WILSON, N.C. – Children’s novelist and the 2013 Piedmont Laureate John Claude Bemis will be the featured author at the upcoming Barton College Friends of Hackney Library’s book signing and reception planned for Monday, Oct. 14, on the college campus. The event will be held in Hackney Library from 5:30 – 7 p.m. There is no charge for the event, and the public is invited to attend.
Bemis will speak about his work at 6 p.m. and answer questions from attendees. He also will be available to sign copies of his books, which will be on sale during the event.
Bemis is the fifth author to be chosen as Piedmont Laureate and the first children’s book author to be honored. His works include “The Clockwork Dark” trilogy of children’s fantasy, which begins with the novel “The Nine Pound Hammer” (2010), continues in “The Wolf Tree” (2010), and concludes in “The White City” (2011).
A North Carolina Teaching Fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Bemis earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees in education. He taught elementary school for 13 years in Chatham, Durham, and Orange counties, taking four years off to write the Clockwork Dark trilogy. He returned to the classroom for a year before taking up the mantle of Piedmont Laureate for the current year.
Bemis’s career as a teacher has been the catalyst for his novels and has continued to inform his writing. He shares that he grew up writing stories, but never pictured himself as a published author until he entered the classroom.
Also an accomplished musician, Bemis plays classical violin, fiddle, guitar, and accordion. His love of music and American folklore have played into his writing for children. “Through old-timey music, I became fascinated with the way America’s myths have been passed down through songs,” Bemis explains. “Drawing on the legend of John Henry’s struggle against the steam drill, I thought about how Southern folklore could be turned into epic fantasy. This passion grew into my first novel, ‘The Nine Pound Hammer,’ a story set in a mythical 19th century America full of hoodoo conjurers and cowboys, battling trains and steamboat pirates.” (The Clockwork Dark trilogy is considered an example of the “steampunk” sub-genre of science fiction, which often features steam-powered machinery in a nineteenth-century industrialized American setting.)
Critics have hailed his work. “The Nine Pound Hammer” was nominated for the North Carolina Children’s Book Award and was selected as New York Public Library Best Children’s book for Reading and Sharing. “Kirkus Reviews” says of “The Wolf Tree,” “Bemis continues to mine rich elements of folklore and tall tales in the second installment of the Clockwork Dark series. . . . Multiple threads of plot keep the action moving, and the large cast of characters, both realistic and mythic, sometimes challenges readers but is ultimately successful managed. Aspects of various cultures are woven together, giving the narrative a unique yet grounded flavor.” Kirkus likewise praises the final series installment, “The White City,” stating, “With the Clockwork Dark series drawing to a close, author Bemis has saved the best for last. . . . With a plot as intricate as the Machine at its center and a page-turning pace, this unique, ambitious American fantasy comes to a satisfying end that would please even John Henry.”
His most recent book, “The Prince Who Fell from the Sky,” is a kind of dystopian animal fantasy that Bemis himself calls “a post-apocalyptic Watership Down.” It was designated an Amazon Best Book of the Month. “Booklist” points out, “The folklore staple of a human child raised by wild beasts gets a postapocalyptic twist in Bemis’ novel. . . . This is a thoughtful fantasy, rich in characterization and drama, with a unique language that is simultaneously ancient and familiar.” “Kirkus Reviews” notes, “Appropriately, animal characters are fully developed and complex while the boy [the lone human survivor from a spaceship crash in a world ruled by animals] remains a pivotal unknown. Compelling animal fantasy grounded in ecological warnings.”
A native of the rural Pamlico County town of Oriental, Bemis now makes his home in Hillsborough with his wife and daughter.
For additional information about the event, please contact Hackney Library at (252) 399-6500.