Emily and Charlotte Brontë are about as opposite as two sisters can be. Charlotte is practical and cautious; Emily is headstrong and imaginative. But they do have one thing in common: a love of writing. This shared passion will lead them to be two of the first published female novelists and authors of several enduring works of classic literature. But they’re not there yet. First, they have to figure out if there is a connection between a string of local burglaries, rumors that a neighbor’s death may not have been accidental, and the appearance on the moors of a mysterious and handsome stranger. The girls have a lot of knots to untangle—before someone else gets killed.
What’s Up with That Title? by Michaela MacColl
This week my new book Always Emily comes out. It’s the next novel in my series of literary mysteries – this one is about the Bronte sisters. Charlotte Bronte (who would write Jane Eyre) is 18 and her sister Emily (of Wuthering Heights fame) is 17. The sisters get involved in a mystery on their very own moors – a mystery that threatens their peace of mind, their brother and father and even their lives.
If my story is about two sisters, what’s up with that title? Always Emily? I’ve had lots of people ask me (especially my husband who gets this book mixed up with my last one about Emily Dickinson). The truth is this book was originally written in alternating chapters, first Charlotte then Emily. These sisters, despite having an identical upbringing, were completely different from one another.
Charlotte was the eldest sister and she assumed responsibility for the family. She’s the one with the plan – to keep the family solvent, to find employment and to get the sisters published. Emily, on the other hand, had zero ambitions other than to wander the moors and write her wild, uninhibited poetry and stories. Naturally Charlotte wrote about the repressed and moral Jane Eyre, while Emily penned a gothic melodrama of illicit love and revenge.
Ultimately I found the alternating narration way too confining. It didn’t seem fair to the reader to leave Charlotte locked in a trunk about to suffocate and then shift to Emily doing the most mundane of chores. So I switched to a third person, but let each sister own their own chapters. It worked so much better but I had to answer that pressing question, who is the main character?
I’m the eldest in my family and I’m the one who likes to plan – so my preference was Charlotte of course. But Emily was so much more fun! And if there’s to be a romance (and in these literary mysteries there is always a hint of some love in the air) Emily seems the more likely candidate. So Emily won out by a hair – Charlotte has adventures, but Emily is the main player.
Charlotte quite reasonably resents her sister’s lack of responsibilities. And how aggravating that Emily is the sister that attracts the masculine attention that Charlotte craved. More than once Charlotte mutters, “Emily, it’s always Emily.”
My editor and I liked this as a title because it sounds so romantic – but really it’s the lament of the plainer, older, duller sister. It’s always Emily!
Thanks for reading. I’d love to have you visit at www.michaelamaccoll.com , or follow me on Twitter at @MichaelaMacColl or check out Author Michaela MacColl on Facebook.
Read an excerpt at http://www.scribd.com/doc/198642656/Always-Emily
CCSS-Aligned Discussion/Teacher’s Guide at http://www.chroniclebooks.com/landing-pages/pdfs/AlwaysEmily_DiscussionGuide_FINAL.pdf
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