We’re thrilled to have here today Fr. Anselm Farnese from Florence Byham Weinberg’s new metaphysical fantasy. Anselm is a fifty-three-year-old Benedictine monk living in Holy Cross Monastery near Platte Hill in Upstate New York.
It is a pleasure to have Fr. Anselm with us today at Beyond the Books!
Thank you so for this interview, Father Anselm. Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers? The author does use my voice—she narrates the whole book in first person, as if I were writing it myself. I find that to be an example of chutzpah. You know the term, I’m sure. For example, when I first meet the man who had just usurped my body—the real Anselm Farnese—(I really am Eric Behrens, you see), she overdoes my bumbling and confusion. But I’m probably just confusing you, am I not? Mine is a case of a body-swap, my mind is still Eric’s, but you’re not seeing a young professor, you’re seeing a middle-aged monk!
Do you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality? If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently? Well… yes, I guess she did. I turn out to be quite a hero. Never thought I’d have it in me. She also makes me out to be a complete human being, with fears, sex drive (that’s hard to cope with in a monastery, let me tell you!), and all sorts of other feelings. Oh yes, I’m a complete human being, all right; she did a good job.
What do you believe is your strongest trait? Perseverance, I suppose. I set a goal and never let go until I achieve it… or almost. Worse trait? Impulsiveness, which leads to making stupid mistakes.
If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)? Perhaps Leonardo DiCaprio as Eric Behrens (although he may be just a bit too slight, physically, for the role. As Eric, I was 5’10”. Now, since the metamorphosis, I’m 6’3”. In any case, the first actor needs to be blond, cute, attractive to women, and able to appear to be 27-years old. An actor who might play me in my new body as Father Anselm would be James Nesbitt (who starred in The Hobbit). He has the right coloring, and is about the right age—I just don’t know how tall he is. In the beginning, he has to be made up to look fat—70 pounds overweight. I lost all that weight and became quite a body builder, really ripped. So I momentarily thought of Conan Stevens… but he’s way too tall. Another problem with Conan: can he act?
Do you have a love interest in the book? Two. Diana Gregg and Jennifer Schwartz. Diana… well, she was an undergrad at Woodward State when I was Eric Behrens, an assistant professor there. We were attracted to each other at a swimming party at her dad’s place. At first I didn’t know he was Chairman of the Board of Trustees. The affair lasted all summer, and I was getting tired of it… wanted to ditch her. About that time her father found out and had me fired. I cursed the world and said I’d rather be someone, anyone else. That’s when the transformation happened. I woke up as… me. As Anselm. Jennifer Schwartz, Dr. Jennifer Schwartz was a young intern in Rockhurst General Hospital while I was there. It’s a long story. We liked each other. I mean, she liked me, as Anselm. It got serious….
At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out? When I started getting ready to go after the Usurper to get my real body back. That’s when I got scared. I had no idea how that was going to turn out!
If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why? The Usurper, the original Anselm, who stole my body, of course. Thank God I have my own mind, not his! Why? Because in order to work the medieval ritual, the spell that enabled him to change bodies with Eric, with me, he had to commit himself to the Powers of Evil. He really became a creepy character.
How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away? Actually, I’m very satisfied with it. You might say that all the loose ends were neatly tied up. My author did a good job there.
What words of wisdom would you give your author if s/he decided to write another book with you in it? She’d have to find new adventures, new conflicts that would be serious enough to interest a reader. Readers feed on conflict and difficulty in a novel, of course. That way they can say to themselves, “Gee, we’re so much better off!” At the same time, they’re caught up in the suspense of the thing. It has to have suspense, even if it’s an artsy novel, otherwise people just lay it aside.
Thank you for this interview, Father Anselm. Will we be seeing more of you in the future? Maybe, if she finds enough interest in the quiet life I’m now leading. You never know what trouble I might get into, though. Thanks for spending your time with me; I really enjoyed the interview!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR Born in the high desert country, in Alamogordo, New Mexico, Florence loved exploring the wilderness on foot and horseback. Those grandiose landscapes formed her sensibility. Hidden pockets of unexpected greenery tucked away near springs in folds of barren mountainsides spoke to her of gentleness and beauty in an otherwise harsh world. She published her first poem in a children’s magazine shortly after she learned to read at age four; wrote her first ‘novel’ at age six, entitled Ywain, King of All Cats. She illustrated the ‘book’ herself. She traveled extensively with her military family during World War II. With her husband the brilliant scholar and teacher, Kurt Weinberg, she worked and traveled in Canada, Germany, France, and Spain. After earning her PhD, she taught for twenty-two years at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY, and for ten at Trinity University in San Antonio. She published four scholarly books, many articles and book reviews, doing research in the U.S. and abroad. When, after retiring in 1999, she was freed from academia to devote herself to writing fiction, she produced ten novels, ranging from fantasy to historical romance and mystery. An avid researcher, she grounds most of her publications in historical fact. She spends hours combing through web sites, books and periodicals, and historical archives to enhance her writings with authenticity. Eight of her ten books are now in print: an historical romance about the French Renaissance, published in France in French translation by Editions Lyonnaises d’Art et d’Histoire, and two straight historical novels,Apache Lance, Franciscan Cross and Seven Cities of Mud. In addition, four historical mysteries starring the 18th-century Jesuit missionary, Father Ignaz (Ygnacio) Pfefferkorn. Two of these are set in the Sonora Desert, the third in an ancient monastery in Spain, and the fourth, Unrest in Eden, follows Pfefferkorn’s fate after his release from Spanish prison. Five of the historical novels have received a total of ten awards.Unrest in Eden is now published in German translation by Dr. Renate Scharffenberg under title Unruhe im Paradies. The most recent book, Anselm, a Metamorphosis: metaphysical suspense, weaves an aura of black magic and nightmare that should fascinate all levels and ages of readers. Florence also serves as Lector at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in San Antonio, Texas, as well as appearing as a guest lecturer to various groups throughout the country and abroad. Her favorite animals are horses-an intense love affair over many years-and cats, her constant companions. She enjoys music, traveling, hiking, biking, gardening, and swimming.