Secret Library Podcast


Secret Library Podcast Episodes

#149 Anne Choma


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When I heard the words "encrypted diary" I knew I had to speak to Anne Choma about Anne Lister.

I could not put Anne Choma's book down. So many times, when I've seen a film or show about a historical figure and I get hooked, I immediately run to whatever source material to dive deeper and find out more about the person in real life. How often I have wished for a book like this, which goes deep into the real life of a historical figure portrayed on the screen.

As the show wasn't yet out, I was reading this book on its own and was fascinated. Anne Lister, for those just learning about her in this episode, was the first woman to marry another woman and she did so hundreds of years before legalization of gay marriage was on anyone's radar. It was even before the idea of gay marriage was in social discourse at all. She broke conventions by living as a landowner, refusing to follow the rules of her time and place if they didn't suit her, and by following her heart. As a prolific diarist, she wrote about her life in detail, and kept information she didn't want available to any prying eyes secret through her own code. Anne Choma, historian and researcher, is my guest on this episode and talks about Anne's life and the process that has been undertaken by a whole community to crack the code and transcribe the millions of words Anne wrote about her life, a process that is still underway now.

One of my favorite conversations about working with historical material to date on the show. I know you will adore hearing from Anne Choma, who lives in the land of the Brontës, just a short walk away from where Anne Lister once lived. Enjoy!

Discussed in Episode 149 with Anne Choma

  • Cracking the code of Anne Lister’s encrypted diary and using this as the inspiration for Gentleman Jack

  • Unveiling Anne’s identity, trapped between her short and long hand

  • Anne Choma’s journey from master thesis to debut novel

  • Writing to appeal to a wider audience

  • How to use primary material, especially when writing for a television drama

  • Finding balance between fact and drama

  • The ambition and fear that comes with writing

  • Anne’s diaries being recognized by UNESCO. 

  • The process of transcribing

  • What it is like to live on the same land that Anne List did

Links and Resources

This episode sponsored by listeners like you via the Secret Library Podcast Patreon