Five minutes with… John Claude Bemis:
Published: Mar 19, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Mar 17, 2013 01:45 PM
RALEIGH - Children’s book author John Claude Bemis has been named the 2013 Piedmont Laureate, a role he hopes will take him not just to schools and libraries but to music festivals and other community events to promote the literary arts.
“We’re being real creative in how we get out and connect the literary arts to people around the community,” Bemis said.
The Raleigh Arts Commission and four other Triangle arts councils run the Piedmont Laureate program, which features a different literary form each year.
Bemis, 40, is the author of the Clockwork Dark trilogy, which began with the book “The Nine Pound Hammer,” and his latest novel is “The Prince Who Fell From the Sky.” He taught elementary school for 13 years and lives in Hillsborough with his wife and daughter. Responses have been edited for length. Q. How does it feel to be named Piedmont Laureate?
I’m originally from Eastern North Carolina, but I’ve been in the Triangle now for more than 20 years. This is home for me, and I value being active in my community. To have this honor of being the person who kind of represents the literary community of the Triangle for this year is tremendous. Q. What would you like to accomplish with your time as Laureate?
When I found out that they were doing children’s book writing, I thought this is a great opportunity to call attention to this wonderful artistic medium that we have, because children’s literature is something that is a touchstone for all of us. All of us have had a book or books from our childhood that were important and crucial to us. Q. How and when did you start writing?
I really became a children’s book writer because I’ve always loved books for young people. I just think that they are the most tremendous books written. I became an elementary school teacher in large part because of how much I loved those books and loved working with young people.
I started writing stories for fun – I mean I’d always been making up stories for fun – but then I started to take it more seriously with the idea of trying to get published. I just began coming home after school and spending that time writing stories and making up the kinds of stories that I wanted to read and the stories I could imagine my 12-year-old self wanting to read. Q. Where do you get inspiration for your stories?
“The Nine Pound Hammer” grew out of my passion for Southern folklore and American history, our diverse, rich roots and folk music that we have. Those are things that I loved and was passionate about and just got my imagination going. And I look to those kinds of things to try to create this fantasy world – an American fantasy world, an America of legend. Q.What advice would you give an aspiring writer?
My advice is that they look to their own personal passions and interests no matter how weird or unusual or geeky they are. When you take those things that get you excited and you put them in your stories, you can’t help but make your stories all the more exciting because that’s what you’re excited about.
The other advice that I often give is really to look around at the world with curiosity because ideas are all around us. People ask me as a writer often, “Where do you get your ideas?” and the reality is everywhere. If you just look around with a bit of wonder and curiosity, ideas are just waiting to be found.