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.
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!