Interview & Contest: Eileen Clymer Schwab

Jen: Please help me welcome Eileen Clymer Schwab to Romancing the Book.  Eileen, will you please share a short bio with us?

Eileen: I am married with four children and graduated from Rutgers University. SHADOW OF A QUARTER MOON is my second novel. My first book, PROMISE BRIDGE was released last year. I am drawn to the spirit of the Underground Railroad which was fueled by courage, trust, and joined purpose between those who sought freedom and the supporters who provided aid during their journey.

Jen: Tell us about your latest novel, SHADOW OF A QUARTER MOON and where it can be purchased.

Eileen: In SHADOW OF A QUARTER MOON, an unimaginable secret changes the course of Jacy Lane’s life; not once, but twice. First, when it is hidden from her, and then when it is revealed. As the daughter of a plantation owner, Jacy has been raised in privilege until she discovers that she is the offspring of a dalliance between her father and a slave. Amid the shock and complexities of her mixed heritage, Jacy is simply a woman longing for love, happiness, and a sense of wholeness; however the 1800s are not a simple time and Jacy begins a treacherous journey of denial and self-discovery that is fraught with danger and life-altering choices. She soon discovers that what she chases is as elusive as the secret network she hopes can save them. SHADOW OF A QUARTER MOON and my previous novel, PROMISE BRIDGE are in bookstores everywhere as well as online.

Jen: At what age did you discover writing? When where you first published? Tell us your call story.

Eileen: I have always loved writing, though I did not always know what form it would take in my life. At times, it was “on the back-burner” depending on the needs of my family, but it never stayed dormant for very long. I thought of myself as a nonfiction writer because smaller freelance magazine and newspaper articles were more easily managed in my busy schedule. I made a natural shift into fiction about ten years ago after taking a “Writing for Publication” course at my local community college. Suddenly, my writing made sense to me in a way it never had before. Getting “the call” that I was offered a book deal by a major publisher was exhilarating, humbling, and completely surreal. I wept, I laughed, and I took a long drive to a special place to give thanks. Thinking of it still gives me goose bumps.

Jen: Describe your writing in three words.

Eileen: Heart. Hope. Kinship.

Jen: Do you have a writing routine?

Eileen: As an author, I divide my time between purely creative hours when I write and hours devoted to research and editing. Then I tend to the business end which includes social media and promotion. It’s a delicate balance because all of these areas need my undivided attention, so I compartmentalize my tasks to keep from feeling like I’m being pulled in too many directions. Early morning hours are generally the most creative part of my day. If I feel stuck or need to percolate an idea, I may juggle my routine, but I never abandon it. A degree of routine is essential to be consistently productive.

Jen: Do you struggle with deadlines? How do you deal with the pressure?

Eileen: I rarely stress over deadlines as long as they are realistic. Creativity shouldn’t be rushed, but the process can be structured to keep me moving forward. If I am given a short deadline, I allow myself a moment of panic and then I take a deep breath and break down what needs to done. Usually that involves setting a daily word or page count that will keep me on pace and gives me a window of time for revisions. If an author is overwhelmed, it’s difficult to write quality material. As long as I am hitting my daily word count, I can relax and enjoy the process.

Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?

Eileen: I love research. For me, it is a process of discovery – not just of historical facts, but of tendencies, beliefs, and nuances of the time. How did friendships, family, and internal conviction empower folks like you and me against the challenges of their time? I began at the library and visited places like the Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati and other historic sites found within our National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. While doing some research in North Carolina, I came across Dismal Swamp. As a writer, I could not overlook a name so vivid and descriptive, and I knew it would be mentioned in my story. At the time, I had no idea that the swamp and canal were so rich and storied in Underground Railroad history, or that it would play such a significant role in my novel.

Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest? Most rewarding?

Eileen: The most challenging aspect of being an author is balancing writing with real life. The writing muse does not punch a time clock, so inspiration can come at the most inopportune times. It’s important to pick an idea while it’s ripe, so to speak, so thoughts and ideas can distract me from activities and conversations during my downtime. Just as easily, life in a busy household can encroach on my writing routine. Every author has a different way of making it work. The most rewarding aspect of writing is being read. This may sound silly and simplistic, but the truth is that writers often labor for years with no promise of ever being published, so being read feels like a glorious gift. I am deeply touched when a reader tells me that they stayed up past midnight or were late getting to work because they were so caught up in the book. At that moment, I know that I am not alone on the journey.

Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one you most identify with?

Eileen: It’s impossible for me to choose a favorite character because they are all so special in their own way, but I certainly identify strongly with those that carry a deep love and need for family and friends. These traits are essential to the journey of Hannah and Livie in PROMISE BRIDGE and Jacy in SHADOW OF A QUARTER MOON. The strength and care of these women continues to resonate in me long after completing the novels.

Jen: If you could travel back in time for one year, what time and place would you choose? If you could only take 3 things with you, what would they be?

Eileen: For me, it’s about the people so any backdrop in time would be interesting, but for purely personal reasons, if given the chance, I would go back to the last year of my brother’s life. The three things I would take would be a camera, a credit card, and a car for one long, last crazy road trip. He was full of fun and I miss him.

Jen: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?

Eileen: I generally do not read for pleasure while I’m immersed in the early stages of a new novel. I am currently writing and researching my next project, so I prefer keeping my mind clear of other voices. My “waiting to be read” pile has an assortment of books from Kaye Gibbons to Dorothea Benton Frank. I have a broad taste in books depending on my mood. I have recently read books by Valerie Martin, James McBride, Toni Morrison, and Lisa See. All wonderful.

Jen: What’s next for you?

Eileen: I’m very excited about my next project which is set in the post-Civil War South. It was a very volatile period, particularly after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. I have paused momentarily to complete some research. Quite often the surprises discovered during the research phase can shift plotlines and shape characters in unexpected ways. Combining research with imagination is the most creative part of the process, and for me, the most exhilarating. As with SHADOW OF A QUARTER MOON and PROMISE BRIDGE, the novel focuses on how family, friends, and inner conviction can change the course of someone’s life.

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?

Eileen: You can visit my web site: http://www.ecschwab.com/
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Eileen-Clymer-Schwab/193999413946643
Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/EileenCSchwab

Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?

Eileen: While reading one of my books was there anything you were surprised to learn about the Underground Railroad or the time period? My hope is that the spirit of the Underground Railroad will never be forgotten. Remembering and discussing its trials and triumphs can be one way of paying respect to its role in our social evolution.

Contest details:

  • The prize is a signed copy of SHADOW OF A QUARTER MOON.
  • The contest is open to everyone, international readers included.
  • You must leave a comment for entry.
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  • While following the blog isn’t required, it is appreciated.
  • The contest ends on Wednesday, August 17.
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