POINT PLEASANT — Local author Carlene Thompson had her 16th book published earlier this year.
Thompson visited the Point Pleasant River Museum and Learning Center on Saturday for a book signing of her latest work, “Can’t Find My Way Home.”
Thompson said she became interested in writing at a young age and was first intrigued by mysteries in the movies.
“I have been interested in writing since I was in grade school. I loved mysteries. I first saw the movie 101 Dalmatians, which was a mystery about dogs being kidnapped, and I decided I was going to write books like that,” she said.
Publishing a book takes time. Thompson said there is a process every author has to go through to get his or her work published.
“It’s extremely hard to get anything published and now, you can’t get things published unless you have an agent,” she said. “They think you must be pretty good or an agent wouldn’t take you on. The days when you could just send a manuscript to a publishing house and they would read it and like it are gone.”
Before publishing her first novel, “Black for Remembrance,” Thompson said she wrote for the joy of it. Then decided to send a short story to a literary magazine where a publishing agent took interest in her work.
”I was writing for pleasure until I was in my 30s and I thought, ‘I’m going to finally try to do something,’ and I wrote a short story and it was accepted by a literary magazine,” she said. “An agent saw my story and liked it and asked if I would be interested in writing a mystery novel. I replied that I had one. It was one I had just written for my own pleasure. I sent it in and six months later it was sold at the auction.”
Thompson said having her book “sold at the auction” meant a publishing house had taken interest in the book and was willing to publish it. Thompson said she was surprised by the fan base her books brought and the surreal feeling of seeing her own work in print.
“I didn’t think there would be anything besides the first book,” she said. “I was surprised when they liked it. It was not at all how I thought I’d feel. It was like I was looking at something someone else had done. So I was happy and there was also this other-worldly feeling.”
Thompson grew up in Point Pleasant, and said she is glad to do book signings in her hometown.
“It’s really nice,” she said. “It’s a lot different than when I’ve done signings other places and you have that kind of feeling where I don’t know them, they don’t know you. No one says, ‘Your dad was my doctor’ or anything like that, so I have the most fun at these. It’s great to be here where there is just more feeling of warmth and you’re with the people you’ve grown up with and the people that you’ve always known.”
Thompson, who has an international fan base for her novels, met with fans from the Bend Area, some of whom knew her or her relatives personally. One fan, Lauretta Jackson, has made it a tradition to attend Thompson’s book signings and says she loves the author’s work.
“I enjoy her writing and I have all her other books. They’ve all been autographed,” Jackson said. “I like mysteries, and they just have enough intrigue to keep you very interested.”
Thompson said she likes to write what she knows about, meaning many of her stories, though the plots are fictional, have settings in or resembling the region around the Ohio River.
“I have set them up in real places or in made-up places. This last one was not a real place. I did a lot of research on the area, but there is not a town named that,” Thompson said. “People don’t always understand West Virginia is a separate state from Virginia. I drag stuff like that into the books because I am a native West Virginian. I’ve lived other places for short periods of time, but West Virginia is my home. I hate the bad reputation we have and if I can do anything in my books to raise that reputation, that pleases me. If I were to have a mission in writing, it would be to entertain people and to improve our image because I love West Virginia.”
Thompson said she is already writing her next book, but adds that it could be some time before the it is published.