I am a big fan of C. Hope Clark and have been following her for more than a year. Her newsletter is full advice for writers and includes 75+ paying opportunities in each issue. She is smart, savvy and prolific writer who’s life style and advice is both practical and timeless. She has graciously allowed me to interview her about her work and generously shares her ‘secrets’ to success.
C. Hope Clark was born and reared in the South, from Mississippi to South Carolina with a few stints in Alabama and Georgia. The granddaughter of a Mississippi cotton farmer, Hope holds a B. S. in Agriculture with honors from Clemson University and 25 years experience with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to include awards for her management, all of which enable her to talk the talk of Carolina Slade, the protagonist in most of her novels. Her love of writing, however, carried her up the ranks to the ability to retire young, and she left USDA to pen her stories and freelance.
Let’s Welcome C. Hope Clark.
1. As a successful writer and entrepreneur what have you learned about yourself in the way of your capabilities and creative evolution?
What a strong question! Actually, I’ve learned that I cannot ride on the waves of fads, and that all I accomplish is from my proactivity, not chance. My writing gets better because I fight to learn how to make it better. Every time I pick up my work, I study it for improvement. I read my genre intensely, seeking what makes for success in successful books. My promotion is only as good as I make it. Slow and steady actually can win the race. When I thought I could not keep going is when I made myself stay in front of the screen and work through it. But I am as good as I make myself. Worrying about the odds, or fearing rejection, or wondering if I can make a living at this, will only sap energy that could be used in moving forward. I love to write. It’s as simple as that. So why should anything get in my way to do so?
2. Do you recommend writing about what you know and what you are interested in to put in a story or non fiction piece?
I believe in learning how to write before you get overly active moving outside your comfort zone with the material. That means in your early days, you write what you know until you’ve honed your voice. That way you’re not going nuts balancing finding the voice AND researching the material. Then as your writing grows, your research and subject stretch grows as well. Writing isn’t one of those endeavors you just decide to jump into and then see if you can swim. It’s a ladder, and you have to climb one rung at a time.
3. Was there ever a time where you wanted to give up and how did you keep going?
There were moments, and there still are moments. I had one just two weeks ago. Keep in mind that nobody really “arrives.” It’s a continual journey with no end. Everyone has bad days along that journey. Novels are draining and time consuming, and when readers don’t give reviews or the feedback is silent, you wonder if you’re scratching the surface and making any difference. Or pre-getting published, you wonder if you are wasting your time trying to be a writer. Happens to everyone. I think I kept going via stubbornness. I’ve always been a person who hated to be bested, hated failure. If I have a bad day, I make myself write through it. That’s what’s great about journaling or even blogging (if you don’t whine). Having shoulder of at least one person helps. They help put your irrational thoughts into perspective.
4. How were you inspired to create FundsforWriters?
I went into FundsforWriters kicking and screaming, actually. I was writing mystery, hoping to leave the day job one day. But I was also freelancing, writing online, which in the late nineties, was a novel concept. Nobody understood that writing for the web and for print were entirely different. Somebody saw my name on a site, asked me to speak to their writer’s group. I did, and the subject morphed into a talk about writers being broke. In my day job, I managed an agency’s budget and had advised loan and grant clients, so I slid into my day-speak talking about earning money and managing it and how there were grants, contests and freelance markets for writers who were trying to write books. The emails started pouring in as a result, and I created a newsletter to answer all the questions once a week, so I could write my own work. The readership exploded in a few months, then a year, to where it is now. I interpreted it as a higher power telling me to use what I know to get my foot in the door and my name known as a writer. It worked. FFW is now 15 years old and 40 plus thousand readers, and Writer’s Digest has selected it in its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 14 years.
5. What are the best ways to network and get the word out about ones work?
There is no best way. That’s what’s so great about this profession. It’s pure freelance and creativity, down to and including the promotion. If there was one best way, everyone would be doing it. You define your strengths, your writing goals, and your style, and then you set up the networking and promo. Because it’s not what you do but how intensely you do it. There are a lot of people going through the motions out there, but few show the passion. Passion is a drug, for the writer and the fans. Everyone wants a taste of it to feel more alive. So decide how you want to make a name for yourself and go at it like gangbusters. Stay hungry.
That said, everyone needs a home base online, and the way Facebook changes all the time, sabotaging how many of your fans can see your posts and vice versa, I suggest that home base not be social media. Website or blog. Where can people find out about you, and use that link in everything. And draw it up professionally. If your site and blog look cheap and homespun, guess what . . . that’s how your writing will be perceived.
But your personality and voice are as important as the quality of your writing. Be seen. Promote daily. I believe at least 25% of your writing time should be spent in marketing. Consider speaking. Guest blog. Respond with very intellectual, well-thought out responses on others blogs. Get busy in the forums about your genre (the readers, not the writers). It will feel like nothing is happening, and it might take a year or more, but you do it daily.
And word of mouth is so important. Don’t be afraid to admit you are a writer, and don’t be afraid to ask others to talk about you.
6. I understand Low Country Bribe is loosely based on your real life experiences and meeting and marrying your husband. That is really romantic. Are all your mysteries based on your personal experience?
No. That history was the catalyst for the series, but the rest of my fiction is just that, made up. Sure, I insert memories, experiences, pieces of friends and family in the mix, but that’s how any author writes. But I love it that people cannot tell the fact from the fiction. That means I’ve done my job well.
7. What is your typical day like?
I like my days loose, so they might change. The only thing that doesn’t change is that when I have ten minutes to write, promote or answer email, I am at the computer off and on day and night. I rise late, around 9-10 AM because I write into the night. I answer email (which takes a while) which might include interviews like this or doling advice to someone with a question or problem. I might work on the FFW newsletters. In the afternoon, I go to the gym, garden and/or tend my chickens. Then dinner, often on the back porch overlooking the lake with my husband and dachshunds. But then it’s back to work finishing work on FFW, marketing/social media, then at night I write fiction. Admittedly, I’m a mystery addict, so I have my certain TV shows where hubby and I try to dissect the stories. We compete on who can solve the crime first. But deep into the night, I write hard. How many words depends on whether I have a deadline, but do a lot of guest blogging (usually written in the day) and I’m trying to write two books a year now. Trying is the operative word there, because I haven’t quite met that goal yet.
I do this 7 days a week, but admittedly, my light day is Saturday. The newsletters are out and there’s less email, so I often work less those days.
8. Is there anyone who inspires your writing?
I love reading great writing, and I take notes all the time. I love all sorts of mystery writers, but the best overall writer whose prose I think sings is Pat Conroy. Other writers include Lee Child, Lisa Gardner, and whoever I’ve discovered lately. It’s a moving target. But I write my way, and I never keep someone in mind as an idol. I don’t want an idol. I want to just write better.
9. Are you working on anything new?
I am always working on something new. A serious writer ALWAYS has an active project. I just turned in a completed manuscript for a book coming out in September. I’m writing the first draft of the one behind it. I’ve outlined another to come behind that one. If you want to be a serious writer, you write all the time. Anyone waiting for the muse, or such bunk, is making excuses. Writing is a job, a profession. You don’t choose what days to go to work.
10. What advice would you like to share with new writers?
Get serious. Write daily. Fight to learn something new about writing constantly. Edit until your eyes bleed, then get others to edit your work after that. You are seeking perfection, though nobody ever achieves it. Readers can tell when you’ve invested yourself in your work. Each edited word matters. Writing is either a hobby or a profession, and there’s nothing wrong with either one. Just know that your success is contingent upon your focus, your time invested, and your goals, because it takes all three of those to make your writing better.
Thank you Hope for sharing the essence of your life and work ethics and dream of being a writer. You are certainly my inspiration.
Hope is a special person who has made it her burning desire to act on her dreams. That’s what life is all about. Hope barrels through any obstruction that gets in the way of her dream and is extremely successful at it. Hope has generously shared how she lives that dream. Take her advice seriously and you will be living your dream too.
To learn more about C. Hope Clark and her work visit these websites:
—www.fundsforwriters.com and www.chopeclark.com .
C. Hope Clark author of:
The Carolina Slade Mystery Series, Bell Bridge Books
Editor, FundsforWriters, http://www.fundsforwriters.com
Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers, 2001-2014