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Words with a Wordsmith: Alice McVeigh

By Rebecca D’Harlingue
November 25, 2022

Alice McVeigh writes Jane Austenesque novels to sink into.

What’s the best compliment a reader has ever given you?

A lot of people try to write like Jane Austen. But when a reader – there’ve been loads – writes specially to say that you write like Jane Austen (!!!!) that doesn’t just make my day, it makes my year!! (The IndieReader wrote: ‘Many people have tried to write like Jane Austen, but none has succeeded like McVeigh.’  However, I prefer the casual emails like, ‘Could not believe it. Austen has been reborn.’ To be fair, a lot of Austenesque writers don’t even try to pull this trick off. Instead, they write about Pride and Prejudice plus zombies, or Emma set in the 1960s etc. But what I do is to mix up her characters – sometimes minor characters – with ones I’ve made up, and to make the language as faithful as possible. So faithful that some reviewers have messed up and not known the difference between the ‘real’ Jane Austen and me. That always gives me a secret thrill, too.

What literary pilgrimages have you been on?

I live in London, but every year or so I make a pilgrimage to Winchester Cathedral, where Jane Austen is buried, or to Chawton (her last home). So it’s a regular pilgrimage, not a once-in-a-lifetime visit. For me, she is (along with Shakespeare) the greatest writer who ever lived. But I don’t feel the same connection to Shakespeare, so – though of course I’ve been to Stratford – I haven’t been there more than twice. I always take flowers to Winchester, to put on her stone and I’ve never gone when mine were the only flowers – which says a great deal to me about just how beloved she is.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Every writer moans about marketing – and rightly. It just seems like a waste of writing time!!! Why can’t our readers just… discover us? Well, they won’t, unless we do marketing, so we have to bite the bullet. Not that I’ve found a magic one. Ads – yes, to a point – social media – meh – likewise. Winning competitions hasn’t hurt, or doing giveaways, including Kindle Unlimited free days. These boost every book in the series, even if you only give away one for free. But – and it might just be me – the best fun I’ve had has been podcasts. Ever since I joined I’ve pitched for podcasts and had the best time chatting to people all over the world. Again, the sales don’t zoom overnight – except for once – but it’s VERY good value, for me. It maybe helps if you have a lot to say, but then, that’s true of a lot of my writer friends. So, the best money for me has been podmatch. I recommend it.

Do you have another artistic outlet in addition to your writing? Do you sew? Paint? Draw? Knit? Dance? Garden?

I spent over fifteen years playing the cello in various London orchestras. Cello and writing have always fought over me!! – first one gets the upper hand, and then the other… As I write – and this is RARE – I’m anticipating playing the Elgar cello concerto with my local pro-am orchestra. That’s tonight!!! And I’m excited!!! Have only played it with orchestra twice before. But what it’s MEANT is that I’m way behind, months behind, with my next  novel. So, after tonight, I have some catching up to do. But first… I get to pretend to be Jacqueline du Pre, the cellist whose magic sound in the Elgar was what brought me to London in the first place, decades ago. So… how lucky am I?  I have two tremendous, heartstoppingly creative loves, and I still get to do both of them.

What brings you great joy as a writer?

That moment at 3 a.m. when an idea hits you and it’s so good you have to run downstairs with cold feet to write it on the computer. And the next thing you know it’s seven and your husband’s wondering why you haven’t brought him his morning tea, but your head is still in tumult and your feet are blocks of solid ice. Those times.

Alice (Spaulding Taylor) McVeigh is a London-based novelist. Her first two contemporary novels were published by Orion/Hachette; her third, Last Star Standing (Unbound Publishing) a Kirkus-starred speculative thriller, was a runner-up in the Independent Press Awards, and a finalist in the 2022 Independent Press Awards, Chanticleer’s Cygnus Award, 

 Susan: A Jane Austen Prequel was a BookLife 2021 quarterfinalist, rated 10/10 in Publishers Weekly (“This Jane Austen-inspired novel echoes the master herself.”) It won gold medals in the Pencraft, eLit and Global book awards. Shelf Unbound magazine selected it as one of 100 “Notable Indies” of 2021 (included non-fiction). It is currently a finalist for several other prizes.

McVeigh’s newest novel (Harriet: A Jane Austen Variation ) was published on Feb. 3, 2022. Just as Susan imagined a youthful Lady Susan, Harriet imagines a Harriet Smith clever enough to appear stupid and malleable to the great Emma Woodhouse. On March 28 th, Harriet received an “outstanding” rating as Editor’s Pick in Publishers Weekly. A finalist in the International Book Awards, it has a gold medal from Pencraft in historical fiction and an IndieBRAG medallion.

Alice grew up in Asia, as her father was a US diplomat. She has lived in seven countries and visited 44 – mostly because of her previous life, touring as a London orchestral cellist. She and her professor husband share one daughter, two dachshunds and an addiction to tennis. 


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Rebecca D’Harlingue
Written by Rebecca D’Harlingue

Award-winning author Rebecca D’Harlingue writes about seventeenth-century women forging a different path. Her debut novel, The Lines Between Us, won an Independent Press Award and a CIBA Chaucer Award. Her second novel, The Map Colorist, won a Literary Titan Award and a Firebird Book Award.

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