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Author combines history, fiction

Ever wonder why number two pencils are yellow? According to Linda Weaver Clarke, it’s because historically, the high-quality lead used in pencils was imported from China , where yellow signifies honor.

Weaved throughout the adventure and romance, little factual tidbits like this enhance Clarke’s historical fiction.

"I don’t usually have more than a paragraph of these things," Clarke said. "I don’t want to lose my readers."

While she had always enjoyed writing, it wasn’t until her sixth and youngest daughter was a fifth grader that Clarke decided to write her first book, a novel centered around her own family history. But once she got started with the process, she just couldn’t stop. That book became a five-book family saga. The first two books have been released by American Book Publishing.

"I did a lot of research, and that’s why it’s turned out to be more than one book," Clarke said. "I’ve found so much intriguing history."

This Monday, June 16, at 7 p.m., Clarke will be reading from her second novel, "Edith and the Mysterious Stranger," at a family-friendly event at the Kimball Junction Branch of the Summit County Library.

Just like her first novel, "Melinda and the Wild West," her second book draws on the same characters and is set in Bear Lake Valley, Idaho.

"I decided to have my book be set in Bear Lake because my ancestors were the first settlers to settle that area," Clarke said.

In book one, Melinda, the Boston native, comes out West to teach in Bear Lake, where her aunt and uncle live. "She’s a little worried, hoping the community would accept her. She’s a city woman. [She’s] not used to the country life," Clarke said.

After helping children in her school, getting lost in a blizzard, encountering a grizzly, then meeting a rugged rancher and falling in love, Melinda returns in book two, pregnant with her second child and still in love with her husband, Gilbert. Clarke referred to her style of writing as "tender love stories."

"They’re for all ages. It doesn’t have sex or violence or things like. Although with the grizzly bear you start to wonder if there’s going to be some," she laughed.

Clarke draws on her family history in many ways. Both Gilbert and Melinda are named after her ancestors. But she also draws on family anecdotes and personality traits. In "Edith and the Mysterious Stranger," Melinda’s cousin, Edith, comes to take care of her during her pregnancy and ends up falling in love with a man through written correspondence. This mirrors the experience of Clarke’s own parents.

"My mother was in her mid-twenties and back then she was called a spinster. And her girlfriends felt like [she’s] just too picky. Every man she ever met doesn’t come up to her standards So her girlfriend gave her the address of a man and they began writing and fell in love in their letters."

Another side-story in the book follows the relationship between Jenny, Melinda’s step-daughter, and David, a wannabe outlaw. While David is a fictional character, he hangs around historical figures such as Butch Cassidy and the Tall Texan and they have fictitious, but realistic, adventures. But, true to her nature, Clarke adds a romantic twist between David and Jenny.

"Throughout the book you wonder. All she sees is the goodness in him. Will she find out who he is before she loses her heart? And if she does lose her heart, what will happen?" Clarke said.

In books three, four and five, which are written, but not yet released, Clarke continues to develop the same characters and deal with historical events, including prejudice towards women. Book one is set in 1896, when both Utah and Idaho awarded women their right to suffrage. But even in book five, set in 1925, "Elena, Woman of Courage," the main character, a female doctor, faces persecution for being so highly educated. Clarke intersperses actual events from newspapers, as introduced by one character, Uncle William, who is always reading a newspaper. In one instance, a woman in New Jersey is fired for bobbing — or cutting short — her hair.

And for curious history buffs, Clarke’s detailed author’s notes always explain which events are real or historically-based. She will also explain where some of the anecdotes come from during Monday’s event.

"I will be talking about the inspiration behind my books. I will be telling people what kind of research I had to do to bring my books about. I’ll explain little bits and pieces in my book that I put in and the reason I put it there," Clarke said.

To read synopses of her books or to learn more about Clarke, visit her Web site at http://www.lindaweaverclarke.com.


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