Barbara Clark used to be an elementary school teacher, which is pretty hot right there. But these days she's pumping out erotica—even hotter—swearing she hasn't subconsciously been plotting out the likes of A Touch of Fire—in which Summer Morgana Starr, blessed/cursed with the ability to restore fiery lines of power deep in the earth's crust, risks her life by falling in love with a man with no psychic powers—during her 34-year tenure in the classroom.
Maybe. Maybe not.
Still, picture it: the home office in Buena Park. The quiet schoolmarm surrounded by her professional bibles—Joy of Sex, Kama Sutra, Dick and Jane—conjuring up tales of Prince Jalil walking back into the life of Rose Maguire, the one man who could upset her comfortable existence and make her yearn for more (Tears of the Desert Rose). Teacher, teach me love . . .
At age 71, and with 42 years of marriage in tow, Clark has plenty of experience with love but says it's her imagination that fuels such bodice-ripping tomes as Emerald Heat, Tears of the Hawkand A Breath of Heather.
Especially since paranormal romance/erotica is the niche Clark specializes in; a genre that runs the gamut of ghosts, vampires and people with kinetic powers such as Charity Starr, rescued from kidnappers by Hawk Adams, who, after years of covert operations had learned to suppress his softer emotions, until he was surprised to find what passion and yearning—always the yearning—Charity stirred within him (Tears of the Hawk).
Clark says she gets inspired by watching, that photos—like those in her copy of Best Sex You'll Ever Have—allow her to compile a detailed list describing physical and emotional reactions to arousal.
"If a man is aroused, this is how he looks," she says, "his face gets tense, and other things get tense too!"
Still, trying to come up with different and new ways to describe the same basic acts can be a challenge. Clark says the fact that she passes up porno plots and, instead, invents characters that do it only with their lovers narrow word choices.
"There are various levels of erotica and some slips into porn—I stay away. I read a book like that once and was so embarrassed that I ripped it into pieces and considered running it through the shredder before putting it in the trash," she says, laughing.
So how does she know when the word is just right?
"When I'm sitting at my computer and I get what I call the 'squirm factor,' I know I've hit it," says Clark.
And when picture books fail to inspire her, she looks to the public.
"The other day I heard a guy flirting with the waitress while he was placing his take-out order," she says. "After listing his food requests he added, 'And I want one nude waitress to go.'"
Perfect! Clark filed the guy's comment (good for Clark, bad for the waitress). His words just may find their way into one of her novels; maybe the cover—One Nude Waitress To Go—or may prove useful if she ever decides to write the Idiot's Guide to Sexual Harassment.
Clark's books have won numerous awards in the field—A Touch of Fire took the 2001 Golden Quill Award for Best Paranormal Romance; Tears of the Hawk the 2001 Orange Rose Award for Best Book With a California Setting—as well as a loyal readership, many of whom are women, some of whom are "guys in prison," she says, though she adds that she doesn't reply to institutional fan mail.
When asked about her shift—from kindergarten to kinky—Clark says that she wanted to be a writer in high school, but becoming a teacher was more practical. Does she regret spending 34 years as a teacher? Nope, she says, citing her love of children and the creativity that teaching offered as the most satisfying aspects of the profession.
She has since moved on to other forms of satisfaction.
"People ask me if I write children's stories," she says. "I tell them, 'No, I'm writing stories about happy, satisfied couples who are having children.'"
Speaking of children, Clark has a few of her own including a daughter who was shocked when she learned of her mother's fancy for writing about fondling.
"She said, 'Ohhhhhhhhhh, mother.' "
When Clark began to dabble in erotica, she thought readers of her earlier-published romances might share her daughter's reaction. So, Clark took care of business–publishing Desert Passion under a pseudonym, April Reid. According to Clark, the only difference is that April Reid's stories are more steamy.
Clark is putting the finishing touches on Dark Passionwhich will be published by Amber Quill Press this November. A May 2005 release is planned for That Old Black Magic. (Clark's titles are available as e-books and in print format from Amber Quill Press (www.amberquill.com), Wings Press Inc. (www.wings-press.com) and Amazon.)
As for Clark's pre-teen grandchildren, they know their grandmother writes, but not what.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss OC Weekly's biggest stories. Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts