Mother-Daughter Book Club fans, rejoice. Heather Vogel Frederick, author of the erudite and beloved series of novels for and about girls who love to read, has reversed her decision to end matters after six volumes and will publish the seventh—and absolutely final book—early in 2016.
Frederick had committed to closing out the series, which has sold millions of copies, after book six, because, she says, “It had a sense of completion to me. Six is a lot for a series.
“I now have girls as young as third or fourth grade reading these books and I have girls in college who grew up with my fictional girls. It’s hard to create material that satisfies both ends of the spectrum.”
The outcry from fans was too great to ignore, and Frederick returned to the keyboard to write one more episode. Volume seven, as yet untitled, takes the girls to camp between senior year of high school and freshman year of college.
“I received so much feedback,” Frederick says, “from readers who wanted to see what happens to them when they go to college. The readers said, ‘Don’t leave us hanging.’ So now I’m leaving my readers with what the future holds for the girls. This is a more satisfactory ending for the readers and for me.”
Frederick went back to her own summer camp, Camp Newfound, in Long Lake, Maine, to “soak up the atmosphere” and to serve as artist-in-residence in a fall creative arts program. There, and at home, she put in her legendary ten-to-sixteen hour days, writing and rewriting the new novel.
For those readers who like to get a jump on things, the book club will be reading Understanding Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, so get your copies early.
Does it surprise Frederick that in an era of truncated attention spans millions of girls are attracted to the rather lengthy novels she writes?
“Not at all,” she avers. “I write for the girl I was. I was a bookworm growing up. I loved diving into a big, fat book. It doesn’t surprise me at all that readers read big books.”The birth of the series came when Frederick, an accomplished journalist and author, received a call from her publisher, who pointed out that there were mother-daughter book clubs all over the country and it would be great to have a novel about those gatherings.
“I responded to the suggestion with silence,” Frederick admits. “I have two sons and no daughters. I’d never been in a mother-daughter book club. The idea was too attractive to pass up. But once I got off the phone, I completely panicked. And then I went and reread Little Women.”
Louisa May Alcott’s novel is the lodestar for the Mother-Daughter Book Club series, with the novels taking place in Alcott’s hometown of Concord, Massachusetts.
“I didn’t have daughters,” Frederick says, “but I had three sisters, nieces, and lots of memories from middle and high school, so there were lots of things I could pull in.
“One of the unexpected joys of writing this series is getting my ‘girl fix’ because of the letters and emails I get. I answer all of my email and all of my fan mail. I think of writers who were very kind to me. I would feel honored when people took the time to respond, so I do the same thing for my readers.”
Frederick takes up to a year to complete the research and writing of the first draft of a Mother-Daughter novel and then revises the manuscript as many as half a dozen times.
“The first draft is like pulling teeth,” she says. “I’m easily distracted. But I adore the revision process. I can sit for my office for ten, twelve, even sixteen hours a day revising. I love having something on paper to shape. My editor sees my third or fourth draft.
“As a result, the characters do feel very real to me. They are in a sense one’s brainchildren. I have a real affection for Kevin Mullins…he’s such a little nerd.
“You do become very attached, especially because they appear in more than one book. I find myself thinking, ‘Oh, that’s just what Cassidy would do or say.’”Life after the Mother-Daughter Book Club finds Frederick creating a new series, set in the imaginary New England village of Pumpkin Falls, which the author describes as “an amalgam of all the little towns where I’ve ever lived.”
Some of the characters from the new series, the first novel of which, Absolutely Truly, appears next month, will wander into the final Mother-Daughter book and a couple of Mother-Daughter characters return the favor by dropping into Pumpkin Falls.“It’s a little insider’s joke for my Mother-Daughter readers,” Frederick admits.
Why does she put so much effort into each book, even when her reputation as one the best authors for young readers is already etched into stone?
“There’s a quote I love,” she says. “They asked the great cellist, Pablo Casals, ‘Why do you keep practicing at age 90?’ He responded, ‘Because I think I’m making progress.’ You could say I feel the same way.”
The interview was co-conducted with Chynna Bracha Levin.
Michael Levin tells about his work in this video: