Friday, January 8, 2010

INTERVIEW: Wendy Clinch - Author of "Double Black: A Ski Diva Mystery"

Welcome to “Up Close and Personal.” For every interview I will be introducing a literary personality discussing their views and insights, as well as upcoming literary events around the world.

Today’s interview is with Wendy Clinch. She's born and raised in Ocean County, NJ, and the founder of The Ski Diva dot com, the premier internet community for women skiers. She is the former advertising copywriter, having spent more than 25years in the field, most recently as a partner in her own agency in a suburban Philadelphia.

She’s a graduate of Syracuse University, and now lives in Vermont with her husband, Jon Clinch, author of “FINN: A Novel” and “Kings of the Earth.”

Double Black - A Ski Diva Mystery is her debut novel that tells the tale of Stacey Curtis from Boston, who's dreams of wedded bliss on Beacon Hill are turned upside down. She ditched grad school, along with her cheating fiancée, when she finds him in bed with a mutual friend. This life shattering event sends Stacey rebounding into her first love - the mountains of Vermont ski country to become a ski bum ...

The novel is populated with quirky characters, bitter family warfare, murder, loaded with New England atmosphere, and a young woman with nerve, spunk, and a sense of humor about it all, DOUBLE BLACK is an exciting run down some treacherous mountain trails.

E.I. Would you share some early insight into who you were as a teenager? What were you like? Give us three “Good to Know” facts about your first job, the inspiration for your writing, any fun details that would enliven your page. Tell your fans about Wendy Clinch -- the woman behind the” DOUBLE BLACK: A SKI DIVA MYSTERY” suspense mystery novel

WC: I grew up on the Jersey shore, so my childhood is tied very closely to the beach and the ocean, an interesting background for someone who’s become such a dedicated skier. But I was always very active and athletic. I became a cheerleader in high school -- not because I liked football or basketball, but because I liked to jump around and there weren’t many options available for girls when I was a kid. It was either that or field hockey, and I wouldn’t trust myself around a hockey stick.

My Dad took me on my first ski trip when I was 13. The funny thing is that I absolutely hated it at first. The only thing that kept me going was sibling rivalry; I wanted to be better than my sister. But after a lot of lessons and many more ski trips, I eventually fell in love with the sport. And that’s stayed with me, even today.

Some facts about me from when I was growing up?

Bruce Springsteen’s Dad was my bus driver in elementary school;
I skipped first grade;
My first job was in the hosiery department at WT Grant, a store very much like today’s Walmart;
I used to waitress on the boardwalk during the summers;
During college I wrote commercials for a small local radio station. Sometimes they’d use me for voices, too. I did a great Burger Chef Jeff.

E.I. Please tell your readers or describe to them the central idea of DOUBLE BLACK: A SKI DIVA MYSTERY? And what was it that sparked your imagination? What were your favorite aspects?

WC: The book focuses on Stacey Curtis, a young woman who ditches her cheating fiancé and moves to a Vermont ski town to live the life of a ski bum. She doesn’t have any money so she ends up sleeping in her car, until one day she stumbles across a ring of master keys for the area’s vacation condos. Since the condos are unoccupied most of the time, why not put them to good use? So she starts going from condo to condo, spending one night here, one night there, until late one night she opens a door and discovers—a dead body. And that’s where the book takes off.

One of the things I most enjoy about the book is the local color. As someone who hasn’t lived in Vermont for very long, a lot of things here were new to me, and I felt that I could present them in a way that an outsider would understand. Describing the landscape, the town, the ski resort, and developing characters based on the people who live, visit, and work here was a lot of fun.

E.I. Many writers describe themselves as "character" or "plot" writers. Which are you? And what do you find to be the hardest part of writing?

WC: I truly believe that nothing gets a book going better than well developed, believable characters. I love the whole process of coming up with a backstory about someone and figuring out their personalities. Once you have that, the plot sort of takes care of itself.

E.I. Do you think the art form of writing is a calling for you?

WC: Although being a novelist is fairly new to me, I’ve always worked as a writer. For many years I made a living writing ad copy for industrial equipment—like pumps used to move toxic chemicals, and wastewater treatment equipment. Writing DOUBLE BLACK was a welcome change of pace.

In many ways, I think my years in advertising were terrific preparation. You get an assignment for an ad or brochure and you just sit down and do it. Every day. There’s no waiting for inspiration to strike. I approached writing this book in much the same way.

E.I. Your book, DOUBLE BLACK: A SKI DIVA MYSTERY explores the Mystery set in a small town in Vermont, the heroine’s unfaithful fiancé, combining a love of skiing with a tricky murder mystery in a Vermont’s wilderness. What drew you to explore these topics and was there something special that first sparked the storyline for the novel?

WC: The book was mostly the result of my moving from suburban Philadelphia to rural Vermont. The way of life here is very different. There are no shopping malls, very little traffic, and a much slower pace. What’s more, there’s a definite contrast between the locals who are trying to go about their ordinary lives, and the out-of-staters who come to the area for short periods of time and then go back home. Each depends on the other, yet both have entirely different perspectives. It’s a huge culture clash. I thought it would be interesting to develop a story where both of these groups had to work together to solve a murder.

In many ways, and as funny as it may sound, Stacey Curtis, the main character, is the person I never gave myself the chance to be. When I graduated from college I got married and went straight to work—and soon I pretty much traded in skiing for the pressures of daily life. Not that I’ve regretted a minute of it, but I’ve always wondered what course my life would have taken if I’d followed a less-conventional path. Now Stacey’s doing just that on my behalf!

E.I. What were your biggest challenge and obstacle while writing and creating Stacey Curtis, Guy Ramsey and Chip Walsh? Did you work them out in advance, or did they evolve as you wrote the story? Are any of the characters in the story actually based on real people in your life?

WC: No, the characters aren’t based on anyone particular, though aspects of their personalities are drawn from people I’ve known and observed. Mostly they evolved as I wrote the story. I had some basic traits for each of them. For example, Stacey Curtis was young, independent, and determined to make a new life for herself; Guy Ramsey was a small town sheriff and dedicated family man with limited crime fighting experience. And Chip Walsh, the ski patroller, was a rich young man who’d moved to Vermont to find himself. They fleshed out as the story went along.

E.I. If you were asked to read a chapter from this book, is there one that you would select to share?

WC: I think it’d be the first chapter. It gets you into the story and sets up the situation right away.

Here’s the opening sentence: “When Stacey Curtis found the dead man in the bed, she knew it was time to get her own apartment.”

I think it’s a grabber!

E.I. Do you let anyone read your manuscript, before you send it to your editor?

WC: My husband, Jon Clinch, is my best editor. He’s an author as well; his first novel, FINN, was named one of 2007’s best by The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and The Christian Science Monitor, and a Notable Book of the Year by the American Library Association. His second book, KINGS OF THE EARTH, is coming out in July, 2010, and it’s absolutely staggering.

I run things by Jon all the time. After all, he’s a tremendous reader, incredibly smart, and has a fantastic sense of plot and character. I’m lucky to have him, not just as a writing resource, but as my husband, too.

E.I. As a writer do you ever feel pressure or insecure, or are you able to separate all that from your own creative process?

WC: I think all writers have their up and down days. Some days it all comes together, and other days the entire process is a struggle. If you let the bad days get to you, it’s easy to feel pressured and insecure. I try to focus on the good days. It just makes life easier.

E.I. If you were allowed total control of the Hollywood version of (DOUBLE BLACK: A SKI DIVA MYSTERY) who would be in it? And in your opinion who do you think should direct?

WC: I actually think that DOUBLE BLACK would make a great TV series. Some people have told me that it reminds them of an old TV show, NORTHERN EXPOSURE. There are a lot of quirky characters, tons of local color, a nice amount of action, and a great setting.

I’m not much of a movie person, but I could see Jennifer Garner playing Stacey Curtis and Matthew Mcconaughey playing Chip Walsh, the ski patroller/love interest in the story. Jennifer’s done a lot of action and could pull it off, physically. And Matthew has a preppy look that I think would work well for Chip. For the sheriff, Scott Bakula. He’s about the right age and can combine gruffness and concern very nicely. I’ll have to pass on recommending a director, but I’m certainly open to options. (Spielberg, if you're reading this, give me a call!)

Photo of Wendy Clinch by Jon Clinch

To learn more about Wendy Clinch, please visit her website
To purchase her book, please visit AMAZON and Barnes & Noble

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Wendy: I write to you as I am cataloging your book, Double Black as I catalog fiction books here at the library! Also, I like to do cross country skiing at area parks here in New York state. I highly recommend the Winterlude in ottawa, Ontario, Canada which is early February for over 2 weeks with ice sculpture, ice skating on the largest ice skating rink in the world, The Rideau Canal and much beauty in Ottawa and cross country skiing at the Gatineau Provincial Park with 55 k of groomed trails! We have a Winter Festival the last Sunday of January here in Rochester, New York at Mendon Ponds Park for free cross country ski lessons, snow shoeing lessons, and many demos and fun for all ages! I tried downhill skiing once at Bristol Mountain in Naples, NY (the grape festival is here in autumn) I bet you are watching the Winter Olympics nightly and love wathcing Lindsay Vonn and Julia Mancuso and other ski divas! All the best to you on the slopes of Vermont! I went there once to visit Ben & Jerry's as I am a huge ice cream fan, and if I had another state to live, it would be Vermont, the Green Mountain State! Sincere warm regards, Donna Silverman