2014-11-12

Ann McCauley’s interview with Todd McClimans

Todd McClimans is the author of Time Traitor, available on Amazon.com

A.M. How do you find/make time to write?

T.M.  I’ve found that I have to be opportunistic with my writing time.  It wouldn’t be possible without the encouragement of my wonderful, understanding wife. 

My usual writing time is late night, after my kids go to bed and I can get some peace.  I still remember the moment that I was hired as an assistant principal six years ago.  I knew that I would be busier than ever with work, so it was a make-or-break moment for my writing.  I set writing times and kept them as religiously as possible. 

A.M. Do you get ideas for your stories from history books? How do you manage the research to make it seem so accurate?

T.M. I fell in love with history as a fifth grade teacher.  Our curriculum had me teaching about the Revolutionary War, so I did a lot of research on my own so I could present it accurately to my students.  Back then, my usual writing genre was fantasy.  I never thought about writing an historical novel.  But I loved to incorporate historical fiction books in my teaching, but, other than Johnny Tremain (which I love), I had trouble finding historical fiction for kids about the Revolutionary War.  So, years later, I decided to write my own.  One of my aims with Time Traitor was to provide a novel that teachers can use in the classrooms to get students interested in history.  I had to make it as historically accurate as possible (except for the whole time travel thing ), so the research was necessary…but fun, too. 


A.M. It is impressive that you seemed to discover the power of history through reaching out to your fifth graders. How long did it take you to write Time Traitor?

T.M. I spent a few months planning the novel and researching, then about six months on the first draft.  Revising is my FAVORITE part of writing, so I spent another eighteen months doing more research and re-writing over and over again.  I’d still be at it, but I knew it was time to get it out of my hands or else I’d be re-writing forever.  


A.M. How many books do you envision in the Time series?

T.M. I don’t have a ceiling identified.  I’d love to continue to walk the story through American history, showing kids some of the amazing events and people who have made our country great.  I’ve finished drafting a sequel that takes Kristi and Ty along the Underground Railroad in 1858 and I’ve started researching and planning another one set during the Civil War.  I’m also marinating some ideas about the transcontinental railroad, the world wars, and the Civil Rights movement. 

A.M. Are you familiar with the I Survived series? It is geared to involve middle school students in first person history experiences also but not through time travel.

T.M. I am familiar with them, but I haven’t read any yet.  I see many of my students with them in classes and they seem to be high-interest and well done. 

A.M. Are you available to for school/library visits to speak about Time Traitor?

T.M. I LOVE doing school and library visits.  It’s so exciting to get in front of a group of students and talk about the wonders of writing and story-telling.  It’s too easy to bog young writers down with the dreaded red pen and too much of a focus on conventions.  Spelling and grammar are boring!  The joy of writing comes from telling stories, making readers laugh, or cry, or cringe at an unexpected twist.  Kids can do that if you let them.  The spelling and grammar will come in re-writes.

I’m a very enthusiastic presenter and I find that much of that enthusiasm rubs off on young readers and writers.  You wouldn’t believe some of the great stories that kids have written and sent to me after I’ve done lessons with them.


A.M. Are there any other pertinent thoughts on the series, writing process, etc. that you would like to share?


T.M. I’d just like to restate what I said early.  Writing is fun if you let it be.  I have a saying that I use when I present to kids, stolen from Smokey the Bear.  I call myself Smokey the Writer and tell the kids (in a deep, ominous voice), “Only you can prevent boring writing.”  Let loose and write to have fun.  Write about what you know, what you love.  Write a story (or letter, or essay, or reader’s response) that you would want to read.  Try out fancy words and stretch yourself.  Finally, don’t be afraid to revise and re-write.  There isn’t a successful author out there who writes something great the first time.  True writing comes in the re-writing and making your story better 

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Todd McClimans loves history, a former history teacher who wants to instill his love of history to elementary and middle grade students. He is an elementary school administrator in the Red Lion School District in York, PA. He’s married and the father of three lively young children. You can find his book, Time Traitor, here.

Ann McCauley is the author of Runaway Grandma, (2007), and Mother Love, (Revised-2012). She’s also a contributor to the anthologies, Women Writing on Family: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing, (2012), Writing After Retirement, (2014). She does freelance writing; her work has been published in magazines, journals and newspapers.  Ann has degrees in Nursing, Psychology, and a Master’s in Creative Writing.  Learn more about Ann at annmccauley.com and follow her on Facebook.


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