Monday, June 13, 2011

Anna MacLean: Louisa and the Missing Heiress

NOTE: One randomly drawn commenter will win a Victorian tea cup and saucer. You can follow Anna's blog tour and continue to leave comments - dates are at the bottom of the post.

For all you mystery lovers who enjoy a good, cozy read, Anna Maclean has written a fantastic novel about a new sleuth, who you will all recognize: Louisa May Alcott. I got to peek at her book, Louisa and the Missing Heiress. It is wonderfully written and a great book for the summer.

I was also lucky enough to be able to interview Ms MacLean:

I love the idea of having Louisa May Alcott act as a detective and solve mysteries. Can you tell us how you developed Miss Alcott as a character for your series?
Thanks! I loved working with Louisa.  To develop her I first chose the age I wanted her to be, and decided to begin well before she was successful and famous so that I could show her progress as a writer.  I also wanted her to be somewhat independent and moving about on her own, so she couldn’t be too young.  After her age and development stage as a writer I was most concerned with her family relationships, and their importance on her development. I think it is absolutely true that Louisa would not have become Louisa without that particular mother and father.

Louisa and the Missing Heiress is a cozy mystery. Is this your favorite genre, and why?
I love cozies.  Absolutely love them. I find them to be kind of soothing in the way that Mozart is soothing. The music (and the stories) have depth and emotion and great narrative, yet they don’t go anywhere too dark.  I have enough of my own moments of darkness. When I read for pleasure I like the work to stay closer to the light and even have moments of humor.

You have a very nice review from John Pratt, Louisa’s great-great-nephew! How did you get in touch with the descendant of the author of Little Women?
My agent also represents the Louisa May Alcott estate and we connected through him.

What is your favorite part of being a writer and of the writing process?
You know, there are those moments of writing when something appears on the page that you didn’t see coming, didn’t plan it, work for it, yet there it is, a moment of grace and surprise that just makes the whole day worthwhile.  I love stories, love telling them, love seeing what happens when they start showing up on the page.

This looks like a fantastic book for summer reading on the beach. Could you describe the other books you have published?
Before the Louisa mysteries I mostly wrote historical fiction.  My first novel, The Frenchwomen, is set during the French Revolution and quite a bit of it takes part in Pennsylvania, where there was once a very mysterious colony of French émigrés.  French Azilum, the colony, at one point had the largest log cabin ever built in this country, and Marie Antoinette was supposed to live there.  But of course, her rescue didn’t work. I was completely taken, though, with that true story about French émigrés dancing minuets in a Pennsylvania meadow, and built a novel around it.  My second novel, The Queen’s War, is about Eleanor of Aquitaine, and the year she declared war on her own husband, Henry.  I really like strong woman!  My third historical novel, Dreams of Empire, is set in Egypt, when Napoleon was there, trying to conquer his way across the east, to India.  His plans fell far short, but the story of his expedition of scientists and artists made a great setting to work with.  My fourth historical, The Sweet By and By, tells the story of Maggie Fox, a strange farm girl who began American spiritualism, that whole ‘knock-knock, spirits are there’ thing.  She was truly fascinating, and her setting, mid-nineteenth century America was rich with contradiction and eccentricity. What more could a novelist ask for? 

What is your work in progress?
Ah.  I’m a little superstitious about talking about unfinished work.  I’ll just say it is historical and an era I’ve never before visited – Elizabethan England.

Thanks so much for appearing on Fresh Pot of Tea!
Thank you!  By the way, I also edited an anthology, The Book of Love, published by W.W. Norton, and in my introduction I quote a bit from Kakuzo’s The Book of Tea: “The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle.  Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things.”  Happy tea time!

Here is an excerpt from the novel:

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.

The Blog  Tour:

6/13/2011 Fresh Pot of Tea
6/14/2011 Dasef's Book Central
6/15/2011 Ryshia Kennie's - Once Upon A Time...
6/16/2011 A Novel Source
6/17/2011 Me, My Muse and I
6/20/2011 Theresa Stillwagon
6/21/2011 Nancy's Notes from Florida
6/22/2011 Grace Elliot- gripping historical romance


Krista McLaughlin said...

Sounds like an interesting story!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Krista, thanks for sharing my interest in Louisa.

And Fresh Pot of Tea, thank you for hosting me!

Anonymous said...

wonderful interview. thanks.