Please join us today in welcoming Austenesque author Victoria Connelly for the official launch of her book blog tour of A Weekend with Mr. Darcy a new Pride and Prejudice-inspired contemporary novel that was released on July 1, 2011 by Sourcebooks.
Inspiration for my books can come from anywhere. It always amazes me what can get the imagination going. My first book published in the UK, Molly’s Millions, was inspired by junk mail – a very unlikely beginning for a romantic comedy!
But it was when I was visiting Chawton in Hampshire that I seriously began thinking about writing about Jane Austen fans. I’d visited Lyme Regis – the gorgeous setting for Persuasion, and Bath which was also used in Persuasion as well as Northanger Abbey. I kept thinking about these three very different and beautiful settings and soon came up with the idea for a trilogy about Jane Austen addicts – each book set in a different Austen location.
The first book, A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, is set in Hampshire at a Jane Austen conference and I knew I wanted a grand Georgian manor house to have the starring role. I’d pictured Newby Hall in North Yorkshire as my ideal house. It had starred as Mansfield Park in the recent TV adaptation, but Yorkshire was a bit too far away for a research trip and so started an Internet search and discovered a gorgeous Georgian manor called Ardington House in the depths of the Oxfordshire countryside. It was the perfect Purley Hall for my book with is sweep of driveway, its great cedar tree, and its pretty gardens leading down to the river.
Visiting locations for a book is a pleasure and a privilege. Not only is it nice to get away from the desk once in a while but it’s vital if you want to make a place come alive and help readers really visualize it.
So, I went back to Chawton because I knew I was going to have a couple of chapters set there. I also visited the nearby hamlet of Steventon and sat in the little church where Jane Austen would once have sat and where my own heroine, Robyn, sits, contemplating heroes.
I also visited Winchester. I wanted to end the book at Jane Austen’s resting place and managed to visit it on the very day when the scene is set – Jane Austen’s birthday on the 16th December. The Christmas market was in full swing and there were ice-skaters in front of the cathedral and, inside, there was a giant Christmas tree covered in simple white lights. I sat next to Jane Austen’s grave and quietly thought of the scene I wanted to set there. It was a magical moment.
The second book in my Austen addicts trilogy is called Dreaming of Mr. Darcy (The Perfect Hero in the UK) and is set in Lyme Regis. We were lucky enough to stay in Lyme for two separate weeks whilst I was writing the book – choosing an apartment in the heart of the town with the most incredible view of the Cobb. I wanted to write as much of the book as possible in situ and spent a freezing afternoon on the beach at Charmouth where my heroine and hero, Kay and Adam, go fossil hunting. My hands were so cold that I could barely hold my pen and yet I wrote a good amount for the scene I had in mind. I also walked the length and breadth of Lyme Regis, really getting to know the place which is just as well because I’d written a scene in which my heroine looks out of her bed and breakfast on Marine Parade and the hero spots her from the Cobb and waves. I quickly realized that he’d never ever see her from that distance and so revised my idea for the scene.
The third book in the series, Mr. Darcy Forever, is set during the Jane Austen Festival in Bath and I had the good fortune to spend a long weekend there – but more about that another time.
I feel very fortunate in my chosen profession. Not only do I get to spend my days creating stories but I get to visit some truly inspiring and beautiful places. Now, I really must think about setting a novel in the Seychelles one day …
Victoria Connelly’s first novel was promoted in Germany to celebrate World Book Day and was adapted into a TV movie. Her second novel was published as a lead title in the UK and chosen as a “hot pick” in Closer magazine. Her new trilogy is her first foray into Jane Austen related fiction. Connelly lives in London with her artist husband, Springer spaniel and ex-battery chickens. Visit Victoria at her blog, on Facebook and as @VictoriaDarcy on Twitter.
Giveaway of A Weekend with Mr. Darcy
Enter a chance to win one of three copies of A Weekend with Mr. Darcy by leaving a comment answering what intrigues you most about reading a Pride and Prejudice-inspired contemporary novel or what characters you would like to see Victoria write about next, by midnight PT, Wednesday, July 13, 2011. Winners to be announced on Thursday, July 14, 2011. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!
A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, by Victoria Connelly
Trade paperback (352) pages
2007 – 2011 Victoria Connelly, Austenprose