June 22, 2016

Q&A Interview with British Author Annelisa Christensen

Each one of us has a story to tell and everyone we meet is fighting a battle we know nothing about. This section “The Q & A Interview with inspiring people” is dedicated to exceptional personalities, who either have something to educate us or to inspire us.
Today I want you to meet the inspirational and wonderful British Author Annelisa Christensen. Annelisa is a mother of four kids, a passionate reader, writer, blogger and photograph from the heart of the Sussex countryside to the village of Ticehurst.
Annelisa’s fascinating and historical debut novel The Popish Midwife is to be launched end June 2016.  

  "If we believe something, if we want to make a difference, there are always others out there
who believe the same. "
Annelisa Christensen
Annelisa I must say this “Q&A Interview” with you about your upcoming book “The popish midwife – A tale of high treason, prejudice, and betrayal” is one of the most exciting ones I have done.

I’m very anxious to hear your answers. I love the fact that you have decided to write a book based on a real story about a woman that you describe as a woman 'ahead of her time'. If you had to describe the character of your Protagonist Elizabeth Cellier in only three words what would it be? Also, what do you two have in common?

Hello, Lily, and thank you for inviting me to talk with you. Three words I would use to describe Elizabeth Cellier? The first must be
bold’: As a woman, she often spoke out when others might have stayed silent, whether it was speaking out for those unable to or herself. She was not to be silenced. And that leads me to the second word, which has to be
brave’: Elizabeth dared to involve herself in political and social activities when others cowered and hid. She knew the risks, yet acted against forces stronger than herself (and was labelled a ‘busie-body’ for it) even when she knew her life could be forfeit.
Industrious’: Lizzy, as I think of Elizabeth, was hard working and, as well as her usual job of midwifery, also took time to go regularly to the Newgate Prison with alms for the unjustly imprisoned Catholics. On top of this, she kept records of torture in the prison as well as records of births and deaths of babies and their mothers all over London. And she wrote books.
I wish I was as brave as Elizabeth, but, I’m sorry to say, I can’t count that as something in common. I don’t know that I could put my life on the line for what I believe in, though I hope I would (but also hope it will never be tested). One thing we do have in common, however, is speaking up against injustice. Like Elizabeth, if I see something that’s obviously wrong in my day to day life, or in the wider world, I’ll speak out. I try to involve myself in charities that try to change the things I believe are wrong (which is a lot). Another thing I have in common, which may or may not be seen as a positive, is an inability to stay quiet if there’s something to say. If someone tells me to stay silent because it’s better for me, if I have to speak I have to speak. I simply can’t stop it popping out. I think that was one of the things that most attracted me to Elizabeth Cellier when I read the court transcripts…she was told to be quiet, but she kept going until she got her answers and said what she wanted to say! :-D
I love your enthusiasm for books and history. As a passionate writer and reader you know probably more about books than any other person I have interviewed so far. If you could turn back the time and live in another century when would it be and why? Also, if you could choose to be a Protagonist of one of your favourite books (Fiction and non-fiction) who would you like to be and why?
Oh my goodness, good question, but I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint you on the answer. If I could be in any time in history, I’d live now! For my whole life, I’ve been so thankful to have been born in this age. Even as a child, when I was a huge science fiction book and film fan, I adored the idea that I lived in an age where someone had gone to the moon, and our atmosphere no longer tied us to the ground. I adored the idea of robots and technology, and used to keep a scrapbook of any technological advances. In fact, my first ambition was to be an astronaut…and even studied space psychology at university…but, as an extreme sufferer of travel sickness, I was quickly put off by the thought of space sickness – feeling ill for days at the time. However, I never stopped loving being in this age – with the advances in technology, and the ability to connect with people all over our planet!
Ok, so, before leaving that part of the question behind, if I didn’t love being here and now so much, when would I choose? Maybe to the 1800s…when there was at least some sanitation, but there were also many new developments in the world of science and technology, and getting around the countryside was not always on foot. In one way, contradictory to what I previously said, I would also have loved the peace that used to exist before being constantly connected, where you could spend hours reading a book without feeling like you should really go online and check your emails and social media, and nobody could contact you directly except by letter or calling on you. There is a certain appeal…
As for the second question, anyone who knows me knows my favourite (two) series of books is The Mallorean and The Bellgariad by David Eddings. Now, I absolutely love this series for the characterisations and the wonderful quest of Garion. But it isn’t him I would love to be. It’s Belgarath (who does, in fact, have a whole book where he’s the protagonist) – the wizard. I love the idea of magic, and would equally love to wield it as either Merlin, Gandalf, or Dumbledore!

Elizabeth Cellier, who is the Protagonist in “The popish midwife” fascinates you in a way that gives me goosebumps. In my opinion, everything in life happens for a reason and everything we do (consciously and unconsciously) and everyone we meet has a deeper purpose and effect on us. What I’m trying to say is: The fact that this woman’s fate has captured you so deeply - from all the books and destinies in the world - makes me wonder, if there is actually a deeper connection there than just your admiration for her courage? What do you think?
Actually, I do also think we meet people for a reason, and things happen in such a way that I sometimes have a culminating moment of ‘Hey - all the pieces of the puzzle suddenly fit’. And in that ‘I can see clearly’ moment, I see all of the events that have led that point laid out before me and say, ‘Ah, it all makes sense now’.
How I came across the transcripts for her trial, and that it was those of Elizabeth Cellier I bid for on Ebay, and not one of the many others, that was the first piece of the puzzle. Another piece to slot in was how a friend, who liked the first novel I wrote, asked if I could write in the first PoV? I didn’t want to change the Pov of that, so I started another book (hidden away on my laptop somewhere), but while writing that story, something reminded me of Elizabeth Cellier, I forget what, and I took the old manuscript out of my fire safe (everyone owning 300 year old manuscripts should have a fire-safe ;-) ) and looked her up online, not expecting to find anything.
As I said elsewhere, I didn’t expect to find much, but what I found was three disjointed lines of research – midwifery, literature and The Popish Plot (a treason plot against King Charles II). Putting those pieces together gave me the excitement about this woman’s story. I love how she spoke, in a time when women were expected not to have opinions. I love she wrote – what a wit she had – and I love that she acted on her morals, didn’t just talk about it. Yes, it felt like Elizbeth Cellier reached through the 300 years as though they were nothing, and grabbed me hard. It was sometimes as if she wanted so badly for me to tell her story. Most copies of her book of her experiences, Malice Defeated, were deliberately burned, so we’re lucky there were any copies left at all to hear her side of it. When I read about this,I committed to telling Elizabeth’s story for her! And so I have.
Being fascinated by someone like Elizabeth is one thing. Making the decision to actually dig deeper and research about her life and fate and write a book about it another. What you are doing is very special. You are bringing her to life and acknowledging her legacy centuries later. So I’m wondering do you believe in reincarnation? Do you think it is possible that you were Elizabeth Cellier or maybe related to her?
If you’d asked me a similar question when I was a teenager, I would have possibly answered that as ‘maybe’? I’d read about many stories of reincarnation, and used to lap them up. Who doesn’t want to believe we’ll have other chances? Who doesn’t want to believe in the continuity of the soul (my University of Lights series, as yet unfinished, explores this whole idea in the form of magical realism)? It would be awesome to have such a connection to someone in the past. But now, as an adult with enough reality shoved down the throat of my beliefs, I have to answer differently. I believe I came across her story fortuitously. When I read her story, I felt I knew her as someone I could have been best friends with. She ‘talked’ to me. She (too ‘before her time’ to speak out) wanted me - three hundred years later and at the right time - to tell her story. I understood her. I am the same age as her. I empathized with her all the way through. If the idea was reversed, and that were me back then, could I have been her? I think yes, it’s possible, that could have been me.
As I was talking to my mum about your book, I came up with a theory that I like to share with you and hear your opinion about it. I often complain that we are born in a bad century. Negativity, inhumanity, injustice, disgrace and stupidity are sadly ruling our society. I always believe that life was better in the past. But reading about the fate of Elizabeth Cellier and looking back at history in general, it shows that the world was always a cruel and unjust place. So today I was thinking maybe that’s the whole secret of Life. Looking at history, specially women’s rights, we see some slight improvement today. Baby steps, but for sure a little process in the right direction. Woman like Elizabeth Cellier made it possible that in 2016 women have rights in our society. Women are working in high positions, like Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany or Queen Elizabeth I and the II. So, comparing the past with today, we are in a better place and position, but we still have a long way to go until the world is completely and ONLY filled with love, harmony, peace and justice. Until the world is a place we can be proud of. A place without discrimination and prejudices. And that’s the whole reason why humans are born. To turn the bad into good: the negativity into positivity and to destroy all the doubts with hope. Make humans proud to be human.
What do you think about my theory and what can we individuals do to speed the tempo to make this world a better place for us and the next generations?
See? Isn’t that a funny thing – I’ve always believed this was the best time to be born, and you’ve always believed it to be the worst! Yet, here we are together, talking about life and women’s rights, about views in the past and how different are our views now. When I wrote an Open Letter to my MEPs re Raif Badawi, I wrote of the punishment E.C. suffered for her crime of speaking her views and speaking the truth, and how it compared to his punishment today:
"I am appalled to find that such abuse of power is still alive in the world and that, three centuries later, there are parallels between that awful time in London and places such as Saudi Arabia today. People are still being condemned for their thoughts."
Yes, there are still awful happenings in the World today, and it’s far from being right even in more ‘developed’ countries, where there are many wrongs still being carried out against those who speak their mind, or who are the wrong race / religion / sex / age / ability / colour / species – we still have ‘-ists’ coming out of the woodwork whenever anyone different from them dares to be themselves.
However, there is now also a world of close connections with people from all walks, where the barriers have broken down, and people of many countries can speak out for those at risk in other countries. Information flows freely around much of the planet, so we might be as aware of some catastrophe in another country as in our own. We often find ourselves empathizing, sympathizing and mourning for people we’ve never heard of in other towns, states or countries, to the extent where it can feel like they are ‘one of our own’.
Yes, there are still a lot of bad things happening in the world, but there are now more ways of combatting these things than ever. There are organizations such as Amnesty International, charities such as Action Aid or Oxfam or Greenpeace. There are no excuses for inaction. It’s so easy to speak out for the things we believe in that not to do so is virtually a crime. When there are groups for every possible action we’d like to take, we can so easily find them and, rather than speaking up as a single voice, we can join voices with so many other people that believe in the same things and make our own voice count. We are no longer helpless and alone in standing up for our beliefs. If we believe something, if we want to make a difference, there are always others out there who believe the same. All we have to do is Google them, and we will find them. Everybody can do this. Together we are stronger.

I have a feeling that many readers will be fascinated by Elizabeth Cellier’s story. Can you imagine offering a Sightseeing-tour about her life and take people to the places that she has been, like the Sightseeing-tours they do in England with Shakespeare’s birth and living place? My mom and I would join the tour immediately. I do the International PR and you do the talking. :-)
It’s funny you should say that… :-D
Actually, I’m very excited to have plans to do just such a tour for myself with my new friend, Paul Scales, I met on Twitter. We will meet up sometime soon, and go to all the places in London that were relevant to Elizabeth Cellier (when I do, I shall post the journey on Script Alchemy ) Many of these places exist in different forms. For instance, a coffee house that features in the story (yes, and in real life too) was the Rainbow Coffee House. My research shows it now to be a book shop – I can’t wait to go to it and see what it’s like inside! :-D Many other places also exist, and many times over the last few years, while I’ve been writing and editing The Popish Midwife, I’ve planned to walk in Elizabeth Cellier’s footsteps! Soon I will actually do it!  :-D
I would love to see pictures of your Sightseeing tour. So enough of history. Let’s focus on now and here. What can your readers expect next from you? Will you publish more books that are based or inspired by real personalities?
Undoubtedly! I have plans to write either two or three other seventeenth century midwife biographical novels who I know of. Unfortunately, though I love the research, it does slow down the telling of the story, if the events in the story are as close to the truth as possible, and only the gaps are filled with fiction. That means it will be a while until I finish the next historical biographical novel. So, in the meantime, I plan to also finish writing and publishing The University of Lights series. I’m excited about this in a different way – they are not at all based on real life, but I’ve worked on them for so many years before The Popish Midwife demanded to be written.
Annelisa, if you could turn back the time and change a law that would help Woman world-wide what would it be?
Hmmm…let me think about this a moment. Two women in British history that had this opportunity were Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth I, her younger half-sister. Both were in a position of power for a while and, I suppose, could have used that power to make life better for women. The opportunity was missed. Laws take a long time to be made and accepted. Any change they’d made at an earlier date would have crept through time and benefited women today.
Funnily enough, midwives were given quite a lot of responsibility, and therefore power, throughout time. They probably have less now than they ever did in the past. They were often the only ones trusted 
to enter the woman’s birthing chamber and for pre- and post-natal care, and so they had the ears of many wives and were given some special privileges others didn’t have. However, they were kept in their place by not being allowed to be formally educated. I think this is maybe the law I’d change. I would go back and make a law allowing women to be educated in other places apart from the home (many women of that time only knew what their parent or brothers, or a tutor if they were lucky, taught them). Elizabeth Cellier proposed a college for midwives, which King James II agreed to. That would have been the first women’s college in this country, if it had happened!
And if you could rule the world for one day, what would you change worldwide?
I think it will take more than a day to make any difference to anything anywhere, darn it. Can I have magical power to make it happen quickly?
Okay, so if I had magic and I could rule the world for a day so my ruling would have to be carried out, I would proclaim:
  • Everybody – and I do mean everybody - should have 3 meals a day, water and shelter.
  • Torture should stop immediately, no arguments.
  • War should be totally banned and money from that should be re-channeled into medicine, science and any other research that would benefit all people, not just a few.
  • Every job would be equally valued (oops, does that sound too ‘Left’? but why not, if all work is necessary?)
  • Every person will have access to education.
  • Eating all other species of animal – that have equal right to life and freedom as man– should be banned, and everyone should be taught there are other ways of living in harmony with our fellow Earthlings
  • Destruction of our planet by thoughtlessness must stop, no messing around.

I really love your rules. You have my full support and permission to use your magical power. :-) I could continue our conversation for days but now to my last question. Ever since I work on my last book of my trilogy “Definition of Love”, I ask all my inspirational interview partners these two questions. What is your definition of Love in three words? What is your definition of Love in one sentence? 
Love in 3 words: Caring about others
Love in a sentence: What can define a parent’s love of a child, a child’s love of a parent, a sibling’s love, the love of a life partner, the love of a pet, the love of an idea, the love of a book, the love of nature, the love of life, the love of food, when some loves are purely selfless and others are pure indulgence?

Annelisa I very much look forward to read your book and wish you the best of luck. May Elizabeth’s story inspire and encourage more Women to stand out for justice and human rights. I also want to use this opportunity to thank you for doing a “Q&A interview with me” regarding my books. Hopefully the two of us inspire more people to support each other on their creative journey! My best wishes for you and your beloved family. Lily

Where can others find you?
Website: Script Alchemy
Twitter: @Alpha_Annelisa
Newsletter: Sign up for fun stuff

Source Pictures: Many thanks  @Annelisa & Wikipedia

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