BackStory: Five Questions with Madeline Anthes

Detail, Abigail Fowle by Joseph Badger

BackStory: Five Questions with Madeline Anthes
Author of Declaration

What inspired you to write this piece?

I often write about women being trapped in some way – by a relationship, by emotion, by nostalgia, etc. In this case, I wanted to see if I could write a woman feeling trapped by duty and by her place in society; I wanted there to be a struggle for liberation within her home, so it only felt right to set it during the Revolutionary War.

What is your favourite part of the writing process? Your least favourite?

My favourite part of the writing process is when the gears are greased and the words are flowing. Sometimes you just find a rhythm and the words come out in just the order you want. There’s a phrase or two that sing to you and you know you’ve done something right.

My least favourite part of the writing process is how rare that is, and how most of the time I feel guilty because I’m not writing. I know, I know. A lot of the work is done off the page. But I always have this horrible guilt complex that I’m not writing enough or producing enough.

If you could live for one year in any historical period, when and where would it be, and why?

I would want to be a lady in waiting for Anne Boleyn in Tudor England from 1535-1536. She is by FAR my favourite historical figure. I’d love to know what she was really like. Was she vindictive? Was she a victim? How much did she play into her downfall, and what were those final days like? Ah, to see that moment in history.

What, if anything, do you have in common with your main character?

Well, the main character and I are both women who enjoy freedom and being alone. I, too, enjoy simple freedoms: where I sit, what I watch on TV, when I can just be quiet and by myself. As a writer, I often need alone time to clear my headspace and get work done. Unlike the main character, I am married to a man who encourages this, admires this quality in me and needs his alone time too. Poor Joe, I always write about bad men and miserable women. A side effect of being married to a writer is being worried that people will think the characters are inspired by life. Luckily, he’s used to it by now!

What do you like most about writing flash?

I like flash because it works like my brain does. I’m often inspired by clips of memories that I’ve often forgotten about until they randomly resurface: the smell of gasoline off of a lake, the sound of a ceiling fan in the middle of a night, the taste of dry crackers after a stomach flu. I often can’t remember what happened before or after one of these little memories, but I have flashes of clear and vivid emotion tucked inside each of these glimpses into the past.

Flash mirrors this for me. It’s a snapshot of someone right then and there. It’s assumed that something got them there and something will come after, but the story is just them in that moment. It’s pure emotion, the meat of life. It’s the bit that sticks.

Madeline Anthes is an ex-Clevelander living in eastern PA. She is the acquisitions editor for Hypertrophic Literary, and her work can be found in journals like Cease, Cows, Lost Balloon, WhiskeyPaper, and more. You can find her on Twitter at @maddieanthes, or find more of her work at

Image detail from Joseph Badger’s portrait of Mrs John Edwards (Abigail Fowle), circa 1750 to 1760.  Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.