Today’s special guest is novelist Anne Steinberg who is telling us quite a bit about her writing, particularly her new novel, Manroot. You can connect with her on Twitter, and Goodreads.
While living in England, Anne Steinberg’s first novel, Manroot was published by Headline Review in London. Manroot was heralded as an important first novel in 1994 and included in the Headline Review’s prestigious “Fiction without Frontiers,” a new wave of contemporary fiction that knows no limits. Eight modern storytellers were featured: Anne Steinberg, Margaret Atwood, Iain Banks, William Gibson, Peter Hoeg, Roddy Doyle, and E. Annie Proulx. It was an auspicious beginning to a long and varied career for Anne Steinberg, who went on to write several acclaimed novels, Every Town Needs A Russian Tea Room, the story of a wealthy socialite who falls in love with a penniless young Russian immigrant who is haunted by a bizarre shameful secret, The Cuckoos Gift, First Hands, and An Eye For An Ear. She is also coauthor of The Fence, written with her grandson Nicholas Reuel Tolkien, the great grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien. Nicholas is a filmmaker, director, and published poet. The Fence is a chilling story of a magnificent Gothic fence forged by a despicable blacksmith and infused with evil.
Anne was a partner in the world famous vintage clothing store, Steinberg & Tolkien, on Kings Road in Chelsea. After a successful run for over 20 years, the shop closed, and she returned to the US. Approaching her eighty-second birthday, she now writes, reads, and studies antiques, American Indian history, animal welfare, mythology, and folklore legends.
Welcome, Anne. Please tell us about your current release.
Manroot is the evocative and stirring story of a lonely town in Missouri, and a young woman named Katherine who discovers a mystical side to herself that she’d never known existed. It weaves together fantasy, romance, and a young girl’s coming of age into a darkly magical story.
In the spring of 1939, Katherine Sheahan and her father, Jesse, are looking for work in the isolated tourist town of Castlewood. Jesse gets a job as handyman and Katherine as a maid at a small hotel. Jesse drinks and neglects his work and eventually disappears, abandoning his daughter. Frieda Broom, the hotel Manager, takes Katherine under her wing, and teaches her about ginseng, the manroot, and other secrets of the foothills. Katherine discovers that she is a natural healer and has the ability to communicate with spirits, a gift she inherited from her Navajo Indian mother.
Among the hotels regular clientele is Judge William Reardon. Escaping his sterile marriage, he becomes captivated by Katherine. As the pair bond over astrology and gardening, Katherine becomes convinced they belong together, despite him being much older than her and married. As they begin to fall in love, the violence of dark magic threatens to annihilate all Katherine knows and holds dear. Can their love survive?
Manroot is a potent tale of destiny, spiritualism and love, written in Anne Steinberg’s signature compelling style. The kindle version was published March 2014 and is available for sale on Amazon.
What inspired you to write this book?
The inspiration for writing Manroot came about from a country property that our family wished to purchase. It was wooded acres in the Missouri Ozarks by the Meramac River. The property contained an old derelict building that had been a small hotel during the depression. There was an abandoned swimming pool that we found had contained salt water from an underground spring from 1800 hundred miles south from the gulf of Mexico. This strange oddity for a pool in the Midwest and the local facts told of another strange phenomenon that the hills had a wild crop of Ginseng called the Manroot, where in the olden days many came this way to hunt for the plant. The river was named an Indian name MERAMAC. All the strange facts intrigued me and I tried to image who came in those days in the depression looking for work, and somehow this beautiful strange young Indian girl was born in my imagination and I tried to see who she would have fallen in love with.... an older exciting bad boy of a man, Judge William Reardon.
Excerpt from Chapter 5:
Working alone in the kitchen, Katherine scrubbed it clean. Looking up at the calendar, she knew tomorrow was Friday. The Judge was one of the few people who stopped here regularly, even now, in late autumn. Perhaps it was telling Sally that had started it all, for now her thoughts of the Judge were like a fever that stayed with her. Last Friday when she took him his bourbon and spring water, she noticed it for the first time, the birthmark. It was on his right hand, so clear and vivid that she had almost dropped the tray. He had smiled at her nervousness, called her ‘my dear,’ and given her a silver dollar for a tip.
Katherine slept restlessly; she dreamed of the Oh mu and heard its moan of agony echoing in her sleep. She dreamed of Papa floating in the muddy river, caught and held under by a treacherous branch, his eyes vacant pools staring upward through the water. It was so real that in the morning when the siren from the firehouse once again split the air, she rushed into the kitchen where Frieda was telling Bruce, “You be careful…another one’s gone and gave herself to the river. It was a suicide, a painted woman from the Eagle’s nest…” Frieda shivered as she told the story the way that she had heard it from the postman. The woman in the night had cut her wrists, but the dying was too slow, so she ran from the clubhouse, perched only for a moment on the railing, then jumped headlong into the cold water.
Katherine moved slowly this morning. Frieda fussed at her, but knowing the girl had never been lazy, she thought the drowning must have upset her or maybe she was coming down with something.
The guests were all gone. They only expected one tonight – Judge Reardon. They’d have time to go into the woods today, hunting for herbs and the manroot. But Frieda went alone as the girl looked a bit too peaked.
Alone, Katherine cleaned the rooms again; it took no time, for they were already clean. She lingered in Number 8, The Judge’s room.
She knew a lot about him now, and she felt a very real presence that he left in the room. She knew intimate things about him – like the size of his shirts, the smell of his aftershave, which side of the bed he slept on, how he preferred his coffee, the brand of cigarettes that he smoked…numerous details about him that she had collected bit by bit, saving them in her mind and in her dreams, like pennies to be spent at a later date.
He knew nothing of her dusting his dresser, straightening the bed after he had risen. He was not aware that while he was out, she pressed his shirts to her lips, inhaling his aroma, and sat on the bed in the same crevices his body had made over the years that he had slept here. Now she knew with the wisdom and instinct of centuries, she knew that what would be, would be.
Last week for the first time she had seen it, the birthmark, on his right hand. It was paler than the surrounding skin, crescent-shaped like a slice of the moon, and within its outline, unmistakable, a perfect five-pointed star. She knew its shape by heart, as just above her right breast she had its identical replica.
The Navajo blood flowed strongly in her veins, with all its beliefs in the signs, even though her father had tried vainly to smother these strange alien traits. Since her childhood she had believed that she could speak to animals, and she could find herbs hiding under any rock and knew exactly what they would cure.
What exciting story are you working on next?
Right now I am multi tasking, writing the screenplay of Manroot and accumulating scraps and incidents of a memoir that I am writing sparked by the many questions my grandchildren asked about the different things that existed when I was growing up. I am also currently working on promoting my previously published novels, which include: The Quest | First Hands | Every Town Needs a Russian Tea Room | The Cuckoo’s Gift | Elias’sFence
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I guess I thought I was a writer when I had my first stories published by True Stories back in the 60s. It was such a thrill to see the magazines on the stand at the drug store, and sometimes I would see a woman pick up the magazine issue my story was in and leaf thru it. Of course your name isn’t published as these tales are supposed to be true, and I suppose they can be, the story could have happened to someone. And in the broad sense they could have been looked at as morality tales as they all have the same theme....Sin ...Suffer and Repent.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I don t write full time I never could afford to do this...its a lonely difficult occupation and so few are able to do so. I have been in writing classes where I read pieces and stories by other writers that I feel were so very, very good but again in those days never made it to print. Thank Goodness with ebooks everyone with talent has a chance.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I guess my main quirk is I can only feel creative at night. When my children were small I would write all night, when the house was quiet and sitting at the dining room table with our faithful dog Charlie Girl under my chair and only the night sounds for company, that’s when I could hear the muse speaking softly in my ear. Over the years I have tried writing in the daylight, no dice.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a child I wanted to be a Veterinarian. I think this was prompted by the fact that my mother was very ill with asthma and we could have no pets. I viewed cats and dogs as mysterious wonderful toys of sorts but better, they seemed capable of love given and received.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Right now I am excited as a screenplay of our dystopian book ELIAS FENCE has won a prestigious contest and is making the Hollywood rounds of production companies. The book and screenplay was co-written by my 23-year-old grandson and myself.
Thank you for being a guest here at Reviews and Interviews, Anne!