The Last Rose: Wendy Clarke

My blog is all about writers and their journeys to becoming published authors. Normally I talk about my personal journey, but this week I am excited to introduce you to a different story. The story of a friend and fellow author I met via the internet’s thriving author community.

Wendy Clarke writes a great romance tale. Her first book, Room in Your Heart, is a collection of captivating stories that cannot fail to make you smile. In the interview below, Wendy tells me not only about her author journey but also about her latest projects.

If you have got a question you would like to put to Wendy, feel free to post it. I know that Wendy will be checking in here from time to time to respond.

Wendy Clarke      My interview with Wendy Clarke

Ben) So that we can get to know you a bit before we start, I’m going to fire a few quick-fire questions at you. Starting with your favourite author?

Wendy) Ann Weisgarber

Ben) Your favourite film?

Wendy) Life is Beautiful

Ben) Your favourite food

Wendy) Chilli con carne

Ben) Your favourite tipple?

Wendy) Red wine

Ben) You are a romance writer. What’s the most romantic place you have ever visited?

Wendy) Venice… oh, and the little Greek taverna on the island of Samos where my husband proposed to me.

Ben) And what’s your ambition as an author?

Wendy) To see my novel published and on bookshelves.

Your writing

Ben) Seeing your novel on bookshelves is my ambition too. Is your novel your latest project?

Wendy) I have got a few projects on the go. I have just finished putting together my second collection of short stories called ‘The Last Rose’. The theme is family and friendship and all the stories in it have previously been published in national magazines.

The Last Rose cover

Alongside this, I have been finishing my latest serial for The People’s Friend and have recently started writing my first novel.

Ben) You write lovely, atmospheric short stories. What are your top three tips for people who want to write short stories?

Wendy) 1. If you want to write for a magazine, make sure you read the guidelines carefully. 2. Try to think outside the box a little – editors are inundated with submissions so make yours stand out by being a little different. 3. Check your story has a strong ending. I’d also like to add another one: write from the heart – if you don’t love your story, nobody else will!

Ben) That’s a theme in my advice too. If you aren’t happy with what you are producing, then no one else will be happy when they read it. What, for you, are the essential elements of a great romantic tale?

Wendy) Your reader has to like and sympathise with your main character. Their emotions also need to be believable. Look deep inside yourself for memories of your own of love and loss and use these to make your characters’ emotions come alive. A great romance doesn’t necessarily have to end happily but there should always be hope or a sense of moving on.

Ben) What’s the nicest compliment you have been paid on work you have published?

Wendy) People have said some wonderful things in their reviews for Room in Your Heart but I think the greatest compliment was when my friend told me that my stories made her cry.

Your writing journey

Ben) What made you start writing?

Wendy) I started writing three years ago when the private school I was teaching in closed down and I was made redundant. I felt anchorless and had no idea what I wanted to do.

I was very lucky in that I had recently got married and my husband was very supportive, telling me that I should take my time to think about the future. It was my brother who suggested that I enrol in the online creative writing course he’d just completed – after all, I had been an English teacher. So I did.

Little did I know how much I would enjoy it – so much so, that I did a second course and when it had ended, I felt bereft! My tutor suggested I try writing for magazines and, with nothing to lose, I thought I’d have a go. I was very lucky to have stories accepted quite quickly and now I have sold over a hundred!

Liking a challenge, I then decided to try my hand at writing a serial. This was more difficult as I had to show the editors at The People’s Friend a synopsis first which meant I had to plan the whole thing out – something I’m not very good at! Luckily they liked the idea and I found the longer length fun to write. I have now written a second one for them.

Since then, I have joined the Romantic Novelist Association’s New Writers’ Scheme as I am in the early stages of writing my first romantic novel… so the journey is still continuing.

Ben) Other than the decision to write full-time, what was the most important decision you took in your writing journey?

Wendy) It may well be the decision to write the novel… but whether that decision will turn out good or bad is yet to be seen.

Ben) I’m sure it will be good! Can we get a sneak preview?

Wendy) I don’t want to jinx it by giving it away. Let’s just say, it involves two sisters, a beautiful Greek island and a mystery… oh and of course there’ll be romance in there too!

Connecting with Wendy

I hope you have enjoyed hearing from Wendy. I certainly did. If you would like to connect with Wendy directly, she has a great  blog, or you can find her on twitter @WendyClarke99 or on Facebook.

The Last Rose is available to buy on Amazon. The stories in this collection explore the intricate family relationships of thirteen ordinary people. In them, we discover the sorrow, love and joy that is shared… but not always spoken.

My brush with celebrity status

I was going to blog about new year’s resolutions, but as someone who had a few pints in The Ramblers Rest in Chipstead about 36 hours into ‘dry January’, I am probably best to steer clear of resolutions. That topic is so last year anyway, don’t you agree?

Instead, I thought I would bang on about my progress in promoting my book, ‘Six Months to Get a Life’ and my brush with celebrity status.

In the run-up to Christmas, I was frantically working through my list of potential reviewers for the book, emailing this devoted group of people, trying to convince them one by one to read and review my book rather than ‘Having Sex with Vampires’ by D Ranged or ‘Community of Death’ by Di Stopian. Shortly before midnight on 23rd December, after sending my one hundred and eightieth review request email, I turned off my computer and re-joined my family in Christmas land.

My festivities were fantastic, except for some not particularly community-spirited hackers who stopped my boys from going online to kill people and steal their cars. How inconsiderate of the hackers.

I returned to ‘author world’ the day after Boxing Day. As I sat down at my computer, I was pleasantly surprised that a) my backside still fit on the computer chair despite the recent over-indulgences, b) two top 100 Amazon reviewers had agreed to review ‘Six Months…’ and, c) my publicist had arranged for a journalist from an internationally renowned website to interview me. There was even talk of a television interview too.

Every author dreams about a big break. Could this have been mine?

Over the next few days I locked the kids in the front room with the dog, the Xbox and a couple of tins of chocolates while I marshalled my thoughts in advance of the interview. What unique insights and killer lines could I share? I prepared as I would have done for a job interview. Anticipate the questions, think of some examples and get some good one-liners in (I wouldn’t advise going overboard on the one-liners in a job interview but one or two show personality, don’t they?).

The day of the interview came. I tried to avoid mentally dreaming about my newfound fame (is an interview in a national paper enough to get me a place on I’m A Celebrity?) and instead concentrated on rehearsing a few pre-prepared lines.  It was only a phone interview but I dressed up for the occasion, using the rationale that if I looked good, I would feel good and therefore sound good too.

The phone rang at the appointed hour.  After introductions were made, the journalist broke the ice with a nice easy one. ‘Can I ask why you split up with your ex?’

She rapidly followed that up with ‘Are you dating again,’ and ‘What do you think it will be like having sex with someone different after being married for, like, ever?’

‘Six Months to Get a Life’ is about a dad who seeks to sort his life out following his divorce. There are some similarities between the book and my life, but essentially the former is fiction whereas the latter is fact. I repeatedly explained this distinction to the persistent hack, but my answers seemed to be falling on deaf ears.

‘What’s the best chat-up line you have used in the past few months,’ she tried.

‘I haven’t used any chat-up lines.’ My frown must have been visible down the phone line.

‘OK,’ she sighed, ‘what’s your attitude to internet dating?’

By this point, I thought I had better up my game slightly so I at least tried to give her an answer. ‘Well, before I met my wife I thought about trying it, but I chickened out in the end.’

‘Why?’

‘Because internet dating is for extroverts and perverts,’ I told her, ‘I am only one of those things so I gave it a miss’.

‘I met my husband through the internet,’ my ticket to national celebrity told me before hanging up. There goes my celebrity status.

Let’s end this blog on a positive and admittedly slightly self-congratulatory note though. Fanfare please. My book is available to pre-order on Amazon and other book sites. I felt very proud when I first saw the ‘buy’ page.

The early reviews, or at least the ones I have had sight of, are extremely positive.

And I read a tweet today from someone I have never met nor even communicated with before, who told me that she had pre-ordered the book and was thoroughly looking forward to reading it. Maybe my early marketing is having some success.

Happy new year to you all.