Resilience and Love in a Time of War
Updated: 4 days ago
An Interview with Author C.J. McGroarty
This week I'm welcoming C.J. McGroarty to the blog. Her debut book, Clara in a Time of War, was released in September 2022.
C.J. McGroarty is a former reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer with an MFA in Creative Writing. Her fiction has been published in a variety of literary journals. Her short story “The Dying Season” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Story South Million Writers Award. She is at work on a second novel, a supernatural mystery set in suburban Philadelphia. She lives in Chester County with her husband, Jim, and their cat, Lily.
Your bio mentions that you are a former reporter. Was the transition from reporting to writing short stories and novels an easy transition? How do the skills used as a report help with your fiction writing?
Mostly easy, yes. As a reporter, I was writing every day, both news and features. That discipline carried through when I set to work on writing fiction. And as a reporter, I was always researching material for my stories, another skill that came in handy for writing a historical novel.
For fun: what is your favorite non-writing past-time and why?
I garden enthusiastically and love to see lovely things grow. I am also a tour guide at Historic Waynesborough in Paoli, the home of Revolutionary War General Anthony Wayne.
Please tell us a little about your novel, Clara in a Time of War.
The story is set in 1777 in Chester County a few miles outside Philadelphia. The American Revolution is raging in the colonies, and Clara Fletcher is trying to survive on her farm while her husband is off fighting. One day, her son finds a badly wounded man in their carriage house. As Clara and her friend nurse him back to life, Clara and the stranger, Declan, grow close. One thing leads to another, Declan eventually has to leave, and the war moves closer to Clara’s door. It is a love story set among a time of grave hardship and uncertainty.
A compassionate portrayal of a woman whose quiet life is thrown into turmoil. ~ Kirkus Reviews
Can you tell us more about how you came up with this idea and what readers can expect?
As a reporter, I did many stories with history themes. One of them had to do with an old colonial homestead that a local group was trying to preserve. It was just a ruin, really, with a few stone walls left to weather through time. But the story behind it interested me. It had been the home of Polly and Persifor Frazer. Persifor went off to fight in the Revolution, and Polly stayed home with the children to run the farm. I began to imagine what life must have been like for Polly out in the middle of nowhere, trying to survive with her kids.
Readers can expect to be immersed in the world of the 18th century: the language, the customs, the food, the social milieu, and of course the political upheaval of that time.
What inspired you to write Clara in a Time of War?
It helped that I am a fan of Revolutionary history. I also thought that more women’s stories needed to be added to the fiction set in that era. There are many children’s stories about the American Revolution and a few novels based on real women. But not that many fictional books that feature a woman as the main protagonist and the challenges she faces.
Could you tell us a little about the main character Clara and her independent spirit? Was she based on a real-life person?
Clara is not based on a real-life woman. She is a figment of my imagination. She is educated and bright and chafes somewhat under the societal strictures of the time that didn’t allow women to make choices. She was born in Philadelphia and has been terribly homesick for the city since her husband moved the family to the farm. The life she had there was much more satisfying than life out in the sticks. But she had little choice but to go where her husband wanted to go.
What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your work?
I hope readers find themselves transported to the world of the story. It’s immersive and intimate and full of humanity.
What are some of your biggest writing influences and what have you learned from them?
Margaret Atwood is one of my very favorite writers. I’m also a big fan of Kate Atkinson. What I find in their books a human element that isn’t glossed or sentimental. Their characters are people trying to make their way in the world, for better or worse, with all the challenges that might come.
Can you give us a sneak peek into what you’re working on next, and what readers can expect from your stories?
I’m working on a supernatural mystery that features a widow who has moved into an 18th century house. Yes, that kind of house. It has a dual timeline that toggles between present day and the mid-18th century. It’s about love and sorrow and grief, but also about resolving things that need to be resolved and moving on.
Where can readers and fans find out more about you and your books?
Thanks for visiting, C.J. McGroarty!
Until next time, check out Clara in a Time of War.
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About the Author
Thanks to a family with a grand imagination and a love for books of all kinds, Joie learned to value a heartfelt story. Early on she realized writing and storytelling were as essential to her as oxygen. She recorded her first story at six and finished her first novel at twelve. The Passenger is Joie’s first published novel.