Saturday, June 6, 2009

Interview with Molly Roe - Author of Call Me Kate

1. Welcome, I’m so glad to have this opportunity to chat with you. Can you share with my readers the essence of the story you’ve penned?

Thank you for your interest in my book. Call Me Kate: Meeting the Molly Maguires is the story of Katie McCafferty, a girl living in the Pennsylvania coal region during the Civil War. After her father is critically injured in a mining accident, Katie seeks work as a domestic to help provide for her family. She must leave her family and friends in Murphy’s Patch to work at the estate of a coal baron in a nearby city. There she hears a group of wealthy industrialists discuss plans to ruthlessly squash an upcoming draft protest. Among the protesters are people from her community, including her childhood friend, Con Gallagher. Katie is conflicted about the best way to intervene, but she eventually launches herself into the events of the day, including the draft protest, putting her job and life at risk.

2. You’ve chosen a very interesting title. What inspired the title? What inspired the book?

The title is in two parts. The first Call Me Kate reflects the coming of age of Katie, who matures during the course of the story, hence the change from Katie to Kate. The second part, Meeting the Molly Maguires, specifies the setting, the early Molly Maguire era. The Molly Maguires, the legendary secret society of Irish miners, were considered labor heroes by some people and terrorists by others.

The book was inspired by the information I learned while researching my family history. My sense of wonder was kindled at the way people lived in the nineteenth century. Life was very difficult, but people somehow kept surmounting the obstacles set in their way. While growing up, I’d heard many stories about the Molly Maguires, but never knew how intimately connected they were to both sides of my family tree.

3. What makes this book special to you?

The basis of the story is really very personal. It’s the fictionalized story of my ancestors who came to Pennsylvania because of the Great Famine in Ireland so it’s an homage to them. Catharine McCafferty was the name of my great-great-grandmother and her mother’s name was Mary McCall, the names of the characters in the novel.

4. What makes this a book that people MUST read and WHY?

The idea that people will be forced to relive the mistakes of the past if they do not study history is definitely a motivating factor. The themes in the historical events are eerily repetitive: immigration, war protests, injustice, the greed of big business, the abuse of the working man, and the list goes on. We need to keep teaching the younger generations to learn from the past. Since I teach seventh and eighth graders, the educational value is always in my mind.

5. What sparks your creativity? Any tips to help others spark their own creativity?

Connecting with people from other generations or cultures often sparks creative ideas. I’ve always enjoyed hearing the stories of the older generation, and now I find dialogue with the younger generation also fascinating. Reading is another way my ideas emerge. I’ve always been a reader and constantly wondered “what if” when reading the works of other writers. My number one tip to beginning writers is to read, read, read.

6. What has been the biggest stumbling block in your writing? Can you share some tips to help others get past similar problems?

Time is probably the biggest hurdle. Teaching teenagers is very demanding, and grading papers sometimes saps my energy. Historical fiction requires a lot of research and fact checking at libraries and historical societies, and I have limited travel time during the school year. I use the summer to accomplish as much research as possible. Regarding time, everyone has different biorhythms so each writer must find what works personally.

7. Tell me about the most unusual things you have done to promote your book?

I haven’t done anything too dramatic regarding promotion, although a friend jokingly suggested a float in the local St. Patrick’s Day parade. I’ve promoted my book at talks in several historical locations in northeastern Pennsylvania and managed to get it accepted into gift shops at two state and one national historical site. I’m currently creating a WebQuest for middle school students related to Call Me Kate that addresses Pennsylvania history and language arts standards.

8. Each author is different in the way they create a work of fiction. Please describe for us how you plan or plot a story.

For Call Me Kate and Sarah’s Story I developed a timeline of the actual historical dates of the events that occurred. The dates are set so I have to fill in the fictional part between those dates. For the fictional part of the plot, I follow a framework that was described in a writer’s workbook. I start with a core sentence describing the story and break it into parts that represent the main sections of the novel. Then I enlarge on the core theme and build on each part in stages. This becomes the basic outline. When I looked back at it after the novel was written, I realized the story took a few unexpected turns. When I get blocked on a certain section, I jump ahead and write the parts that I am confident about.

9. Authors are very unique in the way they write, the tools they use, when they write, etc. Please describe a typical writing day for you? How do you organize your day?

I’m an absolute night owl so my ordinary writing time is between 10 PM -1:30 AM. This is definitely my best time and always has been. My scheduled work day is from 7:15 to 2:45, but I’m usually in my classroom until at least 3:45. When I get home I nap for an hour, then make dinner, grade papers and finally settle in to writing for a while. Some nights I get a lot done, but as long as I write two pages I’m satisfied. I use my desktop computer at home for writing. When away I use my laptop. Somehow being in the same place at my desktop helps me avoid distractions so I rarely use the laptop at home.

10. What is your current work in progress?

I am currently working on the second book in the McCafferty sisters’ trilogy. The tentative title is Sarah’s Story: The Curse on Centralia. The setting of my first novel was a re-creation of my maternal great-grandparents’ town. This second novel is set in Centralia where my father’s grandparents lived from the 1860s to the 1900s. Sarah’s Story continues examining the Molly Maguire history with the murder of a mine superintendent.

11. Can you tell us where to find more information about you and your books and how readers can reach you?

My publisher, Nicole Langan, has lots of information on the Tribute Books website, My e-mail address is I also have a blog,

12. What would you like our readers to know about you and your writing?

My writing arises from a pride in my heritage and in my ancestors’ stoicism. My pen name is a tribute to Mollyroe, the townland in Donegal, Ireland, where my great-grandfather was born. I firmly believe that we need to acknowledge that our ancestors paved the way for an easier life for us here in the present.

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