|Echoes of Titanic|
Mindy Starns-Clark, John Clark
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Kelsey Tate comes from sturdy stock. Her great-grandmother Adele endured the sinking of Titanic and made it safely to America, where she not only survived but thrived. Generations later, Kelsey works for the firm Adele founded nearly 100 years ago.
Now facing a hostile takeover, the firm's origins are challenged when new facts emerge about Adele's actions on the night Titanic sank. Kelsey tries to defend the company and the great-grandmother she has long admired, but the stakes are raised when Kelsey's boss is murdered and her own life threatened. Forced to seek help from Cole Thornton, a man Kelsey once loved-and lost, thanks to her success-at-all-costs mentality-she pursues mysteries both past and present. Aided by Cole and strengthened by the faith she'd all but forgotten in her climb up the corporate ladder, Kelsey races the clock to defend her family legacy, her livelihood, and ultimately her life.
Mindy Starns Clark is the author of many books, which include the popular Smart Chick Mysteries, Whispers of the Bayou, Shadows of Lancaster County, and Under the Cajun Moon. In addition, Mindy’s plays and musicals have been featured in schools and churches across the United States.
Favorite Verse: 2nd Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.
Visit Mindy Starns Clark in our Writers' Corner
Christianbook.com Interview with Mindy and John Clark
Please tell us a bit about yourselves.
Mindy: John was born and raised in New Jersey and I in Louisiana, but we managed to meet in the middle when we both attended Clemson University in South Carolina. Best friends throughout college, we fell in love a few years after graduating and ended up getting married nine years after the day we met. We now live in Southeastern Pennsylvania and have two daughters, both of whom are in college themselves.
In the professional realm, John is a lawyer and Certified Public Accountant and has been working in the faith-based non-profit field for many years. I work full-time as a writer of both fiction and nonfiction.
Echoes of Titanic is my 19th book and the first I have co-authored with my husband.
How did you decide to write together?
John: For years I have worked with Mindy as a brainstorming partner and “first reader” for her books, and over time we’ve developed a wonderfully-collaborative working style. When Harvest House Publishers suggested to Mindy that she write a novel about Titanic, we knew we had found the perfect project to take my involvement to the next level. As a lifelong Titanic buff, I had the knowledge base she needed, and because the story also deals with the financial world of Wall Street, we knew my background in accounting and law would come in handy too.
Mindy: John has always been such a huge help with my writing and has assisted in shaping each of my novels. When I was asked about coming out with a Titanic-related novel, I was thrilled with the idea. But I also knew that my Titanic-buff husband would be doing even more with this book than he usually does and that he ought to come into the project not just as my unseen helper but as my co-author. I’m so glad he was willing to do just that—and that the publisher agreed with it as well.
How do you divide the writing?
John: We plotted the novel together, which was a fun process for me because it was the first time I was able to help craft the characters, settings, and scenes from the very start. Even naming the characters was fun. I had not realized all the work that Mindy has to put into a book before the first word even hits the page!
When the actual writing came about, we split up the scenes and points of view depending on who had the “passion” for that particular aspect of the book. That’s how we wrote the rough draft, then we put the chapters we’d each written together, and Mindy used her skills as an author to polish the whole manuscript, beginning to end, into a final draft.
Mindy: Actually, John is being modest. We brainstormed plot ideas together, but then he worked very hard at it on his own while I was finishing another writing project. During that time, he created almost the entire story line. Once I was finally ready to turn my attentions to Titanic, he showed me what he’d already done, and I was blown away! It was awesome.
John: But only Mindy could have crafted it into the story that it is now. She took a rough draft and made it shine!
Mindy: I guess you can think of this book as his story told with my help. Basically, we combined his plot and characters and storyline with my professional writing skills and experience and in the end came up with a real winner. I’m just thrilled with how this book turned out, and I’m so glad that he is too.
What is your favorite Bible verse, John? (Translation too please)
As it relates to this book, the verse would be:
John 16:33 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (NIV)
Whether it is 1912 or 2012, there will always be trouble in this world. Only in realizing that Christ has overcome this world can we look beyond our own troubles, find peace, and focus on what is important.
How did you come up with the concept for Echoes of Titanic?
Mindy: We knew that we wanted our story to take place primarily in the modern day, so we thought about having a descendant of a Titanic survivor as our protagonist. We also knew that there was, understandably, a lot of confusion on the night of the sinking, and that the mystery element of our story could arise out of that turmoil. Putting those thoughts together, we came up with the idea of a Titanic passenger who survived possibly trading her identity for that of one who did not—an act that will have repercussions for her descendants.
John: For the modern-day part of the story, we decided to focus on a young woman who has based much of her identity and her business’s reputation on her courageous and forward-thinking grandmother, who was a Titanic survivor—only to have that grandmother’s true identity suddenly come under question. We wondered, could someone who wants to do you harm today go back and find something from your ancestor’s past and use it against you?
Mindy: Thus, we created two young women, cousins Adele and Jocelyn Brennan, who set sail on Titanic together back in 1912. One survived, one did not. The question is, was Adele really the one who survived? Or was she actually Jocelyn only pretending to be Adele in order to take advantage of Adele’s father’s fortune?
Once we had these key elements in place, the rest was easy.
How much research did Echoes of Titanic take?
John: A lot! As much as I knew about Titanic, it was amazing how much I realized that I didn’t know when it came down to placing characters in that setting. Every detail is so important. Also, we decided to focus on second class because we thought that was a unique perspective rarely dealt with in other Titanic-related books and movies. While we’re glad we did this, it presented additional problems because there’s not as much research material available about second class on Titanic as there is about first and third.
Mindy: As to the modern story, we set it in New York, a city we both know well, but even so it took a lot more research than expected to get the details right. There was a lot to do, from big things like choosing where in the city each of our characters would live to smaller ones like making sure we put the subway entrances in the right spots or that we didn’t have anyone going in the wrong direction on a one-way street. Fortunately, our sister-in-law works near Wall Street, so she was a tremendous resource for us and her input helped with numerous elements throughout.
John: Mindy spent hours just checking the subway timetables against the story, to make sure we were getting our characters from A to B within realistic time frames. It was unbelievable, the amount of research involved.
What are the most interesting facts that you learned while researching and writing Echoes of Titanic? Why?
Mindy: While working on the book, we were amazed to learn that one of our best friends had family members who died in the tragedy! Hearing her talk about them and the impact their death had on the whole clan made it so much more real to us. We did some research into those family members, and when we passed along the info we’d found back to her, she was deeply touched and thrilled to learn more. She doesn’t know this yet, but as a special thanks for her help, we even have one of our characters in the story refer to her relatives by name when discussing some of his fellow passengers. We think she’ll love that.
Researching second class was also really interesting and gave us a lot of information we never knew about before, including the fact that Titanic’s second class was actually nicer than most other ships’ first class.
John: I also never realized that fully half of the children on board perished in the sinking. I think when I thought of “women and children first” I assumed that all children made it off the ship. Interestingly, all second class children were saved, the only demographic to have a 100% survival rate.
It was also interesting to learn how the “paparazzi” and tabloids of that era were just as terrible as they are today. They hounded the survivors, fabricated or exaggerated stories, and sometimes seemed more interested in selling papers than getting the facts right. Much of what we read today that was written in that era is not factually correct.
Finally, though there were indeed many men who went heroically to their death that night, there were also plenty of others who were only out to save themselves, regardless of being told “women and children first.” The tragedy makes you wonder how you would react in such a situation. If you knew with certainty that only one third of the people around you could possibly survive, how would you behave?
Do you have a favorite character Echoes of Titanic? Why?
John: I certainly have a heart for Adele Brennan, Titanic survivor. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to go on with your life after such a tragedy.
I also feel for Kelsey Tate, Adele’s granddaughter and our modern-day protagonist. She has lived her life with one set of assumptions about her ancestor and now learns that she may have been wrong. We all want to believe that our ancestors behaved above reproach in their day, so to have that notion challenged can be very disturbing.
Mindy: I bonded most with Jocelyn, Adele’s cousin who was also aboard Titanic. She and Adele had been raised together and were more like sisters than cousins, but where Adele was business-minded and logical and abrupt, Jocelyn was maternal and domestic and gentle. I loved working on her scenes best, because she had a sweetness to her that we hadn’t anticipated when first starting to flesh her out but also a stubborn streak that could get her into trouble.
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
John: It takes so much more time and effort than I thought it would to craft a novel. I learned that the creative process can’t be forced, it has to flow naturally, yet on the other hand, you have to keep working even when you’re not feeling inspired. I never had “writer’s block” but I did have to put the book aside every so often so that I could just think on it for a while. The best ideas would come to me in the middle of the night (of course). I had many notes written all over the house and in my car and in my office, wherever I was when some idea or inspiration would come to me.
Mindy: I thoroughly enjoy being a writer and am so blessed to be able to do this for a living. The greatest challenge for me is time management—especially having more story ideas than the time to put them on paper! I feel like I’m constantly writing, yet I’ve barely scratched the surface of all I want to do as an author.
What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?
John: You really do become “friends” with your characters and they come alive to you. It is enjoyable to live with them for a while. But, like any guest, I was glad to send them on their way after the book was done. While they didn’t eat our food, they did take a lot of our attention away from our other duties.
Mindy: I cannot express how much fun it was to watch John experience the various high points that all authors go through in the process of writing a novel. One night, for example, we took a writing break to have dinner, and halfway through the meal, he said to me, “I feel like there’s a bunch of people in my office, waiting for me to come back so I can keep telling their story!” He couldn’t believe how real they had become to him.
Because of that, though, he also had an extremely difficult time writing the final scenes on board the ship. It’s one thing to learn about the sinking and visit museums and watch movies, etc. But it’s quite another to endure it through the eyes of your own beloved characters. By the time the book was done, he was so sad and drained, it was almost as if he’d endured the sinking himself.
As an experienced author, I knew to anticipate this, but I didn’t think to warn him, and I felt really bad once we reached that point. As the storytellers, we had no choice but to go there, but it was tough.
What clubs or organizations are you involved with helping with your writing?
John: I love to attend conferences. You learn so much from other writers. Mindy has taught me a lot, but sometimes when you hear the same thing told from a different perspective, you understand it better. I also attend the annual CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) convention each year. You get a good idea of what is happening in the industry and meet so many people involved in it.
Mindy: I’m a member of ChiLibris and Sisters in Crime, and they’re so helpful to me, I really believe I couldn’t do this job without them!
What new projects are on the horizon?
John: For me, it is back to my “day job” for now. I will continue to assist Mindy with her books, and if the right project comes along, I would happily pull out the pen (i.e. keyboard) again and start working away.
Mindy: I just finished my next Amish novel, The Amish Bride, with my co-author Leslie Gould, and it will be out this summer. Also, I’m excited to see one of my older series, the Million Dollar Mysteries, get new life in a special re-release. Four of the books have come out in the past year, and the fifth and final one in the series, The Buck Stops Here, will be coming out in April.
What message would you like your readers to take from reading Echoes of Titanic?
Persevere in the face of adversity. Defend what you know is right, even if it gets difficult. Don’t stray from God’s path as that can lead you nowhere. Make sure you have your priorities straight.
What were your favorite books as a child?
John: The Little Prince, The Wind in the Willows, The Narnia books. I read the Tolkien stories early on, didn’t understand them, and then read them again later in life and loved them.
Mindy: James and the Giant Peach, Charlotte’s Web, Heidi, Two on an Island, Bristleface.
What is your greatest achievement?
John: My work with faith-based, non-profits is very rewarding. I have seen so many lives changed and made better through the efforts of these organizations. I feel as though I am right where my skills can be used to best serve.
Mindy: My happy marriage and my two amazing daughters.
What do you do to get away from it all?
John: We love to travel. If that travel involves some degree of learning, so much the better. I love how travel provides the opportunity to get away from daily work and discover new places and people.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
John: Keep reading Christian fiction! I have now met so many great Christian authors and they all have a wonderful experience to share with you in their books.
Mindy: People wonder whether a husband and wife can co-write without killing each other, haha, but I’m thrilled to report that we made it through unscathed. The only conflicts we had were the good kind, like if we disagreed about some element of the story, we would debate and defend our opinions until we picked one or the other—or came up with a different option entirely. It made for a better book because we had stand on certain parts and convince the other of why we felt they were important.
Beginning to end, this project was an absolute blast. I hope we’ll collaborate for many years to come!