“Nobody’s Secret” mystifies readers

Olivia Kalb, A&E Editor

Who murdered Mr. Nobody?

“I’m nobody! Who are you? Are you nobody, too?” – Emily Dickinson

Someone murdered Mr. Nobody and who else to discover the truth but Ms. Emily Dickinson?

After befriending a stranger, only known to her as Mr. Nobody, and then finding his dead body in her family’s pond, Emily takes it upon herself to unravel the dirty secrets of a family in town and unearth the real cause of Mr. Nobody’s death.

Even with roadblocks set up from her fussy mother, nosy sister, and an incompetent policeman, Emily perseveres and takes the reader through a series of twists and turns, ending in some very unexpected discoveries.

Based off the life of the poet Emily Dickinson, a rambunctious and chore-hating young Emily is brought to life in Michaela MacColl’s new novel Nobody’s Secret.

She’s intelligent, brave, witty, and I kind of wish I could be her — although, I’ll pass on the mother.

I love that I was discovering the truth along with Emily. Normally, it’s obvious to the reader who the murderer was — Colonel Mustard with the knife in the drawing room, and so on.

But I had no clue. My curiosity combined with a fascinating and tenacious heroine created a story that, I admit, kept me up to the early hours of the morning the day of a big quiz — Don’t ask me how I did…

My only regret is that Mr. Nobody had to die. Even after only a few scenes with him in the very beginning, I fell in love with his character and what he did for Emily. As a girl from a well-known family in a small town, she needed a bit of “nobody.”

And now, an interview with Michaela MacColl, the lovely author of this very creative novel “Nobody’s Secret.”

What are 3 fun facts about you?

1. Every year I host a party for the United Nations in Westport for 200 people from 35 countries.

2. I’ve lived in Southern France.

3. I have 3 ENORMOUS cats.

I love how you put in pieces from Emily Dickinson’s poems at the beginning of each chapter, it really helped add to the feel of the book. How did her poems help to develop the character and plot?

I was familiar with Emily’s poetry before I started writing and researching Nobody’s Secret. She writes a lot about death and loss. She’s also a brilliant observer of nature. I wanted to give my readers a taste of her poetry and I thought it would be rather clever if the bits of poems related to the action in the chapter.  For example, at the top of the chapter where Emily discovers a drowned body, I used this language, “How the Waters closed above Him/ We shall never know.”

What was your initial inspiration for Nobody’s Secret and, specifically, why choose to have Emily solve the murder of a stranger and possible beau?

Emily Dickinson was a very private person, and nowhere was this more evident in how secretive she was about her poetry.  One of her most well-known poems, “I”m Nobody/Who Are You?” is about how the narrator wants to be anonymous. But the most interesting thing is that the narrator is talking to someone. That person became my love interest and victim.

What advice do you have for teens who want to become writers?

First, read as much as you can. The best writers read more than they write. Secondly, find someone you trust to look at your work: a teacher, a critique partner or a good writing class. While its very soothing to our egos to have our best friend or mom tell us how good we are, it doesn’t help your writing! You need someone who will be tough and who understands what you are trying to do. I have a critique group of three other writers — we’ve been together for ten years.

What are you working on now?

I’m finishing up the next installment in my literary mysteries.  “Nobody’s Secret” (Emily Dickinson) was the first. The second is “Always Emily” (the Bronte Sisters) which comes out next month. The third one doesn’t have a title yet, but it’s about  Louisa May Alcott, the author of “Little Women.”