I am pleased to have author Kelly O'Connor McNees on my blog today. I absolutely adored her debut novel THE LOST SUMMER OF LOUISA MAY ALCOTT when it was released last year. It made my Best of 2010 list because it's just that good. You can read my review here.
I asked Kelly if she could blog about writing fiction about real people because I've always wondered how do you write a story about a well known and well loved historical figure without tarnishing their image or getting folks angry? Thanks so much to Kelly for taking the time out to write up this piece for me!
Over the last year, many readers have asked me questions about the challenges of writing about a real historical figure, and these questions reveal more than a little anxiety on my behalf. Wasn’t it daunting to try to capture the essence of a woman who is practically the first lady of American girlhood? Wasn’t I afraid of putting words in her mouth, thoughts in her head, and deeds in her hands that weren’t (necessarily) true? Didn’t I worry that people would think I was being presumptuous, cavalier, or even irresponsible?
Yes, yes, and yes, of course! I worried (and still worry sometimes) about all these things. But I wrote The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott for two reasons. One, I had always loved Little Women and, after reading it for the tenth time, still felt a yearning to understand why Louisa wrote it the way she did. And two, the more I learned about Louisa, the more I realized what a complex and conflicted person she was. For generations, readers have imagined her as the kindly spinster who would rather to sit in an attic writing about childhood than her own adult life. But that image did not reflect the person I was coming to know. Louisa was a dynamic woman who loved the theater, admired thinkers like Emerson and Thoreau (who also happened to be her neighbors), and fought for women’s suffrage. She was a nurse during the Civil War and earned a living as a writer that freed her from the need to marry. I wanted to write this novel to render Louisa in all her complexity, to show the range of people and books and life experiences that influenced who she would become.
But, of course, this is a fictional version of Louisa too, based on research--and also a good deal of speculation. She is the Louisa of my imagination, a woman I came to admire all the better because of knowing she was so much more than the woman writing in the attic.
Kelly O’Connor McNees is the author of The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, on sale in paperback May 3. She lives in Chicago and blogs at http://kellyoconnormcnees.com/
I'm able to give away two copies of this book provided by the publisher. To enter, you must fill out the form below. This contest is open to US entrants only. Winners will be picked Thursday May 26.
PLEASE use the form only to enter the contest. For any comments about the book, review, etc. please use the comments link at the bottom of the post. All information must be filled out correctly or else your entry will not count. (ie. you must use FULL name and list your mailing address). Your info will only be used for this contest and will be deleted after the contest is over.