Mystery Author Spotlight – Roland Clarke

Introducing May’s Mystery Author, Roland Clarke!

It’s not often I run into other writers of equestrian-themed mysteries. Admittedly, we are a rare breed! So I was delighted to learn of Roland Clarke’s novel, Spiral of Hooves, a mystery set in the world of eventing. Our similarities extend beyond a love of mysteries and horses, though. Like me, Roland also writes about many other subjects. I was intrigued to learn he is a former green activist, a theme which pours over into many of his works. So, I’m excited to feature Roland and his books on my blog today.

Author Bio

P1000002After diverse careers, Roland Clarke was an equestrian journalist and green activist when chronic illness hastened retirement. But he hasn’t stopped exploring rabbit holes and writing – mainly mystery novels and varied shorts. Roland and his wife – both avid gamers – now live in Idaho (USA) with their four fur-babies, although their hearts are in North Wales (UK). Learn more on his WEBSITE.

The Interview

Hi Roland! What attracts you to writing in the mystery genre?

Writing mysteries allows me to explore devious solutions to problems – and challenge my MC…and the reader. I could do that in other genres, and as a teenager, I wrote SF/Fantasy with twists – and red herrings. So, over the decades I have slipped mysteries into other genres I’ve tackled, like my Viking Age alternative history or my post-apocalyptic saga. However, the mystery is always at the core and usually, a crime must be solved or prevented. Also, writing a believable mystery-solving MC with a difference is a challenge – as is creating a motivated antagonist who believes his/her actions are justified.

What subjects do you enjoy writing about the most? 

Beyond the mysteries, I enjoy writing about issues that challenge my characters, who often are struggling with themselves – whether with health or identity. I’ve been interested in history for decades, so that leads me to research rabbit holes like Deaf culture, Special Forces in Afghanistan, PTSD, Viking shipbuilding, or the last Prince of Wales, Owain Glyndwr. Of course, horses gallop throughout my writing, not surprisingly for an ex-equestrian journalist.

Moreover, environmental issues are a common thread. I was a green activist for many years, and I try to continue spreading the message in my writing. So, genetic modification, organic agriculture, renewable energy, the arms trade, air pollution, and airships feature as key plot elements wherever they fit the story.

Green issues played a central role in Spiral of Hooves, my first published novel and a mystery set against the sports horse world I worked in. A researcher with a traumatic past and a young rider with diabetes unravel a plot to manipulate the breeding of competition horses. From PTSD and diabetes to LGBTQ and Deaf Culture, I’m interested in representing ‘diverse’ characters and human rights issues. This concern preceded my disability.

What are you working on now?

For a number of years, I’ve been working on Snowdon Shadows, a crime series set around Snowdonia in North Wales and featuring Sparkle Anwyl, a queer Welsh policewoman – or Heddlu as the police in Wales are called. Queer as in her mnemonic mind games to resolve crimes and in her lesbian relationship with a fellow officer of color. The original story, Fates Maelstrom, was written in 2012. Set in SW England, it did not feature a detective, but I re-wrote it set in Snowdonia with Sparkle Anwyl assigned as a junior officer on the case. In the novel, which is currently being edited, Sparkle must use memories of old cases to unravel why ex-mercenaries are involved in the illegal trade in horsemeat.

Fates Maelstrom will be Book 2 of the Snowdon Shadows crime series, with two more Books drafted.

Is the setting of your novel based on a real place?

My Snowdon Shadows series is set around Snowdonia in North Wales, where my wife and I lived for a few years before moving to the USA. All the places are real, with a few exceptions like the locality where my MC’s maternal family has farmed for generations – although that is based on typical Welsh farms and villages.

Our hearts are still in North Wales, and in our office, we have a photo canvas of Snowdon my wife took from our home in Harlech. Detective Sparkle Anwyl keeps my memories of Wales alive, especially when I learn more about the area or when ‘driving’ on familiar and unfamiliar roads in Google Maps. I incorporate both places we visited or would have done if we were still there.

Do you have any upcoming releases you’d like to tell us about?

My short story Feathered Fire is featured in VOYAGERS: The Third Ghost, the fifth Insecure Writers Support Group Anthology, which released on May 5, 2020. I was hesitant about entering last year, having tried three times unsuccessfully – and it was for Middle Grade historical fantasy. However, the writer who created IWSG encouraged me to enter.

From my research rabbit warren, I melded brave Soviet Airwomen in WWII and rich Slavic folklore into a tale the judges liked. A mystery as I was way off my genre. Or was I? Perhaps the young heroine Vasy needed to discover, “Why she had survived?”
You can read more about the tale and its trigger HERE.

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Congratulations on making it into the Anthology, Roland! It sounds like your persistence has paid off. Thank you for being a guest on my blog. 

Thanks, readers, for stopping by and getting to know Roland Clarke. Please check back next month, when I’ll feature another deserving mystery writer.

My Video Podcast is LIVE!

Podcast Video Interview with Carly Kade

I was thrilled to be interviewed recently on Carly Kade’s equestrian author spotlight podcast! Check out our conversation on writing, publishing, horses, and my Dark Horse series on her website, and discover lots of other great horse book authors while you’re there!

Carly Kade Podcast

View it on YouTube

Listen to the audio-only version

Many thanks to Carly Kade for the opportunity. Visit her website HERE!

 

 

 

To Vlog or Not to Vlog?

My First Vlog Interview

black action camera
Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

I was recently contacted by fellow equestrian author, Carly Kade, to participate in her new equestrian spotlight vlog series. A vlog? It’s like a podcast with video, in case you’re slightly behind the times, like me. Being an extreme introvert, my initial reaction was NOOOOOO! I emailed her back and asked if I could do an audio podcast without the video. I’ve done podcast interviews before and gotten through them without too much embarrassment. She graciously accepted my audio-only podcast alternative and we set a date.

Later that night, I told my husband what happened. He looked at me with a disapproving look. “Why aren’t you doing the video?”

“It makes me uncomfortable.”

“So? Visual marketing is what everyone does now. It would be great exposure for your books.”

Ugh. I hate it when he’s right. It was a good reminder that the easiest thing to do isn’t always the right thing to do. I emailed Carly back and told her that my husband gave me a kick in the butt and that, yes, I would now like to do the video. I was worried she’d be annoyed with me, but she thought it was funny. Apparently, I’m not the only one to receive kicks in the butt from my significant other.

My stress level steadily increased as the interview date drew closer. The time arrived two nights ago. I set up my screen, background, Bluetooth earbuds, and microphone. I reread the questions she had sent me a couple of weeks earlier. I gave my kids strict instructions to stay in a room on the other side of the house (with the dog) and not to come out unless it was an emergency. My kids proceeded to ask me many questions outlining hypothetical scenarios and whether or not they constituted an emergency (FYI, being hungry for marshmallows does NOT equal an emergency!)

At last, Carly and I connected via an app called Zoom. She made me feel at ease immediately. I was thankful to learn that if I messed up, I could clap my hands (her signal to edit something out) and redo my answer, which I did a few times throughout our discussion. I was nervous for the first five or ten minutes, but after a while it seemed more like we were just two friends talking about writing and publishing. The hour went by fast.

I have not seen the final product yet. I might look terrible or sound unsure about my answers, but I hope not. Overall, I’m glad I took a risk and stepped out of my comfort zone. it was a great experience and I was thankful for the opportunity to talk about writing and to promote my YA horse books, including the upcoming January 2020 release of the third book in the series. I will post a link to the vlog on this blog, my Facebook page, and Twitter account as soon as it is ready, which I’m told will be sometime in November.

A final suggestion to my fellow introverted writers who might be presented with the question, “Would you like to appear on my vlog?”

The answer is “YES!”

 

The Real Life Horses that Inspired My Writing

One of the most fun things about writing my Dark Horse series has been bringing to life the horses on the pages. While some of the equine characters in Trail of Secrets and Barn Shadows are purely fictional, others are based on actual horses I’ve met, ridden, known or loved over the years.

Louie
Louie

Let’s start with the leading man…er, gelding, Jett. During the time I was writing Trail of Secrets, I was half-leasing a wonderful appendix named Louie. Louie was a beautiful dark bay/black gelding full of personality and spunk. He wasn’t always easy to ride, but my riding improved dramatically during the year that I rode him. Saying goodbye to him was so difficult that I actually took a year off from riding after I stopped leasing Louie. He was THAT special. Jett is based on a combination of Louie and the horse I owned as a teenager, Snowman. While not black (obviously), Snowman was about as full of personality as a horse could be. Owning him was the culmination of all my childhood dreams. Whenever I write about Brynlei’s bond with Jett, I find myself reaching back into my memories of my love for Snowman.

Snowman 1988
My Snowman

Anna’s feisty mount, Rebel, is also based on a few spunky chestnuts I’ve known. Before

Edoras Wall 4.13
Edoras

Louie, I half-leased a mare named Edoras. She gave me a run for my money alright. Edoras taught me how to ride a “Whooa!” horse (Elbows bent, shoulders back, bend her in!) I’ve known other horses like Rebel, too. There’s currently a horse at the barn where I ride named Zara. She’s a sweetie, but has an accelerator that can take even the most experienced rider on an “exciting” trip around the ring. What is it about chestnuts?

In Barn Shadows, two new horses are introduced into the mix–Patches and Amigo. Patches is a beautiful Paint pony ridden by a new character, Bethany. The pony is based on an actual pony named Patches owned by my friend and her daughter (pictured below). The real-life Patches is a wonderful teacher, as is the Patches in the book. And both ponies are easy on the eyes…Don’t you agree?

An odd new girl named Grace joins the cast of Barn Shadows, along with her equally unusual mount, Amigo. Amigo does not possess the confirmation of the fancy hunters at Foxwoode so everyone is surprised when they witness the stocky horse’s natural jumping ability. This side storyline is loosely based on one of my favorite non-fiction books, The Eighty-Dollar Champion:  Snowman, The Horse that Inspired a Nation by Elizabeth Letts. Those of you who have read the book might see a few parallels between fictional, Amigo, and real-life, Snowman.

Sadly, I met my new favorite horse at the barn, Abby, after I’d already finished writing Barn Shadows. I’ll have to incorporate this special bay mare into my next book! Isn’t she cute?

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Abby

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the real horses behind many of the horses in my books. Until next time, happy reading, writing and riding!