It’s my pleasure to host Ginger Monette today.
Q: You are a new author. Tell us a little about yourself.
A: Over the last eighteen years I immersed myself in family and homeschooling my three children. Along the way, various interests captured my attention—sewing, decorating, and reading quality children’s literature with my children. But surprisingly, I rarely read adult fiction. In our school lessons, however, I discovered a love for historical fiction. It gives us an emotional attachment to the events of history which makes them memorable.
My children are older teenagers now, so I am enjoying pursuing my own interests now—chiefly writing in my closet office in Charlotte, NC.
Q: What led you to write a JAFF story?
A: A friend raved about Pride & Prejudice and couldn’t believe I was unfamiliar with the story. She lent me the 1995 & 2005 versions of the P&P films, and in short order I became a Janeite—reading up to three novels a week. I just could not get enough of Lizzy and Darcy! Then, in the summer of 2012, I got an idea for Charlotte to meet Colonel Fitzwilliam at a ball and couldn’t seem to stop the ideas from coming. Although I had done quite a bit of expository writing, I had NEVER written fiction—not even in high school! I thought I might try to pass the story outline on to a ‘real’ author, but it was for me to do.
Q: Can you talk a little about your writing process?
A: I vividly remember the day in mid-November 2012 when I sat in my bedroom chair, laptop open, and tapped out the first words of the story—a battle scene partway through the book. Immediately I was hooked on the whole writing process and often spent ten hours a day blissfully sculpting scenes. Being a methodical person, I was surprised that I wrote the book like a patchwork quilt—a scene here a scene there. My daily walks with my dogs proved to be an excellent time to daydream plot.
But I can’t say I did it alone. I had begun emailing an outstanding Austenesque fan fiction author in England who is also an avid history buff. She offered to help me. We emailed every day for months with fascinating discussions on everything from the role of horses in Regency England to the layout of a Master’s dressing room. I had five other outstanding betas as well: two are Austenesque authors, two have expertise in grammatical editing, and one lent her knowledge of the military.
Q: Did you face any challenges along the way?
A: Yes. Because I was striving for historical accuracy, I spent a lot of time searching for answers to get the details right—the kind of plate an officer would eat off of while in the field, details of confinement, the Battle of Waterloo, and on, and on.
I also had difficulty balancing my writing obsession and my responsibilities to my family. I don’t believe I fared too well in that department…
Q: Miss Austen did not fully develop either Charlotte or Colonel Fitzwilliam. Was there anyone who inspired you in fleshing out those characters?
A: I believe an army colonel repeatedly exposed to bloody battles would be grittier than the movies’ portrayals of Colonel Fitzwilliam. My Richard Fitzwilliam was inspired by Russell Crowe’s authoritative Jack Aubrey in the movie Master and Commander. However, I retained the Colonel’s jovial, playful characteristics we all know and love.
Charlotte is actually somewhat a revelation of my own thoughts and feelings. Anne de Bourgh, who plays an important role in Tree of Life, was inspired by the sweet Melanie Wilkes from Gone with the Wind. While writing for Lord Matlock, I envisioned the actions and speech of Donald Trump.
Q: Because your story is a companion to Pride & Prejudice, can we expect any overlap with canon?
A: Yes, but from a different point of view. We see the Meryton Assembly through the eyes of Charlotte Lucas. Several chapters tread atop the nephews’ visit to Rosings. The same events look very different when interpreted by others.
Though it is not an overlap with canon, many of the mysteries of canon are solved—like how did everyone know Darcy was worth ten thousand a year at the Meryton Assembly? Who wrote the sonnet to Jane Bennet when she was fifteen? And what heartbreak led to Charlotte Lucas being yet unmarried at twenty-seven?
Q: I understand this story has a spiritual element as one of its themes. Can you talk about that and any other themes?
A: One reviewer pointed out that Tree of Life does not really contain a villain. She is right. The conflict all stems from life itself: the confinements of the era’s social protocol, war, and the sort of inner questioning and turmoil we all deal with in our process of maturing and deeply loving another.
As for the spiritual, the Colonel is plunged into the depths of despair as a result of a serious battle wound, bringing him to question his role and value in life. He has a quiet but profound spiritual experience ignited by three simple words that cause him to view life from an entirely different perspective and change his values.
Another theme is how our actions, intentional or unintentional, influence the lives of those around us. There are also recurring situations of “what goes around comes around.” Ironically, a stone is a thread woven throughout the story. And there is one final theme that is related to the title, but you will have to read the story to discover that one.
Q: Is there any content that some readers might find questionable despite the overall “clean” feel of the book?
A: I really struggled with this. I just couldn’t see a gritty colonel saying “blast it” when he and his men were trapped and being pursued by the French Army. I talked to my teenaged daughter about my predicament and she said, “Make it real,” so the colonel does use some mild curse words.
Q: I you could create the perfectly specific genre title for this book, what would it be?
A: Christian Regency JAFF
Q: How has this writing experience affected you?
A: Profoundly. The Colonel has many “ah-ha” moments in his evolution as a character. I can’t tell you how many times in my own life I needed to relearn those lessons. I am changed because of my own story. I’m also surprised how much I love writing! If someone had told me ten years ago I would write a novel, I would have laughed aloud.
Q: So, do you have any plans for another novel?
A: Yes! Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes is a Pride & Prejudice variation set on the Western Front of World War I. It will be followed by its sequel, Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey. Hopefully both will be released in 2016. In addition, I’m planning a whole Great War Romance series featuring several of the characters that readers encounter in Darcy’s Hope including Colonel Fitzwilliam, John Thornton (yes, John Thornton from North & South), Robert Knightley (great grandson of George & Emma Knightley) and a few more.
Q: Where can readers find out more?
A: My website, gmonette.wix.com/author, features short video trailers of Tree of Life and Darcy’s Hope. In addition, my videos are on YouTube. Readers can also follow the progress of my writing ventures by signing up for my low volume newsletter on my website, or “like” my Facebook page, Ginger Monette author.
Thanks so much for hosting me!
Thank you, Ginger, for agreeing to be our guest at Jane Started It.