Frequently Asked Questions

Where do you live?

I've lived in a lot of places—Colorado, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, New York City—but for the past four years my family has enjoyed the blue skies of San Diego. We don't get to the beach nearly as often as we'd like, but we have hummingbirds in our backyard year-round.

Do you have kids?

Six of them! Four girls and two boys. They are 15, 12, 10, 7, 4, and 2 years old. I spend a big chunk of my day writing down the hilarious things they say.

And you homeschool them? Seriously?

Yes, we like setting our own schedule. It's a very relaxed lifestyle and works really well for us. My husband Scott is a writer too, so we're all at home together. Except when we're out and about. I've written a lot about our "tidal homeschooling" adventures on my blog.

Your husband's a writer too? What kind of books?

His name is Scott Peterson and he writes children's books, comic books, even the occasional video game. (Someone has to write all that dialogue for the cut scenes, right?) He used to be a comic-book editor and we really missed having him at home. Especially me, because when he's freelancing he does most of the cooking.

Will there be any more books about Martha and Charlotte?

I'm afraid not. The publisher's plans changed—that happens sometimes!

Have you written any books besides your Little House ones?

Yup! I published several books (most of which are now out of print) under my married name, Melissa Peterson. The best-known of those is a picture book called Hanna's Christmas, published by HarperCollins and illustrated by the wonderful Melissa Iwai.


Here's a blog post I wrote about Hanna. The book is out-of-print now and people are charging crazy prices for it at Amazon Marketplace and eBay. I get a lot of letters asking if I have any copies for sale myself; sadly, the answer is no. I didn't even keep enough copies for my own kids! We have two left and my oldest daughter has claimed one for herself. She says the other kids can fight over the last copy.

I also wrote some fun middle-grade mysteries about Carmen Sandiego. They were called Hasta la Vista, Blarney and The Cocoa Commotion.

Do you have any new books coming out?

Indeed I do! Right now I have three books in the works:

• A beginning reader called Fox and Crow Are Not Friends, which will be published by Random House in Spring 2013.

• A middle-grade novel I'll be able to tell you more about soon. I'm pretty darn excited about it, I have to say! It will be published in Summer 2012, which is right around the corner in publishing time.

• A young adult novel I'm working on now for Knopf. This is a story very close to my heart; it has to do with my own family history, including the great-great-great-great-grandfather who gave me my pen name: Wiley Tyler.


Are you related to Laura Ingalls Wilder? How did you come to write books about her ancestors?

I am no relation to Laura, just a devoted lifelong fan. When the Laura Ingalls Wilder estate asked HarperCollins to commission a series of books about Laura's Scottish great-grandmother, the Little House editor (the gifted Alix Reid) knew I was passionate about Laura's books and offered me the job. I was completely over the moon; it was a dream assignment. About the time I turned in my first Martha manuscript, Alix asked if I'd be interested in writing books about Martha's daughter Charlotte too. Would I ever!

Here's a longer post about writing the Martha and Charlotte books. 

Are your Martha and Charlotte stories true? Is Loch Caraid a real place?


Martha Morse and Charlotte Tucker were real people. We don't know much about the real Martha; what little we do know is from a letter written by Laura's sister, Grace Ingalls Dow. Grace wrote that her great-grandmother, Martha Morse, was the daughter of a Scottish laird who married someone the family considered beneath her station. We know that Martha and Lew married in Boston on Jan. 1, 1799.

There's a bit more to go on regarding Charlotte's life. We know the birthdates and names of all Charlotte's brothers and sisters; we know that she grew up in Roxbury, Massachusetts, and worked as a seamstress when she was a young woman. When you read about the grown-up Charlotte's life in The Caroline Years books by Maria Wilkes and Celia Wilkinson, you are getting a very accurate picture of the events of Charlotte Tucker Quiner Holbrook's adult life. In my books about Charlotte's childhood, I had more gaps to fill in. I used newspapers and diaries from Charlotte's time, along with a lot of other primary and secondary sources, to help me paint a picture of what life might really have been like for Charlotte Tucker as a small girl growing up during the War of 1812 and the years following. Many of the events I describe actually happened in Roxbury at the time: the hurricane, the Cattle Show, the church vandalism, and lots more.

For Martha's childhood I had to do even more imagining! That's why these books are historical fiction, not biography. We didn't know much about her family except that bit about her father being a laird. I had a wonderful researcher in Edinburgh who helped me look up the details big and small that would bring Martha's story to life. I worked hard to present an accurate picture of what life in that time, place, and situation might have been like for her.

Loch Caraid and Glencaraid are fictional places. I could show you on a map exactly where I imagine them to be! Look for the town of Crieff: that's a real village I mention several times in Martha's stories.

Who are your favorite authors?


I hope you're comfortable; this could take a while. Fred Chappell, L.M. Montgomery, Maud Hart Lovelace, Laura Ingalls Wilder. Jane Austen, Roald Dahl, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien. Madeleine L'Engle, Connie Willis, Elizabeth Goudge. Rumer Godden. Charles Dickens. Seamus Heaney. Shakespeare. William Butler Yeats. E. B. White. Nick Hornby's essays on his reading life. Charlotte Mason, John Holt, Sandra Dodd. Alan Moore. Elizabeth Marie Pope. Carol Kendall. Elizabeth George Speare. Sid Fleischman. You see what I mean? I could go on for hours.

I share my ongoing reading list at GoodReads and on my blog. Oh, and also on Diigo. You can read a lot more about the books I love in the links at the bottom of this page.

Whatever happened to Nan in Lark Rise to Candleford?

OK, I know this has nothing to do with my books. But you'd be amazed how many people land on my blog after Googling that question! Probably because I once wrote a post called "What Happened to Nan?" As you'll see if you follow that link, I don't have an answer for the question beyond a little unsubstantiated speculating


Got more questions? Ask 'em below!

10 comments:

  1. I love maps! Can you show or describe where, with such realistically vivid prose, you imagined Loch Caraid and Glencaraid to be? Thank you!

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  2. I love this and like the looks of the page, too. Hope to talk soon :)

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  3. I have a question! When a home-schooled child has finished reading a novel, do you think she needs to do some kind of book review or comprehension exercise? Why or why not?

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your blog.

    Selena
    Adelaide, Australia

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  4. Melissa,
    Do you have a degree in English? Also, how much research do you do prior to writing historical fiction? At what point did you contact an agent?

    Sincerely,
    Karenne

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  5. Ellyn, yes, I have a BA in English (with a drama minor) and an MFA in creative writing. I published over a dozen books before I sought an agent, including all my Little House books. I MUCH prefer working with an agent (mine is wonderful) and letting her handle all the prickly negotiation business.

    As for research, I spend months studying and digging before commencing the writing of a historical fiction novel. And of course the research continues all through the writing process--sometimes I don't know what I NEED to know until I've written myself in a corner!

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  6. Selena, I shy away from formal book reviews as a rule--I wouldn't want to saddle pleasure reading with a sense of obligation or homework. I do encourage *discussions* about books the kids have read--I ask questions, try to get them talking (without it feeling like an assignment)--just conversational questions, and if they get a kid talking about the book, great--but no worries if not.

    I do have a Charlotte Mason streak in me that recognizes the value of narration, and I encourage this by giving the kids short passages to read and asking them later to "tell me everything you can remember about" the topic. It becomes almost a game, a challenge, like finding all the objects in a hidden picture. How many details can you remember?

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  7. Hi Melissa,
    I am a big fan of your blog, and revel in following the antics of your brood.

    In a totally unrelated topic, how did you get started in publishing? I remember one of your blog posts mentioned that you had to do a lot of research before the Laura Ingalls Wilder Foundation allowed you to write under the Little House theme: did you publish books before the Martha and Charlotte books?

    Thank you!

    Sincerely,
    ~ZT

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  8. Have you ever read "The Rose Years" series?

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  9. Hello Melissa!,

    Clearly I'm a little late here (considering the last comment was in 2012), but I never knew you had a blog until now! I loved your Martha and Charlotte books when I was younger, and I am in the process of completing my collection. I had a few questions about the Martha series. Were Martha's brothers and sister real people, or just fictional characters? Also, (if Martha's brothers and sister were real) did any of them move to America like Martha did, or did they all stay in Scotland (I already know that Duncan came to America thanks to the Charlotte books). Finally, (although I know the answer is most likely a no) do you think there is any possible way that you could ever get the rights to your books, and be able to publish them again or even write more? If you know of any good places to find the unabridged copies of your books please let me know! Thank you so much!

    Sincerely,
    Karlie

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