Message From The Author
Anne Stuart's School For Goddesses
By Cindy Schwalb
On August 1, 1998 at the RWA convention luncheon, more than two thousand authors waited expectantly for Anne Stuart to reveal the secrets of publishing and how she's taken her writing career into its third decade. But instead
of teaching her colleagues how to manage a writing career, Anne taught them about living large and copping attitude. And that when done right, a writing career isn't the only success one obtains.
Rose petals flying through the air, she entered the room wrapped in feathered boas, a train of hotel sheets trailing behind her, long gloves reaching to her elbows, replete with an all sister-goddess entourage dressed in kind, and dancing to the tune of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun."
"I'm going to help you live," Anne told her astonished audience as she ascended the stage. "To thrive, to take chances and be Glorious! Stand up and give me a WHOO!"
To their surprise, they did, and by the end of her speech the entire crowd was singing "Amen!" And The Anne Stuart School for Goddesses was open for business.
To celebrate her newest release, STILL LAKE, a romantic suspense with Ms. Stuart's unique flair for mixing "humor and horror," she is now accepting new enrollment for the Fall term.
STILL LAKE follows goddess-in-training Sophie Davis (all of Anne's heroines are goddesses-in-training) as she faces her two toughest challenges: learning to live for herself and losing her virginity. Both of which seem unlikely, given that Sophie mortgages everything she has to drag her mismatched family to an idyllic Vermont town (with a murderous past), hoping that the country will improve her weakened mother's health and calm her wild, teenaged half sister. And yet, given those circumstances, Sophie manages to graduate at the top her Goddess class.
And so can you. If you're ready to become Magnificent, stand up, give yourself a "WHOO!" and we'll get started
When Anne Stuart hit 40, she realized she was a goddess"I was afraid of nothing. Not editors or publishers or tax collectors or 500-page novels or late deadlines." She was strong, bold, powerful, outrageous, fearlessgifts one can only accumulate by leaving the comfort zone. Anne got the hang of living outside that zone early in life, after she managed to survive what she calls "the tortures of the damnedbetter known as childhood, a dysfunctional family, an alcoholic father and high school." No matter what your past, however, at the Anne Stuart School for Goddesses, finding your inner diva is part inspiration, part self-study and 100% attitude. (Amen!)
Anne has three role models who've kept her inspired, whom she revisits often through books, movies and records. First off, you must get to know Auntie Mame, from Patrick Dennis's eponymous novel (there's also a movie version starring Rosalind Russell). Anne says, "She was the uber-goddess of all time Mame was afraid of nothing. She was totally impervious to limitations." For those unfamiliar with this legendary character, Auntie Mame entered a fox hunt without first knowing how to ride a horse, opened an art deco store one day, launched a career in interior design the next, and tackled publishing following that. Her amazing parties were another story entirely. (Whoo!)
Ms. Stuart attests that like Mame, she too learned "I could do anything I really wanted to." When she was 13 years old, she bought librettos of her favorite operas and decided to teach herself her favorite coloratura arias. "I failed to accept that my being an alto was any kind of drawback I learned 'em, and I can still sing parts of them to anyone fool enough to ask me." Then she wanted to be a nun, but had the small problem of being Protestant. So at the age of 17 she made a nun's habit out of her best friend's linen curtains and ordained herself Sister Krissie, an alter ego that remains with Anne to this day.
Similarly, when she decided to write a book, she sat down and did it, assuming she'd get published. She quit her job at a NYC library at the age of 24 and moved to her family's summer home in Vermont to write a gothic romance. "I just blithely assumed it would sell, since there weren't enough gothics being published," she says. It wasn't until the book was written that she discovered gothics were so few because they were "a dying breed." However, she wrote and sold that book within a year.
Since then she's written more than 70 books, choosing her genres at whim. "I've always written what I wantgothics when they were going out of style, Regencies when no one wanted them, historicals when editors were asking for romantic suspense, romantic suspense so dark it scared the pants off half my readers." She's bent the rules to her will, such as writing in two old movie star ghosts for Shadows at Sunset, knowing her publisher didn't approve of ghosts in romance novels. Taking risks has won her numerous industry awardsand has enriched her life. (Amen!)
But being a successful goddess isn't only about succeeding. Anne points out that "even my failures have enriched my life. If
you always have to get things right, get things perfect, then you'll
be afraid to try. Failing at something is a badge of courage because
you were willing to push yourself through to the end."
Now turn to chapter two of your Goddess manual, and turn up the volume to hear the soul-stirring melodies of the great diva Aretha Franklin, renowned for both attitude and soul. "No one gets out of this life without singing the blues, sooner or later." Anne says, and Aretha's vocals pave the way to do it up right. A meek little "woe is me" isn't going to make you feel betteror put you back on your feet. You've got to sing it, sister-goddess! "Sing the blues," Anne says, "but sing them with gusto, sing them with soul and find a backup group!" This Aretha-style attitude is what goddesses have on reserve when it comes to standing ground and speaking up for yourself. Do like Aretha and demand a little R-E-S-P-E-C-Tloudly.
Without question the third mentor is the much loved "goddess of boldness," able to bend most situations to her will. "Mae West," the head mistress announces, "Now there was a woman and a half." Anne loves her because she was "not afraid of sexuality, not afraid of bawdiness. How many women would dare say, 'Is that a pistol in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?'" Through the success of her films, Mae also single-handedly saved Paramount from bankruptcy and pulled many folks out of their depression from the Depression. (Whoo!)
Lastly, for "goddess" extra credit, Anne calls Dennis Rodman to the front of the classfor a study in outrageousness. "He's sassy, he dyes his hair green and gets tattoos and dresses in women's clothing and basically doesn't give a damn. A little bit of his flamboyance and individuality can do wonders."
Now don't you just feel Marvelous? Can you feel your inner
goddess stirring with delight? Making plans? This is where your
self-study begins. See Anne's list of "10 Steps for Finding Your Inner Goddess" for ways to get started. Remember, though, that being a goddess won't necessarily make life easier, but it will change the way you respond to challenges.
"The toughest challenges I ever faced were the deaths of my nephew and my brother. It's hard to be joyous when someone you love dies unexpectedly. It's hard to move on, but if you don't it's disrespectful to the memory of those you loved. A lifetime of mourning is no proper tribute when someone dies young. A lifetime of appreciating even the small things is a far better epitaph. The world is full of glorious and terrible things, but it's all to be tasted and savored. Wounds heal, but love lasts forever. Learn to love life, no matter what it throws your way." (Amen, sister-goddess!)
For a further glimpse inside the creative and irreverent mind of Anne Stuart, visit her website, www.anne-stuart.com. Check out her infamous "Boas and Blues" speech!
Anne's 10 Steps to Unleashing Your Inner Goddess
1. Look at yourself in the mirror and say "hello, gorgeous" in a deep, throaty voice. Then kiss the mirror.
2. Learn all the words to Aretha Franklin's "Respect" and sing it in publiconce a week.
3. Say NO to someone in authority.
4. Say yes just because you want to.
5. Get a pedicure and have them paint your toenails jungle red.
6. Watch "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and lust after the bad guy (Spike).
7. Flirt shamelessly with someone who'd never expect it.
8. Study the films of Mae West. Try acting out scenes
with your husband.
9. Dress up in something outrageous (a nun's habit, a Renaissance gown, a man's suit"I'm currently sewing a priest's robe to wear at the next RWA conference.")
10. Live! Remember the words of Auntie Mame"Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death." Live!
Abridged Excerpt from Anne Stuart's STILL LAKE:
The crash woke him up. He squinted at his watchone-thirty in the morning. It was pitch black outside, and the quiet sounds of the lake had lulled Griffin into a deep sleep, but something had broken through his dreams, jarring him awake. He knew he was alone in the house, but he'd definitely heard a thump downstairs. Whoever it was didn't seem to be making much of an effort to cover their presence
Someone had turned on a couple of the lights. The living room was filled with shadows when he reached the bottom of the stairs, but he could see something moving in the kitchen.
It took a moment to recognize her. The crazy old lady from next door had wandered into his house, into his kitchen, and she was rummaging around, singing beneath her breath, totally at home.
"Mrs. " Shit, he couldn't remember her name. "Grace?"
She looked up at him with those disarmingly vague eyes. She was dressed in a bathrobe, and her feet were muddy and bare. "Hello there," she said gaily. "I'm so glad you've come back. I've missed you."
He felt a frisson of horror run down his spine, and then he remembered who he was talking to. "This is the first time I've been here, Grace," he corrected her patiently.
She frowned. "Is it? I didn't realize.
Do you want some ice cream?"
"No, thanks," he said. As a matter of fact, he didn't have any ice cream in the house. "Were you looking for something in particular?"
"Oh, no. I just thought I'd come visit." She let out a cry of triumph and emerged from the refrigerator with a can of Coke. "You don't mind, do you?"
"I don't mind," he said. "But don't
you think your daughters will be worried about you?"
"Daughter," Grace corrected him amiably. "Marty's mother is that wretched club woman Morris married after I left him."
"So tell me, young man," she continued with one of her rapid shifts of conversation, "why did you come here? It's the murders, isn't it."
Grace's cackle verged on the macabre. "You know as well as I do what murders. You saw him And he'll have to kill you. Go away."
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