We’re welcoming in Labor Day with author Anna Lee Huber!
Anna Lee Huber is Daphne awards-winning author of the national bestselling Lady Darby Mysteries and forthcoming Verity Kent Mysteries. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she majored in music and minored in psychology. She currently resides in Indiana with her family and is hard at work on her next novel. Visit her online at www.annaleehuber.com.
Welcome, Anna! Tell us a little about your background.
I was born and raised in a small town in Ohio, and then my family moved to the Southeast when I was in High School. I attended college in Nashville, TN and graduated with a degree in Music and Psychology. While working as an administrative assistant after college, I rediscovered my love of writing in my spare time, and have pursued a career as an author ever since, publishing my first novel in 2012. I currently live in Indiana with my family and write two historical mystery series, the Lady Darby Mysteries for Berkley and the forthcoming Verity Kent Mysteries for Kensington, as well as Gothic suspense novels in the vein of Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt.
Tell us a bit about your Lady Darby mystery series. What was the inspiration?
My Lady Darby Mystery series is set in 1830s Scotland and features a widowed portrait artist with a macabre past and a talent for detection. The inspiration for the series mostly came from my desire to write a historical mystery series with a female protagonist who truly had important skills to contribute to an investigation. Contrary to many lady sleuths, she is not a darling of the ton. She’s awkward and uncomfortable, so she is not going to be a master of interrogation. However, she does have knowledge of anatomy—something that was truly scandalous for any woman, let alone a lady to know, as most men didn’t even understand the workings of the body. And she also has a keen eye and a marked ability to read expressions and body language from her natural ability and training as a portrait artist.
How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
Before each book, I create a detailed psychological profile for all major and secondary characters, focusing strongly on goal, motivation, conflict, and each character’s story arc.
How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
I create about a 5-6 page outline, hitting all the major plot elements of the mystery and weaving in other story arcs—romance, individual character growth, etc. I find that I have to know where I’m going, especially in regards to the mystery, but I don’t like to get too detailed. That takes out some of the joy and spontaneity of writing. Thus far my novels have never turned out exactly how I plotted them, and I think they’re all the better because of it.
Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
Character. I find that you can have the most amazing plot idea ever, but if the characters don’t draw you in and drive that plot, then it can fall completely flat.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
I would say my biggest challenge thus far has been the birth of my first child. I had to figure out how to carve out the time to get my writing done while caring for a baby, and retrain myself to focus.
Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
I’m not sure my story is very interesting. I got my agent one of the usual ways, through a query letter. Though it was somewhat remarkable in that the manuscript I was querying was my fifth finished novel, and after so many rejections from the previous four manuscripts, I suddenly had three offers of representation. It was an amazing feeling after such a struggle.
What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I am currently writing the first book in my new Verity Kent Mystery series for Kensington. It is set in England 1919, following the Great War (World War I), and introduces readers to Verity, who is a widow of the Great War and a former Secret Service agent. Then I will be working on another Lady Darby novella, which features Bonnie Brock prominently, and the next Lady Darby novel.
What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
I have a babysitter who comes over to watch my daughter three mornings each week until naptime, and my husband watches her another morning, so I usually get in about 5-6 hours of writing time on those days. The other three days I try to write during naptimes and sometimes at night after she goes to sleep. When I’m close to a deadline, of course, I work even more, trying to squeeze in time whenever I can.
If you could take only three books with your for a year-long writing retreat in a gorgeous setting with no library, which three would you take?
That’s tough, as I usually have at least half a dozen research texts I consult for each book. But I’m going to assume you mean fiction titles. Definitely something by Mary Stewart (maybe This Rough Magic or Madam, Will You Talk?), The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley, and Persuasion by Jane Austen.
What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Give yourself permission to write crap. At least for that first draft. Take the pressure off yourself to get it perfect, and just get the words out. You can always fix them during edits. After all, that’s what they’re for. No one will ever see that first draft of hot mess unless you show it to them, so stop sweating it and just write.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Hmmm. Maybe climbing in a car and learning on the fly to drive on the “wrong” side of the road in the UK after going 36 hours without sleep. Not my brightest move.
What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
My schooling trained me to be an opera singer, but I decided to become a writer instead.
What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow? J No, but seriously. I can’t think of anything.
Where can we learn more about you and your books? www.annaleehuber.com
Just for Fun:
Night or Day? Night
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) Cat. Particularly my brown tabby Pita.
Beach or Pool? Rocky Beach
Steak or salad? Salad
Favorite Drink? Peach Bellini
Favorite Book? Everything by Mary Stewart
Favorite TV Series? The Big Bang Theory
Favorite Movie? Inception
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Neither
Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii
Finish this sentence: If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Jesus.
If I had just one wish, it would be for all the world to know and experience true, unselfish love.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be No one. I love my life.
Thanks Anna! You can find out more about her at:
Anna will give away an autographed copy of AS DEATH DRAWS NEAR, Lady Darby Book 5, to one lucky commenter!
To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:
* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)
Winner will be chosen at random using random.org. Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! Contest ends midnight Sunday, Sept. 4!