Carole Estby Dagg's debut novel The Year We Were Famous; How Clara Estby and Her Mother Walked across America has already received starred reviews and many accolades. And I love the tag line: " Would you walk four thousand miles to save your family's home?" This book is just my cup of tea, and I'm delighted to introduce Carole here this week.
Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?
The Year We Were Famous is based on the true story of seventeen-year-old Clara Estby and her mother Helga (my great-aunt and great-grandmother) who walked from Washington State to New York City back in 1896. If they reached New York in time, they would win $10,000 that would pay their debts and save their farm from foreclosure. Since Clara’s mother was a suffragist, they also hoped to prove that the New Woman in America deserved the vote. Between their farm in Mica Creek and New York City, they wore out thirty-two pairs of shoes, resorted to shooting an assailant, went days without food or water, camped out with Indians, and shook the hand of president-elect McKinley.
Because of the way their trip ended, all the notes they took along the trip were burned. Since they never completed the book they intended to write, I used my imagination to fill the gaps between the facts gleaned from newspaper accounts and wrote the book in their honor.
How long have you been writing for teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?
This is the first book to make it to print—fifteen years after the first rejection on it. I didn’t inherit Great-grandmother Helga’s physical strength, but I must have inherited her perseverance gene!
And perseverance makes all the difference! And I love the photo of the two ladies here. Can you describe your path to the publication of The Year We Were Famous?
Twenty-nine rejections, including two from Clarion, the house that ultimately accepted the novel. I have to remember to burn the early versions of the manuscript before I die – they were embarrassingly bad. Between rejections I took more classes and workshops, experimented with different points of view, starting points, focus, and voice. I must have re-written the book at least twenty times.
Other than this brilliant piece (revise, revise, revise) do you have any advice for beginning writer?
Start now; the sooner you begin, the more years you have to hone your craft.
Don’t give up; learn from rejection and keep going.
Nurture your writing friends: join writing organizations, critique groups, and book discussion groups.
Try to write at least half an hour a day, even when you don’t feel like it. The muse only visits those with pen (or keyboard) at hand.
All excellent bits of wisdom. Can you tell us something about your personal life—inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?
My most important goal is to live long enough to write all the books I’ve been researching. Since I got a late start—my first book comes out the year I turn 67—this is no small thing.
I’m married with a husband, two grown children (one is following her mother’s footsteps as a librarian), two grandsons, and a bossy cat. I write in my study in Everett, Washington, and a converted woodshed on San Juan Island.
Do you have any new writing ventures underway?
Two books are in the messy draft stage and I have boxes of research notes for several other historical novels featuring amazing women.
Do you have a website where readers can learn more about The Year We Were Famous?
Thank you, Janet!
You are welcome, Carole! You can check out the trailer for The Year We Were Famous here: