The European adventure is over! I’m going home. New house, new community, and a new book release. Are you ready for a ghost story? I’ll be back in Colorado next week and life starts again!
Interview with Madeleine McLaughlin
I recently finished Madeleine McLaughlin’s middle-grade adventure novel called Beggar
Charlie. Set in China when the opium trade flourished, it follows the journey of young
Charlie when he and a companion are stranded alone after a rebellion. Told from
Charlie’s point of view, we experience the horror and fear of trying to survive and get
back home. Madeleine McLaughlin also writes for adults, but today she joins me to talk
about writing for the younger set.
I’m always interested in how a story comes to an author. Was it this period in history, or the character of Charlie that first came to mind?
Well, I’m very interested in the 19th century. I’ve read a lot about that age in China plus Victorian England. There was a lot of interesting stuff going on back then. In China, the opium wars, the opening of China to foreigners and of course Cixi, the Empress. So, wanting to write a boy’s adventure story (girls like it, too) I decided on that era. Then I had to think of my main character. Well, what’s more Victorian than the character of the orphan? Nothing! Voila, Beggar Charlie was born.
Every part of your novel feels authentic. What kind of research was necessary to get the details right so that the reader felt this?
Like stated above, I have been reading history books about this era for many years. History is fascinating. But I also looked for diagrams on the internet about the shape of cities in China at that time. You can always find something on the internet. Also, Victorian England is a favorite study of mine mostly because it’s where a lot of today’s sciences began. Botany, Geology, Paleontology were all begun in England in the Victorian era. And the study of London is so interesting and of course, a bit sad because of all the poor and disadvantaged people who had no way out. But really, anyone or anything you can learn from is good.
Did you read adventure tales when you were growing up? Did any of them resurface as you worked on Beggar Charlie?
Never. I read mysteries and horse stories. Nancy Drew and Donna Parker. I was a big fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie which is kind of adventurous but it’s a real history. No Kipling or anything even remotely adventure.
How did writing a middle-grade novel affect the way you handled writing about drugs and violence?
Well, I tend to believe that the young kids nowadays are exposed to drugs and violence very early. There are all sorts of violent cartoons to wean them on and tv shows tend to be nothing but guns, guns, guns. The term glorifying violence comes to mind. And then in the hip-hop music scene you have all sorts of overdoses and pill popping. So, although it may be fair to criticize any writer for putting it in (and I have been) I tried to ‘tell it like it is’. That is, opium destroyed China and violence was the result. The Boxer Rebellion comes to mind. That’s my idea here, to tell the truth through fiction.
Do you tend to use outlines for your writing projects or do they grow more organically?
I didn’t use an outline for Beggar Charlie. I just wrote until I ran out of steam and then I thought about what I would write the next day before I went to sleep.
What aspect of writing brings you the most joy and what do you find most challenging?
Just the rush of writing it down is good. I mean, your story is usually not great then but the rush of ideas and the writing them down feel good. It feels uplifting. The challenge is to get everything straight all your seasons exactly right (instead of starting a scene in winter and ending in summer) and all the rewriting cohesive.
What are you currently working on?
Another middle-grade book entitled, The Last Words of Edward Broome. I’ve almost finished the first draft.
For more information on Madeleine McLaughlin’s book, check out the following links:
Amazon link: goo.gl/cp9NTS
MuseItUp link: goo.gl/QrvMBB
Coming from Colorado to live in the Low Countries, I was immediately drawn into the wealth of colors the early breaking spring delivered here. People took great care with small spaces planting gorgeous flowers that have bloomed from early March right through. Right now, showy hydrangeas in white, blues, and pinks overflow my neighbors yards. I have enjoyed all the sights, textures, and scents as I walk the streets. It also got me thinking about books centered around a garden. Below are a few I think may be worth checking out.
The Girl from the Tea Garden- Janet MacLeod Trotter
“In the dying days of the Raj, Anglo-Indian schoolgirl Adela Robson dreams of a glamorous career on the stage. When she sneaks away from school in the back of handsome Sam Jackman’s car, she knows a new life awaits—but it is not the one she imagined.
In Simla, the summer seat of the Raj government, Adela throws herself into all the dazzling entertainments 1930s Indian society can offer a beautiful debutante. But just as her ambitions seem on the cusp of becoming reality, she meets a charming but spoilt prince, setting in motion a devastating chain of events.
The outbreak of the Second World War finds Adela back in England—a country she cannot remember—without hope or love, and hiding a shameful secret. Only exceptional courage and endurance can pull her through these dark times and carry her back to the homeland of her heart.”
The Princess’s Garden: Royal Intrigue & the Untold Story of Kew- Vanessa Berridge
“The British enthusiasm for gardening has fascinating roots. The Empire and trade across the globe created an obsession with exotic new plants, and showed the power and reach of Britain in the early eighteenth century. At that time, national influence wasn’t measured by sporting success, musical or artistic influence. Instead it was expressed in the design of parks and gardens such as Kew and Stowe, and the style of these grand gardens was emulated first throughout Britain and then increasingly around the world.”
The Secret Garden- Frances Hodgson Burnett
“Mistress Mary is quite contrary until she helps her garden grow. Along the way, she manages to cure her sickly cousin Colin, who is every bit as imperious as she. These two are sullen little peas in a pod, closed up in a gloomy old manor on the Yorkshire moors of England, until a locked-up garden captures their imaginations and puts the blush of a wild rose in their cheeks; “It was the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place any one could imagine. The high walls which shut it in were covered with the leafless stems of roses which were so thick, that they matted together…. ‘No wonder it is still,’ Mary whispered. ‘I am the first person who has spoken here for ten years.'” As new life sprouts from the earth, Mary and Colin’s sour natures begin to sweeten. For anyone who has ever felt afraid to live and love, The Secret Garden‘s portrayal of reawakening spirits will thrill and rejuvenate. Frances Hodgson Burnett creates characters so strong and distinct, young readers continue to identify with them even 85 years after they were conceived.”
The gloom of the dark, rainy days of spring in Brussels was partially broken by a visit to the Royal Greenhouses. Every year for three weeks, the public has a chance to stroll the grounds and greenhouses built by King Leopold II. Below are a few pictures.
This is the only time I will be doing this promotion. Get your FREE Kindle copy from Amazon (now through Dec. 10th). Snuggle up by the fire and join Blake as he treks in the Himalayas. Happy holidays to everyone! (We have a house in Brussels and we’re moving in Jan. I’ll join you from Belgium in the new year.)
GRAB YOUR FREE COPY HERE: https://goo.gl/O6Bvxq
Just in time for the holidays.
Order through Amazon: goo.gl/EKcVDB
What’s it about? Jurassic Park meets Micro 😉
A hundred years in the future, twelve-year-old Nigella receives a shipment from her deceased grandfather. Her inheritance is a herd of micro-elephants. While a lot of her friends have micro-pets, Nigella is at a loss on how to care for them. Why are her micro-pets so different from everyone else’s? What was her grandfather up to? With the help of her best friend, Kepler, the girls set off on an adventure to discover the truth.
Also available as an ebook.
With Jupiter Gardens closing its doors, I’ve decided to re-release INTO THE LAND OF SNOWS. I’ve had an amazing time working with Anna Spies of EerilyFair (https://www.facebook.com/eerilyfairdesign/). She is a talented and imaginative cover designer and here’s a peek at the new cover design. Freakin’ awesome job!
I was the kind of kid who read stories about kids doing things. Going places, discovering things, solving mysteries. Of course, there had to be obstacles. Maybe a bad guy, difficult situations to overcome, parents to get rid of (not in the kill’em off sense) but more in the way of finding freedom and doing what you want. In some ways, it was a huge fantasy! I grew up with four brothers and two sisters and doing anything without someone knowing was close to impossible. BUT, some of them could be bought off. Silly fantasy, really. I was the biggest tattle tale there was! Always being “on the straight and narrow” prevented lots of escapes and adventures except for in books and in my mind.
A headline from this week’s news (try finding one that’s not about the insane election, right about now), has challenged my sense of adventure. What if a 15 year old boy discovers a lost Mayan city no one else knew was there? He’s a smart kid, maybe even gifted, and he gets this ludicrous idea that by studying star maps he can decode the placement of an entire civilization? He sets out to prove this, but silly adult organizations like NASA and the Canadian Space Agency won’t loan him their satellite photos. Said kid takes to the road, abandoning his sane life, and becoming a young version of Indiana Jones- except his temples turn out to be real. Anyway, once the book’s out, Steven Spielberg will be making it into a movie.
For more about the real kid, named William Gadoury, click the link. The space agencies did support him and it looks like he’s made quite a find!
The winners are: m15alien and Susan Bernhardt. I’ll contact you with the e-files. Thanks to everyone who entered.
It’s contest time! Leave a comment below and be entered to win a copy of the electronic version of Elephants Never Forgotten. Contest closes at noon (EST) on Wednesday. Two books will be awarded on Thursday, October 8th. As a theme, tell me something about elephants. I’ll start us off with how the idea for the book came into being.