Anna is borrowing my blog as a stop on her Virtual Blog Tour with Goddess Fish Promotions. She was gracious enough to answer some interview questions for me. You can visit the rest of her guest blogs by clicking on this following link
Anna will be giving away a Victorian tea cup and saucer to one randomly selected commenter, so the more comments made the more chances of winning the lovely prize. Just click on the link above and you’ll be directed to the all of her guest blogs.
Now, here’s Anne.
- What first got you interested in writing? What has kept you doing it?
I started writing fairy tales when I was about seven. I loved stories so much that I wanted to be part of them, to make my own stories. I was a great daydreamer as a kid…something my teachers actually encouraged! What keeps me going is an almost physical need to write. If I don’t write, it’s not a good day, I actually don’t feel well. I’m convinced that writing stories uses a part of my brain and my self that doesn’t get used in any other way.
- Do you have the support of your family and friends? Has that support always been there, or has it changed since being published?
My mother and father were bemused but very supportive. My husband, an artist who also writes, is supportive and helpful and takes hints really well, a must for spouses of writers. He used to tell me, ‘go upstairs and pound those keys’ and I convinced him that formula is a sure-fire recipe for creating writer’s block. Now, when he knows I’m going into my writing lair he doesn’t say anything but he does kind of smile knowingly.
- What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? Strangest habit? Is there anything you have to do before you start writing?
I must have a tidy desk. I can’t work in chaos. In college, I always cleaned my apartment before starting a major paper, something I never confessed to my college friends and I doubt they noticed! I must have coffee, of course. And I must be surrounded by books, because my writing is a kind of talking back, a conversation, with other writers and other books. Not for me those romantic hours writing in the forest, on the beach, etc with my laptop. It has to be at my desk and it has to be first thing in the morning. Otherwise, I’m pretty flexible.
- What advice would you give to a new writer?
Keep writing, make it a routine, and don’t show your work too soon, to anybody, even supportive spouses and other relatives.
- What has been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
To keep writing, to keep the routine. It’s easy to find reasons not to write. The cat is howling, the garden needs to be weeded, I have a head-ache etc. There’s only one reason to keep writing. It’s what you have chosen to do, or perhaps it has chosen you.
- Has a reader ever complimented you on your writing? What was the best thing you ever heard, and who told it to you?
Oh, yes, and I love to hear from readers who feel my work has spoken to them on some level. One reader was at a workshop I gave in Hawaii and I said that it was a shame we couldn’t get a flight to eighteenth century France. He said we didn’t need a flight, I had created the novel (this was an earlier historical novel called The French Woman) so fully it was like visiting there. As a writer of mystery and historical fiction, that’s my main intent – create a world the reader can become part of, truly experience.
- What are you working on now? Could you give us a little taste?
There’s a second Louisa mystery due out in February. It takes place a little after Louisa solves the mystery of the missing heiress, when she takes a little holiday in the country except it turns out to be not the holiday she imaged.
I received a letter. An invitation, handed to me by my mother Abba, who had been concerned for me, since in the weeks before I had endured far too many hours exploring the darker and often dangerous side of family life when large fortunes are at stake.
‘It is from Uncle Benjamin,’ I said, hanging my damp cloak on a hook and sniffing the pot of soup simmering on our old black stove.
That day Abba was cooking potato soup, I’m afraid to say, though I did not yet know the association I would soon make with that vegetable. ‘I haven’t had a letter from him for years. What can this be about?’ I sat on a stool near the warm stove to dry off my skirts and tore open the envelope.
‘I have no idea,’ said Abba, stirring the pot and looking, to use a phrase, like the cat that has swallowed the canary.
The letter was on old shipping letterhead, for Uncle Benjamin had done well in that industry before settling in Walpole with his books and various hobbies. It was also brief. ‘Come visit, my dear,’ he had scrawled. ‘I could use some companionship. I’ve a litter of kittens for you to play with.’
‘Does Uncle Benjamin know my age, Abba?’ I asked, looking up.
‘He can be forgetful. Widower’s get that way.’
I turned the paper over. ‘There’s a theatre here as well,’ the old-fashioned spidery writing with the arabesque capitals continued. ‘The Walpole Amateur Dramatic Company, a flock of young people who would look kindly upon your joining them.’
‘I will go,’ I said. And in my mind I was already thinking of the plays I would write and help produce. They would all be comedies. I’d had enough of tragedy, and death.
It would seem, though, that they hadn’t had quite enough of me.
From Louisa and the Country Bachelor
8. Tell us about Louisa and the Missing Heiress.
It’s the first in a series of mysteries in which Louisa May Alcott gets to develop her sleuthing skills. As a writer with several identities – she wrote some pretty florid fiction under a pen name, as well as the beloved Little Women and Little Men novels – I was convinced she would be a great detective. A writer has to be filled with curiosity and be able to ‘read’ people well…the same qualities a detective needs. Louisa’s great-great nephew, John Pratt, read the novel and really enjoyed it. That pleased me tremendously.
- How can people find out more about you?
I have a website at www.annamaclean.net. Comments can be posted on that site if readers want to reach me. I also write historical fiction under the name of Jeanne Mackin, and that website is www.jeannemackin.com
10. And just for Anna, I love a good cozy mystery. I’m wondering what gave you the idea to us Louisa May Alcott as a fictional character? Has anyone ever given you a hard time about using a real person?
Actually, people have been pretty excited to have Louisa show up in a new guise. She, as a character, is particularly well suited to cozies, I think. She’s a lady but she’s also a rebel and very independent and she lives in a very, very interesting time and place, full of paradox and challenge. I can’t date the idea. Perhaps it’s been simmering since my girlhood, when I first read Little Woman and put the book on my shelf next to the Nancy Drew mysteries.
Thanks so much!
From Louisa and The Missing Heiress by Anna Maclean
The clock chimed four-thirty. I sighed and stirred, tapping my foot more quickly under the concealing hem of my brown linsey-woolsey skirts. Where was our hostess? Surely she could have tried on every hat in Boston by now. Had she forgotten? Dot had never been the quickest mind – she had wept over fractions and torn her hair over South American rivers – but to completely forget her own welcome-home tea party!
I looked outside the room into the hall. The huge, ornate coat tree was close enough to the parlor that every time I looked in that direction and saw Mr. Wortham’s velvet coat hanging there on its hook, I had the eerie sense that someone else was standing there, watching. Something strange, hostile, dangerous, floated through that house where newlyweds should have been so happy.
Much as I wished to see Dot, I decided it was time to leave. Abba was waiting for me at home with a basket of clothing to clean and mend for the women’s shelter and other tasks with which society could not be bothered. Mr. Wortham was standing at the bay window, looking out into the street. I went to him.
“I do hope Dot is all right. This is not like her.”
“I fear a year in Europe may have changed her,” he said. “It is liberating to travel, you know.” But he was frowning and his dark eyes seemed darker than usual.
Jeanne Mackin is the author of several novels: The Sweet By and By (St. Martin’s Press), Dreams of Empire (Kensington Books), The Queen’s War (St. Martin’s Press), and The Frenchwoman (St. Martin’s Press). She has published short fiction and creative nonfiction in several journals and periodicals including American Letters and Commentary and SNReview. She is also the author of the Cornell Book of Herbs and Edible Flowers (Cornell University publications) and co-editor of The Norton Book of Love (W.W. Norton), and wrote art columns for newspapers as well as feature articles for several arts magazines. She was the recipient of a creative writing fellowship from the American Antiquarian Society and her journalism has won awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, in Washington, D.C. She teaches creative writing at Goddard College in Vermont, has taught or conducted workshops in Pennsylvania, Hawaii and New York and has traveled extensively in Europe. She lives with her husband, Steve Poleskie, in upstate New York.