I’m super excited to shine the spotlight on talented friend and author Jeannine Atkins. I’ve long been a fan of her work. When she read me the opening to a new work-in-progress, a few years ago, it stayed with me – I wanted to read the rest! I’m so happy that I was recently able to do that, and now you can read it, too! Her newest novel is for adults, but could definitely be enjoyed by young adults, as well. Stayed tuned below for a chance to win:
Little Woman in Blue by Jeannine Atkins (She Writes Press/2015)
A touching, heartwarming, and amazing story about the other Alcott sister – May Alcott, portrayed as the selfish Amy in Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel LITTLE WOMEN. What Atkins paints here is a vivid and layered portrait of younger sister May, who was an artist, a dreamer, independent, and loyal. From her days living with her family, to her adventures abroad, to her struggles to become a respected artist in her own right, May’s life unfurls on the pages of this novel. While I was a fan of LITTLE WOMEN as a young girl, I admit to not knowing much about the author or her family. I couldn’t stop turning pages as I wondered if May would find success as an artist, find love, or see her family again. Although this is a work of fiction, the author has undoubtedly done a great deal of research to make the May’s life story feel so real and true.
Spotlight on Jeannine Atkins:
Why May Alcott? And can you tell us a little about the research you did? How long did it take you to write this story from idea to finished draft?
When writing about women from the past, one fascinating person often leads to another. Working on Becoming Little Women: Louisa May at Fruitlands, a novel about the Alcott’s time at a utopian community, I read a lot about the whole family. I was fascinated to learn that the youngest sister who was depicted in Little Women as a spoiled, not-very-talented artist in fact took painting very seriously, and didn’t give up her work for romance. She wanted both.
I read May Alcott’s journals and letters, as well as those of her family and neighbors. I looked at her paintings and studied other artists of that period. I worked off and on for about fifteen years. That’s obviously a long story, so let’s just say there were many drafts, two agents who gathered some interested letters but no commitments, and consistent support from my husband and writing group and friends in between. So thankful for that!
May Alcott was an aspiring artist – you captured the nuances of her determination, her worries and insecurities, and her creative spirit so realistically. How did you manage to channel her so vividly?
There’s a fine line between channeling and letting in your own feelings when writing historical fiction. Or maybe no line. Much of May’s life is very different from mine, but I found details about her family and work that let me dream my way in. And most creative people who’ve fought to be taken seriously can relate to both doubts and persistence. Those common feelings made a meeting point between us, while I stayed true to past events.
When did you read LITTLE WOMEN and do you have any special memories associated with the book? Who was your favorite character and why?
I played LITTLE WOMEN with my sister and two friends before I read the book. I knew the basic roles from seeing parts of the movie on television. I liked Katharine Hepburn as Jo, but so did my older sister, who claimed her, as older sisters do. I didn’t entirely mind. The youngest sister, Amy, had better clothes and seemed to have more fun.
As I grew up into a writer, I often thought of Jo March/Louisa May Alcott as a model, but her real younger sister reminded me that dedicating yourself to creative work doesn’t have to be lonely. Everyone trips into creative holes or slams into walls sometimes, but here was a woman who always seemed to remember the joy. She’s kept me good company through all the years of writing!
Jeannine Atkins is the author of Borrowed Names: Poems about Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C. J. Walker, Marie Curie and Their Daughters and Views from a Window Seat: Thoughts on Writing and Life. She teaches as an adjunct at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Simmons College. You can learn more on her website at http://www.Jeannineatkins.com.
For a chance to win a copy of this book, for yourself, a friend or child, or a library/school, just follow the directions below.
1. Comment on this post by Saturday September 19th by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random. Because of upcoming travel, I will announce the winner here on Tuesday, September 29th.
2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.
Look what I found! My copy of LITTLE WOMEN given to me by an aunt and uncle back in 1979! I may have to re-read it.
Good luck and happy reading!