11 November 2012

Guest Blog: Anna Lee Huber

This week, we’re welcoming author Anna Lee Huber whose debut title THE ANATOMIST’S WIFE  has been hailed as “…a riveting debut…” and will be released by Berkley Publishing on November 6th, 2012Anna Lee is here to talk about the novel and offer a copy to a lucky winner. Here's the blurb:

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...

**Q&A with Anna Lee Huber**

Thank you so much for having me here at Unusual Historicals!  This is truly a unique and wonderful place on the web for authors who write atypical historical fiction.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born and 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 wrote my first book in the fourth grade.  It was a story titled Prom Duty that I somehow convinced my teacher to read 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?.  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. 

What type of books do you write?

My novels are historical mysteries with romantic subplots.  They also have a distinctly gothic feel to them—dark and atmospheric. 

Where do you find your inspiration?

Many places, but in the case of THE ANATOMIST’S WIFE, the story came from the creation of the main character herself.  I had determined I wanted to try my hand at writing a historical mystery with a female protagonist, and I wanted to make sure she had skills that would make her useful during a murder investigation.  So I decided to make her a portrait artist with keen observation skills.  But I knew that wasn't enough.  In that time period, ladies were sheltered and cosseted from such grim realities as murder.  There needed to be a stronger reason why gentlemen would allow her to become involved with such a gruesome undertaking.  I realized that the one proficiency that would make her absolutely invaluable to investigators, particularly for that time period, was a detailed working knowledge of human anatomy.  So I set about finding a way to give her that education.

The only realistic way I could think of doing this was through the aid of a husband or a father or a brother.  But why would one of these men elect to do this when such things simply were not done?  Thus emerged the great anatomist, Sir Anthony Darby, Kiera’s late husband, and his quest to write a definitive human anatomy textbook.  In his narcissism and greed, Sir Anthony wished to keep the credit to himself, and so tricked Kiera into marriage and then bullied and threatened her into crafting the illustrations for his book, providing her with a large portion of the education an anatomist of that time received.  When knowledge of her involvement with her husband’s dissections leaks out to the public following his death, she is feared and vilified, and her removal from London becomes necessary.  She runs as far as she can go, to her sister’s home in the remote Highlands of Scotland.  But when murder follows her there, she realizes there’s no place left to hide. 
Is The Anatomist’s Wife a stand alone novel or part of a series?

The Anatomist’s Wife is the first novel in the Lady Darby mystery series.  Book 2 is set two months after the events of Book 1, and will release in September 2013.  Book 3 is slated for release in July 2014.  All three take place in different areas of Scotland.

What kinds of research did you do for this book?

Lots of reading—from encyclopedias, to journals and diaries, to detailed research texts.  Some were for cultural reference, while others pertained to more specific areas of study, like nineteenth century medicine, or the practice of grave robbing.  I also visited the UK—strolled through the Highlands, toured castles, and tried to get a feel, a sense of my environs.  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. 

What did you like best about writing The Anatomist’s Wife?

My characters.  I absolutely fell in love with Kiera and Gage, and several of my secondary cast.  It’s been so much fun to watch them take on a life of their own.  Nothing is more exciting than when one of your character’s pipes up three-quarters of the way through the book and tells you a secret you didn’t even consciously know they were keeping.  But then you realize your subconscious must have known, because you’ve been weaving in hints all along.  That’s the magical part of writing.  

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 trouble-making 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.comFind Anna Lee on Facebook and Twitter.