How an Author Works by Hope Clark

I’m a mystery author, which means I dig deep into my head to pitch tent and remain for hours, days, months or more. Authors become their characters. It’s not too unexpected to find me writing late into the night, because there I can experience the anger, hurt, and tears my characters do. That’s when the world quiets, and reality and make-believe can intertwine and seep as some sort of hybrid onto a page. Parts of my books I cannot differentiate between life and fiction.

All my stories take place in South Carolina. In my prior life on a time clock, I worked and traveled in every single county, so I know it well. However, I never knew how much setting meant to my writing until I tackled my most recent book, and via some subconscious need, placed my character on Edisto Beach.

Crossing that bridge . . . oh my, it’s like sliding through a time warp where clocks don’t matter and you have forever to sit on the sand and marvel at what God hath wrought. Deadlines, social media, bosses and turmoil just slide out with the tide, and if you’re lucky, they never come back. Just ask the natives who have all left another life behind, never returning to their pasts.

By choosing Edisto for my current mystery, I fed the creation of a character. A girl running from overbearing parents. A Southerner hiding up North. A detective who enjoyed being in control, and paid a price for it. A wife who lost her husband. A mother who lost a child. A person so badly broken from life that she needed a haven to simply learn how to open her eyes in the morning and continue living.

Yes. She needed Edisto. I needed Edisto.

Retreats abound for writers. Places where they can escape from the real world and tap into their talents without family, friends, and phone. They return energized, gifted with wonderfully fresh ideas for their stories. Southern author Karen White runs off to the Florida panhandle. Karin Slaughter built a cabin in the mountains, and E. B. White a cabin on the shore. In New York, there’s a place called The Writers Room where writers can grab a desk and create amidst all the other writing creativity in the air. Then there’s the proverbial coffee shop, which is more of a writer’s haven and less of a cliché than you may realize. Libraries, of course.

My haven is my study, in my house. A map of Edisto is taped to my wall, snapshots of the surf and marsh on my screen. Shells on my desk. But at any given time, when I feel that the salt spray no longer clings to me as intensely as I need it to, I drive 150 miles to Edisto.

And I don’t write. I absorb. I sink into Callie’s head and enter her world again.

And she enters mine.

And we tell stories.


Hope Clark is mystery author of Lowcountry Bribe, Tidewater Murder, Palmetto Poison, and her newest release, Murder on Edisto. She lives on the banks of Lake Murray in central South Carolina, when she’s not walking the shore of Edisto Beach.

Categories: South Carolina, Writing | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “How an Author Works by Hope Clark

  1. Gerald Aldridge

    Don’t you love that feeling when you first catch sight of the creeks and backwaters and marshes as you make your way to most any beach from GA to NC?…and then you cross the final, usually taller and longer bridge to the actual island where the beach is located, and realize you are breathing more deeply, breathing more slowly, and smiling, smiling, smiling! Ahhh, and the anticipation of the whir of the blender as you make that first pina colada, or the pleasure of seeing the sweat on that first cold, cold can of beer, that first walk on the beach, and that first venture into the ocean. Man, I do love the beach, and Edisto above all. Thanks for sharing.

    • hopeclark

      Gerald – you ought to be a writer. Yes, Edisto is special and those first feelings just suck all the stress out of you and lay you to rest. So wonderful.

  2. You made me want to GO there!

    • hopeclark

      And. . . . that’s how a writer is supposed to work. Edisto is marvelous, and if you can’t go there, then there’s always books . . . like Murder on Edisto. (shameless self-promo, I’m afraid)

  3. I have traveled all over the country, and in each place I have spent some time I have found wonderful places and even more wonderful people. I think that is why I am enjoying my Touring With Pit Bulls series so very much. I’m not an expert on any of these areas, but something about them stuck in my heart. The people we interact with on our “tours” are composites of the people I have met, although the criminals are purely figments of my imagination.

    I believe that writing what we know creates a better product in the end, preferably one that people will enjoy reading. My work on the back burner takes place in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, areas that I am very familiar with.

    Hope, you have a way of making your characters and locales come to life in a manner that few are capable of doing. I am looking forward with great anticipation to reading Palmetto and Edisto as soon as my preparations for winter animal care are complete. I plan to relax in my recliner with a huge mug of hot chocolate and Kahlua, watching the snow pile up while I enjoy being transported to the South Carolina sunshine.

    • hopeclark

      Kathryn – and I hope you enjoy both books. Drop a note on Amazon if you do. Wow, your reading environment sounds so enticing.

  4. Patsy Pennington

    Yes, my uncle Gerald should be a writer, my cousin Marion IS a writer, and I’m so thankful to be kin to both of them. Especially for Marion right now for sharing “How an Author Works” with us. Your new book will be in hand for my October Edisto trip reading!

    • hopeclark

      That’s awesome, Patsy. It’ll be in the Edisto Bookstore if you don’t grab it before you get there. Thanks so much.

  5. Excellent, Thank you so much for sharing, Hope.

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