Growing up in Dublin and Pleasanton, Janet McCarroll was shocked and fascinated to learn that royalty existed in real life across the pond, not just fairy tales, when her mother told her about Princess Diana.
Although she didn't go on to fulfill her initial childhood dream that resulted, of being a royal biographer, McCarroll found herself driven to put her expertise on the British royal family to use this year, following the winding path that her aspirations went on to take.
McCarroll released her first book, "Elizabeth and the Picadilly Council: When Buckingham Calls," and what is set to be the first of a series, at the end of October this year, after being driven to complete the manuscript during her final semester as a graduate student in psychology at St. Mary's College earlier in the year.
"Some part of me I think just got really annoyed with all the things in life I said I was going to do and didn't do," McCarroll said.
Additionally, McCarroll said that she'd decided time was of the essence, given increased scrutiny and negative press she saw as unfairly targeted towards Queen Elizabeth as tensions within the royal family have become public in recent years. In particular, McCarroll said that she hated to see this being directed at somebody who she'd been personally inspired by, and awed by as a historical figure.
"It kind of just pained me how many people really didn't know much about her," McCarroll said. "Granted, she's from a different country, but still, I feel like it's history in the making right here before our very eyes."
"I was just kind of sad to see here we are, approaching her platinum jubilee – and there has never been a platinum jubilee in all of British history," McCarroll said.
For McCarroll, the queen's lengthy reign is significant not just for how long she's held the throne, but also the sheer number of historical events she's witnessed and been a part of. On a personal level, McCarroll said she'd been struck when she was young by seeing a woman close to her small size command a room.
"I was like, people don't respect me as much because I'm tiny and I'm giggly, but power doesn't have to look stoic, and tall and intimidating," McCarroll said. "There's different kinds of power, and it doesn't make it any weaker or any less than because it doesn't resemble someone else's. So I hope everybody, boy, girl, non-binary, Black, white, tall, short, young, old, atheist, religious, whatever, I hope everybody can get that message from this."
Getting this message across to a range of audiences is what McCarroll said inspired her to write the book as a children's historical fantasy novel.
"I don't think people are very fair to adults when it comes to writing," McCarroll said. "I think that the older you get, the dryer the reading gets sometimes."
Despite her encyclopedic knowledge of the specifics in British royal history, McCarroll said she chose to incorporate elements of fantasy surrounding the queen's rise to the throne and life in Buckingham palace in the story.
"I was kind of like, well all angles have been taken, but the one thing I've never seen is a children's adventure series on her life, especially around her youth," McCarroll said.
In particular, McCarroll said that she was sensitive to how socially isolated the queen must have been as a child, and how different growing up in a palace must have been in reality compared to fantasy. For this reason, she chose to focus the plot on what it would have been like to be a young royal, unexpectedly thrust into power, with a group of friends to support her along the way.
"I think about the very few children that Queen Elizabeth actually did have a friendship with as a child," McCarroll said. "What must it have been like for the other children to be friends with such a notable person? How was the queen able to trust anyone or know who to share secrets with? That is a connection we all need, but must have been very hard for her to come by."
McCarroll said that the cast of characters she'd written as the queen's group of friends were closely inspired by her own friendships and people she'd met over the years.
"I think there's a little bit of every personality in there," McCarroll said. " … every friend group should be like that. It's no fun if everyone's the same."
McCarroll is set for a signing of her recently released book at Half Price Books at 7898 Dublin Blvd. on Saturday (Dec. 18) from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. More information is available here.