Anya Seton was the bestselling author of ten historical novels, including the masterpieces Katherine and The Winthrop Woman, which are still widely beloved over sixty years after their original publication. Yet there has never before been a book-length biography of this great American writer. Author Lucinda MacKethan, with the support of Seton’s daughters and unprecedented access to the novelist’s decades’ worth of journals detailing her writing throughout her career, has crafted an intimate look at the writer in her own words.
Ann Seton was born in 1904 the daughter of two celebrity writers: Ernest Thompson Seton, a renowned naturalist and illustrator, and Grace Gallatin Seton, a women’s suffrage leader who received medals for her volunteer work in France during World War I. The pair’s literary output gave them enduring fame, but as a teenager Ann explicitly rejected her parents’ careers—because, she said, they showed her the drudgery of a writer’s life. Still, she was always confident that she had inherited her parents’ talent. At age thirty-six 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 the heroines” of her books. She reinvented herself within carefully researched historical settings and biographical frameworks that provided both escape and wish fulfillment.
Through Seton’s own journal entries, letters, and self-analyses, MacKethan provides an intimate study of what it meant to her to be a writer. She details Seton’s creative process, as well as the difficulties she faced balancing writing with the duties of homemaking and raising three children, and the gratitude or more often frustration she felt toward editors and reviewers. A compelling portrait emerges of a deeply dedicated writer whose life was full of inner turmoil, most of it self-inflicted.
Lucinda MacKethan is one of the nation’s foremost scholars in the literature of the American South. She is the author or editor of six books, including Daughters of Time: Creating Women’s Voice in Southern Story and the co-editedCompanion to Southern Literature, which was named a “best reference work” by the American Library Association. She has served as chair of the North Carolina Humanities Council, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. She retired in 2008 after 37 years as director of the creative writing program and Alumni Distinguished Professor of English at North Carolina State University