An Interview with Caroline Clemmons

Josephine final 6X9What genres do you write in and why?

Although I’ve written in several contemporary genres, my favorite is western historical romance. I love history between the Civil War’s end and the turn of the century. Most of my books are set from 1870 to 1886.

What started me in this genre, I believe, is that my dad was a great storyteller and used to related tales of when his family came to Texas from Georgia in the 1870s and their misadventures in Texas. I loved those stories and have written down as many as I can remember for a book on his family. After you’ve grown up hearing tales like those, history comes alive and you can’t help loving the past.

How has your experience with self-publishing been?

I was first with a major NY publisher, then a lovely small press, and now I self-publish. I must say that self-publishing is by far the most rewarding both financially and emotionally. I can write what I want when I wish with no one trying to fit me into a mold or force me to write what they want. Plus, I make more royalties than I ever did with a publisher. For me, this is the perfect solution to publishing.

What advice do you have for other authors wanting to self-publish?

I was lucky enough to have a backlist when I started self-publishing. If an author wants to self-publish, don’t expect to see large sales on one book. Usually three are necessary to start seeing sales. The more titles you have and the more clever your marketing, of course, the more you’ll benefit.

Do you have critique partners?

I have wonderful critique partners and great plotting partners. Geri Foster and Brenda Chitwood are my main critique partners. Brenda isn’t published but she comes up with the exact perfect word when I’ve used a weak one and spots other inconsistencies. Geri holds my feet to the fire if my writing lacks emotion or conflict. My plotting partners are Geri Foster, Sylvia McDaniel, and Kathy Shaw. We each attended Robin Perini and Laura Baker’s “Story Magic” workshop at the same time and so we plot in the same way.  We need others with whom we can bounce ideas and those who will tell us if our story has missed the mark or we have weaknesses. Good beta readers also help.

How far do you plan ahead?

I used to plan one or two books ahead in the same series. Now I’ve learned to view the larger picture and I have ten to twelve books planned ahead. Having this schedule helps me focus and stay on track rather than goofing off when I finish one book. There’s always another waiting for me to write. I still manage to goof off occasionally.

Do you or have you belonged to a writing organization?  Which one?  Have this helped you with your writing?  How?

I wish I had joined RWA sooner and hooked up with a local chapter.  I learned so much from the speakers at my local RWA Chapter. I came from a newspaper background, which is very different from fiction writing.  We can read craft books, but hearing personal experiences and instruction from successful authors is immeasurably valuable. The only reason I still belong to the national RWA is so I can be a member of my local chapter.

Another value of writer groups is networking. For example: This worked for me, have you tried this, I don’t know what to do about this. At my current chapter, we have a program and brief meeting then all go to lunch together and talk and talk and talk writing and marketing.  If an author doesn’t have access to a local group, there are online chapters and workshops.

A third value to a writer group is human contact. Writing is a solitary profession. While sitting alone at a computer or laptop, a person becomes isolated. Being around like-minded people is energizing. My family is extremely supportive, but other fiction writers understand that there are people in my head talking to me and that doesn’t make me crazy. ☺ Other things may make me nutty, but not the people in my head.

Did you have several manuscripts finished before you sold? If so, did you send them out yourself?

Yes, the first book I wrote was so bad I’m embarrassed to think about it. The second, BE MY GUEST, sold thanks to friends in my RWA writer chapter (see question above). They shared their editor’s name and that she was looking for a particular type and length book for a new imprint. Current plotting pals Sylvia McDaniel and Kathy Shaw were two of those who shared and the other two were Carol Rose and Shayla Black.  Mine was too long and had crime in it, so I cut the crime, shortened it, and sold it. The result was really choppy in my opinion, but the result was I then a published author. When I recovered the rights, I added back the full story and like it a little better (but not much).  My third book, THE MOST UNSUITABLE WIFE, is the first one of mine I really liked—and still do even though I would reword a lot of the sentences now.

Let me say I sold without an agent. I have only briefly had one agent, who was approved by RWA at the time I signed with her. She was so bad she about killed my career and is no longer in business. A bad agent is far worse than no agent!

Will you share some encouraging words for authors still struggling for that first contract? 

Oh, yes, I have a lot of advice for struggling authors. If you would write even if you never made a dime, then don’t give up—that burning desire is the fuel you need to succeed. Hone your craft but don’t edit a book to death striving for perfection. We all should want our work to be perfect but the writer’s job is to get the words down, edit as best you can, and then send it to a professional editor. Don’t stop writing when the book gets hard—keep going to the end and you’ll be glad you did. Remember how important marketing is and work on your website, Facebook, and Twitter before you’re published. Always remember: don’t let anyone steal your dream!

Courting the West book bundle 10What does the future hold for you?

 Cynthia and I are in a box set titled COURTING THE WEST with eight other authors: Debra Holland, Kirsten Osbourne, Lily Graison, Jacquie Rogers, Sylvia McDaniel, Paty Jager, Merry Farmer, and Keta Diablo. The box set will be released October 15 with preorders beginning September 24. These are not new books, but we are boxing them together to get cross-over readers. All authors want more readers and more readers… ☺

In addition, I’m working on a new series, THE BRIDE BRIGADE, which has seven books about a group of women brought to Tarnation, Texas by a wealthy young widow so there will be other young families in the town.  I’m currently three-fourths of the way through the first, titled JOSEPHINE. I can’t help it, I just love the name Tarnation, Texas and smile each time I type it. You can’t see, but I’m smiling now.

What is your next project and when will it be released?

I was very fortunate that Cynthia invited me to be in a project about four brothers in Colorado whose mom writes away for mail order brides for her sons. This has been fun though difficult to coordinate between us yet should be fun for readers. The four books will release simultaneously September 22. The project is called THE SURPRISE BRIDES and the books are (in order of brothers’ ages) JAMIE by Caroline Clemmons (me), CALEB by Callie Hutton, GIDEON by Cynthia, and ETHAN by Sylvia McDaniel. The books are filled with romance, humor, and adventure. Angel Springs, Colorado is an inspiring place where dreams come true, at least or these four couples.

surprise_adHere’s the blurb from THE SURPRISE BRIDES: JAMIE

Olivia Stewart risks everything to accomplish her dreams. She’s tired of being pitied because she’s been jilted, tired of teaching other people’s children without any of her own. When she signs with a matrimonial agency, a letter from Jamie Fraser sounds perfect. A widower with two young children will give her a head start on the family she’s determined to have. But Colorado holds surprises for Olivia that endanger her goals and even her life.

Rancher Jamie Fraser is shocked to learn his mother has written for a mail-order bride for him! He has two children and no plan to marry again. Ever! His late wife taught him women can’t be trusted. Even his beloved mother isn’t above tricking her sons to achieve her heartfelt ambitions. Now he’s stuck with a wife he didn’t want—a stubborn woman bent on changing his home and his life.

Can two strong people at odds achieve happiness? Angel Springs, Colorado is a small town that inspires big dreams. Olivia and Jamie just might find their dreams meld to form a powerful and enduring love.

Here’s an excerpt from THE SURPRISE BRIDES: JAMIE

That night when Olivia and Jamie were in their room, she slowly undressed. All day she’d thought about what she would say. How naïve to think she could trust this man so easily. How stupid she’d been not to ask more questions before surrendering to him.

Somehow, she had the sense of having been cheated in the marriage bed. She had no real experience to go on because she had no one in whom she could confide. Judging by the novels she’d read, though, there should have been talk after their coming together.

She faced him. “Jamie, why did you go through with the wedding?”

He sat on the bed holding the boot he’d just removed then set it on the floor. “No choice.”

What a maddening answer. She wanted to plant her fist on his handsome chin. Instead, she took a deep breath before speaking and exhaled slowly.

jamie“Of course you had a choice. You’re the head of the family and could have refused and sent me back where I came from or set me up in town so I could meet someone else. Barring that, you could have paid me off and sent me to Denver. There’s always a choice.”

He shook his head as he started on his shirt buttons. “Not in this case. Any of those options would have caused talk. After you’d been here several nights, your reputation would have been compromised.”

“If I weren’t here, why would that matter to you?”

His hands stilled. “Ah, well, because Mama’s reputation would also have been damaged, as she pointed out to us boys.” He removed his shirt and hung it on the bedpost.

As she unfastened the ties of her petticoats, a horrible thought occurred to her and she froze. “Do you mean you don’t want more children?”

His powerful chest muscles rolled with a shrug. “Wouldn’t mind, now that we’re wed, but I was content with Jake and Cat. Matter of fact, earlier today I mentioned how nice life would be with us brothers taking our kids to visit with their cousins.” He stood and unbuttoned his pants.

She turned her back and slid off her clothes then quickly pulled on her gown. “Weren’t you lonely?”

Her back was to him and she couldn’t see his expression, but his voice sounded hard, “Look, Olivia, you seem like a nice enough woman, attractive, and intelligent. Sorry as I am you were brought here under false pretences, I don’t know what you expected to find.”

Again, she froze for a moment. He thought she was attractive? When she turned around, he was sitting up in bed with the sheet at his hips. How could she concentrate on the conversation with all those rippling muscles and skin in sight?

THE SURPRISE BRIDES: JAMIE will be available in print from Amazon and Create Space and in e-book from most online vendors September 22.

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