sitting down with my good friend Victoria Clark to talk about her wonderful new
collection of short stories called Chipped
But Not Broken: Baby Boomer Romance. Victoria, can you give us a quick
overview of the stories in your collection?
VC: My five
stories put my characters into a variety of situations common to Baby Boomers,
such as being lonely after the death of their spouse, pining for a lost love,
being stuck in a bad situation but unwilling to change, wondering what it would
be like to be young again, body angst, and a willingness to take a chance on a
new love. The stories all contain an element of humor and the positive view
that even with age, a new sense of beginning again is always possible.
like the full gamut of situations many of us face. What’s the story behind the
VC: A Baby
Boomer friend of mine, who was also a member of Questers, a history group that
I belong to, made the surprising announcement that she was getting married to a
man that she had met on the Internet and would be moving out of the area. While Internet romance is common place now,
it was fairly new in 2003 and we were shocked because she wasn’t normally
impulsive. Several of us quizzed her
about her choices and what was an almost instant decision to change so many
things in her life. She wasn’t swayed by
our concerns and her last statement was, “We may be a little chipped, but we
are not broken.” To my knowledge, they
are still enjoying their romance and life together.
story! Sounds like your friend had/has a great attitude and appetite for life. Good
for her. As we said, you cover a wide range of situations in your stories; did
you set out to do that? Or did you just write them one by one as you were
inspired by each individual story?
VC: I wrote Call
Me Lucky first, just for the fun of creating a story about a Baby Boomer
who was reflecting on the old Las Vegas of the 1960s and the current Las Vegas.
I like to think I would be as forward thinking as Brandy in her circumstances.
Then several months later, I began thinking about a book of stories where Baby
Boomer characters would experience romances that were not experienced in the
usual romance writing “formula” of guy meets gal. There are so few books about romance for
MJB: So the
collection evolved organically over time, spurred by that first story, and the lack
of stories for our time, our age. It’s interesting that we’ve been the driving
demographic for decades, and yet now we’re getting into that shadow time when
we’re less seen and heard. Are you hoping to reverse that trend?
VC: Yes, I
would like to see more older people in books, films and even advertising that
isn’t about pills and adult diapers. We hear a lot about diversity and
acceptance, and still older adults are often ignored. At one point, I was busy writing letters to
clothing companies whose clothing was geared to women over fifty, but whose
advertising was done by models in the 25-35 age range. I maintain that grey hair, no hair, and bodies
over size 6 are a natural part of maturing and not a disease. For example, when I was ready to choose a
cover design showing older adults who looked like they were romantically
involved, I searched a number of image websites that almost excluded the over
sixty crowd, and I finally decided on a cover that was created for me by an
MJB: I hear
you on that loud and clear. It irritates me to see commercials for face cream
that melt the years away, yet the model is all of 25 years old. So the cream
will take her back to her teens? Really?
if any of the stories in your book are autobiographical, or are they all pure
fabrication? Where does your inspiration come from?
VC: I always am inspired by places I’ve been to,
so in that regard, I’ve been to all of the places where the stories take place,
if that can be considered autobiographical.
I’d been visiting Sedona since childhood, and the people I’ve seen and
met since we moved there are incredibly interesting. The mix of artists and writers and those
seeking spiritual advice or giving it, and the tourists from all over the world
could fill volumes of material. Like
Beth in The Misplaced Mind, I’ve sat
through many boring planning meetings and many of the characters in Sedona that
I described in the story are real.
Outpost was inspired by Nowhere Arizona, one of the few places for a cool
drink or a restroom on Arizona Highway 93 between Wickenburg and Kingman. Nowhere was never an official town, but the
store there was pretty much as described in my story and the restrooms were
always clean with outrageous sayings written on the walls. It was always intriguing to imagine who had
built the store and the type of person who would live in isolation out there. A
few months ago, one of the Phoenix TV channels did a segment on “There’s
nothing in Nowhere, Arizona.” They
presented some facts on Nowhere in an interview with our Arizona historian
Marshall Trimble, and then interviewed motorists who stopped to take photos of
the Nowhere sign, even though there isn’t anything left but a crumbling
building and the sign.
In The Wait, I combined my love of Old
Mesilla, New Mexico with the romance of yearning for a “lost love.” Old Mesilla is one of the most romantic
settings with its church, gazebo and quaint shops. It is now a National
Monument. The legends of the lover
ghosts who inhabit the Double Eagle restaurant are the forerunners of Delia and
Robert whose young romance was also doomed by outside forces. I think most of
us Baby Boomers think of a lost love, the one that we didn’t marry or just lost
track of, in a romantic sense of wondering how our lives would have been
different if we were still with them.
During the writing of The Wait,
I took a hard look at the Baby Boomers I know who have found each other again
after many years. In one case, the
couple reunited and have been happily married for eleven years, and in another,
a couple who had been sweethearts in high school, reconnected, divorced their
respective spouses and then broke up after several months. The romantic vision of their youthful selves wasn’t
the people that they had evolved into. While Delia and Robert are fictional, I really
expect them to have a happy life together.
character in Finicky Fred was based
on a friend of mine who has MS. She has
been “chipped” by her disease but has maintained her zest for life and love,
and her spirit remains unbroken. Fred is
an oddball character who is “saved” from never knowing romantic love when he
reunites with his childhood friend Sally Ann.
main character in Call Me Lucky, is
close to being autobiographical when describing herself and her experiences in
Las Vegas. I love dogs and charm
bracelets and the shows in Las Vegas, but Brandy’s friends Ann and Joe and the
excitement of the slot tournament, are purely from my imagination.
MJB: I think
for most of us fiction writers, we mix in some of our own personal quirks along
with a big dose of imagination for our characters.
you’ve done other creative projects before this. Tell our readers what kinds of
books you’ve produced before.
VC: I have
free lanced articles on antiques and postcards for collectors’ magazines for
the last fifteen years. Then my first
Arizona Sold Its Sunshine: Historical
Hotels of Arizonawas published on early tourism in Arizona and sixty-
two of Arizona’s early hotels. Some are
long-gone, some have been repurposed and others still exist as hotels today. I
have continued to collect information on them, in case I update the book at
some time, and I care very much about the preservation of them. This was my
most fun writing project to date as I drove all around Arizona to take photos
and gather information. My next two books,AJourney Through NorthernArizonaand AJourney Through Southern Arizona,
were part of a series by Schiffer Publishing which combined postcards across
America with the history of each place pictured. Their art editor did an amazing job, and the
books are beautiful.
fascinating, and a lot of fun to research. What turned your attention from
non-fiction Arizona history and travel books to fiction?
VC: I wanted
to try something different and challenge my imagination, but also to create
some stories about romances that were about people my age. I believe it’s a largely untapped market for
writers. One of the books I enjoyed
reading last year was A ManCalled Ove, by Fredrik Backman which is
a novel about a Baby Boomer, his former life, and how he changed and grew when
he met new people and was willing to set aside his old prejudices. The success of the book, which was also made
into a movie, should alert writers to the fact that people of all ages are
now written both fiction and non-fiction, which do you think is easier to
write? And why?
non-fiction, such as writing about Arizona history and Arizona places, requires
time-consuming research and then cross checking information and putting the
research into a fresh perspective. There is a certain validation that if a
reader asks a question about the material, a writer of non-fiction can cite
sources. Writing fiction, it is great creative fun to create characters and
situations, but I think most writers worry about whether their material will
appeal to readers. For me, writing
non-fiction is easier, but writing fiction was more fun. I do believe that it is easier to sell
MJB: I have
a feeling you’re right. I have eighteen novels and one non-fiction, and guess
what? The non-fiction outsells all the rest. But I agree, writing fiction is so
much more fun.
working on any new books? Any other ideas rattling around in your head?
VC: I’m glad
you asked that Melissa, because over the last ten years I’ve been working on a
book that I have titled At Night I Go to
Tucson in my Dreams. The book will
be a collection of short stories about growing up in Tucson in the 1950s, 60s
and 70s. The stories reference places
and events that are gone now, combined with my personal memories of them. My first story titled Three Bad BirthdaysandOne Good One moves from my anguish of
thinking my life was over after I vomited on a birthday cake to believing that
I could create an American Bandstand party when I turned thirteen.
MJB: I have
a feeling this book could spark a lot of memories for a lot of us “mature”
folks. Now let’s have a little fun here. Tell us something about you that most
people don’t know and would be surprised to learn.
VC: The fact that I love collecting items with
historical significance is something that most people know because I sometimes
give talks and write about collecting and caring for antiques as well as
displaying my collections in our home. However, in my closet, I have an Elvis
collection that I cherish. He was my
teenage crush that I’ve never gotten over, even after I realized that he had
“feet of clay” just like the rest of us.
I listen to his music often and love re-living the times I saw him in
actually think that whatever music was popular as we were growing up is the
music that touches us throughout all our lives. My husband loves 50s music, when
he was growing up, while I love the 60s. Of course we both think our music was
the best, and neither of us will ever concede the point!
much for sharing your new book with us today, Victoria. I hope it does really
well, and that it sparks a new interest in the baby boomer mystique. Now, if
people want to read more about you and your books, how can they do that?