Michaela MacColl studied multidisciplinary history at Vassar College and Yale University, which turns out to be the perfect degree for writing historical fiction. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and three extremely large cats in Connecticut. To learn more about her work, please visit www.michaelamaccoll.com
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Albany NY.
When did you begin writing?
I began writing about 12 years ago. I was traveling with my young kids in Italy and trying to get them interested in the places we were seeing (with poor results). I started to think about writing historical fiction about particular places. My goals and style evolved – but I still consider setting to be an important “character” in my work.
Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?
I hate this question! I wish I was more disciplined than I am. I basically write to deadlines. I have a wonderful critique group who meet weekly. That’s my impetus most weeks. Of course now I have contracts and deadlines with my publishers. But guilt is usually my driver!
What is this book about?
Nobody’s Secret is a literary mystery starring Emily Dickinson. I started with the premise that Emily might be a brilliant natural detective – she’s a born observer (just read her poems about nature) and she questions authority. She feels passionately about life and knows how to mourn death. I knew that if I gave her something to care about, a mystery to solve and an injustice to right, she would never ever stop.
It’s based on a poem, “I’m Nobody, Who are You? Are you Nobody too?” It’s one of my favorites of hers. The poem seems to sum up all her frustration with being the daughter of a important person when all she wants is anonymity. When she meets a handsome stranger, who also desires anonymity, they are immediately attracted to each other. Mr. Nobody, as Emily calls him, is just the kind of hero that Emily might fall in love with.
Who is your favorite character from the book?
Well, I loved writing Emily. It’s such a daunting task to try and write a character based on a true person – particularly a brilliant writer like Emily. But once I found a voice for her that I liked, it was easy! On the other hand, I was a little bit in love with Mr. Nobody.
Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?
When I had the idea to write a literary mystery with Emily Dickinson, I first envisioned a series of books with her as my “detective.” To be honest, I was hoping to cut down on the amount of research I had to do with every book. I pitched the idea to my very very smart editor, Victoria Rock. She responded by suggesting that Emily might not be sustainable as a series – but what did I think of a series of mysteries about different writers, with their own settings, time periods and of course literary style. In other words, four times the research!
I’ve finished the next one already, a novel about the Bronte sisters. And as she usually is, Victoria was right. It was a delight to learn about these writers and immerse myself in their work. Hopefully readers will find the idea as fun as I do.
Do you have a video trailer to promote your book? If yes, where can readers find it?
There is a really fun trailer for Nobody’s Secret. You can find it on my website, www.michaelamaccoll.com.
What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?
It was a long time between starting to write in 2000 before being published in 2010 (to be fair, I sold the book in late 2008). You have to be stubborn and keep writing. And reading. Consistent writing and reading is the best way to improve your craft.