Featured Friday! Regina Clarke
I call my website “Stories from an Unexpected Universe,” because that is how my stories appear and come into being, arising out of what is familiar and unknown at the same time.
Storytelling is an ancient tradition. My hope is for the stories and books I write to bring others a good read, a respite from the frenetic pace we sometimes live, and most of all, a path into other ways of seeing.
My short stories have been published in Thrice Fiction, Kzine, Mad Scientist Journal, Over My Dead Body!, NewMyths, Aurora Wolf, and T. Gene Davis’s Speculative Blog, among others. In the Hollywood SCRIPTOID Screenwriter’s Feature Challenge I was a finalist for my script about a mother seeking the disabled child she had abandoned, in “Second Chances.” MARI, a fantasy novel, was a finalist in the ListenUp Audiobook competition. Two mystery stories have each been featured and read aloud on The Strange Recital podcast in Woodstock, NY. The short story “A Matter of Time” won the Reedsy writing contest in December 2018. My nonfiction essays appear frequently on Medium.com.
When not writing, I follow my fascination for reading mysteries, watching film noir and 1950s science fiction B-grade (often C-grade) movies, visiting Neolithic sites, absorbing biographies of writers like a sponge, and feeling reverence for all wildlife. I have an absolutely brilliant green (and talkative) eclectus parrot named Harry. After working on both coasts, in Texas, and overseas, I call the historic and beautiful Hudson River Valley region home now, and it pleases me no end to live not very far from where Rod Serling grew up and Jane Roberts encountered Seth.
What’s your favourite part of the lifestyle of an Author?
The freedom! I spent years teaching English at a university, and loved working with the students, but academia was rather set in its ways. I then spent way too many years in corporate—but it was an eye-opener. Then every so often I’d take some months off and just write—I was in heaven! Alas, all too soon I needed an income and went back into corporate. But now—now I have the freedom of my own schedule. Not to mention all the rest that attaches itself to a writing career—production and editing and research and publishing—all of it is wondrous. I cannot take this freedom of time for granted. I value having it every single day!
What made you start writing?
Really, I have always written down stories, essays, ideas. Eventually thousands of pages year after year. I am beset with small bits of paper on which I’ve jotted ideas and stored them away. But there was a specific event when I knew this was all I wanted to do. It was a long time ago. I was living in southern California and each Saturday I’d take my fourteen-year-old son to his nirvana, which was an amazing arcade like some alternate reality near where we lived, and I would drive out to the Joshua Tree National Park, going through the Morongo Pass, to write. Two books began there, that I completed twenty years later: Force Field, and Retrieval, and a couple of short stories were set there later on. I still have notes from those visits where I’d sit on a rock near a Joshua tree and just write—with no idea what would come of it, but knowing I was so totally happy. No worries, problems, issues. Just in the present moment, doing something I knew I loved most of all. The feeling has stayed with me ever since.
Is there an Author that you consider your inspiration?
Many have inspired me. In the classics, Melville, Dickens, Shakespeare. T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets has had a great effect on me. Then there are lyrical writers like Pat Conroy and probably my all-time influence—Ray Bradbury.
What’s your number one tip for an aspiring Author?
Trust yourself. Trust whatever force is in you to write. Don’t let anyone try to stop you by commenting in negative ways. You must attend to your own work as an act of faith.
What type of book do you like to read and does this differ from the genre that you prefer to write?
Great question. Ray Bradbury was asked what contemporary science fiction writers he read and he said none because it was the writers much earlier who he had read and if he read the latest ones, they might over-influence how he saw the worlds he created. I feel much the same way. My early reading came from collections of science fiction stories from the fifties that were in second-hand shops, and from fantasy writers like Stephen Donaldson and Richard Matheson. So for leisure time (and escape) I tend to read mysteries set in the real world, instead of the genres I mainly write in. I have a marvelous list of favorite authors in the mystery genre. I give tribute to many of them in my note to the reader at the end of my short story mystery collection STOPOVER and Other Stories for a Rainy Night. But my books are mostly science fiction and fantasy.
Which one of your characters would you most like to spend time with?
I’ve never considered that one before. I guess I could say Enya in Voices from the Old Earth, and Maeta in Guardians of the Field.
Which book do you consider a must-read?
What’s been the hardest edit that you’ve had to make? Why did you want to keep the material in?
SELA, Book 1: The Abyss. I began that story while travelling by train between home and South Station in Boston in 2008. I spent two years on it. It was such a part of my life, my psyche, because for an hour each way I was absorbed in the writing, and the sound of the train on the tracks was a comforting sound. At first, no one used cell phones. Gradually everyone started to—there is nothing more distracting than a one-sided conversation (or 20 of them!) within earshot. I began driving to work, and that book went into limbo. But the feeling of it stayed. When I started looking at it again in 2014, I knew I had to make it a novella, not a novel, and would have to take out the first three chapters. I loved those chapters. They were a part of why I had begun the book in the first place. It was very hard.
If you could live in a book, which one would it be?
The small town in The Magic Hour… Your questions are not standard interview queries—they are rather fascinating. I’m learning what I think as I answer them!
If you could pick an Author to write your biography, who would it be?
Anyone I want? Okay–Shakespeare, in the form of a play…
Is there any conflict between what you want to write and what you think your readers will like?
Oh, that idea is always beckoning. Should I write something else closer to this author or that one who are getting great sales? But that path, that kind of thinking, can stop the writing cold. A friend of mine calls it “comparisonitis”—the deadly effect of thinking you have to switch gears—when in truth you need to trust your own voice, no matter what. You just have to do that. In an old video I saw on YouTube, Stephen King was asked in an interview why he was writing a particular book with such a strange premise—the interviewer was referring to Christine. King looked at him and said “You make it sound as if I had a choice.” King wrote what he was inspired to write and trusted that. He had to write for himself first, not his audience.
What effect can a review have on you, if you read them at all? Both the good and the bad.
Good ones, a thrill. Bad ones, I want to delete them, and earnestly imagine somehow persuading Amazon or an aggregator to let me! But the feeling doesn’t last long. We have to feel what we feel, being human, but also we have to let what is worrisome go. So within a few minutes the effect of a worrisome review is gone. With great relief…
Can you sum up your life story in ten words or less?
Loves writing, sparkly things, and lively conversation.
What’s exciting you about your next project?
I have five, in varying degrees of actual progress. But right now, I just discovered an old manuscript from six years or so ago that I wrote in longhand on yellow legal tablets, using both sides of the paper, notes added and scribbled throughout. I have no idea what it is about, but it appears to be well on its way to being a whole book. So my next immediate project is to read it and see.
And finally, you have one quote to be remembered by, what is it?
From a Seth book by Jane Roberts: “Life is an infinite series of probabilities.”
Thanks to Regina for those great and thoughtful answers! Hopefully you all enjoyed this interview as much as we did.