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 www.michaelamaccoll.com. (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 http://www.scribd.com/doc/65218020/Promise-the-Night.
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:
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