By Peter H. Green
My intrigue with the writings of Claire Applewhite, whom I’ve gotten to
know over the past five years through St. Louis Writers Guild and the local chapter of Sisters in Crime, can hardly be explained away by my weakness for redheads. I refer to my creation of Patrick MacKenna, an architect-sleuth whose willful carrot-topped daughter, Erin, in Crimes of Design is soon to come back even more troublesome as she battles Patrick and hardened criminals in Fatal Designs. By the way, Claire’s a redhead too.
No, I think it’s, Claire’s ability to out-think troublemakers, put Vietnam vets into dangerous situations and remain two steps ahead of the sheriff that keeps me coming back for more. And it’s her unexpected plot twists, deft turns of phrase and a thorough familiarity with the checkered past of our Midwestern cities that sets her apart.
Claire Applewhite is a graduate of St. Louis University, where she earned an A.B. in Communications and an MBA. Currently an adjunct professor at the University of Missouri St. Louis, her published books include The Wrong Side of Memphis, Crazy For You, St. Louis Hustle, Candy Cadillac and Tennessee Plates. She has served as President of the Missouri Writers Guild, Vice-President of Sisters in Crime and as a Board member of the Midwest Chapter, Mystery Writers of America. She is actively involved in other writers’ organizations, including the St. Louis Metropolitan Press Club. For details see: www.Claireapplewhite.com. Here’s what Claire had to say in a recent interview:
Where do you live, and how has your environment affected your writing? I live in St. Louis, Missouri, located in the heart of the country. Founded by French traders, the city possesses a rich history as “the Gateway to the West.” Nevertheless, it has been classified as one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. Most of my stories are set in St. Louis, and are influenced by economic, racial, gender, education and employment issues.
How many books have you written? I have written seven books. Of those, five are published.
How would you describe your most recently published book, Tennessee Plates, published by L&L Dreamspell, in December, 2012? In ‘68, the hot smoke and cold eyes of ‘Nam stalked ELVIN SUGGS. Now, a blonde in a tight dress and a silver Cadillac has captured his heart, and he doesn’t want to run. Lonely and eager, he trails the temptress with a shady past, rife with corruption and lies—the girl with the Tennessee Plates.
How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book? I’ve heard it said that no one can write authentically with their hands tied up behind their back. I think an author must forget oneself and let the characters talk. In other words, I strive to do that.
Do your characters take on a life of their own? I think an author must climb into a characters’ skin and view the world through their eyes. If so, which is your favorite? My favorite is the character who owns the viewpoint in the scene under construction.
What challenges did you face while writing this book? Tennessee Plates concerns reconciliation with past demons. The hero finally confronts the worst times in his life, and exposes them, so that he can find peace. A major challenge existed in the balance between tragedy and humor.
Do you travel to do research or for inspiration? I love to travel because I am very interested in other people and their traditions. I travel for both research and inspiration. Can you share some special places with us? Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, Seaside, Florida, Palm Springs, Phoenix, the Badlands are all intriguing places with their own personalities. I love Southern cities, but I am also fascinated by deserts.
What do you think is the greatest lesson you’ve learned about writing so far? Writing is much like acting in that the author must forget him or herself, and assume a new identity in order to express another’s viewpoints.
What advice can you give new writers? Don’t worry about what people will think when they read your writing. If you do, you won’t get your best work.
Where can folks learn more about your books and events? Amazon.com, Goodreads, and my website, www.claireapplewhite.com , My books are available in print and ebook formats at Amazon.com.
Till next time, good words to you,