Today we're welcoming author Anna MacLean to the blog on her tour with Goddess Fish Promotions for the historical cozy mystery, "Louisa and the Crystal Gazer." We LOVED this book and you can read our review here.
Anna is giving away a gift basket to one randomly drawn commenter (and to the host with the most comments -- so help me win! You might win, too!). Comment today AND follow her tour (if you click on the banner over there on the left, it'll take you to a list of her tour stops) -- the more you read and comment, the better your odds of winning. You could be introduced to a great new author AND win a GC!
Anna was gracious enough to answer my questions. Take it away, Anna!
What made you decide to write about Louisa May Alcott in this setting?
Thanks so much for hosting me! The Crystal Gazer was a setting that had simmered in my imagination for a while. I have a long-standing interest in mediums and American spiritualism (I wrote a novel about medium Maggie Fox, The Sweet By and By, under my historical novelist name, Jeanne Mackin) so I thought it would be interesting to see what my Louisa May Alcott would do at a séance. Of course, she sees the fraud and the tricks instantly, while staying open to the wonderful mystery of human nature – ever so much more interesting than a mere apparition. P.T. Barnum then wandered in my imagination, so I included him as well. Louisa, in my mystery series, is always open to a good crime investigation, and Barnum is always open to the possibility of a new act.
How much research has gone into these books? Do you ever worry about getting some detail wrong?
I love doing research and at some point have to stop myself and get on with the story. The research for nineteenth century spiritualism was especially interesting. I found an early form of do-it-yourself manual that instructed American Victorians in the art of spirit painting, creating ectoplasm, and other parlor effects. The other details of daily life do need to be right, of course. Hardest for me was studying up on Victorian manners and protocol – when a woman is allowed to remove her hat and she must keep it on, how long a visit should be, what color gloves to wear, and things like that. They were quite specific, and any misstep in manners could cause quite a nasty stir. Louisa, as a young woman of ‘respectable’ family (and very limited means) had to watch her step, while still managing to keep a fair amount of freedom for herself.
Do you have any writing quirks or habits?
I must write in the very early morning, and if I’m disturbed I am unpleasant about it, to say the least. I completely understand why Louisa preferred to write in an attic, away from the rest of the family. I also talk to myself aloud as I write, voicing the dialogue and ‘listening’ for response. If I wrote in a public space like a coffee house people would probably move away from me.
What's your writing process? Outline? Plotter? Panster?
I just dive into that empty page (screen, really) and see what’s going to arrive. Somewhere in a later revision process I tease out the outline of the story to see if everything is in its correct place, but in the first draft I much prefer to just sit and write, no outline, no judgments, no road map. The joy of writing is discovering how to get from here to there in a story. It is as much about discovery for me as it is eventually for the reader – though I may ‘discover’ the plot and characters in several versions before I settle on the one that seems best.
What your favorite thing about being an author?
When I first began writing historical fiction, mystery or otherwise, it felt to me as good as being able to live another lifetime. I could be anyone in any time and experience anything I cared to experience. I still feel that way. Writing enlarges my life and my empathy for others. It is, really, a kind of time travel.
Do you have anything new coming up you'd like to share?
I always have something in process on my desk but I’m superstitious. I don’t like to talk about it till I at least have a first draft. Sorry! When it’s ready, I’ll be sure and let you know. Thanks so much for these great questions!
What's Louisa and the Crystal Gazer about?
In December of 1855, I found myself once again in Boston, temporarily separated from my beloved family, living as a seamstress by day and writing my secret "blood and thunder" stories by night. I welcomed the companionship of my dear friend Sylvia Shattuck, but was quite taken aback by her strange desire to contact her long-dead father through a medium.
Nevertheless, I found myself at the home of the city's most famous crystal gazer, attending a seance with none other than the notorious showman Mr. P T Barnum. But what began as an idle curiosity became a compelling investigation--for upon our second visit to the medium, Sylvia and I found she'd been murdered! And to solve the mystery of her untimely death, I first had to uncover the surprising truth about her life...
Louisa May Alcott
Jeanne Mackin is the author of several novels: The Sweet By and By (St. Martin’s Press), Dreams of Empire (Kensington Books), The Queen’s War (St. Martin’s Press), and The Frenchwoman (St. Martin’s Press). She has published short fiction and creative nonfiction in several journals and periodicals including American Letters and Commentary and SNReview. She is also the author of the Cornell Book of Herbs and Edible Flowers (Cornell University publications) and co-editor of The Norton Book of Love (W.W. Norton), and wrote art columns for newspapers as well as feature articles for several arts magazines. She was the recipient of a creative writing fellowship from the American Antiquarian Society and her journalism has won awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, in Washington, D.C. She teaches creative writing at Goddard College in Vermont, has taught or conducted workshops in Pennsylvania, Hawaii and New York and has traveled extensively in Europe. She lives with her husband, Steve Poleskie, in upstate New York.
Book Link: http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9781101506141,00.html?Louisa_and_the_Missing_Heiress_Anna_Maclean