Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Interview with author Beverly Stowe McClure

I’m pleased to host Beverly Stowe McClure today, author of Caves,
Cannons and Crinolines
. Beverly would you please answer some questions
for my readers?

1. How long have you been writing and why did you start?

I’ve been writing since about 1990, which would surprise many people who knew me in my early years. I was the kid who hated to read. Even though my eighth-grade teacher sent my poem “Stars” to a high school anthology and it was published, I hated to write. But when I became a teacher and read great books and magazine articles with my students and my sons, I saw how much most children enjoy a good story. Maybe I was missing something. Then one day, I saw the Institute of Children’s Literature advertisement in a magazine, and thought it might be fun to try my hand at writing. So I took their course, and to my surprise some of my articles were published in leading children’s magazines. Encouraged by my success, I turned to writing novel length stories. And that, as they say, is the rest of the story.

2. What types of writing do you do (e.g. children’s, fiction,
non-fiction, adult, etc.) and which do you prefer?

My magazine articles range from ages 4 up to about 10. My books are mostly for teens, but I have a chapter book and a middle grade novel forthcoming. Teens are my preference.

3. Your historical novel obviously required a lot of research. How do
you do your research?

Much of my research for Caves, Cannons and Crinolines was done at Vicksburg, MS, the setting for the story. We visited there a couple of times, toured the battleground, the museum, and some of the old Victorian homes. I talked to a woman at the courthouse whose grandparents had survived the war. She was so interesting. When I learned about the citizens living in caves during the siege, I knew I had to tell their story. I bought a ton of books from the museum bookstore. Diaries are great because they give you a glimpse into the lives of the people, the way they spoke, the effect the war had on them, and not just focusing on the battle part. They also had copies of old newspapers. I have a huge Civil War library and used those books when necessary. The Internet also provided information about the city.

4. Your scenes appeared to be true to life. Do you write about places
you’ve lived or visited or do you primarily rely on research? How do you
create your settings?

I like to visit the place when possible. Caves probably would not have been written if I had not gone to Vicksburg. My idea came while I was there. In my paranormal novel, Listen to the Ghost, I also visited Charleston, SC, the setting of the story. Our oldest son lives in Charleston, so we’ve been there several times. Some of the places in this book are real: Fort Sumter, the street where my characters live.
The settings for my other novels are basically my home, where I live, the country, because I know it best.

5. Do your characters have attributes which you would say relate to you
or your family members? How do you create your characters?

My characters come about in different ways. I think some of them have a trait or two that’s me: the ones who are quiet, a little shy, but this isn’t a conscious thing I do. I found my ghost story main character when we took a twilight walking tour of the historic district in Charleston, where the guide told such great ghost stories to us. Then I read books about ghosts, until one day this little voice told me she was the one. And we wrote her story. My forthcoming chapter book is loosely based on one of my granddaughters, who is quite the athlete. My characters many times just create themselves. I get to know them as the story grows.

6. What is your writing process?

I don’t outline. I may have a first line, or a character, or an event (like the Civil War), and go from there. I love for the characters to take control of the story. Usually each draft gets more detailed as I learn more about the characters and their goals and problems. Yes, sometimes I have to make changes, add characters, take away characters.
As I get to know the characters, I make profile sheets for them. I also paste pictures cut from catalogues and magazines of what they look like. Interviewing them, too, is one of my favorite ways to get better acquainted.
I use index cards to help me keep track of what’s happening and not repeat myself. On the cards I write the setting, characters in this scene, and what happens. I love cliffhangers and try to end each chapter with one.

7. What would you like to see young readers take away from Caves,
Cannons and Crinolines?

That we shouldn’t judge others by where they live, their nationality, or preconceived ideas we have about them.

8. Tell us about your other writing.

I have three published novels for teens: Listen to the Ghost, Secrets I Have Kept, and Rebel in Blue Jeans. Two books are due out this fall, Just Breeze and Caves, Cannons and Crinolines. Two more stories are under contract: I Live in a Doghouse (MG) and Kate, Little Angel Sometimes (Chapter book.)

9. What was your process for getting your book published and how did you
choose Twilight Times Books?

Twilight Times Books has published two of my novels. For Caves, I submitted the manuscript to Lida Quillen, the publisher. She accepted it. My first book with TT was Listen to the Ghost. When I was researching houses that published paranormal stories, I saw TT mentioned on a message board. At the time they only published E-books. I knew nothing about E-books, but many of TT’s books had won awards, so I queried the publisher. She asked to see the manuscript and offered me a contract. Then TT started their trade paperback line, and in 2005, my book came out in print. Rebel in Blue Jeans was published in 2008, and Caves will be this fall.

10. What do you do to market your books?

Book signings at local libraries and book stores, though we have few of those in our area. I’ve been the guest speaker at club organizations. I send media releases to area newspapers, radio stations. My brochure for school presentations goes to area schools and libraries. Advertisements on Teens Read Too and other spots. I like the Virtual Book Tours. I do a workshop at the Muse Online Writers Conference. I’m a member of the Red River Writers on Face Book and enjoy the Blog Talk Radio shows they sponsor. I have many blogs. Book festivals are on my list, though I haven’t done one yet. I send postcards to friends. Whatever else comes to mind, because few people have a clue who I am.

11. Do you have any tips for authors wanting to break into children’s

Hang in there. Sometimes it gets discouraging. My writing room wall is plastered with letters from editors that wrote encouraging words. The form letters are filed out of sight. Be persistent. Never give up.

12. Do you have an agent? Do you feel authors need an agent? Why?

I don’t have an agent. Today, to get into the big publishing houses, a writer pretty much needs an agent. Most accept only work submitted by an agent. I’ve discovered that agents are hard to get. Someday, maybe I’ll find the right one. Until then, I’m doing fine.

13. Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

14. Anything else you’d like to share with my readers?

Just thank everyone for taking the time to read my ramblings. And if you truly want to be a published writer, pen the best story you can, send it out to appropriate editors/agents then get busy with your next work. Try the small publishing houses. The ones I’ve worked with are very nice. It will happen for you, too.

Thank you for stopping by to visit with us today.

Thank you, Penny, for such great questions. I enjoyed answering them. Happy writing everyone.


  1. Thank you, Penny, for having me on your blog today. You asked some very good questions. I'm available for more if anyone wants to pick my brain. LOL! You may not find a lot there.

    I'm going to "tweet" this. That sounds so weird, like I'm a bird, or something. Also, think I'll post it on FaceBook for the kind folks there.


  2. Beverly,
    I so much appreciate the advice you offer concerning agents and publishing houses. This is my experience as well and the same thing I suggest to writers. If you want to jump into a big NY publishing house, yes, you must have an agent represent you. But for starting with a smaller house that can help you get a running leap at this marketplace...going without an agent IS possible and CAN be done. You're living, writing proof here at Penny's blog today.

    Lovely interview! Best of luck to you with all your work!

    Sandy Lender
    "Some days, you just want the dragon to win."

  3. Beverly, I'm glad to have you here. I know I enjoy learning how other writers create and publish their works.

  4. Hi Sandy, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I'm pleased you found some useful information.

  5. Hi Penny & Beverly,
    This was a very informative blog. It gave me some suggestions on how to handle my own children's stories!
    Deb :-)

  6. Deb, thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you found it valuable.

  7. Hi, Deb,
    Thanks, I'm happy I could help.

  8. I enjoyed reading this article, I found the idea of using index cards very interesting. Also have to agree about hanging in there, I have just had my first children's novel published, was starting to think it would never happen.

    Thanks again

  9. Penny, great interview! Beverly, it's amazing to see how our writing styles are so alike.:) Do you ever have a situation where you are in the middle of writing a chapter and you don't know how the chapter will turn out. Suddenly one of your characters does something and you know the ending of that chapter.

    I think it's a little scary to write like that all the time so I do work on plot occasionally, but only when I am completely stuck. Do you ever have to plot out anything? Just wondering.:)

  10. Penny,
    One more comment about your Quotation of the Day. Mind if I steal it? It's the perfect definition.:)

  11. Ashley, thanks for leaving your comment. Congratulations on the publication of your book.

  12. Barbara, glad you could stop by. I'll be sure to let Beverly know you have a question.

  13. The quotes are part of the blogger add-ons. You can, I would think, use it. You could also add to your own blog.

  14. Congratulations, Ashley, on having your first children's book published. See, it does happen. And you'll remember this wonderful experience forever. Index cards help me keep my scenes and characters straight without having to look through pages and pages of manuscript. Thanks for stopping by.


  15. Barbara said: "Do you ever have a situation where you are in the middle of writing a chapter and you don't know how the chapter will turn out. Suddenly one of your characters does something and you know the ending of that chapter."

    LOL. Only all the time. My characters keep doing the unexpected, and I love it. Sometimes, like in the middle grade story I'm working on now, after I've written several chapters I'll write down thoughts of what I'd like to happen in the rest of the chapters, and a sort of ending. It doesn't always work out, but it gives me a map, of sorts, to follow. Still, I'm open to those little detours that are so much fun.

    Thanks for your comments and great questions.


  16. Sorry I'm so late with these responses. It was an afternoon at the eye doctor for hubby. Checking on his recent eye surgery. Three hours waiting, no kidding. About 10 minutes with the doctor. I got a lot of reading done. :)Good report too.


  17. Beverly, Thanks for coming back to answer questions. I hope your husband's surgery was successful.

  18. It was. He can see out of both eyes again. :) Thanks, Penny. I'll still check back for latecomers.


  19. Hi Penny and Bev...I'm a few days late. I've followed Bev's career from the moment I learned about her about three years ago. Your insightful interview is truly inpsiring. Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines is truly a wonderful book. The type you start and can't put down until you are finished.

    Best wishes for your continued success.

    Children’s Author
    Write What Inspires You Blog
    The Golden Pathway Story book Blog
    Donna M. McDine’s Website

  20. Hi, Donna,
    You're one of my best friends and supporters, always there when I need you. Before long, we'll be reading about you and The Golden Pathway. Thanks for your kind words.


  21. Hi Donna, always better late than never, eh? Glad you were able to stop by and comment.