Posted by: nancyisanders | July 9, 2010

Author Interview: Pat McCarthy

Meet Author Pat McCarthy!
Blog: Pat McCarthy: Children’s Author
Web site: Pat McCarthy

Bio: Pat McCarthy is a retired elementary teacher who has written 14 nonfiction books for kids. When she’s not writing, her hobbies include photography, birding, scrapbooking, camping and travel. She lives in Ohio with her cats, Oz and Dorothy.

Featured Book: Heading West: Life with the Pioneers
Author: Pat McCarthy
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Available on Amazon

Heading West traces the vivid saga of Native American and pioneer men, women, and children from the colonial beginnings of the westward expansion to the last of the homesteaders in late 20th century Alaska. In many respects, life in the backwoods and on the prairie was similar to modern life—children attended school and had daily chores, parents worked hard to provide for their families, and communities gathered for church and social events. But unlike today, pioneers lived against a backdrop of isolation, harsh weather, disease, and even plagues of locust. And for Native Americans, the westward expansion of settlers posed the most direct threat to their centuries old cultures.

But pioneer life was not all hardship. Settlers were able to build lives and communities, and experience a freedom brought on by new possibilities. Author Pat McCarthy has woven dozens of firsthand accounts from journals and autobiographies of the era to form a rich and detailed story. Readers will find more than 20 activities to help them better understand their pioneering ancestors. Children will churn butter, dip candles, track animals, play Blind Man’s Bluff, create a homestead diorama, and more. And before they finish, readers won’t have just headed west, but back in time as well.

Describe a highlight for you personally while you were writing this book.

A: I was excited to find out many pioneer diaries, journals and letters are online in their entirety. It was wonderful to be able to get primary sources while sitting at home at my computer. You used to have to drive miles to a library, read microfilm and take notes by hand!

Q: How did you overcome any challenges you faced while writing this book.
The biggest challenge was the overwhelming amount of material available. I was a bit overwhelmed until I realized I needed to divide the first chapter into two chapters. The Trip West became Chapter 2, and Chapter 1 was How the West Was Explored.

Q: Describe the journey you’ve taken as a writer.
I started out writing for magazines for both kids and adults. It was about eight years before I got my first book contract from Enslow Publishers for Daniel Boone: Frontier Legend. I did a total of ten books for them, then wrote some curriculum, some leveled readers, part of a book for adults about the Thirties, some encyclopedia articles, then got the contract from Chicago Review Press for the pioneer book. I just got the go-ahead on another proposal I wrote for them so I’m ready to write another book!

Q: What is one word of advice you received as a writer that you would like to share with others?
Never give up! (I guess that’s three words!)


  1. Great interview. I plan to never give up anytime soon. Thanks Pat and Nancy.

  2. Thanks for the succinct, interesting interview! I have two children’s book biographies in the works, and I’m so excited by the research. It’s a great job–but yes, it can be overwhelming!

  3. I really enjoyed this interview and loved reading about Pat’s journey as a writer. Thanks, Pat, for reminding writers to never give up!


  4. I have unearthed letters from both my grandparents, written about their childhood. My grandmother lived in a sod house with her mother, father and 9 siblings! I can imagine Pat felt like she was unearthening treassures as she read the diaries. I know I felt that way when reading the leaters.

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