Beverly Stowe McClure has written numerous books for mid-grade readers and young adults, including LISTEN TO THE GHOST, REBEL IN BLUE JEANS, JUST BREEZE, and the newly released CAVES, CANNONS AND CRINOLINES. I have to admit, I am a huge fan of Beverly’s and each book of hers that I read reaffirms this fact – each new release becomes a new favorite in my personal library. I am very excited and privileged to have her here with us today. Please enjoy her guest post and interview.
NEVER TOO OLD
Guest post for Nancy Sharpe
By Beverly Stowe McClure
This is taken from an article I wrote for Once Upon a Time magazine in 2005. Some of you may relate; some may be too young. I hope all of you enjoy it.
My grandkids call me “Mema.” They’re so cute when they say it. I even admit to having three great-grandkids. That’s okay. I married very young.
My sons and their wives call me “Mom.” I love it. One of my life’s greatest rewards is being a mother.
My husband calls me “Beverly.” Mmm. That’s my name.
I refer to myself as a children’s author.
Some people consider me a senior citizen. I know, because at restaurants they automatically give me a senior discount. Now, I have a problem with that.
Perhaps Robert Browning said it best in his poem, Rabbi Ben Ezra:
Youth ended, I shall try
My gain or loss thereby;
Leave the fire ashes,
What survives is gold;
And I shall weigh the same,
Give life its praise or blame;
Young, all lay in dispute;
I shall know, being old.
I like to think of me as living in my golden years: “The last of life, for which the first was made,” according to Browning. When I was younger, I would not have believed him. But he was on to something. Now, I understand what he meant.
Consider me a recycled teenager worrying about a date for Saturday night, or that algebra test on Friday or puzzled because my best friend has another best friend.
Consider me an adventuresome ten-year-old who still believes in magic and fairy tales, and who loves horses and fishing and decorating a Christmas tree.
Consider me an inquisitive toddler watching a butterfly on a flower, a raindrop racing down the windowpane, or cuddling in my mom’s or dad’s lap while they open new worlds to me through an enchanting book.
Yes, I treasure each memory of growing older. I enjoy every hour of every day God gives me. Which reminds me. Gotta run. My skateboard awaits, along with my character who is teaching me the basics of an Ollie. What’s that, you say? I’m too old! Never.
I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to speak with Beverly and interview her to get some new insights into this captivating historical fiction novel. So, sit back, have a cookie and a cup of tea or mocha frappe or whatever you like and let’s learn a little more about this talented author and the story behind this incredible new story.
NAS: Good Morning, Beverly. I am so excited to have you here with us today. Would you please tell us a bit about your writing background? How did you get started writing for children? What were your earliest influences?
Beverly: Morning, Nancy. Thanks so much for letting me visit you today. My first experience with writing was in the eighth grade when my teacher sent my poem “Stars” to a high school anthology and it was published in Young America Sings. I really no desire to write at that point. In fact, I was married, with children, and teaching before the writing bug bit me. Reading great Newbery winners and honor books with my students and my sons was the beginning of my love of books, especially children’s books. I thought it might be fun to write my own. But my confidence was low, so I took a course at The Institute of Children’s Literature and learned to write for magazines first. To my surprise many of my articles were published in leading children’s magazines. Was I ready for novels? I wouldn’t know unless I tried, so I took another course at the Institute. After many years and many “No thank you” letters from editors, my first book was finally published.
There really were no early influences. No favorite books I read as a child. No one read to me. I simply wasn’t interested in books.
NAS: What inspired you to write this particular book? Is there a story about the writing of this novel that begs to be told?
Beverly: The idea for Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines, Twilight Times Books, came to me on a visit to Vicksburg, Mississippi. I wasn’t that big of a history fan, but touring the military park there and exploring the museum with items dating back to the Civil War, hooked me. We toured one of the Victorian homes and learned about the family that lived there. When I heard about the citizens living in caves for safety during the siege of Vicksburg, I knew I had to write the story, not so much about the war, but about the effect the war had on the women and children.
NAS: How much research did you have to do to bring Lizzie’s story to life?
Beverly: I did a lot of research. At Vicksburg I bought books, both fiction and nonfiction about the siege. I found wonderful journals kept by the women who lived there. Copies of old newspapers helped me learn more about their daily life. I talked to the curator of the museum, who was born and grew up in Vicksburg. University Web sites on the Internet have a wealth of information too.
NAS: Do you start with a character, setting or plot? How do you build your story?
Beverly: It depends on the story. With this one, the setting came first. Then my characters introduced themselves to me. The father is a doctor loosely based on the husband of the woman who wrote one of the journals. I wanted a young girl for my protagonist and Lizzie was perfect.
Usually though, a character speaks to me and the plot develops from the character, what he tells me about himself.
NAS: Who is your favorite character in the story? Why?
Beverly: That’s a tough one. My characters usually become like my children, a part of my life for months. In Caves, I like Lizzie, but I think Nat steals my heart. He’s so simple and yet complicated: he has fears, he’s brave, he’s confused, like most of us in real life. And he cares dearly for his family.
NAS: The book has an unusual title. How did the title come about?
Beverly: I changed the title several times because nothing seemed right. Then I got to thinking, the book’s about caves and cannons, and Lizzie hates her crinolines, so I put them together and the publisher approved.
NAS: Your character, Lizzie, is very strong and inspirational. Is she based on someone or how did you come up with her?
Beverly: Lizzie is pure fiction. She needed to be strong to deal with what lay ahead in the story. She pretty much wrote her own lines.
NAS: What kinds of books are on the shelves of your personal library?
Beverly: A mixture of just about everything from nonfiction (mostly Civil War, Revolutionary War, and Orphan Trains) to adult fiction (Nicholas Sparks, Dean Koontz, Diana Galbadon) to books for teens, such as the Hunger series, the Twilight series, Harry Potter. Books my friends (your Destineers) have written are especially treasured and have a special place on my shelves. I could go on and on. A few picture books, though I usually give them to my grandchildren after I read them. My bookshelves overfloweth. I donate to our local library too.
NAS: What can your fans look forward to next?
Beverly: My next release is Life on Hold, a young adult contemporary, scheduled for summer 2011 from 4RV Publishing. I also have a picture book, Frankie’s Perfect Home, Guardian Angel Publishing, no date yet, and I Live in a Doghouse, mg contemporary, Kate Little Angel Sometimes, chapter book, and Scattered to the Winds, mg historical, all for sometime in the future.
Beverly, thank you so much for being with us today and sharing these insights into your writing and the new book. As always, I wish you continued success and can hardly wait to read the literary treats you have in store for us next!
Anyone who has not had the opportunity to read Caves, Cannons and Crinolines, I highly recommend it. It is a wonderful read, not only young adults, but for adults and anyone who might want to be transported to the days of the civil war for a very realistic glimpse into life in that era and become immersed in a very compelling story.
Thank you, Nancy. I‘m blessed to have you for a friend. I appreciate your support and wish you the best with your writing.
Want to learn more about this book? Why not stop over and check out the Cybrarian’s review?!