I first met Clabe Polk four years ago when he asked me to read and review his book, Schism. Both Mr. N and I were instantly taken with Clabe’s writing style. Since then, we’ve read all of Clabe’s books and gotten to know him better. What I love most about Clabe is how supportive he is of other authors and writers. He’s learned a lot since he wrote his debut novel and has really grown into a prolific writer. I asked him to sit down for a candid interview and he agreed. So, grab your favorite cool beverage and join us. Don’t forget to check out his latest release, currently on pre-order. Take it away, Clabe:
What is your writing process?
My writing process is to sit my rear-end firmly in a chair in front of my computer, dismiss the rest of the world from my consciousness, let the story play like a movie in my mind and flow through my fingers into the keyboard. I do not use outlines or “plans”. If I get stumped, I access my subconscious by meditation, or immediately before or after sleep, and most often, the rest of the story is there waiting for me to connect my subconscious to my fingers. I edit sentence structure, logical sequences, and spelling as I go. I find Grammarly to be a huge benefit to minimize common writing errors.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
My stories often have many diverse characters. I strive for character names that “fit” the scenario, the action, and the energy of the character.
For example, my character Detective Mike Eiser (The Detective Mike Eiser Series) is a smalltown Sheriff’s Deputy with a girlfriend, a partner, and a large number of friends in his community of Poplar Bluffs. He lives, loves, and values his friends, family, his church and his community; things many smalltown southern men value.
On the other hand, Amos Puckett (The Calling of Amos Puckett) is an 1870’s orphaned farmboy, the son of an itinerant preacher, left to make his way in the world. Somewhat naive, he finds himself battered by responsibility, the ravages of disease, disasters, moral crises, and other problems until he finds God has always been in control.
Harry Morgan (The Adventures of Harry Morgan), is an adventurous, likable retiree who gets in trouble at every turn. It’s not always his fault, but he always finds himself trying to hold the higher moral ground even when the slope is crumbling around him. The name “Harry Morgan” seems to fit the energy of the character, as does his wife, Jane Morgan’s, name. Jane quietly supports Harry through all his misadventures.
Mark Bishop (The Road to Armageddon) is a normal family man who hasn’t a clue as his family’s whole world dissolves around them.
Have you always liked to write?
I have always liked to write. I took advanced English courses in high school focused on literature and writing. I have also been lifelong reader, once estimating I’d probably read between two and three thousand books in my lifetime. To me, writing is a natural by-product of reading. I often tell those who want to write, that they must first read.
In college, besides the usual papers, I wrote poetry. In my working life, I wrote hundreds of investigative reports, legal documents, papers, and training courses. When my two daughters went to college, I began writing short stories and my first novels, and even tried writing a screenplay…to me, the hardest kind of writing of all.
What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
Don’t quit your day job. Some people make a good living writing. Most don’t. It is a good means of personal expression that may, or may not, provide an income. In any event, it will be both fun and, perhaps, the loneliest thing you’ll ever do.
Have enough life experience to draw from. If you try to write without enough life experience to make it believable, it shows. Experience things, and then you can write about those as well as many other things.
Don’t quit. Rome wasn’t built in a day. But it could be destroyed in one.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I do read my reviews. They may be eighty percent BS, but there is a kernel of truth hiding between the platitudes and criticism. Reviews are the only feedback about our writing ability many of us will receive as an author. The trick is to have enough confidence in your ability to understand the truth is neither in the good nor the bad but somewhere in the middle. Once you see it, be honest enough to admit it and use it to improve.
I have written many reviews for other authors. Many would say I rate other’s books too highly and yet I try to criticize things that need improving without trashing the strong points. A few books are so poorly written, I refuse to review them, but I do try to provide authors constructive criticism privately. To me, feedback on my writing is the most important aspect of reviews and every author deserves the opportunity to improve.
What is your least favorite part of the publishing /writing process?
Without a doubt, marketing is my least favorite part of the writing/publishing process. Marketing consumes time, labor, and money, and often, there is no feedback regarding its effectiveness. It can be very frustrating, but it’s something no author can ignore.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
Personally, I write neither romance nor erotica. Different strokes for different folks. I prefer writing action books no matter what genre. The quickest way to lose me as a reader is excessive romance or gratuitous sex or profanity that do not directly drive the story.
Is this your first book? How many books have you written prior (if any)?
The Calling of Amos Puckett is not my first book, but it is my first historical fiction book. My work began with The Detective Mike Eiser Series of crime action novels (Backslide, Hot Summer Nights, Schism, Angelica, Fire on the Mountain, and soon to come, The Illusionist), then came The Adventures of Harry Morgan Series of crime action novellas (Collegial Conspiracy, Emilio, The Pirates of Cayo Pelau), Then the end-times novel, The Road to Armageddon, the short stories Double or Nothing, Devolution, Teal Dissociated, A Valentine for Mary Jane, Short Fuse, and my new book, The Calling of Amos Puckett.
What are you working on now? What is your next project?
For some time, I’ve been working on a sci-fi series called “Europa” it is an action-adventure quite unlike conventional sci-fi. I’m also planning to begin work soon on the next Detective Mike Eiser Book, The Illusionist. In the meantime, I stay busy with a new non-publishing project with which I’m involved, and with writing flash fiction and short stories which I find enjoyable.
Have you ever been in trouble with the law?
I can’t say I’ve ever been in trouble with the law. I can say that my thirty-three plus year career involved both civil and criminal law enforcement and required me to be a functional “bridge” between law enforcement, prosecutors and regulatory agencies training all of them to work with each other on specialized investigations.
Have you ever gotten into a fight?
No, but my life has been seriously threatened in the past.
Do you drink? Smoke? What’s your vice?
I have no vices except for food and workaholism.
What secret talents do you have?
I am an enthusiastic woodturner who makes beautiful hardwood bowls. I played drums for many years. I’ve also played a little guitar and piano in the distant past. I love to write poetry but now write more flash fiction and short stories.
What were you like as a child?
I was an only child growing up on a farm isolated by myself. Although I had toys, I used my imagination to build toys using my dad’s lumber and nails. We had a lake on the property, so I spent most afternoons after school in a boat on the lake engaged in imaginary naval battles, fishing, and catching minnows and aquatic insect larvae for bait and just to learn about them. I learned to row a boat at five years old, to shoot and drive a tractor at eight years old. I learned to hunt, trap, how to grow things, preserve things, cook things, butcher meats, and how to make sugar cane syrup.
Now, at almost seventy, I realize what an amazing childhood that was and how much about the natural world I was able to learn.
Clabe Polk has an upcoming book release you’ve got to check out…
Title: The Calling of Amos Puckett
Author: Clabe Polk
Genre: Historical Fiction
Amos Puckett grows up to be a protestant missionary in late 19th century Cuba, a Spanish Catholic Colony. Unconsciously following in his father’s footsteps, he encounters a series of potentially fatal experiences and learns to use a natural gift, an interest in herbal medicine, to heal the bodies and souls of others. His defeats teach him about winning and losing, and about his faith. His wins teach him that God is in control. At times, he feels he is the biggest sinner of all. At times, he hangs by a thread and prays for an end to the diseases that cause "his people", including his loved ones to suffer and die. Will putting feet to his prayers help end the disease he dreads?
“Amos, Katy’s pregnant. What am I going to do?” Aaron whispered in a low voice. The two boys lay on Aaron’s bed staring at the ceiling, watching spiders build webs in the corners of the ceiling to catch mosquitos while Ambrose prepared sermon notes by lamplight in the next room.
“What’s that got to do with you?” Amos asked.
“Everything,” he replied. “Young’uns don’ just happen.”
“They don’t? I never thought about it before.”
“No. You know how…well…that women and men are different?” Aaron asked.
“I noticed,” Amos said. “Lucinda…she taught me a little about her body.”
“Yeah,” Aaron responded dryly. “Katie did too. That was all great, but now she’s pregnant. Her Pa and our Pa are both going to kill me. We can’t marry. I have no expectations; nothin’ to give her.
“Does anyone else know?”
“No. Us for now, but everybody will know soon,” Aaron replied.
“So what are you going to do?”
“That’s what I asked you, little brother!” Aaron retorted.
Amos’ eyes flicked open automatically. In his ears, Ambrose’s voice danced, “Amos! Aaron! Get up! It’s daybreak and the chores won’t do themselves!” He listened. His Pa’s voice wasn’t repeated. I must have dreamed it, he thought. No matter. It’s time to get up. Pa will yell at us any minute.
Amos signed and rolled to sit on the edge of the bed, rubbing his sleepy eyes. Aaron didn’t move.
“Com’ on Aaron, get yer lazy bones up! Pa will be up here to beat ya wid’ a belt,” Amos said shaking his brother’s shoulder. “Aaron? What’s wrong? You’re tremblin’ like a stuck pig!”
Aaron didn’t answer. He drew tighter into a fetal position and kept shaking, his head glistened with sweat.
“Pa!” Amos called. “Pa, come in here. Aaron’s sick!” There was no answer. No one moved. “Pa!” Amos yelled again. “Aaron needs help!” There was still no answer; still no movement.
Amos pushed open the door to the next room. Ambrose sat slouched at the kitchen table, his face beet-red, his brow glistening with sweat. His arms wrapped around him in a tight hug; his eyes open but unseeing. “Pa? Pa, you okay? Are you sick too?”
Ambrose slowly turned staring eyes bright with fever toward Amos. “Sick? Who’s sick?” He managed to say before another chill seized him. He shook as though having a seizure.
“Dear Lord, please help me now!” Amos muttered to himself. “Give me strength. Tell me what I need to know.” Taking his father’s hand and wrapping his arm around his shoulders Amos helped him stand and stagger to bed.
Afterward, he punched up the fire and heated water. Food, he could improvise, medicine, he could not. He needed a healer, someone who knew medicine; who knew this illness. He would boil water, cool it, and leave it for Ambrose and Aaron. Then, he would make some soup, try to feed them a little, saddle the mule and ride the thirty miles to Tampa looking for Coontie Billy, a black Seminole half-breed that worked for Ambrose whenever he needed drinkin’ money. Billy knew the healing power of every plant and herb, and every shaman’s incantation. Amos hoped he knew the right one.
The Spotted Bull catered to cowboys, sailors, and businessmen alike. Strategically located across the street from the Tampa wharves, not far from the cattle pens and loading ramps, the Bull was known far and wide for the quality of its liquor, entertainment, and the willingness of its prostitutes. On a warm July evening, Amos Puckett entered the Bull seeking Coontie Billy. Ignoring the challenge in the stares of a couple of the prostitutes, he made his way through the crowd to the bar. “What’ll it be, boy? A glass o’ water?” the bartender laughed.
“No,” said Amos. “Seen Coontie Billy hangin’ ‘round?”
“Billy is it? Whatcha be needin’ wid Billy?”
“Talk to ‘im,” Amos replied.
“Hear the piano?”
“That’s Billy. The more he drinks, the more he plays, the more he plays the more he drinks. After a while, he’ll pass out at the keyboard and, then, you can talk to him…if he’s conscious.”
“Much obliged,” Amos nodded turning toward the piano. The bartender grabbed his arm.
“I’ll tell ya once, don’t mess wid’ ‘im while he’s playin’ He keeps the customers happy. You can have ‘im after ‘e passes out.”
“He’s no good drunk.” Amos asserted.
“Too bad, boy.” The bartender said, motioning to two men leaning against the wall. “That’s the way it is.” One of the men took Amos by the arm.
“Maybe you should leave and come back in an hour or two,” he said. “Old Billy should be pretty mellow by then.”
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CLABE POLK is a multi-genre author of several novels, novellas and short stories. Originally trained in biology and natural sciences, he is a life-long reader with a curious mind, who is retired from more than thirty years in professional environmental protection and law enforcement and who has too many interests to list.
He lives in Powder Springs, Georgia with his wife, two daughters, and the family’s Cockapoo named Annie.
Social Media Links
Author website: http://clabepolkmysteryadve.ipage.com/index.html