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Anya Seton

A Writing Life

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. 


ISBN 9781641600866

Chicago Review Press

August 2020


"Anya Seton is truly one of the most beloved godmothers of women writers of my generation (including me), and this long-overdue biography gives texture and insight into her life, her process, and her books. I grieved for the very real challenges she faced as a woman of letters, and cheered for her triumphs. Kudos to Lucinda H. MacKethan for bringing us this rich, thoughtful material." —Barbara O'Neal, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post bestselling author of When We Believed in Mermaids 

"Lucinda MacKethan brings Anya Seton's creative process to vivid and memorable life, illuminating the thoughts and emotions of an important but perhaps underappreciated writer of historical fiction. Both fans and new initiates to Seton's work will enjoy this sensitive, thoughtful portrayal. This Writing Life will stick in the reader's mind long after the book is closed." —Carrie Callaghan, author of Salt the Snow and A Light of Her Own

"Lucinda H. MacKethan takes a lovely, bold, deep dive into Anya Seton's writing life, chronicling her passionate longings, tragedies, and triumphs—and, most crucially, the dailiness of writing. Anya Seton is a fascinating quest featuring a real-life heroine who found freedom through fiction—and her identity as a  storyteller—as she struggled to define herself apart from the authorial acclaim of her parents and the rigid labels of society." —Christina Lane, author of Phantom Lady: Hollywood Producer Joan   Harrison, the Forgotten Woman Behind Hitchcock

"The author's fans will appreciate this workmanlike volume." —Publishers Weekly

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