Louisa May Alcott and Me
Soon after signing the contract for my Thatcher Sisters series, I enjoyed a three-day retreat in Florida with two writer friends. (Nothing like talking story nonstop with Rachel Hauck and Susan May Warren.) My new editor had told me that she wanted to develop a hook for my three-book series during our upcoming marketing phone call. Rachel, Susie, and I brainstormed possible angles, including how the series had a Little Women feel to it. We tossed other ideas around, and then moved on to plotting their books.
I came home from Florida and mentioned mulling over a hook to my son, Josh, who is also a novelist.
“You’re writing a Little Women gone wrong series,” he said.
My series is comparable to Little Women, yes, but for every similarity there’s some twist of a difference.
Little Women and the Thatcher Sisters series both focus on family life—This Is Us, if you will—but one is set against the backdrop of rural New England during the Civil War, while the other is set against the backdrop of current-day Colorado, spread out between northern Denver down into Colorado Springs.
In all of the novels, the sisters face life’s hardships together. But in Little Women, the sisters draw closer together despite the difficulties they face—really, because of the challenges they deal with. In my series, the sisters—Johanna, Jillian, Payton, and Pepper—struggle to even declare a truce with one another, much less trust one another.
Both Louisa May Alcott and I chose to allow one of the sisters to die. I read Little Women many times during my childhood and I cried every single time Beth died. With my series, I knew Pepper, Payton’s identical twin sister, died ten years before the opening of book one, Things I Never Told You. I researched things like being a twinless twin and delayed grief. The March sisters and their parents comfort one another after Beth’s death, while Payton pulls away from her sisters and parents.
Little Women is considered a coming-of-age story that also includes romance. (SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t read Little Women.) Meg has her John Brooke. Jo and Laurie are best friends with an ill-fated romance—and Laurie ends up married to Amy, while Jo surprises everyone and marries Professor Bhaer. My series is women’s fiction, which allowed me to focus on the relationships between the sisters and their attempts to have any type of relationship with each other.
While working on the preliminary plot for book one, I told my agent, “I’m not sure if there’ll be a romance in this book.”
Her reply? “There’ll be a romance.”
I remember shaking my head and saying again, “I’m not sure yet.”
Pause. “Beth, there will be a romance.”
Okay, I was a bit slow to catch on, but I finally got the hint. “Right. There will be a romance.”
And the romance came naturally as I wrote the stories because falling in love—and possibly falling out of love—is part of real life.
Little Women and the three novels in the Thatcher Sisters series have some similarities and even more differences. But at their core, each of the books, written 150 years apart, highlights the complexity of sister relationships. And I hope that topic intrigues readers because of their own relationships with their sisters—or because they know sisters like the ones they read about in both Louisa May Alcott’s novel and my series.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Beth K. Vogt believes God’s best often waits behind doors marked Never. Beth is a 2016 Christy Award winner, as well as a 2016 ACFW Carol Award winner and a 2015 RITA Award finalist. Beth’s latest novel, Moments We Forget, book two in the Thatcher Sisters Series, releases from Tyndale House Publishers in May 2019. Visit Beth at bethvogt.com.