Logan Steiner, AFTER ANNE: A Novel of Lucy Maud Montgomery's Life

Logan Steiner, AFTER ANNE: A Novel of Lucy Maud Montgomery's Life

Guest host Julie Chavez interviews litigator and debut author Logan Steiner about After Anne: A Novel of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Life, a stunning and unexpected portrait of the creator of one of literature’s most prized heroines, Anne of Green Gables. Logan shares how, as a young adult, the Anne books inspired her to be creative and live more authentically. What really pushed her to write, however, was her brother’s sudden death eight years ago. She and Julie also talk about motherhood (and her decision to be a mom after 16 years of marriage), perfectionism, creativity, and the persistence and patience that got her through the book publishing process.


Julie Chavez: Hi, Logan. Thanks so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to talk about After Anne. I’m so happy you’re here today.

Logan Steiner: Thank you. I’m so excited to be here. I love this podcast. It’s such an honor.

Julie: Zibby has built something so great. It’s so fantastic for me to be a part of it. I felt so happy that I got to talk to you today about your book. Welcome. I’m glad you’re here.

Logan: Thank you. Thank you so much.

Julie: We’re going to start with a confession. I have never read Anne of Green Gables. I want to start with that confession because I feel like everyone should know that even if you have not read Anne of Green Gables, you will love this book. It was so well-done. I really enjoyed it. Now I want to go back and read Anne of Green Gables. I had visions of doing it before, but that was a fool’s errand. I love to over-plan myself. This book was so fascinating. I want to hear about how you decided to write it. Will you just give us the elevator pitch, first, of what this book is about?

Logan: Absolutely. Let me start by saying I’m so happy to hear you say that you connected with the book not having read Anne of Green Gables and that it’s drawn you to want to read more of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s writing. That is the best thing that someone could say. I intend this book to resonate with the L.M. Montgomery fan and those who have not discovered her yet. It’s the story of the life of a creator that so many of us can relate to who want to create. I think there’s a creative drive in everyone. She was just such an enigma, such a complex, fascinating woman. My deepest hope is that this book resonates beyond just the fans of Anne of Green Gables and that it draws more people to L.M. Montgomery’s work. Elevator pitch. This book tells the life story of L.M. Montgomery, who wrote Anne of Green Gables and twenty other books as well as many, many short stories and poems. She was very prolific in her time, a Canadian author. Grew up in rural Prince Edward Island. Has this fascinating life story that has so many interesting elements. In some ways, so much sadness, so much that she struggled with, so much that she overcame, so much that she couldn’t, and in some ways, is such a counterpoint and contrast with her fiction. There are many ways that she resembles her main characters as well and just has this deep, vibrant imagination, such a complex inner emotional life, all things that drew me to want to tell this story and to do it in novel form. There is a beautiful biography of L.M. Montgomery, Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings. This is a very different project that uses the benefit of dialogue and writing nonlinearly to tell the inner emotional life of this woman. It is not set as a start-to-finish life story. It really tries to pull out the deep emotional pieces and what really matters at the end of a life.

Julie: You did a beautiful job with it. I loved the way that you took that one birthday weekend and kept revisiting that. That was really compelling for me because I wanted to both go away and go back to it. It was very natural. That device worked really well. It’s funny, you’re hitting on all the things I was thinking about. I’m looking at my list of questions. Something that you mentioned is that it really is about her as a creator and not necessarily the creation. I think that’s a distinction. So much of it resonated with me as a woman and pulled in many different directions. It’s kind of that “the more things change, the more they stay the same” sort of feeling when you read it. You think, oh, my goodness, I can identify with this. We’re talking a hundred years ago, but so much of it feels resonate for right now.

Logan: Yes, absolutely. That was a huge draw for me too. I’m somebody who has wanted to write since I was ten years old and also been always terrified of putting my writing out there in the world. To me, some of the best medicine, the thing that I go to when I’m feeling really alone in that is the story of other creators and people, women writers in particular, who have gone through their own sets of struggles. In the life of everyone, but the life of women in particular, I feel like there are all these things that bubble at the surface, the spouses, children, maintaining the household, day jobs, so many things that are competing for our time. For so many of us, we have some deeper creative pull. I knew that in my first book, I really wanted to explore that and explore the life of another creator that could help me feel less alone in all of the struggles and the back-and-forth that I have in finding room in my life for myself and for things that I want to create.

Julie: Have you ever read Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh?

Logan: I haven’t.

Julie: Put it on the list. So many similar themes. She was also a creator in her time who struggled to find it and also a woman with some deep sadness in her life and incredible traumatic things that happened but somehow really had this hopeful posturing toward the rest of her world. It’s a really good one. In your spare time. You’re not doing anything. You’re just promoting a book and being a lawyer in your spare time, right?

Logan: That’s right. A balancing act, for sure, but that’s going on my list.

Julie: Perfect. It’s not too long. The chapters are nice and short too. It’s one I’ve given to many friends. I’ve probably purchased ten copies of it, two for myself, I’m sure. Don’t tell my husband because I lie to him about how many books I buy. Shh.

Logan: It’ll be our secret.

Julie: That’s how we make friends. You were talking about her creative pull. When did you know you wanted to write a book?

Logan: I have wanted to write since I was really young. Anne of Green Gables was a huge reason for that for me. That was a book that I read, the Anne books, the Emily books, the whole gamut of L.M. Montgomery, as a young adult. I read a lot of them in my grandma’s house. My grandma was the one that introduced me to these books. She and I were so close. That’s part of the special place in my heart that they will always have. L.M. Montgomery wrote main characters who wanted to create and were writers and were precocious and vibrant, particularly Anne. The way that she was so unfiltered and real with the world, that was something that, even as a young person, I struggled to do and knew that I needed that kind of example and influence to be more fully myself. I’m always somebody that has wrestled with this people-pleasing and how much of myself to put out there and how to show the real me. Anne was such an inspiration in that and also in wanting to write a book. That was the early story.

Then for many years, I did a lot of creative writing. I did creative writing in college. I decided to go this more practical route and have a law career. Coming out of being an English major, had the guidance of many professors that I really loved saying, “This is a hard road. It’s a hard and long road to be an English professor. If you have something else that you want to pursue that you’re thinking of, why not try that first?” I knew I wanted a day job too. I knew I wanted a steady, stable, pay-the-bills profession. That would, for me, just give me that grounding to be able to pursue creative interests on the side. Went along doing that and had some really great early law jobs, also really all-consuming early law jobs. It took me a while to get to the point of, I’m going to start this book. It was actually a huge wake-up of losing my brother suddenly that was the catalyst, ultimately, to get me to start doing this thing that I had talked about doing for so long. That was eight years ago. It has been a long journey since then but also one that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Julie: I’m sorry that you lost him, that he’s not with you.

Logan: It’s a huge pain. I carry him with me in all of this. When I write, I think of having him with me. He was somebody who expressed himself so well in writing. It was a promise I made to myself and to him when I lost him that I would write and I would carry him with me in this way.

Julie: Thanks for sharing that. I love hearing about the people who aren’t with us anymore but are still so much a part of who we are and how we live. What was your brother’s name?

Logan: Ben.

Julie: You have done him a lot of justice in this book because you’ve expressed yourself really well. I really was just so struck by who L.M. Montgomery was and everything that she went through. She felt so familiar. You wrote her so well and with so much spirit. Like I said, I want to know more about her. I had no idea she was so prolific because I’d only thought, Anne of Green Gables. You did a beautiful thing here. You also are a mom.

Logan: I am.

Julie: It sounds like that was a turning point for you. I’m not putting this off any longer. This is something I’m here to do, I’m going to do. How did those two intersect for you? Was it challenging to find time? Was that okay for you based on your rhythms? There’s a scene in the book where Anne is writing. Then something’s happening with the cat, and so they have to get up and go. I thought, oh, yeah, this, I can see. What do you find? Is that what life is like for you? Is it just constant interruption? Are you pretty good about segmenting? How did you get it done?

Logan: Oh, my goodness. I wrote the book before having my daughter.

Julie: That is the secret.

Logan: That may be the secret. I am still writing. I hope to keep that thread going. I really struggled for many years with the decision to have a baby. My husband and I were together for sixteen years before deciding to try to have a child. My daughter, Noa, is now twenty months old. I did have a big fear that if I had children before writing a book, that it would never happen. I had all this self-doubt that I was mired in, and fear of putting myself out there, putting my writing out there. For a long time, I saw those as competing drives or competing focuses. I’ve done a lot of reframing around that. It’s still very much in process. Interestingly, it was when I was a week postpartum, a week after having my daughter, that I got the call from my agent that this book had sold. It was a time when I had basically given up hope that it would be published. There were so many parts to that journey. I do think that that was something really meaningful in my life, that it took letting go of this agenda that I had to have a book published before having a baby for that to ultimately happen. That timing has told me a lot and been really meaningful to me. I think that having my daughter now, yes, there are so many more competing demands on my time. It’s taught me to be even more efficient. It grounds me. I come up at the end of the day. I see her. I’m more in my body. I’m more in the present moment. That has helped ground the writing that I’ve done since then. It helps me really structure my days between my law work and my writing work and my time with Noa, my daughter. It’s been a help much more than I thought it would be so far. Not to say there aren’t many challenges.

Julie: Of course. There is something true — I can’t remember who told me recently. We were talking about something. They said, “If you want something done, give it to a mom.” Moms get it done, or people that are busy. People have a lot going on. When you’re in that place of, okay, I’m just going to do this — I don’t know if you find it for you, but I know that writing can be a refuge in so many ways. I think it was true for L.M. Montgomery, for sure.

Logan: It was.

Julie: Looking at it from that perspective of, this is something that I pour out — but you’re exactly right, this grounding in real life. So much of writing is in your head. Especially if you’re a person, at all, who tends towards self-doubt, like you were saying, or people-pleasing — by the way, I feel like self-doubt is just baked in with the whole writerly process. It’s like, hey, create something, then spend a lot of time being worried about it. You’re right. It kind of brings you back into that moment because toddlers don’t care what you have going on.

Logan: No, they don’t. They don’t. It’s really helpful for the recovering perfectionist, which I definitely am. I think a lot about the, done is better than perfect. Give things the time that you have. That’s often enough. I rewrote this book so many times. I was very much attached to getting it right, to the point that getting the finished book actually has been this — I just got it in the mail last week. It’s been this very emotional thing for me because I cannot go back in now. It’s complete. That has been really hard for the control freak in me to let go. A lot of mixed emotions there. I do think that that’s where having my daughter has been helpful. I only have so much time. I cannot spend the time ruminating, the time perfecting anymore.

Julie: Yes, a hundred percent. I love that you mention that. We see a million unboxing videos, and we always see the excitement of it. You’re right, there is a very strange element of, I have been working, reworking, reworking this for years, and now it’s done. If there’s something you want to rework now, too bad. That’s tricky, but it can also be very freeing. I just realized as I was saying that, I’m really making this worse. I’m not helping you. It’s acknowledging that.

Logan: It’s so true. It’s both.

Julie: Yes, it is both. Holding two truths at the same time is something I’m — I’m over it. Can we just have it easy?

Logan: Can it just be the joyful — I know. I’m hoping that by feeling through the hard part of it, I’ll get myself to that joyous part and be able to really soak it in. I really have been feeling that joy and reminding myself to savor and all of that. It was a moment that was very different than I thought it would be.

Julie: I’m so glad you shared that because it’s complicated. Like so many things in our life, something worth bringing forth, it’s a lot. It is easy to forget that. Like you were saying, it sounds like the road to selling it was a little longer and more challenging than maybe you anticipated.

Logan: It was.

Julie: Is there any of that that you want to share that you feel like would be beneficial to other people?

Logan: It’s really such a story of persistence. By persistence, it’s not dogmatic. All of this has to get done. I really ebbed and flowed with this book and let it percolate and let it rest for times and picked it back up and at times, lost the belief that it was going to ever be out in the world. When I say persistence, it’s so much patience too, and letting it happen in its time. Each time that I would go back to the manuscript with wonderful notes from my agent, who has been this book’s champion, Abby Saul — just to call her out, she’s been such a gift to me and such a champion of this book for years — would go back with notes from her or notes from my editor, when I was revising it on my own, I would get something else out of it that was like, this is what I need in my life right now. There was a lesson for me each time that I went back into it. I told the story of when I finally learned that it was going to be published. I just felt like that was the moment that something from the universe was delivering that to me in that moment because I needed that lesson that everything’s not going to happen according to your plans. I think that there were so many parts along the way where I felt like continuing to have trust, which does not mean absence of doubt, and persevering in that way and holding that a project will come to be in its time and that however long it takes is however long you need with it — at least, that was true for me. It was the time I needed with this particular story. To other people who are in the middle of the process and maybe given up hope or thinking about giving up hope or halfway through a manuscript, keep going, but it’s deeper than that. Look for what the struggle, what the rewrite, what the next step, what that can really teach you.

Julie: That is really good advice, seeing the process as more than the sum of its parts. It’s meant to shape you in a different way, so looking for those lessons. I love that. I’m going to be thinking about that. That will stay with me, for sure. I have a question for you. You touched on it a little bit earlier. I think it is so tricky to create something and then put it out in the world and leave it to Goodreads, which is the place I’m going to have to delete when my book comes out. I just know I will be like, here I am. There’s a scene in the book. Maud isn’t ready to share her writing quite yet because she says that her cousin says things that are nice, but they don’t go any further. They’re platitudes like, oh, yeah, your writing’s great. What is your favorite thing to hear about your writing? I feel like anyone who’s listening to this then can just take a quick note to give you that compliment, so I’m happy to set you up with that. What is meaningful to you? When somebody says, “X is what I got from your writing. I love how you do X, Y, Z,” what feels good to you?

Logan: That is such a good question. I want to sit with it. I think that it’s so meaningful to me when people say that my writing has made them feel deeply. That’s my first answer. I also think that when people say that lines have stuck with them, which you just did in describing that passage. To me, that’s the mark of my favorite books, when I underline lines. I love them so much. I have to write them in my quote journal. I come back to them. They help me in those really hard life moments or great life moments. That is what I most intend to do. Whether that’s a particular line of the book or L.M. Montgomery’s journey and how it made people feel, that’s what I’m really hoping, that it sticks with somebody beyond just the time that they’re reading it.

Julie: I love that you shared that. Thank you for thinking through that. People who aren’t writing — I think it can be hard to encourage any friend or person that you love that’s doing something that you’re not doing. My son’s a runner. To me, I’m like, hey, you did good. He wants specific praise, not because he’s needy for that, but it just shows that I’m seeing what he’s doing, that I’m entering it fully. That’s a gift I think people can give writers. You’re exactly right. Not to over-fluff your ego, but just to say, I see what you’ve done. I see what you tried to do.

Logan: Yes, absolutely. I just wrote, actually — I’m writing this Substack called The Creative Sort about how we sort through creative decision-making. I wrote a post about project champions and what it takes to really champion a creative project, so just right along this line. My husband has just been this book’s champion, for sure. I dedicated it to him. So much of that was his truth-telling along the way. It was emotionally grounded truth-telling. He was a hundred percent behind me the whole time, but he really was the person who gave me the most honest feedback. I invited him into the space to do that, really tender space, early on. Really helped me hone, develop characters. There’s some of that too. Then I trusted him more when he said later, “I love this. This is really working.” There’s some of that deep, honest feedback that can go a long way. I’ve had many friends and parents who have been champions in their positivity and encouragement. That’s a huge piece of it too. That real engagement in truth-telling I think is maybe an underrated part of it.

Julie: Yes, you’re exactly right. To have someone that’s engaged with you and also supports you fully is just such a gift. Well done, husband. Very proud of you. It’s David, right? Is that right?

Logan: David, yeah. Shout-out to David.

Julie: Way to go, David. David gets a win. I love when husbands are there for it, or partners. It’s just so important because, especially for them, they’re the ones that have to live with you while you’re doing this.

Logan: It’s true. There were many days that were not pleasant for him, so he deserves the shout-out, for sure.

Julie: It’s so true. What are you working on now? It sounds like you have a Substack. Obviously, I’m going to subscribe to that because it sounds amazing.

Logan: Thank you.

Julie: You get a sense when you write in After Anne, the relationship between Lucy and her — Maud. Why do I want to call her Lucy? Maud and her husband.

Logan: Two first names, but she goes by Maud. It’s just designed to throw you off.

Julie: It is. The way you write about their intimacy and what’s going on with them. Also, it made so grateful that we live in an age where there’s more knowledge of medications and mental health. Just between the Spanish flu and that, I was like, that’s really not ideal.

Logan: Yes, I know. So many modern-day resonances and gratitude for where we are into health and medications and treatment and not keeping it all undercover. That’s so important. The changing attitudes around divorce and freedom for women in particular in relationship is another big one that I appreciate so much having been with Maud’s story.

Julie: Especially because, for me also, I always think back to these sorts of stories, and I wonder what I would’ve done. I am very much a people-pleaser. I doubt I would’ve been able to go against a tide of what was expected of me in that age. The fact that she was able to hold those two in opposition as well as she could is a testament to her bravery.

Logan: Completely agree.

Julie: It feels like writing was such a refuge for her. Is it a refuge for you? What are you working on now?

Logan: It is absolutely a refuge for me. It’s where I connect most deeply with myself. I’ve been really working on honoring myself as an introvert out of reading this book, Quiet, which is just amazing.

Julie: Love that book. So valuable.

Logan: It’s so good, so valuable. It’s made me realize, aha, writing is that space that I carve out that’s the me time, that’s the one that I return to most regularly in my life. It’s helped me to honor the importance of that for me even more, whether it’s journaling or writing a newsletter or writing a book — that’s really that me, “go inside” space — and understand why that’s so important for me. Absolutely, a refuge. What I’m writing next is really in the same vein as the Substack, which is my journey to becoming an author, the long, sorted journey that it’s been, or to having a book published, I should say. The writing was all along. Then also, the journey to becoming a mother after sixteen years of going from no to maybe and really, really struggling with that decision. I think that’s a space that’s just not talked about enough. There’s so often a narrative in our culture of, you know or you don’t. It’s just a gut. You roll the dice. You’re never ready. The really deep exploration of whether to become a parent and holding space for those that are uncertain that that’s okay or those that are certain that they don’t want kids, that’s okay, I’m really committed to having more space for those places having been in them for so long. I’m writing in that memoir space.

Julie: That’s so exciting. I cannot wait to read it. I think you’ll have a lot of really valuable takes on that. I think you’re exactly right because there are so many limiting narratives around how we decide about what we’d like our family to look like. Gosh, there’s a lot to explore there. I can’t wait to read your Substack and then your memoir one day.

Logan: Thank you. Thank you, Julie.

Julie: It’s my pleasure. Logan, this was really a wonderful conversation. Thank you for being with me. Thanks for writing such a fantastic book. I can’t wait for it to be out in the world. I know that it is going to find its readers just like Anne of Green Gables did. Congratulations.

Logan: Thank you so much.

Logan Steiner, AFTER ANNE: A Novel of Lucy Maud Montgomery's Life

AFTER ANNE: A Novel of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Life by Logan Steiner

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