NEWBERRY — C. Hope Clark knows a thing or two about bribes.
She was offered one at her former job at federal agency. However, despite many dealings with her former government job and despite writing about mystery tales, she said her books are not autobiographical.
“When I was working for the Department of Agriculture, I was offered a bribe,” said Clark. “I was offered a bribe by a farmer and I never saw it coming. When he offered me money under the table for land, I called in the Feds on Friday and on Sunday an agent arrived.”
That agent would later turn out to be her husband. Clark, a South Carolina native who now lives in Chapin, spoke at the annual literary luncheon hosted by the Newberry Friends of the Library.
Clark’s recent book, Low country Bribe, is set in Charleston. It was a long work in progress before she got it out to market.
“I met with a mystery writer who told me to look at it and rewrite it and sell it. I realized the book was not ready because the writing was not ready. I put it in first person and basically changed it to fiction,” said Clark about revisions. “I threw away the manuscript. I tell others to throw it away. The writing is still up here. You keep the good and throw out the bad.”
A bribe, she said, is boring so “I had to figure out how to put a murder in it.”
“With mystery you have to hook them right off the bat,” Clark said. “The goal with opening a mystery is to grip them by the shirt and say this is a crime we have to solve. I love mysteries.”
Clark enjoys mysteries but she’ll admit there’s plenty of struggle and rejection to getting a book out there and ready, published and sold.
She first began entering contests to know what the judges thought.
As for agents, she received rejection after rejection but finally landed agent number 72.
After numerous rejections from New York agents who didn’t understand the small, Southern town, she pitched outside New York and found someone from California who grew up on a horse farm. She also fought for certain elements to remain in her writing such as keeping children in the book.
“I’ve received compliments saying that people like children being in the mystery,” said Clark, explaining that people in mysteries are still real people with real lives.
“I also wanted to cover rural South Carolina,” Clark said, explaining that after Charleston, she wants to write with these places in mind: Beaufort, Pelion and Newberry.
“The fourth one is going to be in Newberry,” said Clark, who encouraged people to contact her.
Clark does like reading reviews, especially good ones.
“When I get a review on Amazon that said ‘I stayed up all night,’ I say yes,” Clark said, smiling. “It’s a lot of work selling and writing a book. A good writer cries and gets angry.”
As for the relationship between her and her editor, while they don’t always agree, Clark said, “editors are there for a reason. They know what sells and what’s over the top. But, we came to a meeting of the minds and agreed. It’s been a long road.”
Check out Clark on the web at www.chopeclark.com and also on Facebook. She also has a newsletter for writers that can be found at www.fundsforwriters.com.