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?
Images courtesy of Roland Clarke. Please share responsibly, 2017.