Turns out Roland Clarke and I have being lackluster riders who love horses dearly in common. This marks the last in a year-long series of interviews with Idaho authors. It also marks the final author interview that will appear on the Word Bank blog. All good things must come to an end, and now that I’m only posting twice a month, I’ll be focusing on posts in the editing, writing, publishing, and marketing categories. I’m also taking a couple of weeks off. See you in 2018!
Official Bio: I am a retired equestrian journalist and photographer who used to contribute articles and photos to Eventing Magazine and other equestrian media. I was also an event organizer. Sadly, Multiple Sclerosis clipped my wings, and I was unable to meet deadlines or get to events easily.
However, in 2009 I found the love of my life, Juanita, and she inspired me to rise above my MS and finish Spiral of Hooves. In 2016, we moved to Idaho to be with Juanita’s family, having briefly lived in Harlech, Wales. We made the trip by sea and road to Boise with our two dogs, Quetzal and Treeky.
I was educated in the UK and Canada. After a stint as a sub-editor on The Field, I enrolled in a journalism course in Toronto. Back in England, I set up an equestrian photographic business. Later, I marketed organic fruit and vegetables, then made short films and videos before returning to equestrian journalism.
Author Interview: Roland Clarke
1. Please provide a brief synopsis of your most-recently released book.
SPIRAL OF HOOVES by Roland Clarke [Soft-Boiled Mystery genre]
In Canada, researcher Armand Sabatier witnesses what could be the murder of groom Odette Fedon, but traumatic images from his past smother his memory, and a snowstorm buries the evidence. Harassed by nightmares but fighting through them, Armand remembers the crime a few months later. By then he is in England, where he is dragged into a plot involving international sport horse breeding.
Suspecting everyone around him, Armand is forced to brave the past that he has kept buried. But what made Armand leave France? Where did he learn to survive and fight for justice? Why is the English rider Carly Tanner treading the same path as the first victim, Odette?
Can he save Carly before he has more blood on his hands?
2. Tell us a little bit about what motivates or inspires your writing.
My need to write began as a child when I created stories in my head and later, on paper. Most of these were ‘what if’ situations–usually involving my toys. That approach evolved in my teens into writing a few sci-fi stories as I tackled more complex thoughts. I added mystery ‘what if’ stories some decades later, when I had been a writer for some years.
I became an equestrian photographer and journalist in my late teens, motivated by my need to turn my passion into a job. Other passions took me into other jobs in later years, but when I retired aged 52, as multiple sclerosis (MS) made my job difficult, I was back working as an equestrian journalist-photographer. The passion for horses–despite being a terrible rider–and my experiences, inspired my debut novel, Spiral of Hooves.
To me, writers fulfill a valuable role. We are artists in that we can produce great words and tales that not only entertain, but also inform and invoke thoughts that can create new ideas. My writing is sometimes inspired by reading other writers.
3. As an Idaho resident, what do you most enjoy about living here?
As a newcomer to Idaho–only arriving in Boise on October 1, 2016–I haven’t had a chance to explore the state yet. I was sick for part of 2017 and was diagnosed with blood cancer–stage zero but a worry. Health issues impacted what I could manage. But I discovered that health care in the city can be excellent. I know that there will be great benefits from living where we are on the edge of Boise and Meridian.
My wife Juanita’s children and their families all live in the Treasure Valley, so the first pleasure has been having them around. I visited a few years ago and got to enjoy floating the Boise River, as well as watching the Balloon Fest. There are many things to look forward to like fly fishing, visiting the Owyhee Mountains where I have an endurance rider friend, eating a Basque meal, and going camping at McCall.
I also need to visit the Moscow-Troy area since part of Tortuous Terrain, the sequel to Spiral of Hooves, is set there on a horse ranch. The Nez Perce land also appears in my alternative history, Eagle Crossing in which the Vikings settle in North America and ally with the indigenous tribes.
4. Describe some highlights of Idaho’s literary community.
As yet, I have been unable to take part in any of the activities–mainly because of my health. I am also in a wheelchair and dependent on my wife or others to get me around. The irony is that I’m active online but mainly in the writing community where I lived ten years ago. I’m sure that will change as I find my ‘wheels’.
5. What is the name of your blog and what can readers expect to find there?
My blog called Writing Wings has evolved as I connected with other writers online, partly through the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) and also via various Facebook groups. Although, I have attempted launching a newsletter that has not yielded many supporters, even though the blog has 1,895 followers. I need to find a way to resolve that.
6. What does your drafting and/or editing process entail?
Although most of my draft novels have been plotted in various levels of detail, my writing tends to be sporadic. Not so much because of a lack of motivation, but because of frustrating distractions, especially the vagaries of a chronic illness. However, if I manage to ignore everything–from emails and social media to health symptoms–I can write 2,000 words per day as I did with NaNoWriMo during November 2017. When I have ideas, I let them develop in my head or scribble a reminder down–my memory is poor due to a combination of age and MS. Some ideas grow, and I get the urge to write a first draft, so I have at least eight-draft novels and numerous-draft short stories marinating.
Writing is less of a problem than the editing. My editing is slow–and at times, I am unsure when I have finished so I keep revising. I have a few online beta readers through the IWSG’s critique group. We exchange critiques, and for Gossamer Flames, Book 1 of a post-apocalyptic saga, they were extremely useful–although I have shelved the project pending the fifth revision to address some basic errors. I have found some other readers to address the diversity issues in my current series, Snowdon Shadows.
I also have professional editors that I turn to in the final stages of projects. That usually motivates the next stage, but I face a major re-write on my second-written mystery as a POV change was recommended. I try to self-edit to minimize the mistakes – and save money. I am using Janice Hardy’s Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft, and intend using a self-editing program called Fictionary–created by my successful mystery writer friend, Kristina Stanley.
7. Are you traditionally published or self-published?
Initially, I was fortunate to have a contact with a small press. So, the first edition of Spiral of Hooves was published as an e-book by Spectacle Publishing Media Group and they supplied editors, formatting and a cover, while we jointly promoted the book. When they changed hands, I got the rights back so re-edited the novel with a structural editor and a proofreader, addressing issues including readers’ concerns. I had the novel formatted for a new e-book and for a paperback, with a new cover from a great cover designer, Jonathan Temple. Spiral of Hooves was re-released on August 7, 2017.
If I had the finances, I might consider going the self-publishing route again using the same team. However, there are several small publishers that I have good contacts with, so approaching them would be my first choice. The positive experiences of other writers attached to these successful ‘stables’, prompts me to choose this route where there is strength and encouragement in the mutual support of fellow writers.
8. Can you offer one or two helpful tips for fellow writers when it comes to marketing and publicity?
After only one release, I hesitate to give tips on marketing and publicity. I am a relative newcomer in that area, so I tend to be guided by more experienced writers. I believe that maintaining some sort of blog and a presence on social media is crucial, although I have yet to master the art of attracting newsletter readers.
The best advice that I have received, is to write the best book possible and not release it until it has been professionally edited plus has a cover that attracts readers. A good book leads, hopefully, to good reviews and those can generate sales–more than a social media presence.
9. What future projects can we look forward to?
Although I have various first drafts marinating in safe places, I am focusing on Fates Maelstrom, the first book in the Snowdon Shadows series, which features Goth Welsh detective Sparkle Anwyl and is set in North Wales, where my wife and I briefly lived.
Basic hook: When a Romani girl is accused of murder, Detective Constable Anwyl is assigned to the investigation as she speaks some Romani–and knows the community. Beyond the main crime plotline, the novel tackles issues of racism and identity. While the Rom face prejudice from certain outsiders, Sparkle struggles to balance her Welsh chapel upbringing and her sexual inclinations.
Book 2, Seeking A Knife is already partly written and continues to develop the same themes of crime investigation, prejudice, and complex relationships. Book 3, Ruined Retreat was my 2017 NaNoWriMo novel and the first draft is complete. Again, this is a police procedural that tackles racism and sexuality, and throws in the twisted motives of a serial killer.
10. Is there anything else you want your potential readers to know? What passions drive your life?
Though I’m a terrible rider, horses have always played a part in my life. So, they feature in my novels–not just in my specific mysteries with equestrian themes. I like to slip in scenes with horses, without straying from the plotlines. That probably applies to the number of journalists and photographers that creep in. I also try to use settings that I’m drawn to and in most cases, have lived in, like Quebec and North Wales–hence Idaho has sneaked into two draft novels so far.
An ongoing experience that assists my writing is the escape that I find in online gaming. Two marinating novels arose from that. I’m amused when male players assume I am female because my avatar is female–so they flirt with me. After the first few incidents of mistaken identity, I began to explore this in my writing.
Who is that other person on the internet? If a person dresses smartly and talks posh, does that make them trustworthy? Is that man what he seems, the one struggling to ride or ski but absorbed in books? The two guys together–what are they, who are they? Why can’t those two women be together and lovers? How do you react to a figure wearing studded black leather and riding a motorbike–especially when she removes her helmet? If someone isn’t talking English, what do you think?
Never judge a person in my writing by the way they seem at first glance. Appearances can be deceptive.
Is there anything else you’d like to know about Roland Clarke?
You can connect with Roland Clarke on his author website. Please consider taking a minute to explore Spiral of Hooves on Amazon.
Images courtesy of Roland Clarke. Please share responsibly, 2017.
Spiral of Hooves sounds like an interesting book, one I’d enjoy reading. 2,000 words a day is impressive, even if that doesn’t happen every day. I love the line “Never judge a person in my writing by the way they seem at first glance.”
Thanks, Donna for reading the interview and picking out that line. It can sometimes apply to real life.
I’m sorry to see the end of the author interviews, but this was a great one to end with. I’ve been a fan of equestrian lit since I first read Black Beauty as a kid. This one sounds fascinating! Here’s to a happy, healthy New year!
I was honoured to be the last of the interviews, Meredith, and I’m pleased to find another equestrian fan. Happy 2018,
Great interview… “Spiral of Hooves” sounds like a good reading (I love the cover too!).
Interesting to meet Roland and learn how his passion for horses led to photography and writing. I like what he says about writers fulfilling a valuable role as artists and creators of words and tales…. Very inspiring reading. Love & best wishes, dear Jeri. 😉
Thanks for the praise, Aquileana. I was very pleased with the cover designer’s creation – fits well with the novel.
Glad you were able to get the rights back and publish it yourself.
Hope you get out and explore the area more this coming year. Prayers for your health, Roland.
Thanks, Alex. Your words always uplift me.
Inspiring to learn about Roland here, Jeri. Like they say – all good things come to and end, and new beginnings! I look forward to your writing posts in the new year. Enjoy your time off, you more than deserve it. Go on now and celebrate your life! Wishing you a beautiful Christmas and only good things in the new year and on. <3
Thanks, dgkaye, for commenting. Jeri, deserves her time off and a special 2018.
Nice interview, Roland seems to be an interesting and inspiring person. Thanks for introducing him to us Jeri. Wishing him great success with his book.
Wishing you Merry Christmas and a joyous end to the year dear friend. Enjoy your holidays! 🙂
Thanks, Balroop, for the uplifting words – I’m blushing.
Enjoyed Roland’s interview, Jeri. He’s had quite an interesting life! Congrats on the completion of a very interesting author interview series.
Thanks, Doreen. Interesting and varied seems to be the life if I look back. I hope 2018 brings interesting and meaningful things to us all.
Enjoyed this. Good job as always Jeri and fun to get to “know” you Roland. Best wishes and happy holidays
Great to hear from you, Julia. Best wishes to you too and seasonal greetings – Nadolig Llawen.
I must get my hands on this book!
I too have a love for horses which is slightly odd as I generally do not like animals. Horses are in a league of their own. I dream of owning a horse and stables.
I like the fact that the author has opened up about his battles with MS. The tip about writing the best book you can stands out to me. I would rather spend a decade writing an excellent book than churn one out in five years which is mediocre.
Thrill with the read and enjoy the ride when you get your hands on the book, Phoenicia. I suspect that interviewing people that compete despite disabilities, inspired me to fight my MS openly. And yes, taking time is important and it is rewarding to know readers appreciate time well spent. (I hope my book lives up to my hype.)
Great final author interview here, Jeri! Roland, it’s wonderful to learn of your book and become acquainted through your answers posted here 🙂
Thanks, Christy. It’s great to be here and to connect with more people.
Equestrian intrigue! Sound pretty interesting. Have a good holiday. 2018 will likely be a better year.
Pleased you find equestrian intrigue interesting, Ken. There could be more to come.
Have a happy & healthy 2018 and may it be filled with great fiction!
And all the very best in 2018 for you, Candy. We all need good health and great fiction.
Although I have more than a few stitching scars on me from various horse riding events (never say accident–haha), I still like the beasts and love reading stories set around them. Yes, I am a Dick Francis fan. I’ll certainly check out your book, Roland, and wish you well settling further into the writer’s community in Boise.
Jeri, this series has been great. I’ve discovered some writers I keep in my queue!
Scares not real scars in my books, RoseMary. My scars are from skiing, although my most painful equine encounter was when interviewing a rider and her horse stood on my foot. Thanks for the settling in wishes. Enjoy your reading queue.
Sounds like a fascinating plot! While it’s been too many years, I used to absolutely love riding horses. My best friend’s family owns a riding stable near Sequoia National Park and every Friday after work I headed up there to spend the weekend riding in the mountains and just working with the horses. Ah, such wonderful memories. But back to the book, I’m definitely going to take a closer look, thanks!
I may have been a terrible rider, but I have some good memories too. Horses have that power. Hope you enjoy what you find in my book, Marquita.
It’s always interesting to read about an author’s path from inspiration to publication. My interest in horses only extends to admiring their beauty from a safe distance, but your equestrian mysteries sound fascinating.
I can relate to that ‘safe distance8, Rhonda. I learnt to be careful around horses as an ‘amateur’ rider that horses with attitude dealt with by disobeying or ignoring. I let the experts tackle the hard stuff.
Since I began writing medieval, posts and novels, I have become such a fan of any dealing with the aspect of horses.
From equestrian riding, to being a farrier, the whole culture and discipline is impressive. I can see writing about this topic could open any concept of a novel, from a mystery to fantasy.
I must say I like your tip about having the novel professionally edited, this can be a step missed by many author’s, and it is a vital one.
Great to see the medieval connection is there, William. It’s too easy to forget the role that horses played in the past – and in other ‘worlds’. That’s why I tend to slip them in wherever I can whatever I write. As for the professional edit, that is so important, even if it can cost – but it’s worth it.
Great to see you here, Roland! It was a good interview. I hope things start looking up in this next year, and you get to do some of that fly fishing. 🙂
Merry Christmas, Jeri!
Greetings, fellow Treasure Valley writer. Hope next year is better for you too, Loni.
My sophomore year in high school, I went to a school that had a big horseback riding program. To this day, I’ve never been on a horse. But I used to take lots of pictures of the horses for my photography class. So I appreciate having a love for all things equestrian, even if not a rider.
Sounds like Roland isn’t letting MS get in his way. One of my husband’s best friends has MS and is in a wheelchair as well. Wishing him well with his health and with his novel.
Many thanks, Erica, for your good wishes. I was better with a camera than on a horse, although my hands are too unsteady these days to take photos.