Clair St. Claire is a sixteen-year-old author who has been homeschooled all her life. She lives with her family and her horse, Mourning Dove, in the remote countryside near Lake Anna, Virginia. She began writing her debut novel, Some Must Fall (Book #1 of The Coming Crown), at age thirteen and published it after graduating from high school three years later. Clair says, “I really believed publishing my book was possible after reading The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. He was homeschooled and wrote his first book at fifteen; his story inspired my writing and creativity.” Clair also draws inspiration for her book’s mythical world of Ala’tona from the serene forest and sparkling waters that encompass her home, and the dreams and fantasies that live there. Now having published her first novel and currently working on her second book, Clair hopes to encourage other teenage homeschoolers with her story. Read our exclusive interview!
Please tell us a little about yourself:
How would you describe your home education experience? Classical, relaxed, literature-based, online?
Certainly classical. When she started homeschooling, my mom actually bought the book The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home. My brothers and I learned mostly out of textbooks, but as we got older we did start doing some subjects online.
What are your favorite subjects, hobbies, extracurricular activities, and/or other interests?
My favorite subject is writing. Surprise! Though, it is true, I hated going through the grammar textbooks. I found it ironic that when I was editing Some Must Fall, I went back through my textbooks because I had finally grown interested and needed it. I remember my mom coming into the kitchen once while I was shuffling through the cupboard for another book and laughing at my new found interest in grammar.
I view writing as my hobby as well, and I can often be found with a pen and paper in my free time. Though I also love spending time with my horse and lamb, and taking long walks with my mom.
What is one of your best homeschool memories?
For me, the question is too hard, as almost every moment of my homeschooling life has been amazing. I do specifically remember the first days of school when I was young, after summer came to an end. Mom would spread out a blanket on our back porch. I had that fresh feeling after the long break, and I was ready to start again. We would always take breaks to catch falling leaves, and it was wonderful.
I loved those days, but I view nearly every day with the fondest memories.
Your book states “This is dedicated to my parents…who have made my life a fantasy.” How so?
In every way. They were living in the suburb of Minnesota, and they both decided that they wanted us to grow up in the country. So just like that, they left family and friends to raise us in Virginia. My dad built an entire log cabin alone, and they homeschooled us away from everything. They gave us what I think was the most perfect childhood, and I will be forever grateful for everything they have done for me.
You certainly have a way with words – I just read the first chapter and it made me shudder! When did you know that you wanted to be a writer, and how did you develop your writing skills?
First, thank you! I appreciate it. I have been writing since I was very young, but I had written all of Some Must Fall by the time I realized I wanted writing to be my life. I would say that as well as making me believe it was possible, Christopher Paolini’s story also made me realize that the writing life fit me perfectly.
Being raised in the country really developed my creativity and made it possible for me to write. Thanks Mom and Dad! But I’m not exactly sure how my writing skills developed. I’ve been writing for so long that I simply can’t remember.
What is the overarching theme or message that you wish to convey in your book?
An overarching theme of a beauty that can abide in our writing. I’d like readers to come away with a contrast between a wholesome story and many of the mainstream teen books today.
How did you come up with all of the unique character and place names?
A lot of times I hear something and have to quickly write it down so that I don’t forget. Urquhart, for example is a real castle in Scotland…though it’s just ruins, I loved the name and had to use it for my book. For many of the character names, I start writing the character and the name kind of comes to me from their personalities.
Are any real people, places, or experiences included in your story, like did you model any characters after your brothers?
Yes, in fact my brother, Will, is actually a character in the story and will become a main lead in the second book. Also, my horse, Mourning Dove, had to become one because when I’m not spending time with the real her, I want to have some part of her in what I am doing.
Since I was able to travel to Europe with my family, much of the medieval setting is also based off of real places in Europe. Lauterbrunnen is a magical town in the Swiss Alps, and the layout of Corin is actually the real layout in a medieval castle we visited.
Some Must Fall is fairly lengthy at 344 pages; how long did the editing and proofreading process take, and who helped you?
Editing and proofing the entire book took about one year, and the novel was completely transformed. I had poured so much of myself into it that I wanted it to be perfect before I put it out there. I had two different editors who helped, but my second editor, Jean Hall, really took a lot of her time for me. She realized I was sixteen and trying to publish my first book, and she took me under her wing. She’s simply an amazing person!
What made you decide to write a series rather than just a single novel?
For me, creating characters is like creating real people. Writing one novel just makes it too hard to drop the old ones and start with new. Also, I find there is just too much to tell in the story to fit it all into one book.
How far along are you on your next book and what is it about?
The second book is nearly finished and I hope to have it published before February of 2017. It’s a continuation of Istus’ journey to fight for Ala’tona against Caresuad’s oncoming tyranny. As he attempts to return to his castle and all that waits for him, the rebel king is somehow able to constantly track his position, sending a barrage of ambushes. More characters will also step onto the stage as the plot thickens.
Do you write under a pen name and why did you choose it?
I do write under the pen name Clair St.Claire. I had vaguely mentioned writing under a pen name, and my dad and brothers quickly came up with Clair St.Claire. Once they started using it, it was kind of set in stone, so I went along with it.
Is there much difference between publishing for Kindle vs. paperback?
Formatting the body of the book is a little different but dealing with the bleeds of the cover and back is harder on paperback. Also, when you make a change to a paperback cover it’s more permanent. You have to order a proof copy every time in case everything comes out wrong.
What are your future plans now that you’re already a high school graduate at age sixteen?
I hope to promote my book and continue writing as much as possible. I’m planning on attending collage in the next few years, and eventually would like to have a family and give back to my children everything my parents gave to me.
What writing tips or resources would you recommend for other aspiring young writers?
Writing Strands is a great book to start you out with creative writing. I would suggest The Oxford Guide to Writing as well. They are both great books that help with style and structure.
As for tips, I would probably say, write how it works for you. If you want to write an outline for a story go for it, if you don’t and just want to wing it, do that too. It’s art, and there is not one right answer. But the main thing is, keep doing it. Don’t stop. And no matter what happens with it, be proud of what you were able to accomplish.
Do you have a closing thought or general advice unrelated to writing that you’d like to share with our teen readers?
As a homeschooled teen, I’d like to tell any child who is homeschooled that they are incredibly lucky that their parents care enough to do so. It will change their lives.
And to any homeschooling parent, well done and, even if it gets hard, please keep going. It is worth the world and will always be.
Thank you so much, Clair, for spending some time with Homeschooling Teen magazine!
Visit Clair’s website at http://www.thecomingcrown.com.
Some Must Fall can be purchased at Amazon.com.