A new Austenesque book is being launched today, and after meeting Lily Berry, Cindy Jones’ unconventional heroine we may never look at Jane Austen’s novels in the same way again! Please welcome Cindy Jones on her first stop on the blog tour.
LAN: Congratulations Cindy! My Jane Austen Summer launches today. As a debut author that must be very heady. Can you share with us the premise of the book and what your inspiration was to write it?
CSJ: Thank you, Laurel Ann for hosting me on publication day. My Jane Austen Summer is the story of a woman who believes she may finally realize her fantasy of living in a novel when she is invited to a Jane Austen Literary Festival in England. The idea for My Jane Austen Summer developed after re-reading all six Jane Austen novels and feeling the pain of permanent separation at the last page. I craved a book that would allow me to spend more time inside her world, I wanted Jane Austen to be present (the way she is in my head), and I wanted a stand-alone story whose plot involved my favorite Austen novel, Mansfield Park. The book I wanted to read didn’t exist, so I wrote it myself.
LAN: Your heroine Lily Berry is very intriguing, transforming from a needy mixed-up mess to somewhere more stable and self-confident by the end of the book. Her obsession with reading Jane Austen novels to escape reality is quite endearing and at the same time troubling. Personally, I can think of nowhere better than an Austen novel to be lost in, but it does mess up her life a bit. While writing the character, did you discover anything about yourself, and what message do you hope readers discover?
CSJ: I wanted to create a character whose traits and circumstances put her at risk for self-destructive behavior. We’ve all had intelligent friends who repeat mistakes in spite of our fervent admonitions not to, and I wanted to fix one of these people in my book. I wanted to watch her take action and make choices under the increasing pressure of painful revelations and gentle understanding. The more truth she understands about her situation, the more she is able to stop hurting herself and be happier in the world. As far as a message, I would be thrilled if someone took away Lily’s discovery that Willis is attracted to her by the qualities that make her original.
“I felt uplifted by the joyful news that Willis liked me. Not Cosmo me or Earth me—but the real me: the original me that had been too weird to introduce to any other boyfriends. The me I wouldn’t have been able to invent. The me that now walked the halls as if I were Elizabeth Bennett, mistress of the tea-theatre.”
LAN: Mansfield Park is the dark horse of Jane Austen’s oeuvre. I have long been an advocate of the novel and Fanny Price. The Fanny Wars are renowned in Austen lore. Why did you choose Mansfield Park as the inspiration for your book, and how do its themes and characters support your plot?
CSJ: Mansfield Park is my favorite Austen novel, and while I read the book, Jane Austen spoke to me from between the lines. We became best friends. Lily’s relationship with her Jane Austen is lifted entirely from my own experience of intense friendship with an author dead 200 years. From initial infatuation to shared activities, it is entirely possible to nurture a relationship. But when I discovered information that cast an unfavorable light on Jane Austen, I was surprised. Why hadn’t she told me? And from the moment of that discovery, which Lily also makes in her story, my relationship with Jane Austen retreated to more appropriate boundaries.
However, as best friends, Jane Austen and I agree on one important thing: bookish women should marry for love. This point is made clearly in Mansfield Park where Austen champions the bookish Fanny Price over the witty Mary Crawford. Critics claim that Jane Austen manipulates the plot in order for Fanny Price to prevail. Yes, exactly! They have made my point for me.
Mansfield Park and My Jane Austen Summer share a bookish protagonist, a wavering clergyman, and siblings with agendas. Common themes include endurance and the search for self-knowledge.
LAN: Jane Austen’s road to publication was long and arduous. As a first time novelist, can you share with us your personal journey to publication, and offer any advice to other new aspiring authors?
CSJ: My journey to publication took ten years from the time of enrolling in my first serious writing class to the time of signing with HarperCollins. I survived setbacks by studying the criticism of my work and using it to help me revise and try again. Advice to aspiring authors: listen carefully to trusted feedback, learn to cut without mercy, and persist well beyond your previously perceived limits. For more on my journey to publication, see my post today on Girlfriends Book Club.
LAN: What revs you up to write, and what’s up next in your career?
CSJ: In order to spend years writing a book, the subject matter must arouse my curiosity and send me on a quest. My next novel is the story of two women of similar appearance who trade places. One flies to India with her lover who is scouting hotel sites while the other stays home with children, house, and estranged husband. The idea of stepping into another person’s life has always intrigued me and I have enjoyed being a fly on the wall, watching a young woman discover the truth about appearances. Jane Austen is not present in my next novel, but Byron and Shelley play supporting roles of a lecherous college professor and his dilettante friend. Bonus: the protagonist describes the experience of reading poetry by John Keats. The draft is almost ready for my husband to read.
LAN: Now for a bit of fun. If you could be introduced to any of Jane Austen’s colorful heroes or villains, who would it be, and what penetrating question would you ask them?
CSJ: I would love to be in the same room with Caroline Bingley. I wouldn’t wish to actually talk to her, because she would never tell me what I want to know. But the secrets she harbors would be revealed to me through her gestures, vocal inflections, and eye movement. The opportunity to study her up close, in action, would provide me the information to speculate as to what variety of fear motivates her, and I would take lots of notes for future use.
Cindy Jones was born in Ohio and grew up in small mid-western towns, reading for escape. She dreamed of living in a novel and wrote her first book in fifth grade. A business career, husband, and four sons later, she completed My Jane Austen Summer. She has a BA, an MBA, studied creative writing in the SMU CAPE program, and belong to the The Squaw Valley Community of Writers. The winner of the Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest, and she lives with her family in Dallas where she has discovered that, through writing, it is entirely possible to live in a novel for a good part of each day. Visit Cindy on her website, blog First Draft or on Twitter as CindySJones.
My Jane Austen Summer Launch Day Blog Tour
My Jane Austen Summer is celebrating its publication today with a four-stop blog tour and giveaways on each blog. Visit and leave a comment on each blog for a chance to win a signed copy of the novel and a package of Lily Berry’s Pink Rose Tea, created by Bingley’s Teas, Ltd. Each blog will hold a separate drawing, meaning four chances to win. Here’s where we’re celebrating:
- “Here We Go” on First Draft
- The Path to Pub Day on Girlfriends BookClub
- Interview with a Protagonist on Austen Authors
Enter a chance to win one copy of My Jane Austen Summer, by Cindy Jones and the famous Lily Berry’s Pink Rose Tea, created by Bingley’s Teas, Ltd by leaving a comment sharing how you relate to Lily’s obsession with reading Jane Austen novels, or which novel you like most to be lost in and why, by midnight PT, Wednesday, April 6, 2011. Winner announced on Thursday, April 7, 2010. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!
- Order My Jane Austen Summer and Lily Berry ‘s Pink Rose Tea combo
- Read Christina’s review of My Jane Austen Summer
- Order My Jane Austen Summer online
2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose
First of all, thank you so very much for this wonderful and revealing interview – and for hosting this amazing giveaway, I’m very grateful for the opportunity.
I can completely relate to Lily Berry (Lizze Bennett, Lily Berry…do I see a reference, here?) and her obsession with Jane Austen, because I too have felt the feverish pitch of needing to devour Austen’s work. My affliction began soon after I first read “Pride & Prejudice” and I was astonished to realize that I could relate to a character on such a deeply subconscious level. Sure, there are characters with which you laugh and cry, but there are seldom characters who you laugh and cry FOR. To feel intrinsically related to the emotional status of that character, and to depend on their happiness to feel happiness, and their sadness to find yourself in the throes of pain – now that is a slippery slope. Feeling this way could very well result in self-destructive behavior, because although Jane Austen was a remarkable author – no author promises you a happy ending. I kept consuming her books like a girl addicted, and began losing myself in them. Until I began to realize, I was living in a world of centuries past, and that ultimately as wonderful as it is to escape into the world of a novel – I couldn’t really escape the confines of my own world! That’s when I began to accept that I could, in fact, be learning from Jane Austen’s heroines without having to BE them. Since then, Jane Austen has been my best friend, and adviser for many, many years! :D
Dear Hira–You understand!! So glad to connect!
Congrats on your book launch, Cindy! My Jane Austen Summer sounds like a very fun & entertaining read and I’m looking forward to reading it soon (I hope…keeping my fingers crossed! *g*).
My favorite Austen novel has long been Pride & Prejudice…yes, I want to get lost with Mr. Darcy. :)
Funny, although Persuasion is “my Austen” book I keep
coming back to Mansfield Park. I’ll have to read My Jane
Austen summer though. An excellent interview and a book
to look forward to.
Thank you, Ruth! Lost with Mr. Darcy sounds like a great way to go!
I can’t wait to read this!!!
Been waiting since October for the release (of course, you’ve been waiting longer!)! So excited for you!! Looking forward to reading it and wishing you the best.
I’ll take a nice dose of Mr. Darcy as well! Did you travel around Europe for inspiration?
First of all, that is a beautiful cover. Second, I want to be lost in Sense and Sensibility. Persuasion is actually my favorite Austen book, but I love the world of S&S. I want to be a bit more like Elinor, but in my secret heart of hearts, I’m much more like Marianne. I really love the idea of living in a cottage like Barton Cottage, and even though the Dashwoods had to economize and had that horrible sister-in-law, something about the whole story has always spoken to me, ever since I first read it.
Not an original choice, but I’d love to get lost in the Bennet household in Pride and Prejudice. Not having any sisters, I’ve always been fascinated with the interplay between the five girls. And it would be so much fun to watch Lizzie and Mr. Darcy fall in love in person. :)
I’m a Persuasion fan myself but am happy to see a novel that champions Fanny Price(that poor girl tends to get lost in the Austen Heroine shuffle there!)and the theatrics at Mansfield Park.
As for a Austen novel to get lost in,Persuasion has several lovely spots such as Uppercross( even with Mary around,the Musgroves are a lively bunch) or Lyme Regis,which I happened to have been lucky to have visited in real life:)
Caroline–Persuasion is a close second favorite of mine, so I understand.
Dana, I just re-read S&S very carefully in order to develop the quiz for the upcoming JASNA AGM so I feel very familiar with Elinor and Marianne and would love to live in Barton Cottage for a while!
Annalynn–The interplay between the Bennet sisters is fascinating, and so true to life. Good choice.
Lady T–I love Persuasion, too. I missed Lyme Regis on my trip to Jane Austen country, I’d love to see the wall.
Persuasion is my favorite. S & S is a close 2nd. The 1995 movie version of S & S is what started my love for Jane Austen.
In a couple years I hope to go on a Jane Austen tour of England with my friend Laura. I told her I always wanted to go on a tour and she offered to occupy me. First though I promised my niece I’d take her to the Harry Potter theme park in Florida so I’m saving for that trip and then I’ll start saving for a Jane Austen trip.
First, must say I *love* this line from the interview: “bookish women should marry for love” !!! :)
I’d love to spend time in the Austen novels – all of them, hehe … Maybe especially Sense & Sensibility. (At this moment, anyway!). If I could get lost in an non-Austen novel, I’d dive headfirst into the Little House books – the later ones, when Alamanzo’s around? Yeah. Totally. There. LOL! Though the Anne of Green Gables books are appealling also …
… I think it’s safe to say I entirely & thoroughly understand the process of losing one’s self in a novel (or series) :)
Enjoyed the book very much. Your ending leaves things rather up to chance in regards to Willis and Lily. Do you believe that they ever meet up and get together now that certain burdens are gone? I personally like to imagine he shows up at the bookstore while promoting Vampire Priest…
Like Dana and jennythelibrarian, Persuasion is my favorite Austen novel, but I would love to spend some time lost in Sense and Sensibility. The 1995 movie introduced me to the book, which then led to my love for all things Jane Austen. I grew up with three older sisters and a younger brother and I can see myself and them in the siblings in S&S. I would love to spend some time at Barton Cottage with Elinor and Marianne and get to know Margaret.
My Jane Austen Summer sounds great and I’m looking forward to reading it. Good luck on your next book as well Cindy, it also sounds interesting.
Jenny–I’m always interested to know what sparked a Janeite’s initial interest. 1995 was a good year for film adaptations.
Rivkabelle–I’m glad you understand living in a novel. So fun to imagine the possibilities!
Christina–Thank you for the lovely and intelligent review! I love it when a reader connects so well with the book. SPOILER ALERT I’m thrilled that you imagine a future for Lily and Willis. I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to either of them yet, myself.
I love Persuasion and P&P! They are two books I keep coming back to all the time. I enjoy Jane Austen so much that I can’t stop reading all the retellings and variations that are out there! (Thank goodness there are so many JAFF authors and books out there that I won’t run out for some time)! Often, I can’t put these books down. I read in carpool line, while the kids watch cartoons and I should be cleaning, snuggled next to my husband at night while he is watching sports, in the bath, while the kids are playing outside, and sometimes even at red lights. If I worked I could see myself being like Lily and reading instead of working. You just find yourself so much in love with these characters that you hate to see them go, so you just pick up a new book, and continue on!
Thanks for the opportunity to win your book! I look forward to reading it very much!
I’m really looking forward to reading My Jane Austen Summer, thanks for the interview.
It’s a tie for me, I’d like to get lost in Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. In P&P, especially when Lizzy is visiting Pemberley with her aunt and uncle. In Persuasion, I’d love to get taken away on the sea by the Captain. Imagine experiencing the adventures through Anne’s eyes.
Thanks Cindy! Sounds like a fun read! I was surprised to find so many Persuasion lovers like me! Seeing dear Anne get a 2nd chance with Captain Wentworth makes me feel all happy inside :)
I love Persuasion so much that I bought a necklace from this Etsy seller like the one on the link except mine is Persuasion. I’m not at home or I’d take a picture of my actual necklace.
I would most like to get lost in Persuasion, not only because I admire Anne and am a bit in love with Wentworth, but also because I need to remember that some very good things in life are worth the wait.
I would love to get lost in Pride and Prejudice, then I could visit Pemberley! Persuasion would also be a great book to be lost in. :) Lovely interview!
I love to be lost in ‘Emma’. The characters are so interesting, and I wish I could just travel to Highbury!
I can get lost in S and S; the romance of Edward and Elinor is just so sweet. (sighs)
I would love to get lost in either P&P or Persuasion. I feel a connection with the latter since my husband was active duty Navy.
Can’t wait until this comes out. I hope it will be on the nook as well.
I would get lost in Pride and Prejudice. It was my introduction to Jane Austen and was my rescue from being diagnosed with Lupus while I was very sick. I’ll never forget how it lifted my spirits and gave me so many years of upcoming pleasure! I can totally see how someone trying to find relief from the tough stuff in life would want to turn to JA. Your book is SO on my list to read. I’d love to win this book! If not I’ll ask for it for my April birthday! I’ve been following you since the JA Birthday Blog Tour and looking forward to the book!
I would gladly get lost in any of the novels, but I think I’d like “Northanger Abbey” the most because there’s so much to do. Dancing in the Upper Rooms, borrowing books from the circulating library, shopping on Milsom Street, checking the visitors’ book in the Pump Room. And when the pleasures of Bath have run out, you get to head to Northanger Abbey and explore that awesome house and the walks surrounding it AND you get to visit Woodston and give Henry decorating tips!
Congratulations on your new book! How exciting.
by this interview, it sounds like this is the novel i’d love to be lost in! excellent ~ and ConGratuLations!! exciting “)
until then, i’m lost in ‘Persuasion’…
I would like to be lost in Persuasion because I like the idea of second chances and people who love each getting together after all.
This book sounds great! I’d love to be lost in Persuasion because it’s my favorite Austen novel. Who wouldn’t love to receive Capt. Wentworth’s letter??
How fun! Cindy’s novel sounds wonderful. I think of all Austen’s novels, I would most love to be lost in Persuasion. I’m a sucker for first (and lost) love.
Jakki–I read at red lights, too! We’re hardcore!
Felicia–off to sea with Captain Wentworth? What an adventure! You should write that one.
Amy L–I agree. I love the idea of second chances!
Jennie-I have a Mansfield Park charm bracelet I bought at the AGM. I love it!
Lucy–I agree. And things usually turn out for the best.
Lieder Madchen–So hard to decide. Maybe its a good thing we don’t have to pick…one of each, please!
Katie P–You’re not afraid of being bossed by Emma? I agree that Highbury would be a fun place to visit.
Joy-I just re-read S&S and enjoyed Elinor and Edward’s romance very much!
Laura–I know my book is on Kindle so I would guess it is also on Nook.
Karen–“There is nothing like Jane when you’re in a tight place.” I’ve heard of many people taking solace from Jane Austen when they are sick. I hope you are better now!
Marybeth–You must have a lot of energy! Just reading your list of activities in NA makes me want to sit down and have a cup of tea!!
LilMissMolly–Thank you! I hope you enjoy it!
CherryTea–I spent five years lost in my novel and had a great time!!
Margay–I love the idea of second chances, too! Persuasion is the close 2nd favorite for me.
Missy–I love Capt. Wentworth’s letter!! Just imagine being the recipient…
Meg–First love makes such and impression and provides much food for imagination–and great stories!!
Thank you, all, for your comments! Your good wishes make me happy!
I LOVED this interview, and have been looking forward to the book’s release. I admit, with several others who have posted already, that my love for all things Jane Austin began with the S&S movie featuring Emma Thompson & Kate Winslet. My all-time favorite Austen novel would be Pride & Prejudice with Persuasion and S&S being my next favorites… It’s very hard to put one over the other because I think that they are ALL very good, and so easy to relate to. If I could be lost in one of these novels, of course I would LOVE to see the relationship/romance developing between Elizabeth & Mr. Darcy… She is my favorite Austen heroine! I just love her spunky, sassy-ness and saying what she thinks. And I also really enjoy her relationship with her sister Jane. I’ve never had sisters, only younger brothers… and I think it would be quite fun to experience it all through Lizzie and her siblings.
Can I be a book jumper? If I had to pick one, it would be P&P, but Pursuasion is a close second. The problem is, depending on my mood, they are all my favorite! I would love to go on an extended vacation and spend time with them all!
Congratulations on your release!!!
The S&S film with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet made a big impression on me too, so much so that when I re-read S&S recently, I pictured those actresses throughout the whole book, even though Marianne’s description is nothing like Kate Winslet. Thank you for commenting, Valerie.
I am really looking forward to reading this book. I would actually love to be lost in the world of Emma, as I very much identify with her and I love the ‘real-ness’ of that book.
I have a blog dedicated to the life and times of Marie Antoinette. I just love the way your blog is organized and designed. It’s visually pleasing. Very lovely, indeed!
The interview with Ms. Jones was fab, too. I can’t wait to read her book.
If you have a moment, you might want to visit my blog http://leahmariebrown.blogspot.com and read the interview I have up with Melanie Clegg. She wrote a novel about the young Marie Antoinette. I would love your thoughts.
I will be visiting your lovely blog again. All the best!
Cindy – loved the book and since I live in Dallas I could relate to the Texas portion of the book.
I tend to get lost in P & P. If I read too many books in a span or too late at night I tend to dream about Lizzy & Darcy. So if I had to get lost in a novel it would probably be that one.
Best of luck!
“My Jane Austen Summer” sounds delightful & intriguing! Would love to win a copy of it … and the fabulous tea! :D
My favorite novel is Persuasion, closely followed by S&S … so, I suppose I would like to be lost in either of those. If I HAD to choose … perhaps lost in Persuasion over the latter. :) Capt. Wentworth is my favorite of Jane’s “heartthrobs”.
It’s a toss up between Persuasion and P&P, my guess is it might be better to be a Lizzie than an Anne for MOST of the book, Anne catches up in the end though ;)
I’m with those torn between P&P and Persuasion. Though I’ve got a soft spot for the military (Army brat!) and as I’ve gotten a bit older, I appreciate Anne much more.
This was a wonderful interview. Reading Austen novels takes me to a new and wonderful place I have never been before. Each new read addresses something new within myself and reveals something within the book that I either overlooked, was not important or I didn’t relate to on a previous read.
My favorite story is Persuasion. It is not my favorite movie or mini-series but the story to me is somewhat relatable for personal reasons and I love the honesty and integrity of Anne and how she seems to bloom despite her unknown outcome of love.
Thank you for hosting this wonderful contest.
I think being “lost in Austen” (hmmmm;) is for me the same as the heroine Amanda Price feels when she is relating her obsession with all things Austen.
She deeply confides with the viewer that her wish would be to be part of that world , no matter what. I understand Amanda and have always wished to have been part of Jane’s world at whatever cost.
Since my mother introduced me to Jane at age 12, (many moons ago) I have looked at life using all of Jane’s works as method of measurement of human behaviour.
Perhaps I relate in some way to each of the heroines of Austen’s novels. Each of these women are unique in their own way and each is an in depth look at the female psyche with profound interest.
Because of my obsession with Austen’s own obsession with the human condition, I believe Mansfield Park is my favorite Austen novel to be “lost in”.
So many characters and sub-stories during a time in history that was swirling with the beginning of a new look at the human state. Austen nails it with Fanny Price, a pre-supposed innocent who turns out to be sort of a behavioral scientist herself, much like the real life Jane Austen. Both without guile, but very in tune with each of the characters in their lives…so much so that their days were filled with the intense exchange of relationship.
The only difference and perhaps a sad one..Fanny marries her familial love Edmund and our darling Jane goes to her Heavenly reward sans love and marriage.
Yes! Mansfield Park! So much to be lost in! But then, there is….P& P…oh!…Persuasion….
Never mind, time to go curl into my chair with my well-worn copy of Pride and Prejudice, smilingly slyly to myself thinking of Amanda Price!