Welcome author C. Hope Clark to the blog with a great guest post and some info about her new book!
Crime Fighters Have Family, Too
By C. Hope Clark
When I began writing crime fiction, I studied the successful mystery and suspense authors who’d gone before me. After all, writers learn by reading, and most writers read a lot! I had a story in mind, semi-based upon an experience I had in my life, and I wanted to make it as realistic as possible.
I was offered a bribe once upon a time when I worked for the federal government. Out of the blue a client approached me, offering money if I could lie and forge papers so he could snare a piece of land. As required, I phoned the Inspector General that sent in one agent, then two, in order to attempt a sting and nail the guy.
In preparation for writing that story, I read Sue Grafton, Lee Child, Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler, James Scott Bell, and so on. There is no end to the list of mystery and suspense authors. So much to learn from. But when it came to one aspect of my tale, I fell short finding anything written that involved the angle I needed to pursue.
My character had a family.
Everyone has a family, you might say. Sure. But they aren’t part of solving the crime, so what do they matter? I felt they mattered greatly, adding to a character’s already heavy burden.
Sue Grafton stated in a presentation I was lucky enough to witness in person, “My character couldn’t have children. They’d just get in the way of crime solving.”
In reality, Sue Grafton grew up with alcoholic parents, and she pretty much raised herself from the age of five, growing up way too fast, maybe a little embittered with life. Her main character, Kinsey Millhone, in all the alphabet mysteries, was a loner, serious and focused. Her family died early on in a car crash, and she held no feelings for distant family, some she never met until she was in her 30s.
I sort of wished she’d given her character Grafton’s own childhood and dysfunctional family, giving her stories even more of an edge.
But Grafton, Kinsey’s creator, began writing in the 80s, when men ruled crime fiction, which means no family. The sleuths were divorced, alcoholic, and driven to spend 24 hours a day solving cases. So in order to break in, Grafton created a character that was basically a female gumshoe with pants, not much different than her male counterparts. I, however, began my stories 20 years later, when family dynamics took on a whole new meaning. I preferred breaking out of the stereotype.
When I endured my own bribery investigation, I had two small sons at home. After a day of hidden recorders, scripted lines designed to lead the bad guy into saying the right things, and eventually being stalked, I had to come home, praise crayon pictures, create a dinner that didn’t come out of a box, give baths, and read bedtime stories. A game face in the day and a mommy face at night. The required flip-flop in behaviors built up a stress all its own.
Having endured that stress, I wanted it in my stories. Not all crime fighters are single, divorced, or widowed. They all started younger, during child-bearing years, and if they are female, they were pregnant during those early years. It was time to see those facts in crime fiction, in my opinion.
So my heroine, Carolina Slade, opens in her first book Lowcountry Bribe (told you it was similar to my life) with a six-year-old son and an eleven-year-old daughter. Slade adores those children, but after the sudden bribe, she has to juggle an agent coming into her home, then leaving home pre-dawn so that her office can be wired for a clandestine meeting, and getting injured when the bad guy catches on to what she’s doing with agents. Then to top it all off, her family is threatened.
Nothing spurs a person to a new level of drive than to insert family in the mix. The odds change, the gloves come off, and the rules go out the window. That earnest fire-in-the-belly to protect one’s own is what I wanted in my character’s being. A loner has little at stake. A mother would tackle the world.
After succeeding at her first case, Slade graduated into a troubleshooter for her agency, facing crime solving alongside the federal agent she met in Lowcountry Bribe. And the children are still there. They might be secondary characters, but they matter to Slade, and therefore, her fans. And they aren’t just silent in the background either. Like in any family, there’re issues, and when Slade is in the thick of a case, those issues seem the most interfering.
Newberry Sin is Slade’s most recent escapade, and the issue of teenage sex comes into play atop her investigation into a blackmail/sex scheme. In the midst of checking out victims and suspects, Slade’s texted by her sister who’s concerned about the daughter’s new boyfriend, and the son’s vengeance against him hiding dead fish under the front seat of his car. Oh, and the discovery of a pregnancy kit.
Yes, crime solving is the key, and Carolina Slade is good at what she does, but throw her family into the fray and her focus at home competes with serious issues at work. She juggles, dances, and frets over how to split her time between criminals and children, even her boss and a best friend or two.
Being pulled in all directions. That is indeed how the real world functions.
And oh yeah, let’s not forget the federal agent, um, boyfriend?
BIO: C. Hope Clark’s newest release is Newberry Sin, set in an idyllic small Southern town where blackmail and sex are hush-hush until they become murder. The fourth in the Carolina Slade Mysteries. Hope speaks to conferences, libraries, and book clubs across the country, is a regular podcaster for Writer’s Digest, and adores connecting with others. She is also founder of FundsforWriters.com, an award-winning site and newsletter service for writers. She lives on the banks of Lake Murray in central South Carolina with her federal agent husband where they spin mysteries just for fun. www.chopeclark.com
Beneath an idyllic veneer of Southern country charm, the town of Newberry hides secrets that may have led to murder.
When a local landowner’s body, with pants down, is found near Tarleton’s Tea Table Rock—a notorious rendezvous spot, federal investigator Carolina Slade senses a chance to get back into the field again. Just as she discovers what might be a nasty pattern of fraud and blackmail, her petty boss reassigns her fledgling case to her close friend and least qualified person in their office.
Forced to coach an investigation from the sidelines, Slade struggles with the twin demons of professional jealousy and unplanned pregnancy. Something is rotten in Newberry. Her personal life is spiraling out of control. She can’t protect her co-worker. And Wayne Largo complicates everything when the feds step in after it becomes clear that Slade is right.
One wrong move, and Slade may lose everything. Yet it’s practically out of her hands . . . unless she finds a way to take this case back without getting killed.
Book trailer: animoto.com/play/xiGEHQRZLWWcrpPgHQgP4w
Amazon link https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07BYD5T4P/
Kobo link https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/newberry-sin
B&N link https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/newberry-sin-c-hope-clark/1128369562
Google link https://play.google.com/store/books/details/C_Hope_Clark_Newberry_Sin
Apple link https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/newberry-sin/
Review Link (Amazon) https://www.amazon.com/review/create-review/ref=?ie=UTF8&asin=B07BYD5T4P#
Author of the Landry's True Colors Series, the Cecily Taylor Series, the Star Series, and Dating the It Guy.