Monday, May 16, 2011

Interview with Newbery Award-winning CLARE VANDERPOOL

As promised on Friday, Augusta Scattergood, who reviewed Moon Over Manifest for us, is back with an interview from the the author, Clare Vanderpool!

Thank you, Clare Vanderpool, for agreeing to speak to us here at THE 3 R's: READING, 'RITING & RESEARCH.

Congratulations on the amazing award. Your fellow lovers, writers and readers of historical fiction are very proud!

Can you share some of the books that made you fall in love with reading when you were young? The books you read so intently that you walked into those telephone poles? And we love this image because we’ve all been there!

A Wrinkle in Time, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, Charlotte’s Web, Half Magic. These are all great books for walking into telephone poles… so be careful!

I noticed from your book jacket bio that you enjoy reading historical fiction. Are there books in the genre you’ve read recently that you particularly loved?

I recently read Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm. And a while back I read Crows and Cards by Joseph Helgerson. This was kind of a Tom Sawyer, river boat story. I also loved Richard Peck’s A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Yonder.

Was there a part of Moon Over Manifest that drove the writer in you crazy? For example, anything big that got left out of the book in the end, or ended up being your favorite part after much writer hair-pulling?

Nothing really drove me crazy, but sometimes it seemed like I’d never really finish the book. The story was just so layered that I went back through it many times to make sure the different characters’ voices were consistent, that my timeline was accurate, that the various threads of the story pulled together in the end. I created a master checklist that listed every chapter, Hattie Mae column, letter from Ned, etc. and would use that same checklist over and each time I went back through the manuscript. I also used lots of post-it notes to mark places that I needed to come back to and add little brushstrokes or bits of information to the story. Every little detail mattered. It was a great relief to me when there were no more post-it notes stuck throughout the pages.

What drew you to this particular place and especially these two time periods-1936 and 1917?

I’m a very nostalgic person and I like imagining myself in another place and time. The town of Manifest is based on the real town of Frontenac , Kansas. My mother’s parents are from that area in southeast Kansas. As I did the research for the story, I learned how rich and colorful the history was in that part of the state. And there seemed to be a natural connection between 1936 and 1917. During hard times (like the Depression), I think people tend to harken back to a time they remember to be simpler and happier. Both time periods had plenty of difficult things going on. Drought and economic crisis in 1936. World War I and the Spanish Influenza in 1917-18. So there was plenty of history to draw from for both storylines.
Since many of our blog readers read and/ or write historical fiction, do you have any great tips to share about your writing process or your research techniques?

I love doing research. As I said, I’m a very nostalgic person and I love delving into the past. Newspapers, yearbooks, graveyards, the History Channel. These are all great avenues for learning about other times and places. I spent a lot of time looking at microfilm in the library of old newspapers from 1936 and 1918. This can add a lot of authenticity and flavor to a historical novel. And it’s fun!

(Joyce here)  Thanks Augusta, for coming bringing Clare to The 3 Rs!

And thank you, Clare for taking time from a truly busy schedule to grant this interview. I loved reading your update to your website - the one that explains a bit of life after winning the Newbery.  I've often wondered how one copes with the aftermath of winning a major award.  Now I know - with a healthy dose of humor! 

For more from Augusta Scattergood, visit her blog at .


  1. Great interview. Thanks for sharing! I love your reference to the "little brushstrokes." That is how I see my writing as well...a detailed painting full of light and shadow and texture. Historical subjects give me so much to draw from that i have to be careful not to get lost in the research for too long.

    Congratulations, Clare!

  2. Thank you, Mary Ann for dropping by! I suspect every historical fiction writer struggles with getting lost in the research. After all, it is soooo much fun.

  3. I enjoyed this novel very much and noticed that the book has the same editor as HATTIE BIG SKY. Great interview.

  4. Hi Shannon,

    Glad to hear you enjoyed Moon Over Manifest! I'm actually in the middle and got interrupted by life but shall return to it as soon as I get back to the library!

    I started it right after having a talk with CPY about issues in my WIP and in the early stages I found a sentence that revealed to me what my character was lacking - soul! I hope to blog about this soon - if life slows down enough.

    Abilene sort of reminds me of Ann Fay Honeycutt - the "longing after father" part of her, anyway!

  5. Wonderful interview! Loved the question about books that made her read so intently that she walked into telephone poles. Isn't that what the best ones do -- plunge us so deeply into the story that everything else fades away? Thanks for the reminder. Wrinkle in Time was one of those books for me too.

  6. Yes, Kelly that was a fun question. I grew up in a house at the end of a long dirt lane and I was always the last one of the family to make it home when the school bus dropped us off. No telephone poles along the way but I did read while walking.

  7. Thanks to Clare, Augusta, and you Joyce- for hosting such a great interview. Enjoyed it. And now I don't feel so bad about leaving all of these comments inside my WIP--sounds like it's my version of Post-its!

  8. I loved all those books you mentioned you loved, too (except for Half Magic, which I could never get into). What a great list. Love how you said they're books you could walk into telephone poles reading! As a tween and teen, I used to walk down the street reading books, rarely looking up. :)

  9. and i loved hearing about you using post-it notes to come back to places to edit. I do that, too. And make notes all over my manuscripts. :) It sounds like you put a lot of love and focused writing and craft into this book!

  10. It is sooo refreshing (and heartening) to hear how this author seemed to never be finished with the story -- and then how slowly, draft by draft, she finally pulled it all together. Bravo -- for a great, informative interview!!!


  11. Hi Joyce,

    More quality postings!Thank you/ Congratulations on your trip to Germany for research and fun.

    Linda A.

  12. Cheryl and Katia - it is always heartening to see how great authors get through the book writing process. In the end we all struggle some and we can learn so much from each other!

    Linda, thanks for dropping by. The Germany trip was incredibly good. What's not to love about research? Hope your writing is going well.

  13. It's always great to learn about inspirations, influences, research, and process from authors--and, of course, I do have a special place in my heart for historical fiction!

    Congratulations to Clare!

  14. Hi Clara - thanks for popping in here. I love your passion for historical fiction.