s shallow, not too endearing and, he has a secret that is not revealed until the second book. Personally I would have kicked him out years ago, but Amie hangs on in there and she’s marooned in Africa with him.
DM: If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be? Why?
LC: I would have shortened the beginning a little and made Amie a more likable character earlier on. I have always made this mistake in my writing, especially with the radio and TV scripts I used to churn out. I’d waffle on with uplifting and stirring words at the beginning, then realize it would over-run on time and then have to slice them all out again.
DM: Give me a fun fact or a few about your.
LC: I was about to wrap up Amie, an African Adventure – the full title – when I had reached 108,000 words, as I felt the story had been told. Then Amie took over and forced me to go on. It’s quite true she’s become one of the family and gives me a very hard time. In the end, I don’t write the stories, she does, and I’m simply there to tap the words onto the screen.
DM: What other books are similar to your own? What makes them alike?
LC: There are several other people writing about Africa, but the most famous of course is Wilbur Smith. How I wish I could write great family sagas as well as he does. Africa was an easy choice for me as I lived there for over 30 years. I think the background, the wildlife and the African people themselves set books apart. Another author who writes about Africa is Ian Mathie, and I adore his books, along with Alexander McCall Smith, although they are not in the same genre.
DM: Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?
LC: Survival, adaptability and a sense of humour. OK so it sounds ridiculous, but I’ve lived in 8 different countries, bred rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, dogs and a couple of children. I was left in the bush with my 7 week old daughter, I ran the worst riding school in the world, been a millionairess and a pauper, broadcast live with a bayonet at my throat, married a psychopath, was brought up by a mother with a personality disorder, and I hope I’m still relatively sane – well that’s what I tell myself.
DM: How can we find out more about you and your books?
I write a weekly bog, which is full of nonsense and rubbish and no one should believe a word of what I write.
There’s the web page, and huge thanks to Tom Benson for putting that up for me, and yes, I know I should but I seldom visit it.
You can find out more on my Amazon author page here
I love hearing from readers and other authors and all my details are at the end of every book. I always reply to readers, I love getting emails from them and often they are surprised when I reply. But without readers there would be no point in publishing, though nothing would stop me from writing.
DM: What can we expect from you in the future?
LC: Ah, now I am stepping out of my comfort zone and the next offering to the public is a political, politically incorrect satire set in Fairyland. It’s zany and a little naughty, though not porn or erotica. I’ll admit I dragged it out from under the bed last year and have revamped it and it’s just back from the editor. The working title is ‘Unhappily Ever After.’ A beta reader wanted to know what I was smoking when I wrote it.
DM: What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
LC: Tell everyone they meet about Amie – an African Adventure, then if they don’t rush out to get it immediately, do whatever it takes! Oh, and if anyone reading this has connections in Hollywood, it would make a great film.
DM: Do you have any advice for other writers trying to get published?
LC: Take all the advice you can. I’ve earned my living for over 30 years by writing for magazines, newspapers, radio and television and I am a baby in the world of books. Always help other authors. Read your work aloud and edit until you want to throw it out of the window. Take criticism seriously and be honest about your work. (Can you tell I also lectured in scriptwriting once upon a time?)
DM: Can you give us an excerpt from your book to intrigue and tantalize us?
She’d lost track of the time she’d been here was it a few days, or several weeks? As she drifted in and out of consciousness, she had lost all sense of reality. Her former life was a blur, and it was too late to mark the cell walls to record how long they’d kept her imprisoned.
This time, however, they didn’t turn left. They turned right at the top of the steps and pulled her down a long corridor towards an opening at the far end. She could see the bright sunlight reflecting off the dirty white walls. For a brief moment, she had a sudden feeling of euphoria. They were going to let her go!
She could hear muffled sounds and shouts from the street outside. It was surreal there were people so close to the prison going about their everyday lives. On the other side of the wall, the early morning suppliers who brought produce in from the surrounding areas were haggling over prices with the market stallholders, shouting and arguing at the tops of their voices. Not one of them was aware of her, of her pain or despair. Even if they had known, they wouldn’t give her a second thought. Why should they care? She didn’t belong here. Only a few years ago she’d never heard of them or their country. The sounds drifting over the wall that were once so foreign had become commonplace, then forgotten, and now remembered. She was aware of the everyday bustle and noise of the market, goats bleating, chickens squawking, children screaming and the babble of voices. But all these sounds could have been a million miles away, for they were way beyond her reach.
Hope flared briefly. Her captors had realized she was innocent. They’d never accused her of anything sensible, and she still didn’t know why she’d been arrested. She knew she’d done nothing wrong. Her thoughts ran wild, and she tried to convince herself the nightmare was over at last.
All the doors on either side of the corridor were closed, as they half carried, half dragged her towards the opening in the archway at the end. The closer they got, against all reason, her hopes just grew and grew. They were going to set her free. She was going home.
As they shoved her through the open doorway, she screwed up her eyes against the bright light, and when she opened them, it was to see they were in a bare courtyard, surrounded on three sides by high walls. As she looked around, she could see there was no other exit leading to the outside world.
Then she saw the stake in the ground on the far side, and brutally they dragged her towards it. She thought of trying to resist, but she was too weak, and there was too much pain. It was difficult to walk, so she concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, determined not to give the soldiers or police or whoever they were, any satisfaction. She would show as much dignity as she could.
The skinny one pushed her against the post, took another long piece of sheeting from his pocket and tied it around her chest, fixing her firmly to the wood. She glanced down at the ground and was horrified to see large brown stains in the dust.
Not freedom; this was the end. She squeezed her eyes shut, determined not to let the tears run down her cheeks, but the sound of marching feet forced her to open them again. She saw four more men, all dressed in brown uniforms, with the all-too-familiar guns who had lined up on the other side of the courtyard opposite her. They were a rough-looking bunch, their uniforms were ill fitting and stained, and their boots were unpolished and covered in dust.
She was trembling all over. She didn’t know whether to keep her eyes open to see what was going on, or close them and pretend this was all a terrible dream. She was torn. Part of her wanted it all to end now, but still a part of her wanted to scream, ‘let me live! Please, please let me live!’
The big fat man barked commands and she heard the sounds of guns being broken open as he walked to each of them handing out ammunition, then with the safety catches off, they shuffled into position.
To her horror, she felt a warm trickle of liquid running down the inside of her thighs. At this very last moment, she had lost both her control and her dignity. They had not even offered her a blindfold, so she closed her eyes again and tried to remember happier times, before the nightmare started. Briefly, she glanced up at the few fluffy white clouds floating high in the sky as the order to fire was given.
Lucinda E Clarke is pretending to be happily retired in Spain in a rabbit hutch with her adorable husband. In truth, she is beginning a whole new career in writing and marketing her books.
She had a miserable childhood with a widowed mother who suffered with a narcissistic personality disorder. This was theme of her first book – Walking over Eggshells – but it is a light and humourous look.
After training as a teacher, she moved to croft in Scotland – disaster! Breeding guinea pigs, rabbits, gerbils and hamsters for pet shops, puppies and and the first human baby.
Her husband took her to live in Kenya, and left her with a 7 week old baby in the bush while he flew out to work in Tanzania. She had no money, no food, no phone and no transport. There were tear gas riots in streets.
The following year they moved to Libya, where she taught, worked as a presenter on radio, on one occasion with a bayonet on her shoulder for 3 hours during a live broadcast.
Then she moved to Botswana, still teaching and also ran worst riding school in the world, half dead ponies, pony club book stuck down front of jodhpurs.
Moved to South Africa – Johannesburg. Fired from teaching post, no idea why, audition on South African Broadcasting Corporation – failed. Audition for SABC drama department, wrote own material, was told to go home and write instead of act.
Entered Radio Drama Playwright of the Year Competition – won. Began writing, bugged everyone trying to flood market with her various literary creations.
Hundreds and hundreds of radio scripts later she began scripting for TV, then slid into production work. Freelanced for several production houses and the South African Broadcasting Cooperation.
Moved again, this time to Durban, where she lived on boat in the harbour – it was heaven or hell! Freelanced for Durban City Council, writing and directing programmes for the Municipality, which included international conferences and major worldwide events.
She set up her own video production company making programmes for the corporate world, broadcast, advertisements and local and national government.
Retired to Spain in 2008 and began to write books. She also writes a column for a local monthly magazine and gives talks to local history groups.