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!