Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Michaela MacColl, Author of Rory's Promise

Today we are very excited to have Michaela MacColl author of Rory's Promise guest blogging for Middle Grade Minded!

Thank you for having me at Middle Grade Minded! Rosemary and I appreciate your hosting of the Rory’s Promise blog tour.

Rory’s Promise is the first book I’ve written deliberately for Middle Grade. (My second novel, Promise the Night (Chronicle, 2011) ended up being marketed as middle grade but I didn’t know that was what I was doing!) But Rory is the first book in our Hidden Histories series designed for middle grade about odd, frankly baffling but still true incidents in American history.

Rory’s Promise is about a particular orphan train that brought 40 Irish kids under the age of 6 to the remote territory of Arizona.  The Sisters of Charity in New York City had placed thousands of children in homes specially chosen for them by local priests around the country. But they’d never ventured as far as Arizona and they were completely unprepared. 

From 1853-1929 over a quarter million children were transported from East Coast cities to the rural Midwest.  Many of the kids were Irish orphans.  Most of the trains were run by the Christian Aid Societ y who would bring the kids into town and let families choose whomever they wished.  Many children ended up as indentured servants although many were also formally or informally adopted. The Sisters of Charity hated this process; they wanted these children to become part of Catholic families.  They sent out children that were too young to work on the farms and they only sent them to Catholic families.

Clifton Arizona was a mining town. The run-off from the copper mines kept women from bearing children – the rate of miscarriages for white families was ¼ and twice that for Mexican families. The women in this town were desperate for children. When the orphan train rolls in the white women assume the children are available for the taking. They are shocked and dismayed to learn that not only are the children already allocated they are destined for Mexican families.  The local priest was from France and didn’t understand the social and economic chasm that existed between the Mexican mine workers and the white supervisors. 

The white families are so appalled that they kidnap/rescue the first batch of 20 kids that are delivered to the Mexican families.  Only after several violent outbreaks (during which the priest is run out of town and the nuns are threatened), did the nuns negotiate a deal to return to NYC with half the children, leaving the kidnapped/rescued kids behind. The nuns went to court, assuming that as the legal guardians of the children that their case was iron-clad. They did not reckon with the local prejudice against Mexicans. The court decided that the children had been saved from a fate worse than death – because everyone knows that Mexicans could not raise white children.

Baffling right?  In Rory’s Promise we want to show how all the parties in this crazy situation were absolutely convinced that they were morally justified. From a modern perspective, this can be difficult. So we’ve created a character who wades into this story with her own unique opinions and a moral center of her own. Meet Rory Fitzpatrick.

Orphan Rory Fitzpatric is determined to stay with her little sister Violet, by any means necessary.  When Violet is sent West, Rory stows away on the train. When all hell breaks loose in Arizona, only Rory has the freedom of movement (since she’s not even supposed to be there) and the clearsightedness to convince the Sisters to cut their losses and retreat. In the meantime, Rory has to decide what kind of life she wants and what does family really mean.

I hope you enjoy Rory’s Promise – you can enter below to win a copy!  For more information check out the trailer or my website at

Twelve-year-old orphan Rory Fitzpatrick lives with her younger sister Violet at New York City's Foundling Hospital in the early 1900s. But when Rory discovers that Violet will be sent to the Arizona Territory to be adopted, her world is shattered. Although too old to be adopted herself, Rory--brave and smart--is determined to stay with her sister, even if it means hiding out on a train traveling west. When Rory and Violet arrive in Arizona, everything that could go wrong does go wrong. Will Rory give up? This uplifting novel about the power of faith and the true meaning of family launches the Hidden Histories series, spotlighting little-known tales from America's past, and the children behind those stories. Includes authors' note and further resources.


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Michaela attended Vassar College and Yale University earning degrees in multi-disciplinary history. Unfortunately, it took her 20 years before she realized she was learning how to write historical fiction. Her favorite stories are the ones she finds about the childhood experiences of famous people. She has written about a teenaged Queen Victoria (Prisoners in the Palace, Chronicle 2010) and Beryl Markham’s childhood (Promise the Night, Chronicle 2011). She is writing a literary mystery series for teens featuring so far a young Emily Dickinson in Nobody’s Secret (2013) and the Bronte sisters in Always Emily (2014).  She has recently begun a new series with Boyd’s Mill/Highlights called Hidden Histories about odd events in America’s past. The first entry in the series is Rory’s Promise and will be published in September 2014. She frequently visits high schools and has taught at the Graduate Institute in Bethel, CT.   She lives in Westport CT with her husband, two teenaged daughters and three extremely large cats.

Visit the other blog tour sites:
Friday, 9/19 - Kirby Larson blog (GUEST BLOG POST/GIVEAWAY)

Mon 9/22 - Middle Grade Mafioso (BOOK REVIEW/GIVEAWAY)

Tue 9/23 - Mother/Daughter Book Club (BOOK REVIEW/GIVEAWAY)

Wed 9/24 - Middle Grade Minded (GUEST BLOG POST/GIVEAWAY)

Thu 9/25 - KidLit Frenzy (BOOK REVIEW/GIVEAWAY)

Fri 9/26 - Unleashing Readers (BOOK REVIEW/GIVEAWAY)

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