A Preview of Dear Mr. Darcy: A Retelling of Pride and Prejudice, by Amanda Grange

From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress: 

Please join us today in welcoming author Amanda Grange on the launch of her blog tour of Dear Mr. Darcy, a new retelling of Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s perspective.

Wait! Didn’t Amanda already write Mr. Darcy’s Diary? Yep, she did, but this novel has a new slant that readers will find enchanting. 


BOOK DESCRIPTION

Continue reading “A Preview of Dear Mr. Darcy: A Retelling of Pride and Prejudice, by Amanda Grange”

The Jane Austen Guide to Life blog tour with author Lori Smith & giveaway!

The Jane Austen Guide to Life, by Lori Smith (2012)Happy May Day everyone! Please join us today in welcoming author Lori Smith on the launch of her blog tour in celebration of the publication of The Jane Austen Guide to Life: Thoughtful Lessons for the Modern Woman, released today by Globe Pequot Press. Lori has generously shared with us some insights on her inspiration for writing her second Jane Austen-inspired book and offered a giveaway to three lucky readers.

I’m thrilled I was able to write The Jane Austen Guide to Life, but I can’t fully take credit for the idea.  A while back, an email unexpectedly popped up from an editor I hadn’t heard from in a while, one I’d always wanted to work with.  She’d been thinking, she said, about a book that would combine a light biography of Jane Austen with practical “life lessons” for the modern reader, drawn from Austen’s life as well as her books.  I thought for about fifteen seconds and concluded, “Yes!  That book should be written!”  And that was the beginning.

As normal as it seems to me to take advice from Austen—I’ve loved her writing for years, even followed her life through England for my last project, A Walk with Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love, and Faith (2007), —I thought it might seem strange to some.  After all, Austen was a 19th-century spinster.  She wasn’t terribly concerned about fashion, knew nothing about platform heels, and, if she’d had the chance, she very well might have married a first cousin (as was common practice back then).  So what could she possibly teach our modern selves?

In some ways, Austen was more modern than we might think.  She embraced the 21st-century idea of making your dreams a reality.  After all, in her day, a lady should not have written fiction.  Not only was writing un-ladylike, but novels were frivolous and of questionable value.  But Austen had to tell her stories—she had to write—so, acceptable or not, that’s what she did.

In other ways, Austen challenges us, her own good sense in contrast to current cultural extremes.  Many of us strive for our fifteen minutes of fame, while Austen didn’t even want her name to appear on her books.  As a nation, we’re saddled with pervasive credit card debt; Austen lived within a tight and carefully kept budget.  She would encourage us to cherish our true friends rather than focusing on building extensive and ephemeral social networks.  And Jane Austen never had sex—so what would she say about a culture that has a word specifically to describe meaningless sexual encounters.  (Hookup, anyone?) Continue reading “The Jane Austen Guide to Life blog tour with author Lori Smith & giveaway!”

A Jane Austen Devotional, by Steffany Woolsey – A Review & Giveaway!

A Jane Austen Devotional, by Steffany Woolsey (2012)Guest review by Br. Paul Byrd, OP

This book is crafted with the hope that readers would take the opportunity to get lost in the world of Jane Austen—a place where we can all pause in solitude, as though we’ve just finished a stroll in the garden with Jane and are now sitting down with her to tea, reflecting on important life lessons and taking in the beauty of the countryside. Through excerpts from her work, short devotions, and Scripture, we hope this book will bring you moments of peace while you allow God’s word to shape your own character, (introduction).

Jane Austen, Virgin and Doctor of the Church? One might look forward to the Anglican Communion adding Blessed Jane to its calendar of saints with the publication of Steffany Woolsey’s A Jane Austen Devotional (a measure this Catholic would whole-heartedly support). When Laurel Ann first told me she was sending me this book, I was off-the-charts thrilled. The title alone was enough to evoke in me a childlike eagerness to hold the book in my hands and celebrate that such a thing existed. Why this near-absurd ebullience? Well, my particular area of Austen studies focuses on Jane Austen’s religious context and the religiosity of her novels, thus a book that purposefully examines her stories in a Christian light was sure to interest me. One that does so as a devotional—a book designed as an aid to the reader’s spiritual contemplation—promised to take things to a higher, more personal level.

With over one hundred meditation reflections, paired with favorite snippets from the novels we love so well, along with corresponding scripture passages, this devotional is sure to please Austen fans of faith. Subjects covered vary widely, but may be categorized by Austen’s common religious themes: the rewards of virtuous living, the ugliness of vicious behavior, and the duty owed to one’s family, neighbors, and society. Chapter titles give you further clues into themes: “Being Generous,” “Spiritual Bankruptcy,” “Respecting One Another,” “Flirting with Sin,” and so on. By combining scenes from Austen and scenes from Jewish and Christian scriptures, the author builds the foundation for the little morals she offers or reflection questions she poses at the end of each two-page chapter. In doing so, Woolsey helps readers to do what Austen always intended them to do: to use her characters—the good and the bad—to critically examine their own behavior. Are we more like Mary Crawford or Fanny Price? Mr. Wickham or Mr. Darcy?

One reflection I particularly liked was entitled “Following the Golden Rule.” This chapter held up the example of Jane Bennet from Pride and Prejudice for the reader’s consideration, reminding him or her of Jane’s propensity to see the good in everyone, and her avoidance of malicious speech. As Woolsey writes, “Jane lives out this truth [the Golden Rule given by Jesus] by employing a simple philosophy: if we want to be loved, we have to give love. Likewise, if we want meaningful relationships, we need to treat others with respect and esteem. Forgiveness, kindness, generosity—in all these areas, we must lead without expectation of reciprocity,” (21). The concluding reflection questions that then follow are deep, in their own way, helping the reader to really sit and delve into the true motivations for his or her behavior and interaction with others.

A Jane Austen Devotional is a spiritual tool, not merely a gimmicky Austen collectable. If used once a day (as devotionals usually are), this book can slowly help a spiritual seeker to develop or strengthen his or her practice of reflection and contemplation, using as a starting point Austen’s very practical Anglican Christianity. In this way, it’s not a book you sit down and read through in a weekend, but one you keep around all year long, on your nightstand with your Bible, at your desk at work, in your glove compartment, or in your purse.

I give this book 5 Stars, and highly recommend it.

A Grand Giveaway of A Jane Austen Devotional

The publisher Thomas Nelson, Inc. has generously offered a giveaway contest of three copies of A Jane Austen Devotional. To enter a chance to win one copy, leave a comment stating which quotes from Jane Austen you think are inspiring, or which of which of Jane Austen’s characters would greatly benefit from this devotional and why by 11:59pm PT, Wednesday, January 18, 2012. Winners to be announced on Thursday, January 19, 2012. Shipment to the US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

A Jane Austen Devotional, by Steffany Woolsey
Thomas Nelson, Inc. (2012)
Hardcover (224) pages
ISBN: 978-1400319534

Br. Paul Byrd, OP is a solemnly professed friar of the Dominican Order of Preachers. Originally from Covington, KY, he earned his bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Thomas More College and his master’s degree in theology from Aquinas Institute of Theology. He is in the writing and publishing graduate program at DePaul University. He is the author of the Dominican Cooperator Blog

© 2007 – 2012 Br. Paul Byrd, OP, Austenprose

Jane and His Lordship’s Legacy: Being a Jane Austen Mystery (Book 8), by Stephanie Barron – A Review

Jane and His Lordships Legacy, by Stephanie Barron (2005)It is 1809, a significant year in the life of our esteemed authoress Jane Austen. After close to five years of being shuffled about England between relatives, the three unattached Austen ladies: widower Mrs. Austen and her two unmarried daughters Jane and Cassandra are given permanent refuge by Jane’s elder brother Edward Austen Knight in the village of Chawton. They will live at Chawton cottage the former residence of the recently deceased steward of Edward’s vast estate there. Still privately grieving the tragic death of her dear friend Lord Harold Trowbridge (The Gentleman Rogue) nine months prior, Jane arrives in the village to find an uneasy welcome to the Squire’s family. It appears that the villagers are unhappy that the widow of Edward’s former steward was asked to vacate the cottage in favor of his family, and more seriously, Edward as an absentee Squire has been remiss in his duties since the death of his wife Elizabeth the previous year.

Within hours of Jane’s arrival at the cottage, she receives an unexpected visit from contemptuous Mr. Bartholomew Chizzlewit, attorney to the family of His Grace the Duke of Wilborough. Performing his duty as the family solicitor, he deposits on Jane’s dining-parlor floor a curiously carved chest announcing that she is listed as a legatee in Lord Harold’s Last Will and Testament. His bequest (should she agree) is that she accepts his personal papers and diaries, “a lifetime of incident, intrigue, and conspiracy; of adventure and scandal; of wagers lost and won,” and write his life story! After the Duke of Wilborough’s family contested the legacy in a London court and lost, they are bitter about the arrangement and hold it against Jane. Not only is this startling news, the thought of reliving the Gentleman Rogues life, far before she met him, and then through his entire life as a spy for the British government, is both curious and painful to her. When the huge chest is removed into the cottage’s cellar, another startling discovery brings Jane’s first day at Chawton to a scandalous close. A body of a man lies rotting and rat eaten on the floor.

Jane’s brother Henry arrives the next day and the inquest into the mysterious death begins by the local authorities with Jane and Henry in assistance. After Lord Harold’s trunk is stolen, Jane is convinced that it contains information that someone did not want her to discover. Could the theft be linked to the Wilborough family trying to cover up their son’s notorious life? Or, could it be the newcomers to the neighborhood, Julian Thrace, a young London Buck who is rumored to be the illegitimate heir apparent to the Earl of Holbrook vast wealth, and his half-sister Lady Imogen, the Earl’s acknowledged heir? Or, is the dead body in the cellar a personal vendetta by the bitter Jack Hinton, eager to make trouble for the Austen family? He claims to be the rightful heir to the Knight family estate of Chawton that Jane’s brother Edward inherited. There are suspects and motives, suppositions and accusations galore for our observant and clever Jane to ponder and detect before she solves the crime.

One chapter into the eighth novel in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery series and I am totally convinced that Jane Austen is channeling the actual events of her life through author Stephanie Barron. She has so convincingly captured her witty, acerbic, and penetrating voice that I am totally mesmerized. Like Jane, I am still grieving the tragic death of her secret crush Lord Harold. Reading his letters and journals was like bringing him back to life. Delightful torture for those Gentleman Rogue fans such as myself. This mystery was very well-plotted and fast-paced, but Barron really shines with her incredible historical details and the fact that in this discriminating Austen-obsessed mind, no one will ever be able to match her unique ability to channel my favorite author’s voice so perfectly.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

This is my eighth selection in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011, as we are reading all eleven mysteries in the series this year. Participants, please leave comments and or place links to your reviews on the official reading challenge page by following this link.

Grand Giveaway

Author Stephanie Barron has generously offered a signed hardcover copy of Jane and His Lordship’s Legacy to one lucky winner. Leave a comment stating what intrigues you about this novel, or if you have read it, who your favorite character is by midnight PT, Wednesday, August 24, 2011. Winner to be announced on Thursday, August 25, 2011. Shipment to US addresses only. Good luck!

Jane and His Lordship’s Legacy, Being a Jane Austen Mystery (No 8), by Stephanie Barron
Bantam Books, 2005
Mass market paperback (384) pages
ISBN: 978-0553584073

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

The BBC Pride and Prejudice: It DOES Get Better Than This (+ a book giveaway)

Please welcome author and admitted Jane Austen addict Laurie Viera Rigler who joins us today to chat about one of her favorite obsessions, P&P 95 and the paperback release of her book, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict.  (Don’t ya just luv the cover?)

How many of us will resist buying the newly remastered BBC Pride and Prejudice DVD from A&E Home Video, with its color-perfect English countryside and the ability to see, as Laurel Ann led us to envision in her post that individual droplets of water running down Colin Firth’s chest as he emerges from his famous dip in the lake?

***pauses to fan self***

I don’t know about you, but I’ve already ordered my copy.

How do I love the BBC P&P? Let me count the ways. I love it for its dearest, loveliest Elizabeth Bennet and her fine eyes. I love it for its faithfulness to Jane Austen’s beloved novel. And I love it for its deviations therefrom in the form of the dishiest Darcy ever to fence and swim and smolder his way into my heart.

Certainly the unprecedented popularity of this BBC miniseries has had a phenomenal effect on popular culture. Many have credited it with contributing greatly to the wave of “Austen euphoria” that, according to the authors of Jane Austen in Hollywood, increased membership in the Jane Austen Society of North America by fifty percent during the single year following its release. Not to mention giving rise to the dozens of Austen-inspired books, films, blogs like this one, and other entertainments that populate the Janeiverse.

For me the BBC P&P has special significance beyond its function as video wallpaper in my home. For it found its way into the very first chapter of my second novel, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict. There, it served as my heroine’s first close encounter with twenty-first-century technology. She, being a gentleman’s daughter from 1813 England who inexplicably finds herself inhabiting the body and life of a woman in 21st-century Los Angeles, assumes that the tiny figures acting out her favorite novel inside the shiny glass box are real people. And that the box is some sort of window. Strange that the figures inside the box cannot hear her when she talks to them. And that they are so small yet so distinct to the eye…

Imagine my delight when I read, right here on Austenprose that the remastered edition of the BBC P&P is out on April 27th. The very same day that Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict  is out in paperback.

In honor of this serendipity, I am giving away two personally inscribed copies of Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict. For a chance to win a copy, all you have to do is post a comment that tells us how you’d include a reference to the BBC P&P in a book or other form of art or entertainment. Let your imagination run wild, “give a loose to your fancy, indulge your imagination in every possible flight which the subject will afford.”

Have fun, good luck, and see you at Pemberley!

Giveaway Contest

To sweeten the deal I will throw in a copy of Laurie’s first novel in the series, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. So, that 2 personally inscribed copies of Rude Awakenings of a JA Addict and one copy of Confessions of a JA Addict to three lucky winners. Contest ends at midnight Pacific time on May 3rd, 2010. Shipment to continental US addresses only. Good luck!

The perfect pairing: Pride and Prejudice 1995 &

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict

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Sanditon Group Read Chapters 9-12: Summary, Musings & Discussion: Day Six Giveaway

It was impossible for Charlotte not to suspect a good deal of fancy in such an extraordinary state of health. Disorders and recoveries so very much out of the common way seemed more like the amusement of eager minds in want of employment than of actual afflictions and relief. The Narrator, Ch 9

Quick Synopsis

Charlotte believes the Parkers ailments are imaginary. Diana makes arrangements for Mrs. Griffiths even though not asked to do so. Charlotte meets Susan and Arthur Parker. One is worn by illness and medicine, the other does not look ill at all. Arthur is engrossed in eating buttered toast and cocoa. Mrs. Griffiths arrives in Sanditon bringing only three young ladies. One is a Miss Lambe a sickly heiress that Lady Denham thinks will do for Sir Edward. Charlotte and Mrs. Parker walk to Sanditon House. Charlotte sees Clara Brereton and Sir Edward secretly meeting. Lady Denham seems put out by their arrival. Clara returns and lies about her delay. Sir Edward arrives unaffected. Charlotte realizes that they deceive Lady Denham who would not approve of their match. Sir Edward extols upon the virtues of sea-bathing and encouraging both ladies to try it. Charlotte realizes that her first impression of Sir Edward and Lady Denham were not true. She and Mrs. Parker walk home. Talk of Sidney Parker catches her off guard.

Musings

Charlotte meets the two additional Parker siblings, Susan and Arthur. Visiting there lodgings is like entering a sick ward. The windows are closed and the fire is blazing even though it is a fine summer day. It does not take Charlotte long to conclude that their ailments are imagined fancy since there is a discrepancy with the activity they are about and their hypochondria talk. Diana is running all over town in preparation of Mrs. Griffiths’ arrival and Susan has relocated the three of them from the hotel to lodging moving heavy boxes herself. “It would seem that they must either be very busy for the good of others or else extremely ill themselves.” Arthur appears in good health, though he needs to sit by the fire to ward away damp sea air and his rheumatism. As Charlotte becomes better acquainted with the Parkers medical maladies we begin to really see Austen making fun of people attaching illness as an identity. This family revolves around illness or activity. Such a dichotomy! The bit with Arthur’s speech about toasting bread and sneaking butter behind his sisters was hysterical. This is truly burlesque comedy. Who does not know someone who secretly eats or has done so themselves? Ha!

Miss Lambe was beyond comparison the most important and precious, as she paid in proportion to her fortune. She was about seventeen, half mulatto, chilly and tender, had a maid of her own, was to have the best room in the lodgings, and was always of the first consequence in every plan of Mrs. Griffiths. The Narrator Ch 10

All the wheels of communication behind Diana’s efforts to bring two large families to Sanditon end in embarrassment for her. There is only one Mrs. Griffiths of Camberwell and the West Indians are one Miss Lambe, a sickly heiress that neatly fills Lady Denham’s requirements for a wife for Sir Edward. Her practical nature regrets the long journey from Hampshire, a brother disappointed, an expensive house for a week rented, “and worse than all the rest, the sensation of her knowing that she was not clear-sighted and infallible as she had believed herself.” It did not trouble her for long. Besides Miss Lambe, Mrs. Griffiths brings only two other young ladies with her. Austen describes the two Miss Beauforts as “common as any young ladies in the kingdom with tolerable complexions and showy figures, very accomplish and very ignorant.” This made me laugh out loud. She is mocking what young English ladies are raised to be by showing how shallow they are. Their true ambitions are only the pursuit of admiration by men and the accumulation of fashion in order to captivate some man of better fortune than their own. Ouch! Is Charlotte the only character of virtue in this novel? I do not think I have ever seen Austen dig so deep into human imperfections than in Sanditon!

Among other points of moralising reflection which the sight of this tete-a-tete produced, Charlotte could not but think of the extreme difficulty which secret lovers must have in finding a proper spot for their stolen interviews. The Narrator Ch 11

Charlotte plans to visit Lady Denham at Sanditon House for the first time with Mrs. Parker. Always the salesman, Mr. Parker wants his wife to turn the social call into business opportunity and solicit Lady Denham for a charity cause. His sister Diana, always churning alway at some activity for others has a long list of charities that she would like Mrs. Parker to ask her Ladyship to contribute to also. Now, Mrs. Parker is a very biddable sort of woman, but even she has her limits retorting that she “could no more mention these things to Lady Denham than I could fly.” I did not expect that reaction at all. I love it when Austen has characters react in the opposite of what we are expecting. This point is proved further when Charlotte sees a secret assignation between Clara Brereton and Sir Edward Denham. I expected this from Sir Edward who fancies himself in the “line of a Lovelace,” but not of Clara. What does she have to gain from their relationship? She is an impoverished cousin serving at Lady Denham’s whim. To endanger her relationship with her would be foolish. She seems smart. What does she see in him? Charlotte is puzzled also. “The connection between Clara and Sir Edward was as ambiguous in some respects as it was plain in others.” She seems to abhor their deceit yet sympathize with their plight. “To be continually at the mercy of such an old lady’s whims struck Charlotte as being particularly hard upon a young couple.” Is Austen being purposely ambiguous also?

Still extolling the pleasures of bathing, he sought to entertain them with his longest syllables and most edifying sentences. “To plunge into the refreshing wave and be wrapped round with the liquid element is indeed a most delightful sensation,” he assured them. “But health and pleasure may be equally consulted in these salutary ablutions; and to many a wan countenance can the blush of the rose be restored by an occasional dip in the purifying surge of the ocean.” Now, he hastened to add, trying to bow to them both at the same time, “that either of my fair listeners would need the rose restored to their lovely cheeks.” Sir Edward Denham, Ch 12

Well, there is definitely nothing ambiguous about Sir Edward and his continued foppery and nonsense speeches. His choice of sensual words to two young ladies is most inappropriate, oozing total seduction. How can any woman, no anyone take him seriously? In comparison to Austen’s other bounders, rakes and rattles, he is like a toady Mr. Collins preaching the efficacy of love instead of religion. Our heroine Charlotte sees right through him. The rest of the community, not so much. The only other person who has the potential to set things in balance with his honest opinions, neat equipage and fashionable air is Sidney Parker, who shall sadly remain the mystery hero of Austen’s oeuvre.

Favorite words

superfluity, circuitous, hitherto, efficacy, dross, perturbation, solicitude, importunate, assignation and assiduously.

Further reading

By the Seaside with Sanditon: Day 6 Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of Sanditon: Jane Austen’s Unfinished Masterpiece Completed, by Jane Austen and Juliette Shapiro by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about Sanditon, or who your favorite character is by midnight PDT Friday, March 26th, 2010. Winner to be announced on Saturday, March 27th. Shipment to continental US addresses only.

Upcoming event posts

Day 6 – March 20 Review: Sanditon (Hesperus)
Day 7 – March 21 Sanditon Completions
Day 8 – March 22 Event Wrap-up

© 2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Chatting with Beth Pattillo, author of Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart – and a Giveaway

Jane Austen is known for her finely drawn and memorable characterizations. Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice is undoubtedly her most famous hero, easily filling the literary romantic icon mantle. Our fascination with his haughty, arrogant noble mien has inspired many authors, screenwriters and even composers to try recreate that magic combination of enigmatic characteristics that Austen so skillfully introduced. The latest Austen inspired novel to feature a Mr. Darcy-like doppelganger is Beth Pattillo’s Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart. It follows a similar format to her previous novel Jane Austen Ruined My Life (2009) which was one of my Top 20 Favorite Austenesque Books of 2009. Set in contemporary times, young heroine Claire Prescott is at a crossroads in her life, travels to England, meets a handsome, haughty and wealthy young man and is thrown into the path of the ‘Formidables’, a secret sect of Janeites harboring Jane Austen letters, manuscripts and her reputation. Beth has kindly offered to chat with us today about her new book and her affinity to one of her favorite authors.

Welcome Beth, thanks for joining us:

When did you first discover Jane Austen and did she influence your reading choices and writing career?

I first discovered Jane Austen my junior year in college.  I was lucky enough to do a semester abroad at Westfield College, University of London.  It was a bitterly cold winter and I spent a lot of hours curled up beneath my down duvet, radiator blazing, reading those inexpensive Penguin Classic paperbacks.  I started with Pride and Prejudice and worked my way through the rest by the time spring arrived.

I love the Regency period and have read lots and lots of research books, so I feel as if it’s a time period I know well.  I started out writing Regency romance, spent some time with Southern women’s fiction and mystery, and then, after a trip to London, started to wonder about Austen’s lost letters.  That’s when the idea for Jane Austen Ruined My Life was born.  The new book, Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, seemed the logical next step.  If I could fantasize about Austen’s lost letters, how much more fun would it be to play a game of “What If” with regards to the original draft of Pride and Prejudice?

Jane Austen is known for her astute observations of human nature and lively characterizations. Which heroes, heroines, rogues and flirts do you admire and or abhor in Austen’s novels and what do you think makes them so memorable?

I love all her heroines, with the possible exception of Fanny in Mansfield Park.  I think Elizabeth Bennet is memorable for her wit and complexity.  The Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility set up a great ‘debate’ about just how much romanticism is too much romanticism.  I have to say, I’m much more an Elinor than a Marianne.  Anne Elliot may be my favorite heroine because she takes all the indignities her family foists upon her with good grace – plus, she triumphs magnificently in the end.  I also love Emma.  I know she rubs some people the wrong way, but I think her heart is in the right place.

As to the heroes, I’m particularly fond of Mr. Darcy, Colonel Brandon, and Captain Wentworth.  The first has to tame his own ego, the second has to persevere to gain his heart’s desire, and the third one has to learn how to forgive.  They all win our hearts because they prove themselves worthy of their heroines.

As to the rogues and flirts, I have to say I enjoy them all.  Austen has such a keen eye for describing human nature.  All her characters remind me of people whom I’ve met in my life.

In Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, one of the main characters is James Beaufort, a wealthy and arrogant young man whose personality and social position are similar to Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy. Could you share your research process for the character and elaborate on the dynamics between him and your heroine Claire Prescott. 

I wanted to explore what would happen if Claire did indeed meet her own version of Mr. Darcy.  I think that’s a pretty common fantasy among women today!  I tried to give James enough of the Darcy elements to make him intriguing without making him a carbon copy.  And he had to be tied in to the mystery of the manuscript Claire finds, so I set him up as part of an old publishing family.  I think the central Darcy question is whether, in real life, the average woman could trust him, whether his wealth and privilege would keep him from engaging in a relationship of equals.  That’s the journey Claire has to take.

The novel is set at Oxford University and your descriptions of the campus and town are vivid and intriguing. Jane Austen’s father, two brothers and uncle attended Oxford and I loved how you tided the family connection into the novel. Did you travel to Oxford for research or are you an armchair admirer of some of the most beautiful eighteenth-century architecture in the world?

I was lucky enough to spend a week at Christ Church, Oxford several years ago as part of a program called The Oxford Experience.  (I highly recommend it.)  I very much enjoyed reliving in my mind the wonderful places that I experienced firsthand.  I do worry that I didn’t get all the details just right, since it’s been several years since I was there.  I spent the week I was there doing a writing course with a wonderful instructor, meeting some fascinating people, sweltering in the heat (just as Claire does in the book), and sitting for hours in the Masters Garden.  The character of Harriet Dalrymple was inspired (but not based on) a woman that I actually met along the Kings Walk on my first day.

After your success with Jane Austen Ruined My Life, you could have gone in any writing direction but chose another Austen inspired theme. I loved how you tie the two novels together with the ‘Formidables’ a group of Janeites protecting Jane Austen’s long, and thought to be lost letters and manuscripts. Where did the inspiration of this theme come from and do you plan to continue it in your next novel?

I’m not sure where the idea for the Formidables came from, other than that I’m always playing the “What If” game in my mind.  What if Cassandra Austen didn’t destroy her sister’s letters, as instructed?  Where would they be?  Who would have them?  And why wouldn’t they have been made public?

I chose the name “Formidables” because that’s how Jane and Cassandra Austen referred to themselves as the strong-but-loving maiden aunts in the family.  I hope to write someday about how the group was formed and more about their function.

My next novel from Guideposts will be The Truth About Jane Eyre (Winter 2011).  I’m switching to the Brontes for this one and it’s a nice change of pace.  I don’t think I’m done with Jane Austen quite yet, though, but it’s too soon to spill any beans.

If you could plan a tea with Jane Austen, who else would you include in your soiree?

If I could have tea with Jane Austen, I wouldn’t invite anyone else, because I wouldn’t want to share her!  I’d be terrified and ecstatic all at once.  I’d love to know what she would make of our fascination with/adoration of her work.  And I wouldn’t mind finding out a little more about how some of her famous couples spent the rest of their lives!

Thanks for chatting with us today Beth. I too would want Jane Austen all to myself if she came to tea. Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart will be released on February 1st, 2010. I highly recommend it.

GIVEAWAY CONTEST

UPDATE Feb 08: The giveaway contest has now concluded and the winners will be announced today.

UPDATE Feb 04: Because the outstanding response by readers to this giveaway, the publisher has kindly offered to double the number of books being offered to 6 copies of Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart and two sets of MDBMH and Jane Austen Ruined My Life. Huzzah!

Enter a chance to win one of three copies of Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart and one set combined with Jane Austen Ruined My Life by leaving a comment before midnight PT Sunday February 7th, 2010 stating who is your favorite Mr. Darcy in an Austen inspired book or movie. Winners will be announced on Monday, February 8th, 2010. Shipping to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

UPDATE 02/08/10: The contest has concluded. The winner was announced. Follow this link to discover if it was YOU!

Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart: A Novel, by Beth Pattillo
Guideposts Books (2010)
Trade paperback (272) pages
ISBN: 978-0824947934

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