Introducing May’s Mystery Author, Roland Clarke!
It’s not often I run into other writers of equestrian-themed mysteries. Admittedly, we are a rare breed! So I was delighted to learn of Roland Clarke’s novel, Spiral of Hooves, a mystery set in the world of eventing. Our similarities extend beyond a love of mysteries and horses, though. Like me, Roland also writes about many other subjects. I was intrigued to learn he is a former green activist, a theme which pours over into many of his works. So, I’m excited to feature Roland and his books on my blog today.
After diverse careers, Roland Clarke was an equestrian journalist and green activist when chronic illness hastened retirement. But he hasn’t stopped exploring rabbit holes and writing – mainly mystery novels and varied shorts. Roland and his wife – both avid gamers – now live in Idaho (USA) with their four fur-babies, although their hearts are in North Wales (UK). Learn more on his WEBSITE.
Hi Roland! What attracts you to writing in the mystery genre?
Writing mysteries allows me to explore devious solutions to problems – and challenge my MC…and the reader. I could do that in other genres, and as a teenager, I wrote SF/Fantasy with twists – and red herrings. So, over the decades I have slipped mysteries into other genres I’ve tackled, like my Viking Age alternative history or my post-apocalyptic saga. However, the mystery is always at the core and usually, a crime must be solved or prevented. Also, writing a believable mystery-solving MC with a difference is a challenge – as is creating a motivated antagonist who believes his/her actions are justified.
What subjects do you enjoy writing about the most?
Beyond the mysteries, I enjoy writing about issues that challenge my characters, who often are struggling with themselves – whether with health or identity. I’ve been interested in history for decades, so that leads me to research rabbit holes like Deaf culture, Special Forces in Afghanistan, PTSD, Viking shipbuilding, or the last Prince of Wales, Owain Glyndwr. Of course, horses gallop throughout my writing, not surprisingly for an ex-equestrian journalist.
Moreover, environmental issues are a common thread. I was a green activist for many years, and I try to continue spreading the message in my writing. So, genetic modification, organic agriculture, renewable energy, the arms trade, air pollution, and airships feature as key plot elements wherever they fit the story.
Green issues played a central role in Spiral of Hooves, my first published novel and a mystery set against the sports horse world I worked in. A researcher with a traumatic past and a young rider with diabetes unravel a plot to manipulate the breeding of competition horses. From PTSD and diabetes to LGBTQ and Deaf Culture, I’m interested in representing ‘diverse’ characters and human rights issues. This concern preceded my disability.
What are you working on now?
For a number of years, I’ve been working on Snowdon Shadows, a crime series set around Snowdonia in North Wales and featuring Sparkle Anwyl, a queer Welsh policewoman – or Heddlu as the police in Wales are called. Queer as in her mnemonic mind games to resolve crimes and in her lesbian relationship with a fellow officer of color. The original story, Fates Maelstrom, was written in 2012. Set in SW England, it did not feature a detective, but I re-wrote it set in Snowdonia with Sparkle Anwyl assigned as a junior officer on the case. In the novel, which is currently being edited, Sparkle must use memories of old cases to unravel why ex-mercenaries are involved in the illegal trade in horsemeat.
Fates Maelstrom will be Book 2 of the Snowdon Shadows crime series, with two more Books drafted.
Is the setting of your novel based on a real place?
My Snowdon Shadows series is set around Snowdonia in North Wales, where my wife and I lived for a few years before moving to the USA. All the places are real, with a few exceptions like the locality where my MC’s maternal family has farmed for generations – although that is based on typical Welsh farms and villages.
Our hearts are still in North Wales, and in our office, we have a photo canvas of Snowdon my wife took from our home in Harlech. Detective Sparkle Anwyl keeps my memories of Wales alive, especially when I learn more about the area or when ‘driving’ on familiar and unfamiliar roads in Google Maps. I incorporate both places we visited or would have done if we were still there.
Do you have any upcoming releases you’d like to tell us about?
My short story Feathered Fire is featured in VOYAGERS: The Third Ghost, the fifth Insecure Writers Support Group Anthology, which released on May 5, 2020. I was hesitant about entering last year, having tried three times unsuccessfully – and it was for Middle Grade historical fantasy. However, the writer who created IWSG encouraged me to enter.
From my research rabbit warren, I melded brave Soviet Airwomen in WWII and rich Slavic folklore into a tale the judges liked. A mystery as I was way off my genre. Or was I? Perhaps the young heroine Vasy needed to discover, “Why she had survived?”
You can read more about the tale and its trigger HERE.
Congratulations on making it into the Anthology, Roland! It sounds like your persistence has paid off. Thank you for being a guest on my blog.
Thanks, readers, for stopping by and getting to know Roland Clarke. Please check back next month, when I’ll feature another deserving mystery writer.