Today I am thrilled to welcome author Sue MacLeod on her blog tour to talk about her debut YA novel, Namesake. Namesake (Pajama Press) tells the story of a teenage girl named Jane Grey, who is connected through time and space to the Nine Days Queen, Lady Jane Grey. Through a book of prayer that used to belong to the young queen, present-day Jane travels back to Tudor England to find that maybe, just maybe, this unexpected friendship can save them both.
Read on for Sue’s guest post describing the joys and challenges of writing a novel that brings two stories—one contemporary and one historical—together.
From Sue MacLeod:
I loved the process of weaving the two stories together. That was my favourite part of writing Namesake. I enjoyed finding echoes—the gifts of clothing that both Janes rejected, the notebook to be delivered in one world and the letter in the other world, and so on. On a deeper level, the fact that both girls were being victimized by a parent (two parents in Lady Jane’s case) was a big part of the link between them. Because their stories echoed each other in that major way, it was easy for the two Janes to connect emotionally. It helped the contemporary Jane see past the fact that Lady Jane was very different from her—and a bit unusual, to say the least, by today’s social standards. (It helped me, as the writer, overcome that fact too!)
There were actually two aspects to bringing the stories together: to have them echo each other, and to have one story actually make an impact on the other. If the second one sounds trickier, it is. But I was lucky that the biggest impact—the climax of the book—came to me quite early on in the writing. That was when “the two worlds collided,” as one reviewer put it (and I really like that way of saying it). Lucky for me, that was already there in the first, very rough, draft. So, it was one of the joys.
As for the challenges: The first one was having contemporary Jane move between the two worlds in a way that wouldn’t seem clunky. Also, her problems—though very serious—weren’t literally life-and-death like Lady Jane’s. So I needed to give them real weight, but still be sensitive to that difference. And when something really good starts happening for today’s Jane (I won’t say what), I wanted her to enjoy that—and for readers to, too—but to still be ready and willing to slip back into Lady Jane’s increasingly tragic story. And the stories had to move along at a similar pace. And they had to be woven tightly enough together that when that “collision” came, it would seem natural—maybe even inevitable.
Thanks again, Danielle, for giving me a chance to talk about this and tell a bit about my writing process.
Sue MacLeod is an author and editor who lives in Toronto, ON. Previously she lived in Halifax, NS, where she worked in the public library and was the city’s first Poet Laureate. Namesake is her first novel for young adults.
You can find Sue online at suemacleod.com
Be sure to check out the rest of the Namesake blog tour stops by visiting the Pajama Press website.
Also, you can find my review of Namesake here.