I am super excited for this post today, and it’s because I have the great joy and honor to be interviewing, award-winning author Libby McNamee!!
Libby is one of the authors who I got to learn from at both online summer writing camp I attended. Her teaching continues to hit me right where I am in terms of growth, her writing is jaw-dropping good, and she is just a really sweet person!
Bella Raine: “Hello Libby! I’m so honored to have you here! Can you introduce yourself?”
Libby McNamee: “Thank you so much, Bella, for having me here! My name is Libby McNamee, and I am the author of ‘Susanna’s Midnight Ride: The Girl Who Won the Revolutionary War’ and ‘Dolley Madison and the War of 1812: America’s First Lady’ as well as their Study Guides. I am also the co-editor of ‘The Epic Story of 1776: 25 People, 13 Colonies & 1 War’ and upcoming ‘The Epic Story of 1777-1779: Trials, Turning Points, and Triumphs.'”
BR: How did you first get into writing? Do you remember what your first story was?
LM: “I have absolutely loved reading ever since I learned how. I actually taught myself to read, wanting to catch up with my older siblings. My sister and I used to walk to the library and get out a stack of books. Then a week later, we would haul them back and check out a new pile. My first story was ‘Percy the Perfect’ about a girl who was perfect and misunderstood by the world. Ha, I had a lot to learn!”
LM: “When I met a descendant of Susanna Bolling’s at a funeral, he told me her story and urged me to write about her. I was skeptical at first, wondering why I had never heard of her bravery. However, I did some research and was able to corroborate the facts. By then I was intrigued with her and eager to learn more about the crucial role that women played during the American Revolution. As they say, the rest was history!”
LM: “I love the breakthrough moment when I finally come up with a plot twist that has been eluding me. Suddenly everything comes together after hours (sometimes days) of wracking my brain for ideas. It is such a rush to find the missing piece of the puzzle and feel a sense of completion. I also love finding unique historical nuggets to include in my story. Using real examples helps bring history to life for the reader by showing instead of telling.”
LM: “Right now I am engrossed in writing my first draft of ‘The Spy Who Won the Civil War: Elizabeth Van Lew.’ Miss Van Lew was a wealthy socialite and abolitionist who operated the most powerful Union spy ring in Richmond, Virginia. She also orchestrated the ‘Great Escape’ of 109 Union prisoners-of-war from Libby Prison. In addition, she planted an undercover spy in the Confederate White House. By the end of the Civil War, she reported directly to General Grant. When he visited Richmond after it fell, his first order of business was having tea with her at her home.”
LM: “I absolutely love to read and escape into a good book. I get so engrossed that the house could burn down and I wouldn’t care. (Thankfully that hasn’t happened yet, but I have burned many dinners.) I also love long walks with friends, road trips to visit historical sites, banter with my family, swimming laps, and paddleboarding.”
LM: “I generally don’t read books more than once. There are too many others out there to dive into! When I’m not reading TONS of history books for my work-in-progress, I love diving into women’s fiction, middle grave novels, and cozy mysteries. I also enjoy graphic novels with a coming-of-age theme.”
LM: “Oh, that’s a tough one. I have so many favorites. Reading “Gone With the Wind” during high school made me fall in love with historical fiction. That is still my favorite genre – I love learning through a character’s life experiences during another time period. No surprise there, right? I love the middle grade historical novels by L.M. Elliott, Ann Rinaldi, Jennifer Nielsen, and Alan Gratz.”
My favorite author role-model is my dear friend, Jenny L. Cote, author of the Epic Order of the Seven Series. I admire her ‘can-do’ work ethic, passion for the craft, dedication to research, and boundless enthusiasm to get the job done right.
LM: “Excellent question, Bella! I write because I can’t not write. I’ve tried! When I don’t write for a while, I get antsy and crave that creative outlet. I enjoy the challenge of striving for a long-term goal. There’s no better feeling than getting lost in the flow of writing and realizing hours have passed like minutes. I love to play with words.”
LM: “Oh yes, unfortunately it happens ALL THE TIME, even on my third book! I try to be kind to myself and not beat myself up. Sometimes when I’m stuck, I move to another area of the book and work on that, allowing time for new ideas to percolate in my mind. Other times, I take a break and walk with a friend or go for a swim. Sometimes taking a break is the best thing to do. If it’s not working, it’s not working. I often get breakthrough ideas when I am doing an entirely different activity, like picking out bananas at the grocery store. As a writer, ‘work’ can take many forms.”
LM: “When I was in 9th grade and heading to my first concert in Boston, my father gave me some excellent advice. “Some people in there are going to try to talk to you and slow you down. Don’t let them. Just keep moving where you need to go.” If you want to write, write. Plug along, word-by-word, little-by-little. Every author starts with a blank piece of paper in front of them. Only you can make it happen. Just keep moving.”
Wow wasn’t that an awesome interview? I loved getting to learn more about Libby, her writing process, and glean her advice! She put so much thought into these answers, and I must admit I was eagerly watching my inbox for Libby’s answers to these interview questions, because I was so excited to read what she said!
Thank again so much Libby, for letting me interview you, and thank you, friends, for reading!