Thursday, December 6, 2007

Anne Newton Walther and Loss of Innocence

Today I have the pleasure of chatting with Anne Newton Walther, the author of the historical fiction novel, The Loss of Innocence. I had the opportunity to review this title for the Muse Book Reviews and I was impressed with Anne’s ability to weave actual events and fictional happenings into an intriguing story with a hint of romance. I couldn’t let too much time pass before I had this talented author as a guest at The Book Connection, because I wanted to connect readers with Anne and this well-written, engaging, and gripping story.

Welcome to The Book Connection, Anne. I’m honored to have you join us.

Thank you, Cheryl it’s a pleasure to be with you.

Before we talk about Loss of Innocence, can you tell us more about yourself? How long have you been a writer? What draws you to historical fiction? Have you dabbled in other genres?

I’ve always loved the world of books and words. Most of my friends in school hated writing term papers and book reports. I loved them. My first book, Divorce Hangover, non-fiction, was published in 1991 by Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books division. It helped people going through divorce and after divorce to get rid of the negative emotional baggage of divorce and move on with their lives. Not Damaged Goods was my second non-fiction book which helped the children deal with their parents’ divorce and move on positively with their lives. My first historical fiction was A Time for Treason, A Novel of the American Revolution.

The island of Bermuda inspired my passion for history and compelled me to embrace fact and fiction in a book. I’ve found that fact is often wilder than fiction and fiction is icing on the cake. The factual element feeds my love of history and the fictional element frees my imagination and lets it take wing.

As with all historical fiction, there must be a great deal of research to perform before you can sit down and write a story. How do you approach researching a topic you are interested in writing about? What do you do to keep all your research organized? How do you know when you’re ready to start writing?

I first look for a compelling tidbit of history that acts as a springboard for the story. In the case of “Treason” it was an actual plot – called the gun powder plot – which involved a conspiracy between the American patriots and a group of Bermudians that took place at the outbreak of the American Revolution. Its intrigue and danger was far more shocking than anything I could have made up. My knowledge of this period of history (the American Revolution and the Colony of Virginia of that period) was in depth. I went to Bermuda to gather the primary and secondary sources I needed to build the story and bring it alive. I love research. The trick is to cull the tastiest morsels to keep the reader fascinated and entertained. There’s always a lot of research and facts left on the cutting room floor. When I reach the point that I’m learning nothing new and my sources are repetitive, I know the moment has arrived to shift from investigating to creating and I pick up my #2 pencil and legal pad and plunge in.

Loss of Innocence is a story revolving around the French Revolution. Were you familiar with this time in France’s history prior to writing the book?

I was familiar with the French Revolution prior to writing Loss of Innocence, but not in depth. Again, I came upon a “historical tidbit,” this time a conspiracy between a group of Americans and a group of Frenchmen who plotted to rescue Marie Antoinette and spirit her across the Atlantic to a town they were building for her as a haven from the guillotine. This actual plot and Eugenie (the heroine of “Treason”) triggered Loss of Innocence.

Two of the main characters in this book are also featured in your novel about the American Revolution, A Time for Treason. Is Loss of Innocence a sequel to this novel?

Yes, Loss of Innocence is a sequel to A Time for Treason. Eugenie Devereux and Bridger Goodrich met in “Treason” and continue their relationship in “Innocence.” Eugenie Devereux, Comtesse de Beaumont is entirely fictitious. Bridger Goodrich, an exiled Virginian, successful shipper and privateer, is an actual historic figure, rogue and entirely irresistible.

I loved how strong-minded and resourceful your main character, Eugénie Devereux, is. What can you tell us about her?

Eugenie is a member of the French nobility who spied for her constituency in the Colony of Virginia in A Time for Treason. She is strong-minded and resourceful as well as extraordinarily beautiful (of course!), a skilled equestrian, and owns and operates vast holdings in the Bordeaux Valley of France. Inspired by the Americans, she is an avid believer and supporter of revolution in her own country.

The other character, who is found in both novels, is Captain Bridger Goodrich, who is Eugénie’s love interest. He is an actual historical figure. If my information is correct, Goodrich worked against the French in the late 1700’s. What can you tell us about him from an historical perspective? Were you able to remain true to the person that people will know from studying history?

Bridger Goodrich was one of five brothers. His family owned several plantations on the James River in the Colony of Virginia. The family had several businesses. They had an extensive shipping and trading company. The family was apolitical, but when a very valuable cargo was stolen from their warehouse, in revenge they became agents for the British. When Virginian patriots discovered this, the entire family, Bridger, his brothers and parents were driven from Virginia and all their property was confiscated.

His parents and some of the brothers relocated in and around the Colony of New York. Bridger and another brother remained in the vicinity of Bermuda. Bridger flew whatever flag was expedient, was a privateer, continued his successful shipping business and thoroughly enjoyed beleaguering the American patriots.

I do take some liberties with Bridger, but for the most part, I am true to his character and activities. Those who are familiar with the Goodrich family will recognize Bridger.

The events in Loss of Innocence are based upon a little-known plot by French nobles and some Americans to rescue Queen Marie Antoinette from her prison in France and bring her across the Atlantic to settle in Pennsylvania. How did these events inspire your story? What piqued your interest enough to want to write about it?

I got a bit ahead of myself in answering an earlier question. The plot to rescue Marie Antoinette was the perfect kernel of history to give Eugenie a vehicle for her adventures in Loss of Innocence. There was no question at the end of A Time for Treason that Eugenie was not satisfied to disappear into the mist. I’ve come to know that fictitious characters have a life of their own. Between the urging of my readers’ feedback and Eugenie’s persistence, there was nothing for me to do but pick up my #2 pencil and legal pad and let the Comtesse have her way.

There are a host of other memorable characters in this novel. Jeremy--who is Eugénie’s Master of the Horse and trusted confidant; Jamie MacKenzie and his family--who are servants and trusted friends; and Amelia Stanton--a spoiled rich girl from America who pays Eugénie a visit at the worst of times, gets on everyone’s nerves, and ends up befriending the queen. Do you have any favorites?

I have to say that I don’t have any favorites. Each had a role to play and at times they surprised me. The greatest surprise was Amelia’s ability to always land on her feet completely oblivious to the havoc she left in her wake. At the beginning of the book I didn’t even expect her to be in the book, but suddenly there she was! Amazing. The Roan, the magnificent thoroughbred, to me, was the real hero of the piece. I guess you can tell I have a particular soft spot in my heart for those courageous beasts.

Where can readers purchase a copy of Loss of Innocence?

All of my books are available on If local bookstores don’t currently have them in stock, they can order them through wholesalers or IPM, the distributor.

What is up next for you? Any upcoming projects you would like to share with our readers? Will we see Eugenie and Bridger in another novel?

I have a couple of projects I’m very excited about. One is the potential for a film project. As for Eugenie and Bridger, let me say, she keeps me on my toes and where she is, can Bridger be far behind?

Is there anything you would like to add?

This has been a great interview, Cheryl. Your questions have been insightful and have given me a wonderful forum for Loss of Innocence and Eugenie. I have always loved history. It was part of my undergraduate degree. If my two books “Treason” and “Innocence” entertain and inform my readers so that they discover a love of history, I will be very grateful.

Thank you, so very much Cheryl for this opportunity. It has really been special.

Thank you for spending so much time with us today, Anne. You’ve written an outstanding novel. I wish you much success.

Note: You can read my review of Loss of Innocence at the Muse Book Reviews site. For the full review, click here:

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