In Conversation with Janet Todd, Editor, and Essayist of Jane Austen’s Sanditon

Jane Austen's Sanditon, edited by Janet Todd (2019)I recently read and reviewed the delightful Jane Austen’s Sanditon, an excellent new edition in the crowded Austen book market whose timely release, along with the new ITV/PBS eight-part television adaptation/continuation inspired by the unfinished novel, has brought Jane Austen’s last work into the limelight. I have long followed the career of its editor, Janet Todd, and own several of her books, including the soon to be re-issued Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels (February 4, 2020).

For years I have been reading about Janet’s friendship with a mutual Janeite, Diana Birchall, who was also one of my contributors on Jane Austen Made Me Do It. There is so much serendipity in this triangle of friends that I knew that I needed to get Diana and Janet together for an interview regarding her new book.

Diana tells me that she and Janet first met “in 1983, at an early Jane Austen conference at St. Hilda’s College, Oxford, and chatted away during a lovely side trip to Stoneleigh Abbey.” Okay, I wasn’t there for that one, but wish I had been. “Their conversation continued over the years between visits back and forth to California (Diana’s home) and Cambridge (Janet’s) as well as myriad hiking trips and holidays in places ranging from Rum and Eigg in the Hebrides, the Scilly Isles, Sequoia, and Venice.” Here is the result of their tete-a-tete on Janet’s new book, Jane Austen’s Sanditon, for our enjoyment.

WELCOME TO AUSTENPROSE LADIES:

Diana Birchall: You write that in Austen’s works you encounter political and social opinions sometimes gratifyingly liberal, at others sternly alien to our way of thinking. Can you give an example or two?

Janet Todd: The importance of religion. Jane Austen was a rector’s daughter; her eldest brother was a clergyman and the speculating brother Henry took Holy Orders while she was writing Sanditon. Mr Parker seeks a doctor for his resort but makes no mention of a clergyman. I think this is significant.

Like other heroines, Charlotte isn’t overtly pious but she’s firm in ethical judgments. We now praise someone for being ‘passionate’ about what they do, but Charlotte is repeatedly called ‘sober-minded’. She doesn’t admire enthusiasm and activity uncoupled from moral purpose. She can’t approve Robert Burns’ poetry, however appealing, because of his unprincipled life where we forgive celebrities almost any excess.

On the other side Jane Austen often seems modern in her liberal take on feminism and in her subordination of class and birth to merit and integrity.

DB: Do you think Charlotte and Clara are shaping up to be an Emma/Jane Fairfax sort of relationship? Continue reading

A Very Austen Valentine Blog Tour: Author Interview with Robin Helm, Laura Hile, and Wendi Sotis

a very austen valentine book 2 x 200Just in time for Valentine’s Day on February fourteenth, a new Jane Austen-inspired anthology has been published to fill our romantic hearts with Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet and many other characters from Austen’s beloved novels. A Very Austen Valentine contains six novellas by popular Austenesque authors: Robin Helm, Laura Hile, Wendi Sotis, Barbara Cornthwaite, Susan Kaye and Mandy H. Cook and includes stories inspired by Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and Sense and Sensibility. Featuring many of our favorite characters, readers will find sequels, adaptations, and spin-offs of Austen’s works in this new book.

I am very happy to welcome three of the A Very Austen Valentine authors to Austenprose today. They have kindly agreed to an interview.

Welcome ladies. Here are a few questions to introduce us to your new anthology, your writing process and philosophies, and an opportunity to tell us about your next project.

Can you share your inspiration for this Austen-inspired anthology?

Laura: Several years ago Robin Helm and I talked about putting together an anthology – no small feat, as Laurel Ann knows (Jane Austen Made Me Do It) – and last Christmas we banded together with Wendi Sotis and Barbara Cornthwaite to release our first. Who knew that Jane Austen and Christmas would combine so well? Our readers, that’s who! We were overwhelmed by the response to A Very Austen Christmas. Next, we decided to take on Valentine’s Day. This holiday was not widely popular during the Regency, but when we found extant Valentine cards from the period, we were off and running. A Very Austen Valentine is the result.

We call our anthologies “books that friendship built” because, this is absolutely true. They are our way of introducing our writing friends to our reading friends – like you. We plan to include guest authors in each. Susan Kaye (Frederick Wentworth, Captain Series) and Mandy H. Cook (The Gifted) are with us for this one. Continue reading

Q&A with Love & Friendship Writer/Director/Author Whit Stillman

Love and Friendship Wit Stillman 2016 x 200Austen scholar Devoney Looser joins us today during the Love & Friendship Janeite Blog Tour to interview ‘Friend of Jane,’ writer/director/author Whit Stillman, whose new hit movie Love & Friendship, and its companion novel, are on the radar of every Janeite.

Welcome, Ms. Looser and Mr. Stillman to Austenprose.com.

Devoney Looser: We Janeites know that you go way back as a Janeite yourself. (Would you label yourself that? I see you’ve copped elsewhere to “Jane Austen nut.”) You’ve admitted you were once dismissive of Austen’s novels as a young man—telling everyone you hated them—but that after college you did a 180, thanks to your sister. Anything more you’d like to tell us about that?

Whit Stillman: I prefer Austenite and I consider myself among the most fervent. Yes, there was a contretemps with Northanger Abbey when I was a depressed college-sophomore entirely unfamiliar with the gothic novels she was mocking — but I was set straight not many years later.

DL: What made you decide that “Lady Susan” wasn’t the right title to present this film to an audience? (Most of Austenprose’s readers will be wise to the fact that Austen herself didn’t choose that title for her novella, first published in 1871.) I like your new title Love & Friendship very much, but clever Janeites will know you lifted it from a raucous Austen short story, from her juvenilia, Love & Freindship. What led you to make this switch in titles? (I do want to register one official complaint. You’ve now doomed those of us who teach Austen’s Love & Freindship to receive crazy-wrong exam answers on that text from our worst students for years to come.)

WS: Perhaps it is irrational but I always hated the title “Lady Susan” and, as you mention, so far as we know, it was not Jane Austen’s;  the surviving manuscript carries no title (the original binding was chopped off) and she had used “Susan” as the working title for “Northanger Abbey.”  The whole trajectory of Austen’s improved versions of her works was from weak titles, often character names (which I know many film distributors hate as film titles*) toward strong, resonant nouns — either qualities or place names.  “Elinor and Marianne” became Sense and Sensibility, “First Impressions” became Pride and Prejudice, “Susan” became Northanger Abbey. Persuasion and Mansfield Park are similarly sonorous. Continue reading

Q&A with Juliette Wells, Editor of Emma: 200th Anniversary Annotated Edition, by Jane Austen

Emma 200th Anniversary Edition edited by Juliette Wells 2015 x 200We hit another publication milestone this year with the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s most lauded novel, Emma. I have previously reviewed the novel and the 2010 film adaptation extensively, so I thought for this new 200th Anniversary Annotated Edition by Penguin Deluxe Classics that you might enjoy hearing from another source—someone who is an Austen scholar, college professor and all-around-friend of Jane—editor Juliette Wells. Here is an informative interview with her publisher that I am happy to share.

When we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Emma, what in particular are we celebrating? What’s new about this edition? 

We’re celebrating the 200th anniversary of Emma’s original publication, in London in December 1815. The date of publication is a little confusing because “1816” was printed on the title page of the first edition of the novel, but it was actually released in December 1815. I think this gives us the right to celebrate for a whole year!

And what better way to celebrate than to re-read Emma, or read it for the first time? Our 200th anniversary annotated edition has everything you need, all in one place, to help you appreciate this wonderful novel. You can immerse yourself in Austen’s world and also have, right at your fingertips, explanations of some of the elements of the novel that tend to trip up or puzzle today’s readers.

In the Austen canon, what would you say makes Emma special and unique?  

Emma is special because it’s the capstone of Austen’s career as an author. She had already published three novels (Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Mansfield Park), and she was at the very top of her game as a writer. She didn’t know it, of course, but Emma would be the last book she saw through to publication. When Austen died in July 1817, she left two essentially completed novels (Northanger Abbey and Persuasion), which her brother published at the end of that year. So Emma is the last Austen novel that was published in the exact form that she herself approved.

Emma is also special because it’s the most perfect example of Austen’s particular genius as an author, which is (I think) to create a recognizable, engaging fictional world from the slenderest of materials. She writes about everyday life and ordinary people—you won’t find kings and queens in her novels, or ghosts or vampires. Her effects are wonderfully subtle. Continue reading

Q&A with Patrice Kindl, Author of A School For Brides, & Giveaway

A School for Brides, by Patrice Kindl 2015It is a rare delight in reading to discover a new author that you feel could become one of your most cherished favorites. When “every feature works,” I am revved up and ready to share my excitement.

Such is the case with Patrice Kindl, who until a review copy of A School for Brides landed on my doorstep last month was entirely unknown to me. Further research revealed that this new release was a companion novel to her first in the Lesser Hoo series, Keeping the Castle. Set in the Regency period both novels share many of the same characters, paralleling the same time frame, but from a different perspective. Better and better.

Before diving into A School for Brides I decided to power through an audio recording of Keeping the Castle. It knocked my bonnet off. If I could describe Kindl’s writing in one sentence, I would say that it is a skillful blending of Jane Austen’s genius with social satire, Georgette Heyer’s exuberant humor and Dodie Smith’s poignant romance.

Here is a description of A School for Brides from the publisher:

The Winthrop Hopkins Female Academy of Lesser Hoo, Yorkshire, has one goal: to train its students in the feminine arts with an eye toward getting them married off. This year, there are five girls of marriageable age. There’s only one problem: the school is in the middle of nowhere, and there are no men. Set in the same English town as Keeping the Castle, and featuring a few of the same characters, here’s the kind of witty tribute to the classic Regency novel that could only come from the pen of Patrice Kindl!

Curious to learn more about Patrice Kindl and the inspiration for her Lesser Hoo novels I asked her if she would be game for a brief interview. Happily, she agreed.

Welcome, Patrice: Continue reading

Sun-kissed: Effusions of Summer Blog Tour Launch Party — Featuring editor Christina Boyd & Giveaway Prize

Sun-Kissed, edited by Christina Boyd (2015)It is a pleasure to welcome Austenprose reviewer Christina Boyd here today in celebration of the release of her first book, Sun-kissed, a summer-themed short story anthology. Christina has been a contributor here at Austenprose reviewing Jane Austen-inspired books for seven years. In fact, she was my first recruit to the staff in 2008. Christina has an eye for a great story and I always had a hunch that she would make a fabulous developmental editor.

In her first outing, she has whipped up an intriguing summer frappuccino for us. Sun-kissed: Effusions of Summer is a new anthology of eight original romantic short stories inspired by the summer season and even Jane Austen. Four of the stories are by popular Meryton Press authors, and four are selections from the short story contest they held this past winter. They are the perfect beach read: light, fun and romantic, and I hope you will give them a try.

♥ Be sure to enter the giveaway contest in celebration of the release of this great new anthology. Contest details are listed at the bottom of the post. Good luck to all!

WELCOME CHRISTINA BOYD

“So each had a private little sun for her soul to bask in; some dream, some affection, some hobby, or at least some remote and distant hope…” —Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles

It’s an honor celebrating at Austenprose the release of Sun-kissed: Effusions of Summer. Thanks, Laurel Ann. Having been discovered by you, it seems fitting to commence the blog tour here.

This summer-themed anthology was conceived during autumn 2014 by Meryton Press publisher Michele Reed.  She’d been toying with the notion, working out logistics, and then finally tossed the idea to her authors, creative staff, and subcontractors, like me. During winter 2015, published and aspiring authors alike were invited to submit summer-themed short stories. In the spring, a panel of bloggers, authors, editors, and readers judged each and culled to the Elite Eight—wherein even more panelists gleaned these promising writers to the Final Four…joining four of Meryton Press’s most popular and award-winning authors. There was even a worldwide contest via social media to name this collection. Finally, Sun-kissed, proposed by Australian Sarah Steed and chosen by internet vote, was born. Continue reading

Q & A with Jane Austen Made Me Do It Authors: Question 1 & Giveaway!

Jane Austen Made Me Do It, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress (2011)Last summer, in preparation for the release of my short story anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It, I had the opportunity to interview all twenty-four authors who had contributed stories. I asked fifteen questions to a very diverse group of writers. Their responses were both amusing and surprising.

For your enjoyment I will be sharing a question every Friday over the next fifteen weeks and offering a chance to win one signed copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It each week. Just leave a comment answering the question at the bottom of the post. Good luck to all!

1.) How did Jane Austen make you do it? What inspired you to join this anthology?

  • How could I pass up the opportunity to drop in on some of my favorite people? – Pamela Aidan
  • The first thing that attracted me to the contest was the title of the anthology.  Jane Austen Made Me Do It.  That fabulous title left open many possibilities that my imagination ran quite wild with them.  The contest really was an amazing opportunity for an aspiring author.  So I sat down with my notebook and a pen and started brainstorming.  From the first, I knew that in my story, I would include a phrase from the title of the anthology.  From there, I worked backward, asking myself the questions.  What did Jane Austen make you do?  Why?  How?  And from there I built the story.  Quite literally, I wrote the last line first, and the first line of the story was almost the last thing I wrote. – Brenna Aubrey
  • Jane was eager to recount a lost episode in Lord Harold Trowbridge’s life, from 1805 Bath.  It was hardly book-length material, so a short story anthology was perfect. – Stephanie Barron
  • It was an opportunity to stretch myself creatively as a storyteller. Many people assume that short stories are easier to write than novels because they are, well, shorter—but that isn’t true. Like poetry, drama, essays, and novels, short fiction is its own literary form with its own demands and challenges. Also, unlike my mystery series, “The Chase” is straight historical fiction, the dramatization of real events that happened to a real person (Jane’s brother Frank), so I enjoyed the chance to tell a different kind of tale and explore new characters. – Carrie Bebris
  • I joined the anthology because I already had a story that fit it precisely – a Regency short story in which Jane herself plays a part. – Jo Beverley
  • My first experiments in unwisely trying to imitate Jane Austen’s style (er, it’s impossible) were as long ago as in 1984, when I won a contest writing as Miss Bates in the Jane Austen Society of North America journal Persuasions.  Since I’ve never grown tired of re-reading Jane Austen, minutely examining her style, methods and meaning, and heaven help me, imitating her, it seemed natural that either I must find my way into a fabulous anthology or be locked up for crimes against Jane! – Diana Birchall
  • In truth, Mitchell Waters, my completely darling agent (who, I understand, is somewhat the godfather of this book), made me do it – but only if we could convince my husband Frank too! – Diane Meier
  • Even though I don’t have an agent (darling or any sort), I didn’t seek persuading. Having lived in England for twenty-five years, when much of the country was hopping with Austen fever, I was delighted to respond to her. I’d been to Chawton, her home in Hampshire, and seen the door with the creaking hinge – which she didn’t want fixed because it warned her when anybody was approaching, and thus gave her time to hide what she was writing. And I’d made radio and television features about her, interviewing many authors and commentators about their passion for the woman whom Samuel Beckett (not the most ready admirer of other writers) called “the divine Jane.” Also, in the summer of 1978, I attended the Sotheby’s antiquarian books auction in London, where The Watsons, an unfinished novel five chapters long, was sold for a lot less than the $1.5m it fetched recently. – Frank Delaney
  • Without her wonderful writing, I wouldn’t be here. Naturally. Jane Austen made me do it because she was a sly thing, an expert at the skill of neither showing nor telling, but keeping us reading between the lines. Who could resist supplying those in-betweens, the things that weren’t written yet they hover around the pages (or the adaptations) like musical notes waiting to be transferred into words? Very few writers evoke that kind of feeling. A noted example for me is Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with Wind. I remember when I first read Gone with the Wind, the last sentence by heroine Scarlett O’Hara provoked such a fit of frustration that I had to go back and re-read the whole thing, hoping to find some clue about what she meant to do next. Jane Austen provokes something similar — not frustration, precisely, but that need to probe, to search for something more. If you have a creative urge in you — as this anthology testifies — her writing acts as a prompt. For me it was as if she showed up one day and said: “Here are some charming people you should get to know,” then disappeared, leaving them with me. I had to get to know them better by writing about them. At the same time, she drew such breathing living characters that you would like to invite them to come home and take tea with you (well, maybe not all of them). How could you possibly allow two such delightful creatures as Darcy and Lizzy to simply stroll away into the sunset, never to be seen again? You really must discover what happens to them next. As for the anthology itself, I was delighted when Laurel Ann invited me to join in because I  knew she would make a wonderful editor, that she would pick wonderful stories, and that I’d be “in the company of clever, well-informed people” — such a group of talented fellow authors. What more could an author want? – Monica Fairview
  • I love all things Austen and so this anthology is my natural home. – Amanda Grange
  • I have long been an ardent admirer of Jane Austen’s novels, and after researching and writing The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (a labor of love, and a work of my heart), I was thrilled to have an opportunity to write from Jane’s point of view again—this time as a short story. – Syrie James
  • I was immensely flattered to be invited and in such august company although when I was first invited I had no idea what I’d be writing about. – Janet Mullany
  • Since I am the editor of this anthology, I will instead share my inspiration to create this collection. A life-long Austen fan, I had been reading and reviewing Austenesque novels for many years on my blog Austenprose.com. As a writer, I was fascinated not only by the authors work, but how Jane Austen inspired them to write it. I kept coming back to the thought of all these authors as a group; their incredible talent; their Austen connections to one another; – even though they all came from diverse writing backgrounds. I wanted to showcase them in some way. In 2008, the idea that an Austen-inspired short story collection could feature their talent and honor a great author fit my objective. But how could an unpublished Austen enthusiast who writes a blog about her favorite author make this happen? I had no idea; nor the hutzpah to pound the publishing payment; so it sat in my mind and simmered until one bright day in January 2009. Author Michael Thomas Ford’s agent Mitchell Waters emailed me to thank me for some publicity that I had recently done for his client. The door had been opened. I saw my chance and took it. He loved the idea and became the godfather of my anthology; finding a great deal with Random House – and here we are! – Laurel Ann Nattress
  • Jane Austen has been making me do it for ten years in one form or other, whether through painting or writing so when I was approached by the wonderful Laurel Ann Nattress to contribute a short story for this anthology I was thrilled because I knew there was a story I’d always wanted to write! Persuasion is my favourite Jane Austen novel, and one I’ve not tackled before as an inspiration for my own work. I’ve always loved reading short stories, but not written many myself so this was a real challenge, but I’ve absolutely loved every second of writing my Persuasion inspired story, “Waiting.” Being part of such a wonderful group of authors is an absolute dream! – Jane Odiwe
  • Jane Austen inspires me because she does the very thing that I would like to do as a writer—to tell wonderful stories about fascinating characters in a timeless fashion. And she wraps it all up in a satisfying ending. I’m excited to be a small part of this anthology that boasts so many of my favorite writers. The diversity of stories are a tremendous testimony to the enduring power of Austen’s work. – Beth Pattillo
  • In 2006 I wrote the novel, Me and Mr Darcy, as I was really interested in exploring the idea of what it would be like to date Mr Darcy. When I heard about this anthology I was inspired to join as it sounded like a really fun idea, to have a book of short stories that celebrate Jane Austen and her characters… and it also give me the opportunity to spend some time with Mr Darcy again! – Alexandra Potter
  • As Jane Austen wrote to Cassandra, “I write only for fame, and without any view to pecuniary emolument.” J – Myretta Robens
  • Certainly, it was a compliment to be invited to contribute to the anthology but it was really was my daughter and co-author Caitlen’s schedule that was a determining factor. She was in the process of selling her novel (due out in 2012), so it came down to whether she would have the time to work on it. – Jane Rubino
  • We (Jane Rubino) were invited to join by Laurel Ann (our esteemed editor) and loved the idea of the anthology so much we jumped at the chance.  I’ve always loved reading anything inspired by Jane Austen (after all, the real Austen only gave us six novels), so being asked to participate was an honor.  And I’m glad it all worked out; at the time I’d just sold my first solo book, and was embarking on a huge revision, but the opportunity to join this anthology was too good to miss. – Caitlen Rubino-Bradway
  • In my novel, The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy, I interpreted the events of Pride and Prejudice from the hero’s point of view. I realized then that every single one of the characters in Austen’s novel would have had his or her own personal ‘take’ on what happened. If only one could write about them all! So, when I was asked by the London branch of the Jane Austen Society to give a talk, I researched P & P to discover how the courtship of Elizabeth and Darcy would have struck an outsider. I chose a very minor character, Maria Lucas, precisely because she seemed to make no positive contribution to the events – and I discovered that she must have played a far bigger part than is credited to her. So for my contribution to this anthology, I had the perfect material to work on, and I knew exactly what I would like to do. I couldn’t wait to start! – Maya Slater
  • I was really pleased at the freedom the authors were given to select their setting and theme. Laurel Ann Nattress is the perfect person to edit this anthology, because she knows all of Austen’s novels very well, and she also knows the Austen fandom and the writers and who should be involved. It has resulted in a wonderful diversity of ideas and stories and authors. I’m really proud to be involved in this project. – Margaret C. Sullivan
  • It’s not every day that I’m asked to participate in a Jane Austen event, I found this one irresistible! – Adriana Trigiani
  • When Jane Austen says write, I say how much. She is the puppet master, and I am her willing slave. Apart from that, I am delighted to be in the company of so many fine storytellers and fellow Austen devotees. – Laurie Viera Rigler
  • Really, Laurel Ann Nattress made me do it.  When she emailed me to ask if I’d write a short story for a Jane Austen-inspired anthology, I said “yes” without a second thought.  After all, it was just a short story and I’d just finished writing a book with Jane Austen in it, and wasn’t Laurel the hugest sweetie to think of asking me, and, ooh, an email from my best friend after Laurel’s email!  And was that a sale at J. Crew? It wasn’t until at least an hour later that it hit me that, wait, I hadn’t written any piece of fiction under 100,000 words since, oh, circa 1999.  There are some cases where less is definitely not easier, and the short story is one of them.  It has its own distinct art and idioms. But it would be a good writing exercise, right? I was right in so much as a great deal of exercise went into this story.  In an attempt to avoid writing it, I vacuumed my apartment, reorganized my bookshelves, and—the ultimate last resort—even went to the gym until I could avoid the computer no longer. Thank you, Laurel Ann (and Jane) for making me do it! – Lauren Willig

Giveaway of Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Enter a chance to win one signed copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress by leaving a comment answering why Jane Austen made you do it? What has Austen inspired you to do? Deadline to qualify for the drawing is 11:59 pm, Wednesday, August 08, 2012. The Winner will be announced on Thursday, August 09, 2012. Shipment Internationally. Good luck!

Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress
Ballantine Books (2011)
Trade paperback (446) pages
ISBN: 978-0345524966

© 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Penguin Classics On Air Interviews of William Deresiewicz – Author of A Jane Austen Education

I absolutely LOVED this book and cannot gush about A Jane Austen Education enough, REALLY!!! If you need further encouragement, please watch the Penguin Classics On Air video interviews by editorial director Elda Rotor of the author William Deresiewicz. A former Yale professor, he is open and affable and just the right personality to explain Austen’s lessons to a wider audience.

You can read my raving review of A Jane Austen Education here. Bill is on a tour in May and I hope to see him when he hits Seattle next Thursday. I hope to share my impressions of the man who was so moved by Austen’s work that she changed his personal relationships and life.

The Book Tour of A Jane Austen Education

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Chatting with Beth Pattillo: Author of The Dashwood Sisters Tell All

The Dashwood Sisters Tell All, by Beth Pattillo (2011)Please welcome Austenesque author Beth Pattillo today to chat about her new novel.

LAN: Welcome Beth. Congratulations on the launch of The Dashwood Sisters Tell All on April 1st. Following Jane Austen Ruined My Life (2009) and Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart (2010), this is the third novel in your “Formidables Series,” inspired by the fictitious secret society of guardians of Jane Austen’s lost letters, manuscripts and diaries. I love this concept, especially since your heroines get to go on an adventure of Austen history and self-discovery. How were inspired to write this new novel, and what did you learn while writing it?

BP: For a long time, I have wanted to write about Jane’s sister, Cassandra, who in my fictional world founded the Formidables. I knew that the book would need to be about sisters.  In my first book, I used the imagined existence of Jane Austen’s lost letters.  In the second book, it was a fictional early version of Pride and Prejudice.  For this book, I decided the next logical step would be diaries, and The Dashwood Sisters Tell All focuses on Cassandra’s diary.  I don’t have a sister, but I’ve heard enough tales of sisters reading each other’s diaries to know that the premise had a lot of potential!

LAN: Many elements in The Dashwood Sisters Tell All parallel Jane Austen’s own novel, Sense and Sensibility. Could you share some of your research into the characters and how they are similar and different from your own?

BP: I used some basic elements of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood to bring my own characters to life. In my novel, Ellen and Mimi’s mother is a huge fan of S&S, so it’s a bit hard to say how much of the similarity between the pairs of sisters is nature and how much is nurture! The idea of the bond – and the struggle – between sisters also carried over into thinking about Jane and Cassandra themselves.  In part, I wanted to show that whether sisters were fictional or real, modern or historical, their relationships carried some common themes.

The differences came in the distance between my characters. Jane and Cassandra Austen were always very close, as were Elinor and Marianne in the novel.  My sisters are estranged at the beginning of the book and have a much further emotional distance to travel before they can come to appreciate one another and their relationship.

LAN: Your two heroines Ellen and Mimi Dodge travel to England and embark on a walking tour of Hampshire. To write about their adventure accurately, I understand that you had to do some hands on research by walking in Jane Austen’s footsteps yourself! Having not had that pleasure, I am very curious about your experience. Were your expectations met, and what was your favorite place that you visited?

BP: I spent a wonderful week in Hampshire on a walking tour of Jane Austen Country with a marvelous company called The Wayfarers.  We had a group of ten participants, a fabulous tour leader, and a whirlwind of a tour manager.  Walking in Jane Austen’s footsteps (sometimes literally!) helped give me a wonderful sense of place, which I hope comes across in the book. We visited the usual sites – the church at Steventon, the Jane Austen House Museum, Chawton House Library, Winchester Cathedral – but we also spent long hours tramping across the fields and through the woods where Jane herself would have walked.  In my book, Ellen and Mimi take almost exactly the same journey that I did. It’s hard to pick a favorite place, but staying at Oakley Hall was a highlight. This beautiful country home is now a hotel and conference center and is said to be the model for Mansfield Park.

LAN: John Willoughby is one of Austen’s bad boys. Many have different opinions as to what degree he is a creature of his times: driven by his family expectations or by his own greed. Your parallel character Ethan Blakemore is a hunk and a half that Mimi is immediately attracted to, but the reader is wary of. What message do you think Austen was trying to reveal in her characterization of Willoughby, and how did you make his dilemma relevant to 21st century readers?

BP: I love the contrast between Willoughby and Colonel Brandon, and I tried to mirror that with Mimi’s dilemma in choosing between Ethan and Tom. The romantic appeal of the bad boy is universal, but I think Austen was telling us that time will eventually show the true nature of a man. That was certainly true in Sense and Sensibility and it’s true in my book as well.

LAN: It is no surprise from my previous reviews of your Formidables novels that you are one of my favorite Austenesque authors writing contemporary fiction today. After enjoying three engaging stories, I am of course very curious about what is next in your writing career. Will we see more in the Formidables Series, and can you share any news about other projects you have in the queue?

BP: My editor would like to know the answer to that question, too! Seriously, after writing so many books in the last few years, I’m taking a little breather to rejuvenate and fill my creative well.  I don’t think I’m done with the Formidables, because readers are asking for a sequel to Jane Austen Ruined My Life, but that’s still in the brewing stage. I’m also ready for a little change of pace, so I’m working on something new that’s not Austen-inspired but I think it’s something that Austen fans will love.  My devotion to Jane, I have to say, remains constant and abiding!

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?

BP: Oh, dear.  That’s a difficult one. I’d probably want to meet Willoughby because I’d like to know more about how he came to be such a rake and a rogue.  I also think he has the potential for redemption because unlike a hardened scoundrel, he did come to acknowledge his wrongdoing and feel true remorse.  Hm. Maybe I have another Austen-inspired book in me somewhere after all…..

Thanks for joining us Beth, Best of luck on your next book.

Author Beth PattilloAuthor Bio:

Beth Pattillo is the author of ten novels, including The Dashwood Sisters Tell All, Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart and Jane Austen Ruined My Life. She is also known for her popular Sweetgum series about a knitting book club in small-town Tennessee. In 2006, Beth was awarded the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance from the Romance Writers of America for her novel Heavens to Betsy.

A graduate of Trinity University, San Antonio and the Divinity School of Vanderbilt University, Beth is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She served churches in Tennessee and Missouri before founding FAITH LEADER, a nonprofit spiritual leadership development program.

Beth makes her home in Tennessee with her husband and two children. She enjoys reading, knitting, travel, college basketball, and her DVR.

Giveaway of The Dashwood Sisters Tell All

Enter a chance to win one of three personally inscribed copies by the author of The Dashwood Sisters Tell All, by leaving a comment answering what intrigues you most about the “Formidables,”  the secret Jane Austen society in Beth’s novels, or which of Austen’s novels you would like to see Beth be inspired by next, by midnight PT, Wednesday, April 13, 2011. Winners announced on Thursday, April 14, 2010. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

What Would Mr. Darcy Do? Blog Tour: Chatting with Author Abigail Reynolds & a Giveaway!

What Would Mr. Darcy Do, by Abigail Reynolds (2011)Please join us today in welcoming Austenesque author Abigail Reynolds for the official launch of her blog tour of What Would Mr. Darcy Do, a new Pride and Prejudice variation that was released on April 1, 2011, by Sourcebooks.

 

LAN: Hi Abigail. It is such a pleasure to have this opportunity to chat with you today about your new book, What Would Mr. Darcy Do? Previously self-published as From Lambton to Longbourn, this novel is your fifth Pride and Prejudice variation to be re-issued by Sourcebooks. Could you share with readers the premise of the book, and how you were inspired to write it? Are there any changes from the original publication?

 

AR: I started with one of Darcy and Elizabeth’s classic misunderstandings, when they part at the Lambton Inn, Elizabeth thinking that Darcy will despise her now and Darcy believing that Elizabeth understands his love for her.  That scene always makes me want to lock them up together until they talk instead of trying to read each other’s mind.  I didn’t lock them up physically, but I did make them use their words, as we tell quarreling preschoolers.  I’ve added a new scene at the beginning, but most of the book is the same as the original publication.  Sourcebooks outdid themselves with the cover – it’s beautiful.

 

LAN:  Besides altering the course of Austen’s original plot and placing her characters in new situations, this book has some really clever, funny, letter exchanges – particularly between Elizabeth and Georgiana. Can you share your impressions of Austen’s effective use of letters in her own novels, and how you used it to our advantage in What Would Mr. Darcy Do?

 

AR: As you know, Austen originally wrote Pride & Prejudice as an epistolary novel called First Impressions.  The strengths of the form still come through in the letters that remain in the final version.  Austen often uses letters when she has important and complicated information to impart, which makes sense given that the reserve typical of the Regency made it difficult for people to talk openly.  She also does an amazing job of conveying the character’s voice in their letters.  In the letters I wrote, I tried to catch Elizabeth’s wit, Georgiana’s shyness, Darcy’s intensity, and Mr. Gardiner’s sly sense of humor.  The letters were particularly helpful in building the relationship between Georgiana and Elizabeth.

 

LAN: With the re-issue of this novel, I noticed that you placed Mr. Darcy in your new title. His name not only commands the attention of Janeites, but scholars and pleasure readers alike. What is it about this haughty, endearingly flawed personality that fascinates us so? How did you approach writing his character in the novel, and did you have any revelations to share with your readers?

 

AR: Much as I love Mr. Darcy, it’s actually my editor at Sourcebooks who is responsible for his name appearing in all my titles.  She thinks it’s important for marketing.  What fascinates me about Darcy is how profoundly he changes in the course of the novel.  It’s rare to find someone who is willing to listen to criticism and reassess their lives.  In writing this book, I was struck by how often Darcy believes Elizabeth can read his mind, even after multiple misunderstandings.  It’s only at the very end of P&P that he learns to tell her what he feels.

 

LAN: You were one of the first Austenesque writers to specialize in Pride and Prejudice variations, a sub-genre within the Austen sequels. Since 2001 you have written seven novels inspired by Elizabeth and Darcy’s love story and are presently working on the eighth. It must be incredibly challenging to be fresh and innovative after traveling the same path for many years. How do you rev yourself up for the writing process? Do you have a favorite room to write in, a cherished movie to pop into the DVD player, or a lucky charm to inspire you?

 

AR: After five books, I felt as if I’d reached the end of my ability to make my P&P variations unique, so I took a break and went over to writing moderns.  Learning to write a different type of novel ended up giving me ideas for creating fresh variations as well, but I’m still slower at it than I was at first.  I have an unusual ritual for creating the mood for writing Regency.  I search out photos of English stately homes and formal gardens and turn them into virtual jigsaw puzzles.  Putting the puzzles together forces me to notice detail I’d otherwise miss, and by the time I’m done, I’m usually well into my characters’ mindset.

 

LAN: As we know from Jane Austen’s own experience, the road to publication can be long and trying. You first chose to self-publish, and then to re-issue with a commercial publisher. You have been very supportive of new authors seeking publication. What advice can you offer an unpublished author in this rapidly changing market?

 

AR: In a word, self-publish.  Your book will be available much faster, you’ll have more control over it, and you’ll make more money.  But please, please, please proofread carefully, then make everyone you know proofread it as well before you sell it!  Typos and errors make books seem amateur and make readers less likely to trust other self-published books.

 

LAN: What’s up next for Abigail Reynolds? Could we tempt you to write a variation of Persuasion or Sense and Sensibility? Or, better yet, Mansfield Park? Being Jane Austen’s dark horse, there are many roads not yet traveled that might end far more favorably for Fanny Price and Mary Crawford. Seriously, if you could write about anything you chose, what would be your heart’s desire?

 

AR: I’d love to write a Persuasion variation!

 

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?

 

AR: I’ve always wanted to ask Darcy what he felt about Elizabeth in the time between Netherfield and Rosings, and what he thought when he saw her again for the first time.

 

Thanks for inviting me!  It’s been a pleasure.

 

Author Bio:

Abigail Reynolds is a lifelong Jane Austen enthusiast and a physician. Originally from upstate New York, she studied Russian, theater, and marine biology at Bryn Mawr College before deciding to attend medical school. She began writing Pride and Prejudice variations in 2001 to spend more time with her favorite characters. Her most recent releases are What Would Mr. Darcy Do? and an anthology of Pride and Prejudice stories, A Pemberley Medley.  Abigail is a lifetime member of the Jane Austen Society of North America and lives in Wisconsin with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of wild animals masquerading as pets.  Her hobbies include beading, reading, and finding time to sleep. Website: Pemberley Variations; Blog: Austen Authors; Facebook: Abigail Reynolds and at Twitter: @AbigailReynolds

 

Giveaway of What Would Mr. Darcy Do?

 

Enter a chance to win one of three copies of What Would Mr. Darcy Do?, by leaving a comment answering what intrigues you most about reading a Pride and Prejudice variation, or which of Austen’s novels you would like to see Abigail write about next, by midnight PT, Wednesday, April 13, 2011. Winner announced on Thursday, April 14, 2010. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

 

 

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

 

 

Wickham’s Diary Blog Tour: Chatting with author Amanda Grange, & a Giveaway!

Wickham's Diary, by Amanda Grange (2011)Please join us for the first stop on Austenesque author Amanda Grange’s blog tour of Wickham’s Diary, a new novella focusing on the early years of Jane Austen’s infamous ne’er-do-well from Pride and Prejudice, George Wickham, due out today from Sourcebooks.

LAN: Welcome Amanda. I am so excited that you have joined us today. You are renown in Austenesque fiction for your five (soon to be six) retellings of Jane Austen’s classic novels from the heroes perspective. Wickham’s Diary is your first foray into one of her bad boys. What was your inspiration for this new novella?

AG: Hi, Laurel Ann, thanks for having me!

The inspiration was this passage in Pride and Prejudice:

Mr. Wickham is the son of a very respectable man, who had for many years the management of all the Pemberley estates, and whose good conduct in the discharge of his trust naturally inclined my father to be of service to him; and on George Wickham, who was his godson, his kindness was therefore liberally bestowed. My father supported him at school, and afterwards at Cambridge; – most important assistance, as his own father, always poor from the extravagance of his wife, would have been unable to give him a gentleman’s education.”

I’ve read Pride and Prejudice many times but each time I seem to find something new in it, and on a recent re-reading those words leapt out at me. They conjured up images of Wickham’s home life: a respectable father, an extravagant mother, and a young boy whose best friend was set to inherit a fortune  . . . I sat down and started to write. As I did so, I saw life through Wickham’s eyes: Pemberley, the Darcys and the difference in status between the two families, and I began to see why Wickham turned out so badly. I found it very satisfying to imagine his early life and to work out why, when he was raised in such a similar way, he turned out to be the opposite of Darcy.

LAN: In Pride and Prejudice, George Wickham’s dissipated nature is revealed slowly. Even Lizzy Bennet, a great observer of the “follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies” of character, falls for his charms. What motivates Mr. Wickham and how did you put yourself in his tall, black, shiny Hessian boots?

AG: I’ll answer the second part first, because I have to put myself in the character’s shoes before I can work out what motivates them.

First of all I made notes of everything Austen tells us about Wickham, eg Darcy saying Wickham was the “companion of my youth, the acknowledged favourite of my father, a young man who had scarcely any other dependence than on our patronage, and who had been brought up to expect its exertion”. I thought of the things he does during the course of the novel and the things Austen tells us he does before and after the novel; I thought of the relationships in his life, and I used all this to build up a picture of him from which I could deduce the missing pieces. Then I thought myself into his character in the way an actor thinks themselves into character, and that led me to his motivation, which, to me, boils down to a desire for easy living. He’s been brought up in affluent surroundings, he’s been sent to a good school and a good university, and in all ways he’s been treated like the son of a wealthy man. But in fact he isn’t the son of a wealthy man, and at the end of his privileged childhood he’s expected to go out and work for a living. That doesn’t appeal to George, who is intelligent enough to see that marrying a wealthy wife will bring him everything he wants, and that all he has to do is to exert his ready charm to get it. The fact that, in attempting to elope with Georgiana, he will be revenged on Darcy is the icing on the cake, I think, but Georgiana’s fortune is the real draw. After all, he attempts to run off with other heiresses later on, but he doesn’t attempt to take any further revenge on Darcy.

LAN: You delve into events before the narrative in Pride and Prejudice begins, introducing us to Wickham’s childhood at Pemberley and his mother. Would you say that learning about his early life makes his character more sympathetic for readers or is forewarned, forearmed?

AG: I think that will depend on the reader! I wanted to portray him as a rounded person and he has his tragedies and his difficulties in life like everyone else. But anyone who forgets that a snake is still a snake, no matter how sympathetic he is, had better beware!

LAN: The highly anticipated Henry Tilney’s Diary arrives in the UK on May 31, 2011 and in the US on December 6. This will be your sixth novel based on one of Jane Austen’s heroes. Some would say that you have saved the best hero for last. Can you share anything with us today about Mr. Tilney and other projects you have in the queue?

AG: I adored writing Henry’s Diary. It was probably the most difficult diary to write because I needed to capture Henry’s light-heartedness, but at the same time I need to capture the gloomy and melodramatic flavour of the Gothic novel. Not an easy task!

I decided to start the book when Henry is sixteen because I wanted to write about his family before their mother died, and because I wanted to write more about Henry and his sister. I’ve always loved their relationship, which is such a close and happy one. Here’s a short taster, taken from early on in Henry Tilney’s Diary when Eleanor is thirteen:

 

Eleanor opened her book.

‘What is it this time?’ I asked her. ‘Milton, Pope, Prior? A paper from the Spectator, perhaps, or a chapter from Sterne? Or is it a copy of Fordyce’s Sermons?’

‘No,’ she said, laughing. ‘It is something much better. It is A Sicilian Romance.’

‘What? A novel?’ I asked, affecting horror.

‘A novel,’ she agreed.

‘And is it very horrid?’

‘I certainly hope so.’ She thrust it into my hands. ‘You may read to me as I sew. I have to finish hemming this handkerchief. Mama says she will deprive me of novels altogether if I do not pay more attention to my needlework.’

And out of her pocket she drew needle, thread, and the handkerchief.

‘It is a good thing you are still in your schoolgirl’s dresses, for such large pockets will be a thing of the past when you start wearing more fashionable clothes – which will not be too long now, I think. You are very nearly a young lady.’

‘Pooh!’ she said. ‘Now read to me, if you please!’

‘Very well. But I see you have already begun.’

‘Not really. I have only read the first few pages, where the narrator says that he came across the ruins of the  castle Mazzini whilst travelling in Sicily, and that a passing monk happened to lend him an ancient manuscript which related the castle’s history.’

‘A noble beginning. And who lives in this castle? The heroine, I presume?’

‘Yes. Her name is Julia.’

‘And does she have any brothers and sisters?’

‘A brother, Ferdinand, and a sister, Emilia.’

‘I am glad to hear it. Brothers are always useful.’

As for future projects, next up is a short story in the Jane Austen Made Me Do It anthology, which will be out in October. My contribution is the story of Mr. Bennet’s courtship. I’ve always wondered why he married Mrs. Bennet and now I know!

LAN: I understand that you recently visited the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton with fellow Austenesque author Jane Odiwe. Can you share your experience with us?

AG: We had a wonderful day and I thoroughly recommend a visit to the museum for anyone who can get there – details here Jane Austen House Museum. It’s an amazing experience to stand where Jane stood, to look out at her garden and to wander round her house. There were echoes of her everywhere and as I stood by the door looking out onto the street I found myself thinking, “A mind lively and at ease, can do with seeing nothing, and can see nothing that does not answer.”

But there was also another side to the house because it reminded me just how hard her life was in many ways. When I went into the outhouse and saw the washing copper I realized how much I love my washing machine!

The museum is run by lovely, dedicated people and the icing on the cake for me was that they invited me to give a talk there about my heroes’ diaries, so if anyone would like to come along I would love to see you. It’s on June 4 and there are full details on the website.

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?

AG: I would be introduced to Mr. Darcy before he met Elizabeth, and my penetrating question would be, ‘Will you marry me?’ J

LAN: Thank you for joining us today Amanda. Best of luck with this new adventure with one of Austen’s villains. I am hoping that we will see another novel of the diary of one of Austen’s bad boys – how about Henry Crawford, Frank Churchill or John Willoughby?

AG: I don’t have any plans in that direction at the moment, but you never know, I might just be reading one of those books again and something might jump out and shout, Write me!

Amanda Grange at Chawton 2010

About the Author:

Amanda Grange was born in Yorkshire, in the north of England. She spent her teenage years reading Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer whilst also finding time to study music at Nottingham University. She went on to be a teacher and then managed to fulfill her ambition to become a published writer. Amanda has had eighteen novels published including five (soon to be six!) Jane Austen retellings, which look at events from the heroes’ points of view. Amanda Grange now lives in Cheshire, where she spends half her life in the twenty-first century and the other half in the early nineteenth century.

Giveaway of Wickham’s Diary

Enter a chance to win one of three copies of Wickham’s Diary, by leaving a comment answering what intrigues you most about reading the personal diary of one of Jane Austen’s bad boys, or which of Austen’s character you would like to see Amanda write about next, by midnight PT, Wednesday, April 13, 2011. Winner announced on Thursday, April 14, 2010. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Wickham’s Diary Blog Tour Schedule

April 1st          Austenprose

April 4th         Jane Austen Sequel Examiner

April 6th         Austenesque Reviews

April 8th         Diary of an Eccentric

April 11th       The Burton Review

April 15th       Debs Book Bag

April 18th       Psychotic State Book Reviews

April 20th       Suite 101 Romance

April 29th       Historical Hussies

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

 

My Jane Austen Summer Book Launch Tour: Chatting with Author Cindy Jones & a Giveaway!

My Jane Austen Summer: A Season of Mansfield Park, by Cindy Jones (2011)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 author of My Jane Austen Summer (2011)Author Bio:

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:

Giveaway of My Jane Austen Summer & Lily Berry’s Pink Rose Tea

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!

2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose