Please help us welcome Austenesque author Abigail Reynolds today during her blog tour in celebration of the release of Mr. Darcy’s Refuge, the ninth novel in her popular Pemberley Variations series.
Whenever I read one of her creative and romantic takes on roads not taken in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I feel a bit like I am in an Austen Twilight Zone. Readers familiar with Austen’s classic story will recognize characters and settings, but Reynolds always mixes it up, placing new impediments and challenges to Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet’s romance. There are always surprises, and, this new novel is no exception. The first few chapters had me laughing out loud as the story unfolds from Darcy’s point of view. He is even more arrogant and assuming then we ever realized. Ha!
Abigail has kindly shared her thoughts on her writing career and her new book. Leave a comment to enter a chance to win a copy of Mr. Darcy’s Refuge. Enjoy!
I’ve just spent the weekend at the Decatur Book Festival enjoying the company of readers and authors of Austen-inspired books, both fiction and non-fiction. One topic that arose repeatedly was how the world of publishing has changed in the last two years, and even in the last two weeks – yes, really, we discussed some significant changes that have taken place in the last fortnight! It made me think about how my personal writing process has changed as well.
It took me 25 months to write and edit Mr. Darcy’s Letter, which was released in December 2011. In contrast, I started writing my latest release, Mr. Darcy’s Refuge in mid-January of this year, completing it in 7 months. Why so much faster? The easy answer is that I started cutting back on my day job early this year, giving me more free time to write, but that doesn’t completely account for it, since I probably spent one-third the hours on it overall as I did on the last book.
The biggest difference was that I could write every day. When I have to take a break from writing for a week or more, I lose track of the flow of the narrative, and if I want to have good pacing, I have to go back and rework already written text before I start again. Even with detailed notes, I have trouble keeping scenes on track when there’s a large gap in time. It’s much harder to keep characters consistent and I have to do more revisions in order to keep the tone consistent through the book. Interestingly, when I look back at my books, the ones that are most popular with readers are the ones that I wrote the fastest.
Certainly a book can be written too quickly, without enough care being taken to make it into a quality product, but can it also be written too slowly? Obviously, in my case, it can be. But what about Jane Austen? We have a reasonable amount of information about how long it took her to write her books. What does it show us?
Let’s look at Sense & Sensibility, which Jane Austen referred to as her ‘suckling child’ – an interesting metaphor since it implies that she both loved it and felt drained by it. She had finished the first draft, then entitled Elinor and Marianne, quite quickly, since she read it aloud to her family before she was 20 years old. She returned to it two years later to do a full revision, changing it from an epistolary novel to a traditional narrative. Twelve years later she took it out again for yet another full revision, this time changing the name to Sense & Sensibility. It was published in 1810, fifteen years after she read the first draft to her family. She had been working on it for her entire adult life.
In contrast, she started Persuasion when she was 39 years old, and wrote it from start to finish, including revisions, in just under a year. Naturally, she was a more experienced writer at that point, but I also wonder how the speed of her writing affected the book. I think of Persuasion as a delight – the tone, the themes, the characters, the background, all seem to flow seamlessly together as I read it. Sense & Sensibility, on the other hand, reminds me in some ways of Shakespeare’s ‘problem plays’ where there are gaps of style, consistency, or just basic characterization. I think of it as Jane Austen’s problem novel. While more polished than Shakespeare’s ‘problem plays,’ the flow of Sense & Sensibility isn’t as smooth as Persuasion, nor are the characters as consistent, and it’s sometimes hard to follow why certain characters care about other characters. It makes me wonder if Jane Austen also had to struggle with changing vision and loss of flow when the writing of a book spanned so many years. After all, a character created at age 19 would have to go through a major metamorphosis before meeting the standards of an author at age 34, and it would be almost impossible to erase all the traces of the earlier characterizations.
My writing will never come close to equaling Jane Austen’s, or even make it into the same order of magnitude. I write light fiction for my own pleasure and that of my readers, and I’m very content producing the literary equivalent of comfort food rather than haute cuisine. Still, given how much I adore Austen’s writing, it’s very nice to be able to find some potential similarities in our experience as writers!
Thank you for sharing your insights on your writing Abigail. Jane Austen also wrote for her own amusement and that of her family, so you share more than a few similarities. Best wishes for a great success with Mr. Darcy’s Refuge.
Abigail Reynolds is a great believer in taking detours. Originally from upstate New York, she studied Russian and theater at Bryn Mawr College and marine biology at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. After a stint in performing arts administration, she decided to attend medical school, and took up writing as a hobby during her years as a physician in private practice.
A life-long lover of Jane Austen’s novels, Abigail began writing variations on Pride & Prejudice in 2001, then expanded her repertoire to include a series of novels set on her beloved Cape Cod. Her most recent releases are Mr. Darcy’s Refuge, A Pemberley Medley, and Morning Light, and she is currently working on a new Pemberley Variation and the next novel in her Cape Cod series. A lifetime member of JASNA and a founder of the popular AUSTEN AUTHORS group blog, she lives in Wisconsin with her husband, two teenaged children, and a menagerie of animals. Her hobbies do not include sleeping or cleaning her house. Website: Pemberley Variations; Blog: Austen Authors; Facebook: Abigail Reynolds and at Twitter: @AbigailReynolds
GIVEAWAY OF MR. DARCY’S REFUGE
Enter a chance to win one of two digital copies available of Mr. Darcy’s Refuge, by Abigail Reynolds by leaving a comment either asking Abigail about writing her Pemberley Variations series, her new novel, or a remark about Jane Austen’s writing style by 11:59 pm PT, Wednesday, September 12, 2012. Winners to be announced on Thursday, September 13, 2012. Digital copies are available to download Internationally. Good luck to all.
© Abigail Reynolds, Austenprose