ANNE Stenhouse is better known in Scotland as a performed playwright. Her production, M’Connachie and JMB explores the unruly alter-ego of Peter Pan author JM Barrie and was received in Scottish theatres with loud applause. More recently, Anne has turned her writing talents to fiction and her debut novel, a Regency romance entitled Mariah’s Marriage, was picked up by Canadian publishers MuseItUp. Now Anne has produced her second fiction Bella’s Betrothal which will be launched at a private party in Edinburgh on September 28.
Who do you think you are, Anne Stenhouse?
Not sure where to go with this. I’m Anne Graham, wife and mother, but there is a core being who will always be Anne Stenhouse, the individual and writer. I’ve always been a story-teller and to some extent that sets you apart from others. Maybe they sense the inner questioning and crafting already going on in your head before the last bit of chocolate cake is stolen.
Does drama help write fiction?
I think it has helped me. Many writers write truly woeful dialogue because they’re afraid of it. I love dialogue. I think in rehearsed conversations rather than strings of facts. I think dialogue makes fiction come alive. I also think having written drama, you have a good eye for the scene – how long it should be and who should/should not be in it.
Your play Peter Pan Man was a great success: intelligent, sharp and well executed. How far do you think you got into the mind of J M Barrie?
Thank you. I enjoyed researching it after Carol Metcalf of Theatre Broad said what she wanted for the Peter Pan Man evening. My contribution became M’Connachie & JMB. Barrie was an extraordinary man and I’ve no sense of having sussed him at all. You think you’re getting a handle on something and then you discover another layer. For example, he played cricket obsessively. He was a great writer, but he had no time for, or understanding of, art. The contradictions are endless and his personality was complex. He cast off his wife, but supported her financially in her later years.
When writing the script, did the behaviour and thought processes of the characters surprise or even shock you in any way?
Well, M’Connachie is the first non-human I’ve written, although he is Barrie’s alter ego, so perhaps he’s human after all. I think the total self-absorption displayed by Barrie and accepted as the norm, was rather shocking. We’re more used to greater equality in marriage. The range of Barrie’s work was surprising: a successful journalist, dramatist, novelist and short story writer morphing into a sought-after speaker.
Your first published novel, Mariah’s Marriage, is set in the Regency period. Is this an era that particularly inspires you?
Yes. It was an era of huge contradictions and social inequalities, but it is the start of modern English. That makes Jane Austen readable and accessible in a way that many writers are not. I also love the scope for playful between the sexes dialogue and repartee, while deploring the non-existence of human rights for women (and most of the non-gentle population).
Mariah is feisty and forthright, an unexpected twist to the usual Regency romance formula. Did you intend her to behave like this from the onset or did she grow a strength of will over the story’s development?
I’m afraid the minx was like this from the outset. I love her.
Tell us about Bella’s Betrothal.
Bella is another feisty and forthright young lady, but she’s beset by what we would call in modern celebrity terms, ‘a bad press’. She needs to get away from her London-based existence and takes up an offer from her Scottish relatives to remove to Edinburgh. Even before she reaches Edinburgh, her reputation strews trouble and misunderstanding which climaxes in the betrothal of the title. So, has she become engaged to a hero or a villain?
Does your publisher help to promote your books by arranging blog tours, launches, author interviews, press releases etc or do you find you have to do most of the promotional work yourself?
Yes, lots of help. MuseItUp send out copies of their books for review. They run a readers’ site on FB. They host a blog and run monthly themes where an author can participate. They have a writers’ social site where blogs can be advertised and blog visits arranged. All the usual stuff. Being on the authors’ list of the Bookshop is permanent advertising. My link is here:
Why did you choose to find a publisher for your novels?
What are you working on at the moment?
There’s that superstitious feeling about not saying too much. I do have a third novel on the go, but…
Learn more about Anne at: http://www.annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Buy her books at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Anne-Stenhouse/e/B00D2UINKE
Like her Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/AnneStenhouseAuthor