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Anya Seton: A Writing Life

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Anya Seton was the bestselling author of 10 historical novels, including the masterpieces Katherine and The Winthrop Woman, which are still widely beloved over 60 years after their publication; yet there has never before been a book-length biography about this great American writer. Ann Seton was born in 1904 the daughter of two celebrity writers: Ernest Thompson Seton and Anya Seton was the bestselling author of 10 historical novels, including the masterpieces Katherine and The Winthrop Woman, which are still widely beloved over 60 years after their publication; yet there has never before been a book-length biography about this great American writer. Ann Seton was born in 1904 the daughter of two celebrity writers: Ernest Thompson Seton and Grace Gallatin Seton. At age 36 and self-renamed Anya, she placed her first novel with a major publisher. Anya the author was protective of her private life yet also mused, “I suppose I write myself over and over again in my heroines.” She reinvented herself within carefully researched historical settings and biographical materials that provided both escape and wish-fulfillment. In journal entries, letters, and “self-analyses,” she provides an intimate study of what it meant to her to be a writer. She wrote probably her own best epitaph while working on her masterpiece, Katherine: “My forte is story, and a peculiarly meticulous (fearful, yes) desire to weave historical fact into story. Make history come alive and as exciting as the past is to me.” 


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Anya Seton was the bestselling author of 10 historical novels, including the masterpieces Katherine and The Winthrop Woman, which are still widely beloved over 60 years after their publication; yet there has never before been a book-length biography about this great American writer. Ann Seton was born in 1904 the daughter of two celebrity writers: Ernest Thompson Seton and Anya Seton was the bestselling author of 10 historical novels, including the masterpieces Katherine and The Winthrop Woman, which are still widely beloved over 60 years after their publication; yet there has never before been a book-length biography about this great American writer. Ann Seton was born in 1904 the daughter of two celebrity writers: Ernest Thompson Seton and Grace Gallatin Seton. At age 36 and self-renamed Anya, she placed her first novel with a major publisher. Anya the author was protective of her private life yet also mused, “I suppose I write myself over and over again in my heroines.” She reinvented herself within carefully researched historical settings and biographical materials that provided both escape and wish-fulfillment. In journal entries, letters, and “self-analyses,” she provides an intimate study of what it meant to her to be a writer. She wrote probably her own best epitaph while working on her masterpiece, Katherine: “My forte is story, and a peculiarly meticulous (fearful, yes) desire to weave historical fact into story. Make history come alive and as exciting as the past is to me.” 

47 review for Anya Seton: A Writing Life

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    Anya Seton is the author who made me love historical fiction, more years ago than I care to recount. Her Green Darkness is the first book I remember reading in the genre, and I was hooked. This biography is based largely on Anya Seton's own journals, to which the author was given access by family members. Using these primary sources, as well as interviews with family members, press clippings, and other material, Lucinda H. MacKethan takes us into a world peopled by the wealthy and privileged clas Anya Seton is the author who made me love historical fiction, more years ago than I care to recount. Her Green Darkness is the first book I remember reading in the genre, and I was hooked. This biography is based largely on Anya Seton's own journals, to which the author was given access by family members. Using these primary sources, as well as interviews with family members, press clippings, and other material, Lucinda H. MacKethan takes us into a world peopled by the wealthy and privileged classes. Anya, the daughter of Ernest Thompson Seton, seems always to be competing with her father's reputation while still trying to establish herself as an author. Sadly, Anya is not taken seriously by those around her until after the sale of My Theodosia ... and even then it's questionable. Her work is dismissed by the more serious literati even as she begins to provide a then-significant percentage of the household income. We also see Anya's difficult relationship with two spouses, her children, her parents ... she seems o have been fairly tempestuous. Alcohol and pill abuse were also a big part of her life, even by her own admission. That Anya Seton was able to write as many well-researched and entertaining books as she did under numerous circumstances is surprising, to be honest. I'm not sure I could have stood up under the various pressures myself. This book was often a hard read because of the subject matter. Still, fans of the author are sure to enjoy an insider view of her life.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Moberg

    This is an illumninating and well-written biography of an author I've read and re-read since I was a teenager. I appreciate knowing all these details about Anya Seton's life and her writing process. This is an illumninating and well-written biography of an author I've read and re-read since I was a teenager. I appreciate knowing all these details about Anya Seton's life and her writing process.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lydia

    Love that this is in conversation with the other biography I am currently reading about Shirley Jackson.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

    Well written and illustrative biography

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sandy Pearce

    The author captures the personal and professional journey of a prolific historical fiction writer through intimate details shared in journals written over 30 years. Not only do we learn how Seton chose a character, we watch her create a gripping story of an imagined life through intense historical research. The author links the narratives in Seton’s novels with her life long struggle to define herself as an individual, a daughter a writer, a wife, and a mother n a time when women were not suppor The author captures the personal and professional journey of a prolific historical fiction writer through intimate details shared in journals written over 30 years. Not only do we learn how Seton chose a character, we watch her create a gripping story of an imagined life through intense historical research. The author links the narratives in Seton’s novels with her life long struggle to define herself as an individual, a daughter a writer, a wife, and a mother n a time when women were not supported in these choices. The whole Seton family of writers and their famous acquaintances keep us wanting to know what happens next.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Breeden

    bogged down with too many trivial and mundane details. Continue to consider her among my favorite authors

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lucianna Wolfstone

  8. 5 out of 5

    Blythe Forcey

  9. 5 out of 5

    Robin

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Levine

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ava

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rosemary

  13. 5 out of 5

    Joy Treacy

  14. 4 out of 5

    Claire Tumlin

  15. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  16. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Cheresnick

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tanya

  18. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  21. 5 out of 5

    Julie

  22. 5 out of 5

    Towandajane

  23. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lucinda MacKethan

  25. 4 out of 5

    M

  26. 4 out of 5

    Miranda

  27. 5 out of 5

    Peggy

  28. 4 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  29. 4 out of 5

    Steff

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brenda Maki

  31. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

  32. 4 out of 5

    Shantel

  33. 4 out of 5

    Kim Ellis

  34. 5 out of 5

    Micielle

  35. 5 out of 5

    Alex Helm

  36. 5 out of 5

    Lydia Wallace

  37. 5 out of 5

    Gabby

  38. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Gerhart

  39. 4 out of 5

    JinglyJon

  40. 5 out of 5

    Mary Hughes

  41. 4 out of 5

    Rhonda Green

  42. 5 out of 5

    Bianca

  43. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly Neufeld

  44. 5 out of 5

    Traci

  45. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Adams

  46. 4 out of 5

    Chandra Cox

  47. 4 out of 5

    lou brown

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