Thursday, November 28, 2013

From New Zealand to American Civil War with Guest Author Anne McGee

Happy Thanksgiving! Today we continue the November theme of time and place with Anne McGee's journey from New Zealand to novels about Civil War era Georgia, including an excerpt from Anni's Attic. Leave a comment - you might win a copy of Annie's Attic or The Mystery at Marlatt Manor. ~ Sheila

From New Zealand to American Civil War

by Anne McGee

My journey to another time and place came about in a most unexpected way. A number of years ago my best friend, Jean, and I were discussing the songs made popular during the Civil War, and how haunting and nostalgic we found them. My familiarity and longing for those musical pieces seemed especially odd as I was born and raised in New Zealand and had limited knowledge of American history. And yet, over the ensuing weeks as my friend and I continued discussing the Civil War, we began to remember and describe the same antebellum house, the same wide river that ran alongside it and the same secret attic, the contents of which we were able to describe down to the smallest detail. 

I was not clear at first why it seemed so important to keep a record of our conversations, but thankfully, I did. When I became a children’s author some years later, I decided to write the story we remembered––that of being two young cousins who lived in the 1860s on a cotton plantation near the Savannah River. In writing my YA historical novel, Anni’s Attic, I did extensive research––even flying to Georgia to attend plantation tours, visit old graveyards, and wander through historically preserved homes. I also attended Civil War reenactments and joined a Civil War Roundtable group so I could be sure that the life we recalled was historically correct in every detail. 

To my surprise, since the release of Anni’s Attic I have been besieged with requests to write a sequel to it. Although I hadn’t planned on it, I am now returning to that place and time in the 1860s to write the manuscript for Return to Savannah.

Excerpt from Anni's Attic

It is difficult to describe the depth of my despondency that late afternoon of October 1861 as the open-air carriage carried Poppa and me through the wrought-iron gates of White Magnolias and up the gravel drive toward the main house. The late setting sun had slipped toward the horizon leaving the Savannah River to glisten cold and gray in the distance and I could not have felt more empty inside had all life already passed from me.

It had been a long four-day journey from Grandm√®re and Grandp√®re’s mansion in New Orleans and the entire way I had prayed that Poppa would change his mind at the last moment and take me back home. He didn’t seem to understand I had no desire to live on a backward cotton plantation in Georgia, especially with an ill-mannered cousin who could not even speak French like a proper lady. But Poppa did not change his mind and now here we were, riding past the shadowed magnolia trees and wintered lawn toward my fate.

Anne Loader McGee is a Graduate of the Institute of Children's Literature and a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). She has studied writing at the American Film Institute and the University of California and Los Angeles (UCLA).

Anne has published articles for both children and adults and her stories have appeared in The Kids’ Reading Room of the Los Angeles Times. She is also the co-author of the Sing Out Loud series of singing books for children.

Her first novel, The Mystery at Marlatt Manor, became a finalist in the 2009 Bloom Awards and her latest publication, Anni’s Attic, won the Young People’s Division of the International Peace Award. 


 Skip Black Friday - Shop from Home & Support
Animals & Independent Business! 

Dogs, cats, birds, murder - and money for animals! From now through Dec. 20. my local Indie bookstore will donate 10% of sales of autographed copies of my mysteries, 
and my nonfiction books, including RESCUE MATTERS. to support 

Australian Shepherd Rescue & Placement Helpline
(which I have supported for many years)
Golden Retriever Rescue Club of Charlotte
(where we adopted our lovely Sunny, shown above)


another group of your choice
(with a few limitations)

Please share. Woof! Meow! Squawk!

And Happy Thanksgiving!

~~ Sheila


  1. I think the genesis of Anni's Attic is fascinating--two childhood friends creating a shared time and place and one of them journaling the conversations. What a great backstory! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thank you, Nancy. Writing Anni's Attic was definitely a labor of love. I agonized for a number of years about publishing the story, but once it was out in the world, there was a great sense of relief that I had finally done it, and even more, to admitting how the story first came about.