"Write what you know" is the old author's axiom, and C. Hope Clark did just that in her first novel.
"When I speak, a lot of people get tickled with the fact that it opens almost purely autobiographical in (2012's) 'Lowcountry Bribe,' the first book," Clark said from her home in Chapin, S.C.
"I was once a federal employee and offered a bribe," continued Clark, who worked for 25 years at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "He offered money to try and get him a piece of property and I called in the feds, as I was supposed to do, because you're not supposed to bribe a federal official.
"The scary thing is you can't tell anybody that you've done it," she added. "The agents come in and nobody in the office or your boss can know who they are. They pretend to be somebody else."
After three weeks of unsuccessfully trying to catch the alleged briber through video cameras and hidden microphones, the agents gave up on the case.
"It was a scary time," she said. "The good thing is I wound up marrying the federal agent."
Her heroine, Carolina Slade, doesn't move that quickly in the two mysteries that have been published so far. A third, "Palmetto Poison," will be released in January.
There's a bit of agriculture in each book said Clark, 56, who left the USDA 10 years ago. The first book was set among the hog farming business and the second, "Tidewater Murder," took place among tomato farmers. The upcoming book focuses on peanut farming.
Clark will appear Thursday at the Bettendorf Public Library to talk about her books and provide advice to aspiring authors.
Besides her novels, she is the author of "The Shy Writer Reborn," in which she focuses her advice on introverted wordsmiths.
"When I left the government and went to writing full-time, I found out, which I wasn't fond of, that I had to promote myself in order to make this business work," she said. "That's very difficult for a majority of writers because they go off alone, writing stories."
That doesn't mean writers have to become extroverts, she said, but they do need to build on their strengths as an introvert.
"They can remain true to themselves, but they still need to get out and promote," said Clark, who also manages FundsForWriters.com, a weekly newsletter with more than 35,000 subscribers that is recognized by Writer's Digest as one of the best sites for authors.