Monday, May 15, 2017

Alison McMahan - From Stage to Page

From early in her life, Alison McMahan seemed destined to become a writer. She began her writing career at the age of 14 when she was a student at a convent school in Spain. McMahan wrote a play about the nun who founded the order, and the play was produced by some of the older students. McMahan was even given a small part in the cast. From that point on, she was hooked.

McMahan studied playwriting at the Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C.,  then earned a Master’s degree in Film Production from New York University. In 1987, she took a job making industrial and documentary films until she left to pursue a Ph.D. in Film Studies while her daughter was growing up. During this period, she taught film in college and earned an international reputation as a scholar. Her first book, a critical analysis of the films of the first woman filmmaker,  “Alice Guy Blach√® – Lost Visionary of the Cinema,” was published by Bloomsbury in 2002. “Blach√® was lost to history,” McMahan says. “I spent ten years putting her back on the map.” The thesis garnered the 1997 Union Circle of Scholars Award and the book the Women in Film Award at the St. Louis International Film Festival in 2004. She also wrote a book exploring the works of filmmaker Tim Burton which came out in 2005.

In 2008, she moved to Florida. McMahan found that there were advantages to being a Florida writer. “I was surprised to find that Florida has a large, active writing community,” she says, “and Florida’s a lot more laid back than New York.”

It was a chance encounter with a Young Adult historical novel that moved McMahan to write what became her first published novel. “I was in a bookstore, and I picked up this YA book set in 17th Century Venice,” she recalls. “The writer had characters doing things that were not of that time period. I was really offended that young readers were being given an inaccurate picture of history, and I decided that I could do better.” McMahan proved herself right with “The Saffron Crocus,” which went on to win the Rosemary Award in 2015 and the Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Award in 2015
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Described as a Young Adult historical mystery/romance, “The Saffron Crocus” is the story of 15-year-old Isabella, an aspiring singer who dreams of singing in Monteverdi’s all-male choir. After her beloved voice teacher, Margherita, is found dead, Isabella is thrown together with Margherita’s handsome son, Rafaele, to find the killer. Romance blossoms as the two unearth disturbing secrets from her teacher’s past that lead them from Venice’s Grand Canal to its Jewish Ghetto in search of the murderer.

Encouraged by her success, McMahan has recently completed work on "The Road to Santiago," (working title), the first in a series of medieval spy novels set in Spain at the end of the 11th Century. “Santiago” It tells the story of a Muslim peddler who converts to Christianity to marry the love of his life. After she's murdered by a Crusader, he abandons his farm and children and joins the first Crusade in order to hunt his wife's killer.

McMahan also writes contemporary mystery shorts. Her short mystery, “The New Score,” appeared in the Fish Out of Water Anthology (Wildside Press, 4/17), and her short story, “The Drive By,” appeared in the Busted! Arresting Stories from the Beat Anthology (LevelBest Books, 4/17). Another story,“Kamikaze Iguanas,” will appear in Scream and Scream Again, the Mystery Writers of America Anthology for middle grade readers edited by R.L.Stine (scheduled for release in 2018).

In addition to her writing, McMahan has returned to film and now runs her own production company, Homunculus Productions, bringing her career full circle. A firm believer in pursuing your dreams, McMahan has the following advice for her readers: “Figure out what your gift is, then go after it. Use it to make the world better, and don’t let anyone stop you.”

For more information, visit the author’s website at www.alisonmcmahan.com.




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