Mackel, Kathryn 1950- (Kathy Mackel)
Mackel, Kathryn 1950-
PERSONAL: Born 1950; married; children: Dan, Leah. Hobbies and other interests: Coaching Junior Olympic softball; participation with church ministry of music.
ADDRESSES: Home—MA. Agent—Lee Hough, Alive Communications, 7680 Goddard St., Ste. 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80920; Kathleen M. Campbell, Campbell Public Relations, LLC, 1255 Lake Plaza Dr., Suite 244, Colorado Springs, CO 80906.
CAREER: Worked various corporate jobs in technical publications. Story consultant for Left Behind: The Movie, adapted from the novel by Reverend Tim La-Haye and Jerry B. Jenkins, 2000.
UNDER NAME KATHY MACKEL; CHILDREN'S BOOKS
A Season of Comebacks, Putnam (New York, NY), 1997.
Can of Worms, Avon Books, (New York, NY), 1999.
Eggs in One Basket, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
From the Horse's Mouth, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.
Alien in a Bottle, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.
MadCat, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.
UNDER NAME KATHY MACKEL; SCREENPLAYS
Can of Worms (adapted from her children's book), Disney Channel, 1999.
(With Stan Foster) Hangman's Curse (adapted from the novel by Frank Peretti), Fox Searchlight Productions, 2003.
UNDER NAME KATHRYN MACKEL
The Surrogate (Christian thriller), WestBow Press (Nashville, TN), 2004.
The Departed (Christian thriller), WestBow Press (Nashville, TN), 2005.
Outriders (Christian fantasy), WestBow Press (Nashville, TN), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Author and screenwriter Kathryn Mackel also writes books for children as Kathy Mackel. She has two separate web sites, one for each of her pen names. Mackel has loved to tell stories since childhood, but did not start writing professionally until she was in her forties, selling both her first novel and her first screenplay within weeks of each other. She writes across a range of genres, producing novels for both children and adults, as well as screenplays for television and the movies. Her commitment to her faith is apparent in much of her work as she deals with themes of perseverance and struggling to do the right thing.
Mackel's first novel, A Season of Comebacks, addresses jealousy between two sisters on a softball team. Younger sister Molly plays shortstop and resents her sister Allie, who is the state's best fast-pitch softball pitcher. Allie is the darling of the media, and also appears to be favored by the girls' father, who coaches the team. It takes an injury for the team to bring these siblings closer together, and for their father to understand Molly's sense of neglect as well as the pressure Allie feels to succeed. Booklist contributor Julie Corsaro thought the novel "tries to cover too much ground," but added that "it has good style, snappy dialogue, and strong scenes."
In Can of Worms, Mackel recounts the adventures of seventh grader Mike Pillsbury, who is something of a nerd. Miserable at home and too shy to approach the girl he likes, he spends his free time telling stories from his "Hanzel Chronicles," a series of tales about traveling through outer space. However, when Mike sends a message into space, claiming that he is being held on the planet against his will, dozens of creatures travel from other planets to rescue him, and suddenly Mike is forced to fight in order to remain on Earth. A contributor to Publishers Weekly commented that "Mike's transformation into a hero, like his encounter of the third kind, is, perhaps, a little too far out of this world." However, Peter D. Sieruta, reviewing for Horn Book, observed that "the inventive characterizations of the various aliens … are so original that some of the earthbound characters pale in comparison," adding that "readers who like their sci-fi with a laugh track will enjoy opening this can of worms." Can of Worms was made into a film, with Mackel writing the screenplay adaptation.
Eggs in One Basket is a follow up to Can of Worms, telling the story of Mike's friend, Scott Schreiber. Scott starts to hallucinate while playing football one day, and suddenly finds himself developing superpowers. His new abilities lead Scott and his friends to the Lyra, a birdlike alien whose mate is trying to contact it. However, another alien race, the Shards, is searching for the Lyra, intending to conquer them, and Scott finds himself in a race to save the creatures. Elaine E. Knight, in a review for School Library Journal, wrote that "this winning combination of sports, science fiction, and humor … provides a subtle message on the nature of freedom and heroism," and a contributor to Horn Book observed that "what distinguishes this story from the first is its unusual narrator: a self-assured jock who learns to get in touch with his inner weirdness."
From the Horse's Mouth is another sequel, in which Nick Thorpe finds himself falling through a time warp that enables him to wander invisible through a world in freeze-frame. Things grow weirder as Nick discovers a unicorn, Bayurd, who has escaped the evil Draconians and is now trapped on Earth, searching for his true rider, Reynald. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews remarked that "Nick's ability to cope with unusual … situations, plus plenty of nonstop action, fizzy relationships, and a crowd-pleasing array of aliens will keep readers firmly hooked."
Alien in a Bottle follows Sean, an eighth grader enamored by the art of glass-blowing, as he discovers that the old bottle he found in a dumpster actually contains three space aliens. GraceAnne A. deCandido, in a review for Booklist, called the book "an entirely engaging and utterly preposterous read." Mackel's book MadCat features twelve-year-old protagonist, Madelyn Catherine Campione, a fast-pitch softball catcher who is at first delighted to learn that her team is going to the Nationals. She is disappointed, however, when she learns that half the team will be cut to make room for skilled softball-players from out of town.
Mackel made the jump to adult novels with The Surrogate, in which Kyle and Bethany Dolan, desperate to have a child, discover that their surrogate is actu-ally an imposter. Sable Lynde merely posed as the perfect choice to help the Dolans have a child; in reality, she is a criminal whose past is coming back to haunt her, as well as the Dolans. Mike Parker, in a review for Today's Christian, called the book "tautly written."
Mackel told CA: "I've told stories all my life, but it wasn't until I learned to use a computer that my imagination was unleashed. I face failure every day. I am still learning to forgive myself for the first draft and dig in for a credible second draft. I delay taking pleasure in writing until the third or fourth draft. I usually write for two hours in the morning and two more in the evening, going back to edit the previous chapter before starting on the next. It's often an ugly process and still a miracle that it results in a book.
"The most surprising thing that I have learned as a writer is that characters and stories have a life and will of their own. My favorite of all my books is MadCat. I coached tournament-level fast-pitch softball for years. I love the game, but even more, I love the spirit, tenacity, and humor of the girls who play it. Girls have once more achieved parity in sports but not in a good way—they are now subject to the same pressures that traditionally have been reserved for male elite athletes. Everything that happens in MadCat has happened to my team and players, or to someone I know. Coaches and parents—myself included—need to take a step back and see where we're crowding the fun out of the game. I hope MadCat will do that by giving kids a sports book that is tremendous fun but also provides players with a tool to be able to say, 'Hey, give me some space. This game is ours.'
"With every book that I write, from children's science fiction to adult thrillers, my theme remains the same: 'look beyond what you can see—beyond yourself—for what is admirable, excellent, and amazing.'"
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 1997, Julie Corsaro, review of A Season of Comebacks, p. 1902; September 15, 2000, Catherine Andronik, review of Eggs in One Basket, p. 242; May 1, 2002, Hazel Rochman, review of From the Horse's Mouth, pp. 1526-1527; May 1, 2004, GraceAnne A. deCandido, review of Alien in a Bottle, p. 1560; September 15, 2004, Jennifer Matson, "You Say Genies, I Say Djinni" review of Alien in a Bottle, p. 233.
Horn Book, May, 1999, Peter D. Sieruta, review of Can of Worms, p. 334; September, 2000, review of Eggs in One Basket, p. 575;
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2002, review of From the Horse's Mouth, p. 660; January 1, 2004, review of Alien in a Bottle, p. 39.
Library Journal, June 1, 2004, Tamara Butler, review of The Surrogate, p. 116.
Publishers Weekly, January 11, 1999, review of Can of Worms, p. 72; February 2, 2004, review of Alien in a Bottle, pp. 77-78.
School Library Journal, November, 2000, Elaine E. Knight, review of Eggs in One Basket, p. 159; July, 2002, Michael McCullough, review of From the Horse's Mouth, p. 122; April, 2004, Elaine E. Knight, review of Alien in a Bottle, p. 157.
Storyworks, February-March, 2003, Kathy Mackel, "Wads, Gobs, Knots, and Rolls: Luke Wants His Work of Art to Win First Prize at the Fair. But What Should His Masterpiece Be Made Of?" pp. 18-27.
Today's Christian, September-October, 2004, Mike Parker, review of The Surrogate, p. 10.
Christian Writers Guild Web site, http://www.christianwritersguild.com/ (February 9, 2005), "Kathy Mackel."
HarperCollins Web site, http://www.harpercollins.com/ (February 9, 2005).
Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdbcom/ (February 9, 2005), "Kathy Mackel."
Kathryn Mackel Home Page, http://www.kathrynmackel.com (March 7, 2005).
Kathy Mackel Home Page, http://www.kathymackel.com (March 7, 2005).