I’m happy to welcome Anna Lee Huber, historical mystery novelist, to Between the Sheets today. Anna’s debut mixes Scottish history, science, art, and murder to create one exciting premise in 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…
Witchcraft is one of my favorite topics (insert evil laugh). Why was Lady Darby accused of being a witch?
There’s no witchcraft in The Anatomist’s Wife, but some of society, high and low, have labeled Kiera, Lady Darby as a witch because of her involvement with her late anatomist’s husbands work, and because of her eccentric nature. It’s a sad fact that throughout history so many women who were just a little bit different, or simply dared to defy convention, were called witches. Though the danger of being tried as a witch had passed by 1830, the slur had not gone out of use. So while Kiera has no magical powers, her failure to conform and her sometimes odd behavior and pursuits, as well as the vicious rumors circulating about her, have caused others to call her a witch.
How did this idea of Lady Darby and the murder mystery come to you? Is she based on an actual person from Scotland?
I decided first that I wanted to write a historical mystery series with a female protagonist. Then I went about purposely crafting Lady Darby’s character. I wanted her to have real skills that would make her invaluable to a murder investigation. Making her a talented portrait artist gave her acute observational skills, as well as an artistic, and sometimes eccentric demeanor. But I had decided I wanted there to be more to her. I wanted her to have a working knowledge of anatomy, and the only way I could think of giving a gentlewoman in that time period such an education was through a father, brother or husband. That was when the idea of for Lady Darby’s troubled first marriage came to me. And then subsequently the suspicions against her, and the decision to bring the murder to the secluded location where she had been hiding from society and their rumors.
All of the characters in The Anatomist’s Wife are fictitious, though I like to think there could have been people similar to them who lived. The only character who is loosely based on someone in fact is Kiera’s late husband, Sir Anthony. I borrowed a few details from the life of English surgeon and anatomist Sir Astley Paston Cooper for his background. However most of the characters and events on the periphery are historically factual, such as the murderers Burke and Hare.
Mixing art and anatomy as the former scientists did is fascinating. How did you conduct this sort of research? Care to share a gruesome detail?
Lots of reading—from encyclopedias, to journals and diaries, to detailed research texts with anatomical sketches. My visit to the Surgeons’ Hall Museums at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh was particularly insightful. There you’ll find the famed would-be-body-snatcher-turned-murderer Burke‘s death mask, skeleton, and several articles made from his tanned skin, including a book cover. The work of body snatchers and murderers like Burke and Hare was probably the most gruesome details I learned about – the lengths to which they would go to procure bodies, and the extent to which the anatomists who purchased those bodies would look the other way, all in the name of science and their own advancement.
Do you have advice for authors striving to get published?
First of all, don’t give up. The only way you can be certain of not succeeding is if you give up. And second, find a good critique partner, someone knowledgeable who you can really trust to tell you the hard truth when necessary.
What marketing techniques will you employ to promote your novels?
I made about an 18-stop blog tour earlier this month, and have been gratefully accepting all of the interview requests I’ve received, online and for TV, radio and print. I also ordered bookmarks, postcards and pens to hand out at events and to contacts. I’ve run contests on my website and Facebook, and my publisher ran a giveaway on Goodreads for me. I attended several writer’s conferences and will continue to do so. I am active on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads, and I’m always looking for other effective, cost-efficient ways to promote.
MOST DISGUSTING FOOD: Yes, I can’t eat anything that feels weird in my mouth – it’s a strange foible of mine. But the most disgusting food has to be oysters – a triple whammy of icky taste, smell, and texture.
TOP 2 FAV MYSTERY NOVELS: Ooo, tough question. Hmmm… Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn and Interred With Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell (I think I could list 100.) J
BEST PLACE YOU’VE BEEN: I love, love, loved the Lake District in England.
FAV VICE: I have a terrible sweet tooth. I can’t resist baked goods – cake, cookies, muffins…
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, or find her on Twitter @AnnaLeeHuber.