Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Author Kelly O'Connor McNees On Louisa May Alcott

Please join me in welcoming author Kelly O’Connor McNees as the special guest blogger here today on her virtual book tour.

Kelly’s book, THE LOST SUMMER OF LOUISA MAY ALCOTT, was released yesterday by Berkley Trade Paperback. Here’s a brief synopsis: Deftly mixing fact and fiction, Kelly O'Connor McNees imagines a love affair that would threaten Louisa's writing career-and inspire the story of Jo and Laurie in Little Women. Stuck in small-town New Hampshire in 1855, Louisa finds herself torn between a love that takes her by surprise and her dream of independence as a writer in Boston. The choice she must make comes with a steep price that she will pay for the rest of her life.

An added bonus - Kelly will have a book signing and discussion in Georgia this week. She will be at the Foxtale Book Shoppe on Saturday, May 7, at 3 p.m. The store is located at 105 E. Main Street, #138 in Woodstock. Be sure to stop by and see her if you can.

Kelly stopped by today to talk about ‘stumbling on a story.’

THE LOST SUMMER OF LOUISA MAY ALCOTT grew from a question: Where did Little Women’s Teddy “Laurie” Laurence come from?

I have always loved Louisa May Alcott’s most famous novel, about the four March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, and their coming of age during the Civil War. I reread the novel many times over the years, seeing it from new perspectives as my own life changed. But I never knew much about Louisa herself until one day, on a whim, I picked up a biography of this iconic writer.

What I read sent me on a long and fascinating path. Louisa, it
turned out, had written hundreds of stories and several novels, many of them under a pseudonym. She hadn’t really wanted to write the mild and moral Little Women. She loved sensational thrillers—what she called “blood and thunder tales”—but these weren’t the sorts of books nice young ladies were supposed to write. No one was more surprised by Little Women’s success than Louisa. She had thought it was boring. But it made her very famous.

She became so famous, in fact, that she knew biographers and reporters would dig through her papers when she died. And so she decided to burn portions of her letters and journals to keep her secrets safe from the public eye.

What did those letters and journals contain? This is the question that sparked my novel. I began to read everything I could about Louisa’s life: biographies of her and her philosopher father, books about New England and the Transcendentalists, the letters and journals that remain, which were collected by a family friend after Louisa’s death. I speculated—the very enjoyable job of the historical novelist—about what kind of story I could tell about the missing information, and whether it might have any connection to the origin of Little Women’s Laurie.

The result of my journey through Louisa’s secret past is THE LOST SUMMER OF LOUISA MAY ALCOTT. I hope you will check it out!

Kelly, thanks for guest blogging. What an intriguing thought. I’ve always liked Little Women but never thought very much about it’s author. You’ve grabbed my attention.

Now for a bit of background on Kelly. She is a former editorial assistant and English teacher. Born and raised in Michigan, she has lived in New York, Rhode Island, and Ontario and now resides with her husband in Chicago. THE LOST SUMMER OF LOUISA MAY ALCOTT is her first novel. For more on Kelly and her writing, check out her website

What are your thoughts on Louisa’s past? Did you know you enjoyed writing ‘blood and thunder’ tales more?


  1. Kelly, thanks again for guest blogging. I think your story line is so interesting and gives a different outlook on Louisa May Alcott. Wishing you much success with your writing.

  2. So funny...I actually recommended this book to a friend of mine yesterday (we were putting TBR lists together and this is one on mine). Looks like a great read and it's getting good buzz, too. Looking forward to it!

  3. Mason - Thanks for hosting Kelly.

    Kelly - I really like the way that one question - what did those letters, etc., contain? - inspired your book. Fascinating!! Thanks for sharing your "spark of creativity" and I wish you much success.

  4. What an absolutely intriguing story. Both Louisa's and Kelly's. I look forward to reading this book.

    Thanks, Mason, for another great interview.

    Kelly, much continued success to you.

  5. This is such a great book. I read and reviewed it last year and totally enjoyed it. I love the new cover in the paperback and I'm so glad that more people are picking it up. It a good one!

    Looking forward to seeing what Kelly has in store for us next.

  6. This is one I just may have to get, since Little Women is one of my favorite books. I don't know much about Louisa so this would be very interesting. Thanks Mason and Kelly. Great interview.

  7. Wow, this sounds like a book I need to add to my TBR book list. I liked reading Little Women. Now I'm curious to learn more about Louisa May Alcott.

  8. I didn't know for sure that Louisa wrote the darker stories but I'm not surprised since "Jo" did write darker stories. I think it's a shame she destroyed so many letters and journals - good or bad, dark or light, we shouldn't be ashamed of what makes or drives us...this sounds like a really good book!

  9. Good thing she didn't burn everything!
    And Mason, hope you're doing all right.

  10. it'd be interesting reading a novel about a novelist!

  11. Mason, if you stop by my blog tomorrow, there is a little something for you, hopefully to cheer you up.

  12. omg, this sounds like a fantastic book! I LOVE Little Women, although I've always been ticked that Jo didn't end up w/Laurie and Amy got him... grrr... :D LOL!

    This sounds like a good one--straight to the TBR pile~

    Thanks, guys! <3

  13. Interesting story. I didn't know that other books/stories were written by Louisa May Alcott. It's interesting to read about authors both past and present and how their writing came to be.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.