Frequently Asked Questions

melissa wiley sketch by fiona staples

Where do you live?

I’ve lived in a lot of places—Colorado, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, New York City—but for the past six 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 17, 13, 11, 8, 6, and 3 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.

 

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.

 

Is it true you have written books under another name?

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.

 

 

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. 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

The sketch at the top of this page was drawn by the awesome Fiona Staples, an award-winning comic book artist and super-nice person.