Kathryn (Kathy Mackel) Mackel (1950–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1950; Religion: Christian. Hobbies and other interests: Coaching Junior Olympic softball, music.
Agent—Lee Hough, ALIVE Communications, 7680 Goddard St., Ste 200, Colorado Springs, CO 89020; Kathleen M. Campbell, Campbell Public Relations, LLC, 1255 Lake Plaza Dr., Ste. 244, Colorado Springs, CO 80906.
Worked previously as a technical writer; story consultant for Left Behind: The Movie, 2000. Resident playwright, Living Word Players of Dunstable, MA; ASA Junior Olympic softball coach.
FOR CHILDREN; AS KATHY MACKEL
A Season of Comebacks, Putnam (New York, NY), 1997.
Can of Worms (also see below), Avon (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.
Mother Ship, Fox Family Films, 1995.
Can of Worms (based on the novel of the same name), Disney, 1999.
(With Stan Foster) Hangman's Curse (adapted from teh novel by Frank Peretti), Fox Searchlight, 2003.
Also author of Rock-a-Byte Baby for Showtime; contributor to various projects for Disney, Fox, and Showtime.
NOVELS; FOR ADULTS
The Surrogate, WestBow Press(Nashville, TN), 2004.
The Departed, WestBow Press (Nashville, TN), 2005.
Outriders, WestBow Press (Nashville, TN), 2005.
Publishing her books for children under the name Kathy Mackel, Kathryn Mackel started her career as a technical writer, and while working for a large company, she decided to take classes to complete a master's program. Fiction writing was her only option for the semester, and she nearly dropped the course when she realized how much experience the other writers had. "I survived. Barely," Mackel explained on her Web site. "But I had a blast and so, when the next semester offered Screenwriting, my friends talked me into taking that with them." During the screenwriting class, Mackel realized her talents and began writing scripts. The month she turned forty-five, she received a call from an editor who had read Mackel's manuscript for a children's novel and wanted to publish it. Within three weeks of this sale, she also sold her first screenplay. With this momentum, Mackel was launched into a new career as a children's writer, a Christian mystery novelist, and a screenwriter.
Mackel has long had a love for softball—she coaches ASA Junior Olympic softball—so it is no surprise that her first novel for children is about the sport. In A Season of Comebacks, Molly Burrows is a ten-year-old shortsop; her older sister Allie is a star pitcher. Their fa-ther seems devoted to Allie's growth as a player, and Molly is jealous of both Allie's skill and the attention she receives. The girls fight constantly, and only after many bad things happen to Allie's team does Molly try to see what her sister's perspective must be. "It's nice to see girls depicted with a passion for sports usually reserved for boys," praised Booklist reviewer Julie Corsaro.
Can of Worms appeared both as a screenplay for Disney and a novel for young readers. A science-fiction tale full of humor, the book tells the story of "aliens running amok" according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. Mike Pillsbury has never fit in, and because of this, he believes that he is an alien. Mike develops a way to send a message into space, begging his alien family to take him home. After some good things begin to happen in his life, Mike forgets about the message— but the aliens who received it think it is time to retrieve Mike and bring him into space. "Readers who like their sci-fi with a laugh track will enjoy opening this can of worms," promised Peter D. Sieruta in a Horn Book review.
Mike's friend and former rival Scott Schreiber, a football player, is the hero of Eggs in One Basket, the sequel to Can of Worms. Scott begins having hallucinations during a football game and wonders if he's becoming as strange as Mike. But the hallucinations come with super-human powers, and with the help of a talented musician named Stacia, Scott discovers that he is being contacted by an alien who needs his help. A Horn Book contributor described Scott as "a self-assured jock who learns to get in touch with his weirdness," while Catherine Andronik, in her review for Booklist, considered the story a "funny take on a world full of weird aliens and on young people out to save the universe." According to School Library Journal reviewer Elaine E. Knight, Mackel's "winning combination of sports, science fiction, and humor also provides a subtle message on the nature of freedom and heroism."
The adventures of aliens and students at Mike and Scott's school continue in From the Horse's Mouth. Seventh-grader Nick Thorpe manages to fall into a time warp, and is torn between finding out what has caused it and using his ability to walk through a frozen world to cause mischief. But Nick's help is sought after by an alien unicorn who is searching for his rider, and along with Mike's sister Jill, Nick is in for an incredible quest. "Along the way, Nick and readers begin to understand more about friendship, the struggles of homeless people, shelters, and divorce," commented Michale McCullough in School Library Journal. The action, relationships of the characters, and "array of aliens will keep readers firmly hooked from start to finish," promised a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Hazel Rochman noted in her Booklist review that "kids will enjoy the fast, funny dialogue, laced with insults."
Sean, an eighth-grade artist, encounters an alien con artist in Alien in a Bottle. While out collecting interesting bottles for an art project, Sean manages to retrieve a space ship harboring the fugitive Tagg Orion, who sold a defective ring to the warlord Dinn Tauro. The ring makes all of Dinn's nightmares come true, and Dinn is on the chase to track down Tagg and make him stop the nightmares. When Dinn's nightmares reach Earth, Sean realizes that he must use his talent for art to keep the world from being destroyed. "The multifaceted plot includes both raucous adolescent insult humor and thoughtful reflections on the power of art and the nature of dreams," Elaine E. Knight wrote in her School Library Journal review. A Kirkus Reviews contributor recommended the book to "fans of … silly-but-not-stupid fantasym," while GraceAnne A. DeCandido, in Booklist, considered the tale "an entirely engaging and utterly preposterous read."
Along with her books for young readers, Mackel is also the author of Christian thrillers. These books also involve strange occurrences, but include more supernatural events than aliens. Outriders, which combines both the Christian fiction and teen fiction aspects of her writ-
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ing, finds two teenagers in a horrifying alternate future. In this world men have created monsters to fight their wars, and the teens are sent to gather up all of the original species of the Earth and return them to their parents, who are the builders of a new Ark. Along with sequels to Outriders, Mackel planned to write a science-fiction script. "I want to show that a woman can blow up the universe as well as anyone," she joked to P. J. McIlvane in an interview for AbsoluteWrite.com.
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, p. 1526; May 1, 2004, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Alien in a Bottle, p. 1560.
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.
Publishers Weekly, January 11, 1999, review of Can of Worms, p. 72.
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.
AbsoluteWrite.com, http://www.absolutewrite.com/ (July 12, 2005), P. J. McIlvaine, interview with Mackel.