Meet Author Anna Urquhart
Anna's inspiring debut novella A Silent Night is featured in A Pioneer Christmas Collection. She answers questions about her unconventional love story below. Find out more about her on her website at http://www.annaurquhart.com/.
What made you write about your period in time?
In light of the fact that we were looking at westward expansion, I wanted to find a focus of heading west that is often overlooked--travel by water. The Erie Canal opened in the 1830s which brought a flood of people into Michigan Territory and beyond. So that time period sparked my initial interest.
Christmas is always about family gathering, coming home from wherever they are. However, most of those traveling west didn't have that luxury. They had only each other and those they've met along the way, those who essentially have become family. So that is what I tried to capture in the Christmas story--the gathering and celebration of new-found family.
Loads of research, specifically about Michigan Territory, went into this. As previously mentioned, families were forged on the frontier from more than just blood-ties, and it's curious to me how that seems to happen in times of struggle. Michigan Territory was quite wild at the time, with constant threat of weather, Indians, wild animals, and even trivial accidents that could change a person's life. I tried to capture that wildness throughout the story.
Time period, followed by location. I had a vague idea of the story, but it grew out of the setting.
The germ was putting a woman in the kind of situation most women fear: helplessness. It's an abstract fear, but on the frontier becomes tangible quite quickly.
A part of me itches to see what it would be like on the frontier struggling for survival--something I know absolutely nothing about. Yet I think within each of us is a desire to know what it is that we're made of, to see the exact boundaries of our strength and fortitude. However, my husband has assured me that I've not the makings of a frontierswoman, and I do believe he is right. I am quite handy with duct tape, though.
I think I have my protagonist's propensity to second-guess herself. Additionally, I think that, as a result, she continues to drive toward self-reliance, posing an unwillingness to surrender to the guidance and strength of the Lord. I also gave my protagonist a daughter--whom I named after my own daughter--and my character's struggles, as you can imagine, quickly became personal.
The story begins in Edinburgh, Scotland, where my husband lived for many years and of which I have plenty of knowledge. Michigan, however, I visited only long ago--long before I knew I'd be setting a story there. And at my visit it completely lacked the wildness that Michigan once had.
The ending. It turned into a completely different kind of love story than even I had anticipated.
Uh, no. Though I'd like to imagine I'd put on a good show while I lasted.
At one time my ancestors pioneered across the Atlantic from Germany and Switzerland, but never made it beyond Pennsylvania.
I had no clear spiritual theme as I began the story because I find that often the story itself has it's own message it wants to forge. As I dug deeper into the story the theme of surrender seemed continually to appear, and it became clear that the direction the story wanted to take was too look at the age old decision faced by every one of us: to hope that our own strength is enough to sustain us or to surrender to the One who loves us, pursues us, and calls us by name.
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