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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Author Interview: Christine Clemetson

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Christine Clemetson, whose debut novel A Daughter’s Promise is available from The Wild Rose Press and which is soon to be available in print.

Christine told me that her dream of writing stories began to emerge when she was a child and would spend hours reading the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene and the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. “Their stories swept me away,” she said. “I wanted to write the kind of story that leaves the reader not wanting to put out the light at night.” She told me that she wrote her first story on lined paper when she was in the second grade. “Then I asked my Mom to staple the pages together in a booklet,” she recalled. “I read it out loud to my friends in a ‘stage’ setting. I knew then how happy it made me. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else!”

As an adult reader, she discovered authors like LuAnne Rice, Nora Roberts, and Mariah Stewart. “Their stories are rich in emotion,” she shared. “I’ve learned from reading these authors, that in order to evoke real emotion from the reader, you must feel that same emotion as you’re writing it.”

As a matter of fact, she’s recently read a book by LuAnne Rice called What Matters Most. “I started the book on a vacation,” she said. “The story grabbed me from the start and didn’t let go throughout the whole week. I won’t give away the plot, but I will say that if you want a story that tests the limits of love and devotion, this will do it. Rice’s style is so comfortable—the stories make you feel as if you were right in the room with the characters, experiencing what they do.”

Characters in books can be very powerful and one thing Christine has discovered through her own writing is how the characters can take charge and begin to tell you the stories. “Recently, I was writing a short story,” she told me, “and my heroine, Helen, stepped into my head and said, ‘Excuse me. I want to...’ And that was that. She became her own person. When that happens, it feels like you truly know the characters.

Christine shared with me, though, that one thing the characters don’t tell her is the title to their stories. So, she has to ask her family or friends to help her come up with a name. “My current book, A Daughter’s Promise, didn’t have a name until I was ready to submit it to a publisher for the first time,” she confessed.

Another confession from Christine is that she has a unique way of dealing with the problem of finding the exact word for a sentence. If she can’t find the exact one she needs, it’s simple. She just makes a word up. “I’ll turn a noun into a verb, or an adjective into an adverb, whatever fits the sentence or scene,” she told me. “I usually go by the sound. My critique partner had a good laugh over this. When I’m working on my final draft, I’ll see if these words fit. Usually, they don’t, so I have to re-think passages.”

On a personal note, I asked Christine if she’d ever eaten a crayon. Her answer was very appropriate, given the holiday season. “I’ve never eaten a crayon myself, although the beautiful colors in a new Crayola box are tempting!,” she said. “They resemble the colors of those twinkly lights you put on your Christmas tree—one of which my brother ate one when we were kids. Time stood frozen when he asked my father, ‘Hey Dad, what would happen if you ate a lightbulb from the Christmas tree?’ After a trip to the emergency room, we had a nice Christmas after all.”

She also admits to tearing up during movies. In fact, during her first date with her husband, he took her to see Rocky IV, where Apollo Creed is killed in the fight with Drago. “Since it was my first date,” she explained, “I didn’t want to cry, and even thought I tried to hide it, I couldn’t help myself. Nineteen years later, and we still laugh about that one!”

Christine definitely considers herself a night person, claiming “David Letterman and I have become great pals.” She also told me that Saturday Night Live is her favorite late night show.

She does have an interesting way of drinking soft drinks. She can tell the difference—prides herself on being able to distinguish between them, in fact—and prefers Coke hands-down. However, she told me, “It has to be warm. No refrigeration or ice before drinking.”

On a final note, I asked her what advice she would give to a new writer. “Keep writing and come up with a writing schedule,” she said, “even if you only get to jot down a few things in a day, or think about a scene or plot point. If you prioritize writing, it becomes a part of your routine, improves your craft, and moves you closer to your dream.”

You can keep up with Christine Clemetson on her website.

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