Claire Bocardo grew up in Washington State, attended college there and in San Diego, CA. She moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area as a young wife in 1963. Now she lives in the Red River Valley. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Texas at Dallas, has worked as a newspaper writer, and has edited both newspapers and technical manuals. Her first novel, Maybe Later, Love, was originally published in 1992. This is her fourth, and all four have been available through Wings ePress.
People sometimes ask me, Where did you get those ideas you write about? I ask you the same question.
Robertson Davies, the great Canadian author, once said that asking a writer where she gets her ideas is like asking a spider where she gets her web. I don’t know. An idea jumps out of nowhere and grabs me, and it won’t go away until I’ve written the story.
Describe how you begin your novel. Do you outline or does the story come as you write?
Outlining kills the story for me. I begin with a character in a challenging situation, and I write the story to find out how she wiggles her way out of it. If I know in advance how she gets to the end, I lose interest and writing becomes work instead of fun.
Is Contemporary Romance the genre you feel most comfortable writing in?
I’ve never considered myself a Romance writer. In Romance, the love story is the central plot line; in my work, it’s always the subplot, useful for what it teaches the character about herself. Lovers and Friends is the story of two very different, fiftyish women who’ve been friends since school days and end up temporarily living together; it’s sort of a feminine Odd Couple. The romance comes in when Ivy decides to find Flo a husband (which Flo doesn’t want) and Flo decides to find Ivy a man to take her mind off changing Flo.
Suppose you were asked to speak to a book club, and a member came up and asked, “I want to write but I don’t know how to start.” What advice would you give?
Just start. Tell a story that comes to you and write it as you would speak. When you finish, celebrate; most would-be writers never get that far. Go back and “clean it up” as best you can, polishing grammar, punctuation, order of events, and the rest until it’s as good as you can get it. Then find or form a writers’ group (hopefully one with some member who knows more than you do about writing) so you can get advice on how to improve it even more. Don’t worry about publication or who’s going to read it or anything else until you’ve got that book as good as you can write it.
While we’re on the subject of advice, what’s the best advice about writing (or anything else) you’ve ever received?
On writing: “write the book you want to read, because the chances are excellent that no one but you will ever read it.” (It’s not as cynical as it sounds. If you don’t want to read it, why would anybody else?) On living: “There’s always a choice. I don’t care if somebody’s standing with a gun at your head; you can always choose to let him shoot.” It follows that we are responsible for our choices. And that’s prevented me from ever feeling like a victim.
I notice you have another book out later this year. Do you have stories you’re working on, or do you wait until one project is finished before you begin another?
I can write only one story at a time. It’s like being a little bit pregnant; after a certain point, I can’t think sensibly about anything but the coming baby. After I’ve put that baby to bed, I just wait for another idea to jump up and grab me.
You are at a dinner party and you can sit next to an author. Who would you choose?
I admire so many that I could never choose!
What has writing done for you as a person?
It has made me less judgmental. When I began Friends and Lovers I didn’t think much of Ivy. She seemed shallow and selfish to me. But when you’re creating characters, it’s necessary to identify with them and figure out what makes them behave the way they do. By the time I’d finished. I loved Ivy as much as I did Flo.
What were you favorite books as a child and as a teenager?
As the youngest child in my family, my favorite stories were of the “third son” variety; those about the person of whom nothing is expected, who ends up saving the kingdom. (The Lord of the Rings is such a story.) From third grade on, I went to the library two or three times a week and took out five books at a time, so you can imagine that my reading was very eclectic; I outgrew the children’s library before I was 10 and had to get special permission to read “grown-up” books. As a teen, I was heavily into my dad’s Detective Book Club volumes, each of which featured three complete crime novels by writers like Erle Stanley Gardner, and I also read lots of Nineteeth-Century classics, non-fiction, and anything else I could get my hands on. I’ve always been a bookworm.
How did it feel when you saw your name in print for the first time?
My first national publication was a personal experience story in McCall Magazine in 1979, and it was a thrill. Soon after that, on a whim, I wrote a short story and sent it to a teen magazine, and darned if they didn't publish that too! And, I found out, it PAID! But the real thrill was holding my first published book in my hands. Oh, my! A real book, bound, with my name on the cover in gold letters, yet! My words, my ideas, my characters, just the way I’d written them… It was as thrilling as a first baby, but a lot less trouble and expense.