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BrideofNorthangerBirchallInquiring readers, I’ve met Diana Birchall on only a few occasions, but during those times we became fast friends. Her blog, “Bright and Sparkling” describes her conversational and writing styles to a tee. This interview is one prime example of a typical conversation one might have with Diana. Enjoy!

Diana, my dear, please explain to this uninformed dullish reader your genuine love for Henry Tilney. I am truly curious, for he leaves me *ahem* somewhat cold. His attraction towards the nubile, but very young and innocent Catherine mystifies me. Educate me, please!

Uninformed!  Dullish!  You!  Oh, how can you say so? In the words of John Thorpe in Northanger Abbey, “You have so much, so much of everything; and then you have such — upon my soul, I do not know anybody like you.” But I am come not to quote the oafish Thorpe, but to praise one of my favorite heroes, the charming, intelligent, original, ever delightful Henry Tilney. Yet, to tell the truth, for a long time I was puzzled by Mr. Tilney, in just the way you express. He was certainly witty, but in mind, education, conversation, and sophistication, he was miles above commonplace little Catherine, and as Jane Austen said, it was a match beyond her claims. Being seventeen she was nubile, but not a great beauty; remember we are told, “To look almost pretty is an acquisition of higher delight to a girl who has been looking plain the first fifteen years of her life than a beauty from her cradle can ever receive.”

So the relationship never set quite right with me, just as you say, and it was this aspect that I most wanted to understand, when I set out to write my book. In writing a paper for Sarah Emsley’s celebration of the 200th anniversary of Northanger Abbey, I focused on Henry’s father, General Tilney, and tried to understand the psychological dynamic of the peculiar Tilney family, and how this formed and influenced Henry. I called the piece “The Ogre of Northanger,” for it was easy to see that the General was a domestic bully who tyrannized over his children. He approved most of Captain Tilney, an insensitive cad who was following his own profession. Eleanor he turned into almost an abject slave, and Henry clearly disappointed him. Gentle, book loving, by profession a clergyman rather than a materialistic man of greed and action like the General himself, Henry probably was more like his own excellent mother, and not, in his father’s eye, likely to amount to much: he would never make money (which mattered most to the General), and so a rich match must be found for him. The General bullied Henry and Eleanor constantly, about every last domestic detail, dictating timetables and behavior, boasting and expecting to be flattered, making their lives a misery. He must have been the most exhausting father, and Henry suffered much, particularly by seeing Eleanor’s unhappiness and being powerless to help her. His father’s machinations and manipulations were precisely why he valued Catherine, finding her innocence and simplicity deeply refreshing after what he was used to at home.  He is charmed by her “fresh feelings,” and he tells Eleanor, “Open, candid, artless, guileless, with affections strong but simple, forming no pretensions, and knowing no disguise.” She replies, with a smile, “Such a sister-in-law, Henry, I should delight in.” Once I realized why Henry genuinely found Catherine the kind of woman who would be a solace and a support, the development of feelings between the couple began to fall into place, and it became quite a natural and convincing love story, worthy to stand beside Austen’s others. Catherine’s artless intense feeling for Henry is palpable from the start, but while he begins almost like teasing a younger sister, his feeling develops into real respect and affection. This is what I wanted to explore and continue in my book, alongside having some Gothic fun:  I wanted to show how the marriage would grow as Catherine matured and became better educated, a sensible woman, quite worthy to be Henry’s wife. And that’s what happens.

Alright, you’re convincing me regarding Mr. Tilney’s charms. You’ve alluded to Catherine and Henry’s physical attractions and connubial bliss in the story, but this 21stcentury voyeur wanted more! Yet I sense that you chose a restrained path because you honored Jane Austen’s voice? Tell me how you came to this decision.

It wasn’t even a decision. It never once occurred to me to put in sex scenes, however I may enjoy the “pleasing passion.” Jane Austen makes us feel her characters’ passions, loves, broken hearts and longings better than any writer who does show the Darcys bouncing in bed.  Hers was a good enough example for me – the best; and since my aim is to write in a style as closely and truly Austenesque as humanly possible after thousands (yes thousands!) of rereadings and years of close study of details of style, to baldly display Henry and Catherine in a defloration scene or whatever, would seem truly jarring. Let other pens dwell on sin and sexuality; not mine.

Excellent reply! Your characterizations of John Thorpe (especially), General Tilney, Captain Frederick Tilney, and that vixen, Isabella Thorpe – are spot on. How much fun was it to flesh these folks out for readers? (BTW I loved the references to Harriette Wilson, which I caught right away.)

It is so much fun for me to play with the minor characters that sometimes when I do it, I find myself laughing out loud!  I’ve always been drawn particularly to Austen’s villains and grotesques – hence my spending so much time with Mrs. Elton – and it is just a delight for me to revisit these people and listen to them talk. For that’s what happens; we know these characters (John Thorpe indeed!) so well, we’re able to imagine what they’d say about anything. Jane Austen’s own indelible characterizations are so vivid that it’s easy to carry them further; in fact, it feels as if they talk to me and I just try to get it all down! This is part of her genius and one of the reasons why she lends herself so superbly to sequels.

I agree. So often the minor characters add piquancy and spice to the plot and a raucous laugh or two. And now we come to your plot for the novel, which I found, well, novel to say the least. The twists and turns kept me perpetually surprised. Tell me a little about your creative process. I think you must have meticulously plotted the plot from the start, or did you allow your characters to speak to you as you went along? Or both?

You’re exactly right on both counts. I did write an outline of roughly what would happen in each chapter. Then I put the novel down for years, but I always meant to pick it up again, and when I did, I only had to follow what I had told myself to do. And yes, as I’ve said, the characters did just speak to me as I went along. I simply put down what they’re saying to me (sometimes I act it out to see how it sounds, in a hellacious English accent). Then when I’ve got it all down, I go over it again to improve it, until it actually starts to look like something; and then a third time for a close polish.

Fascinating! Do you want to add anything else for our readers? Please feel free to give it a creative go!

Just that after a lifetime spent poring over Jane Austen’s works (not a bad study or amusement, by the way – for one thing, she is the finest writing teacher you ever heard of), this close examination of Northanger Abbey showed me that far from being negligible compared to her more mature novels, it has more in it than meets the eye, and is very delightful and well worth revisiting. My greatest wish is that my novel will make people go back to Northanger Abbey, and find reading the two in tandem to be time well and pleasantly spent!

Thank you, Diana, for your fascinating insights. Also, kudos to Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose, who herded a score of bloggers together for this blog tour. You helped to make this process quite easy for me! Thanks to you as well.

Visit Diana at her Austen Variations author page, follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads

Purchase links:

 

 

 

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Sanders-JaneAustenforKidsInquiring readers,

In this blog post (to wind up women’s history month), author Nancy Sanders discusses her new book Jane Austen for Kids: Her Life, Writings and World, with 21 activities, which teaches young readers about our favorite novelist through 21 enriching activities that help them gain a better understanding of what day-to-day life in the Georgian era was like. Activities include learning to play whist, designing their own family coat of arms, planting a Georgian-style kitchen garden, hosting a Regency tea, sewing a reticule, and more.

I am pleased to announce that the publisher has agreed to give away two free copies of the book. Please leave a comment to enter the contest and let us know which activity you would introduce to children to learn more about Georgian life! Winners will be drawn via random number generator 7 AM EST USA April 1st. (US readers only, please). You may leave as many comments as you like. NOTICE: Contest is closed as of 10 AM April 1. The winners are: Rona Shirdan and DanelleinKansas

Ms. Sanders sent us information about her new book and her splendid visit to Winchester. Enjoy!

When I signed the contract to write a biography of Jane Austen for young people, it was a thrilling day indeed! The deadline was set when the final manuscript would be due at the editor’s desk, and I dove into my project.

 

How diverting it was to read and reread Jane’s delightful novels, watch and watch again the amazing variety of movies based on her books, and pour over biographies others had written about our favorite author.

 

Several months into my deep research, however, I discovered a treasure that changed my course. Shortly after my manuscript was due at the publisher, all England would be celebrating the 200th anniversary of Jane’s legacy to the world.

 

On July 18, 2017, Winchester Cathedral planned to host private services at Jane’s grave followed in the evening by a Choral Evensong honoring this amazing woman.

 

Would I be there to witness this once-in-a-lifetime event? Could I be there? I called my editor and got my deadline extended to include this unexpected trip. My husband Jeff and I booked an exclusive tour with JASNA (The Jane Austen Society of North America). Upon my word, we were excited to participate in the gala celebrations and all-things-Jane!

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All photos from Winchester Cathedral by author, courtesy of the Winchester Cathedral.

July 18, 2017 dawned sunny and fair. I entered the hushed halls of Winchester Cathedral with Jeff and my tour group whom we had just met the night before. Our capable and enthusiastic group leader was Liz Philosophos Cooper, a Janeite from a family of Janeites who was destined to become the very next President of JASNA!

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All photos from Winchester Cathedral by author, courtesy of the Winchester Cathedral.

We were led through the magnificent nave of the cathedral and stood next to Jane’s grave. Canon Sue Wallace greeted us and shared inspirational words about Jane and how her faith shaped Jane’s thoughts, actions, and writings. Along with the other members of our tour group, Jeff and I placed a rose on Jane’s grave.

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All photos from Winchester Cathedral by author, courtesy of the Winchester Cathedral.

It was 200 years ago, this very day, that our beloved Jane passed quietly away. After the graveside service finished, we lingered nearby.

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All photos from Winchester Cathedral by author, courtesy of the Winchester Cathedral.

There was a beautiful bust of Jane displayed in the nave. I stopped and looked into Jane’s eyes.

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All photos from Winchester Cathedral by author, courtesy of the Winchester Cathedral.

There was a memory book to sign. The BBC radio interviewed several of us on our way out. The only way I could force myself to leave was knowing that in the evening we would return back to the cathedral for yet another special event once again in honor of Jane.

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All photos from Winchester Cathedral by author, courtesy of the Winchester Cathedral.

We traced the route the small funeral procession probably took on the day of Jane’s funeral. The short walk led us to College Street where the house still stands that Jane and her sister Cassandra rented during Jane’s last days.

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All photos from Winchester Cathedral by author, courtesy of the Winchester Cathedral.

I stood at the front door of this historic landmark…remembering the letter her sister wrote to inform the family of Jane’s last moments…remembering the description she gave of the small sad funeral procession that departed from this door…

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All photos from Winchester Cathedral by author, courtesy of the Winchester Cathedral.

A dog looked down at me and at our tour group who was visiting this house. What was the dog thinking? What did Jane think as she looked out onto this street during her final days? What did Cassandra think 200 years ago as she chose to stay behind from the funeral and looked out on this street to whisper her final good-byes to the sister she had so dearly loved? I longed to switch places with the dog for just a moment to catch a glimpse of the same view these two sisters shared during those heartbreaking times.

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All photos from Winchester Cathedral by author, courtesy of the Winchester Cathedral.

A film crew arrived and set up their equipment to begin filming. This was an important day in history. Two hundred years ago this very day, one of English literature’s greatest authors passed quietly away into the halls of eternity. Although practically unknown, Jane Austen was given a stately burial site in the magnificent Winchester Cathedral. Somehow, someone recognized the treasures this self-taught genius and amazing woman had given to England…and the world. They gave her a final resting place where Janeites from around the globe could come show their love and respect…as did I and hundreds of others on this unforgettable day.

Thank you Nancy, for this wonderful description of your visit to Winchester and these excellent photos! Don’t forget to leave your comment, readers, for a chance of winning one of two copies of this book. (U.S. readers are eligible only)

___________

About the author:

Nancy I. SAnders is the author of many books, including Frederick Douglas for Kids, America’s Black Founders, A Kid’s Guide to African American History and Old Testament Days. She lives in Chino, California.

About the book: 

Jane Austen for Kids: Her Life, Writings, and World, with 21 Activities by Nancy I. Sanders. Chicago Review Press, Distributed by IPG Publication Date: February 5, 2019, 144 pages. Two color interior, ages 9 & up. ISBN: 978-1-61373-853-5

Other posts about Winchester on this blog:

 

 

 

 

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DevotionHello readers at Jane Austen’s World! My name is Meg Kerr, and I’m thrilled to be here with you. First, I’d like to thank Vic for allowing me to contribute this guest post on my new book, Devotion. Devotion explores events after Pride and Prejudice ends through fan-favourite characters including Georgiana Darcy and Mrs. Bennet. I think you’ll find it an interesting read, as I’ve added several unexpected twists.

Also, in celebration of Jane Austen’s 200th anniversary, I’m offering Devotion for FREE  beginning today until July 18th.

To get your free copy of Devotion, click here to visit the giveaway page!

Q: What prompted you to write Devotion?

A: I wanted to know what happened after Pride and Prejudice ended! Not what happened to Elizabeth and Darcy and Jane and Bingley – I was satisfied that they were happy in their marriages and that domestic bliss was their lot. No, I wanted to know about Mary and Kitty and Lydia Bennet, and Caroline Bingley, and Georgiana Darcy.

Austen gives us some hints: Lydia “retained all the claims to reputation which her marriage had given her”; Caroline Bingley “paid off every arrear of civility to Elizabeth”; “Pemberley was now Georgiana’s home”; Mary “was obliged to mix more with the world”; Kitty became “less irritable, less ignorant, and less insipid.” That’s not enough, not by a long shot! So, I wrote my first book entitled Experience.

Then it turned out that Georgiana needed a book all to herself for her adventures—so I wrote Devotion. Georgiana falls under the spell of one of those bad boys that Austen loved to feature in her novels (think Wickham, Willoughby, Henry Crawford), a very attractive young man named John Amaury. With Austen giving me advice on how to handle a love affair between a gently raised young lady and a bad boy, you can imagine that Georgiana finds herself in some peril!

Q: What aspects about Austen and her life did you find most interesting while writing Devotion?

A: Let me start by saying that as a reader I don’t want to know about a writer’s personal life. I want to know the writer through her or his writing. That’s how her or his mind touches mine. So, I won’t talk about Austen’s life; I try not to know much about it.

But her mind is another thing.

When I was researching Experience, I knew I wanted to put Colonel Fitzwilliam on stage so I idly checked out his family’s earldom. (Remember he is the second son of an earl.) To my amazement, the Fitzwilliam family did indeed have an earldom. They were the Earls of Tyrconnell, an Irish title. They had lost it for treason long before Pride and Prejudice takes place, but still, there it was.

I think that was the first time I realized that there is more to Austen than appears on the surface (wonderful though that surface is).

Recently I was chatting with Professor Lorrie Clark (an Austen expert and a very active JASNA member) about Mansfield Park. Pride and Prejudice lovers abhor Mansfield Park because Austen championed the wispy Fanny Price over the Elizabeth Bennet-like Mary Crawford. Lorrie pointed me to a paper she had written* that explores the influence on the novel of the writings of (very minor) 18th century British philosopher the Earl of Shaftesbury. To say that my jaw dropped when I read the paper would be an understatement!

There are depths to Austen. That’s part of what makes her novels so endlessly re-readable. No one can step twice into the same river. And no one can read the same Jane Austen novel twice. It’s always a different book.

* “Remembering Nature: Soliloquy as Aesthetic Form in Mansfield Park” (Eighteenth-Century Fiction 24, no. 2 (Winter 2011–12)

Q: Why will fans of Jane Austen want to read Devotion?

A: If they’re like me, they’ll want to read Devotion to find out what happened next. But that by itself is not a sufficient inducement. After all there’s lots of “fan fiction” to dip into. I’m too shy and embarrassed to say anything myself, so let me quote from Professor Lorraine Clark’s foreword to Devotion:

Meg Kerr’s two novels to date offer pleasures of recognition beyond familiarities of character, plot, and even scenes (for instance, the Bennets once more arguing about new tenants at Netherfield Park, or Lady Catherine arguing with yet another young lady attempting to steal her daughter’s rightful suitor) … We recognize the genre of 18th century novels themselves—French as well as English—structurally replete with letters and most of all conversations, Jane Austen’s specialty. We are pleasurably immersed in 18th century English diction from start to finish—in cadences and turns of phrase too often missing even from movie “reproductions” of Austen’s novels. Meg Kerr’s ear for dialogue characteristic of each particular speaker, and emphasis on “conversation” over description or plot, has been my own most unexpected pleasure in reading these books.

If you’re so inclined, Devotion will be available as a FREE digital download beginning today until July 18th as my way to commemorate the life and literary contributions of Jane Austen. You’ll find the link to get your copy near the top of this post. I’d love to hear your feedback on the book!

About Devotion:

In this sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Georgiana Darcy, now twenty years old and completely lovely, is ripe for marriage. Her brother has carefully selected her future husband, but the arrival of a long-delayed letter, and a secret journey, bring Georgiana into the arms of an utterly wicked and charming young man whose attentions promise her ruin. At the same time, events in Meryton are creating much-needed occupation for Mrs. Bennet and a quandary for Lydia Bennet’s girlhood companion Pen Harrington; and the former Caroline Bingley is given — perhaps — an opportunity to re-make some of her disastrous choices. Meg Kerr, writing effortlessly and wittily in the style of Jane Austen, sweeps the reader back to the year 1816 for a reunion with many beloved characters from Pride and Prejudice and an introduction to some intriguing characters.

About Meg Kerr:

What do you do when you live in the twenty-first century but a piece of your heart lies in the nineteenth? If you are author Meg Kerr you let your head and hand follow your heart. With her love of country life—dogs and horses, long walks in the woods and fields, dining with family and neighbours and dancing with friends, reading and writing and the best conversation—and her familiarity with eighteenth and nineteenth century history and literature, Meg has a natural gift to inhabit, explore and reimagine the world that Jane Austen both dwelt in and created, and to draw readers there with her.

Hello readers at Jane Austen’s World! My name is Meg Kerr, and I’m thrilled to be here with you. First, I’d like to thank Vic for allowing me to contribute this guest post on my new book, Devotion. Devotion explores events after Pride and Prejudice ends through fan-favourite characters including Georgiana Darcy and Mrs. Bennet. I think you’ll find it an interesting read, as I’ve added several unexpected twists.

Also, in celebration of Jane Austen’s 200th anniversary, I’m offering Devotion for FREE on beginning today until July 18th.

To get your free copy of Devotion, click here to visit the giveaway page!

Vic: What prompted you to write Devotion?

Meg: I wanted to know what happened after Pride and Prejudice ended! Not what happened to Elizabeth and Darcy and Jane and Bingley – I was satisfied that they were happy in their marriages and that domestic bliss was their lot. No, I wanted to know about Mary and Kitty and Lydia Bennet, and Caroline Bingley, and Georgiana Darcy.

Austen gives us some hints: Lydia “retained all the claims to reputation which her marriage had given her”; Caroline Bingley “paid off every arrear of civility to Elizabeth”; “Pemberley was now Georgiana’s home”; Mary “was obliged to mix more with the world”; Kitty became “less irritable, less ignorant, and less insipid.” That’s not enough, not by a long shot! So, I wrote my first book entitled Experience.

When it turned out that Georgiana needed a book all to herself for her adventures—so I wrote Devotion. Georgiana falls under the spell of one of those bad boys that Austen loved to feature in her novels (think Wickham, Willoughby, Henry Crawford), a very attractive young man named John Amaury. With Austen giving me advice on how to handle a love affair between a gently raised young lady and a bad boy, you can imagine that Georgiana finds herself in some peril!
Vic: What aspects about Austen and her life did you find most interesting while writing Devotion?

Meg: Let me start by saying that as a reader I don’t want to know about a writer’s personal life. I want to know the writer through her or his writing. That’s how her or his mind touches mine. So, I won’t talk about Austen’s life; I try not to know much about it.

But her mind is another thing.

When I was researching Experience, I knew I wanted to put Colonel Fitzwilliam on stage so I idly checked out his family’s earldom. (Remember he is the second son of an earl.) To my amazement, the Fitzwilliam family did indeed have an earldom. They were the Earls of Tyrconnell, an Irish title. They had lost it for treason long before Pride and Prejudice takes place, but still, there it was.

I think that was the first time I realized that there is more to Austen than appears on the surface (wonderful though that surface is).

Recently I was chatting with Professor Lorrie Clark (an Austen expert and a very active JASNA member) about Mansfield Park. Pride and Prejudice lovers abhor Mansfield Park because Austen championed the wispy Fanny Price over the Elizabeth Bennet-like Mary Crawford. Lorrie pointed me to a paper she had written* that explores the influence on the novel of the writings of (very minor) 18th century British philosopher the Earl of Shaftesbury. To say that my jaw dropped when I read the paper would be an understatement!

There are depths to Austen. That’s part of what makes her novels so endlessly re-readable. No one can step twice into the same river. And no one can read the same Jane Austen novel twice. It’s always a different book.

* “Remembering Nature: Soliloquy as Aesthetic Form in Mansfield Park” (Eighteenth-Century Fiction 24, no. 2 (Winter 2011–12)

Vic: Why will fans of Jane Austen want to read Devotion?

Meg: If they’re like me, they’ll want to read Devotion to find out what happened next. But that by itself is not a sufficient inducement. After all there’s lots of “fan fiction” to dip into. I’m too shy and embarrassed to say anything myself, so let me quote from Professor Lorraine Clark’s foreword to Devotion:

Meg Kerr’s two novels to date offer pleasures of recognition beyond familiarities of character, plot, and even scenes (for instance, the Bennets once more arguing about new tenants at Netherfield Park, or Lady Catherine arguing with yet another young lady attempting to steal her daughter’s rightful suitor) … We recognize the genre of 18th century novels themselves—French as well as English—structurally replete with letters and most of all conversations, Jane Austen’s specialty. We are pleasurably immersed in 18th century English diction from start to finish—in cadences and turns of phrase too often missing even from movie “reproductions” of Austen’s novels. Meg Kerr’s ear for dialogue characteristic of each particular speaker, and emphasis on “conversation” over description or plot, has been my own most unexpected pleasure in reading these books.

About Devotion:

In this sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Georgiana Darcy, now twenty years old and completely lovely, is ripe for marriage. Her brother has carefully selected her future husband, but the arrival of a long-delayed letter, and a secret journey, bring Georgiana into the arms of an utterly wicked and charming young man whose attentions promise her ruin. At the same time, events in Meryton are creating much-needed occupation for Mrs. Bennet and a quandary for Lydia Bennet’s girlhood companion Pen Harrington; and the former Caroline Bingley is given — perhaps — an opportunity to re-make some of her disastrous choices. Meg Kerr, writing effortlessly and wittily in the style of Jane Austen, sweeps the reader back to the year 1816 for a reunion with many beloved characters from Pride and Prejudice and an introduction to some intriguing characters.

Meg KerrAbout Meg Kerr:

What do you do when you live in the twenty-first century but a piece of your heart lies in the nineteenth? If you are author Meg Kerr you let your head and hand follow your heart. With her love of country life—dogs and horses, long walks in the woods and fields, dining with family and neighbours and dancing with friends, reading and writing and the best conversation—and her familiarity with eighteenth and nineteenth century history and literature, Meg has a natural gift to inhabit, explore and reimagine the world that Jane Austen both dwelt in and created, and to draw readers there with her.

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horizontal blog tour

Inquiring readers:

Jane Austen’s World blog is participating in a tour of Stephanie Barron’s new book, Jane and the Waterloo Map, wherein our favorite author turns sleuth in this Regency-era mystery. I have interviewed Stephanie Barron, author of this delightful mystery, and wished I had asked more questions!

book coverIt is November, 1815. The Battle of Waterloo has come and gone, leaving the British economy in shreds; Henry Austen, high-flying banker, is about to declare bankruptcy—dragging several of his brothers down with him. The crisis destroys Henry’s health, and Jane flies to his London bedside, believing him to be dying. While she’s there, the chaplain to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent invites Jane to tour Carlton House, the Prince’s fabulous London home. The chaplain is a fan of Jane’s books, and during the tour he suggests she dedicate her next novel—Emma—to HRH, whom she despises.

However, before she can speak to HRH, Jane stumbles upon a body—sprawled on the carpet in the Regent’s library. The dying man, Colonel MacFarland, was a cavalry hero and a friend of Wellington’s. He utters a single failing phrase: “Waterloo map” . . . and Jane is on the hunt for a treasure of incalculable value and a killer of considerable cunning…

1. Vic: Hi Stephanie, Thank you for allowing me to interview you! I have so many questions, but a limited time to talk to you. Please describe your book and tell us why readers will be intrigued with your latest mystery.

Stephanie: The thirteenth Jane Austen mystery combines a well-documented period in her life—the autumn of 1815, when she was staying with her ailing brother Henry in London and preparing Emma for publication—with the aftermath of the Battle of Waterloo in English politics and society. That November, Jane was invited to the Prince Regent’s London home, Carlton House, and asked (ordered) to dedicate Emma to the Prince. I have her stumbling over the body of a Waterloo veteran in the Carlton House library, so I think the story gets off to a great start.

2. Vic: My Janeite group loves your novels and have read your books since JANE AUSTEN AND THE UNPLEASANTNESS AT SCARGRAVE MANOR.  How did you originally come up with the idea of a Jane Austen mystery series?

Stephanie: I had studied the Napoleonic/Regency period in college, and was a lifelong reader of Austen—I began with Pride and Prejudice at age 12—but I had never thought of writing what is now called “Austenesque” fiction. At the time I wrote the first Jane mystery, I was also writing a contemporary police procedural series set on Nantucket Island under my married name, Francine Mathews. This was twenty-two years ago, during the winter of 1994. I was rereading Austen’s novels and reflecting on the richness of her language, and how difficult it was to persuade some readers to wrestle with the complexity of that language in order to experience the story. I thought it would be challenging and fun to attempt to use Austen’s distinct voice in a novel, and encourage contemporary readers to engage its complexity—by giving them a murder to solve. From that moment, I had to decide for myself if I wanted to go whole-Austen-hog and use her actual characters. But I personally think that each of us has an inner sense of her characters that we may not always like to see violated by another person’s version. So I decided instead to use Jane herself as my detective. I went to her letters, first and foremost, for a detailed record of her days—and was delighted to find that there were gaps in that record I could fill with fiction.

3. Were you surprised at how receptive readers were with the idea of Jane Austen as sleuth?

Stephanie: Yes. I was honestly afraid that the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor would be dismissed or ridiculed as either a travesty of her style or an attempt at exploitation. It was a relief when the book was generally embraced. Although I should say that I did receive a few incensed and irate letters. There will always be folks who lack a sense of humor.

4. Vic: What did you enjoy most in doing research for JANE AND THE WATERLOO MAP?

I have a deep and abiding interest in the Napoleonic Wars, dating from my first exposure to War and Peace when I was ten years old. To be able to wallow in accounts of the battle of Waterloo was quite self-indulgent. I also loved studying the old prints of Carlton House, which appears to have been an elegant and beautifully-designed place, sadly demolished only a few years after Jane saw it.

5. Vic: Tell us a little about your writing day. Are you a disciplined author or do you need to be inspired, by a deadline, for example, or a great idea?

Stephanie: I am a highly disciplined writer. It’s impossible to draft, complete, and promote twenty-six novels over twenty-three years without being disciplined, particularly if one is also raising children and dogs. I alternate work on the Jane Austen series with standalone historical espionage novels that require a totally different degree of research and construction. I frankly tell aspiring writers, however, that it is much easier to be disciplined when you have a contract from a publisher—because then the work is no longer a wistful dream, but your job, with expectations you must meet and editors you regard as your employers. I know that I have been profoundly fortunate to be able to work at home for the past two decades, on my own schedule, pursuing my cherished impulses and ideas, and yet be paid for my work.

6. Vic: Which Jane Austen novel is your favorite and why?

PersuasionStephanie: Persuasion. I regard it as the apogee of her work. Anne Elliott is the most perceptive and profound of her heroines. It’s one of the first novels in the English cannon in which a period of depression is portrayed, as well the emergence from depression and into full engagement with life—which occurs in parallel to Anne’s reviving romance with Wentworth, not as a direct result of it. It is also the most perfectly edited of Austen’s works, probably because she had grown in technique as a writer by the time she embarked on it—she was self-editing as she wrote, and the finished work is tightly plotted and beautifully honed, not a word wasted.

7. Vic: Would you like to add anything else for my readers?

Stephanie: Only that I’d love to hear from them. I can be found on the web, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

8. Vic: It’s a pleasure to chat with you, Stephanie.  I must admit that PERSUASION is also my favorite Jane Austen novel (a preference I discovered in my, ahem, mature years). My sentimental favorite shall always be PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. You were twelve when you first read the book; I was fourteen. Sigh. Good luck with JANE AND THE WATERLOO MAP, and thank you so much for these illuminating answers.
Stephanie: The pleasure was all mine!

Inquiring readers:

Click on this link to follow the blog tour from February 2, 2016 – February 22, 2016.

barronAbout the Author:

Stephanie Barron was born in Binghamton, New York, the last of six girls. She attended Princeton and Stanford Universities, where she studied history, before going on to work as an intelligence analyst at the CIA. She wrote her first book in 1992 and left the Agency a year later. Since then, she has written fifteen books. She lives and works in Denver, Colorado. Learn more about Stephanie and her books at her website, visit her on Facebook and Goodreads.

Stephanie’s Twitter handles are: @SBarronAuthor; @Soho_Press.  Her Twitter hashtags are: #WaterlooBlogTour, #JaneAusten, #HistoricalMystery, #RegencyMystery, #Reading, #AustenesqueMystery #Austenesque #Giveaway

Grand Giveaway Contest

prizes

Win One of Three Fabulous Prizes:

In celebration of the release of Jane and the Waterloo Map, Stephanie is offering a chance to win one of three prize packages filled with an amazing selection of Jane Austen-inspired gifts and books!

To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on Jane and the Waterloo Map Blog Tour starting February 02, 2016 through 11:59 pm PT, February 29, 2016. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Stephanie’s website on March 3, 2016. Winners have until March 10, 2016 to claim their prize. Shipment is to US addresses. Good luck to all!

 

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