Q & A with Logan Steiner, Author of After Anne
By Nava Atlas | On June 1, 2023 | Updated August 1, 2023 | Comments (6)
Logan Steiner’s debut novel, After Anne (May 2023) brings the untold story of Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874 – 1942) to life. It’s a vivid portrait of the Canadian author best known for Anne of Green Gables (1908) and its sequels.
After Anne is a fascinating look at Maud’s spirited personality, her hopes, and her dreams of being recognized for her writing. Yet it doesn’t shy from an honest portrayal of her sorrows and disappointments.
I learned fair amount about Maud Montgomery (perhaps better known by her author name, L.M. Montgomery) while preparing my own work, Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life. And so I was able to fully appreciate and truly enjoy how evocatively (and touchingly) Logan Steiner brought her to life in the pages of a novel.
lt’s a fine balancing act to fictionalize a real person while also not allowing the research to jump out at the reader, something Logan accomplished skillfully. It was also interesting to read about her process in the Author’s Note in the back of the book.
I had the pleasure of doing a Q & A with Logan to get an even deeper look at the process of bringing an iconic author to life. Before we get to it, here’s a quick description from the publisher, William Morrow (an imprint of HarperCollins):
A brief synopsis of After Anne
As a young woman, Maud Montgomery had dreams bigger than the whole of Prince Edward Island. Her exuberant spirit had always drawn frowns from her grandmother and their neighbors, but she knew she was meant to create, to capture and share the way she saw the world.
And the young girl in Maud’s mind became more and more persistent: Here is my story, she said. Here is how my name should be spelled—Anne with an “e.”
But the day Maud writes the first lines of Anne of Green Gables, she gets a visit from the handsome new minister in town, and soon faces a decision: forge her own path as a spinster authoress, or live as a rural minister’s wife, an existence she once likened to “a respectable form of slavery.” The choice she makes alters the course of her life.
With a husband whose religious mania threatens their health and happiness at every turn, the secret darkness that Maud herself holds inside threatens to break through the persona she shows to the world, driving an ever- widening wedge between her public face and private self, and putting her on a path towards a heartbreaking end.
Beautiful and moving, After Anne reveals Maud’s hidden personal challenges while celebrating what was timeless about her life and art—the importance of tenacity and the peaceful refuge found in imagination.
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Q & A with Logan Steiner on creating After Anne
Maud had a complicate relationship with Anne (of Green Gables), her most enduring literary character. On one hand, she was grateful for the reputation and money the books brought her, and on the other, she resented what she perceived as an obligation to produce sequels in the series. Can you talk about this dichotomy in Maud’s writing life, and her own view of it, in the context of After Anne?
Maud dreaded writing characters, including Anne, when they reached middle life; she preferred youth and old age. In August 1920, after completing the last chapter of Rilla of Ingleside, Maud wrote, “I am done with Anne forever—I swear it as a dark and deadly vow.”
I have spoken to other writers who relate to Maud’s bind when it comes to sequels. On the one hand, demand for sequels shows tremendous reader interest and love for a writer and her characters.
On the other hand, that demand (and, more generally, writing to sell rather than writing based on inspiration) can take away some of the creative joy, which certainly seems to have been the case for Maud. And yet, I don’t think Maud ever wholly lost her gratitude for and connection to her most enduring character.
One thread that weaves throughout your book is Maud’s journal-keeping. Copying over her journals seemed to give her a sense of comfort and allowed her to shape the narrative of her life even as it’s falling apart. What was your experience of reading her journals, and what did you come to believe about what she left in and what she destroyed?
Reading—and rereading—Maud’s journals, I never once lost interest. The journals are compelling reads, written with Maud’s signature linguistic gifts and a narrative arc that keeps the reader engaged through many volumes.
My fascination with what Maud would have chosen to omit from her published journals was the central question of After Anne. I was fascinated not only by this question for Maud, but more generally: Which parts my life story would I choose to leave out at the end of my life? Which parts would I include?
There are no easy answers to these questions, and we will never know exactly what Maud chose to discard. But, knowing how deliberate and how self-critical she could be, I believe she probably edited out painful parts of her life—specifically, the pain about which she felt the least resolved.
And I also believe that our pain shapes us. As Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote, “Beautiful people do not just happen.”
Maud seemed to have mixed feelings about Ewan MacDonald from the beginning. Do you think she used her obligation to care for her grandmother as an excuse to postpone making a complete commitment to him? Was she ever fully in love with him?
I do think that Maud used her obligation to care from her grandmother as an excuse in this way—how consciously she did so is less clear.
I’m not sure Maud was ever fully in love with Ewan, although she wanted to believe that she was before they married.
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A passage that stood out to me: “Equally plain now in Maud’s mind was the fact that Ewan would never understand writing as her priority. Not only would he not understand, she realized with a sinking feeling — he would never accept it.”
It was all too rare back then to be both a wife and mother as well a successful author. On the rare occasions when it happened, as it did with Maud (and I’m also thinking about Harriet Beecher Stowe), it seems like the husband was pretty useless with the house, children, and finances. Can you talk about this in the context of After Anne?
It was a rare thing. In very few marriages 100 years ago did the wife out-earn the husband. To this day, members of heterosexual couples where the wife makes more money overstate the husband’s income and understate the wife’s—showing the stubborn persistence of the tired social trope of husbands as breadwinners.
Maud not only out-earned Ewan by a wide margin, but became a beloved public figure in Canada and throughout the world. This likely would have been difficult for most men to swallow in Maud’s day, but especially a man like Ewan, who came into Maud’s life already insecure about his heritage from a lower-class Scottish clan.
Not only that, but Maud must have seemed to him to have endless energy and capacity—managing with apparent ease her own writing career, the finances, the children, the household, and church and social obligations.
Ewan almost certainly felt that he had been ousted from the traditional roles society had set for him—as provider and financial manager—which fed into his sense of shame and led to his further withdrawal from these traditional roles.
Brené Brown, who has extensively researched shame, has written that “shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” And secrecy feeds shame. This was true for Ewan, and it became true for Maud as she struggled with what to hide and what to reveal about Ewan and their marriage.
In the book, I wrote and rewrote the scenes between Maud and Ewan, hoping to allow readers to empathize with Ewan while also feeling Maud’s frustration—and at a deeper level, as in the quote you pull out, her sadness that Ewan would never understand the expanse of her dreams and talents.
Ewan’s struggles with mental illness plays a fairly large role in the novel, as they did in Maud’s real life. Can you discuss the impact this had on Maud’s work as well as on her own decline?
The mental health struggles of the people we live with can’t help but affect us. And Maud didn’t have the resources we do now to understand Ewan’s depression.
Maud herself had suffered from bouts of “melancholia” in the winter from a young age, and Ewan’s depression almost certainly affected her mental health—as did the addictive barbiturates and bromides he was prescribed that Maud also started to take.
I don’t think this had an obvious effect on Maud’s work—she was deeply resilient. But she did feel pressure to write successful sequels as Ewan became increasingly unable to provide for the family.
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Lucy Maud Montgomery in her later years
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Toward the end of the novel, Maud seems aware of her declining reputation, somehow feeling that her books (and in effect she herself) have gone out of fashion. Was this true in her real life?
Yes, both Maud’s upset over being classed as a writer for young people and the idea that “sentimentalism” had fallen out of fashion were true in her real life.
I wonder if, as you were shaping the novel, there were scenes you needed to leave on the cutting room floor, so to speak. That is, episodes that were fascinating but disrupted the narrative arc. And if so, can you share one or two in a nutshell?
A few that stand out were flashbacks to two of Maud’s early loves—Will Pritchard and Herman Leard. Both impacted Maud deeply, and she returned to memories of Herman Leard in particular throughout her life.
But I got feedback from early readers that there were too many peripheral characters in the novel. Both men featured in Maud’s life before the part of her story in which I was most interested—what came after Anne and its tremendous, instant success.
Readers of your novel might enjoy reading or re-reading the Anne of Green Gables series as well as the Emily of New Moon series, which is also wonderful. What are a couple of things you’d like readers of After Anne to take away from it as a way to enrich their reading of Maud Montgomery’s fiction?
One of my deepest hopes is that After Anne draws readers to, or back to, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s work. Learning about the shadows in Maud’s life—as well as the light—has added a depth to my experience of her books.
I appreciate Maud’s writing even more after learning about her tenacity and persistence, continuing to write and journal through exceedingly difficult times. I hope Maud’s story helps readers see how finding a mode of creative expression is one of the best ways to find light in the darkness.
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Do you have a personal favorite among L.M. Montgomery’s novels?
The original Anne of Green Gables. And The Story Girl, which was also a favorite of Maud’s.
Do you want to say anything about your research trip to Prince Edward Island?
It was a trip I’d dreamed of since reading the books and watching (countless times) the Megan Follows CBC series set in PEI.
More than anything, I remember the natural settings that Maud loved so well—the woods thick with mosquitos in the height of summer and still impossible not to explore; the cold shock of the water on the Cavendish shore and the gentle way it pooled against the sandstone. That trip filled me with a sense of place.
How can Literary Ladies Guide readers find out more about you (social media, website, speaking schedule, etc.)?
All information about upcoming events is on my website, LoganSteiner.com. I have upcoming events in Denver, Chicago, the Bay Area, Boston, and Prince Edward Island, and I’d love to see readers there!
I also write a Substack newsletter called The Creative Sort, which explores the internal sort we go through when deciding whether and what to create—from becoming a parent, to writing a book, to a big work project.
In addition, you can find me here:
Logan Steiner is a litigator and brief-writing specialist at a boutique law firm. She graduated summa cum laude from Pomona College and cum laude from Harvard Law School. She lives in Denver with her husband and daughter. After Anne is her first novel.
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