OCBS: Tell our readers a little about the story. Why should they buy this book?
Clint Hofer: Thank you, Ashley, for this opportunity to talk about my new novel The One That Got Away which is set in South St. Louis at the time of the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1993. The story begins with Terri Zimmerman returning to her childhood home in South St. Louis on June 5th, 1993 less than a month before the Great Flood starts. When she was growing up, Terri lived with her parents above the Zimmerman Bakery, which is now a tavern named the Stag Club. Terri becomes friends with Dinty Smith, the proprietor of the Stag Club. She also gets reacquainted with Glen Wunsch, a childhood friend who is the last member of a once-prominent St. Louis brewing family. Glen’s grandmother is Anna Grosse, the infamous Lavender Lady who once dominated St. Louis high society and who once again finds herself in the spotlight as the namesake of a new floating casino called the Belle of Calhoun. Terri sells perfume at the Famous-Barr store in Crestwood Plaza, and one of her customers is Barbara Grogan, who does a television program about the sport of fishing. Barbara is known as the Happy Hooker. Terri and Barbara become friends, but they eventually have a falling out. Terri’s best friend is a girl from the Philippines named Paz Militante. The two girls work together behind the Estee Lauder counter at Famous-Barr. This is a lighthearted, humorous, romantic story that moves dramatically to the cataclysmic conclusion as the great flood sweeps through South St. Louis, destroying everything in its path.
There is something for everyone in my novel. This humorous story should appeal to everyone. I believe it is the perfect story for the troubled times in which we live.
OCBS: I understand this is your first book and you’ve taken quite a while to finally publish it. What inspired you to start? And what, if any, were your obstacles along the way in finally getting it to print?
Clint Hofer: My story begins on June 5th, 1993 because that is the day Conway Twitty died in Springfield, Missouri. He was stricken on his tour bus right after leaving Branson. Conway Twitty has always been my favorite country singer and that is why my novel begins with his death. I was very disappointed that the Ken Burns country music documentary on PBS barely mentioned Conway Twitty who received about one minute of coverage in those eight episodes, and then it was only because he sang duets with Loretta Lynn. I can only assume that Ken Burns is not a true country music fan. There is country music throughout my novel. Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, and George Jones are all mentioned in my novel. They come right after Conway Twitty on my list of the Top 5 country singers of all time. They had what it takes to turn a good song into a truly great song.
OCBS: The book has been quite a success. What have you enjoyed most about the reactions you are getting from your readers? Have you noticed any reactions that you didn’t expect?
Clint Hofer: When I was in high school, I was on the staff of a student newspaper sponsored by the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. We met at the Globe-Democrat building in Downtown St. Louis. George Carson was one of the advisors and he did a local television show about fishing. I think it was then that I first knew I would someday write a novel where one of the characters did a television program about fishing. Barbara Grogan is that character and “The Happy Hooker” is the name of her show. That is how my novel began. The earliest drafts of my novel begin with a character who does a television program about fishing. I worked on my novel for many years until I was finally satisfied. The publisher did not change anything when I finally submitted my novel.
OCBS: You weave a lot of comedy through the book, and you seem to have a love for old country music and celebrities. Who is your favorite entertainer of all time? Why? Who are your favorite artists and why?
Clint Hofer: Judy Garland has to be my favorite entertainer of all time and she figures prominently in my novel because she was in “Meet Me in St. Louis” where she played the role of Esther Smith. Elvis Presley also figures prominently in my novel. An Elvis impersonator is always guaranteed to get laughs. I would have to rank Elvis as my favorite comedic personality.
OCBS: The One That Got Away paints a very vivid picture of St. Louis, which I know is your home. Tell me more about some elements of the story that are “pure St. Louis,” and your connection to them.
Clint Hofer: The rich musical history of St. Louis also plays a big part in my novel. I have lived in St. Louis my entire life and I grew up hearing about the rich history of our city. I would spend hours and hours in the Jefferson Memorial now called the Missouri History Museum, and I made use of that research in my novel. There is a scene set in the museum. There is a copy of my novel in the library of the Missouri Historical Society. The Lemp Brewing family of St. Louis was the inspiration for the Grosse Brewing family in my novel. The old Lemp Brewery is still there in South St. Louis but is in poor condition. One of the old brewery buildings recently collapsed. There are caves underneath the old Lemp Brewery that were used for keeping beer cold in the days before refrigeration. Those caves play a big part in my novel. The Stag Athletic Club was located in that area and that’s why I have a tavern named the Stag Club in my novel. I played baseball for the Stag Athletic Club and remember checking out the caves underneath the old Lemp Brewery.
OCBS: Who is your favorite character in the novel? Why?
Clint Hofer: The Lavender Lady is the most memorable character in my book, and she is based on a member of the Lemp family who was once a prominent member of St. Louis high society. Glen Wunsch is my favorite character in the book because he is like me in many ways.
OCBS: Do you have other favorite cities?
Clint Hofer: Like Glen, I also love to hunt and fish. One of my cousins owns rural property in Missouri where I can go hunting and fishing. Like Glen, I am Austrian-American. Glen’s ancestors lived in Vienna. I have cousins in Vienna. I think that would be a great city to live in.
OCBS: Will you be publishing other books? If so, can you tell us what we should be looking forward to?
Clint Hofer: I am glad my novel has been a Barnes & Noble Best Seller and has made it to Number 42 on the Barnes & Noble Top 100 list. So far, all the reviews have been favorable. I am working on a sequel to The One That Got Away. People who have read my novel say they are interested in the characters and would like to find out what happens in the future.
OCBS: If you could offer any advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Clint Hofer: My advice to aspiring authors is to never give up. I would go for months without writing anything, and then I would find the inspiration and continue.