Nobody’s Secret came out in 2013 — apparently just in time. During the past year, I know of at least 4 Emily Dickinson books have come — ranging from my YA Mystery to a new picture book. Teen Reads noticed the coincidence and asked three of us to join them for an interview. The questions were great (except that last one when they asked me to write a poem! HINT: I said no.)
Archives for March 2014
Always Emily had some good news the past few days. Two STARRED reviews from VOYA and School Library Journal. And a great review from Booklist. As a writer, we never know if people will like the next book as much as the last one — and I don’t think that this anxious feeling ever goes away. When the reviews come in, it’s humbling and wonderful that the most important people in my industry enjoyed the novel.
Check them out!
•“MacColl has crafted a fictional tale of suspense and romance that is guaranteed to bring new readership to MacColl, as well as to the classic tales by both Brontë sisters.”—VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates, starred review, April 2014
Inspired by the real-life Brontë sisters, MacColl has crafted a fictional tale of suspense and romance that is guaranteed to bring new readership to MacColl, as well as to the classic tales by both Brontë sisters. Weaving fact and fiction, MacColl begins this tale with the death of Elizabeth Brontë, sister to Emily, Charlotte, Anne, and Branwell. It is within these first few pages that we catch a glimpse of the personalities and contradictions among this family. The narrative jumps ten years in the first chapter—Charlotte and Emily are off to boarding school, where Emily will attend, much to her dismay, and Charlotte will be teaching. While Emily seems to get into calamity after calamity at school, Charlotte herself is not innocent and is reprimanded for retreating to her fictional world that she is writing while she should be teaching. After both sisters are sent home for different reasons, the story plunges into the mystery of burglaries taking place near the parsonage and a madwoman running the outskirts of the village desperate for an escape. Emily’s adventurous personality and Charlotte’s need to control all situations bring these sisters together to solve this mystery of the moors, where romance and sinister forces are abundant.
A brief snippet from both Charlotte and Emily’s books sets the foundation for each chapter and is enough to draw the reader to the classic Brontë tales. MacColl includes a very informative author’s note giving information about how much of the tale is told from fictional and factual events and brings the reader to a greater understanding of how the lives of both sisters affected their writing and influenced this novel as well.
• “Readers will be satisfied with the ending, and their curiosities will be piqued to read more about the Brontë family”—School Library Journal, starred review, May 2014
Based on the Brontë family of writers, MacColl’s story is filled with life and death, mystery, and witty humor. The main premise involves Emily and Charlotte uncovering Branwell’s nefarious activities and exposing a local mill owner, Master Heaton. The strong-willed sisters join forces to uncover Branwell and Heaton’s secrets and to reunite a family. Charlotte and Emily are the most richly drawn characters, and their often-contentious relationship is engaging. Their personalities are balanced by the supporting characters, including their father, the house manager, and a young man Emily finds on the moor. The two-dimensional Heaton has no redeeming qualities, save charm, and Branwell, who falls under his spell, is also thinly drawn. However, the effects of alcohol, mental, and physical abuse are realistically conveyed. MacColl succeeds in creating a vivid sense of place with her intricate details about Masonic rituals and the lush descriptions of the moors, Emily’s place of sanctuary. Readers will be satisfied with the ending, and their curiosities will be piqued to read more about the Brontë family. A lengthy author’s note tells more about the Brontës.
“There’s lots to like here: mystery, adventure, and a snippet of romance.”—Booklist, April 15, 2014
Although it’s Emily Brontë who gets the title mention, Charlotte is an equal part of this historical adventure that finds the older teens striding across the moors trying to learn the identities of a mysterious camper and a hysterical woman, as well as the reason for their brother’s suspicious behavior. Each chapter heading features a snippet of Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre, and certain plot elements here mirror those stories. But this Emily and Charlotte, though incorporating some of the real Brontës’ personal characteristics, seem much more modern. Emily, the opinionated, fearless one, is determined to follow where the clues lead, personal safety be damned; the more conservative Charlotte nevertheless uses her caution to make sure things don’t go completely off the rails. The afterword explains how other elements of the Brontës’ life figure into the story and setting. There’s lots to like here: mystery, adventure, and a snippet of romance, and as MacColl asks readers, if they haven’t read the originals, “What are you waiting for?”
When I wrote Prisoners in the Palace, it was to show how Victoria might have been like as a teenager. Not the Queen of England, Empress of India, widow of Alfred, etc. Just a teen who had problems with her mom and really wanted a boyfriend. I just came across these pictures of Victoria being a wife and a Mom. They’re great and look like any other family with grumpy kids and a fed up mother. Enjoy!
I was asked to guest post on E. Kristin Anderson’s website, “Write All the Words,” in honor of International Women’s Week. I wanted to write about feminism and the Brontes. See how I did! Click here.