Anne Elisabeth Stengl
and her latest novel
What appeals to you most about writing fiction?
I am a natural storyteller, born to a family of storytellers. I live with fictions of all sorts playing themselves out in my brain at all times. So writing fiction is a natural fit for me, an opportunity to take what’s inside my head and give it more concrete form.
Why Christian fiction?
It’s funny, I didn’t set out to write “Christian” fiction exactly. I never do. But I am a Christian, and my faith is the center of my life. I always pray while writing my stories, and as I pray, God reveals new truths to me. Then I, in turn, attempt to share those truths through the medium of fiction. But it is His doing, not mine. I simply write the stories!
Name five things you can’t live without
My husband. My family. My kitties. My dog. My books.
Favourite book ~ Favourite movie ~ Favourite TV show
Currently, my favourite book is Nation by Sir Terry Pratchett (but I reserve the right to change that at a moment’s notice!). My favourite movie is My Fair Lady. My favourite TV show is Doctor Who.
Where is the most interesting place you have been?
I recently traveled to Okinawa, which was very interesting and very beautiful. I loved getting a taste of a culture I had never before experienced. The people were lovely, the food was fantastic (Yay, sushi!), the castles inspiring, the jungles and oceans breathtaking.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a kid, I always said that when I grew up I would write novels, draw pictures, never get married, and have as many cats as I want. Now I write and illustrate, own five cats, foster kittens . . . and have a wonderful husband. So, hey! We can’t have all our dreams, right? J
What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
I am shy and very introverted. But I don’t come across that way. In public, I appear quite confident. But the reality is, I’d rather hide away at home writing my novels than go out into groups of people!
Submissive to her father’s will, Lady Leta of Aiven travels far to meet a prospective husband she neither knows nor loves–Lord Alistair, future king of the North Country.
But within the walls of Gaheris Castle, all is not right. Vicious night terrors plague Lord Alistair to the brink of insanity. Whispers rise from the family crypt. The reclusive castle Chronicler, Leta’s tutor and friend, possesses a secret so dangerous it could cost his life and topple the North Country into civil war.
And far away in a hidden kingdom, a fire burns atop the Temple of the Sacred Flame. Acolytes and priestesses serve their goddess to the limits of their lives and deaths. No one is safe while the Dragonwitch searches for the sword that slew her twice…and for the one person who can wield it.
Which character did you connect to the most?
I really bonded with Leta in this particular story. She is an interesting character because she feels as though she has two distinct persons inside her, warring for dominance: Practical Leta, who always does the “right” thing and never contradicts her elders; and Rebellious Leta, who wants to be her own person with her own opinions and the right to choose her own life. Somewhere between the two is the right balance, and it was fun to watch Leta grow to that place where her two “selves” finally reconcile.
Which character was the most difficult to write?
Lord Alistair took me some time to really know. He went through several incarnations before he finally came together into the character he is now. I didn’t end up changing his personality much from the original conception, but I had to give him a “thorn in the flesh” that contrasted drastically with that personality. At that point, in that place of contrasts, he really came alive, and the rest of the story fell into place.
What was your favourite scene to write in Dragonwitch or share your favourite paragraph
Wow, there were so many scenes I loved! But one that stands out to me is the moment when Leta begins to understand the strength inside her. She has always believed herself to be weak and dull, useful only as a pawn and a prop, intended for bearing children and nothing more. But then she meets the Chronicler, and when he asks her a certain question, he challenges her to tell him what she truly thinks—not what she believes she ought to think, not what she’s been told she must think.
“Are you afraid to answer?” the Chronicler asked.
Leta drew a deep breath. Then she nodded.
Even that was a dangerous question. Clutching the book in both hands, scarcely daring to raise her gaze from it, she said, “Because I don’t think you’ll like it.”
He snorted. “What does that matter? Think something, my lady, think something on your own. Not what they tell you to think or what I tell you to think. You are yourself. You are Leta of Aiven. I want to hear yourthoughts, for they are neither mine nor anyone else’s. Only yours. This makes them interesting.”
His words pierced the numbness she had felt since meeting Lady Mintha, since coming to Gaheris, since the moment her father told her she would wed and did not consult her wishes on the matter. They pierced down to a warm, living part of her spirit that she had scarcely been aware existed.
Tell him what you think! her rebellious side cried. Tell him!
He’ll believe you such a fool, her practical side rejoined.
Tell him anyway! Tell him!
So she said, “I think you’re wrong.”
I really love that moment of growth for my heroine. It’s not the most adventurous scene of the book—but in some ways, there is more at stake here, in this moment, than later on when both these characters and many more are in physical peril. Here, Leta’s life is not at risk, but her spirit is.
And I love how the scene resolves as well:
Her heart beat faster still, and Leta thought she might explode with the sudden power she felt tingling through her body. Let Lady Mintha say what she will! Let Alistair ignore her existence! Let her father force her into a marriage and treat her like bargaining baggage! She knew now what none of them knew.
She was Leta. She was whole. She had a mind all her own.
“I disagree with you, you know,” said the Chronicler, still smiling.
“And I disagree with you,” Leta replied, full of the joy of contradiction.
What’s next in your writing pipeline?
I am currently drafting book 7 in the Tales of Goldstone Wood. It’s the most epic and exciting story to date, set in a part of my world previously unexplored. But, like all of my novels, this one is intricately connected to the others. It is a challenge and a delight, and I have quite a charismatic cast of new characters, not to mention some fan-favourites (one fan-favourite in particular: the irrepressible Bard Eanrin!).
Thanks Anne Elisabeth!