Guest Post: Author Anna Jensen

Meet Anna Jensen

Anna is a British ex-pat who has lived in South Africa for a little over twenty years. She lives with her husband and two teenage children on the east coast, a few miles north of the city of Durban. She overlooks the Indian Ocean where she has the privilege of watching dolphins and whales at play.

Anna’s first book ‘The Outskirts of His Glory’ was published in May 2019. Since then she has written and self-published several devotional books of reflection and inspirational poetry.

Anna tackled her first novel, Given Lives, during the November 2020 NaNoWriMo writing challenge, finishing the required 50,000 words within the month. She completed the novel in March 2021 and released it in August. Given Lives tells the true story of a small village in northern England devastated by the plague of 1665/6 and the extraordinary lengths the community went to in order to contain the spread of the disease.

Anna’s second novel in the Ripples Through Time series is currently in progress, again using the NaNoWriMo challenge as a springboard. Secret Lives explores the world of cryptanalysts and allied agents during World War II.

Anna has also published a Christmas novella, A Candle for Christmas, to coincide with the run-up to Christmas.

Author links:

Hi everyone. My name is Anna and I’m a British author who lives in Durban, South Africa. Today I want to tell you about my historical fiction novel, Given Lives. Set in 1665-1666 in a small village in the north of England, the story is one of courage and sacrifice when faced with the devastating arrival of the bubonic plague.

The community of Eyam (pronounced Eem), led by their Rector, Reverend William Mompesson, and his much-loved predecessor, Thomas Stanley, take drastic action to ensure the deadly disease isn’t spread to the surrounding villages and nearby town.

I grew up a few miles from Eyam, visiting often over the years, and the story has always fascinated me and stirred my imagination. When the Covid-19 pandemic swept across the globe at the start of 2020, newspaper articles from around the world appeared, each drawing inspiration from these ordinary men and women who made an extraordinary decision over 300 years ago.

Did these individuals ever think their stories would be relevant centuries later? Did they realise the impact of their actions would ripple through time to reach us today? They simply did what was asked of them, serving God and loving their neighbours regardless of the consequences. I wrote Given Lives in honour of each of them.

I dedicated a month to researching all I could before starting to write. As it was in the middle of the pandemic, I was unable to travel to Eyam in person. Thankfully, the internet allows for armchair exploration, so I spent hours poring over parish records, accounts of events, photographs and maps. I also sent a couple of emails to the museum and the church in Eyam in the hope that someone would be available to assist with making sure I got my facts right.

I didn’t hear anything from my emails until I was almost finished writing the book. Then one day, I received an email from a lady named Joan Plant. She told me she was a descendant of one of the survivors of the plague and would be delighted to read my novel. Somewhat overwhelmed, I sent a copy off to her and waited for her response with growing nervousness. Imagine my delight when she wrote a week or so later to tell me she absolutely loved it! I shed a few tears reading that message.

Joan and I continued to correspond over the next few months. I recorded an interview with her for my book launch in August 2021. You can watch that here if you’re interested in ‘meeting’ her for yourself.

I later received a wonderful review from a local historian who was asked by the museum to read Given Lives before they would consider stocking it in their small shop. I was again brought to tears; the first line was, ‘This is the best book I have read on the Eyam story.’

You can read an extract (for free!) of the first couple of chapters of Given Lives by using the link below. I hope you take the opportunity to become acquainted with the people of Eyam. They have a remarkable story to share.

Download your free extract here:

More about Given Lives:

A village. A plague. An extraordinary love.

SEPTEMBER 1665. Plague ravages the English capital, London.

Thousands are left dead.

In the Derbyshire village of Eyam, 160 miles north of the London tragedies, Kitty Allenby is settling into country life. Encouraged by her Aunt Anne and Uncle Robert, she is excited for the year ahead.

That is until a stranger arrives from London, bringing a parcel of cloth for the local tailor – cloth infested with plague-carrying fleas.

Within weeks, Eyam is under siege.

By spring 1666, drastic action is needed to contain the spread of disease. What can be done?

The Reverend William Mompesson thinks he knows. For his plan to succeed, Mompesson will need the cooperation of the whole community, including his predecessor and rival, Thomas Stanley.

Will the two men be able to put aside the deep mistrust of one another for the sake of the people they are called to serve? How will the doomed villagers respond?

And what of Kitty? Can she learn to love a community not her own, perhaps paying the ultimate price alongside strangers she barely knows?

Based on true events, Given Lives is a story of bravery and sacrifice, of love that laid itself down for the sake of others. It is a whisper through time to each of us confronted by a modern plague, the global Covid 19 pandemic. Will we attune our ears and listen?

Endorsements for Given Lives

“My great aunt (nine times over) and ancestor, Margaret Blackwell, is part of this wonderful novel and, as a family survivor of this dreadful plague, I felt privileged to be asked to read Anna’s novel. It’s a great read. and my thanks to Anna for her factual insight and passion for our history.” ~~Joan Plant

“This book is the best I have read on the Eyam story. An excellent account of village life during the plague – factual and well-researched. It is the best description and insight into the characterization and relationship of the two men – Mompesson and Stanley. A very sensitive and credible story covering the atmosphere and the time and mindset of all the characters.” ~~Francine Clifford, local Eyam historian

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Happy Reading,


5 thoughts on “Guest Post: Author Anna Jensen

  1. What a fascinating tale! It is neat how it is both historical yet relevant to what we have seen.

  2. This is a fascinating book, made all the more so by the similarities to the pandemic we are currently living through. Congratulations Anna on the incredible research you put into this book.

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