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Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Interview with Stephen McClellan...Author, World Traveler, and Educator

   My latest interview is with Stephen McClellan who is an author, husband, teacher, and crusader for ending human trafficking. I had the pleasure of meeting him over a year ago at Barnes and Noble where he was doing a book signing for his book To Dance in Chattanooga. The book title captured my attention, and I was in the area shopping and introduced myself. I started following him on Instagram and have been inspired by what he shares. 
   In our interview, he talks about his obsession with reading. He shares with me the challenges and joys of writing and how long he's been a writer. His love for all of humanity shines through.

Introducing Stephen...

What do you love about your life right now?

When I think about what I love, I think about what I’m grateful for. Sometimes I’ll reflect on how God has blessed me far beyond what I deserve, and I’ll think, “You own a house, you have a secure job, you have a beautiful wife, you have a loving family, you have supportive friends, and you have a dream in your heart. You couldn’t be in a better position to pursue your vision and reach your greatest potential. So, go do it.” That’s what I love about life the most right now—the opportunity to pursue who I am and who I was created to be.

In your brief introduction on your website you share this, “I may not know you (yet), but I already know this about you-you matter. Your life has meaning and value and purpose and worth. So just know that I think you belong and that you are already accepted here.” Just from reading that alone informs me that you are a caring guy who loves others for just who they are. Where did you learn this compassion? Did it happen over time or have you always been this way?

I have been blessed with extremely good role models throughout my life (most notably my family) who have influenced me to have a heart for people. I think if you are raised to love Jesus, then loving people is a byproduct of that faith. As I have grown older and pursed my own personal growth concerning my identity, however, I have found that one of my purposes on this earth is to instill value into people; to show them that their lives have meaning, purpose, and worth. Loving people is a mindset I constantly strive to maintain and improve every day.

How long have you’ve been writing? 

I have been writing on and off my entire life, although I didn’t grow serious with the craft until seven years ago when I was 25 years old.

Your first book To Dance debuted in December 2018. Was there a particular writer or book that inspired you to write?

I actually don’t remember anyone particular writer or book that inspired me to pick up the craft, but there were a couple noteworthy things that happened that influenced my journey. When I was in high school, I read Stephen King’s From a Buick Eight and that launched my obsession for not only reading his novels but for reading in general. Then, I went on a class trip to England and Scotland my senior year of college. This trip renewed my passion for writing and served as a catalyst for setting practical goals to begin taking writing more seriously.

Pic from Stephen McClellan Facebook Page

What are the joys of writing?

Someone once asked me how I knew I wanted to write, and I responded, “I can’t not write.” Meaning, I felt compelled, driven, destined to do it. So I definitely find joy in creating worlds that once only existed in my mind, the art of character and plot development, and instilling value and purpose through the themes of my books; but for me, one of the greatest joys of writing is the sense that I am fulfilling my calling and doing what I am supposed to be doing with what God has given me.

 Tell me about the challenges of being a writer and publishing your books.
I personally struggle with perfectionism and the tendency to make every scene vital in conveying a particular emotion (as if they were all dramatic parts of a movie where the music is playing and the actors are giving an inspiring speech). Sometimes, the most powerful writing is the most subtle, simple, and straightforward, which is something I need to zero in on. Also, I find it difficult at times to take the idea in my mind and convey it onto paper. This is probably one of the most obvious issue that authors struggle with, but it seems like ideas always sound better in my head than when I put them onto paper.

Publishing wise, I think earning representation by an agent and breaking into the bigger publishing houses is the biggest challenge. Besides being a good writer, there are so many things that need to fall into place for you in order to achieve that milestone.

Is there particular software you use?

I started using Scrivener two years ago, and I haven’t looked back since.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be an author and what advice do you wish you knew before you started?

At its core, I believe you have to establish your conviction for writing—meaning, why you do what you do. If you have established a deeper purpose in why you believe in what you are doing, then not only will it add value and significance to your work, but you will be able to fall back on that when things grow frustrating or discouraging along the way.

One thing I would have done differently before I published my debut novel would be to make sure that the book was in the best shape possible before I sought a publisher. (To a certain extent, you may never reach this point, but you can still take several measures to make sure that, in your own power, your manuscript is in the best position possible to move forward.)

With each book you write and publish, you take the royalties you earned from them to fund local and global humanitarian projects and bring awareness to the causes. Which one are you helping with from the sales of your books right now?

The royalties from my debut novel, To Dance, are being reinvested into an organization called Compassion First. Based out of Indonesia, their goal is to eradicate sex trafficking in Southeast Asia. My royalties from my debut children’s picture book, The Bat and the Mule, will be reinvested into the Ovi Healthcare organization. They have several hospitals in Kenya and Bangladesh, and they take orphans off the street who are dying of life-threatening illnesses and diseases and nurse them back to health. Both of these organizations do beautiful work, and it’s an absolute pleasure to partner with them!

"What I love about life right now-the opportunity to pursue who I am and who I was created to be." Stephen

Is there one book that has made a big impact on your life and why? If you have more than one, please share.
One of the most impactful books I have ever read is called Wide Awake by Erwin McManus. The book focuses on how to awaken the inner hero in you and pursue your highest potential. It helped me refine my vision and expand my ability to pursue who I am and why I was created.

I know from reading your posts and stories on Instagram that you’re passionate about ending human trafficking/sex trafficking and raising awareness about it, what started that journey for you?

At the time I learned of Compassion First, I was praying about where to reinvest the royalties of To Dance. The stories of the organization resonated with my soul, and I knew that it was no accident they had been placed in my path. One of my passions is instilling value and purpose into people, particularly youth, so partnering with CF to help raise awareness and bring an end to slavery fell directly in line with who I am and what I am about.

Why do you think it still goes in our world today?

At the core, I believe we live in a fallen world where imperfect people hurt other people. But on a more practical level, it’s straightforward—people starve for money and power (both of which can be extremely destructive in the wrong hands).

How can others help end it? Sharing posts about the subject or donating money?

Those are both great options! As we have seen from everything happening recently in the U.S., social media can be a powerful weapon to raise awareness and end corruption when used properly. You can donate money to help fund missions, contact organizations about how to do your own fundraiser, share posts on all social media platforms, and even contact your state and local government officials to encourage their involvement in stopping corruption.

In your brief intro on your site, you talked about your passions: writing, traveling, and loving people and pursuing the person you were created to be. We’ve talked about your writing some. Where are some cool places you’ve traveled, and do you have a favorite? Also, I saw in a post that you used to teach in Indonesia, please share a little about your experience.

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to several countries in Europe, South Africa, Iceland, and of course, Southeast Asia. My trip to South Africa was centered around serving the poverty-stricken in Cape Town and Worcester, so that trip will always hold a special place in my heart, although I would have to say that visiting Thailand was probably one of my favorite experiences overall.
I taught at a private school in Indonesia for two years called Cahaya Bangsa Classical School. The school was 95% Chinese-Indonesia, with the other five percent made up of Native Indonesian and Korean. While there, I taught World History, Old Testament, and Biblical Worldview to 7th, 9th, 10th, and 11th grades. I still consider those two years two of the most impactful years of my life.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would that be?

My hope would be for people to focus on significant problems and reinvest their resources into loving people within those areas rather than hating people outside of those areas. It’s absolutely staggering how quickly the world could improve if people actually joined forces to focus on problems that mattered.

What kind of legacy do you want to leave?

I value significance over success, so as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, I want to know that even one life breathed easier because I existed. Being a person of faith, I think you accomplish that by loving others as Jesus loved them and reinvesting the talents, gifts, and abilities that God has blessed you with into impacting others for the greater good. 

Tell me three fun facts about you.

-One of my favorite vacation spots is to rent a cabin in the mountains.
-I am crazy about mint chocolate chip ice cream and Hawaiian pizza.
-I love Alabama football.

Describe yourself in one word.


Who are your biggest supporters?

I feel humbled because there are so many people who have been influential in my journey, but top of that list are my wife (and family), a group of roughly five families that are our best friends, and my Instagram writing community.

Stephen and his lovely wife Megan

I share motivational quotes with my readers, is there one that you can share? It can be your own created quote or from someone else.

I love the quote by Howard Thurman — “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Please follow Stephen on his social media! 

About Maria Rochelle

Maria is a writer of multiple genres, and author of the popular children's picture story book series Jasmine Dreams.
Find out more about Maria here →


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