A writer, editor, and mentor to other writers, Linda S. Clare is the award-winning author and coauthor of several books. She has also contributed essays, stories, and poems to publications that include The Christian Reader, The Denver Post, and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

She was born in Arizona, but Linda and her husband now make their home in Eugene, Oregon, where she has taught college-level creative writing classes. She is also a frequent writing conference presenter, a church retreat leader, and a mom to four grown children—and three wayward cats.

What sparked your writing journey, and how did that become a teaching journey?

Ha ha! I started out as a teacher. An Elementary School Art teacher in public schools. But long before my Art education days, I would draw on my writing and write on my drawings. So I suppose I’ve always felt both were vital to my inner artist.

I think we’re all meant to interpret God’s love through the gifts we’re given. So I don’t try to limit myself, although I confess the art of hospitality (like hosting dinners, decorating my home) is NOT my gift. I’m more likely to haul out the paper plates and call it good.

Has God ever provided an unexpected “detour” in your life that turned out to be positive?

When I was in my mid-thirties (last week!—not!) I had two little boys. Since I am a polio survivor and have only the use of one arm and hand, I thought I was pretty accomplished. Then God brought me SURPRISE twins. What a sense of humor, that God. So I got to detour into “Crazy Mom” land for several years while my four kids grew and I lived to tell about it. I learned there’s almost nothing I can’t do (OK there’s that guitar thing, but hey) through Christ who strengthens me.

How does your faith play into your work?

How doesn’t it? I’m not exactly your most pious example, but my faith is deep and wide (just like me <g>)  God informs my waking moments with challenges, mountains to climb and the occasional joke on me. I’m a liturgical Christian and I want to glorify God in my writing. That said, I feel it’s important to create characters and situations that mirror the heartbreaks of life. I love to write about the marginalized among us. My tag line should be: Grace for the chronically different.

Let’s talk about your new book, A Sky without Stars (Abingdon Press, February 2014). What a great title! Please tell us about it.

The title comes from a saying: “A bed without a quilt is like a sky without stars.” When the Quilts of Love series began, I knew I wanted in—after all, I’d spent my college years and after designing and creating art quilts, even creating my own fabric designs using batik—a lost wax and dye medium. I paired that with my love for Native Americans—I am part Cherokee/Choctaw, a fact I didn’t learn until I reunited with my biological father about twenty years ago. I grew up near the Phoenix Indian School—the setting for the book is Arizona in the 1950s—and was always drawn to Indian faces, Indian culture and art.

In my story, Lakota widow woman Frankie Chasing Bear and her young son Harold, relocate from Pine Ridge as part of what was then the federal Indian Relocation Program. Feds wanted Indians off the payroll, so training and jobs were promised if Indians would voluntarily leave their reservations and move to cities across the country. Mostly the program produced disappointing results. Like Frankie, many Native Americans moved, only to find themselves stranded in a strange area. They then either had to return to the “rez” or else try, as Frankie does, to create a new life.

Along the way, Frankie meets Nick Parker, a Lakota half-breed and Christian. If you hope they fall in love, read my story to find out!

God often uses our stories to teach us when we’re writing them. What did you learn (about life, faith, and/or even yourself) in the process of writing this book?

I learned we are all children of God. No matter how much criticism I receive for portraying Native Americans as Christians (they do exist!), I had to show them as finding the one true Voice just like any of us. Stereotypes have us thinking Indians are sitting around smoking peace pipes or being alcoholics. Yes, it does happen. But believe it or not, there are thriving Native churches across this country too. Yes, some are still shunned for “entering the white man’s church.” Overall, though, Native Americans are all different—just like you or me.

A few fun questions…

When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?

Oh dear. My weakness is something salty and crunchy. Pretzels are great but I have been banned for life from getting started with them again. I’m allergic to popcorn, but I love it too. I not only love to munch while I write, I love to graze while I read even more. That’s why I have had to ban myself from so much as a single pretzel while I’m writing. Sad, isn’t it?

This website features musicians as well as writers. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?

I was a professional singer in a much younger life. I met my first husband (a true singing talent) in high school. We went on to sing together, and decades later, he actually moved to Nashville and made demos and was a rising star. Unfortunately he died young, before fame could tap his shoulder. Also, my family is very musical. My grandparents, in the first graduating class of Northern Arizona University, sang their way through college and my grandmother taught public school music for forty years. My mom’s a pianist. Music is very important to me and I still sing in church.

In fact, I’m finishing a novel I’m calling A SYMPHONY OF MOTION, which features a girl who has a musical gift but who’s been traumatized into not speaking by the disappearance of her jazz pianist father. When her mom leaves her with an aunt who teaches high school orchestra, the roomer, a former symphony conductor who has advanced Parkinson’s disease, takes an instant dislike to the girl. But when she plays his piano, his symptoms abate. Is it a miracle?

If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?

Funny, I also have a book proposal for a nonfiction book I call GOD IS A SONG. I know that sounds kind of strange, but that’s how I see the world. Music is a universal language, and it’s mathematical. Don’t hate me—can I help it if there’s a song playing in my head 24/7? I’m like a human jukebox! I think God talks to me in songs. And, thank goodness, a lot of the songs are how I memorized Scripture.

I think I’d be an Irish song, because I also feel strong ties to Gaelic culture. Be Thou My Vision is my favorite hymn.

In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?

I am the girl in high heels.

Growing up disabled yet passing for normal (whatever that is) has been my life quest. I want others to see me before the disability. At times (especially as a teenager) I went overboard, minimizing my limitations to the point that I denied myself some fun and wholesome activities. All because I was so afraid someone would not accept me due to my “crippledness.” We don’t use that word anymore but it demonstrates how much of a masquerade I was willing to put on to hide the real me.

Now I’m older and don’t care (as much). What you see is what you get.

I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.

I’m a dog lover too! But cats rule my life. Presently we have three: Cranky Cat, a half Manx, half Siamese; Melchior the Very Large (he weighs over 20 pounds) and tiny Mamma Mia! whom we rescued as a starving cat abandoned by transients. Over the years we’ve had a lizard, a hamster, three dogs, a white mouse, too many cats to mention and Miss Leroy, a salamander. I said no to the pair of scorpions my boys begged for. You gotta draw the line someplace!

Thanks, Linda! It’s great to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.

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For more information about Linda, visit her website.

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