Thursday, October 8, 2015

Meet My Guest, Author Jeannine Atkins, Author of LITTLE WOMAN IN BLUE, a Novel About May Alcott

Concord, Massachusetts is one of my favorite places in the world. It's only 40 minutes from my home, so I get there every chance I get. I enjoy visiting all the historic sites over and over, and one such place is Orchard House, home of the Alcotts. I've been a huge Alcott fan ever since reading the classic LITTLE WOMEN in 4th grade. So when I saw a review of Jeannine's LITTLE WOMAN IN BLUE, I knew I had to read her book and meet her! I've ordered LITTLE WOMAN IN BLUE on Amazon and can't wait to read it. 

Meet Jeannine and read about LITTLE WOMAN IN BLUE.

Jeannine writes books about history for children and teens, including Aani and the Tree Huggers and Borrowed Names: Poems about Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C. J. Walker, Marie Curie and Their Daughters. Her most recent books are Views from a Window Seat: Thoughts on Writing and Life and Little Woman in Blue: A Novel of May Alcott.  


Note: Jeannine will be appearing at Barrow Books, 79 Main Street, Concord MA on Saturday October 17 at 4:30. Stop in and say hi if you're in the area.

Tell us about your latest release Little Woman in Blue: A Novel of May Alcott (She Writes Press) 
May Alcott spends her days sewing blue shirts for Union soldiers, but she dreams of painting a masterpiece—which many say is impossible for a woman—and of finding love, too. When she reads her sister’s wildly popular novel, Little Women, she is stung by Louisa’s portrayal of her as “Amy,” the youngest of four sisters who trades her desire to succeed as an artist for the joys of hearth and home. Determined to prove her talent, May makes plans to move far from Massachusetts and make a life for herself with room for both watercolors and a wedding dress. Can she succeed? And if she does, what price will she have to pay? 

Based on May Alcott’s letters and diaries, as well as memoirs written by her neighbors, Little Woman in Blue puts May at the center of the story she might have told about sisterhood and rivalry in an extraordinary family. 

Tell us about yourself.
As a girl, I liked to dress up as if I were Laura Ingalls in a little house in the woods or the prairie or imagine I was Jo March, writing in a garret. But when I played Little Women with my older sister, she wanted to be Jo. I became Amy, the sillier sister. Even back then, I wondered how much the youngest girl in the book was only her sister’s idea of who she was. Years later, I researched the real Alcott family and became enchanted with the real sister, May Alcott, who followed her dream of pursuing art and romance, too. While Louisa Alcott was independent and forward thinking, in the way May dreamed of “having it all,” she was more modern.

What kind of books do you love to read? Why?  

Growing up in an old house in New England, I felt at home in the past. I still like reading about nineteenth century girls and women – there’s some distance, with interesting clothes and vocabulary, but so much that’s familiar, too. I generally like to read fiction based on real women, such as Erika Robuck’s THE HOUSE OF HAWTHORNE, about the marriage of Sophia and Nathaniel, or Heather Webb’s RODIN’S LOVER, about the talented if tragic sculptor, Camille Claudel. 

When did you write your first book? How long did it take you to write it?  

The first book I wrote wasn’t the first book I published. I wrote stories in college, but having a child brought me back to the books I loved as a girl. I wrote BECOMING LITTLE WOMAN: LOUISA MAY AT FRUITLANDS, for young readers, based on the year that Louisa May Alcott was ten and lived on a utopian farm. It took about two years to research and write, then another four to find a publisher. 

How did you feel when you receive your first contract? What did you do? 

I’ll never forget getting a call from an editor when my daughter was four, and she and her friends were running around the house while I tried to speak calmly on the phone! After I hung up the phone, we all danced around.  

What is your advice to aspiring writers? 

It’s important to keep going, and to enjoy the process without stressing too much about publishing. For lots of us, that takes a while. None of us can know when we’ll find a publisher, or perhaps become one ourselves. My writing group has been crucial to me not only for their good advice about what works on the page, but we keep each other going, with our faith in each other. It’s good to have company who understand, who listen to frustrations and sometimes celebrate together! 

What else have you written? 

I’ve written books for children and teens, mostly about girls from the past, including GIRLS WHO LOOKED UNDER ROCKS; THE LIVES OF SIX NATURALISTS and MARY ANNING AND THE SEA DRAGON.  

What books are on your nightstand or by your chair? 

I’m engrossed in the latest Laura Lippman mystery. Every character in The Most Dangerous Thing is intriguing and seems so real. I’m inspired by reading poetry, and like the glimpses of history that Eavan Boland gives in her newest collection A WOMAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY.  

How would readers find out more about you? 

Please visit my website: or find me on Twitter: @jeannineatkins







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