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The Beauty of Reading: An Interview with C.J. McGroarty, author of Clara in a Time of War

McGroarty 1

C.J. McGroarty is a former reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer. She has an MFA in Creative Writing and is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Her short stories have appeared in a variety of journals and magazines. In between her writing hours, she reads, gardens, talks to her cat, and spends time with her wonderful husband.

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Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

I came up with the title fairly early on. It captures the heart of the story, which is about a woman in deep personal conflict trying to survive during a time of war and political upheaval.

How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?

The book cover is excellent. Wonderful image and colors. I worked with the designers and we came up with it pretty quickly. Getting the book into my hands for the first time was, of course, a thrill. The satisfying culmination of lots of hard work.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I have always been a writer. It is the one thing I was made to do in this life, and I can’t imagine not doing it. I have loved many books in my life. Margaret Atwood is my patron saint. I also love T.C. Boyle, Kate Atkinson, Alice Munro, and Daniel Woodrell, among others.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I have worked many jobs in my life. I was a reporter for more than 20 years, which taught me a lot about lots of different things. Growing up in the Philadelphia area, I learned to love history. I became quite interested in Irish history and politics in the 1980s. I have been inside prisons in Northern Ireland and the Republic to interview political prisoners. In the States, I interviewed former IRA member Joe Doherty twice while he was in U.S. custody in an international extradition case.

What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?

It was immensely rewarding to see Clara in a Time of War come to life as a bound book. Since then, I have had the pleasure of doing many book talks in a variety of venues. It’s been wonderful to speak with so many interested and engaged people and to sell my books in a personal, face-to-face way.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

Eighteenth-century music fits the story well: Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier, some fife and drum songs, and a few Irish traditional tunes.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

Above all, I hope readers engage with the story and feel transported to the world within it. Each reader will take away from it something different. That’s the beauty of reading. No two people will have the exact same experience with a piece of fiction.

What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?

I am currently revising a novel manuscript, a supernatural mystery set in suburban Philadelphia. I have two other manuscripts in progress, a light beach read about a personal chef and a historical mystery set in post-Revolution Philadelphia.

How was working with Atmosphere Press? What would you tell other writers who want to publish?

Atmosphere Press developed a wonderful book cover for me and did a great production job. The people there were very nice to work with.

You can buy the book here.
Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press

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