by Michaela MacColl
Just released: April 8, 2014
Amazon | Goodreads
Emily and Charlotte Brontë are about as opposite as two sisters can be. Charlotte is practical and cautious; Emily is headstrong and imaginative. But they do have one thing in common: a love of writing. This shared passion will lead them to be two of the first published female novelists and authors of several enduring works of classic literature.
But they're not there yet. First, they have to figure out if there is a connection between a string of local burglaries, rumors that a neighbor's death may not have been accidental, and the appearance on the moors of a mysterious and handsome stranger. The girls have a lot of knots to untangle— before someone else gets killed.
Michaela MacColl studied multidisciplinary history at Vassar College and Yale University, which turns out to be the perfect degree for writing historical fiction.
She lives with her husband and two daughters in Connecticut.
I was perusing vvb32 reads, enjoying a blog dedicated to “Zombies, steampunk and Jane Austen.” I started to wonder what those things might have in common? My answer, after I thought for a while, was not really very much (except for readers who might love them all). But one thing that they all have is a strong sense of self. Zombies are zombies no matter where they go. And Elizabeth Bennett will act the same no matter whose drawing room she is in. And steampunk? Well, any steampunk character is a carefully drawn personality designed to match her wild environment.
That sense of self is what has attracted me to my own subjects. I have a special affinity for biography. I love to read as many sources as I can, gradually building up my version of a real person – like those 3-D printers that put on layer upon layer of plastic until you have an action figurine or a cellphone case. My subjects, the Bronte sisters, Emily Dickinson, Beryl Markham and Queen Victoria, have plenty of personality to spare. By the time I start writing I have an excellent idea of how each will react to any problems I throw at her.
In Always Emily, my newest book, I explored two main characters, Charlotte and Emily Bronte. I was examining their lives, their work and especially their relationship as sisters. Not surprisingly, I found that all three factors intertwined.
Emily was a free spirit – unconventional, unsociable, more at home on the moors than in a parlor or classroom. She prefers near wild animals to other people. The only girls she can tolerate are her own sisters. Her characters share all these traits. Catherine and Heathcliff cannot be neatly pigeonholed. They are emotional and messy. Often they are unlikable, but always the center of our attention. They mesmerize. When Charlotte (as a character in Always Emily) says, “It’s always Emily!” she’s frustrated that Emily is always the one people remember. Emily’s sense of herself is so strong, that even if we disapprove, we can’t tear our eyes away from her.
Here’s pictures of Emily and her favorite pets (her hawk Nero and Grasper her dog):
Charlotte, on the other hand, is painfully conventional in everything except her writing. She worries about the family finances. She scolds her sister for not wearing a proper corset. She is the glue that holds the family together, in spite of their eccentricities. Her most famous character, Jane Eyre, is painfully proper. When Mr. Rochester tries to sweep her off her feet, Jane prefers plain and moral living.
In Always Emily, Charlotte is constantly remonstrating with her sister. By the end, each has gotten to know her sister better and both are resigned to never being able to change the other.
This is a sketch of Charlotte done by Emily.
Somehow these two girls, so different in so many respects, both penned novels that have helped to define English literature. And when you read Jane Eyre there’s no mistaking which sister wrote it. And who else but Emily could have created Wuthering Heights?
In Always Emily I play with the idea that these two sisters are rivals in just about everything. For worldly success, for the affections of their father, the attention of a handsome stranger… I gave them each bits of a mystery to solve. Like two people pulling on the ends of a knotted string, eventually they meet in the middle. Originally I toyed with the idea of alternate narrative chapters – but ultimately I too fell under Emily’s spell. Charlotte is still very important, but the story belongs to Emily. Always, always Emily.
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4/8/2014 Actin' Up with Books
4/9/2014 vvb32 reads -that's me ;-)
4/10/2014 The Children's and Teens' Book Connection
4/11/2014 Teenreads Blog
4/12/2014 Caught Between the Pages
4/13/2014 The Bookish Daydreamer
4/14/2014 Forever Young Adult
4/15/2014 Kid Lit Frenzy
4/16/2014 Tales of a Ravenous Reader
4/17/2014 YA Book Shelf
4/18/2014 The Book Cellar
4/19/2014 Mother Daughter Book Club