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 http://kellyoconnormcnees.com/