Biography

The Short Bio…

An inspiring speaker and entertaining performer, John Claude Bemis brings his passions for music, folklore, and spinning exciting tales to his novels and presentations. The first novel in his Clockwork Dark trilogy, The Nine Pound Hammer, was nominated for the North Carolina Children’s Book Award and was selected as a New York Public Library Best Children’s Book for Reading and Sharing. The trilogy continues with The Wolf Tree and The White City and has been described as “original and fresh” and “a unique way of creating fantasy.” His latest novel is The Prince Who Fell from the Sky. A musician and educator, John lives with his wife and daughter in Hillsborough, NC.

The Long Bio…

I’ve always been fascinated by trains. My grandfather hopped trains all over the country in his “hobo days” and filled my head with curious stories of America’s lost past. Those stories, I suppose, were the beginnings of my first novel, The Nine Pound Hammer.

I grew up in rural eastern North Carolina by a swampy creek on the Neuse River. Yes, I’ve been bitten by a water moccasin, but fortunately not by an alligator. When you live in a county with just one stoplight, you learn how to entertain yourself. As a kid, I read a lot, played in abandoned tobacco barns, swam in the river when the jellyfish weren’t too thick, and learned violin and guitar.

Eventually playing classical violin in youth orchestras and playing electric guitar in a bunch of terrible rock and punk bands led me to American roots music. I’m partial nowadays to vintage country or blues, Cajun or bluegrass… anything with a fiddle or possibly a musical saw. Some friends and I formed a band Hooverville and put out a pair of CDs of original songs. They’re fun to listen to if you like that kind of music.

At UNC-Chapel Hill, I studied Art History and Elementary Education. I’ve taught in elementary schools since college, mostly 4th and 5th grades as well as being a Gifted Education resource teacher. I got a chance in the classroom to teach the books I loved so much as a kid and also discovered a lot of incredible new children’s literature along the way. But something seemed to be missing from my class’s bookshelf: fantasy based on America’s folklore.

Through old-timey music, I became fascinated with the way America’s myths have been passed down through songs. 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.

I live the small-town life in Hillsborough, North Carolina with my wife and daughter. I spend a lot of time hiking on the trails around my house, going into town for popsicles, and playing music on the backporch.

John Claude Bemis

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