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Writer of the Week: Bren McClain

Meet this weeks Writer of the Week, first-time novelist Bren McClain. Bren is our featured 3rd annual Mountaintop Stop guest this year. On September 24th Alleghany County, N.C. will welcome her to our Blue Ridge Mountain town, where we have more cows than people, or so the joke goes. Alleghany is also a place where our hearts are as big as the mountains for artists, musicians, and especially writers.

“The country.’ That’s what my parents told me I said to a little girl at the beach near Charleston, SC when I was four years old. The girl had asked me where I was from. We were making a sandcastle together out of Dixie cups. When I asked her, she said, ‘Spartanburg.’”

Anderson, SC became one of the first cities in the Southeastern U.S. to have electricity in 1895. Thus the name, The Electric City. Even more electric has been the response to its native daughter Bren McClain's novel One Good Mama Bone.

Bren writes literary fiction and has been writing since she was 3 years old. In fact, that's exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up. A writer.

"Mama said don't even TRY to put an article of clothing on me without there being a pocket in it," Bren told the blog. "Paper and pencil stuffed in pockets when I was three years old. Mama kept me still at New Prospect Baptist Church with a pencil and an S&H Green Stamp book. Mama said I didn't draw pictures, just moved my pencil across the page. Wrote a play in the 4th grade. My first novel in the 5th grade."

Photo of Author Bren McClain, One Good Mama Bone

The Writing Wall Blog asked Bren to share a great memory from when she was growing up and learned to our surprise, and maybe for some of our readers as well, that she has a twin sister! Bren commented that her twin is her biggest supporter and even plays a part in this memory she shared with us.

"The one I’ll mention underscores the integrity and innocence I grew up in. The telephone rang about 9 o’clock one night. I was in 4th grade. My family was all in bed. That’s what farming families do --- early to bed, early to rise. My twin sister and I were awakened and summoned to my parent’s bedroom, where we all hovered around the baby blue princess phone by my parent’s bed. Daddy handed the phone to me. The caller said, “If you can name this song, we’ll send you a prize.” I knew the song! It was ‘Slip Away’ and told the caller that. I can’t remember what the prize was, but it never came. Someone was playing a joke. I think of it now and know of my family’s innocence. I was born and lived in innocence. It’s what I love the most about my upbringing."

It is this innocence that has escaped so much of our world today, and so many of the children growing up in it. Perhaps that is the reason Bren's novel has touched so many here in the deep South. It pulls and tugs at the fabric that has long been braided into a way of life that is meant to be simple, beautiful, and innocent while in the end stirring the heart awake to the sight of injustice.

Set in the 1950s in the rural deep South, One Good Mama Bone follows the main character Sarah Creamer's quest to find her "mama bone," after she is left to care for a boy who is not her own but instead the product of an affair between her husband and her best friend and neighbor. Sarah is worried that she won't have one good mama bone in her body, per her own mother's words when she was a child. But Bren's book is so much more than that.

Cover of One Good Mama Bone

There are two things that inspire McClain to write. The first is injustice and in One Good Mama Bone that injustice can be seen when baby calves are taken from their mothers. The second, Bren explained, is what she described as the "loading up of children" by parents, who have some kind of unfinished business or unfulfilled part of themselves."

Bren mentioned she loved putting pen to paper "beneath a stairwell in the dark on an old 1800s gutted out organ." More importantly, though, she finds that "getting to inhabit characters who make me better as a human being," to be a wonderful part of the writing process.

Like many writers, Bren feels her stories choose her, however, readers, followers, and fans are certainly eager to see if she will write a sequel to One Good Mama Bone, leaving this author to comment, "Lots of readers have asked me to write a sequel. I’ve even had a request to write about Emerson Bridge as an adult. We’ll see if I feel chosen."

Her favorite author is John Steinbeck however, it is her favorite quote by Faulkner that embodies what Bren writes about best, “The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself.”

Currently, Bren said she is not reading because she is deep into writing her second book and has "fallen in teetotal love again with an amazing character named Eula Bates, a real woman who lived in SC from 1898 to 1980."

Bren offered this piece of advice for writers who are thinking about publishing, "If there’s something else you can do, do it. But if writing calls you, then put your butt in the chair and write. Not, as a first thought, to publish. But to express what is in you. But to express what is in you. Write what is yours --- and yours alone to write."

It is so rare to find writers who put down on paper what is theirs. Their communities. Their values. Their heritage. When we find an author whose book does this it is like finding a piece of home that we can hold with both hands. Bren McClain is one of those rare authors.

If you want to hear more about One Good Mama Bone please join author Bren McClain and me for a special episode of The Writing Wall Podcast Saturday, September 19th at 6 pm EST. Also, follow Bren McClain on her social media pages, find her book on Amazon, and much more in the details below.

For Mountaintop Stop tickets and event information please visit Alleghany Writers at The group is also on Facebook, Instagram using the handle @alleghanywriters, or on Twitter with the handle @AlleghanyWrites.

To tune into The Writing Wall Podcast visit the following link:

The podcast is also available on Breaker, Google Cast, Pocket Cast, Apple Podcast, Spotify, and more. (Please allow 24 hours before airing on other platforms and visit Anchor first.)

Book Links and Information:

Social Media handles:

A new Writer of the Week will be featured every Monday. Be sure to also follow The Writing Wall on Twitter @TheWritingWall, or on Instagram @writingsonthewall85 for the latest.

You can also listen to the podcast every 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month. Just search for The Writing Wall on Spotify, Google Cast, Breaker, and more.

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