Q & A with Midnight in Austenland Author Shannon Hale, & a Giveaway!

Midnight in Austenland: A Novel, by Shannon Hale (2012)We have a special treat in store for you today. Please help us welcome New York Times best-selling author Shannon Hale. She has graciously fit us into her very busy promotional schedule and answered a few probing questions about her new Austen-inspired novel, Midnight in Austenland, and the new movie in production of her first novel in the series, Austenland.

LAN: Thanks Shannon for joining us today to chat about your new Austen-inspired novel, Midnight in Austenland. This is the second time you have taken readers to that special place, Pembrook Park, the Regency-era theme park in Kent, England designed for Janeites. What tempted you to return?

SH: I was writing a screenplay for Austenland with Jerusha Hess and really enjoying returning to the story and the characters. Then when I wrote up a character sheet for my co-writer, I stumbled upon a new story idea. That story became Midnight in Austenland. I was delighted! I’d never thought to return.

LAN: Do any of the original characters from Austenland make an appearance in Midnight in Austenland? If so, can you share who and why you chose them?

SH: Miss Charming, who was a guest in the first book, is still there. The idea made me laugh, so I had to do it. I love writing her dialog, and I felt like her character had more to explore. Mrs. Wattlesbrook, the proprietress, and her handsy husband are there, and Colonel Andrews, whose parlor mystery game created the story that I couldn’t wait to follow.

LAN: There are many interesting and entertaining new characters in Midnight in Austenland, but the standout for me was Mr. Mallery. Can you give us any insight into your inspiration for his character, and a preview of your deliciously moody hero?

SH: Thank you! I was thinking about how Jane Austen was in many ways commenting on the gothic romances of her day in her stories, even with Mr. Darcy. I wanted Mallery to start at that place but mixed in a little more Rochester and Heathcliff–a dark hero with a bit more bite. He was fun. I want to say more, but I’m afraid I’d get spoilery!

LAN: Midnight in Austenland is not only a romantic comedy; it is a mystery, with spirited allusions to Jane Austen’s gothic parody, Northanger Abbey. Gothic fiction played an important part in Austen’s creation of Northanger Abbey. Were there any mystery novels or authors that inspired you?

SH: Definitely. I infused my reading with mystery and the gothic while writing this novel. I read lots of Agatha Christie as well as contemporary mysteries, and relished gothic tales like Rebecca, The Haunting of Hill House, and Jane Eyre. And I could call it all research! I love my job.

LAN: Both of your American heroines from each of your novels: Jane and Charlotte, escape a crisis in their lives and travel to England to enter a world that any Jane Austen fan would give their most cherished copy of Pride and Prejudice to visit. Life is not always as rose colored as we would like in Regency England without modern conveniences. If you were to visit Pembroke Park and enter the early nineteenth-century, what would you miss most? What could you easily live without?

SH: I think the food then sounds awful. I’d miss fresh fruits and vegetables. Bathrooms, showers, tampons (is that TMI? But can you imagine?!). I think women had very little freedom as well, and the restrictions would drive me crazy after a while. But for a couple weeks? Sign me up!

LAN: Congratulations on Austenland being made into a movie produced by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer. What was it like transforming your novel into a screenplay with director Jerusha Hess? Hale and Hess. That sounds like a vaudeville act! Can you share any of your team writing experiences with us?

SH: We are totally a vaudeville act, that’s the perfect description. I loved co-writing with Jerusha. She’s a veteran screenwriter, having co-written Napoleon Dynamite and others. We laughed a lot. That’s the big plus of writing a comedy. We’d sit in a room pitching lines and scenes at each other, trying to make ourselves laugh. The funniest stuff stuck.

LAN: Did you have the chance to visit the set during filming of Austenland? If so, what was it like to see your creative ideas transformed into physical reality?

SH: I did! In fact I was on set every day of the 7 week shoot in England. Talk about a dream come true. It was absolutely surreal, like stepping into Austenland, except I didn’t have to give up showers and toilets. And no charming British actors fell in love with me. I think…

LAN: You obviously admire Jane Austen. When did you first read one of her novels and what was your reaction? As a writer, what do you find most enlightening, entertaining, or enduring about her works? 

SH: I first read Pride & Prejudice in high school and have often returned to her books for rereads. E. Lockhart said on our Austen-themed figment.com chat: “[Austen] uses wit in service of real complexity of thought & social commentary. Not just for punch lines.” Austen is romantic AND she’s funny. That should be enough for anyone, and yet Austen is even more than that too. She’s so smart. I just love her intelligent, clever, hopeful yet realistic way of looking at the world.

LAN: If you were to find a free afternoon when you were not writing or promoting one of your books, what would you like to do more than anything?

SH: I have four small children. If I had a free afternoon, I’d probably freak out. “What’s wrong? Where is everybody? Has the End come?!” Then I’d probably take a bath and read a book. I know, I’m crazy like that.

LAN: Are you working on your next book? If so, can you share any news for your readers? 

SH: Palace of Stone, the sequel to Princess Academy, will be out in August. And I’m working on my scifi-adventure-superhero book, currently untitled.

Thanks, Austenprose!

Author Shannon HaleAuthor Bio:

Shannon Hale is the New York Times best-selling author of six young adult novels, including the Newbery Honor book Princess Academy, two award-winning books for adults, and the upcoming Midnight in Austenland (Jan. 2012). She co-wrote the hit graphic novel Rapunzel’s Revenge and its sequel with husband Dean Hale. They live with their four small children near Salt Lake City, Utah. Visit Shannon at her website: squeetus; on Facebook as Shannon Hale; and on Twitter as @haleshannon.

A Grand Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one of three hardcover copies available of Midnight in Austenland, by Shannon Hale by leaving a comment about what intrigues you about an Austenesque mystery, or if you have read Austenland, who your favorite character is by 11:59 pm PT Wednesday, February 29, 2012. Winners to be announced on Thursday, March 01, 2012. Shipment to US addresses only. Good luck!

Midnight in Austenland: A Novel, by Shannon Hale
Bloomsbury USA (2012)
Hardcover (288) pages
ISBN: 978-1608196258
NOOK: ISBN: 978-1608196401
Kindle: ASIN: B006WXUK3Q

© 2007 – 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress & Shannon Hale, Austenprose

Preview of Midnight in Austenland: A Novel, by Shannon Hale

Midnight at Austenland: A Novel, by Shannon Hale (2012)In 2007 bestselling young adult novelist Shannon Hale ventured into adult fiction and brought us the enchanting Austenland – a trip to a fantasy vacation resort in England with a Regency theme. The heroine Jane Hayes gets a chance to live her “secret addiction to the 1995 A&E television adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and all things Darcy.” It was a Janeite favorite. Now she is offering readers a chance to return to Pembroke Park for a new Regency inspired adventure with deep Austen overtones and a Gothic infused mystery to solve. Wouldn’t Austen’s heroine Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey be right at home in this novel? Here is the publisher’s description:

Beloved, bestselling author Shannon Hale returns to Austenland, where bonnets are in vogue and gentlemen can dance, where one might still find real love — and real murder!

In Midnight in Austenland, Shannon Hale takes us back to Pembrook Park, the lovely English resort where women can play out their Jane Austen fantasies. But this time things take a turn for the Gothic: a little Northanger Abbey infusing our Mansfield Park.

Charlotte Kinder of Ohio is consummately nice. Maybe too nice. Her teenage kids don’t appreciate her, and she lets her jerk ex-husband walk all over her. But she’s also clever. And when she treats herself to a two-week vacation in Austenland, it turns out that she’ll need her wits about her. With everyone at Pembrook Park playing a role, it can sometimes be difficult to discern what’s what. Is the brooding Mr. Mallery as sinister as he seems? What is the mysterious ailment from which Miss Gardenside suffers? Could the body Charlotte discovers during a parlor game be an actual corpse? And – perhaps of the most lasting import – could the stirrings in the heart of our crime-solving heroine be a sign of real-life love?

The sequel to reader favorite Austenland provides all the perfectly plotted pleasures of the first book, with a feisty new heroine and plenty of fresh twists. There’s romance, there’s humor, there’s intrigue, and at last – just as it always happens in Austen – everything turns out right in the end.

No question that this will be one of the most anticipated novels for Janeites in the New Year.

Midnight in Austenland: A Novel, by Shannon Hale
Bloomsbury USA (3 January 2012)
Hardcover (288) pages
ISBN: 978-1608196258

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose  

Austenland: A Novel, by Shannon Hale – A Review

Austenland: A Novel, by Shannon Hale (2008)Mr. Darcy.  Mr. Darcy. Mr. Darcy. What is it about Jane Austen’s male protagonist in Pride and Prejudice — this aloof, arrogant man — that draws women to him like a moth to a flame? The mere mention of Mr. Darcy, sighs and dreamy-eyed, flushed expressions flourish.  But enough about me.  Back to  Austenland: A Novel. Author Shannon Hale undertakes modern day career woman, Jane Hayes and her secret addiction to the 1995 A&E television adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and all things Darcy (specifically the sexy, dripping-wet-shirt-out-of-the-lake scene Mr. Darcy, played by the handsome Colin Firth) and launches her into a fantasy vacation to Pembroke Park in England. Never heard of it? Neither did our female protagonist, who came up empty, even when she Googled it! As it turns out, she has inherited from an eccentric great aunt, an all-expense paid excursion to the ultra-exclusive country estate in Kent, catering to the romantic sensibilities of super-rich trophy wives whom, by the way, happen to be Austen fans or at least those who hold a tendresse for men in britches and Hessian boots. The brochure reads, “Enter our doors as a house guest come to stay three weeks, enjoying the country manners and hospitality – a tea visit, a dance or two, a turn in the park, an unexpected meeting with a certain gentleman, all culminating with a ball and perhaps something more… Here, the Prince Regent still rules a carefree England. No scripts.  No written endings. A holiday no one else can offer you.” 

And so, Hale’s Jane decides to indulge in this one last Pride and Prejudice hurrah before cutting her ties to Mr. Darcy forever. And by that, she means to get on with the business of her real life, relinquish her Regency Era fantasies, and quit comparing every man she meets to “you know who.”  Upon arrival at the estate, she is met by the shrewd proprietress Mrs. Wattlesbrook, who promptly renames our anxious Jane Hayes to Miss Jane Erstwhile, all the while explaining the strict rules and standards to maintain authenticity as well as dictating a brief course in Regency decorum. Quickly Jane tires of the uncomfortable clothing, over done role-playing and false pretenses, and is quite determined to find her own adventure – with Theodore, the gardener! After a bit of bungling about with Theodore and tripping all over herself with the other guests and actors, she finds that all is not as it appears. And like in so many other faulty choices in her real life, Jane finds she has been dilly-dallying with the wrong man. It was very easy to relate to Jane Haye’s Darcy -complex — and I found myself pleasantly yielding to her real life anxieties, disappointments and cheering for the pseudo Darcy character, Mr. Nobley (another of Hales fun, yet campy play with her character’s appellations.). My Janeite sensibilities were never in danger of offense, even by Hale’s blatantly contrived happy ending. Because we all know, happy endings were one of Jane Austen’s specialties. 

I admit that I didn’t buy Austenland in 2007 when it was first published as I thought the premise was kooky — obviously I have been taking myself way too seriously. I am kicking myself now for not having read this sooner!  This fun melodrama was an amusing page-turner leaving me wanting to know,  “Where do I make a reservation?”  If only.  *Sigh* Thank you Shannon Hale.  Your book left me with a happy heart! 


4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Austenland: A Novel, by Shanon Hale
Trade paperback (208) pages
Bloomsbury USA (2008)
ISBN: 978-1596912861

Additional Reviews

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