She Wrote a Book Once

Kate Flora: As many of you have read, if you’ve followed this blog for a while, my late 5_4mother, A. Carman Clark, published her first mystery, The Maine Mulch Murderfeaturing 60-something freelance editor and gardener Amy Creighton, when she was 83. She and I used to joke that unlike Mary Higgins Clark and her daughter, we published in the reverse order, with mom following in my footsteps.

Writing Maine Mulch resulted, in part, from her complaints to the librarian at the Vose Library in Union that the mysteries she found on the shelf were either too violent for her taste or the characters had lives too opulent or different for a rural Maine farm woman to relate to. The librarian is said to have replied, “If you don’t like what the Vose Library has to offer, why don’t you go home and write one.” And so my mother did.

Although the majority of her writing was articles and essays about country living, as a columnist and home and garden editor for the Camden Herald, she loved reading mysteries and enjoy writing one. Inspired by her publication, she started writing a second Amy Creighton mystery, The Corpse in the Compost. She used to say that she didn’t want her obituary to read: She wrote a book once. At the time of her death, she left a draft manuscript along with my notes, notes from good friend Marilyn Hornidge, and notes from a editor she’d hired to give her advice. The notebook with all that material sat on my shelf for years.

Kate Flora - Maine Mulch Murder- Cover1aTwo summer ago, in the space between my own books, and nudged by Ann and Paula at the Mainely Murders bookstore, who had created a following for Maine MulchI sat down with the manuscript and started editing. As I’ve blogged about before, there were a lot of questions I wanted to ask my mother. As she was unavailable, I had to wing it. I’ll never know whether I made the right choices. But we were close, and I could usually find her “voice” in making changes or amendments to the book.

Last summer, when I went to type the changes into her old file, I discovered I could no longer open it. The result was the slow process of retyping the entire book, and I am far from the world’s best typist. At last, the changes were done. I gave the book to some beta readers, made more changes, and decide that readers who like Amy Creighton’s gardens, cooking, and deep curiosity about people might enjoy some of mom’s old newspaper columns. I found a few that nicely matched the events–and food–in the story, and added them at the end of the book. I then hired a cover designer, the wonderful Dave Fymbo, and a formatter, the patient Jason Anderson, for the ebook and physical book versions.

My target for publication was June, but that kept getting nudged aside by my own books, and by a lovely vacation barge trip on the Canal du Midi. Now, at the end of July, I am happy to say that this memorial act for a wonderful mother and writer is complete, and The Corpse in the Compost is available in print and as an ebook.


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16 Responses to She Wrote a Book Once

  1. Vida A-J says:

    How absolutely fabulous! I look forward to reading it!

    • Kate Flora says:

      Thanks, Vida. She was an incredible woman, and making the time to do this seemed like a valuable memorial act. As one of my cousins said, you can hear her voice so clearly.

  2. What a lovely story! How wonderful that your mom published at 83 and that you brought her work to the world.

    • Anonymous says:

      Over the years, I have told her story to many writers who feel it is “too late” to realize their dream of writing. She’s quite an inspiration.


  3. Sheryl King says:

    I am looking forward to reading this!

  4. I am reading “The Corpse in the Compost,” and you did a fabulous job. I was friends with your mother for many years, and her voice comes through loud and clear. And beautifully. I am so enjoying this book. I will share this post. I plan to write a short review of it on my blog. And, I have a copy to give to a friend for her birthday. Well done, Kate.

  5. Anonymous says:

    You are very kind, Laurie. So glad you’re enjoying the book.


  6. Lois says:

    What a wonderful gift and remembrance for your mother.

  7. Clea Simon says:

    What a lovely way or remembering her – and a gift to her readers.

  8. sallycootie says:

    What a wonderful story. And now two new books for me to read.

  9. Pingback: She Wrote a Book Once — Maine Crime Writers – Three Rivers Novelties

  10. bethc2015 says:

    Thanks for all your hard work in getting this ediited and published.

  11. This is a great story and wonderful legacy! congrats

    • Paula Keeney says:

      And we couldn’t be happier here at Mainely Murders Bookstore now that we have The Corpse in the Compost on display along with The Maine Mulch Murder. We’ve been telling customers for a long while that “one of these days” we’d have a sequel. Thanks for making it happen, Kate.
      Paula and Ann
      Mainely Murders Bookstore, Kennebunk

  12. Pingback: The Corpse in the Compost | Notes From the Hinterland

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