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Anna Maclean, Mystery Author

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 21, 2011

Jeanne Mackin, aka Anna Maclean, is the author of several novels for St. Martin’s Press and Kensington, plus she has published short fiction and creative  Anna Maclean nonfiction in various journals. She is the author of the Cornell Book of Herbs and Edible Flowers and has written art columns and feature articles for newspapers and arts magazines. 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 held workshops in Pennsylvania, Hawaii, and New York, and has traveled extensively in Europe. She lives with her husband in upstate New York.

Guest Blog by Anna Maclean

When I write historicals, either mysteries or historical fiction, it is for me a kind of time travel. I get to visit places distant not only geographically, but also chronologically. ‘Visiting’ mid-nineteenth century Boston, for writing my series of cozy mysteries with Louisa May Alcott as the sleuth, was great fun, and very interesting. Think of what was going on at the time: women’s rights was a beginning movement and the earliest suffragettes were making their voices heard (Louisa’s father, Bronson, as enlightened as he was, still believed a woman’s place was in the home); the abolitionists were protesting, sometimes violently, against slavery; well-to-do Bostonians were making those fascinating ‘tours’ of Europe and bringing home tales of the Roman coliseum and the art galleries of Paris.

It was a time of great activity and tension…exactly what I, as a novelist, most like to work with. So in the first book in the series, Louisa and the Missing Heiress, I made a mystery using many of those ingredients: the slavery issue, women’s rights, the new giddiness of foreign travel. Louisa is somewhat down-and-out, working hard as a teacher trying to keep food on the table, but because she is of a good family, because her father is already famous as a philosopher and educator, she can freely mingle with the ‘best’ of Bostonian society. And because she is a woman of conscience who believes in equality for all, she also gets to mingle with the down-trodden. It makes for a great mix, I think.

Anna Cover

Louisa, when this novel begins, is still unknown as a writer and years away from writing her classic beloved novel, Little Women, but I use her experiences to show the development of the writer she will become: a woman of great independence who is also devoted to her family; an author who can write the most enduring children’s fiction of all time but, under a nom de plume, also write tales of exciting luridness, full of fallen women and dangerous men.

Henry James and Edith Wharton brought skeletons out of those very genteel mid-nineteenth century society closets; so did Louisa. In the series, I work with a Louisa who is observant and involved in the movements, and weaknesses, of the world around her. She lived in a fascinating time and place and it helped make her as a writer.

Perhaps that would be my first recommendation to people who want to write a mystery: find a time and place that truly captivates you and then work with a character who can ‘use’ that great setting to the best advantage.

Excerpt 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.

Book Link: http://bit.ly/mxX0ww

Anna’s Website: http://www.annamaclean.net/

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11 Responses to “Anna Maclean, Mystery Author”

  1. Kat Holmes said

    I loved your guest blog. And your cover is so haunting.:-)

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Kat. Anna’s book looks intriguing, doesn’t it?

  3. Kat Holmes said

    Yes it does. I’m very intrigued

  4. So glad you like the cover! I do, too. thanks, too, for the kind words about my blog. I really like writing about Louisa. She was a great woman and makes a great character. nancy, thanks for inviting me to stop by.

  5. wyndwhisper said

    i am looking forward to reading the book, also enjoying following your blog tour. congrats on the book it sounds like a wonderful read.
    trvlagnt1t@yahoo.com

    • +thanks for following the tour! It’s my first and I’m having fun with it. this seems a good way to connect with people without the airport lines!

      best wishes
      Anna

  6. Hi Anna! I love your premise, and I’m a fan of historical mysteries, and of books that take historical figures into a fictional world of possibilities. This sounds wonderful! And yes, regardless of which side of the pond you were on, the Victorian era was an exciting time of change and progress.

    • +
      Hi Allison,
      I think what most fascinates about the time period is the contradictions – the sentiment combined with a kind of cultural hardness, the image of fragile women contrasting with how strong they actually had to be to survive!
      happy summer reading –
      Anna

  7. Women had a way of getting what they wanted, I think, within the restrictions of their society. Anna, thanks so much for being my guest today.

  8. Maria D. said

    This looks very interesting! Thanks for the excerpt….adding it to my list

    junegirl63(at)gmail(dot)com

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