FOR FEBRUARY 2018
Anne Armistead on YouTube.
WHEN SHE'S NOT wearing her story-telling hat as Anne Armistead, historical romance author, she’s Sandra Havriluk, middle school English teacher, children’s writer, wife, mom of two grown daughters and a rescue mutt named Jackpot. She earned her English literature degree from the University of Georgia and her MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University and is a member of the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Romance Writers of America (RWA) and the Georgia Writers of Romance (GRW), and the National and Georgia Sisters in Crime (SinC) organization. She remembers the old-fashioned days before computers, iPhones, and air-conditioning, which may be why historical fiction is her favorite genre. However, she’s not complaining about technology, for she’d be living in the stacks of the library without the internet. In the words of this Southern woman, bless its little heart.
AS A CHILD she actually looked forward to her doctor and dentist appointments because she loved to read the Highlights for Children magazines always in the waiting rooms. Seeing her own stories published in this magazine is a childhood dream come true. Her love of storytelling came naturally from her daddy, who loved spinning tales of his growing up in the South. She cherishes a collection of his hats,which she believes brings her a touch of his storytelling magic.
DANGEROUS CONJURINGS is her debut historical romance novel. Under the title Treacherous Hearts, it was the winner of the 2014 YA Fab 5 Wisconsin Romance Contest.
Q: What do you like to read in your free time?
A: I enjoy reading historical romance. I adore Janette Oke’s When Calls the Heart, and I love historical romances set in World War 2. Right now, I’m enjoying C.F. Yetmen’s Anna Klein books, and I love Diane Moody’s Of Windmills and War. I also love romantic suspense and devour all Hank Phillippi Ryan and Heather Graham. As a middle grade English teacher, I also read a lot of middle grade and YA, especially YA verse novels.
Q: How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book?
A: The idea for my book grew from a workshop scene I wrote while studying for my MFA in Creative Writing. Our assignment was to write a scene with supernatural elements. My scene was set in the aftermath of the Civil War in the deep South. It told about a sister, who felt responsible for her infant brother’s death that happened when she was supposed to be watching him but instead she fell asleep. In her grief, she runs from his graveside funeral and plunges into a river, hoping to drown.
Instead, she is snatched from the water and slammed into the riverbank, opening her eyes to find the ghost of her betrothed who died in the Civil War had saved her. I named the manuscript The Secret of Elijah, with Elijah being the infant brother who ends up shaping my protagonist’s destiny.
Anne is available as a writing coach, editor,
and grammar tutor, as well as ghost writing
Q: What projects are you working on?
A: My work-in-progress is tentatively titled When Sparks Fly. It is set in 1924 in the fictional small town of Springville, Georgia, where the state prison is located and the first electric chair has been installed.
Iris Calhoun, a young lady of independent wealth during the jazz age, arrives in Springville, Georgia, determined to prevent the electrocution of an African-American teen who is the son of her housekeeper. She engages the legal services of handsome but troubled Horatio Whitman, a World War 1 veteran who has just been released from the State Sanitarium for treatment of shell shock. When their fight against injustice makes them targets of the KKK, sparks fly between Iris and Horatio while they refuse to back down from personal danger. Iris is determined to save both he accused’s life as well as heal Horatio through her love. But will Horatio allow himself to be whole again?
Q; What are some of the references that you used while researching this book?
A: I was lucky to find amazing books on Marie Laveau, my favorite being Martha Ward’s Voodoo Queen: The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau and Jim Haskins Voodoo and Hoodoo: The Craft as Revealed by Traditional Practitioners. Also, I was fascinated by Zora Neale Hurston’s Mules and Men and Jeffrey E. Anderson’s Conjure in African American Society.
Luckily, the internet has many diaries online written by women who documented about living through the Civil War and its aftermath, which helped me with setting and details. A Confederate Girl's Diary, 1842-1909 by Sarah Morgan Dawson was invaluable as was Eliza Frances Andrews’ The War Time Journal of a Georgia Girl, 1864-1865. I also became immersed in reading letters from Civil War soldiers, which helped me craft the letter my protagonist’s brother wrote to them. I also was inspired emotionally by Maureen Morehead and Pat Carr’s Our Brother’s War.
In addition, I was fortunate to interview Dr. Kameelah L. Martin, then at Georgia State University and now at College of Charleston as Director of African American Studies, about hoodoo and conjuring as well as Haitian voodoo influences in New Orleans. I also found an incredible resource in Timothy Stowell, who helped me with locating old maps and details on travel from Savannah to New Orleans in 1865.
I also did quite a bit of reading about caulbearers. My character Elijah is born “behind the veil,” which, along with the belief that he has been conjured by Kali Despierre, seems to mark him for a doomed destiny.
Also, I could not pass up the opportunity to work a Tarot Card reading into my story, which became a motif to weave through the story to add elements of foreshadowing and Gothic intensity.
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Q: What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
A: While my book is historical romance, it is somewhat out of the traditional trend of Highlanders, etc., since it is set right after the Civil War and deals with the cultural sea change that forced in the South. The romance between the hero and heroine touches on all the issues of the time, including sexual mores, prejudices, and betrayal. The Gothic elements and the integration of the historical figure of Marie Laveau should appeal to those who enjoy supernatural elements.
Q: What is your role in the writing community?
A: I belong to the Georgia Romance Writers, Sisters in Crime, and Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators. My writing critique group (we call us the YNOTS) keeps me going. Without them, I would be lost! I enjoy mentoring young writers and teach creative writing summer camps.
Q: Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?
A: My love for storytelling came from my daddy, who loved to spin tales about his Southern upbringing. My love for reading came from my mama, who introduced me to The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Anne of Green Gables, and most significantly, Gone with the Wind. My love for writing came from studying the classics while earning my undergraduate degree in literature. I still think the most exquisite last sentence of a novel was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, for The Great Gatsby: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Still knocks me out every time I read it.
Q & A WITH THE AUTHOR
Q: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
A: My writing group reacted with such enthusiasm to my one scene that I decided it had the kernel of a larger story in it. Being a Southerner and a lover of Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor, I have always been drawn to Southern Gothic tales, so I decided to fashion my story in that genre.
At first, I planned to write a triangle romance of the ghost of a Civil War soldier, his betrothed who pines for him, and a veteran soldier who comes into her life. She must decide if she would die to be with her first love or let his ghost go and love the new man in her life.
However, my story kept pulling me a different direction, with hoodoo conjurers and the fascinating historical character of Marie Laveau, the New Orleans Queen of voodoo, taking over the plot. I went where that led me, which created a completely different story than the one I’d imagined, one in which my protagonist finds a strength in herself she’d never envisioned and an acceptance of love in her life she'd almost forsaken.
I wanted Leah to experience the metamorphosis from being a dutiful daughter who tries to keep her family intact to a woman of confidence, unafraid to do what she needs to do not only for her family but for herself. She must decide if she can forgive herself and the man she loves so they can build a life together.
DIRECT INQUIRIES TO
Anne Armistead, author
DANGEROUS CONJURINGS INVOKES A SPELL OF FORBIDDEN ROMANCE
So begins the fertility spell chanted by the hoodoo conjurer Kali Despierre. Hers is a dangerous conjuring that brings murder, kidnapping, and evil spirits into the life of eighteen-year-old Leah Sullivan.
The historical romance Dangerous Conjurings is set in the South in 1865 against the backdrop of the post-Civil War. Leah Sullivan finds herself in a race against time to rescue her kidnapped infant brother Elijah, stolen by the conjurer Kali Despierre who plans to sell the babe into the New Orleans' Voodoo underworld of Queen Marie Laveau.
Accompanying Leah on her desperate quest is war veteran Marcus Quinn, a mysterious stranger who has captured Leah's heart --- until through a cruel twist of fate, she discovers the devastating secret he has been hiding about his past.
Is their love strong enough to overcome the dangerous conjurings of both Marcus’s revelation and Kali’s evil?
Or will their love die, along with Elijah?
With their hearts racing for each other,
Leah Sullivan and Civil War veteran Marcus Quinn race toward New Orleans to rescue her brother
from the voodoo underworld of Queen Marie Laveau.
Q: What inspires you?
A: Reading poetry inspires me. I love how every syllable pulls it weight in such balance and how the perfection of it punches you in the gut. The older I become, the more I cherish the last lines of Tennyson’s "Ulysses"-- We are not now that strength which in old days / Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; / One equal temper of heroic hearts, / Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will / To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Q: Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book? If so, discuss them.
A: My villain is a hoodoo conjurer from Haitian descent who believes in the Voodoo gods and believes her conjuring of Elijah has brought forth a descendant of the Voodoo god Kalfu. Kalfu is the moon god and ruler of the night who is the patron deity of sorcerers. Although Kali is quite the villain, I did provide her with a sympathetic backstory about her mother’s slavery and how Kali became the greedy evil person she became.
However, with Viola, my other hoodoo conjurer character, I presented her as one with much knowledge of herbs and the healing powers of nature, which presents the positive “doctoring” side of the hoodoo beliefs. Leah learns much from Viola, and I enjoyed Viola’s personal growth from being an indentured servant who has had to survive by her wits (and her body) to one who finds a place of safety and success in life.
I also went with the more positive profile of Queen Marie Laveau, a woman of fierce independence and will who creates her own world and power in New Orleans. She wielded quite a lot of power in her heyday!