Friday, March 25, 2011

Interview and book win with Michaela MacColl

Last but far from least, we have Michaela McColl, author of the YA historical fiction, Prisoners in the Palace: How Princess Victoria became Queen with the Help of Her Maid, a Reporter, and a Scoundrel. Her book (as my best friend put it), “is one of the most intriguing books I’ve read in a long time”. Set in London, 1838, it’s about Liza and her dreams of a society debut becoming 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. I asked Michaela the same questions as the other interviewees and here is what she had to say:

Q1. First off, my burning question to everyone published is at what point in the long road to publication did you actually think you could succeed, that you could make it into print? 

A1. I think we all have to begin assuming that we can make it into print. Otherwise I don’t know how we would even begin. Happily I knew nothing about the process when I started and I didn’t know how difficult it would be. However, early on, I found a mentor, Patricia Reilly Giff. She assured me (and many other new writers) that writing is a craft. It can be learned. Persevere and you will get published!

Q2. Was there ever a point when it was the opposite, where you thought you couldn’t succeed in getting published? Dare to share the story? 

A2. About year before I eventually sold Prisoners in the Palace, I had a serious nibble from a wonderful publisher. My agent told me that they were talking a “contract by the end of the week!” I was over the moon. But then the deal fell through (because the publisher had a strong affiliate with a UK operation and they dissed the idea of an American writing about their Queen Victoria – really, it’s true!) I was absolutely crushed – I don’t think I’ve ever been so depressed. Thankfully my agent didn’t give up on me – so neither did I. When I finally sold Prisoners in the Palace, my father chuckled and said “You are a stubborn one!”

Q3. I recently found your very cool blog. Has blogging helped you in your path to becoming an author? If so, in what ways? 

A3. I only started blogging after Prisoners in the Palace was sold. I found that I wasn’t terribly comfortable sharing personal information on a day to day basis. So I decided early on that blogging for me was going to be a way to keep my website current. I’ve never tried to build up a following–there are so many other people who do that better than I could.

Q4. I loved the rich detail of Prisoners in the Palace! What was your inspiration for such a unique, historical setting?
A4. I wish I could take credit for the rich detail, but I’m just trying to recreate the past. All the details happened–just as our own lives are filled with smells, tastes and textures. Trying to recreate Kensington Palace was difficult because there wasn’t a lot of information about furnishings. However, the Victorian era is well-documented so the details are out there.

Q5. Any new, exciting writing projects you can share with us?
A5. I just finished revising my copy-edited manuscript called Promise the Night (Chronicle Fall 2011). It’s about Beryl Markham, a famous lady-aviator in the 1930’s. She grew up on an isolated ranch in the highlands above Nairobi. Beryl’s exciting childhood—with natives, lions, sadistic governesses and warthogs, gave her a taste for adventure that she never lost.

Q6. And final question (a writerly one): long-winded first drafter or a skeleton sketcher?
A6. I’m a planner. Even when I’m writing my first chapters, I’m mapping out future scenes, themes to explore, and if I’m lucky, the ending. I admire those people who just write and let their characters decide the story for them… but the idea terrifies me!

Thank you, Michaela! Your answers were just what I needed to hear. To learn more about Michaela, visit her blog or webpage—they are certainly worth your time. In the interim, I won a copy of this book on Caroline Rose’s blog and the publisher (Chronicle Books) sent me an extra copy (along with a few bookmarks). Please leave a comment for Michaela and me, be a follower, and I’ll enter you in to win the book and bookmarks.

Last week’s winner is… Jemi Fraser! Congratulations, Jemi. Go ahead and email me that Canada address of yours and I’ll send you a copy of Tortilla Sun.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by (and contributed!) to my author interview series. I will be back to a regular posting schedule next Friday when I announce the Prisoner winner. (Ha, ha. Love the way that sounds….) Happy weekend everyone! Big hugs from Arizona!


  1. I have been wanting to read this one....I'd heard about it but couldn't remember the title! Thanks Jackee!

    and Michaela, I'll be looking for your book. I've got a story that Princess Victoria may or may not make an appearance in, so I've been wanting to hunt it down.

  2. Super interview. Thanks to both of you! I love the Victorian era and look forward to a good read. I also lived in Nairobi for three years...West with the Night is about Beryl Markham's flight. She was in that "White Mischief" crowd. Excited about this future read!!

  3. Thanks for sharing your story Michaela. I can't wait to read your book now. Oh and thanks to Jackee too for setting up this interview.

  4. What a lovely interview - thanks Jackee and Michaela McColl!!! I love this quote from you: "I think we all have to begin assuming that we can make it into print. Otherwise I don’t know how we would even begin"!!!!!

    Prisoners in the Palace sounds so unique - a YA historical read!! Take care

  5. I have to map out my story too. I'm so not a pantser! Great interview guys!

  6. I've never heard of this one, and it sounds fantastic. Thanks for the interview, Jackee!

  7. Yay!!! I'm so excited! Tortilla Sun sounds like a terrific book - can't wait to add it to my classroom :)

    This sounds like another beautiful book - the Victorian era was so full of incredible art and settings!

  8. What an amazing mentor to have! And I'm looking forward to reading her blog!

  9. Prisoners in the Palace sounds wonderful! Thanks for introducing us to Michaela, Jackee. :-)

    Congratulations to Jemi for winning the last book.

  10. Great interview. I've seen Prisoners in the Palace around. It looks interesting, and I enjoy historical fiction.

    Plus, congrats to Jemi.

  11. Congratulations to Jemi!

    Michaela's book sounds fabulous. I'm fascinated with that period of history - I'll be looking for this one!

  12. Great interview! The book sounds very interesting. Thanks for sharing about it!

    CONGRATS, Jemi!

  13. I hadn't realized how long it'd been since I popped over. Great interview series! Makes me think there's hope for all of us!

  14. Great interview...This book is right up my alley too so I'm excited to check it out (I noticed that the first chapter is available on Michaela's website & I'm excited to read it later).

    On a different note, I'm currently donating 50% of the proceeds of my own book to Donate Save the Children, which is helping the chidlren displaced by the recent earthquake in Japan: Details here:

  15. Thanks Jackee for the opportunity to post my comment. I didn't know you're a famous and can interviewed well known writers like Michaela McColl.I'm so grateful to find your blog. Can't wait to read her book.

  16. That was a wonderful interview, Jackee! Exactly what I needed to hear: persevere and never give up. Thanks both to you and Michaela for sharing with us!

    The book sounds wonderful! I'll be sure to check it out...

  17. Good interview. Really interesting insights about the whole process.

  18. No wonder you were so depressed. To be that close to a contract, and then to be declined. Congratulations on your book!

    And congratulations to Jemi Fraser!

  19. This sounds like a very interesting and good read. Thank you both for a great book and another great interview!

  20. i'm always in awe of writers who do historical fiction. i can make up my facts. they can't.