Please click here if you need publicity photos.
"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 to San Antonio when my husband, Joe, joined the engineering staff at one of the Air Force bases there. I earned tenure at Trinity University as a university monographs cataloger; then I left the library to homeschool our two daughters, Valerie and Elena. My family moved to Germany when the girls were teens, and we lived for over a decade amid rolling green hills not far from the old Roman city of Trier. A unique opportunity brought Joe and me, now empty-nesters, back to the States, and we currently live in Berkeley, California.
From April of 2001 to March of 2004, Valerie and Elena attended a German boarding school for girls. It was the first time they had ever been away from home, and I missed them terribly. Looking for a way to share unique experiences with them at a distance, I began to write stories for them. They read my first four books as a series of letters from home.
I have sold nine stories and seen them published by trade publishing houses:
The Hollow Kingdom, a YA (teen) fantasy, published in 2003;
Close Kin, a YA fantasy, published in 2004;
By These Ten Bones, a YA fantasy, published in 2005;
In the Coils of the Snake, a YA fantasy, published in 2005;
The Sky Inside, a YA dystopian novel, published in 2008;
The Walls Have Eyes, a YA dystopian novel, published in 2009;
The House of Dead Maids, a literary ghost story, published in 2010;
Elena Vanishing, a YA memoir, published in 2015; and
Hope and Other Luxuries, an adult memoir, published in 2015.
I have written two additional stories:
Goody Bone (working title), an early-middle-grade fantasy, revised in January, 2017, and with my agent; and
Grandmama and Grace (working title), an early-middle-grade realistic fiction book, completed in February, 2017, and with my agent.
I am currently working on a third early-middle-grade story, Rosie and the Shadows (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. She and I later worked on my daughter Elena's YA memoir, Elena Vanishing, for 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. I've learned an enormous amount working with Ginee, and I value her insight and friendship. In particular, I was blessed to have Ginee's help on the painful and complicated memoirs. She was the perfect audience, cheering section, and voice of reason.
The memoir genre was new to me, and those books took years to create. But my younger daughter, Elena, had struggled during her teens and early twenties with anorexia nervosa, a poorly understood disorder that takes the lives of twenty percent of its victims, and watching my child fight for her life while several of her friends died was a life-changing experience for me. During the worst phase of Elena's illness, our work on Elena Vanishing became the only point of connection between us. It was harrowing, but I'm tremendously grateful for Elena's honesty, and I'm very proud of the memoirs we created together.
After going through such pain, I took several years off from writing. When I felt up to returning to the craft again, I discovered that my stories have a new audience now: my granddaughter, who is eight years old. Writing for my granddaughter is a two-way street: she has strong opinions and makes excellent suggestions for changes. This means that once again, my writing is allowing me to share experiences with my family and strengthen connections to them.
I'm endlessly grateful that so many critics and readers 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 for Best Children's Fantasy Book. 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, which was a new and very special honor for me.
Elena Vanishing and Hope and Other Luxuries, the 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. YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services division of the American Library Association, has put Elena Vanishing on their 2017 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults list.
But the most touching and heartfelt praise for those memoirs has come from the patients and their families who have reached out 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." Mothers and fathers have reached out to me to let me know that I'm not alone with the burden I carry, either.
My work as an author so far has taken 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 this time. I don't. It's true that I no longer feel the heady rush that came with my very first contract, but aside from that change, 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 those mountains 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, and I served on committees in the American Library Association.
I've been grateful for the opportunities I've had as a writer to address rooms or auditoriums full of librarians. Librarians are underpaid and all too often 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.