Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Louisa and the Missing Heiress by Anna MacLean

by Anna MacLean

(Q) Thank you for joining us today. Before we begin, please tell our readers where they can find you.

My website is http://annamaclean.net/ . Comments can be posted there and I would love to hear from readers. Penguin’s Facebook page, TheCrimeSceneBook, will be hosting chats soon as well.

The novel is available from Penguin Books.

(Q) How did the concept of Louisa May Alcott mysteries come about? Why this particular famous author?

Louisa May Alcott is one of the most fascinating women in American history and literature! She was brilliant, independent, hardworking and very much a rebel. Her close family and Bostonian background also, I thought, made her a perfect candidate for cozy mysteries, my favorite. I loved the opportunity to explore and create the inner life that pushed Louisa from dutiful daughter to adventurous author.

(Q) How long did it take you to finish the first book, from concept to final product?

The first book took about a year and some months to write. I wanted to get the character just write, and catch her at the moment when all possibility begins to exist for her, so that the following mysteries would have a strong foundation.

(Q) Are there any authors that have influenced your writing, other than Alcott that is?

Oh, so many. Agatha Christie of course, and Dorothy Sayers and the wonderful Sarah Caulfield. I also did quite a lot of reading/travel back to Louisa’s nineteenth century and read her cohorts – Poe and Hawthorne, Emerson and Thoreau. She lived surrounded by writers and great minds.

(Q) Do you have any favorite place where you feel your Muse is more apt to come and play while you write? Or perhaps you listen to music? If so, what do you listen to?

I write first thing in the morning. No other time works for me and I can be quite nasty if someone or something tries to come between me and that initial work time. I do listen to music, very softly, and the music usually reflects the project in hand. For Louisa, I listened to a lot of German art songs from the nineteenth century. She would have loved them.

(Q) What normally occupies your desk while writing? Pencils? Coffee mugs? Breakfast crumbs?

Great question! There’s all this computer stuff of course, but I also keep my old typewriter close by. When I get stuck, I’ll work on it. There’s a very soothing sound to that clacking of keys, it makes the words almost tangible. I also have a brass peacock from India and a photo calendar of Paris. Always of Paris. And books. Piles of them. And an object that is a kind of touchstone for the project. For Louisa, it was a lace handkerchief.

(Q) Do you have any new projects that you are working on? If so, what are they?

I’m always working on a project. It’s such a large part of who I am, that if I don’t write on any certain day, that day feels like a loss to me. And writing for me is a kind of travel, so I’ll just say I’m currently traveling in Elizabethan England. It’s a very rowdy place and I’m having a great time.

(Q) What tips would you offer to a new writer who is just beginning their submission journey?

All of the old clich├ęs, of course: make your book as good as it can possibly be, do your research before sending queries to agents, etc. The internet really helps there, it’s so easy to look up individual agents and see what their tastes are. More personally, I would say put yourself stylishly on the page, but in a respectful even humble manner, and be professional. And don’t let people keeping you waiting longer than they should. If an agent doesn’t respond in a certain amount of time, send a gentle reminder, and if you still don’t get a response, move on to the next.

(Q) If you'd like to add anything, please do so.

Great to blog with you!

(Q) How about an excerpt to tantalize the readers?

From Louisa and The Missing Heiress by Anna Maclean

The clock chimed four-thirty. I sighed and stirred, tapping my foot more quickly under the concealing hem of my brown linsey-woolsey skirts. Where was our hostess? Surely she could have tried on every hat in Boston by now. Had she forgotten? Dot had never been the quickest mind – she had wept over fractions and torn her hair over South American rivers – but to completely forget her own welcome-home tea party!

I looked outside the room into the hall. The huge, ornate coat tree was close enough to the parlor that everytime I looked in that direction and saw Mr. Wortham’s velvet coat hanging there on its hook, I had the eerie sense that someone else was standing there, watching. Something strange, hostile, dangerous, floated through that house where newlyweds should have been so happy.

Much as I wished to see Dot, I decided it was time to leave. Abba was waiting for me at home with a basket of clothing to clean and mend for the women’s shelter and other tasks with which society could not be bothered. Mr. Wortham was standing at the bay window, looking out into the street. I went to him.

“I do hope Dot is all right. This is not like her.”

“I fear a year in Europe may have changed her,” he said. “It is liberating to travel, you know.” But he was frowning and his dark eyes seemed darker than usual.

More on Jean Mackin writing as Anna MacLean:
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.
The book is available in Kindle and Print format on Amazon:


  1. Of all the "famous" authors playing amateur sleuths, this sounds the most intriguing to me. Jo was my hero. Didn't like the settle down/get married bit, but she had such a mind of her own.

    I can totally see Louisa getting involved in solving crimes in a highly genteel way.

    Thanks for coming by for Magical Mystery Month.

  2. I loved all four, but yep, Jo held the most favorite spot.
    What a fascinating premise for a book. Louisa and the Missing Heiress definitely intrigues! From one upstate NYer to another, much luck with it and thank's for adding to my to read pile.

  3. thanks for hosting me during Magical Mystery Month! It's always fun to introduce Louisa the detective to people. Arlene, good luck with that reading pile!