DBP: According to your website, you wrote about four novels before your first one was published. You now have six published novels with more in the works. Will you please talk about the importance of persistence for writers and tell us about your published books?
CGC: For most of us who aren’t born with the gift like Mozart’s, persistence both in practicing the craft and in submitting our work is the only road to publication. I’d pretty much given up on my first book, Annie’s Choice, when I met an editor from Boyds Mills Press who knew I was writing and asked if I would submit a manuscript. I know it sounds like overnight success, but it really wasn’t. Annie’s Choice is based on my mother’s childhood growing up in the 1920’s and about her desire to go to high school. My second book, Nellie Bishop is about my great grandmother whose father wagered her in a poker game and lost. Willie and the Rattlesnake King is historically accurate, and although Willie was Nellie’s brother, his story is fictional. Those three titles were published by Boyds Mill Press. The Hattie Series is published by Candlewick Press.
DBP: Why do you write children’s historical fiction, and what is your favorite period in history?
CGC: Good question, but a tough one. I love reading anything about the history of woman/mankind, so one particular time period isn’t more compelling to me than another. I first started writing my family stories and that’s why I got hooked into the time periods in which I’ve written.
DBP: Will you please share with us how you research the time period you are writing about in your novels?
CGC: I read everything about the time period I can find, visit the area, if it’s outside of my own home stomping grounds. I visit museums, historical societies both of which often have wonderful oral histories rich in details of everyday life. I also read old newspapers on microfilm, which proved to be invaluable for all my books. I also read the bibliographies of history books to find more sources.
DBP: Wow! That's dedication! Your dedication to getting the details of the period right shows in your books. I recently read—and loved—SECRETS OF GREYMOOR, in the Hattie Belle Basket series. In the novel, Hattie moves into her grandmother’s crumbling mansion, where she must adjust not only to living in a new place without her father, but also being the new girl at school. What I love about this book, beyond the setting and characters, is the sense of mystery, suspense, and secrets. What inspired you to write SECRETS OF GREYMOOR?
CGC: Thanks, Donna. I’m glad you loved the book. I loved writing it! I fell in love with all the characters in Hattie on Her Way so much so that it was heartbreaking for me when that book was completed. There was that, plus I’d always hoped to discover a mystery in our attic; I didn’t, so I decided to create a little one for Hattie to solve that included the reminder of the most important treasure of all. The greater mystery for Hattie was actually in Hattie on Her Way which has a dark family secret.
DBP: In Part II of my interview, Clara will share writing advice, offer tips to writers on how to prepare for presentations, and tell us about a special contest going on over at her blog. Don't forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of one of Clara's books. They make perfect gifts for that special child, grandchild, niece, nephew, student, or any reader who enjoys stories with historical settings.