Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Author Interview: Linda Weaver Clarke

Socrates’ Book Review Blog is very happy to welcome Linda Weaver Clarke as our guest. Linda is the author of several historical fiction novels and is currently teaching a Family Legacy Workshop. She is a very talented writer and has graciously agreed to share her experiences with us.

Welcome, Linda. It is a pleasure to have you here and to be given this wonderful opportunity.

My first question is how did you first become a writer and who is your greatest influence in your writing?

It all started with my ancestors. They were my greatest influence. I decided that I wanted to write their stories so I went to the library and studied one book after another on the techniques of writing. Writing was something that I loved so it was easy for me to understand all the rules associated with writing. Then I went to work and wrote the biographies of several ancestors, including my own parents. Afterward, I couldn’t stop writing, so I turned to historical fiction. The first thing I wrote was a series of five books called, “A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho.” That was where my ancestors settled in the 1800s and they were among the very first settlers in Paris, Idaho. I thought it would be great to include a few family stories in these novels, giving these experiences to my fictional characters and bringing the story to life.

Where do you get ideas for your books?

From true experiences, from every day life, and talking to my husband! 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 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. How could I intertwine the two? So he said to me, “Then why not 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 semi-finalists for the “Reviewers Choice Award 2007.” It was my first book, so when I went back and reread it after writing 9 novels, I realized that my writing technique had improved with each book.

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, and that is why I felt this story needed to be told. Jenny must learn to forgive and put her past behind her. Of course, I add a little love story, but it’s not the complete focus of this novel. When she realizes that her kindred friend means more to her than she thought, then she 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.

What type of research goes into creating one of your historical novels? Do you prepare any kind of outline?

I put a great deal of research into my novels, and yes, I do use an outline. The subplot of “Jenny’s Dream” is about a ten-foot grizzly bear taken from Idaho history called Old Ephraim. The research about this old grizzly was exciting to me because I had grown up with the stories of Old Ephraim. He was also known as Old Three Toes because of a deformity on his foot. He wreaked havoc wherever he went, slaughtering sheep and calves, and scaring sheepherders so badly that they actually quit their jobs. He was the most powerful bear in history. With one blow of his paw, he could break the back of a cow. In my research, I found that he was the smartest bear that ever roamed the Rocky Mountains. No one could catch him. Every bear trap they set was tossed many yards away from where they had put it, and the ones that weren’t tripped had Old Three Toes tracks all around it. He was too smart to be caught. It took one man that could outsmart this bear: Frank Clark from Malad, Idaho! In this story, I included every detail about this bear and his deeds. Since my story is historical fiction and my hero is Gilbert Roberts, I renamed this grizzly “Old Half Paw,” in honor of “Old Three Toes.” To read an excerpt, you can visit my website at

In my research for “David and the Bear Lake Monster,” I found out that people really believe in this legend. The mystery of the Bear Lake Monster has been an exciting part of Idaho history ever since the early pioneers arrived in 1863. Some people claimed to have seen it and gave descriptions of it. The interesting thing is that all the reports have pretty much the same description. The monster’s eyes were flaming red and its ears stuck out from the sides of its skinny head. Its body was long, resembling a gigantic alligator, and it could swim faster than a galloping horse. Of course, it was only seen in the evening or at dusk. Throughout the years, no one has ever disproved the Bear Lake Monster. A bunch of scientists tried to discredit the monster and said it was a huge codfish that was shipped in from the East but could not prove this theory. Is the Bear Lake Monster fact or fiction? Whatever conclusion is drawn, the legend still lives on and brings a great deal of mystery and excitement to the community. The different accounts of the Bear Lake Monster are true, according to Bear Lake History.

Can you tell us anything about your latest book?

My great grandmother, Sarah Eckersley Robinson, was my inspiration for “David and the Bear Lake Monster.” I wanted to use her experiences for my heroine to bring some reality into my story. As a child, she lost her hearing but she never let her deafness stop her from living life to its fullness. Sarah was known as one of the most graceful dancers in town. She would glide across the floor with ease, with just a touch of her partner’s hand. She was so graceful that people actually threw 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. She was a beautiful and spunky woman and because of my admiration for my great grandmother, I named my character “Sarah.”

In my research about the “hearing impaired,” and talking to a dear friend who became deaf in her youth, I became educated about the struggles they have to bear. I didn’t realize that concentrating on reading lips for long periods of time could be such a strain, resulting in a splitting headache. After all my research, I found that I had even more respect for my great grandmother and her disability.

What is “David and the Bear Lake Monster” about? It’s about deep-rooted legends, long family traditions, and a few mysterious events! David quickly becomes one with the town and its folk and wonders why they believe in this Bear Lake Monster. It just has to be a myth. While visiting the Roberts family, he finds himself entranced with one very special lady and ends up defending her honor several times. Sarah isn’t like the average woman. This beautiful and dainty lady 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. And how about the Bear Lake Monster? Does it really exist?

What exactly is the Family Legacy Workshop?

I teach people how to write their family stories. 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? 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 at

How did you become involved with it?

When my publisher told me to get out into the public’s eyes and lecture about my books, I decided that I wanted to lecture about the one thing that is most dear to me. How to write your family history! I’m so grateful that I chose this direction because I’ve been able to help many people. The libraries sponsor my workshops and the 2-hour class is free to the public.

What exactly happens at one of your workshops? What is involved in the classes?

First, I tell everyone how to begin. For example, collect your thoughts, write down any experiences that you remember, and 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.

Second, we discuss the importance of research. Learn everything you can about the area, the time period, and any historical facts that you would like to add. Sometimes, what the country went through has to do with the circumstances of your ancestors. If they lived during the depression or war times, it helps your children understand why their grandparents had such tough times, why they barely made ends meet, or why they had to flee a certain country.

Find out everything you can about the area to both educate your readers and to make the setting feel real. Since the reader can’t be there physically, then perhaps they can be there mentally. If possible, go to the area you want to write about, walk around, find specific places of importance, where your ancestors lived, went to school, and played. If you can’t go there, then do research and find pictures of that area. Study books at the library or search the Internet.

Time Period is another important part of research. During the roaring twenties, bobbed hair was the rage. If your grandmother bobbed her hair and went to the dance marathons, write about it. If your ancestor loved reading books in the evening before retiring, it would be interesting to add what kind of light he used. Little details like this warms a story up and can bring your ancestor to life. Did he use electricity, candlelight, or an oil lantern? It sounds more interesting to say, “Grandfather sat in his overstuffed chair and read for hours with an oil lantern at his side.” Rather than just saying, “Grandfather read extensively before retiring.”

Do you have any specific stories about someone you helped that you’d like to share with us?

At the Idaho State Historical Society Library in Boise, a patron said to my daughter, who comes with me on my trips: “I felt as if I had handcuffs on my wrists and your mother has just unlocked them.” My heart was so touched by this statement.

In Shreveport, Louisiana, a patron wrote to a friend, and then e-mailed her statement to me: “I went to a 2-hr-seminar put on by Broadmoor Library. It was so interesting and I wish I had a video of the lady speaking; telling stories of her parents, grandparents, family, etc. What a brilliant lady who knows how to speak, write, motivate and bless people in all walks of life. I could listen to her all day.†It is just so uplifting.” Needless to say, it brought tears to my eyes, knowing that someone was motivated.

Where have you taught these workshops? If any of our readers are interested in one in their area, can it be arranged?

I have traveled to 13 states. You can go to my website at and click on “Upcoming Events” to see the list. Yes, it can be arranged. First, they have to find out who would like to sponsor this workshop and then get in touch with me. I can teach at libraries, universities, or wherever is best for the community.

Two different times I’ve had a professor attend my workshops. The second one raised her hand at the end of class and said, “I’m a professor at the University here…” At this point I gasped and thanked her for not telling me before class began. The class laughed and then she continued, “I just wanted you to know that I have attended many writing classes, but I learned more at this 2-hour workshop than any class I’ve attended. Thank you.” I was so humbled by her statement. I didn’t know what to say.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Yes. Use emotion in your writing. It’s the secret of holding a reader. 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. But remember: Show, don’t tell. To read more hints on writing, visit my Blog Spot at I publish a few articles about writing on that site, among other things of interest.

Linda, Thank you so much for taking the time to visit with us.


  1. Great interview :D
    It's fun getting to know authors and to see what advice they give

  2. great interview! its nice to learn a bit about the author behind the books.
    The Family Legacy Workshop sounds interesting.

  3. Thanks for such a fun interview. I enjoyed talking about writing and my inner most feelings. You know that's what authors do. We tend to open up our hearts in our writing and people can see into souls.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing with us Linda. I found this to be very interesting information.


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