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Friday, May 6, 2016

Just Claire by Jean Ann Williams - Interview & Book Review

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About the book

ClaireLee’s life changes when she must take charge of her siblings and depressed mother, and she finds relief in the lies she tells herself and others. Frightened by the changes in Mama, ClaireLee just knows she’ll catch her illness like a cold or flu that hangs on through winter. Deciding she needs to re-invent herself, she sets out to impress a group of popular girls.

At the slip of an untruth, she deceives her way into the Lavender Girls Club. Though, her best friend Belinda will not be caught with the likes of such shallow puddles. ClaireLee drifts further from honesty, her friend, and a broken mother’s love, until one very public night. The spotlight is on her, and she finds her courage and faces the truth and then she saves a life.


1) Could you tell a bit about yourself?

Author Jean Ann Williams, the eldest in a large family, enjoys digging into her fascinating childhood to create stories for children. Having written over one hundred articles for children and adults, Just Claire is her first book. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and she writes regularly on Putting on the New blog and her own jeanannwilliams blog. Jean Ann and her husband live on one acre in Southern Oregon where they raise a garden, goats, and chickens. Her favorite hobbies are hiking through the woods and practicing archery with her bow.

2) Just Claire is a book about a serious topic, a mother who struggles with depression. What inspired you to write about it?

It is my hope Just Claire will help others who are challenged with the same problems as Claire is going through.

3) Claire is a brave girl who has a lot of responsibility on her shoulders all of a sudden. Is this based on a real situation, how did you come up with the idea?

When I turned ten years old, my own mother suffered from depression and eventually mental illness. I would have benefited from a book like Just Claire.

4) Religion plays an important part in your story. Claire often prays for help. Are you a religious person and how did you come up with the content of the prayers?

I’m a Christian and, because I pray daily, I considered for each situation how Claire might ask God to help her.

5) What do you like best about Claire?

I like her tenacity to want to change her situation.

6) You write for young readers, what do you like the most about this?

My hope is to reach them at their level, and so to help them as they struggle through life.

7) Could you tell more about your writing? The how/where/when, etc?

I enjoy writing my first draft on yellow paper, because the color yellow helps ones creative side. At this stage, I write in the car, on my sofa, and more recently on my new deck my husband has built for me. After this draft is completed, I enter it into Word and from then on it goes through many edits. After it’s a good as I can get it, I’ll send it to my freelance editor for a complete line edit.

8) What are your 3 favorite tween/YA books?

Deborah Wiles’ Each Little Bird That Sings, Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, and Bonnie Leon’s The Journey of Eleven Moons.

9) Just Claire is a beautiful story and I think it's a story that can be enjoyed by everyone, in any age category. Was that your intention when you started writing it? It's very deep and it has plenty of layers, how was it to write about so many different and difficult emotions?

Thank you for the compliment, Suze. No. It was my intention to write solely for young readers. But after ten years of working on Just Claire, it became clear to me if writing of this book could help me with my losses, maybe it could help other women. The deep layers of the story evolved over an 18 year period. I tackled a few emotions at a time, as I learned to go deep into a story like Just Claire.

10) Claire struggles with friendships and belonging to different groups. She wants to be part of the Lavender Girls. What makes them so attractive and how did you come up with the name?

Clare became attracted to the idea of belonging somewhere, since her role as daughter shifted within the home to more like a mother. The Lavender Girls Club was a group of girls whose lives seemed so different from Claire’s own. This drew her to them. I was given the idea of the Lavender Girls Club by a fellow writer, also an English teacher, who wanted to see more depth to the story. She even threw out the name Lavender and I loved it.

11) You've written a lot of stories and articles. Did you always know you wanted to write and what was your journey to becoming a published author like?

I knew I wanted to write as a lonely teenager scripting poems for no one’s eyes but my own. But, I didn’t begin to write until my last child was in high school, at the age of 40. This came about because of a debilitating car accident in 1994. I was flat on my back for weeks, and unable to do my normal physical activities. Longing for something worthwhile to accomplish, I began to read books on the craft of writing and to write stories. My first story was about my husband’s new position within the high school campus. I titled the article, Don’t Call Him Cop. Three years after studying the craft, I got the idea for Just Claire. This became a nineteen year journey from the first day I penned the words until the day Just Claire became published by Clean Reads on 1/7/16.

12) What are your plans for the future?

I’m writing the sequel to Just Claire on my lined yellow paper. The working title is BEING CLAIRE. I’d like to have a third book about Claire, and already have ideas for it. I’m also editing a young adult, ROAD TRIP OF DELUSION, which features three sisters and a great-granny who take a road trip through a snow storm. This story has deep layers laden with humor. Also, I’m waiting to hear back from a publisher as to whether or not they will publish my suicide loss book of devotions for mothers. Mothers can read this book for free at my Love Truth blog at If this venue falls through, I’ll self-publish this book within the year.

Book review


 Review by Suze

ClaireLee's mother is pregnant and the baby is coming when they've just moved into their new temporary home. Things don't go according to plan and ClaireLee is now responsible for taking care of her brothers and sister and doing all the household chores. She also has to start at a new school where she doesn't know anybody. She could use a friend and some good company which will make her forget about her daily life for a while. Only making friends is more difficult than she thought.

ClaireLee struggles with life at home and she's worried about her depressed mother. She tries to be there for everyone else, but what about her? At school there's a group of popular girls and ClaireLee wants them to accept her. Her only other friend, Belinda, doesn't like them though, but ClaireLee would love to be one of them. ClaireLee does her best to pretend everything is fine at home and at school, until one night there's no way she can hide the truth any longer...

Just Claire is a beautiful story. ClaireLee struggles with everything she has to do each day to help her parents. She also has her own problems, the situation at school isn't the easiest and sometimes she feels like she can't take any more. However, love, friendship and prayers are helping her to get through the hardest times. She's strong and resilient and there's much personal growth. It was amazing to see her become who she's supposed to be. I constantly had tears in my eyes while I was reading this story, it's both emotional and inspirational.

Just Claire is a story that will stay with me for a very long time. It's one of the best books I've read this year. I love Jean Ann William's detailed descriptions of both the setting and the time. The book is set in the 1960s and the writing suits it brilliantly. Jean Ann Williams has written a fantastic, moving story about what it's like when everything that makes you happy suddenly disappears and changes into a situation you don't think you can handle. In ClaireLee's case there's no choice, she has to make things work. This book will bring strength to everyone who's in the same situation and awareness of how there can be big secrets behind the closed doors of everyone around you. Just Claire is a must-read, both for younger and grown up readers. It's a true gem and I can't praise it enough.


  1. Thank you, Suze, for the wonderful book review and the interview. You came up with great questions, and it was fun to answer them. God bless you!

  2. Wow, what a tough situation. Even though it's set in the 1960's, there are lots of kids in that situation today -- raising their siblings and helping a downtrodden parent.