S.R.Claridge writes Mystery and Romantic Suspense novels. Her work has been said to have the energy of Dan Brown, the mystery of Mary Higgins Clark and the humor of Janet Evanovich. Claridge novels will take you to the edge of your seat, keep you guessing until the very end and ultimately warm your heart. It is on the pages of every S.R.Claridge novel that Mystery and Sensual Suspense collide.

For more information on bookings, interviews and upcoming releases, please visit the author website and Facebook fan page.

Thursday, January 20, 2011



Before we get started talking about your books, tell us a little about yourself. 

I’m a retired teacher, having taught French at community colleges, at a four year university, at high schools, and at middle schools.  I very much enjoyed that and miss it on occasion.  I love the smell of chalk and the joy of introducing students to a different culture and perhaps to a new way of thinking. 

Before that I was an accountant, a job I didn’t particularly enjoy but that paid the bills.  In between I held several boring and mundane jobs, again to pay the bills.  Now, however, I write, which has always been my dream.

I was born in Philadelphia but have lived all along the east coast, from Connecticut to southern Georgia with a very brief stint in northern Florida.  When we retired, however, we came back to Pennsylvania, since our aging parents were still here and we wanted to be near them.

From the very beginning of our relationship, we agreed that one day we would live in a log home in the woods, and so we spent about twenty years designing our home, learning that erasing walls on graph paper is much easier than ripping them down once they’re built. 

We finally had the plans for the house of our dreams, but we needed five more years to find the perfect plot of land on which to build.  We thought we had died and gone to heaven when we finally found it.  And, of course, we built the house immediately.  In 1999 we moved in or, more accurately, oozed in.  We brought our household goods over by the car load until we got down to the very large items.  Then we rented a U-Haul and finished up the task.  It was a relatively painless move, since we put everything away as we brought it over. And this is where we have lived ever since. 

We have four cats now: Freckles, Cadeau, Puck, and Callie, who give us a great deal of pleasure except on the days when we feel as if we’re living with a house full of naughty two year olds.  And, of course, we enjoy frequent visits from our many woodland friends.  The cats seem to enjoy seeing all those beasties outside the windows except for the deer and the bear.  They’re not too fond of large mammals.
I take a great deal of pleasure in playing in the dirt.  I love to plant and nurture things, particularly herbs.  In fact, we don’t have any grass.  We use herbs as ground covers.  The deer seem to enjoy that.  So do the rabbits.

I also love to cook, which is why I wrote Forest Song Cookbook.  Since I enjoy cooking (and eating) so much, my characters do a great deal of that.  People became interested in the dishes the characters were enjoying and asked me all the time how to prepare them.  Well, I got so tired of sending individual recipes out, that I decided to write a book containing recipes for all the dishes served in the first two Forest Song books.  I am currently working on another cookbook for the second two Forest Song books.

 Would you describe yourself as an introvert or an extrovert?

I am definitely an introvert.  I have always been shy and relatively reserved.  I’m the kind of person who likes to people watch.  I enjoy listening to conversation and watching body language.  I could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be called the life of the party.  I’m fine with small groups.  But crowds seem to close in on me.  I try to avoid them if I can.

There is no question you have a deep love for your cats.  Why don’t you tell us a little bit about them: 

Oh yes!  The oldest is Freckles, and he’s our little athlete.  His favorite trick is jumping on top of open doors and then pouncing down on me when I go through the doorway. He thinks that’s a great game.  I tend to disagree.

Puck is the next oldest. He came to us with an attitude.  He was aggressive and unpleasant.  But, given the struggle he had just to survive at a very young age, that’s not surprising.  Someone had thrown him into a stream as a kitten, and he came very close to drowning.  I found him and fished him and his sister out, and they were barely alive.  Well, to make a long story even longer, I nursed them back to health and then gave the sister to our neighbor whose heart simply melted at the sight of her.

Cadeau also had a tough time.  He was left on the doorstep of our vet’s office in a carrier.  Unfortunately, the rocket scientist who had dropped him off had opened the carrier door.  Cadeau, of course, escaped.  We were in the midst of a very violent thunderstorm at the time, and, terrified, he sought safety in a bush. Unfortunately, it was a thicket of wild berries.  He screamed and screamed, and the techs who work there searched and searched for him.  They finally freed him, bloody and scared, and brought him into the office.  There he got all the medical attention he needed and thrived.  However, they could not keep him indefinitely.  Since we had lost a cat to cancer a few months before, and since Cadeau looked like the cat who had died, the vet called us.  And he asked those six deadly words—Would you like to hold him.  Well, needless to say, Cadeau became part of our family.  Cadeau means gift in French, and that’s why he has that name.  He was a gift from our vet and, I am convinced, from Merlin, the cat whom Cadeau so resembles. 

Callie came to us last year on 9 October.  I had been out running errands.  When I got out of the car, I heard a cat’s distress call and found a beautiful mostly white calico kitty sitting on a rock screaming her head off.  Of course, I went to her.  She leapt into my arms and would not let me go.  Well, I brought her in and fed her and examined her for wounds and ticks and other nasties.  While she had a few ticks, she seemed okay.  That’s when I discovered that she had been declawed!  This cat had been out in the woods for who knows how long with no means to protect herself and no way to feed herself.  That broke my heart.

I assumed that she had gotten out of the house somehow and imagined her family frantically trying to find her.  I made up flyers and stuffed mailboxes.  I made up posters and pinned them up in all the local businesses.  I put ads in the local papers.  I called all the local vets.  Nobody knew anything about this cat.  And so after a full veterinary check-up, I integrated her into the family.  It’s been touch and go ever since.  She is clearly used to being the only cat in the house, and so she’s very aggressive with the others.  But I trust that, like Puck, once she feels secure and loved she’ll mellow out.  Puck is now a champion at cuddling.  I think Callie has the same potential.

What are your favorite books to read?

I generally prefer non-fiction, truth to tell, though I enjoy a good story.  I particularly enjoy novels that explore human relationships.  I don’t care where they’re set or what their genre is.  I care that the relationships are honest and ring true.  I want to understand the characters, to know what makes them tick, what causes their behavior.  I am always disappointed when a story doesn’t offer me that.

Where is the most unique place you have traveled?

I loved Hawaii.  I was there for R&R when my first husband was on leave from the Vietnam war.  We stayed top drawer at the Hilton Hawaii Village.  We were able to do that, because everything was half price for military people.  We had such a wonderful week, almost like a second honeymoon.  However, I am not particularly interested in returning.  That was a special moment that cannot be duplicated.

Aside from your successes in the writing industry, what in your life has given you the greatest sense of accomplishment?

Oh every time I saw that “AHA” look in a student’s eyes I went home feeling like wonder woman.  There is nothing better than watching a kid catch on, to see the absolute bliss in her or his eyes when he or she does!  That is priceless.

How many books have you written and how many of those are published?

I have written four books of fiction: Hidden Passages: Tales to Honor the Crones, Forest Song: Finding Home, Forest Song: Little Mother, and Forest Song: Letting Go.  I have also written Forest Song Cookbook.  Thus far all the books I’ve written have been published.   I am currently working on another novel as well as another book of stories and, of course, another cookbook.

How much character and plot detailing do you plan out before you begin writing a novel, or are you a “pantser” (fly by the seat of your pants) ?

I plan nothing.  I channel my characters.  That is, I go into a light trance and let my main character tell me her story.  I basically take dictation from her.  Once I have the chapter sketched out from her input, I go back and make art of it.  But the basic story comes through me, not from me.

Prior to becoming a published author, how many rejections did you receive?  How did you handle the rejections?

I have been outrageously blessed.  I have never received a rejection letter. 

(This is where readers gasp and writers stand in awe and applaud you.  You are the first author I have met who has never received even one rejection letter.  Kudos!  J  )

How and when do you write? Do you keep yourself on a schedule or do you work while the muse is with you?

I write in the living room.  I have a corner of the sofa where I prop my laptop on the sofa arm and the end table.  It’s right in front of the hearth, and so I enjoy having a fire going when the weather is appropriate.  Of course, I have four feline assistants that make sure I get things right.  Mimi used to be on my lap at all times, but we just lost her.  Now Puck is usually on my lap.  Freckles likes to lie on my left arm.  And Cadeau and Callie enjoy lying on the back of the sofa or draped across my shoulders.

I write at night.  I promise myself every night that I’m going to start writing by about ten, but the truth is I never can.  By the time I take care of everything else that needs my attention each day, it’s at least eleven or twelve by the time I actually sit down to write.  Then I work until I can’t hold my head up anymore.

My character is my muse, and I find that if I call her, she comes.  She wants her story told.  In fact, she can be a bit of a nag.  Some days she refuses let me rest until I at least jot down what she wants me to know.  But I don’t wait for any special inspiration.  I simply write. 

If you have a new release coming out, tell us about it. 

Forest Song: Letting Go was just released in October.  This is the third book in the Forest Song series in which World War II is in full swing.  There is tragedy in this book, though I prefer not to go into it here.  It’s better if the reader lives the experience first hand.  There is betrayal.  However, the characters meet the terrible challenges they encounter with courage and cleverness, even humor.  At bottom, it’s a book about the triumph of the human spirit.

If you could step into the world of anyone else’s novel or meet with any character, which/who would you choose?

Among others, I’d like to step into the world of Luciente in Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time. I admire Luciente and her people.  I love that the genders are genuinely equal in her culture, that she is free to be who she is, to take up as much space as she wants, to speak loudly or softly, as she desires.  I love that her culture truly treasures the earth and understands that it must be protected and nurtured.  I love her culture’s attitude toward the old.  I love that people are free to change their names as they mature and the old names no longer fit them.  I love their attitude toward sex, toward mental illness, toward property, toward war.  I would love to live in Luciente’s world.

If you could give one piece of advice to writers trying to get published, what would that advice be?
First and foremost, get your manuscript professionally edited.  I’ve seen some wonderful concepts that sloppy grammar and poor sentence structure have wrecked. 

The second thing is to do your homework.  It’s easy enough to research publishers that will handle your genre.  But that’s just the beginning.  There are many unscrupulous or just inept publishers out there.  Learn as much as you can about a house before submitting.

And then be prepared to spend every waking moment promoting your book.
(I have to add an “Amen” to that!)

What's up next for you and your writing?

I am currently working on three books: the next Forest Song novel, a book of stories, and a cookbook.  That should keep me out of mischief (or get me into some) for a while.
Anything else you'd like to share with my blog readers?

I’d like to tell them what a pleasure it was to do this interview with you and to thank you for your gracious hospitality.  Thank you for this.

Where can we read more about you and your work?

I have a blog at Xanga:  http://tiny.cc/6ocas
I also have a facebook page: http://tinyurl.com/2axy9n9
They could check my author’s page at Vanilla Heart Publishing: http://tiny.cc/5CNNS
And I have a website: http://www.vilaspiderhawk.com

Thank you for stopping by today, Vila.  It has truly been a pleasure to learn more about you and your writing.

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