Bone Weary by C. L. Roth
Tell us about your latest book.
BONE WEARY is an adult cozy mystery. When students learn to write we’re always told to write what we know. As a stay-at-home mother, living a rural life, with no real formal education I thought my life pretty boring. But on analysis, I decided I was wrong. I grew up in a huge family. I have six sisters, one brother, more aunts, uncles, and cousins than I can count.
As we married and in-laws started to make comments I began to understand the life I grew up in wasn’t quite ‘normal’. I decided to write a story that showed what my life was like and how the family dynamics affected our whole family.
Add to this mix, my youngest son was born with cerebral palsy. He is non-verbal, non-ambulatory and quite brilliant. He’s a talented artist but over the years I get lots of questions. How do I know what he wants? How does he communicate with me? I could never tell people how we do it but I thought, in the confines of the story, I could show them.
BONE WEARY is about a big family, the main character is a mother/caregiver for a teenage disabled son. BONE WEARY is book #1 of a planned trilogy. Even though I pulled heavily on personalities I grew up with and contains scenes I’m very familiar with, the story is total fiction and great fun.
When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
My books are very much character-driven. The characters come to me first. In the early years I would get very excited over the characters and scenes that would appear to me. I’d write feverishly for about 80 pages and then the story would die. I hadn’t learned how to plot.
I read dozens of books. Took every class our local college offered. I took a few classes by mail. Some of these were good and some were truly horrid. Then I discovered Holly Lisle and her How to Think Sideway’s course. It was big, six months long. She handed me the tools I was missing.
I always thought my creative brain was flighty; easily distracted and prone to starting and never finishing anything. I found out that my creative brain is awesome. It works overtime to give me ideas. I discovered that my logical brain, the workhorse part of my brain, was letting me down. It didn’t want to work. Work isn’t fun.
The left side of my brain was in full rebellion. It didn’t want regular hours. It didn’t want to have to do the same thing every day. Routine felt like prison. I am nothing if not a master rationalizer. I was able to convince my own brain that editing, revision, marketing, promoting wasn’t drudgery but a wonderful strategy game.
My brain likes puzzles, and strategy, and it loves winning. I convinced my logical brain that by finishing a project, I win. Finally I had both sides of my brain working nicely together (although to them I use the word ‘playing’ together.) The energy that pours out of my head now is amazing. I wish I had discovered the trick years ago.
What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?
The control. So much of my life belongs to others. I am a full-time caregiver for my son, Joshua. He’s 33 years old. He has cerebral palsy. He’s non-verbal, non-ambulatory, and needs help in all areas of his life. He’s also bright, talented, and amazing.
He’s an artist with his own goals and dreams. Add to this I took on responsibility for my husband’s aunt after his sister passed away. Then add the housework, the cooking…the list goes on and on.
There were times when I’d just get tired of being needed; tired of being pulled in so many directions and none of them mine. I started to write to escape; to entertain myself; to create worlds and situations that took me away from my everyday life.
It wasn’t until my husband was diagnosed with breast cancer that my writing turned from fun entertainment to serious development of my writing skills. I don’t have the freedom to go out and get a job. I don’t know too many companies that would let me bring my son to work. I needed a job I could do from home. So I became serious about raising my skill level to a competitive standard. I no longer wrote for fun and started to get my work in front of the public eye.
I still like control. But now the control extends over a broader area. In addition to writing, I’ve added marketing, promoting, public engagements. My son’s art has grown and he has a career to manage also. Life is full, interesting, an adventure that brings us something new on a daily basis.
Mark Twain said, “Southerners speak music…” Do you have a favorite southern saying you can share with our readers?
I don’t know if this is a southern saying but my mother grew up in the West Plains/Peace Valley Missouri area and that might qualify as Southern. I grew up hearing her say: Can’t never did anything. That’s a saying I use to this day. The minute the word ‘can’t’ comes out of my mouth I hear her voice and I figure out a way to change the word to ‘I will’.
If I had to give people one piece of advice it would be to eliminate the word ‘can’t’ from their lives. When my son was born with cerebral palsy my life changed. When he was diagnosed the first thing the doctor told us was: You don’t have to raise him. You can put him in an institution.
I went home that day in such a rage. My son was only nine months old and the doctor was writing him off. My son’s situation taught me to think outside the box. When I’m presented with a problem I don’t think about why something can’t be done. I figure out a way to do it. I adapt, I build, I re-purpose but I do, by golly, accomplish what I set out to do.
My son wanted to be an artist. I didn’t tell him that because he has a disability, he can’t. I figured out a way for him to do what he most wanted to do. He is not only an artist; he’s a darn good artist.
For me to get a job done, all anybody has to tell me is it can’t be done and I will do my best to prove them wrong.
What is your strongest and/or your weakest area in the creative process?
I think my strength is humor and heart. My first goal after I got serious about raising my writing to a competitive level was to get published. I accomplished this goal when I joined our local Write Team. I contributed one article every two weeks for one year for our local newspaper.
I wrote slices of life and my style of writing was compared, favorably, to Erma Bombeck. A compliment that is dear to my heart. I had a small panic attack when I wrote my first article. It was one thing to write for the public but writing for my local newspaper scared me. These people knew where I lived.
I realized very early on that for my articles to impact the reader I had to do one very important thing. I had to write with honesty. And being honest exposes the innermost ‘me’. I can’t give the reader only the pieces I want to show them. If I want the reader to care about what I say, enjoy what I write, take away something of value, I have to be brave enough, open enough, to lay it out there and show them everything.
I think I’m pretty good at sharing emotional impact. I’ve lived a life that has, at times, ripped the heart out of me. I’ve also learned to laugh at life because if I couldn’t laugh I’d curl up in a ball and simply withdraw from life. I consider laughter a life lesson.
As far as weakness, I’m going to admit, right up front, that I am comma challenged. A grammar/punctuation refresher is on my to-do list. Paying a proofreader to go over my finished work is a necessity. On the plus side, punctuation and grammar can be learned. I will get better and better the more I write.
What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?
I think pulling on your life experiences makes your writing stronger. As I’ve said earlier, I believe in writing with honesty. I thought my life fairly boring and mundane but when I stopped and thought about the questions I get asked. When I think about the comments made by family and friends, I realized I had experiences that have value.
My goal, when I write, is to entertain. But I also hope the reader will take away something of value. I hope my work will offer ideas, connections, and satisfaction.
How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.
I wish I could say I’m a mystery writer. Or a fantasy writer. Or… The truth is I don’t know yet. I started out writing articles for our local newspaper. I like writing articles. I’m good at it. I would love to be syndicated like Erma Bombeck was.
I wrote longer articles for magazine. I did okay at that too. If I had more freedom I could be very happy writing for magazines. I was told that I have a very commercial style of writing.
My personal love is mysteries. In my mind I always pictured myself as another Janet Evonavich, writing mysteries that are fast paced and full of humor.
Then I wrote a Middle Grade Fantasy novel and found out I love writing for children. They still believe in magic and I don’t intend to ever not believe in magic. I love letting my imagination run free.
I have characters show up in my head that are most definitely Young Adult. They tell me ghost stories. They have paranormal gifts. I will have to write about them because they are too pushy if I don’t.
I honestly don’t know what genre I will end up being most prolific in. I guess I’ll let the sales tell me. Whichever stories find the strongest homes will dictate where I spend most of my time.
What is your VERB? (This is a big poster at a local mall)? If you had to choose ONE verb that describes you and you behavior or attitude, what would it be?
The one verb that would describe me is: Curious. Curiosity is the driving force of my life. If something trips my curiosity I can’t rest until I satisfy it.
I have zero tolerance for boredom. Boredom will get me in a lot of trouble because when I get bored I look for ways to relieve it. That’s when curiosity will raise its head and lead me into some very strange places.
Author C. L. Roth
Describe your writing process once you sit down to write—or the preliminaries
I used to be a great starter…and a non-finisher. I have notebooks of partial stories spread all over my house. I’m afraid to throw away a notebook or scraps of paper until I find time to go through them for fear of losing the one idea I will need.
Then I discovered Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways class. The one tool she handed me that has changed my life is scene cards.
I learned how to calculate the length of my projected book, divide the number of words by my average scene length and figure out how many scenes I need to fill the story.
My average scene length is 2000 words. If I want to write a story that is 60,000 words long I need 30 scenes. I will count out 30 notecards. I’ll write down one sentence per scene on each card.
I will start with what I know about my story. As I fill out the scenes that I already know I start to see where the gaps are. I can control pacing with the scene cards. I can tell where the story is light.
I no longer worry about writer’s block. The cards are general enough that it allows me freedom to develop the story as needed but keeps me heading in the right direction. I no longer wander all over a story so I can get the story written much faster.
I can line up my projects according to how much story development is already done. This one tool has completely changed my life.
Any family influences? Memoirs in the making?
I’ve already spoken about BONE WEARY. But on my son’s website www.ourhomestudio.com
I wrote a blog titled Walk with Me. It is a documentation of my son’s life from birth to artist. What I would like to do is pull the blog together into one file, add appropriate photographs and artwork and offer the story as a free digital download. I’m hoping to get the project done sometime in 2014.
His story is amazing, and inspiring. I know first-hand how difficult finding out about disability and learning to live with it can be. I’ve gotten emails from people who read Josh’s story in the local newspaper who had family members whose lives have been changed by reading about my son. I feel very strongly that my son’s story needs to be available to anybody who needs it.
I believe in dreams. My son’s mission statement is: I believe that dreams are achieved not by limiting challenges but by challenging limitations.
Were books an important part of your household when you were growing up?
I’m very blessed to grow up in the family I did. My mother taught us that learning was a privilege, not a right. Because of her attitude I value education. I would be an eternal student if I could. I try to take a class every year. Usually online because my time is so limited but often at the local Jr. college.
I was a bookworm. During the summer months it was common for me to read a dozen books a week. I am a fast reader and my interests are varied. I like biographies, history, how-to books. I think I may have possibly read every single book in our small town library. Not once but numerous time.
I read classics because I wanted to, not because I had to for English class. I would walk around the house with book in hand. I could even fill a water glass without taking my eyes off the written page.
I read. If there isn’t a book to read I will read the back of cereal boxes. I sometimes think I started writing to fill my need to keep my brain busy. If I don’t have a book to read I create one.
It’s harder for me to listen to books but my son can’t physically hold a book so on long trips we usually had audio books going. With some of my favorite authors, I would often buy the hardback plus the audio so I ended up reading the book and listening to it at the same time.
Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?
My son bought a Kindle and life has changed. I was reluctant to try an e-reader. I love books so much but we bought the bigger size so the screen is page sized. And I found out that some of my favorites from childhood are on there. Books that I thought I’d never get to read again were not only on the e-reader but often free.
And the download took less than a minute. Not only fast but I could download a book anywhere. Any time. Convenient? I was hooked. It feels like a book. It reads like a book and I don’t have to spend hours driving(I live rural) to a book store.
The only thing I worry about is what happens if the e-reader goes away? My books go with it. With a physical paperback I can pull it off the shelf.
In addition to convenience and price, the publishing world has allowed me to live my dreams. Without the digital world I’d still be dreaming and not publishing.Visit website http://www.clroth.com/