1. Tell us about your latest book, Crazy for You.

This is a story that is deceptively complex. One reviewer called it a mix of “French farce” and “chick lit”, in other words, a great beach book-and in many ways, that is true. However, the characters are a study in the consequences of trying to be something you’re not. To quote the review from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Dan Hunter knows what it’s like to fall instantly in love. From the moment the Venezuelan model Leila walks into his country club “with her dark hair, dark, almond-shaped eyes, and sensuous mouth” (reminding him of Ava Gardner, his favorite movie star from the ’40s) he is smitten. He is obsessed. He is also married. 

“Crazy for You” is a steady and at-times-amusing mix of French farce and chick-lit. Dan is married to Bunny Dingwerth, a spoiled heiress and airhead who punctuates every vacuous utterance with a pout or a giggle. Her father, Giles Dingwerth, provides Dan with financial support and is his employer as well. (He makes Dan vice president of “something.”) And, as we quickly learn, Giles is having a passionate affair with the beauteous Leila. 

What follows is a light comedy of errors. Fortunately for Dan, his ardor is reciprocated by Leila, who falls for his rugged good looks, his irresistible smile (which reminds her of Tom Cruise) and his suntan. But how can he and Giles avoid a collision? 

Dan needs help and quickly enlists the services of the family chauffeur and a hotel concierge to keep track of Giles. Filling out the cast is a phalanx of mischief-makers, including a parking lot attendant, a hairdresser, a bar owner and a gossip columnist, all mixing and matching their own tangled romances.

2.   What’s next?

There are several projects on the burner, so to speak. Unchain My Heart, a Faulkner Finalist, and These Foolish Things are both circulating, and  I am completing a main stream novel called Unforgettable.  Though I started out as a mystery novelist, I am finding that romance is edging its way into my books, to complicate the mystery.

3.   I note you’re also a contributing writer for the “St. Louis Post-Dispatch”. Which do you find hardest, writing a full-length novel or a newspaper article?

They are so different to me that it’s difficult to compare them, but I suppose it comes down to this for me: fiction vs. non-fiction. I find non-fiction harder to write because I have to stick to the facts and leave out the adjectives. Also, I must skip dialogue, and that’s my favorite part of writing fiction.

4.   What inspires you as a writer?

If I can take an ordinary thought, object, or idea and present it in an extraordinary way, then I feel I am a writer. When I see that someone else has done this, it is inspiring for me.

5.   What works best for you in regards to promoting your books?

I tend to like personal meetings with those that buy and read my books. So, I visit book clubs, luncheons, do book signings, television appearances, and pass out business cards and promotional items. I also advertise with Facebook events and in writers’ newsletters, as well as media placement.

6.   What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you at a signing or book promoting event?

When I was in Memphis, Tennessee promoting The Wrong Side of Memphis at the Davis-Kidd Bookstore, a man approached my signing table and introduced himself. He told me he was a lawyer and attended law school in Mississippi with John Grisham and had always dreamed of being a writer. He then asked me if I was related to the Applewhites of Greenwood, Mississippi and I told him that was my husband’s family. He looked off into the distance and bit his lip. He said, “My mother likes to talk about them sometimes.” I replied, “Well, what does she say?” He said, “She says….well, she said they could ride and they could shoot.” My husband got such a kick out of that. By the way, we don’t know the Applewhites from Greenwood, Mississippi. Does anyone know them?

7.   Who are your favorite authors and why?

I read everything on all subjects. Having said that, I like the late Ed McBain, Elmore Leonard, Ruth Rendell, Barbara Vine, and I do read the classics. I feel that there is still much to learn from books that have survived the test of time.

8.   Which genre do you prefer to write?

I prefer to write mysteries, but with a romantic twist or subplot. Romance always complicates situations. When you need some conflict to heighten the tension between two characters, it’s the perfect vehicle.

9.   Describe a typical writing day.

I will get up at 6 or 6:30 and write until 8:00 or 8:30, basically clock two hours when my mind is fresh. Then my day is filled with things I must do, like errands, meetings and appointments, similar to other people’s schedules. But, I return to the computer around 10 in the evening and write until midnight or 1 a.m. This produces 5-10 pages a day.

10. What do you love most about writing?

I love the chance to create and visit and revisit another world with its own characters that make and break their own rules. The possibilities are endless.

 What do you dislike most?

Probably the rewrite(s). That is when I realize the order the chapters must follow, and I need more or less characters, or another subplot, or more research. When I need to get really particular and precise about the story and prose. It’s not fun, but it’s what makes the story real for the reader and ultimately, a book you can be proud to sign.

11. I note you’re a dog lover (like me!) and feature Airedale Terriers in your books. What do you find special about this breed?

This is a very loyal and intelligent breed. If it has a fault, it is the stubborn streak that is uniformly present in their sweet temperament. They are impervious to pain and will work until they drop. They aren’t for everyone, but once you’ve had one, you’ll probably want two…or more. I’ve heard it said that if an Airedale was a human being, it would be a physicist. They have a delightful, but quirky, personality.

12. Tell us about your “neck of the woods”.

I live in St. Louis, Missouri. Right now, we are in the throes of one of our famous one hundred degree summers. Strangely, our winters can be just as harsh. St. Louis has “weather” and if you live here, you never put all of your winter or summer clothes in storage because you never know what you might be wearing on a particular day. The weather is extremely volatile.

 On the plus side, the cost of living is low to moderate. Perhaps as a result, there is a diverse population that results in a wide variety of ethnic restaurants, clothing stores, churches, music, and entertainment. There is a Southern influence, but I think most St. Louisans think of themselves as Midwesterners. It is a conservative region, for the most part.

 With three major universities and a wide variety of excellent private and public schools, the educational opportunities often attract professionals searching for a place to raise a family. There are many families who have lived in St. Louis their entire life. For some, this may seem dull; for others, it suggests stability.

 I have lived here all of my life, however, I have traveled to Canada, Europe, and Scandinavia, as well as various islands in the Caribbean. I believe a wide exposure to different traditions and cultures is essential to a writing career.

For more information about Claire (and to see a really cool pic!): http://claireapplewhite.com/