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Friday, October 5, 2012

Interview with Kelly O’Connor McNees

Good morning everyone – please join me in welcoming author, Kelly O’Connor McNees to The Maiden’s Court!  Kelly’s new book, In Need of a Good Wife, released October 2nd and you may have read her previous novel, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott.  Thanks for dropping by Kelly.


How has the process for In Need of a Good Wife been different than The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott?

The Lost Summer was, of course, about a real woman, and writing about a historical figure comes with certain constraints. This time around I had the freedom to create these characters from scratch. In some ways that is easier, but it required making many more decisions. This novel felt different too because I have learned a thing or two about how to approach a first draft and the revision. On the other hand, in some ways each novel feels like starting from nothing. You have to relearn everything.

For The Lost Summer you had Little Women and Alcott’s journals to base your writing on.  Did you have anything similar for In Need of a Good Wife?

Yes, I did turn to journals of women homesteaders to understand what day-to-day life was like in these places. I also read accounts of mail-order brides who found their grooms in various ways: through matchmakers, through matrimonial newspapers, and simply through informal arrangements by friends and family. Just like last time, being able to read these women’s own words about their experiences was key for me in imagining the voices of many characters.

In Need of a Good Wife involves the concept of mail order brides in the United States, how did you discover this idea?  Was it something you had wanted to write about for a while or was this a new idea?

I have been thinking about this as an idea for a novel for a long time, probably since I read Sarah Plain and Tall as a kid. Then of course there’s Little House on the Prairie and Willa Cather’s O Pioneers!, which fueled my imagination of the setting. I learned more specifically about these arranged marriages from a nonfiction book called Hearts West: True Stories of Mail-Order Brides on the Frontier, and I was off and running.

I have loved both of the covers of your books – beautiful colors and dresses – were you able to contribute to them at all?

The very talented people in the art department at Penguin deserve all the credit!

Do you have any plans in the works for a next book?  Is there anything you can share with us?

The book I am working on now is another historical novel, about a woman who flees a violent marriage in Buffalo, NY, and travels by ship to an island in northern Michigan.

kelly oconnor mcnees

Photo Credit

Kelly O’Connor McNees is the author of two novels, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott and In Need of a Good Wife. Born and raised in Michigan, Kelly found that books made good friends. Mary Lennox, Winnie Foster, Katherine Tyler, Will Stanton, and a dozen other characters were as real to her as any of the kids on her block, and she decided that the best way to keep them around and provide them with some company was to become a writer herself. Kelly received her first rejection letter in tenth grade, from the fiction editor at Seventeen, and has been writing her way back ever since. In the meantime, she has worked as a teacher and editor, and lives with her husband and daughter in Chicago.

You can follow the rest of Kelly’s Online Tour:

Oct 2: Style Substance Soul
Oct 3: Great Thoughts
Oct 4: nomadreader
Oct 5: Erika Robuck
Oct 8: To Read or Not To Read
Oct 10: Literate Housewife
Oct 11: Luxury Reading
Oct 12: Reading the Past
Oct 25: Women Fiction Writers
Oct 29: Wonders and Marvels

You can also visit Kelly at:



Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

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