the story behind Anselm, a Metamorphosis, by Florence Byham Weinberg

Anselm_medIt began with a dream. In that half-nightmare, I was a young male professor, fired from his teaching position for having seduced the daughter of the Chairman of the Board of Trustees. I felt compelled to record this remarkable dream as a short story, which grew to 50 pages before I realized it had become an obsession. At the time, 1965, I was a Teaching Assistant at the University of Rochester, NY, teaching introductory Spanish literature courses in the language (I already had an MA from the University of British Columbia in Spanish language, literature and history). I needed to write my doctoral dissertation in French literature and history for Rochester, so I hid the 50 pages from myself in the bottom drawer of the dresser, under the drawer lining. I then devoted myself to the dissertation, which was exciting enough to make me forget the dream-story. By 1967, I was a PhD, and was teaching at St. John Fisher College in Rochester. I climbed the academic ladder, became Professor and Chair of the Department, and had actually forgotten all about that story.

By 1989, my husband was ill with Parkinson’s disease, and I looked for employment farther south, in a milder climate. Trinity University in San Antonio needed a Chair of their Modern Languages and Literatures Department, and they hired me. As I cleared the dresser for the move, I found the 50 pages. I read them, and concluded that the story was compelling: it had archetypal, philosophical and theological dimensions, plus being a fast-moving, magical, suspenseful plot with a touch of nightmare. I finished it as a novella in 1990, but it was repeatedly rejected. Back in a drawer it moldered for another 23 years, while I struggled with nursing a dying husband (+1996) and a mother with Alzheimer’s disease (+2003), while teaching full time and chairing Trinity’s language/literature department. I retired in 1999 and began devoting my time to writing historical novels, both romance and mystery. I wrote nine (not counting Anselm). Last January, I decided to complete Anselm, retaining the Viet-Nam era background, since the plot wouldn’t work in a 21st-century setting with electronic media and cell phones. The book has, at last, become a reality.

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FWeinberg2Born 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.


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