Cecilee Linke

I can write you a story, teach you French, sing you a song.

Character Inspiration – Anna Anderson

Welcome to the fourth entry in a series where I talk about the inspiration behind some of the characters in my novels!

Anna Anderson is another character from my Traveling Society series. Like Nellie, her entire name remains the same in the Travel Club and Traveling Society stories, the only other character to have that. I thought about giving her a more unique name, but I decided to keep it. Her name appeals to the poet in me. A A. 😀

When I pictured what Anna looks like, I imagined someone with dark hair and blue eyes. Now I know you must be thinking, wait, don’t you have another character with blue eyes and darker hair? Why yes indeed I do, you’ve been paying attention! 😀 You see, I made Anna’s appearance similar to Lavinia’s because the two of them are close friends, like Patty and Nellie. That’s how they were in the original stories and I thought it’d be fun to retain that aspect for my updated stories.

A couple of Internet searches for pictures for inspiration later, I found this lovely picture on Pinterest.

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Like Patty, Anna didn’t have much of a personality. In fact, I don’t even remember what character traits I even gave her. She was just Lavinia’s best friend and that was it. This meant that I could have a lot of fun filling in her background and interests because I had a blank slate!

And oh did I have fun creating a backstory for Anna Anderson!

Anna is the oldest of eight children. At the homeschool enrichment center where I work, I have encountered many large families just like hers. In fact, one family I know of has eleven children. I can’t imagine what it must be like growing up with that many siblings! I have one younger brother and that’s it!

Of all the things that people think of when they think “homeschooled,” (probably things like “conservative” and “Christian” come to mind for most people), featuring a large family was the one thing that I wanted to have in my story. I’ve taught a lot of homeschooled students who come from families of five or more children. So it’s a fairly common thing.

So when I decided to create a story for Anna, I decided to pull that into her background. I was the oldest of two, so I have no idea what it’s like to grow up in a chaotic household. However, my dad was one of eight (which means I have tons of cousins on that side of the family!). In writing about Anna’s family, I drew on what it must have been like for my dad growing up with all those siblings.

Like Lavinia, she is interested in music. Lavinia and Anna both love country, pop, and Christian music. In particular, the girls enjoy the music of a pop singer named Lindisse. Lindisse is supposed to be a hybrid Francesca Battistelli/Delta Goodrem singer: a popular singer who writes upbeat, piano-driven music with positive (but not cheesy) lyrics.

I had thought so many times of referencing real popular artists like Christina Perri or Imagine Dragons in my stories, especially since my own students like their music. However, I knew the references would date my book. I’ve read YA books from the 70s that included references that I had to ask my parents about because I didn’t understand the punchline or even what the characters were listening to (a book referencing “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” comes to mind). So instead, I came up with my own popular bands and singers. Instead of Carrie Underwood, there’s Sheryl Summer. Alicia Keys became Maddie Shannon. “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” became “Don’t You Dare Leave Me Now.” (Similar title with a similar sentiment, given what the former song is about!) Another real world reference, a TV show which Lavinia and Anna both like watching, and whose name was changed, was The Voice. I called the show Popstarz USA instead. It’s still a TV talent contest, but it’s got a different name. I did that so that my stories would remain timeless rather than dated. 

Not only does Anna enjoy listening to music, but she also plays music. Her instrument is the clarinet. In Bienvenue, Anna and Lavinia play a piece for a local talent show. I used to play the clarinet, so I put that into Anna’s character. I played clarinet in the school band from fifth through ninth grade. Symphonic Band, Wind Ensemble, the Marching Band, that was all me! I only stopped because in my sophomore year I decided to join the school choir instead. I even still have my instruments too, a plastic clarinet for marching around outside and a wooden clarinet for indoor performances. Given my experiences in playing that instrument, I thought it would be perfect for Anna! Even her experience in going to Band Camp mirrors my own. In middle school, I attended a local band camp, where kids from all over the county came together and perfected their skills amongst other kids their age. Of course, the band camp I attended probably didn’t allow homeschooled students, but you know, that’s half the fun of coming up with your own stuff! You can tweak it how you want! 😀

Tune in next time when I’ll be talking about the final main character in my Traveling Society series: Miyoko Raymond.

And to read about Anna’s adventures in the Traveling Society, you can purchase the Kindle version of the first book here and the paperback here.