Wednesday, July 27, 2011

An interview with author Kelly O'Connor McNees

Last month, Kelly O’Connor McNees spoke at Saturday Writers about her book titled The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott. The debut novel presents a fictional account of what might have happened to Louisa May Alcott one summer. In this interview, O’Connor McNees gives some insight into the book, her inspiration and writing process.

Can you give a brief summary, and tell why you decided to write the book?

Millions of readers have fallen in love with Little Women. But how could Louisa May Alcott-who never had a romance-write so convincingly of love and heart-break without experiencing it herself?

I had always loved Little Women but never knew much about Louisa May Alcott herself until I picked up a biography of her a few years ago. I learned that her life was big and complex, and that she had burned some of her letters and journals before she died. I thought those spaces in the historical record offered a great opportunity for fiction.

What was the most surprising piece of information you found out about Alcott?

That she didn't want to write Little Women at all! She thought her own life was very boring.

How did you research the material for the book?

I read most of Louisa's novels and stories, many different biographies of her and some of her family members, as well as her own words in her remaining letters and journals. I spent time too learning about what life was like in 1855, how domestic tasks were performed, what people wore and ate. It was such a pleasure hunting for the perfect details.

You write first, and then revise later. Why does this system work for you?

I think you need to get something on the page to work with. You can't fix what isn't there!

You also outline before you write. Do you have any particular tips, or an outline style that works best for you?

I try to think in scenes rather than chapters. What interactions need to take place between the characters to keep the story moving forward?

What was the most difficult part of writing/publishing this book?

Coming back to the manuscript every day when something is not working. That doesn't change one bit after getting published.

Read more about Kelly and the novel at

Write soon,


Saturday, July 23, 2011

A couple of thoughts that are somewhat related

Remember the episode of Leave it to Beaver when Beaver was supposed to read The Three Musketeers for school, and he saw it at the movies instead? OK, so I was watching television the other day with my son, and I think I may be off the hook (pun intended) about reading Moby Dick this summer because THE MOVIE* is scheduled to be shown on TV Aug 1 and 2!

I’m thinking that if I watch the movie, I can gain insight into the characters, their motivation and goals, and will be inspired to read the book. Wish me luck, and I’ll let you know how it goes.

Hey, how about you, did you ever watch the movie (or Wishbone! Hi Melissa!) instead of reading the book?

Write soon,


* This version stars Academy award-nominee Ethan Hawke, Academy award-winner William Hurt and Donald Sutherland. That’s how they said their names in the commercial, in that order. Shouldn’t they start small, and then move up the academy award chain? Do you think Donald Sutherland feels kinda left out? Maybe they could have said “ … and father of Emmy award-winner Keifer Sutherland.” Or something like “humanitarian and all-around good guy.” But no, the sentence just seems to end. He needs a title, or some sort of recognition. I’ll Google him and see if there’s anything there. Hold on a minute, I’ll be right back ...

OK, so I typed in his name, and a bunch of sites came up, but this one

had a preview that make me think there is a Donald Sutherland conspiracy or something, because this is what it said:

The towering presence of this Canadian character actor is not often noticed, but his contributions are legendary. He has been in almost a hundred and fifty different shows and films. He is also the father of renowned actor Kiefer Sutherland.

Do you think there’s someone out there holding a grudge against Donald Sutherland? Why isn’t he noticed, and why is his work played down on a site devoted to him? Why ISN”T he recognized when he’s been in so many great films? Hmmmmm. Makes you wonder, eh? Couldn’t they have said “legendary actor” in the commercial. That would’ve worked.

I wish they would check with me first.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Egads! E-ads!

A recent op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal explored the potential of advertising in ebooks to offset sagging sales. Is this the future of book publishing?

The practice of selling advertising space in books is not new. I remember seeing ads inserted in paperback books in the 1970s. After the federal government banned tobacco ads on TV and radio in 1969, book and magazine advertising sales increased. At the time, some people argued that ads were aimed at kids, an issue that is still pertinent today

In the late 1950s, Dr. Benjamin Spock’s Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care ran ads, including those from Carnation and Proctor & Gamble. Approximately 100 years earlier, advertisements were placed in a serialized edition of Charles Dickens’ “David Copperfield.”

Do you think advertising will show up in ebooks? Or will product placement become the norm like it is in the movies, where the hero drives a certain type of car or drinks a particular brand of beer? Tell me what you think.

Write soon,


Friday, July 8, 2011

Did you read it, really?

I was thinking about picking up a copy of Moby Dick this summer, and trying to read it … again. I read a little of it in college, and a little more of it in a bookstore one day, but have never come close to finishing it. There, I said it.

I’ve always felt that admitting that I haven’t read all the classics could lead to my English degree being revoked at any moment. But I didn’t feel so bad after attending my book club meeting last month, and discovering that a couple of English teachers also had never read it!

Their admission freed me! I realized I wasn't the only one who hadn't read it. I no longer feel the need to change the subject when the book comes up in conversation, pretend to know what everyone is talking about when discussing the massive tome, or excusing myself to go to the bathroom in case someone asks me a difficult question about the novel that I can’t answer.

The Huffington Post last year listed the top 13 books people lie about having read. They include the aforementioned Moby Dick, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Ulysses, As I Lay Dying, War and Peace, The Canterbury Tales, Democracy in America, The Satanic Verses, A Christmas Carol, A Brief History of Time, Remembrance of Things Past or In Search of Lost Time.

Do you have a list of books you think you should read, but haven’t? Have you ever lied about it? What are you willing to admit? Leave a comment and let me know. Let’s see if our list looks like the one above.

Write soon,


Monday, July 4, 2011

Storm Country anthology accepting submissions

The Joplin (MO) Writers’ Guild, in coordination with the Missouri Writers’ Guild, is seeking fiction, non-fiction and poetry to be included in an anthology, Storm Country, to be published near the end of the summer. All proceeds from book sales will go to the purchase of books for school libraries damaged or destroyed by the May 22 tornado. Midwest writers are encouraged to submit their original work through July 15th.

Submit work with the theme of storms and severe weather in the Midwest. All forms of stormy weather should be considered: ice, floods, tornadoes, wind, and snow. Include name, address, phone number, and email address on first page of submission.

Poetry of any form and up to 30 lines may be submitted. A maximum of three poems from any author will be considered.

Short fiction in any genre, 1,500 words or less, will be considered.

Nonfiction (features, essays, memoirs, etc.) of 1,500 words or less may also be submitted. A maximum of three pieces of prose will be accepted per author.

All submissions must be typed in 12-point Times New Roman. Prose should use three-space paragraph indention and double-spacing. Poetry should be single-spaced. Pages should be numbered. Spelling and grammar must be as the author intends. Author retains all rights. Please include third-person author bios up to 75 words.

Submit your Word documents by July 15th to or mail to Claudia Mundell, 1815 River Street, Carthage, Missouri 64836.