Sunday, May 2, 2010

Talking With: Novelist Claire Applewhite

Like the photo? Read on. Claire Applewhite's second novel, just out, is Crazy for You, about obsessive love among St. Louis's wealthy elites; the first was murder mystery The Wrong Side of Memphis (2009), both published by L&L Dreamspell. She is also the new President of the Missouri Writers Guild, potentially a very powerful organization. She wrote novels for a decade before getting published, and has an MBA.

Your novels are fun to read. And they have a satirical edge. Did you have fun writing them? Whom do you picture as your readership? I hope that my novels take my readers to another world, and that there is a message waiting for them there. The challenge is to deliver the message couched in fun. I don't believe a writer's job is to judge, lecture or preach. I think it is to suggest, question and/or present--and allow the reader to form a conclusion based on individual experience and imagination. I hope that the "fun" in my novels encourages readers to read them. As far as my readership, anyone who enjoys a story with quirky characters, multiple dilemmas, and a Midwestern and/or Southern setting.

I know some people very much like Bunny, the spoiled St. Louis heiress in Crazy For You, and her parents and friends. Do you? I think everyone knows a "Bunny," don't you? For this reason, a lot of physical description almost wasn't necessary--again, the suggestion of her appearance and mannerisms are left to the readers to form their own conclusions based on individual experience. The challenge as a writer was to expose the part of the characters that was not stereotypical.

How were sales of your first book? Sales of The Wrong Side of Memphis were very competitive for a first book from a small press. However, I actively and aggressively promoted it, assisted by a publicist. I lectured at luncheons and book clubs, made multiple public appearances, scheduled many book signings and distributed complimentary copies. I asked for blurbs from other authors and journalists, and obtained reviews from book reviewers and Kirkus Reviews. Promotion was as integral as writing in launching the book.

You once said you got up at 5 a.m. to write. Do you still do that? Actually, I have become a night owl. I find that the writing is best between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. The world is quiet, and the characters' voices are clear.

What is your ultimate career goal? To become the best writer that I can be. I would like to pick up one of my own books someday and say to myself, "I couldn't have done any better," or, "Hey, I'm impressed."

Where'd you get those extra-foxy photos of yourself in evening wear? And why did you have them taken? Ah, the photos! I got those photos taken in response to my "readership" regarding the professional photos I had been using. To quote one younger reader, "You look like Meryl Streep in the Manchurian Candidate," or another well-meaning friend, "You look like a banker." I concluded that I did not look like a writer. I asked people in journalism for the name of a good photographer. We did a ten-hour photo shoot, with six outfits, and, well, these were the best ones.

As the new president of the Missouri Writers Guild, what is your vision for its future?
I am excited to promote literary talent in Missouri--and there is a wealth of it. My vision is to encourage new writers with the accomplishments of those Missourians who have achieved success.

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