Monday, July 21, 2014

Welcome my Guest, Renaissance Woman and Author Charline Ratcliff

Charline is the author of the captivating time travel The Curse of Nefertiti, and The Princess, The Toad & The Whale, and The Further Adventures of the Princess, The Toad & The Whale. Meet Charline and read about her fascinating life and her books.

A quick summary… I was born in Washington State, at Fairchild Air Force Base; however, I am not an “Army Brat.” My father was a mechanic for the army, (and I don’t even know if he completed his entire service obligation, or if he was discharged; honorably or otherwise).

My “formal” education ended with 6th grade. My parents had removed me from school because they were made aware that they were going to be investigated for child abuse. Learning this, they packed what meager belongings they did own, (wherever we had lived prior to this pending investigation, we rarely had furniture, or beds, and never a television), and thus began our/my life of living in tents, in the middle of nowhere.

I lived in a tent for almost three years, a sea-foam green Chevy Impala, (front seat for me, back seat for my father) after my parent’s cabin tent was destroyed. (My mother and two brothers took my small dome tent). And finally, I lived in an old Bluebird (manufacturer) school bus until I left home when I was sixteen.

While my “formal” education did end with 6th grade, my love for learning did not, so everything else that I know, I’ve taught myself. 

What kind of books do you love to read? Why?

Truthfully, I love, (and read), all literature; with the teeny, tiny exception of overly violent books and/or books that are too verbally explanatory of violence. (For example, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is most definitely not my cup of tea). The amount of cruel and senseless violence found in our world is enough for me. I don’t need to read exceptionally graphic, or disturbing-to-me, fictional tales about it too. And, I’m certain that the abuse of my past no doubt influences this aversion as well… 

What type of music do you enjoy relaxing to?

That really depends on what happened previously in the day because my music tastes are as varied as my literary genre likes.

If I’ve had a rough day, I might relax by listening to hard rock. If I’m mentally tired, I might listen to Sarah Brightman. Sometimes it’s hip hop, other times it might be music from a specific era, something classical, country, et cetera.

Growing up the way I did, music was my outlet as well as my only connection to the “outside” world of the current day. Consequently, I knew, and easily learned the words/melody to just about every song, in almost every musical genre. (Traits I still possess today).

Of course, what was played on the radio was always dependent upon our location. The only thing that really seemed to “unite” all the states musically, were the various “top music countdown” radio shows. 

Describe yourself in one word:


If a fairy grants you one wish and one wish only, what would it be? Why?

My one wish would be that I’m granted unlimited wishes that come with zero negative consequences to me and/or others. This way, for the remainder of my life, whenever I saw someone in need, I would always be able to help them/make their life better/happier. 

What’s your biggest regret in life?

(Through no fault of my own), not being able to spend time with my extended family during my childhood. It would have been wonderful to have been allowed to form that “familial” bond with my grandparents, aunts, uncles as well as my many cousins. 

What makes you happy/sad/disappointed/frustrated/hopeful/angry? (Pick one)

I’m saddened when I see how we, as the human race, continually fight with each other to generally meet only the needs/desires of ourselves, and/or a specific few. This is a trickle-up/down effect, and the various governmental actions that are often verbally bashed, criticized, or worse, are, in fact, simply mirrored and magnified effects of people’s individual actions.

We are so busy pointing fingers that oftentimes we forget to use things like empathy, compassion, consideration, or kindness. Of course, logic is always required in any decision making process, but so too is “heart;” and there should never be one without the other.

I wish that somehow, each one of us could realize that we really are all connected. When we affect others, (either positively or negatively), the reality is that we affect ourselves in the same manner. And these actions-to-reactions also affect the world around us … which is heartbreaking because the plants, animals, aquatic life, etc. can no longer evade us, or escape our global effects. Not to mention the truth about the world we are leaving behind for our children… 

Your writing; when did you write your first book? How long did it take you to write it?

The Curse of Nefertiti began from a dream I experienced on a night in mid-November, 2006. I woke from one of my vivid/lifelike dreams around 4:00am, and due to dream’s location, coupled with my love of Ancient Egypt, I got up and wrote it down.

When I again looked at the clock, (after what seemed like only thirty minutes), I was shocked to see that it was now 7:15am. And when I read through what I had transcribed, I was surprised to see that after I had finished writing the dream sequence; I had additionally written down, (what later turned out to be), the first three chapter of The Curse of Nefertiti.

Once I finally managed to overcome the year+ writer’s block that I experienced, The Curse of Nefertiti wound up taking me about six months to finish writing.

Did you encounter any obstacles in writing? What are they? How did you overcome them?

Well, of course… The dreaded “writer’s block” of doom…

You know, I never “intended” to be a writer. I was a voracious book reader though, consequently I was quite familiar with phrases like: writer’s cramp and writer’s block; the latter being what happened to me.

I can write about Ancient Egypt practically with my eyes closed. I can see the experiences that I’m referencing down to the last detail; even to the smell of the sun-heated sands. And quite often, I would put scene to paper, (so to speak since I write my novels using my laptop), and then I’d wonder: how do I know that?

However, that same ease of writing was not to be had with the “present day” aspect found within The Curse of Nefertiti. What was I supposed to write for the Kayla of the 21st century? And, much like a ship that founders upon the hidden rocks, so too did my writing. Of course, the more I agonized over my apparent loss of creativity, the worse things became. Finally, several months after the dream that started me down the path of writing, I closed the word doc and filed it in one of my computer’s organizational folders.

And there it sat … almost as completely forgotten as the ancient world history that had spawned its creation to begin with.

Time moved forward, and the year was now 2008. The weather in Phoenix was beautiful, still cool, and I was spring cleaning. Seeing that my stash of DIY periodicals was starting to take up too much space, I decided to sort through them. My intent was to remove any wanted project information, and then toss/recycle the remainder of the magazines.

I removed the magazines from their basket, and there, (still sitting in the basket), were the twenty-seven pages of my story I had previously printed out. Well, wasn’t that a shocker…

I couldn’t believe I had forgotten about them so completely. More than that, I couldn’t believe how much time had elapsed since I had set the writing aside for “later.” At this point, I was drawing the very obvious (and logical), conclusion in regard to this story and my writing. Neither was going to happen.

Yet, even as I stood there, holding those twenty-seven pages, (all neatly clipped together), the most curious thing happened. With my silent acknowledgement and acceptance that this story, (whatever the title might have been), was not going to happen; a massive weight felt like it had lifted off my chest.

With that unnoticed, but still oppressive “weight” gone, I suddenly felt the desire, no, the unable-to-be-ignored compelling urge to write. This certainly threw me for a loop, especially as I had just made peace with the fact that this story would never be finished. So, what exactly had changed??

It was that moment, that pivotal and oh-so-important moment, when I realized that in having allowed myself the “freedom” to “fail” at something, I had also given myself the freedom to escape from my self-imposed expectations and my naïve, yet confining, notion as to what makes a successful writer, successful.

To me, (as I had no other knowledge/facts to show me otherwise) success meant “being on the New York Times Best Seller List.” (Hellooo… “Type A” personality here, people… *chuckle* …plus, growing up, I had been programmed that I had to succeed. “Failure is not an option.”)

With my new-found clarity, I realized that my self-imposed expectations were what had caused my writer’s block to begin with. The more I had focused on attaining the NY Times Best Seller list as the only means to “success” the tighter that noose of unmet expectations became; until it finally choked the life out of my creativity. And yet, much like the mythical Phoenix, my creativity resurrected itself once I released that thought process.

Many things make people successful; however, fame and money are not one of them. They are helpful, but they are not the cause.

And so, with that new and different outlook, I wrote. And, I finished The Curse of Nefertiti. And, I’ve never suffered from writer’s block again. And, yes, I’m aware that that’s a lot of sentences beginning with the word “and” but, I’m doing it for dramatic effect. *smile*

How did you feel when you receive your first contract? What did you do? Any celebratory dinner, dance, event, etc. to commemorate the occasion?

I was elated to the point of being speechless. As an aside, that’s a rare occurrence for an author to experience…

It was close to Thanksgiving, (2008) and it was 7:15 in the morning. I was about to step out the front door, on the way to a Christmas staging/decoration job, when I had the thought that I needed to check my email again. Back I went, there was the offer, it was all very exciting and that was that. (Only with a lot more hoopla)!

What do you think about editing?

Editing is an incredibly important piece of the writing process. You can have a fantastic plot/storyline, complete with amazing characters that readers will connect with as if they are a long-lost friend, however; if your book is not properly edited then you risk losing all of that.

Yes, certain things are subjective, which is why you should always have a conversation with your editor prior to him/her beginning the editing process.

You need to explain to your editor what your book represents. What’s the era? What’s the timeline? What’s the educational experience, background, and personality of your main protagonist(s)? Lastly, what are you, the writer, trying to convey with your book, in its entirety?

These are just some of the things your editor needs to be aware of/needs to understand; else you will not be happy with what they return to you! And, if after having this conversation, you don’t have the sense and/or they tell you they can’t provide what you’re seeking, then, by all means, contact a different editor. Just as writers have specific genres that they gravitate toward, so too, do editors.

Also, being a professional book reviewer as well as an author, believe me when I tell you that I have read many a book that had a great plot and/or message for its readers, but unfortunately, due to poor, (or non-existent editing), the book completely failed to reach the majority of its potential.

Where and when do you write? Tell us about your favorite work place and time. Any special reason?

Generally, since I’m a night owl, I wind up writing at night and then way into the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes nighttime feels like the only “quiet” place where I can finally be undisturbed…

Where do you get your ideas? Do you jot them down in a notebook, in case you forget?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, my novels begin from lifelike dreams I experience now and again. Once I wake from the dream, (anywhere from 1am-4am), I will groggily roll out of bed and shuffle around the house, while barely awake, in search of the necessary pen/pencil and paper.

Once my dream is written down, I’ll return to bed and to sleep. The exception is when it takes me too long to get everything written down; if it’s later than 6:00am when I finish, then I’ll just stay up.

Which comes first, characters or plot?

My novels actually start from lifelike dreams. Because of this I wake up with the characters as well as the plot at the same time. 

The storybooks I write for children are a different matter… With those it’s definitely the characters first and then the plot/story.

Plotter, Pantser, or somewhere in between?

Again, since my novels come to fruition because of lifelike dreams, I wake up with the characters, the knowledge of the timeline/story I will be sharing, as well as the necessary end point. Once I’ve written the dream out as the book’s Prologue, I then begin the writing of the journey I will be sharing. And as I write, I allow the dream’s tale to take its own shape… 

However, once again the storybooks are different. While I don’t have a completely detailed layout for each story, I do have an exact idea of what will happen and in what sequence. Of course, as I write the storybooks, new characters and/or additional scenes will pop into my head that I will wind up adding.

What is the one question you wish interviewers would ask (answer)?

Truthfully, I’m at a loss to answer this question... I know that all interviewers are individually unique, with their own personal interpretation of the world around them. I’ve actually never thought about what I wish(ed) they would ask me. I’ve just always presumed that they ask questions of authors that they themselves find interesting.

Among those that you’ve written, which is your favorite book and why?

I love all the books I’ve written, but my favorite, (and don’t laugh), is The Princess, The Toad & The Whale. It’s such a happy tale, yet with an important message and the characters are adorably cute!

Have your characters ever taken over the story and moved it in a direction totally different than you had in mind? What did you do?

Hmm, sort of, but not to move in a different direction… Because of my dreams, I already know the direction of the story and its characters; its beginning, its end, and the journey the story must take to reach that “end” point. While I do allow the interior part of the tale to write itself, I still have a general sense/knowledge of who each character is and what their various actions throughout the book will be. During my writing of, The Curse of Nefertiti, there was maybe one scene set in ancient Egypt that I was surprised by.

Do you have a "must have" book for writing?

Well, I do keep The Elements of Style handy…

Any advice for new or even seasoned authors?

Always be you; and always believe in yourself. And yes, I’m very much aware of how challenging either of those suggestions can seem to be… 

Sometimes writers are urged to conform to a “write what sells” mentality, but if that’s not your writing passion, then your words can fall flat. We should always remember that we authors write because we can, because we have a story to share, because we’re good at it and because we love it. While I appreciate the “money” aspect of writing, I don’t think any of us woke up one day and decided to “write to become rich.” (But that would certainly make an eye-catching book title)! Bottom-line though, just be you. Write what you’re passionate to write, and the rest will follow. 

There’s also a lot of negative commentary re: the writing industry that’s easily accessible for all writers to read. I’m pretty certain that the more seasoned writer knows to avoid this type of diatribe, as, more often than not; it’s usually written by unhappy and/or angry writers who didn’t enter the industry in the successful manner they expected. Unfortunately, the newer and/or aspiring authors aren’t aware of this, and consequently, these newer authors can become overly critical of themselves and/or their work. Hence my “always believe in yourself” advice. 


Ice Tea or Lemonade?

Lemonade at home. Ice tea, or Arnold Palmer, (the drink), when I’m out. 

Lake or ocean?

Water is my “muse” so I enjoy it in any format; however I’m probably slightly more partial to the ocean.

Ball cap or floppy hat?

Usually neither… I do own a big floppy hat – the Pretty Woman kind of huge hat that I adore. I hardly ever wear it though as it’s a challenge to keep it from blowing off.

In the car -  Air condition or open windows?

Open windows! In fact, when I lived in Phoenix, it was rare that I turned the A/C on in the car until the temperature went over 110 degrees.

At home -  Air condition or open windows?
Again, open windows. I like fresh air and the feel of air movement. The difference between the car and the house though, is that I will turn the A/C on when the interior temperature reaches 85 degrees. I’ll also use it to cool the house at night if it’s too hot – I like it cold when I sleep.

How can readers find out more about you?

Well, they can start out at my website: and then they can branch out and follow additional links from there.