Why Anna Katharine Green is My Sister From Another Century

Why Anna Katharine Green is My Sister From Another Century

As you’ve probably noticed, I have a fascination with Anna Katharine Green.

And now I can finally announce that I’ve completed my new book and we’ve begun pitching it to publishers! And guess who the main character is?

You guessed it: Anna Katharine Green.

This new book follows Anna as she is inspired to write her first novel, The Leavenworth Case. Based on real events, and wherever possible using her actual words, I hope to revive interest in this most wonderful woman who laid the foundations of mystery fiction as we know it today, inspiring the likes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. To learn more, check out the book page for A Woman’s Intuitions, the first Anna Katharine Green Mystery.

What’s really fun, is that the more I research Anna Katharine Green, the more I learn how much we have in common. Here’s just a few of the reasons I think Anna and I are connected through time:

  1. She was 32 when she had her first novel published: The Leavenworth Case in 1878. I’m 32 and this Christmas my first short story is getting published!
  2. Anna’s stepmother was Grace Hollister. A family name that goes back generations on my dad’s side is Hollister. Although I haven’t tracked down the connection yet, we’re bound to be related somewhere in our family tree!
  3. She moved a lot as a child, upwards of 10 times, just before her first book publication. I’ve moved 17 times in my life, so far…
  4. She said, “I commenced to compose—that is, write little stories—almost as soon as I could read. It was so natural for me to do this that I supposed it an ordinary thing for children to amuse themselves in this way” (quoted in Good Reading about Many Books Mostly by Their Authors by T. Fisher Unwin, 1895). I, too, began to create stories from a young age. My first handwritten, hand-bound “book” came into being at the age of 9.
  5. She graduated from Ripley Female College in Poultney, Vermont with a BA, age 21. I graduated with a BA at the age of 21, as well. Also note that she left her family in New York to go to a college in another state, as I did, too, leaving my family in Colorado to go to Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington.
  6. Although she desperately wanted to be published, and pursued being an author whole-heartedly throughout her life, she also was a devoted family woman, a loving wife, and mother of three. One thing I struggle with daily is finding the time to write while also raising two kids and being a wife. I can take heart from Anna and her example. She managed to get 36 books published, 32 of which were published after she was married and had given birth to her first child!
  7. She was a strong Christian who raised her family in the Presbyterian church. I am a Christ-follower, as well, and believe that through Christ I can do all things. Anna was described as “a deeply religious woman…and there are many…that can testify to her practical charity and helpfulness” (“Writing Her First Book,” 1900). May this be said of me, as well.
  8. “When she is producing a story she devotes a major part of the day to the work, writing rapidly for several hours, after which she devotes some time to correction. In the evening, when the lamps have been lighted, she and her husband and the governess of their children gather about the table in her writing room. Mr. Rohlfs reads and the others listen, until one of the three has a criticism to make. In the nature of things the criticisms are oftenest made by the author herself, and she is constantly making notes of the way the story strikes her as the reading progresses” (“Writing Her First Book,” 1900). My background as an editor means that I, too, am more often the one to make critiques of my own writing while reading it aloud–something I always do upon completion of a manuscript.
  9. “It takes days to adjust herself to a new piece of work, but once she has begun nothing can drive it out of her mind. This does not mean that everything also must give way to the story; indeed, she often acts as hostess or as guest and goes out to entertainments and social functions while she is writing a piece of fiction, the same as at other times. But whatever she does she never lets go of the thread of the story, and thus in a way she almost leads a double existence from the beginning of the work to its finish” (“Writing Her First Book,” 1900). This is almost word for word the balance I am currently struggling to maintain as a writer and mother. How does one find time to live life when writing has a tendency to consume everything? Like Anna, the story never leaves me, no matter what I’m doing, causing me to feel like I’m leading “a double existence” as she did.
  10. She said, “I always see the end. I plan my whole story before I put pen to paper, and this is the most fascinating part of the work. Otherwise I could never work each part into its proper place, and obtain a harmonious whole” (quoted in Good Reading About Many Books Mostly by Their Authors by T. Fisher Unwin, 1895). I outline my stories the same way, always starting at the end and then working backward to sprinkle the important facts in the right places.
  11. Anna believed, “In nine times out of ten the motive can be put down as Selfishness. It takes many forms. It is responsible for those crimes which have money as their object. The young man who cannot wait for some relative to die so that he may inherit property; the people who murder in order to collect life insurance; those who kill in order to rob; all the crimes committed to gain money — theft, embezzlement, forgery — all of these are rooted in selfishness, in greed for one’s own self. So are the crimes people commit to be freed from some obligation or duty which they are too selfish to meet. Men kill their wives, women kill their husbands, because they want liberty to go with someone else. Young men kill the girls they have betrayed, because they want to escape the situation they have brought about. Or a man kills someone who possesses some secret which would disgrace the murderer if it were known. Jealous men, jealous women, kill because they can’t have the love they want. And they kill because they want revenge. It is self, self, self, all the way through…. Root out Self and you would practically eliminate crime. Even those acts which are committed in sudden passion can be laid to the same fundamental cause — lack of training which makes us tolerant of things contrary to our convenience or liking” (Anna Katharine Green, “Why Human Beings Are Interested in Crime,” 1919). This is something I, myself, have said before, but never written down so eloquently. 🙂
  12. She also wrote, “There is another thing about crime which interests an amazing number of people. It helps to account for the fact that so many people read detective stories and follow the newspaper accounts of strange criminal cases. In reading an ordinary novel, they simply let the current of the story flow through their minds. But when they read a detective story, they are all the time figuring on the solution of the mystery, trying to guess how it is coming out. And they do the same thing when they follow a criminal case in the papers” (Anna Katharine Green, “Why Human Beings Are Interested in Crime,” 1919). Again, something I’ve often said is that mysteries are popular because they are escape puzzles that make us focus on a problem outside our everyday lives.
  13. Plus, the only full-length, published, nonfiction biographical study about Anna was done by Patricia D. Maida in 1989. Another Patricia was interested in her and was the only other person to write an entire book about her?! What are the chances?

It can’t be an accident. There are no coincidences.

As Anna would write, speaking of The Leavenworth Case, “Perhaps it is somewhat sensational, but I hope by characterization and earnestness to lift it to a higher ground.” I hope that my book fills a need and draws Anna Katharine Green out of the shadows and into the light, where she deserves to be.

I look forward to sharing more of my author journey with you! Be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to get the latest on how publication is progressing!

3 Replies to “Why Anna Katharine Green is My Sister From Another Century”

  1. I’m reading The Leavenworth Case right now — amazing that it was written by a woman in the 1870s!! Lots of neat “coincidences” for you, Patricia!

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