It is my pleasure to introduce you all to debut author, Anna Lee Huber! Anna’s book, The Anatomist’s Wife, is soon to be released (November 6th, to be exact) and I cannot wait to read it. Join me for an interview with Ms. Huber and leave a comment to win a copy of her debut novel!
Duchess Valerie: The pleasure is mine. Please, your grace, tell us a bit about yourself. What do you like to do in your spare time, for instance?
Her Grace, Anna: I was raised in a small town in northwest Ohio, graduated from high school in South Carolina, college in Nashville, TN, and currently live in northern Indiana. So I know the Midwest and Southeast fairly well. I’m from a large family—I have four brothers and one much-younger sister, so I never lacked playmates, though I usually had to play GI Joe and Matchbox Cars, unless I wanted my Barbie’s undressed and/or pretend blown up. (You can see where my love of action movies comes from.) We were a fairly creative bunch, playing Star Wars swinging plastic baseball bats as light-sabers, and wearing my mother’s old nightgowns. (In actuality, they were old nursing-gowns, and we used to poke our arms through the breast holes because we didn’t know any better. By the way, my mother is going to kill me for mentioning that. Especially since we used to run around outside in them.) The riding lawnmower became our A-Team van, and I must say the running plates were perfect for hanging off of and firing pretend guns, just like the guys did on TV. I always played Hannibal. (I love it when a plan comes together.) I was a somewhat bossy child.
I met my husband in college while acting in a production of Our Town. I played the part of Emily, and he was Simon Stimson, the drunken choirmaster. (No, this is not a reflection on his character or mine.) We’ve been married for over ten years now, and have a troublemaking tabby cat named Pita, or “The Pita”, depending on how naughty she’s been that day.
When not writing, I enjoy reading, singing, travel, and spending time with my family. I have a voracious sweet tooth and way too many pairs of boots, but I’m always looking for more. My husband and I love to watch football—I root for the Buckeyes, and he the Auburn Tigers (luckily they’re in different conferences), and we both pull for the Tennessee Titans.
Duchess Valerie: Ooh, I too, had a fondess for the A-team as a child, but I am one of seven sisters with no brothers, so I’m not quite sure why. : ) How did you get started writing and tell us a bit about your journey to publication.
Her Grace, Anna: I wrote my first book in the fourth grade. It was a story titled Prom Duty, about a group of teens whose band has to play at their prom. I somehow convinced my teacher to read it to the class, and subsequently I’ve always thought of it as my first success. I then wrote several more stories, including a series featuring my own gang of mystery solving teens (à la Nancy Drew, Bess & George) and a spin-off of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?. (I had such a crush on the host of the TV game show.)
Life got busy in high school and college, and somehow my writing fell to the wayside. But I picked it up again about two years after graduating, rediscovered my love for storytelling, and have been writing ever since. My first effort was a straight historical, but romance kept creeping into my plots, so I decided to try writing historical romance next. After my third attempt at that, I noticed how much of a mystery element had also seeped in my novels. So for my fifth attempt I decided to switch it up and write a historical mystery with strong romantic elements. (Clearly, it took me awhile to get the exact mix right.) That fifth novel become The Anatomist’s Wife, my debut, and the first in the Lady Darby mystery series.
Duchess Valerie: I love that you kept going until you got the mix right. What is something no one would know or suspect about you? Like you play the French Horn and/or are a professional-level poker player or something.
Her Grace, Anna: Music is my second love. I attended college in Nashville, TN—Music City USA—and graduated with a degree in Vocal Music Performance. Though more qualified to sing opera, I enjoy performing a wide variety of music, from classical to country, from jazz to rock. I have a particular interest in Celtic music and folk songs. I also play the piano, percussion instruments, and oboe; and I arrange music for multiple voices and instruments. My favorite song for voice is “Gretchen am Spinnrade” by Franz Schubert—it’s so hauntingly beautiful.
I often play a little game with myself, imagining if I traveled back in time, to say, Regency England, how I would stage and orchestrate performances of modern songs. I once arranged an entire Keane album in my head to tell the story of a soldier going off to fight in the Napoleonic Wars, leaving his beloved, and then returning injured. Sometimes those imaginings become scenes in my novels. I used the Pink song “So What” to write a scene in one of my now-abandoned historical romances where the perfectionist heroine has just discovered her husband in a compromising position at a ball, and stomps away growing angrier and angrier as she rips frills and ribbons off her dress and yanks her fichu from her bodice.
Duchess Valerie: That is so interesting. I need complete silence to write so I can’t imagine incorporating music into the plot but it sounds really cool, though. Please give us an excerpt from your debut and tell us a bit about it. The cover is divine. How did you come up with the idea for the plot?
Excerpt from The Anatomist’s Wife…
I glanced up at Mr. Gage. He was leaning against the wall once again, albeit less casually than before. His jaw was dusted with stubble, but the hairs were so light I could barely see them. I imagined they were as blond as the hairs on his head. He was an attractive man—my artist’s eye had to give him that—but the way he presented himself, his smug certainty that he was the most handsome man in the room, rankled me more than I wanted to admit. I had met good- looking men before, and most of them had been as aware of it as Mr. Gage, but they had always amused me more than irritated me.
“Now,” Philip said, bringing us back to the matter at hand. “Kiera, I was askin’ if you would assist Mr. Gage.” I watched his Adam’s apple bob, and I knew he was forcing out the next words. “Particularly with examining the body.”
I stared at him silently, uncertain how I was going to, or whether I even should, honor his request. I had been finished with dissections and corpses the moment Sir Anthony died, and been grateful for it.
“Forgive me,” Mr. Gage interjected with polite severity. “But I fail to comprehend this request.” He gestured to me. “Why on earth would you want your sister-in-law to help me with such a matter?”
I studied him warily. Did he truly not know?
Philip seemed just as taken aback, for it took him a moment to reply. “Gage, what do you know about Lady Darby?”
Mr. Gage glanced at me, almost in puzzlement. “Not much. I inferred there was some sort of scandal following her husband’s death. Some of the guests seem quite mistrustful of her. I gather many of them actually believe she should be our prime suspect.”
His gaze bored into mine, but I refused to be intimidated. He had told me nothing I didn’t already know, didn’t already suspect. I stared back at him and gave him nothing. Not anger or shock or fear. I understood inquiry agents and their games, and I was not interested in playing.
Her Grace, Anna: The Anatomist’s Wife is the first book in the Lady Darby mystery series. It is set in Scotland 1830, and features Kiera, Lady Darby, a gifted portrait artist and the widow of a notorious anatomist, who is forced to confront her macabre past when a houseguest is murdered at her sister’s remote Highland estate. Her partner in this quest to find the murderer is Sebastian Gage, the son of London’s premier gentleman inquiry agent and a handsome rake, who suspects Kiera is keeping dark secrets.
The idea for the plot sort-of grew organically out of the creation of my heroine, Kiera. Once I’d given her the skills I thought necessary to make her an asset to any murder investigation, and the back story to explain how she had acquired those skills, I knew the scandal following her husband’s death would have caused her to go into hiding. I needed a way to coax her out of her cave, so to speak, and I understood that required bringing the murder to her. Once that happened, given her background, I knew Kiera would automatically be considered the prime suspect, which would provide her with the additional motivation she needed to become involved in the investigation, besides protecting her sister’s family.
Duchess Valerie: I admire anyone who can weave the plot of a mystery together. As I said, I cannot wait to read this! After your debut, what’s next for you?
Her Grace, Anna: The second novel in the Lady Darby mystery series releases in September 2013. Kiera is traveling with her sister’s family to Edinburgh when a cryptic note from her brother-in-law’s aunt reaches them. Apparently, there is a problem with his cousin’s engagement, and they must travel to the home of her fiancé, Michael Dalmay, a childhood friend of Kiera and her siblings. But nothing there is as it seems. Someone dear to Kiera, who was long thought dead, is alive, but holds a tenuous grip on his sanity. And now a girl from a neighboring village has gone missing. With the help of Gage, Kiera must unravel the truth, even as she deals with her own conflicting emotions and fears.
It’s very psychological, and was tricky to pull off considering psychology didn’t exist in 1830, so the characters would not have thought in such terms or even been familiar with their concepts. But I love it! And I can’t wait to get it into readers’ hands.
Duchess Valerie: Thank you so much for being with us, today, Anna.
A bit about Her Grace, Anna…
Anna Lee Huber was born and raised in a small town in Ohio. She is a graduate of Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN, where she majored in Music and minored in Psychology. THE ANATOMIST’S WIFE, the first book in the Lady Darby historical mystery series, has been hailed as “…a riveting debut…” and will be released by Berkley Publishing on November 6th, 2012. She currently lives in Indiana with her husband and troublemaking tabby cat. When not hard at work on her next novel, she enjoys reading, singing, travel, and spending time with her family. Visit her website at www.annaleehuber.com.
A bit about The Anatomist’s Wife…
Scotland, 1830. Following the death of her husband, Lady Darby has taken refuge at her sister’s estate, finding solace in her passion for painting. But when her hosts throw a house party for the cream of London society, Kiera is unable to hide from the ire of those who believe her to be as unnatural as her husband, an anatomist who used her artistic talents to suit his own macabre purposes. Kiera wants to put her past aside, but when one of the house guests is murdered, her brother-in-law asks her to utilize her knowledge of human anatomy to aid the insufferable Sebastian Gage-a fellow guest with some experience as an inquiry agent. While Gage is clearly more competent than she first assumed, Kiera isn’t about to let her guard down as accusations and rumors swirl. When Kiera and Gage’s search leads them to even more gruesome discoveries, a series of disturbing notes urges Lady Darby to give up the inquiry. But Kiera is determined to both protect her family and prove her innocence, even as she risks becoming the next victim…
Contact Anna on the web at www.annaleehuber.com, on Facebook at AuthorAnnaLeeHuber, or on Twitter at @AnnaLeeHuber
One lucky commenter will win a copy of The Anatomist’s Wife. Tell us, what are some of your favorite mysteries, historical or otherwise?