Anne

I’ve been speaking to author Carmen Stevens who has been telling me about her historical drama Anne.

Anne is set in 18th Century London, one of my favourite periods in history, can you tell us about this time and in particular about the setting for the book?
 I really like this period in English history as well. I myself love England, although I haven’t been there yet. I’m especially fascinated with its history. I’ve also researched England and its history thoroughly, especially for the background of my novel. And from what my research has revealed to me, I believe that 18th century England was either a great time or a bad time depending on one’s social class. If you were first or second class, I imagine that life was pretty good and others treated you with favor and respect. However, if you were third class, I imagine that life was pretty difficult. I have reason to believe that many poor people were homeless or almost homeless during this time, begged for food from those who were better off, and resided in the dirty slums of big cities like London. And this setting is exactly where my titular character, Anne, finds herself in the beginning of the story. By the time she’s twelve years of age, Anne is homeless and alone on the dark side of London, in the slums. Her mother had died giving birth to her, and because of this loss, her father became insane, hated Anne, and treated her violently. When Anne is twelve years old, her father, an alcoholic, kills himself by burning down their home, and Anne is immediately homeless, poor, and alone.
Anne is the star of your novel, she seems a wilful young woman, can you tell us more about her?
 As stated in the previous question, Anne doesn’t have a very good start in life. She knows this, but instead of letting the fact that she’s poor, homeless, and alone get the better of her and make her depressed, she gathers strength from her sufferings and a strong hope for a better life is rooted within her. However, this isn’t to say that Anne is a cheerful, happy person. She gathers strength from her hard life, but that strength is represented in a highly selfish, egotistical manner. Anne’s sufferings have toughened her, but she cares little for anything or anyone besides herself. The opening pages of my novel help to illustrate this further:

Fourteen-year old Anne Falkman had beheld this all through eyes that esteemed the dire need to be firm and strong, haughty and traitorous. She had always espied the world with beautiful eyes that betrayed their attractiveness but clung fast to life itself and the hope for joy that such a thing as fate could someday bring her.

Anne knew this hope by it growing within her like a tree, and the longer that she forgot about it, when she felt it prick her heart again it had grown taller. She had acquired the seed of this hope through the only years of her life that she had ever known, the most unbearable, heart-wrenching years that no one so young should ever have the curse to possess. They were years that had tested her natural endurance and inner strength, but with poor end results. The compassion and kindness born into her had come to terminate long ago as such characteristics had lost their true shine as the conditions of her tragic life had gripped a sick hold onto them. Never was the girl smiling kind thoughts and words to the passersby on the streets and contemplating compassion for the weeping, but why should she? No one had ever really smiled and sent kind, sympathetic thoughts and words her way through the crude journey that fate had propelled her into. No one had ever really stopped to direct their attention to the neglect that was hers every day of her life. Thus, Anne possessed the knowledge that there was no one in the world who she could trust. She had contracted a vulnerable heart that was, in addition to all of the other negative traits that her personality had taken, sensitive not to offensive words and actions but rather to the uncommon airs of ego and vanity. Daily she paid ignorance and rejection toward many and indifference toward all. She had learned to live in no other way than this, and to only keep watch on herself and the sacred will to live for a life that was to bring her happiness and reason.

As a historical character what can modern women take from a woman like Anne?
 Well like I said, Anne is a tough cookie. Even though she’s egocentric and potentially cruel, even, she’s strong, willful, and doesn’t lose sight of her dreams. I think that modern women can really admire these traits in Anne, and learn not to lose sight of their dreams as well.
Is this a story influenced by the classics and if so what books could you liken Anne to?
 I was greatly influenced by Charles Dickens while planning out and writing this book. I’d read a couple of his novels before even thinking of writing a book. These two novels were “Great Expectations” and “Oliver Twist”. In the former book, the protagonist Pip has a humble life and dreams of becoming a gentleman. He also falls in love with the cruel woman Estella, and I definitely believe that Anne was formed from the character Estella’s negative influence. As for “Oliver Twist”, Oliver goes through many hardships himself before attaining a better life. I think I definitely took something from this book as well in forming my novel.
Aside from Anne herself, who are the other dominant characters in the book and what are they to Anne?
 My novel has a great many characters in the forty-some years that it covers. There’s George, a young man who befriends Anne when they’re children and develops feelings for her, but Anne, though she superficially cares for him, is cruel to him and pushes him away. Rad is another young man who falls for Anne, but Anne, though she reciprocates his feelings at least a little bit, cares more for herself and turns her back on him. Madame Button is a malicious French woman who hates Anne for a reason that’s not revealed to readers until a bit later, and tries to ruin her life. Anne fears her greatly. Guinevere is another young woman who comes across Anne and forms a strong friendship with her; Anne loves her just as much. Anne also bears three children: Henry, who is Anne’s foil, a very strong person who also endures much, Lucifer, a very shy, troubled boy with inner demons, and Grace, a spunky, passionate girl who loves Anne dearly and longs to protect her from a certain person. Anne loves both of her boys, but Grace she is afraid of because of a certain incident that happened before Grace was born. These characters are just a few of the many more that my novel contains.
Is there a particular scene you could share with us?
 Sure. In the following extract, Anne is recalling a time in which Madame Button told her all about her parents from the time they decided to elope together to the moment Anne’s mother dies from childbirth:

Anne’s father had been named William Falkman. He had been a common man of low station when he had fallen in love with an Elizabeth McFarkley, a beautiful, loving young woman of first-class society. She had likewise fallen for William, but was constantly harped upon by her egotist, persistent parents, who always insisted that a daughter like theirs was not about to be united with such a “common boy”. William and Elizabeth, however, loved each other too much to know any kind of negativity, and when the verbal harassing of Elizabeth about her love affairs came to a sufficient point, the two lovers finally decided to escape from such pressure, and elope. Elizabeth especially had treasured such an idea, as the love that she had had for William was far greater than was the love that she had possessed for her parents and their constant injustices.

Eloping was a bad decision. The sweet and naive Elizabeth never imagined that her own family would break ties with her because of her personal wants and dreams, but that was exactly what had happened. Elizabeth McFarkley, the gorgeous daughter of a wealthy politician, had made the choice to marry a man of much inferiority, and the consequence was the cessation of any further communication between her family and herself. When the surrounding areas became informed of such a consequence, they were heartily surprised to learn of how indifferent Elizabeth continued to act, in spite of such shame. This was because she finally had what she had always ached and prayed for-the perfect man to be her husband, and there was absolutely nothing in the world that could bring her down. Others did not know this, though, and they talked about Elizabeth secretly amongst themselves, calling her a “thankless, shameful braggart”.

No matter the cold, vulgar thoughts and feelings of these members of society that Elizabeth had grown up with, she and William, after marrying, decided to purchase a large, luxurious house near London. The home was bought with the sale of a number of quaint items that Elizabeth had run away with. As inconvenient as it had been for Elizabeth to run off with such special belongings, she had loved them too much to leave them behind, and furthermore, her intelligence had prompted her to bring them along directly after she had made the decision to elope with William. She had had a certain instinct that had told her that the money produced from the selling of those objects would prove to add up to a sufficient amount of money. As companionable as this house had been for the star-crossed lovers back then, it was the same house that Anne violently abhorred with a fierce retribution that coursed wildly throughout her being, as it had been the nightmare of hell for her, hell produced by the purest paternal abuse of every kind.

According to Madame Button, Anne’s parents had had a flawless first year of marriage, but Anne had already guessed that. She was well aware of the ugly life that she lived and wondered how a person like she, with a pain-filled life, could otherwise have come into the world but with sufficient pain on the part of her parents.

Indeed, the story thus continued. William had not been able to find a doctor in the time before Elizabeth had gone into labor with Anne, even as he had run through the whole of London on the foaming back of a horse. His youthful heart had been filled with terror for his poor wife, who had been screaming and crying in utter anguish for hours from her labor pains. He feared that Elizabeth was too frail to give birth to a child, and those fears were only to be confirmed a couple of hours after William had returned from his harried journey with no success whatsoever.

When midnight struck on that chilly night of April 4, 1754 Elizabeth did, with tears and trembles harassing her delicate body, give birth to Anne. The child, if anything, had appeared to be even healthier than her mother. William had performed the whole delivery of the infant on his own, vacant of the availability of a doctor, or even a midwife. He had certainly performed his best, considering how difficult it had been for him to ignore his wife’s continuum of heart-breaking screams and sobs. They had shattered parts of his heart and perhaps his composition as well, had he not forced himself to concentrate on every particular event that was folding out before his eyes.

When William had returned to Elizabeth after cleansing the baby, he happily announced what gender it was. When she heard that she had given birth to a daughter, Elizabeth smiled laboriously, and then, extending a shaking hand to rest it lightly upon her girl’s head, she turned with tear-filled eyes to her husband, stretching another difficult smile upon her destroyed face. She then began to speak, so quietly at first that William could scarcely hear her.

“W…William, name her…Anne. Anne…Elizabeth. A lovely name…do not mourn for me, darling…Love…Anne. She will be all that you have now. I…I love…you…”

Her last words said, Elizabeth fell instantly against the pillows, throwing a wild look all around her, as if she knew that William would break after she was gone. Plump tears once again began to fall before she slowly sank down into the bed in death. With his great love gone, William screamed a terrible yell of complete agony.

What is your favourite part of the story?
 My favorite part regards the very last scene of the novel, which is quite powerful, I think. It’s also thought-provoking. I won’t say anything else about it because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I recommend people to read this novel and find out what exactly this scene is about.
And finally what is next for Carmen Stevens?
 Right now I’m simply focusing on promoting my novel, though I may write another book in the future. But I try to set aside at least a few hours a week for promoting. I work hard every week and I hope for the best.
You can download Anne from Amazon now.
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