I hope you are enjoying learning more about Prisoners in the Palace! Today on the blog is an interview with the author, Michaela MacColl. If you haven’t already, don’t forget to click on the giveaway link at the end of this post.
You have a background in history. Was being an author something you always dreamed of?
I fell into history accidentally through literature. I was reading a fabulous edition of Russian fairy tales when I needed to declare a major. I ended up designing an independent program that looked at the end of the Russian Empire and the beginning of the Soviet one from many different disciplines. To the extent that I thought about the future, I saw myself as a professor. However, two years of graduate school killed that dream! I found that to get a PhD, you had to take all the fun out of the history. Happily, I found a way to put it back in!
One of the surprises I found in your author’s note was the existence of Inside Boy Jones (although portrayed differently in your book). What fascinates you the most about Inside Boy?
The 1830’s in pre-industrial England were a grim time for the poor. The very limited social safety net, poor houses, had been dismantled by a thrifty government. Instead, they put the burden on the local parishes. If you were born in Surrey, it was Surrey’s job to take care of you if you were indigent. (Sound familiar?) Of course the parishes weren’t equipped to do this and a lot of people ended up desperate.
Inside Boy is a quintessential London Cockney, who lives by his wits, both in real life and in Prisoners in the Palace. He’s found an ingenious way to let the monarchy pick up his bed and board. I found the idea of a clever character who was intimately familiar with both the streets of London and the drawing rooms of the Royal family fascinating. He has a unique perspective and specialized skills that my heroine, Liza, is quick to make use of.
If you could go back in time, where would you go?
It’s a tough question, because I like my creature comforts! However, if I had to choose, I would probably pick Elizabethan England. To see Shakespeare performed as it originally was or to see the Spanish Armada sink – that would be a blast! And if I could fast forward, I think I would love to visit Prince Albert’ s Great Exhibition of 1851 and the Crystal Palace.
My BFF and I plan to one day tour the castles in Europe. Have you ever been so lucky to visit?
I lived in France for almost four years with my husband, first in the south of France and then in Paris. We had just gotten married and we didn’t have kids yet. We traveled every weekend – Portugal, Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany – we went everywhere and toured as many castles as I could bully my husband into visiting. My favorite isn’t a castle, it’s the Abbey at Mont St. Michel in Normandy – put it on your list! Twice a day, the sea sweeps in and cuts it off from the mainland. Very romantic and spooky!
For Prisoners in the Palace I went to London to visit Kensington Palace and Windsor Castle. It was so important to the final book’s credibility. Of course, I had to rewrite huge chunks that I had already written to reflect what I saw.
Are you working on anything new?
I’m putting the finishing touches to my next novel, tentatively titled “ Beryl Above Africa” (I’ m almost certain that this will not be the title!). It’s about Beryl Markham, who was one of the premier female aviators of the 1830’s. She grew up in Colonial Africa when it was just being settled. Beryl was raised by the African tribe who worked for her father and she learned to hunt lion and was mauled once. She grew up to be the first to fly the Atlantic from East to West. Although she crashed, she survived to write a wonderful memoir called West Into the Night.
Thanks so much for stopping by Michaela! Don’t forget you have a chance to win a copy of Prisoners in the Palace or one of 5 bookmarks Click here to enter!