Author Spotlight: Heather Clark
Jan. 14, 2022
We are excited to feature author Heather Clark and her debut middle grade novel, LEMON DROP FALLS (Jolly Fish Press), coming out on Feb. 15. Enter to win a copy! (also check out the swag you can get if you pre-order her book)
|cover illustration by dirclumsey, design by Jake Slavik|
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
I’ve been an aspiring author since my sixth grade teacher and school principal, Dr. Max Foran told me that I had talent. It’s amazing what a good teacher or string of teachers can do for a student’s dreams and self-concept. I wrote a short story about a crazy dream, and I still remember the pride of that accomplishment. As a young Canadian reader, my dreams were also informed by endless rereadings of every Anne of Green Gables book by L.M. Montgomery. I learned from Anne to write what you know. I also learned from Anne the endless romance of living in a fantasy world of stories. I spent my childhood writing snippets of novels in notebooks, and dreaming of worlds no one else could see.
As an adult, I thought I’d write fantasy, but after drowning in minute decisions about what the characters in a given world would call their breakfast (meal, mush, porridge?) or clothing (shift? jerkin?) I decided on a whim to try realistic fiction, and have never looked back. Writing for children has been a gift, because I believe my middle grade readers are in the midst of some of life’s greatest adventures. They are just beginning their struggle to develop identity, autonomy, and intimacy. Joining them on this journey, and connecting with them through story at this unique time in their lives is a privilege I don’t take lightly.
Congrats on your middle grade debut, Lemon Drop Falls! Tell us about the book and what inspired you?
Well, talk about writing what you know… A few years ago I was sitting in a conference class with agent Elizabeth Harding, and she was talking about this concept. It made me examine my own life, and the situations that were most challenging and defining. I nearly died of a pulmonary embolism in 2014, and my then fifth grade daughter wrestled with severe anxiety in the aftermath of that near tragedy. In wondering how my family would have learned to cope if I had died, Lemon Drop Falls was born.
My main character, Morgan is modeled after my oldest daughter–hyper-responsible and carrying the weight of worlds at times. Like Morgan’s father, my husband feels like camping and hiking can fix almost anything, even if that means ignoring some pretty important details at times. Though the characters and story have evolved far beyond my own family experiences, It was imagining my husband and children on their first trip back to Capitol Reef after my (thankfully imagined) death that started Morgan down the dangerous, harrowing, transformational path she takes in Lemon Drop Falls.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
My writing path sure felt long and winding. I’ve been working seriously on writing for publication since the birth of my second daughter in 2010. I got my first agent in 2013. Lemon Drop Falls is my fifth book, and the fourth to go on submission with an agent. I’ve been close to book deals several times, and in some ways, my path feels like a mashup of all the nail biting author horror stories I’ve ever heard. That said, here I am with my debut novel about to come out, with a wonderful team of author friends and industry professionals supporting and helping to grow my career, and to be honest, it’s hard to remember all the waiting and wondering and struggle. This was definitely worth the wait.
What projects are you working on now?
I’ve got two other contemporary middle grade novels in the works at the moment, but the one I’m most excited about is Find Me Here on Earth. The short description: While Mom does chemo, eleven-year-old Winston is sent to Aunt Ruth’s farm—a trigger for almost every part of his OCD—where he must overcome his fear of germs, new people, the dark, and even outer space to attempt contact with aliens and hopefully find a cure for his mom’s leukemia.
The other project? I’ll leave it at this teaser description: A knitter’s circle for behaviorally challenged middle school boys.
Sounds intriguing and fun! What are some of your favorite classic MGs? New ones?
Anyone who knows me knows my first answer will be The Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall. This series, along with the Casson family series including my favorite, Permanent Rose, by Hilary McKay are the reason I write contemporary middle grade. The familial, gentle hilarity, and tender, emotional themes are so moving, and carry me right into a world I have no desire to leave. I am also wild about Watership Down, by Richard Adams, The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead. A few recent favorites include Better with Butter, by Victoria Piontek, Just Like That, by Gary D. Schmidt, Where the Watermelons Grow, by Cindy Baldwin, Planet Earth is Blue, by Nicole Panteleakos, and Starfish, by Lisa Fipps.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Be patient. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time to tell your best story, and don’t worry about the passing time. Also, keep going, especially if (like me) you can’t stop anyway. But let go of the results, and focus on what you can control, which is learning to tell the best story that is in you. Also, have fun. It really is fun, whenever you take a breath and stop freaking out. Oh wait, that’s not you? Must be just me, then. Carry on as you were.
What is something most people don't know about you?
I am a former high school French teacher, and also a professional photographer, and you can check out my work at www.heatherclarkphotography.com.
Where can people find you online?
Podcast at MGBookParty.com
Full list of links: https://linktr.ee/HeatherClarkBooks
Through February If you preorder Lemon Drop Falls through Heather's local indie bookstore, The King's English, you'll get all the swag pictured below, shipped with your book, while supplies last. If you order from anywhere else, there's a smaller swag assortment, available by filling out a google form with proof of purchase. Find preorder details here: https://linktr.ee/HeatherClarkBooks
Heather Clark grew up near the Rocky Mountains of Canada, then followed the mountain range south, to her current home in Utah, where she lives with her husband and three children who inspire the books she writes. Heather’s work as a writer, photographer, and teacher helps her see the beauty and unique value in every person. After dealing with her own childhood anxiety and OCD, Heather is passionate about representing neurodiverse children powerfully in fiction. When she’s not working, you can find Heather camping, hiking, board gaming, or reading and celebrating books at MGBookParty.com. You can learn more about Heather and her books at HeatherClarkBooks.com. LEMON DROP FALLS is her debut novel.
a Rafflecopter giveaway