Monday, December 12, 2016

Interview with K.L. Going + Winner of SECRETS IN THE SNOW

Dear Readers,

I know you're eager to learn the winner of Michaela MacColl's exciting novel, Secrets in the Snow, but THIS week the winner will be announced at the end of the blog!

First, please welcome award winning author, K.L. Going, in this special, unannounced interview. Kelly and I are co-faculty for an upcoming workshop, Novel Beginnings, from March 16-19 for Highlights Foundation with special guest editor, Andrea Tompa from Candlewick Press.
And NOW, here's K.L.!! 

Author K.L. Going and her FAVORITE distraction
Q. What makes the start of a novel so challenging?
K.L. - Whenever I'm writing a new novel, the section I read and reread the most is the opening chapter. There is so much that has to be introduced right away, and all of it has to be done in an artful way so that readers don't feel like they're receiving an information dump. Key features of the characters and plot must *pop* enough to be memorable, but they're competing with every other element that needs to be established from page one -- like setting, tone, and the most important feature of the plot: what does this character want or need? That's no small order, right?

Meanwhile, an author is also dealing with that feeling in the pit of the stomach that happens when you think about all of the blank pages ahead that haven't been written yet. Ha. Suddenly, the great idea that seemed so amazing before you sat down to actually write it, can begin to feel like maybe it's not so great after all. Especially when you read your first draft.

My solution? Recognize right from the start that the opening of your novel is going to take multiple revisions in order to get it right. It's going to take work. Editing. Taking the time to think through those fundamental decisions about what makes your character and plot tick will make your book so much stronger later on. Planning pays off, and expectations matter.

Q. What do you know now that you wish you'd known at the start of your career?

K.L. - Marketing. Groan. Many authors feel like this is the bane of our existence. I'd rather just write books. That's what I'm good at. BUT... marketing has become an indispensable part of an author's job. I wish that ten years ago I'd understood the importance of gathering names and e-mail addresses for a mailing list, but at that time having a website felt like an achievement.

Q. What is one common mistake you see when critiquing new writers?
K.L. - One of the most common mistakes I see is that the plot of the novel feels episodic. You can have a strong character, a compelling idea, and clean prose, but if the through line of your plot isn't strong and fails to connect each and every event in a meaningful way, the story will feel like a collection of events and it will fail to have that snowball effect which keeps a reader turning the pages because the story is building towards a conclusion, gaining speed and urgency as it goes along.
Q. What are you most looking forward to about our upcoming Highlights Foundation workshop, Novel Beginnings?

K.L. - Having a span of time removed from the demands of my daily life (child care, laundry, grocery shopping!) to focus on writing. Even as a teacher, I always come away feeling rejuvenated and inspired to write more. Write better! I always learn new things. A friend of mine, Lisa Grace Byrne, founder of Well Grounded Life, talks about giving yourself permission and graces. Attending a workshop means I'm giving myself permission to pursue my passion, and the grace to try something new, even if that means making mistakes or taking risks. If I've given myself permissions and graces, I can enjoy focused, quality writing-centered time without judgement, and that is such an amazing gift!

Learn about our upcoming workshop by clicking on the link: Novel Beginnings: Building Strong Foundations for Your Novel and Your Career 2017

Our workshop is perfect for advanced beginners. Kelly and I will review up to 50 pages of a w-i-p, give authors detailed feedback, and meet with them one-on-one. We will also be presenting several workshops on craft and career!

The WINNER of Michaela MacColl's novel, Secrets in the Snow, chosen by is: 
Congratulations, Sue!
(Please e-mail me with your mailing address and how you'd like the book personalized by Michaela.)
Thanks again, dear readers, for your continued support of BOOKS and AUTHORS! May your days be merry and bright!

Warmest wishes, Clara

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Writing from the Inside Out. . . Author Michaela MacColl shares + Giveaway

Dear Friends,

It's been awhile since I had a guest author who writes for the Young Adult age group, and what could be more exciting for Jane Austen fans and mystery lovers, than a book featuring Jane herself in a mystery of espionage, intrigue, and romance? Besides Secrets in the Snow featuring Jane Austen, our guest author, Michaela MacColl, has written mysteries featuring our favorite heroines from the 19th-century literary world--Louisa May Alcott, Emily Dickinson, and the Bronte sisters! A complete set would be a perfect gift this season not just for teens, but for all of us!

But before Michaela takes the stage, we have TWO winners picked by from last week's post. Winner #1: KATHY WEICHMAN. Kathy, you may choose from either A Christmas Spider's Miracle or Apple Tree Christmas by Trinka Hakes Noble. Winner #2: JANA ESCHNER, you will receive the remaining book--the books will be personalized for the winners.
***Congratulations, Kathy and Jana!***  
 (Kathy and Jana please e-mail me: claragillowclark(at)gmail(dot)com with your mailing address and how you'd like the book personalized.)

And NOW, please welcome historical fiction author and my friend, Michaela MacColl. Michaela is generously donating a copy of her newest mystery, Secrets in the Snow, featuring Jane Austen! All you have to do for a chance to win is leave a comment about the post or share your favorite Jane Austen title. Thank you!

Dare I imitate Jane? by Michaela MacColl

I’ve written four literary mysteries now featuring famous writers as young adults – and I do say so myself, I’ve dared a lot. I channeled Emily Dickinson’s unique take on the world and explored the sibling rivalry between the Bronte sisters. Louisa May Alcott fell prey to my pen too (actually I found her matter-of- fact problem-solving ethos very modern). But Jane Austen? The undisputed Mistress of Conversation? How dare I put words in her mouth?

When I begin these books I read biography and their body of work in tandem. I look for emotional links in their writing to my understanding of their lives. With Emily D. I found connections between her shyness and search for someone who understands her in her poetry. With Louisa it was easy – Jo March is for all intents and purposes, Louisa with all the rebellion and childhood mischief that implies. But Jane was a different story. Her life was practically event-less. She lived quietly with her family, a dependent spinster. There were no deaths or mysteries in her life – just tea, county dances and conversation. Lots of conversation. In fact, the more I looked in Jane’s work for physical descriptions of characters or places, the less I found. Unless Elizabeth’s “fine eyes” tell you more than me – we have no idea what she looks like. But we do know how she talked. That’s mostly what all the characters in Jane Austen do – they talk.

So I read the books out loud. I watched my favorite adaptations – BBC anyone? -- and of course the 1999 adaptation of Mansfield Park. By the time I started writing, I had the rhythm and the vocabulary. I put Jane in the scene with her mother and a romantic interest and let them talk! I think it worked – but would love to know what you think?

Check out Secrets in the Snow (Chronicle, October 2016) and let me know!

Review From School Library Journal --Secrets in the Snow. Gr 7–10—Nineteen-year-old Jane Austen—yes, that Jane Austen—finds herself entwined in some serious intrigue when the War Office suggests that her cousin, whose French aristocrat husband lost his head to the guillotine, might be engaged in traitorous activity against England. Jane is determined to get to the bottom of the situation, even if it means veering into unladylike territory. Adding to the drama, a gentleman studying the law has entered Jane's social circle—and all of her family members are eager to encourage a marriage match regardless of his condescending first impression. MacColl's fidelity to Austen's biography and family, with a bit of creative license woven in, results in a charming historical mystery. Her playfulness with Austen's voice is a delight, and she peppers the story with hints at characters and plot points from the author's oeuvre—nothing that distracts from the narrative, but tidbits that serve as inside jokes to readers who have already dived into her works. These elements more than make up for a somewhat rushed conclusion. Readers whose interest in Austen is piqued will enjoy the biographical back matter. VERDICT A solid addition for fans of cozy mysteries and literary reimaginings.—Amy Koester, Skokie Public Library, IL

New York Times bestselling author Michaela MacColl  attended Vassar College and Yale University earning degrees in multi-disciplinary history. Unfortunately, it took her 20 years before she realized she was learning how to write historical fiction. Her favorite stories are the ones she finds about the childhood experiences of famous people. She has written about a teenaged Queen Victoria (Prisoners in the Palace, Chronicle 2010) and Beryl Markham’s childhood (Promise the Night, Chronicle 2011). She is writing a literary mystery series for teens featuring famous writers such as Emily Dickinson, the Bronte sisters, Louisa May Alcott and Jane Austen.  She has recently begun a new middle-grade series with Boyd’s Mills/Highlights called Hidden Histories about odd events in America’s past, including orphan trains, Dred Scott’s daughter and the Carlisle Indian Boarding School.  

Learn more about Michaela MacColl and her books:
Follow her on twitter: @MichaelaMacColl
FaceBook: AuthorMichaelaMacColl

Currently, Michaela is working on a new entry for the Calkins Creek Hidden History Series. This one is about an ancestor of hers who came to America from Shanghai in the 1870’s. 

Thanks, Michaela, for sharing your exciting new Jane Austen mystery--Secrets in the Snow--here at Writing from the Inside Out. . . I especially loved that line--I've dared a lot. That's a great challenge and good advice for all of us who write.

I'll be back on Monday, December 12th, to announce the winner of Secrets in the Snow! Thanks, dear readers, for continuing to support authors and books! You're the best!

Happy Holidays to all!