Anyone who is a reasonably keen reader of adventure fiction novels, in particular those with an African theme, will no doubt know of and most probably have read some or all of the works of Wilbur Smith and, whilst there are other authors who have penned novels which are set in that part of the world, they do not base all their story-lines on the area. Interestingly, our Islander Extraordinaire for November could be regarded as an exception to that observation because, unless I am seriously mistaken, local author Tina Clark has used the African continent exclusively as the setting for each of the five adult novels that she has penned to date.
Born in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) Tina was an avid reader of Mills and Boon romance novels as a young girl and this would serve as an influence at a later time. She told me that her first stories were ones that she recorded for the eldest of her two children to listen to. ‘I never actually wrote anything until my husband Shaun and I went on a weekend trip to Paris during the time that we were living in England.
We were staying in this small hotel that looked onto the rear of the Moulin Rouge and I happened to come across some men’s magazines,’ said Tina. ‘I began to flick through the pages and noticed that they were paying fifty pounds to people who had submitted two hundred word articles, The result was that I ended up writing a saucy article and sent it in, earning fifty pounds for my efforts,’ she said. Tina also mentioned that whilst being paid for these submissions, she sent fifty pounds to her mother.
‘Mum was studying in a theological college in South Africa and had run short of money so I sent some to help her out,’ Tina explained. ‘After she graduated, I told her how I had earned the money that I sent and she just laughed and said, “God works in mysterious ways. One day can you write a book that I can be proud of and brag about?”,’ recalled Tina. After living in England for three years, Tina and Shaun had the urge to seek a warmer climate and moved to Australia in 2000, living in Rockhampton for a brief period before settling on Bribie Island.
Having worked as a quality assurance auditor at the Teddington Laboratory in England, Tina chose to become a stay at home mum following the family’s relocation and this, of course, was the ideal opportunity for her to take up writing in a more serious fashion. She told me that she has written some children’s books and remarked that she finds picture books much harder to write than a 120,000-word novel.
Tina published her first children’s book, “African Orphan,” in 2005. That book was part of an educational series with Macmillan,’ she pointed out. From that time, Tina has written several other great children’s books and these include “Books for Fiji”, “Slowly, Slowly”, Child of Africa” and “The Avoidable Orphan.” As someone who had by then become aware of the pitfalls that are associated with having works published and also knowing the qualities that are necessary for a budding author to be successful, fourteen years ago Tina founded what can best be described as a professional development forum which she named as the CYA (Children and Young Adults) Conference as a way of getting agents, editors and writers together to discuss and learn about the crafts of writing.
This has been an annual event from that time. With a desire to begin writing more than just children’s books, and motivated by having continued to read Mills and Boon novels from the age of fourteen, Tina began submitting work to the Mills & Boon publishers but always with the same disappointing outcome. ‘My stories did not meet their requirements. There were too many characters and too many words,’ Tina commented. ‘My awakening came when I attended a five-day intensive course on romance writing and after another author, Fiona Brand, had read one of my works she told me that what I write is literary fiction, not romance,’ she added.
It would seem that Ms Brand’s observation served to point Tina in the right direction and in 2013, her first adult novel, “My Brother but One,” was published, achieving a number of very positive reviews and being shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards in 2014. That, as the saying goes, was the start of something big and from then on, Tina has written one novel each year except 2016 and these are “Shooting Butterflies”, Tears of the Cheetah”, “Child of Africa” and her latest work “Nature of the Lion” which is due to be released in Queensland stores on November 19th.
‘My latest novel, “Nature of the Lion” is set in the year 1986 and tells a story about what comes next after a hunter has killed the top five which are, elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo,’ said Tina ‘Number six on the list is a human and in the book, we follow a family in their attempts to evade a rogue hunter from a secret sect,’ she revealed. Traditionally, following the release of her novels, Tina has always conducted the first of what are many book signings at the Bribie Island Target store and anyone who would like to buy a copy of ‘Nature of the Lion” can do so at this outlet.
When not writing her next novel, Tina spends time enjoying her hobbies which include sewing, gardening, boating and lunching with her author friends. For a further insight into the life and works of the rather extraordinary member of our Bribie Island community, those who wish can log onto her web page, www.tmclark.com.au or check out the Facebook page tmclarkauthor. On a personal note, prior to being afforded the opportunity to interview Tina, I was not aware of her work but, now that I am, “Nature of the Lion” will definitely be on my bookshelf by close of business on the release day.