Jill MacLean is the Canadian author of a poetry collection, a non-fiction historical biography, three novels for young readers, two young adult novels, and The Arrows of Mercy, historical fiction for adults set in medieval England, released in 2023. She lives in Bedford, Nova Scotia, near her family.
The Arrows of Mercy
The Arrows of Mercy, a medieval novel, is the culmination of eight years of research, writing and revising – a labour of love, and for the space of those years I inhabited two centuries, the 14 th and the 21 st , with the former often winning out.
The year is 1348. Haunted by the blood on his hands, an archer named Edmund returns home from the French wars to a life of serfdom.
His brutal elder brother doesn’t want a hero of Crécy on his doorstep. The priest denounces his mercy killings. The woman he loves yearns for a wider world, the ambitious wise-woman challenges him in ways he deplores, and an abused servant-girl is a thorn to his flesh. Yet, as the days pass, Edmund is impelled to fight for the impossible: love and redemption.
Then plague arrives in the village and everything changes.
The Miramichi Reader has a great review of the novel:
The Historical Novel Society (US and UK) has selected The Arrows of Mercy as an Editors’ Choice, “Highly recommended.” https://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviews/the-arrows-of-mercy/
The Arrows of Mercy is one of three finalists in the fiction category for the nation-wide Whistler Independent Book Awards (2023), sponsored by The Writers’ Union of Canada “to recognize excellence in Canadian self-publishing.”
“…Richly imagined and compellingly realized, The Arrows of Mercy draws the reader into a story of the past that is imbued with the urgency and immediacy of our own time.” (Anne Simpson, award-winning author of Speechless)
“…Gripping, immersive, and penned with wisdom and a fiery prescience, The Arrows of Mercy is a story of human desire that pushes the boundaries of language to make a powerful statement on the passions and impulses that shape morality itself. A story for the ages.” (Carol Bruneau, award-winning author of Brighten the Corner Where You Are)
The Arrows of Mercy can be purchased through any of the following channels:
Bookmark Halifax (my closest independent bookstore)
Also The Dartmouth Book Exchange (Dartmouth NS), Tidewater Books (Sackville NB), On Paper Books (Sydney NS), Block Shop Books (Lunenburg NS), The 5 Cents to 1 Dollar Store, Antigonish NS, Bookmark Charlottetown (PEI) and Woozles (Halifax NS, in the adult section).
Bookshop.org, Amazon.ca, Amazon.ca Prime, Amazon.com, Amazon.com Prime, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com.au
Barnes & Noble, Chapters Indigo (online only)
eBook listing: Kindle, Indigo Chapters, Smashwords, Apple Books
Nix Minus One
Pajama Press (2013)
Jill Maclean’s young adult novel written in free verse.
Set in western Newfoundland, this YA novel is about loss; free verse felt like the only possible form. Nix lies low at school, takes refuge in wood-working and avoids arguments with his polar-opposite older sister who’s dating the toxic Brian Sykes. When Nix finds the guts to fight for an abused dog, things start to spiral out of control.
“The sparse verse provides the perfect narrative voice to express Nix’s taciturn strength. Readers used to a diet of cliché-ridden YA fiction will enjoy this refreshing take on the teenage plight.” (School Library Journal)
“This is an absorbing, emotionally resonant book.” (Quill & Quire)
“MacLean is to be applauded for respecting her readership and refusing to shy away from difficult topics…this book tackles sensitive issues and oftentimes delivers powerful and upsetting punches. Nix Minus One is a book for mature readers, but those readers will be rewarded with a story well told.” (Highly Recommended. CM Magazine)
Winner of the Ann Connor Brimer Award for Children’s Literature. Selected for the White Ravens Honour List by the International Youth Library in Munich. Nominated for two Tree Awards.
The Hidden Agenda of Sigrid Sugden
Fitzhenry & Whiteside (2013)
A middle-grade novel (ages 8-12) by Jill MacLean, set in northern Newfoundland and the third book of a trilogy, each of which can be read independently.
This novel completes the trilogy begun with “The Nine Lives of Travis Keating.” Sigrid is a Shrike, one of the toughest girls in school. When the Shrikes go too far in terrorizing a classmate, Sigrid finds out how difficult it is to overcome a bad-girl image.
“These are all powerful, moving stories…MacLean is a magnificent author who understands the minds of adolescents and the complexities of life for pre-teens and teenagers.” (CM Magazine)
“…characters to love and admire despite the flaws that make them who they are. I am in awe of your story-telling.” (Sal’s Fiction Addiction)
Winner of the Red Cedar Young Readers’ Choice Award. Nominated for five other Tree Awards and the Ontario Library Association’s Best Bets for Children.
Dancing Cat Books (Cormorant Books Inc) (2010)
My first young adult novel, set on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore. I was compelled to write it from the point of view of a bully – why was Brick a bully? Could he – if he wanted to – stop?
“Jill MacLean has created a remarkable portrait of a bully…an intense and sobering look at an all-too-common experience.” (Atlantic Books Today)
“While the book is geared towards a younger audience, the topic of bullying…can resonate with an older audience as well.” (Halifax Chronicle Herald)
“…a novel of suspense and tension with vivid and empathetic descriptions.” (CM Magazine)
“Home Truths” is on the Nova Scotia school curriculum (Pink Shirt day originated in Nova Scotia), and was nominated for two Tree Awards.
The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy
Fitzhenry & Whiteside (2010)
The second novel of Jill MacLean’s middle-grade trilogy, also set in northern Newfoundland and with some of the same characters from The Nine Lives of Travis Keating.
Prinny’s mother is an alcoholic, her best friend Travis is spending all his time with another girl, a gang of girls called the Shrikes are extorting money from her, and she still can’t read well enough to escape the attention of dour Mrs. Dooks.
“Beautifully layered and sensitively written, Prinny’s story will garner MacLean yet more fans.” (The Sunday Herald)
“A heart-wrenching, yet ultimately hopeful, depiction of a young girl struggling in a small Newfoundland community…Very highly recommended for public and school libraries.” (Kirkus Reviews)
Winner of the Ann Connor Brimer Award for Children’s Literature.
Honour List of the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY). Nominated for the Josette Frank Award (NYC), the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award, and two Tree Awards.
The Nine Lives of Travis Keating
Fitzhenry & Whiteside (2008)
Jill MacLean’s first middle-grade novel and the first of a trilogy, each of which can be read independently, although some of the same characters appear in each.
The Nine Lives of Travis Keating was added to the Nova Scotia school system in 2023.
My first middle-grade novel was written after my grandson asked me to write him a book with hockey and skidoos in it: the learning curve was steep (what is the blue line?). A colony of feral cats and a bully called Hud beset Travis when he moves with his widowed father from St. John’s to an isolated community in northern Newfoundland.
“A thought-provoking, entertaining, and entirely satisfying book…MacLean’s dialogue is strong, and her characters have realistic depth and complexity…a marvelous achievement.” (CM Magazine)
“MacLean’s characters will inhabit the reader’s world. The exotic northern setting…plays a major role in both mood and plot.” (Quill & Quire)
Winner of the Ann Connor Brimer Award for Children’s Literature.
Honour List of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), Silver Birch Honour Book, nominated for four other Tree Awards across the country, and a finalist for the Canadian Library Association’s Best Book of the Year (the nominations for the Tree Awards are selected by adults, but young readers vote for the winner for their particular province).
Jean-Pierre Roma of the Company of the East of Isle St. Jean
Acorn Press / Three Rivers Roma Inc. (2005)
A non-fiction biography of an 18 th century Frenchman called Jean-Pierre Roma, based on research in the Prince Edward Island archives and the archives of Fortress Louisbourg. At one point I thought I’d write The Great Canadian Novel based on his life, but my life took a very different turn and in those pre-Internet days there was little available in the way of social history.
A re-issue of a monograph I wrote in the late seventies about an 18th century Frenchman whose grandiose dreams, impatience and perfectionism leap from the pages of his letters. The settlement he founded in 1732 near present-day Brudenell in Prince Edward Island was burned to the ground in 1745 after the fall of Louisbourg. Roma at Three Rivers National Historic Park offers a reconstruction of his settlement.
Jean-Pierre Roma et la Compagnie de l’Est de l’Île Saint-Jean
The French translation of the above work (2008).
The Brevity of Red
Signature Editions (2003)
This is my first and, I suspect, only poetry collection, which at heart is in honour of the dead of my family.
I started writing poetry in the early nineties and was lucky enough to work with George Amabile, writer-in-residence at the Winnipeg Library, for the three years I lived in Manitoba. This collection was published, with him as editor, in 2003.
“If hope has a muscle, call it poem and here’s a collection that’s lit from within.” (Sue Goyette)
“Jill MacLean’s first book tracks an exhilarating sweep of lived experience…with clarity, compassion and insight.” (Brian Bartlett)
Nominated for the Atlantic Poetry Prize and the Acorn-Plantos Award.
Scott Macmillan’s “Currents of Sable Island” uses my poem, Sable Island 44˚N 60˚W, for the libretto.