As an English major specializing in southern literature, I read Civil War literature nearly every day. I’m fortunate to work at Mercer University Press where many of the publications are related to Civil War and southern history. One of our newest historical novels, Secrets in a House Divided, takes place in Civil War Richmond. Author Clara Silverstein, who has published a memoir, White Girl: A Story of School Desegregation, and several cookbooks including A White House Garden Cookbook, captivates readers with “rich, poetic detail” as she tells us a story of a young Confederate mother who becomes pregnant out of wedlock at the latter end of the Civil War.
I had the pleasure of meeting Clara Silverstein this past weekend at the Decatur Book Festival. Earlier in the week she graciously agreed to an interview, and before I knew it I was sitting across from her in the downtown Decatur Starbucks waiting on my cinnamon dolce cold brew.
Elizabeth (E): To begin with a general question: what got you into writing?
Clara (C): So, I’m one of those people who always wrote. In third grade, we had this poetry journal in the back of the classroom, and whenever I had free time I’d go back there and write little poems. I created a newspaper that I called the “Doggy Gazette” for the news of dogs in the neighborhood. It’s just always something I’ve enjoyed doing. As I got older, I actually was trained as a journalist—that’s a way to make money as a writer (though, not as much anymore).
E: You went into journalism. Do you think that helped better prepare you for your creative writing?
C: Definitely. Two reasons. One, it keeps you facile with language. You’re always writing and using the language. The other reason is that it eliminates writer’s block. In journalism, if you have a story to write, you write your story! It might not be God’s gift to literature, but you write your story. Early on, I just got over myself. “Oh, I didn’t say it the way I wanted to.” Well, too bad! It had to get done.