It’s interview day! I keep forgetting! Here she is, Caroline Clemmons.
Why do you write historical?
I love history. When I was a child, my favorite time was when my dad would tell stories about his family coming to Texas and the adventures they encountered in daily life. It seemed exciting to me, plus that time with my dad was special. That probably made history special. As a small child, I had loved Roy Rogers, so learning one of our ancestors was a Texas Ranger for a short time and another a sheriff impressed me. The first novels I read were historicals–Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain. Then I spent a time reading all the Nancy Drew mysteries with an occasional historical thrown in, but history remained important to me. After I had my fill of Nancy Drew, I always chose historicals over contemporary stories. Now, I read all over the industry, but I prefer writing historicals.
What part of the Victorian era/setting do you write in?
I love the entire nineteenth century and read voraciously from Regencies to Victorians. I especially love writing post- Reconstruction Texas, though, particularly the 1880’s.
What is it about the era that most intrigues you?
It’s less controversial to deal with because there was no slavery and the Civil War was over. At the same time, it was before telephones and autos so people on ranches and in small towns were still somewhat isolated. The stiff rules of city life back East didn’t apply as stringently. People were judged more by their character than their lineage. Families often had no one but themselves on whom they could rely. It was a difficult time, but one with considerable opportunity for those willing to work. It bred strong personalities and close-knit families.
Where do you get your information?
I’ve done extensive research, and have my favorite books to consult. I especially like a Texas book titled LONE STAR. It’s not as dry as many research books. Ha. In our area of Texas, I was fortunate enough to visit a ranch which has been in the same family since 1859 and have the book written by the current owner, THE PAINTED POST. This is about that ranch in North Central Texas, and the ranch house includes the original cabin structure which now is used as the home’s bathroom. There’s another family, the Kemp family, in our area who have an open house each spring when the bluebonnets are in bloom. They have the cabin built by the Shaw ancestor, and have moved in other homes representing each era up to a Craftsman type brick on the hill above the little village they’ve arranged. It’s like a little tour through the area’s history. The owner has furnished them with appropriate antiques for each home. I take every tour of antique homes in our area, visit ranches, do whatever I can to immerse myself in the history of Texas. Whenever I’ve travelled around the state, I’ve visited sites I’ve considered for a book. My family history has also helped me. When I’ve visited other areas in which my family lived, I’ve toured early structures, touched the hand-hewn planks, listened to the stories told by the surviving family members. History inspires me.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a book about an unusual heroine [aren’t we all?] who believes herself to be a klutz with no skills, but who learns she is an amazing woman who can adapt and defend herself. While her stepfather was alive, he protected her from his two sons, but now he’s died. Her two worthless stepbrothers have used her as collateral in a high stakes poker game and lost her to an evil man, and she’s on the run. She encounters the hero, obviously, or there’d be no romance. His past and hers are intertwined to add lots of complications.
How many books have you written?
Written or sold? LOL Different numbers.
I’ve sold three historical romances and one novella. I have another book on an editor’s desk awaiting her decision. I have several “under the bed” which will never see the light of day and several others I hope will sell eventually.
Do you write outside of the Victorian era, genre?
Yes, I’ve written the first of a series of contemporary cozy mysteries about a woman who manages her family’s garden center and landscape center, and have completed the first three chapters of the second book in that series. I also have the first of a second series about an eccentric mystery writer [pf course there’s no connection to me] who sees crimes everywhere and hope that will also be a series. I am plotting my marketing strategy now for those.
What challenges have you faced in your career?
The most damaging thing for my career was a really bad agent who almost killed my career. She talked a good story to me, but was not doing what she promised. She’s no longer approved by RWA, by the way.
I’ve also had periods of poor health, like the four month bout with pneumonia and bronchitis I went through this winter. For years, my mom depended on me for transportation and assistance and that required a lot of my time, but–sadly–she died last year.
One of the greatest challenges currently is the difficulty of breaking back in to publishing. There are so many good writers now, that it’s really tough for anyone who’s not sold recently and didn’t have a best seller or huge fan base to make a sale. I’m not giving up, though.
Conversely, my husband is very supportive, so he doesn’t mind when I desert housekeeping for the computer, and he’s a great help.
What is you writing schedule like?
It varies. Some days I can write ten pages, some days none. The most I’ve written is thirty, but it’s rare to have the stamina and uninterrupted time to get that many pages done. I like Merline Lovelace’s plan to do five pages a day. That’s doable.