I met some remarkable authors at the SCBWI National Conference this year. Carla Killough McClafferty is one of them. Her just released non-fiction middle grade novel, In Defiance of Hitler: The secret Mission of Varian Fry, is the true story of an American Journalist who risked his life to help others escape the Nazi horrors. It is my pleasure to interview author and SCBWI Regional Advisor, Carla Killough McClafferty.
When and why did you first start writing for children?
My first book, published in 1995, was an adult Christian book titled Forgiving God. It is about the spiritual battle I faced after the death of my youngest son, Corey.
The book is about my journey from anger and despair back to God. After I finished that book, I wanted to write interesting nonfiction for young readers.
What advice would you give a newly published writer?
In the beginning, sometimes children’s writers don’t fully understand that publishing involves two very different sides of the same coin. This is a creative business. The creative side of the coin is the one we like the best. All writers are creative people, even if you write nonfiction like I do. The other side of publishing is the business side. New writers need to understand the reality of the business of publishing. Every writer also needs to develop a thick skin.
What is one of your favorite children’s books that you'd like to recommend?
I’ve just finished reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Though the book deals with a grim topic, Zusak's writing is beautiful.
What are you working on now?
I’m busy preparing for the release of my new book, In Defiance of Hitler: The Secret Mission of Varian Fry. It is the true story of Varian Fry, a Harvard educated American journalist who went to Marseilles, France in 1940 and arranged the escape of more than 2000 predominately Jewish refugees from Europe before the Nazis could arrest them. Because of his rescue work, Fry is sometimes described as the “American Oskar Schindler.” Varian Fry was the first of only three Americans ever to be honored at the Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, as Righteous Among the Nations. My book is a powerful story of hope during a seemingly hopeless time in history. It is my third nonfiction book published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
What is your favorite dessert and why?
My favorite dessert is chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven. Why? Besides being the perfect treat, I have sweet memories of eating warm and gooey cookies when I was a child, and also seeing my own children eating them—with smiles on their faces.
Bio for Carla Killough McClafferty
Carla Killough McClafferty began writing books after the death of her youngest son, Corey. Her first book, Forgiving God (Discovery House Publishers, 1995), is an inspirational book that deals with the spiritual battle she faced after the death of her son. It was chosen by Doubleday Crossings Book Club as an alternate selection. Many readers have found encouragement from her story when facing their own personal tragedies.
Next, she turned her attention to writing non fiction books for young readers. Following the adage of “write what you know,” she used her experience as a Radiologic Technologist to write The Head Bone’s Connected to the Neck Bone: The Weird, Wacky and Wonderful X-ray (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2001). This book was chosen as a Junior Library Guild selection and an Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children by the Children’s Book Council, and was placed on the New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age List. Her second book for young readers, Something Out of Nothing: Marie Curie and Radium (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2006), received a starred review in School Library Journal, is the 2007 IRA Children’s Book Award Winner, an NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor Book, an NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book, 2007, an NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, 2007, a Booklist Top Ten Sci-Tech book for 2006, a Junior Library Guild Selection. It is also on the American Library Association Best Books for Young Adult List, the American Library Association Amelia Bloomer Project List, the NYPL Books for the Teen Age List, and Arkansas’s 2008-2009 Charlie May Simon Reading List.
Her newest book, In Defiance of Hitler: The Secret Mission of Varian Fry, about an American Holocaust rescuer, was released in September 2008 and received a starred review in Booklist.
In addition to books, Carla is also published in various magazines, including Cricket, Clubhouse, and ASK.
Carla is a public speaker who has presented workshops and delivered keynote addresses to audiences of both adult and children across the nation. She lives in North Little Rock, Arkansas, where she is the Regional Advisor of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.