Tuesday, April 12, 2011

An Alien Writer in an American World

Today my guest is author LaVerne Clark who's come all the way from New Zealand to Terry's Place. Welcome.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog Terry! I’m thrilled to be here.

I’ve read Romantic Suspense novels for years. Throughout those years, I’ve traveled all around America, discovering hidden pockets of the country through the adventures I’ve read and loved every minute of it.

Now I’m writing for the American market, with my debut novella, Guardian of the Jewel released by The Wild Rose Press late last year, and a whole new world has opened up to me. Seeing Guardian take its place on the virtual shelves alongside more well-known authors was a bit like sending my child off to its first day of school. I was proud and terrified at the same time. Would it be okay? Would it make friends or would it be bullied? How would it get on out there in the big, wide world? And how would people react to an Alien writer on their shelves?

Selling in America was the Holy Grail to me, but I admit to a case of killer nerves wondering how my Kiwi flavor and voice would be received. I desperately hoped the American public would ‘get’ what I had to say and how my characters said it, with the minimum of confusion along the way. I needn’t have worried – you are a smart lot : )

Spell-check combined with language setting have been such wonderful friends during this journey : ) It gently reminds me when I’m spelling words like ‘flavor’, in Kiwi-speak, making it a breeze when it comes to editing and making for a much happier editor I’m sure! Apart from that obvious difference, my fears of being from the opposite side of the world have been unfounded. If anything, I think it can be a bonus. Armchair traveling is safe, informative and cheap!

Yes, we are different, but this is where the fascination lies for me. I may be generalizing, but American’s have always come across as jovial and expansive. Everything they do is big and they are rightly proud of their achievements. America is the world leaders in many things, and New Zealand will often follow along like the sheep we’re renowned for some time after. Although we’re genuinely interested and welcoming to strangers, we can often be wary and standoffish. A throwback to our English ancestors I suspect : ) Tucked away at the bottom of the world, before the advent of airplanes, having strangers come to your shores was often met with suspicion and fear. In the case of the Maori, they often had good reason to feel this way. Maybe remnants of that still linger in the psyche of the average New Zealander today.

New Zealanders have a strong affinity for the land and is a theme I use with my characters. The land shapes who we are, our personalities often echoing the setting around us. Amy (the heroine of Guardian) for example, is strong and independent. She lives on the West Coast of the South Island with her son in an isolated town called Waiuta. It was once a thriving gold mining town, but had been abandoned for years and since become a ghost town. Amy’s husband was brutally murdered while overseas, and she feels her isolation and abandonment keenly in this lonely place. The West Coast has a reputation for wild weather and harsh beauty which pulls at the romantic soul – a perfect place to set a story. With this in mind, Amy needed the resilience at her core to survive and when danger comes her way, this trait becomes an important tool to help her through a life-threatening situation.

A trip to New Zealand wouldn’t be complete without discovering a little about the culture and history of the Maori. Being proud of my own Maori heritage, I like to highlight a few Maori phrases, places or myths. Sharing tidbits with readers is one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing for me and one I hope readers enjoy also. I hope it whets your appetite enough to come and visit some day.

What is your favorite place to ‘visit’ when choosing a book to read and what is it that appeals to you most about this place?

LaVerne is giving away a download of Guardian of the Jewel to one commenter. Winner announced on Saturday. You can find more about LaVerne at her blog, Novel Natterings. For more about Guardian of the Jewel, click here.


Terry Odell said...

I'm off to the car dealership down in the Springs today, so I'm leaving the blog in LaVerne's capable hands. Just remember, she's in a WAY different time zone. But pass the word about her contest, and fill the blog with comments for her.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I like the way that you've incorporated your country into your writing. I love being an armchair traveler when I'm reading a book. :)

Kris Bock said...

I spent a month traveling around New Zealand when I was in my 20s, and found the people lovely and the scenery stunning. I love romantic suspense and exotic locations, so your books sound like winners! Congratulations and welcome to America.

LaVerne Clark said...

Hi Elizabeth,
If you can't have the real thing, it is the next best thing isn't it? And the perks - no sunburn - your wallet stays full - and you meet sexy men! Win, win all round : )

LaVerne Clark said...

Hi Chris,

So glad you were able to spend some time here in our part of paradise. Did you manage to get around both Islands? I love how the scenery changes so dramatically within a short space of travel time.

Thanks so much for your kind welcome! One day I'd love to travel for real to your amazing country too.

Bron said...

Hi from NZ

I love curling up in my big comfy chair with a nice cup of tea and biscuits to read my books.

I spent 7.5 years in England where I spent many months over those years to travel the world. What made me think that romance was a great genre to write in - yip - everywhere I went there were HMB or romance novels in most places I stayed.

Love is international.

Vonnie Hughes said...

Hi Laverne from another Kiwi (living in Australia). Yes, you can feel quite cut off from the publishing world sometimes, Downunder. But the Wild Rose Press is a supportive place to be!

Vonnie (the other Vonnie)

Cody Young said...

I look forward to reading Guardian of the Jewel

Gracie O'Neil said...

Hi Laverne (from yet another Kiwi--us girls have to stick together!)

I must admit I don't really care **where** I visit in a book. I'm more interested in **who** I visit.

I have to get involved with the protagonist's hopes and fears. Where she is when she's hoping and fearing isn't all that interesting to me.

I guess that's why I read across so many genres. If the author can give me someone to root for and care about I'll care about her in Medieval England, contemporary Spain, or across seven galaxies in the distant future.

Character is everything.

Here's hoping "Guardian of the Jewel" sells it's socks off!


LaVerne Clark said...

Hi Bron,

Thanks for stopping by! What a great observation, and when I think about it, wherever I've been, there have always been romance books available. Love truly is international.

Vonnie - Hi! hehehe - yes, I have to stop and think sometimes which Vonnie I'm talking to. Its the people that make TWRP the great company that it is - editor, publisher and writers alike. Do you have a release date for "Lethal Refuge" yet? (sorry if I got the title wrong - going by memory!) Another great read by the sounds, set in our beautiful country - yay!

Unknown said...

You're right, it's fun to put a little of of our kiwi paradise into our books. The differences are often so sublte, seasons for example, while our northern hemisphere friends are in snow for winter, we're lazing at the beach and having a barbie.

Jane Beckenham

LaVerne Clark said...

Hi Cody - I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it - thanks : )

Hello Gracie! Great to see all you Kiwi girls rallying around : )
You're right, character is huge in any genre you read and if we get it right during the writing, we should have a wonderful story on our hands. Its what makes a book a keeper to me.
I've found my character's personalities can help determine where I set my stories. Once I knew the basic outline of my story and Amy's characteristics, the West Coast with all its turbulent moods and relative isolation seemed a great place to start - plus I've always loved that area, and it gave me a good excuse to explore : )

LaVerne Clark said...

Hi Jane, nice to see you here!
Yes, I'm thinking about our American friends now, enjoying the warmer weather heading their way, while we're busy preparing our woodpiles and woolies!

Suzanne said...

And yet another RWNZ member. My favourite place to read is during my lunchtime when I leave the office in town and wander down to the marina about a minute away and sit on the benches near the yachts. A lovely break during a hard working day. Congratulations on the release of your book, LaVerne.


LaVerne Clark said...

Sigh...that sounds wonderful Suzanne. Bet its a great place for dreaming too. Thanks for the congrats and stopping by : )

Leigh D'Ansey said...

Hi LaVerne. I'm with Gracie. I love reading about anywhere as long as the characters (good and bad) draw me in. I especially enjoy stories that include 'real' events and people, no matter where in history the story occurs. Best luck for the future.

LaVerne Clark said...

Hi Leigh, lovely to hear from you : )
Ooo, yes - You've got me thinking of some of my favourite authors now; Phillipa Gregory, Margaret George, Diana Gabaldon. History (immediate and older) is rich with stories. I only wish I wasn't quite so allergic to heavy research. I dearly love to read other's efforts though.

Anonymous said...

What a darling post, LaVerne. I went to London some years ago and was fascinated by the differences between British and American English.

I enjoy the same thing when listening to Aussies, South Africans and New Zealand writers speak. When it shows up in the writing, it's sooo fun.

What is your favorite piece of American slang? I remember thinking "squiffy" was the funniest word when I was in the U.K.

LaVerne Clark said...

Hi Jenny and thanks - I'm glad you enjoyed the post. It was fun to write : )

Considering Aussie and New Zealand are close cousins, our slang differences still baffle me at times. Classic case the Aussie "doona". What? It took me a while to figure out this is the equivalent to our duvet (bedcover).

I know not every American says it, but I LOVE hearing "y'all". It's such a relaxed and friendly word.

"Sqiffy" is great - and I also crack up at the word "snog". It doesn't sound very romantic put like that does it? Instantly makes me picture slobbering drunken people.