Guest Blogger: Michaela MacColl, Author of Always Emily (Giveaway)

Always Emily_FC

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.

Jane Eyrewuthering heights


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 , or follow me on Twitter at @MichaelaMacColl or check out Author Michaela MacColl on Facebook.


Read an excerpt at

CCSS-Aligned Discussion/Teacher’s Guide at

Win a signed copy of Always Emily!

Leave a comment, including your email address, for a chance to win an autographed copy of Always Emily by Michaela MacColl!


  • By entering, you confirm you are 18 years of age or older and reside in the U.S. or Canada.
  • Giveaway ends 11:59 PM EST on May 1, 2014.
  • Winner will be notified by email and have 72 hours to claim the prize.
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Best of Summer 2013 Kid Lit Giveaway Hop

Best of Summer 2013 Kid Lit Giveaway Hop - Button

The Best of Summer 2013 Kid Lit Giveaway Hop is hosted by Mother Daughter Book Reviews and Youth Literature Reviews. Kid lit bloggers, teen lit blogger, authors, and publishers are coming together to share their favorite books of the summer!

The Children’s and Teens’ Book Connection is giving away a hardcover copy of Nobody’s Secret, a novel of intrigue and romance by Michaela MacColl. This is the first book in a MacColl’s new series that imagines great literary figures as teenage crime solvers.


One day, fifteen-year-old Emily Dickinson meets a mysterious, handsome young man. Surprisingly, he doesn’t seem to know who she or her family is. And even more surprisingly, he playfully refuses to divulge his name. Emily enjoys her secret flirtation with Mr. “Nobody” until he turns up dead in her family’s pond. She’s stricken with guilt. Only Emily can discover who this enigmatic stranger was before he’s condemned to be buried in an anonymous grave. Her investigation takes her deep into town secrets, blossoming romance, and deadly danger. Exquisitely written and meticulously researched, this novel celebrates Emily Dickinson’s intellect and spunk in a page-turner of a book that will excite fans of mystery, romance, and poetry alike.

Enter for your chance to win this book

Leave a comment answering the following statement: “My favorite children’s book is….”


  • This giveaway is open to residents of the United States and Canada who are 18 years of age or older.
  • Prize will be shipped to the winner via USPS.
  • Only comments including an email address are eligible to win.
  • Giveaway runs from 12:00 AM EST on August 25, 2013 to 11:59 PM EST on September 6, 2013.
  • Winner will be notified by email. Winner has 72 hours to respond with mailing address before a new winner is selected.
  • The Children’s and Teens’ Book Connection is not responsible for items lost or damaged in shipment.

Good luck!

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Interview with Michaela MacColl, Author of Nobody’s Secret

imagesCAVTYJWPMichaela 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 

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.

What inspired you to write it?nobody

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,

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.

Promise the Night by Michaela MacColl Giveaway Winner

Congratulations go out to Apple Blossom, who picked up a free hardcover of Promise the Night by Michaela MacColl. I’ll contact the winner by email now. She’ll have 72 hours to respond with mailing information before I select a new winner.

Thanks to all who participated in our giveaway.

Giveaway and Interview with Michaela MacColl, Author of Promise the Night

Michaela MacColl studied multi-diciplinary history at Vassar College and Yale University. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Connecticut. You can visit her online at (Photo from author’s website)

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in upstate NY.

When did you begin writing?

I wrote a little in high school but detoured into history in college. After graduate school I ended up writing legal briefs for an insurance company and then technical manuals. Finally I decided it would be nice to write something that someone actually wanted to read!

Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?

I don’t really have much of a routine. I have two kids and four cats and lots of obligations. My schedule tends to be determined by deadlines. I work with a wonderful critique group and we meet every week. So by Thursday I need a new chapter or a solid revision. I tend to think about what I’m going to write all week and then sit down and write 10 -12 pp in one sitting.

What is this book about?

Beryl Markham was a pilot in the 1930’s. She was beautiful and fearless. She made world headlines when she attempted to fly the Atlantic solo from East to West. She wrote her own story in a very fine memoir called West with the Night. For me, the most interesting part of her story was her childhood in Africa. Her father was one of the first colonists in the highlands above Nairobi. Beryl’s mother abandoned them and Beryl was raised by the tribe who worked for her father. She was the ultimate “wild child” who rode wild horses, hunted lions and warthogs and even learned to jump higher than her head. Promise the Night tells the story of how she learned to be so confident. Between each of the chapters of her childhood I have interspersed stories of the adult Beryl learns to fly and her historic flight. It’s really fun!

What inspired you to write it?

My mother got her pilot’s license when I was in college. I gave her West with the Night to celebrate. A few years ago I was casting about for a new project and Mom suggested Beryl. Originally I was trying to write a biography for kids but I was so much more interested in her stories!

Who is your favorite character from the book?

It would have to be Beryl herself. She’s so brave and so aggravating! But no matter how many bridges she burns, she manages to find stalwart friends who love her as much as I do.

Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?

I wrote Promise the Night before I wrote my first published novel, Prisoners in the Palace. My agent shopped it to a few publishers but they all had the same problem. My main character, Beryl, was unlikable. Also they weren’t sure that there was a market for a relatively unknown historical figure. So I rewrote it to make Beryl a little younger at the beginning – less competent and more vulnerable. And I added the pilot elements (before it was an epilogue). Chronicle Books read it and loved it. When they bought my first novel, we made it a two book deal.

What is up next for you?

My next book is a mystery involving Emily Dickinson. Can she solve the murder of Mr. Nobody? It comes out in Spring 2013 and is part of a series that will place other young authors in mysterious situations.

Interviewer’s Note: You can read an excerpt from Promise the Night at

I have a copy of Prisoners in the Palace here that I can’t wait to read. I’m hoping to catch up with reviews before too long.

How would you like to win a copy of Promise the Night? Here are the details:

1) Contest is open to residents of the United States and Canada only.

2) Leave a comment including your email address so we can contact you if you win. Any comment without an email address will not be counted.

3) BONUS: LIKE this blog post and leave a comment with your FB name. +1

4) BONUS: Tweet this giveaway. Can be done once a day. Leave a comment with Twitter status. +1

5) Each comment must be posted separately.

6) Contest ends at 11:59 PM EST on Sunday, February 5, 2012. Winner will be contacted by email. The winner will have 72 hours to respond with mailing information before a new winner is selected. Prize will be mailed via USPS. TC&TBC is not responsible for lost or damaged goods.

Guest Blogger: Michaela MacColl, Author of Prisoners in the Palace

 Today’s special guest is Michaela MacColl, author of Prisoners in the Palace.

London, 1838. Sixteen-year-old Liza’s dreams of her society debut are dashed when her parents are killed in an accident. Penniless, she accepts the position of lady’s maid to young Princess Victoria and steps unwittingly into the gossipy intrigue of the servant’s world below-stairs as well as the trickery above. Is it possible that her changing circumstances may offer Liza the chance to determine her own fate, find true love, and secure the throne for her future queen?

Meticulously based on newly discovered information, this riveting novel is as rich in historical detail as Catherine, Called Birdy, and as sizzling with intrigue as The Luxe.

Cheryl, thank you for inviting me to talk directly with your readers. 

It’s always a risk to write about someone well-known. Everyone already has a version of the story in his/her mind.  Especially when I’m writing about Queen Victoria. I have been amazed by the response I’ve gotten to Prisoners in the Palace – my readers seem to judge the book on how accurately I reflect their idea of Victoria’s character. 

In my novel, Victoria is naïve and spoiled. She’s been sheltered for her entire life. In fact, her mother has schemed to keep her immature and unworldly – the better to usurp Victoria’s power later.  So my character can be heedless of other people’s feelings and absolutely oblivious to the consequences of her actions.  She’s the product of her upbringing. 

For example, Victoria carelessly reads a very personal entry in her maid’s diary. The maid, Liza, calls her on it. At first Victoria is furious to be rebuked by an underling, but then realizes that Liza is right. The Princess says sadly, “I forgot that others are permitted the privacy of their thoughts.” Since Victoria’s journal entries are always read by her mother, it doesn’t even occur to her that other people’s journals might be confidential. 

So Victoria isn’t entirely sympathetic in this scene, but a moment later she realizes her error. She has a good heart and has the capacity to grow and change.  

When Victoria first discovers that she is likely to be Queen at age 12, she says quite solemnly, “I will be good.”  And there is evidence through her life that she continued to try and improve herself for her whole life, despite her weighty obligations to the Crown. One of her ladies in waiting recounted this story of how she tried to reconcile her duties as Queen with her essential kindness: 

Once the Duke of Wellington brought her a death warrant to sign, the soldier being an incorrigible deserter. The Queen evinced extreme reluctance to affix her signature, and pressed the Duke for some reason for clemency.  At length the Duke admitted that the condemned man had always earned the affection of his fellow soldiers. The Queen, with tears in her eyes, cried, “Oh Your Grace, I am so pleased to hear that,” and hastily wrote “Pardoned Victoria R.” across the slip of paper. 

In the end, I was satisfied that the portrait I painted of Victoria was realistic and sympathetic – just like she was! 

If you would like to read more about Prisoners in the Palace, check out my blog at

Thanks for listening!

Michaela MacColl studied multi-disciplinary 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. This is her first book.

Prisoners in the Palace is available for purchase at:


Chronicle Books,book-info/store,kids/products_id,9004/title,Prisoners-in-the-Palace/

Special Offer!

If you order from the Chronicle Books website, use the promotional code, PRISONERS, to get FREE SHIPPING and 25% OFF your entire order!