I’m excited to introduce Linda Clare, a fellow Abingdon author, whose debut novel will be released next month.
A Fence by any other Name
The most common question authors are asked is, “Where do you get your ideas?” We who write, smile. We have too many ideas, and if you are a writer’s loved one, you’ve learned to duck when your writer is trolling for stories. If you don’t, you are likely to end up as a character in a novel. Yet we who write know that without you—and our imaginations—we couldn’t create the fictional worlds where we spin our stories.
When I first began The Fence My Father Built, I allowed my imagination to run wild every day when I opened my newspaper. One day, a feature my local paper ran caught my attention. Alfred McBee, a nice old guy who lived in a rural area near my town, was the subject of the article. The accompanying photo showed Alfred sitting amongst piles of junk—mostly old bicycle parts—and his rundown mobile home stood in the background. I borrowed some of Alfred’s quirks for my character Uncle Tiny, but what stood out was a sentence in the article. Alfred McBee’s place was surrounded by a fence made from old oven doors.
There wasn’t a photo of the oven doors fence, but my mind took care of that. I imagined a string of the ovens I’d known as a child—pink, aqua, sea green oven doors, set against the backdrop of beautiful central Oregon. I clipped the article and used it and others to help me fashion the fictional town of Murkee.
The second most common question writers are asked is, “How much of your story is autobiographical? Again, it’s me and my imagination, colliding in strange ways. My lifelong longing to know my bio father contributed to the theme in a big way. I was adopted by my mother’s second husband, and he was an exemplary dad. When he died in the late 1980s, I felt free to pursue the search. The rise of the Internet made searches like mine easier, but I managed to locate my father through a forwarded letter to the Social Security Administration. And no, he isn’t dead! My bio father had been looking for me too, and he drove to Oregon the day after he contacted me. I gained five new half-siblings and a large extended family.
The Fence My Father Built is an amalgam of deep-seated longings and quirky folks like Alfred McBee. My experiences have helped me write a novel that I hope will add up to more than the sum of its parts. We Who Write aren’t superhuman. We have learned to use whatever presents itself–the newspaper, the next-door neighbor, or our longsuffering loved ones—as material. Next time you see a writer taking note of you, beware: you too could end up between the pages of a book.
–-Linda S. Clare’s debut novel, The Fence My Father Built, releases October 1, 2009, from Abingdon Press’ new line of women’s fiction. Linda is a college writing instructor in Eugene, Oregon, where she lives with her husband of 31 years and their five wayward cats.