What inspired you to write My Clearest Me?
Hello, everyone! It’s great being here. As to what inspired me: My childhood, a cousin’s what-might-have-been (see Question 4), and a child’s voice-finger tapping at my guts. Funny thing is, I didn’t set out to write My Clearest Me. The original story began with a boy dreaming an alphabetical sequence of odd folks and creatures. There were going to be funny rhymes and fiery illustrations. There was going to be a circus in his dreams! But something just didn’t click. Must have been the strict reader in me whispering, “This isn’t very good. It’s fun, perhaps. But it doesn’t mean much.” I gave the manuscript a rest and thought about the boy, the supposed hero in the story who sleeps his way through and does nothing. He reminded me of a particular cousin. Months later, he spoke. Silently. His voice tickled my guts like a finger tapping faintly on it. He’d probably tapped in morse code, because the next thing I thought about was giving the boy his own adventure. Of course! Wynn wanted his own adventure. Why dream about something when one could be part of it for real? He didn’t have to tell me he was shy, too. I knew it. A shy and quiet child. Big dreams. Something I’d wanted for myself when I was a kid. My experience being an introvert (with a frail self-esteem) is, I had often felt awkward; I tried to fit in; I sometimes raised a ruckus so people would notice me then sort of felt awkward again for that. I’ve come to understand and like myself a lot better as a more-confident introvert but it didn’t occur to me to write about this until … well, until Wynn’s voice-finger began tapping at my guts.
How long did it take you to write the book?
Slightly more than a year. Of course, the first eight months were spent on the dream-sequence storyline, which didn’t work out in the end.
What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Were there any specific authors who inspired you?
There are many storytellers who inspire me now rather than in childhood: Barbara Cooney, Oliver Jeffers, Shel Silverstein, Uri Orlev, Sharon Creech, Gennifer Choldenko, Linda Sue Park, Maxine Hong Kingston, Joyce Carol Oates, Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman and Mark Helprin. My sisters and I read a lot of Enid Blyton stories when we were kids. I also loved the Ramona Quimby series, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret and Little House on the Prairie. I can’t recall the details of the last story now but I remember how moved I was when I read it.
Where did you get the idea for your character, Wynn?
Wynn is loosely based on a very quiet cousin. He’s a kind and at-times funny teen now, but he doesn’t go after what he wants. His introverted nature wasn’t given enough credit or support when he was much younger, so he grows up passive. Wynn is the child I wish my cousin and I had been. (Luckily it’s not too late for either of us to be Wynn.)
How did you meet the illustrator, Quek Rui Zhen, Sarah?
Sarah sent an email to CarryUsOff Books (my small press) asking for projects and showed me her portfolio. I was working on My Clearest Me then and things just fell into place!
Who is your clearest you?
Ooh, great question! My clearest me is calm. She brushes all anxieties aside and slows things in her head down. She likes honesty. She tries to be kind and compassionate, though her temper may be short sometimes. She is learning to be more patient. She watches. She listens. She shuts down and doesn’t speak when she feels her clearest self slipping away. She wishes to glow from within than glitter without. She reminds herself to be kinder to self, and to encourage her students and be supportive of her friends and family. She worries she isn’t doing her best in everything. She wants to work a little harder in writing. Just a little harder everyday.
What is one thing that you truly enjoy and have no understanding of why? (For instance, the color of moss, the sound of running water, a strip of silk, something that you always find special or magical.)
How green trees are invincibly lovely when rain falls on them.
Where can we purchase a copy of My Clearest Me?
☞ iTunes/ iPad/ iPod Touch/ iPhone ☞ Kindle ☞ Nook ☞ Sony ☞ Kobo
Thank you so much for having me! Talking about favorite books and authors can get me going on and on, and the bit on things we enjoy but have no understanding of made me smile for a long time. It’s been thought-provoking fun, especially the question on my clearest me!
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✱ Every Friday, Gueh Yanting, Claudine writes about children's books on Carry Us Off Books Blog.