C. Hope Clark is a multi-award-winning author of 14 mysteries in three series, with many more to come if she has her way about it. She left a career in her beloved agricultural field, which included internal investigations, to marry a federal agent she met on a bribery case, and to write stories.
Hope is also founder of FundsforWriters.com, a website and newsletter that reaches 25,000 readers and has been awarded the Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers for 21 years. She lives on the banks of Lake Murray in central South Carolina, and vacations on Edisto Beach, the setting of her largest series. Find her at her website, or on Facebook and Twitter.
In this post, C. Hope Clark discusses the experience of releasing the first two book sin The Craven County Mysteries at the same time, Murdered in Craven and Burned in Craven, the surprising affection she had for her secondary characters, and more!
Name: C. Hope Clark
Book title: Murdered in Craven and Burned in Craven—a double release to launch the new series, The Craven County Mysteries (Books 1 & 2)
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Release date: November 30, 2021
Previous titles: Edisto Island Mysteries (Murder on Edisto; Edisto Jinx; Echoes of Edisto; Edisto Stranger; Dying on Edisto; Edisto Tidings; and Reunion on Edisto); Carolina Slade Mysteries (Lowcountry Bribe; Tidewater Murder; Palmetto Poison; Newberry Sin; and Salkehatchie Secret); and The Shy Writer Reborn.
Elevator pitches for the books: Murdered in Craven: Quinn Sterling’s father was murdered and the Craven County sheriff, her uncle, botched the investigation. She leaves her FBI career to take on her inheritance—a 3,000-acre pecan dynasty in Lowcountry South Carolina—while keeping an eye on her father’s cold case as a private investigator. But a blind client and a mentor from her early days pull her into a case that will jeopardize her friends, her farm, her legacy, and her life.
Burned in Craven: A local school board member hires Quinn Sterling, PI, but the simple domestic issue soon turns into politics and corruption ranging from threats to arson, then murder. Quinn suspects a more sophisticated motive and soon recognizes a dark, sinister force threatening the lives of every board member, all of Quinn’s adopted family ... and the even the future of her beloved Craven County.
What prompted you to write these books?
I love strong women protagonists, as demonstrated by Carolina Slade and Callie Jean Morgan in the two Carolina Slade and Edisto Island series. With Slade being an amateur and Callie a police chief, I wanted the trifecta completed with a private investigator.
Private investigators have a different freedom while at the same time hold unique limitations. And to give her conflict about her wishes and needs, I have her sacrificing an FBI career for the greater good of family legacy in the dark, dank Carolina Lowcountry. Her hideaway is still a childhood treehouse, and the setting is dense with all the senses via the pecan trees and black water Edisto River.
By making her uncle crooked, only one of two blood relatives left in her 300-year-old legacy, she has a lot on her shoulders in order to protect her adopted family, her county that her beloved father had stood for, and her personal desires that always seem to be sacrificed in the name of the Sterling Banks legacy. I adore strong setting in a story, and this one is rich with it. I love nature and have a degree in agriculture, and the pecan trees and the treehouse were strong catalysts for me.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?
Five years, but I was in the midst of writing other books, and my publisher wasn’t yet convinced we needed a third series. After 12 mysteries in the other two series, I got the nod (and the contract). My head was so filled with long-kneaded thoughts that I hit the ground running. The basic idea was solid, but the evolution of setting (which I treat as a character) and secondary characters were a step-by-step process.
I’m still trying to grasp the bigger arc of Quinn Sterling and whether this will be a limited series or something ongoing like the Edisto Mysteries and the Carolina Slade Mysteries. But I can smell the pecan grove in these books. Love them.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for these titles?
My publisher strongly suggested that readers binge so much these days that if I created a new series, they might be disappointed at only the one book and maybe a year or more until the next one. So the publisher asked for a two-book release.
Since I was sold on Quinn Sterling, I obliged. Yes, it was double the writing, but it turned out that with the momentum going after the first, the second came more quickly. Almost made me regret that I had an Edisto book in line next, because I had the inertia going and could have written a third Craven story.
There were some surprises and adjustments in the editing, though. Sterling Banks is on a plantation, and of course, the setting is in the South. The editing toned down the use of the word plantation, and we were doubly careful about the depiction of social mores in light of today’s environment. The realities in that were a tad painful and eye-opening.
I understand that this double-deal put the publisher through its paces, too. However, readers are thrilled at buying two books at once to be able to remain in the Craven County world for longer than one tale. Admittedly, the deadlines and edits were pretty intense.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for these books?
The secondary characters . . . I fell in love with them and created more than I expected. The childhood friend was expected, but when one morphed into two, equally in love with Quinn as both friend and potentially something more, I found the most wonderful subplot. Poor Quinn has it all in her legacy, but on the other hand is troubled and limited by it as well, and I thrived on the yin and yang of that.
In other words, I could have remained in this world for several more books. I just kept finding small things that added to the depth of her story, and I almost had to control myself.
What do you hope readers will get out of your books?
That family is what you make of it ... that legacy is still important; however, who you adopt into your family can be equally as crucial to who you are. Also, I hope my readers see that strong female protagonists are still the bomb!
If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?
Write daily, and go to sleep with a scene working in your head. By making the writing second nature through daily use, you instill a deeply embedded habit in yourself and greatly improve the evolution of your talent.