Clare B. Dunkle

About Clare B. Dunkle

Clare B. Dunkle
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"Former librarian Clare B. Dunkle is a writer worth watching. Gifted with the ability to create unique historical fantasy novels with a narrative pull like a Hoover, she wins fanatically dedicated readers right and left."
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

I was born Clare Buckalew in Fort Worth, Texas, and grew up in Denton, Texas, a city north of Dallas. I earned my B.A. in Russian with a minor in Latin from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. After graduating from Indiana University with a master's degree in library science, I came back toTexas to work when my husband, Joe, joined the engineering staff at one of the Air Force bases there. I earned tenure as a university monographs cataloger from 1990 to 1999; then I left the library to homeschool my two daughters, Valerie and Elena. My family moved to Germany in 2000, and we lived for seven years amid rolling green hills, not far from the old Roman city of Trier. We returned to Texas in the summer of 2007, when my younger daughter Elena began college. In 2012, now grandparents, Joe and I moved back to Germany and enjoyed the bike trails, wine fests, and amazing travel opportunities as empty-nesters. An amazing opportunity brought us back to the States, and we now live in Berkeley, California.

From April of 2001 to March of 2004, my daughters attended a German boarding school for girls, and I began to write books for them. They read my first four books as a series of letters from home.

Since then, I have written ten books and sold nine:

The Hollow Kingdom, published in 2003;
Close Kin, published in 2004;
By These Ten Bones, published in 2005;
In the Coils of the Snake, published in 2005;
The Sky Inside, published in 2008;
The Walls Have Eyes, published in 2009;
The House of Dead Maids, published in 2010;
Elena Vanishing, published in May, 2015; and
Hope and Other Luxuries, also published in May, 2015.
Goody Bone (working title), my first chapter book, completed in July, 2016, and with my agent.

I am currently writing a second chapter book, God's Waiting Room (working title).

When I wrote The Hollow Kingdom, I had no agent and no fiction-publishing experience. By luck or pure miracle, the manuscript found a home on its first trip out into the world and landed with Reka Simonsen at Henry Holt and Co. Reka and I worked happily together on The Hollow Kingdom Trilogy and By These Ten Bones, and we rejoined forces to release The House of Dead Maids. I love creating fantasy novels for Reka to read. From the start, she's been a kindred soul.

Ginee Seo acquired The Sky Inside for her own imprint of Ginee Seo Books (Simon & Schuster) and asked me to write The Walls Have Eyes as well. I've learned an enormous amount working with Ginee, and I value her insight and friendship. She and I are currently working on Elena's YA memoir, Elena Vanishing, for her new house, Chronicle Books, and she asked me to write a companion memoir to match it: Hope and Other Luxuries, telling my side of Elena's story for the adult-list side of Chronicle Books. I was blessed to have Ginee's help on these painful and complicated manuscripts. Not only are we old friends, but she has great credentials when it comes to the memoir genre: she worked with other members of her house to publish the notable bestselling companion memoirs, Tweak and Beautiful Boy.

The memoir genre was new to me. I write fantasy to hide myself away from the mundane, troublesome world, so it took titanic events to bring me to combine writing with real life. But my younger daughter, Elena, struggled during her teens and early twenties with anorexia nervosa, a poorly understood disorder that takes the lives of twenty percent of its victims. Watching my own child fight for her life while several of her friends died was a life-changing experience for me, and at a certain point, I turned to writing in order to help me understand what was happening to her. During the worst phase of Elena's illness, our work on her memoir became the only connection the two of us had. It was harrowing, but I'm tremendously grateful for her honesty, and I'm very proud of the manuscripts we've produced.

I'm endlessly grateful that so many critics and fans have been kind to my books. The Hollow Kingdom won the Mythopoeic Award for Best Children's Fantasy Book and earned a Publishers Weekly starred review among other honors. Close Kin and By These Ten Bones both landed on the New York Public Library "Books for the Teen Age" lists, and By These Ten Bones made the shortlist for the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award and the Mythopoeic Award. In the Coils of the Snake earned a starred review from Booklist and a place on the VOYA "Best Books for Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror" list. The Sky Inside earned a starred review from Booklist and a place on the Booklist Core Collection: Dystopian Literature list as well as a spot on the Grand Canyon Reader Award list. The House of Dead Maids earned a star from no less than The Horn Book.

Elena Vanishing and Hope and Other Luxuries, our two memoirs, took this kindness from readers to a new level. Elena and I have been overwhelmed—literally overwhelmed!—by the response. We did our first radio and television interviews for these books. We were invited to write dozens of blog posts and articles. Librarians, therapists, journalists, and educators on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean hailed the books as a valuable contribution to the eating disorder literature. The books were Junior Library Guild selections and landed on various "best of the year" book lists, and Elena Vanishing won a spot on the Texas Library Association's 2016 TAYSHAS Reading List.

But the most touching and heartfelt praise of all has come from the patients and their families who have reached out to us to let us know what our work has meant to them. They've taken to the Internet and Twitter to thank Elena for her courage and to let her know they are working on their recovery too. Sexual assault survivers have come forward to share with her their stories of survival. Their generosity simply stuns me. Never once has Elena been left to be the only one in the room to stand up and say out loud, "I was raped." And the mothers and fathers who have contacted me have let me know that I'm not alone with the burden I carried, either.

Now I am moving on with new projects—happier projects. Ginee Seo, my amazing editor, knew I needed to heal after writing the painful memoirs, so she asked me to write a chapter book for my grandchildren. Goody Bone (working title), the first of two chapter-book manuscripts I've been writing, is now complete and with my agent. Even more important, it's with my granddaughter, and I have had the pleasure of watching her listen to the first three chapters as Elena has read them to her.

My work as an author so far has carried me to three well respected publishing houses and allowed me to collaborate with award-winning editors and agents, so I should feel like a seasoned veteran by now. I don't. It's true that I no longer feel the heady rush that came with my very first contract; these days, my reaction is more likely to be "Well, of course, and now I have to write it." But the only thing I can truly say I've learned about writing for publication is that each book is its own mountain. I climb those mountains because I love the journey, not because I have found a way to make them any easier to climb.

Becoming an author has not diminished my love for my first career. I am proud to be a librarian. At Indiana University, passionate instructors imparted to me not just the technique but the joy of this vocation. Their teaching lives on in my work in a thousand ways. During my time on the library faculty at Trinity University, I contributed articles on librarianship to the professional literature, including two published in The Journal of Academic Librarianship. I was a member of the American Library Association and served on committees in ALCTS, ACRL, and LITA. I'm grateful for the opportunities I've had as a writer to address rooms and auditoriums full of librarians. They're underpaid and largely ignored, but their hard work is absolutely essential to the health and happiness of our society. It's been a privilege to be able to stand up in front of them and say thank-you.


All webpage text copyright 2003-2014 by Clare B. Dunkle, unless attributed otherwise. All photos copyright 2003-2014 by Joseph R. Dunkle, unless attributed otherwise. You may make one print copy of any page on this site for private or educational use. You may quote the author using short excerpts from this website, provided you attribute the quote. You may use the photos in both print and virtual media to promote the author's books or events. All other copying or use of this website material, either photos or text, is forbidden without the express written consent of the author.