Friday, August 10, 2007

Serials and Scenarios - Hints from Mindy Starns Clark

Mindy dropped in and answered a few dregs questions. I had every intention of cleaning up...but....well, good thing this was an e-mail interview.

Fiction character you would most like to be or most identify with and why?

I always wanted to be Heidi, eating cheese melted on a stick and sleeping on a soft bed of hay beside a window that looks out at the Alps. Of course, I'm allergic to hay and I have a feeling that in reality it's not all that soft anyway. But it sure sounded like fun at the time.

These days, I'd probably want to be one of my own characters, because they always seem to possess different qualities that I wish I had but don't.

Some out there in writing land have strange rituals. Share yours.

When a deadline is looming and I'm in full panic mode, I'll book room in a hotel. I go there, hang out the Do Not Disturb sign, and immerse myself in my writing so completely that I forget to eat, sleep, and sometimes even breath. When the book is finished, I'll take a shower, order room service, and come out again, manuscript in hand.

If you could change something in any novel, what would you change about it and why?

I would change the ending to My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. It's a wonderful, amazing book until you get to the end, which is just the worst ever. Terribly dissatisfying and anti-climactic.

I would also change the last season of the TV show 24. It was just the best show ever until then, when it completely fell apart. (And I've been watching since Hour 1, Day 1, so I've always been a big fan.) I'm sure hoping it gets back on track next season.

What crayon in the box describes you on a good day? Bad day? Which one do you aspire to be?

I always had a fondness for the discontinued colors. It's like they were there, and then they were gone. At the Crayola museum, you can read all about the colors that have been pulled over the years, and why. Fascinating.

My favorite was always Cornflower, which I see as beautiful and cheerful or doleful and sad, all in one little crayon, so I guess that fits good days and bad. I aspire to be gold, though in a crayon it never comes out as sparkly as you expect.

Pick one…..Pink iguana, purple cow, periwinkle giraffe. Which one and why? Can be negative or positive.

Periwinkle giraffe because, well, periwinkle anything.

If you were assured of writing a best-seller, what genre would it be? Give us a sliver of information, a characteristic or glimpse of a scene.

It would be a fabulous spy-type espionage thriller. And it would be even more fun when they turned it into a movie. My favorite scene would be in the restaurant, when my husband and are in the background as extras.

What period of history intrigues you the most?

The settlement of the American West, the Oregon Trail and all of that. I cannot imagine anyone having the nerve to embark on such a perilous journey, not to mention going that long without a Diet Dr. Pepper.

What would you write if there were no rules or barriers? (epic novels about characters in the Bible, poetry, greeting cards, plays, movies, instruction manuals, etc.)

I'd write a fabulously successful Broadway show, a musical about redemption of the common man, filled with God's truth. People everywhere would fall in love with the characters, hum the tunes, find God. How cool would that be?

What makes you feel alive?

Riding on a boat, really fast, somewhere beautiful.

How does something worm its way into your heart? Through tears, truth, humor or other?

A person, through humor and intelligence and decency.

A story when it strikes at the core of that big "Yes! I know exactly what you mean!"

A place when it gives me a sense of peace and contentment.

Book, music, person, food you would take with you on a very long trip.

My husband isn't just my best friend, he's also the best travel partner in the world, so I'd never want to go anywhere for very long without him. As for music and food, we would sample the local delights (as long as the food isn't gross or too "out there"). As for a book, I'd want something totally gripping and captivating that just happened to be set in the location I was visiting. That's always fun.

Where would you most like to travel ----- moon, north pole, deep seas, deserted island, the holy land or back to a place from your childhood, somewhere else? – and why.

I'd like to take a year-long luxury cruise around the world so that I could see all of those places I always wanted to see, but without having to unpack and repack or spend time on airplanes. I was a travel agent for years, so I got more than my share of handling logistics. I'd rather just float along and let someone else do it for a change.

Favorite season and why?

In the South, where I was born and raised, it has to be the Spring. The temperature is perfect, the flowers are blooming, and the world seems ripe with possibility.

In Pennsylvania, where I live now, Spring is the most miserable season of all—cold, snowy, rainy, wet. Here, I much prefer the summer, probably because that's when the kids are out of school and we can go off on various adventures without having to worry about schedules and homework. And it's warm. Did I mention warm?

Favorite book setting and why?

I love books about survival, so I'd have to say a deserted island or a deep forest or jungle. Just nothing cold, like survival on a mountaintop. I don't like cold. Did I mention I like warm?

Which compliment related to your writing has meant the most and why?

I had several reviews in a row that said I had "set the standard" for Christian mystery. That tickled me so much! When my husband would ask me to do the dishes, I'd say, "Sorry, can't do it, I'm too busy setting the standard for Christian mystery. "

What criticism has cut the deepest and why?

I just get so tired of reviews in secular outlets that praise my books but "warn" the reader that there's Christian content. (I must have 50 reviews that actually use that word—"Warning!".) Like that's something so offensive you need to know full well ahead of time so you can avoid it. Watch out for rattlesnakes, razor blades, and oh yeah, the Christian elements in this mystery! It makes me very sad.

What would you do today if you knew you had only a week to live?

I'd clean my house and do laundry.


Day one: Like in one of those weeper movies, I'd probably set up a video camera and make a bunch of tapes for my kids—you know, "watch this one on your 20th birthday. Watch this one when you're ready to get married…" I still have so much to say to them!

Day two through four: I'd probably rent out a bunch of lovely lakeside cottages and gather everyone I love around me, friends and family. We would spend the time talking, hugging, eating, singing around the campfire, building memories. Oh, and I'd talk with each of them about the state of their salvation, just to make sure we'd get together again in the long run.

Day five: I would send everyone away except one of my kids and I'd spend every moment sharing, planning, talking, and just being together. I'd prepare her for my death.

Day six: I'd switch out kids and repeat the events of day five.

Day seven: I'd spend every moment with my husband, make plans for our family's future, laugh and cry and end it all wrapped in his arms.

Okay, that was a very morose question! Now I'm depressed.

What is your favorite word?


What word annoys you more than any other?

Irregardless. (Not that it's really a word!)

Superhero you most admire and why?

Batman, probably because he's smart. I like intelligent superheroes. Plus he's a billionaire who decided to use his money for good. Can't beat that!

Super power you'd love to borrow for awhile?

I have always wanted to be invisible. That's probably why I'm a writer, because it's like being in the midst of these lives and just watching and listening.

Favorite chore

None. I don't like chores.

Well, I guess I don't mind making dinner, as long as my husband is home doing some project, the kids are quietly doing their homework, and I can just putter around the kitchen in the midst of all of that.

Anything you'd do but don't because of fear of pain? What is it? Ex. Bungee jumping, sky diving, running with scissors.

Oh, there is much I don't do because of fear of pain! I don't like pain.

Run a marathon. Swing around like a gymnast on parallel bars. Try couples ice skating. Do backflips off the high dive. Touch my toes. The list goes on and on.

Grammatical pet peeve…sound off.

It's a tie:

Using the wrong pronoun as the object of a preposition, ex. "Give that thing to he and I." UGH!

Putting an apostrophe before the letter S for no reason, ex. "The Smith's are going to join us."

Both make me crazy!

Societal pet peeve…sound off.

Parents who don't know how to help their child behave in public. Kids need to be told ahead of time how they are expected to behave before they ever get there. Once there, they need diversions for when they get bored. Most of all, they need to know that rules are rules whether people are watching or not.

Just the other day I watched a little girl probably 18 months old and she was getting into everything in a doctor's waiting room. The mother kept yelling but never did a single thing to distract the girl or entertain her or corral her. The woman just expected the poor kid to "stop doing that!" It made me so sad.

Worse is when a kid learns that acting up and being loud in public will get them exactly what they want. Mom and dad need to allow themselves to be embarrassed once or twice without caving in, and soon that bad behavior will stop! Please note, my compaint isn't with misbehaving kids, it's with parents who don't help them learn to behave.


Pick a Genre - Describe a kiss….

Mystery – Okay, I'm cheating. This is from my book Blind Dates Can Be Murder.

Here's the setup: Jo and Danny have been best friends for years, though Danny has recently realized that he loves Jo. In this scene, she needs to make someone watching think that they are involved romantically, so she tells Danny to kiss her. The scene is from Danny's POV.

“Don’t talk now,” Jo replied evenly. “Just kiss me. And make it look real.”

Danny swallowed hard.
Kiss me? And make it look real?

She didn’t have to ask him twice.
Knowing this wasn’t how he wanted their first kiss to be, knowing there was some other motive here entirely, knowing that Jo’s mind was not on him but on some strange sort of display for the woman who watched from the doorway, nevertheless Danny did as Jo asked. Leaning forward, he met her upturned lips with his own and lingered there. Jo’s mouth felt exactly as he had envisioned: warm, welcoming, sweet. Touching his fingertips to her chin, he pressed his lips more firmly against hers, and then suddenly she was kissing him in return. She raised up one soft hand and pressed it against the back of his head, pulling him even more tightly toward her. He was surprised to hear a small whimper escape from her throat. If they had been in a more private setting, he might’ve kept kissing her for hours.

As it was, he finally ended and pulled away, his breathing ragged, his heart pounding. In Jo’s half-closed eyes, he could see that the kiss had gotten to her too.
“Ah,” she whispered with a sigh.

Jo’s eyes opened wider. As if coming to her senses, she sat up and turned away, smoothing her hair, looking out of the side window.

“Thanks, Danny,” she squeaked. “Now drive.”

Chick-Lit – in the same situation, once we have moved to Jo's POV:

Jo kept her eyes firmly on the side window, turned away from Danny. Was she crazy? Was she an idiot?

Was that really the most amazing kiss she’d ever had in her life?

Jo forced herself to breath evenly, forced herself to act nonchalant. Inside, though, she was gasping for air, gasping for comprehension. This was Danny, her best friend.

And, yes, that was the most amazing kiss she’d ever had in her whole life.

She swallowed hard, her mind swirling with thoughts. No wonder girls threw themselves at him all the time. No wonder he usually had multitudes of women waiting in the wings. No wonder he was considered a real “catch”. It wasn’t just the sweet manner or the sloppy good looks or the artsy photographer-musician appeal thing. It was his kissing!

He must be known far and wide, much as Jo was known for her household hints.
Miss Tulip, can you help us get the smudges off our tennis shoes? And, oh, by the way, Mr. Watkins, can you run that outstanding lip-lock past us again?

Jo wished he would run it past her again, just one more time.


Pick one of the "story starters" below and give us a sample of your voice.

It was a damp and dismal afternoon.
I sat at my desk and stared at the computer screen, wondering if I would finish these questions in time for Kelly to post them. Just one more sentence, one more word, and then it would be done. If only I could tell her about the…


Thanks, Mindy. This was a fun interview. And I enjoyed outing myself and appearing in your book.

Have a great weekend, everyone.