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Welcome all dreamers, fantasists, bibliophiles, and romantics. Join me Mondays and Fridays for speculation about other worlds, exploration of the human heart and soul in fiction and fact, sojourns in history and science, advice and tidbits in the realms of story, and thoughts on everything in between...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Interview with Mae Clair about Weathering Rock



Recently, I finished Weathering Rock by Mae Clair, a story of love spun across ages where a Civil War colonel is cursed with lycanthropy by his best friend and shot forward in time by a burst of ball lightning. It’s a story of finding oneself and peace, a tale of man against beast, and, of course, true love.

Parts of this book got me so curious about the “truth” behind Caleb DeCardian, the story’s wayward hero, and his time that I asked Mae to join us today for an interview over these subjects. She enthusiastically agreed, so, with no further ado, may I present Mae Clair.

Laura Lee Nutt: First of all, what inspired you to use the Civil War as Caleb’s time or origin? What about the period speaks to you?

Mae Clair: I’ve always had a passion for American history, spanning various eras, but there’s something about the Civil War that is particularly haunting for me. Perhaps, because it’s the only time in the history of our nation when we were divided. I remember learning to recite the Gettysburg Address from memory in fifth grade (I was the first in my class to do it). I didn’t understand what it meant then but, even now, as an adult, I remember a good portion of it. It must mean something that after all this time it’s still rattling around in my brain. Surprisingly, I wasn’t overly fond of history in school (I liked science), but I’ve come to realize it’s because school teaches events. As an adult, reading on my own, I learned about the people who made the events happen and that opened a whole new world.

LLN: I recall as a child visiting Civil War museums. My most vivid memories come from Shiloh, a truly haunting place. I never had the honor of visiting Gettysburg, though. From your descriptions in Weathering Rock, you sound like you’ve been there. What was it like for you? What stands out?

MC: Gettysburg is only a 45 minute drive from where I live so I’ve been there many times. The Pennsylvania Monument (it’s the largest on the battlefield) is really spectacular, but I always like hiking up Little Round Top where Colonel Joshua Chamberlain led his Union forces in a reckless downhill bayonet charge against the Confederates.

Little Round Top is a rocky hillside with a winding footpath to the top. There is a monument at the top of the climb and large boulders that look out over Gettysburg. I’m a wuss about heights, so I only ever peer over the edge, but my husband walks out on the boulders. I remember one visit where the monument was inundated with several dozen monarch butterflies. It felt extremely magical.

LLN: In Weathering Rock, you mention plaques at Gettysburg listing the names of the men who fought there. Is Caleb DeCardian really one of those names? Or did you invent him entirely from your imagination?
MC: Caleb is an idealized invention of my muse. I have always envisioned the men who fought in the Civil War as heroic and I set out to create one who embodied those ideas of right and wrong, nobility and loyalty. Most of all I wanted to show that Caleb, despite a gallant heart, wasn’t without flaws.

LLN: What of the other people from the 1860s referenced in Weathering Rock? Who was real and who not?

MC: Seth Reilly obviously was fictional, as was Stan Hipplewhite, Caleb’s bugler. I did some name dropping here and there of people who actually lived, striving for authenticity – Joshua Chamberlain, George Armstrong Custer, Libbie Custer and General George Meade.

LLN: What about the DeCardian family? Did you base any of them off of a real family? How much did you invent?

MC: I never like to base characters on people I know, so all of the DeCardians (and everything about them) is strictly the product of my overactive imagination. J I love dreaming up family histories! There is much about the DeCardians I only glossed over in WEATHERING ROCK, particularly as related to Caleb’s descendant, Wyn, that I plan to address in greater detail in next novel (currently in progress).

LLN: When writing Caleb, you often played on the disparity between his perspectives as a man of the nineteenth century and modern society. As a reader, I appreciated this. I’ve read too many time travel stories where the lost man thrust into the modern world is awed by it all. It was nice to have a hero actively dislike a lot of modern technology and habit. How was it to write this struggle for Caleb with his nineteenth century mentality trapped in a twenty-first century world?

MC: Frustrating and fun! Caleb is such a strong, opinionated character, accustomed to being in control and having everyone jump when he barks an order, I knew he would have a reaction to everything. I had to stop and consider that every time I put him into a situation which involved something foreign to his nineteenth century mentality. That resulted in a lot of fun. I especially enjoyed his thoughts about flip-flops, shorts, Wyn’s taste in music, and the scene where he attempts to open a bottle of chardonnay. He was a definitely a fun character to let loose in the 21st century.

LLN: Now, you’re from Pennsylvania. Is there something special to you living there, a unique perspective it has given you on the Civil War and when writing Weathering Rock?

MC: Probably the fact that Gettysburg is in my backyard. That I’m able to walk on ground where the greatest battle of the Civil War was fought. When you visit the battlefield and see the monuments you can’t help but be awed by what took place there. It’s a weird feeling.

Several years ago, my husband and I visited Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts and I remember thinking I was standing on the bridge that was the scene of the ‘shot heard round the world.’ The shot that began the American Revolution. That’s amazing!!!  It’s the same with Gettysburg. I get chills, shivers. It’s like walking in the footsteps of ghosts.

LLN: When researching for Weathering Rock, what compelled you most? What gave you the most inspiration?

MC: It was equal parts history and werewolf folklore. I remember thinking I was an idiot for trying to combine the two. Every time I repeated it in my head (a Union Colonel of the Civil War, who is also a werewolf, time travels to the present where he falls in love with a woman who teaches American history) it sounded silly and convoluted. But somehow it all meshed together…the werewolf bits, romantic bits, time travel, and history. I had a critique partner at the time who has since passed away (the book is dedicated to her, along with my husband and parents) who I drove batty with many late night IM sessions brainstorming about the time travel loop. She passed away before I submitted the novel for publication but I know she’s cheering me on. J

LLN: And, finally, in future, are you interested in playing with the historical in your fiction again? Is the Civil War likely to remain your favored period, or might you branch out into other periods as well? If so, which ones hold a fascination for you and why?

MC: I love history. If I were good at research, I would use the settlement of the American West, the American Revolution, the era of the Vikings, Victorian London, and much more of the Civil War. Regretfully, as much as I love to read historical nonfiction, the thought of writing anything that involves a large amount of research intimidates me. For a few years I dabbled with the idea of writing a book about Elizabeth Bacon Custer, the wife of George Armstrong Custer. I’ve read countless books on Custer, the Plains-Indian Wars, and Native Americans, but know I don’t have the discipline needed for a historical. I’d much rather create my own worlds and, perhaps, sprinkle them with a few facts from the past.

LLN:  Mae, thank you so much for joining us. It’s been a pleasure both reading your book and having you on the blog. Make sure to pick up a copy of Weathering Rock, and look for her newest book, Twelfth Sun, coming this August.

MC: Thanks so much, Laura. It was a pleasure to be here and I loved your interview questions. Definitely a lot of fun!


Author Bio:
Mae Clair opened a Pandora’s Box of characters when she was a child and never looked back.  Her father, an artist who tinkered with writing, encouraged her to create make-believe worlds by spinning tales of far-off places on summer nights beneath the stars. She snagged the tail of a comet, hitched a ride, and discovered her writer’s Muse on the journey.
Mae loves creating character-driven fiction in settings that vary from contemporary to mythical. Wherever her pen takes her, she flavors her stories with conflict, romance and elements of mystery. Married to her high school sweetheart, she lives in Pennsylvania and is passionate about writing, old photographs, a good Maine lobster tail and cats.
Discover more about Mae on her website and blog at www.MaeClair.com
WEATHERING ROCK BLURB:

Drawn together across centuries, will their love be strong enough to defeat an ancient curse?

Colonel Caleb DeCardian was fighting America’s Civil War on the side of the Union when a freak shower of ball lightning transported him to the present, along with rival and former friend, Seth Reilly. Adapting to the 21st century is hard enough for the colonel, but he also has to find Seth, who cursed him to life as a werewolf. The last thing on Caleb’s mind is romance. Then fetching Arianna Hart nearly runs him down with her car. He can’t deny his attraction to the outspoken schoolteacher, but knows he should forget her.

Arianna finds Caleb bewildering, yet intriguing: courtly manners, smoldering sensuality and eyes that glow silver at night? When she sees Civil War photographs featuring a Union officer who looks exactly like Caleb, she begins to understand the man she is falling in love with harbors multiple secrets--some of which threaten the possibility of their happiness.

Finding a decent guy who'll commit is hard enough. How can she expect Caleb to forsake his own century to be with her?


WEATHERING ROCK EXCERPT:
“What do you think of Arianna, Winston?”

He’d lived with his nephew for three years, but rarely conversed with him as a friend. They talked and argued, even bantered occasionally, but Caleb kept a deliberate line between them. He’d spent too many years distancing himself from his troops, befitting his rank, his circle of friends limited. And then there was Seth, whose betrayal had destroyed his belief in friendship, making him reluctant to open up to anyone, Wyn included.

“You’re not getting attached to her, are you?” Wyn shuffled the carrots aside and pulled a head of broccoli onto his cutting board.

“I don’t know.” It was as close as Caleb would come to admitting his feelings.

The more time he spent with her, the more he wanted to spend. Remaining casual when she was nearby grew more difficult. He’d spent three years in the present, but still wasn’t accustomed to the sight of a woman in shorts. He wasn’t even comfortable enough to wear the ridiculous half-pants himself. When she’d shown up in the parking lot, dressed in so little clothing, it was all he could do to keep his eyes off her. The skimpy shorts and snug tank top were practically obscene. Not that he minded. He just didn’t want every other man lusting after her the way he did.

“I met one of Arianna’s friends today,” Wyn announced, still working at the broccoli. Caleb watched as he fed the fatter part of the stalk into something he called a garbage disposal. “Her name’s Lauren Talbot. I ran into her at a cafe and happened to overhear her mention Arianna’s name to an acquaintance.”

“Lauren?” Caleb sat straighter. “The Lauren she mentioned the other evening?”

Wyn nodded. “They grew up together, best of friends. Like you and Seth.”

“Not like me and Seth. I ruined Seth’s life and now he’s ruined mine.”

“You did not ruin that bastard’s life,” Wyn snapped. The knife came down on the board with a loud thwack, sending pieces of broccoli flying in all directions. With a perturbed sigh, Wyn turned his attention from the vegetables, angling his hip against the counter to face Caleb. “What happened to Seth was a result of war. He was injured in battle.”

“It was my decision to put him in charge of that scouting party.” Caleb fingered the gash on his neck, a grisly reminder of Crinkeshaw. “It wasn’t his place. He was an officer.”

“Already bitter because you outranked him by a grade. Your sergeant was sick with dysentery, one step from death’s door, your corporal felled by a leg wound at Bull Run. Who else were you going to send? You were a major at the time, Caleb, the highest ranking officer in your troop. I might not know about warfare, but even I know the ranking officer is too valuable for scouting duty.”

“We’re getting off the subject.” Caleb preferred not to dwell on the past. “I was talking about Arianna.”

Wyn joined him at the table. “I know you’re attracted to her, but aside from the fact you turn into a werewolf every twenty-nine days…” He grinned to ease the sting of the observation. “You don’t belong here. What happens when you find your way back to your own time? I know it’s been three years, but it’s not fair to involve Arianna in a relationship without a future.”

Caleb looked away. Wyn was right, but that didn’t miraculously erase his longing for the dark-haired schoolteacher. “Maybe I just need to find a tavern and a woman who wants to sleep with me,” he mumbled. “Get these damn sexual urges out of my head. It probably has nothing to do with Arianna.”

Wyn studied him evenly. “So when are you seeing her again?”

Caleb frowned. After three years, his nephew knew him well. “Wednesday night. I’m helping her paint her living room.”


Buy WEATHERING ROCK at:

You can find Mae Clair at the following haunts:

10 comments:

  1. Laura, thanks so much for having me today. I relly enjoyed doing the interview. Happy Friday! :)

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    1. You're welcome, Mae. It's been a pleasure.

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  2. Awesome interview, ladies!! Mae, it's funny how you said you thought yourself crazy for combining history and werewolf folklore. It made me think of something Debra Dixon said in a seminar she gave at our local MMRWA writers meeting a couple years ago. She said, "Do anything you want to do as long as you do it well enough". I've never forgotten that. It was awesome advice! You did that and now you have a fabulous book to show for it!!

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  3. Hi, Jennifer. I'm glad you enjoyed the interview, and I am definitely going to remember that quote of Debra's. Thanks you for sharing it. I tend to stray off established paths frequently, so that is a mantra I will hang onto. Have a great day!!

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  4. Very insightful interview, Mae and Laura. I didn't know so much about you, Mae. How cool for you to live so near such an amazing historical site! And there's a book two? Even better!

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    1. Book two is definitely in the works, Calisa! It's strange about Gettysburg. They used to take us there for field trips when I was in grade school. After that I never bothered with it again until years after I was married and discovered history on my own. Now, my husband and I visit every few years. The town is fun too. Lots of old stuff and, of course, there are ghost tours but I generally avoid them, LOL. Thanks for checking out my interview!

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  5. You did an excellent job in Weathering Rock, with the time-travel loop. In some time travel books and movies, I get that confusion-headache, trying to keep track of all the implications (Looper, anyone?) but in your book, it all made sense. :)

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    1. Hi, Piper! That's fantastic to know (about the time travel loop). It must mean all those headaches I had over it were well worth the effort. Thanks so much for checking out my interview!

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  6. Nice interview, Mae. Thanks for bringing history alive in it and letting your passion shine for the era Caleb comes from. It shines in the book too:)

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  7. Thanks,Jessi. That's so lovely to hear. I'm partial to Caleb and the noble dedicaton of the men and women of his era :)

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