Category Archives: Austenesque writers

Understanding Elizabeth

Book Release!

understanding-elizabeth-3dMore and more, I understand Anne Bradstreet’s poem, “The Author to Her Book,” written nearly 350 years ago. The first line, “Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,” just about sums up how I felt when I touched the publish button Tuesday night.

A good writer always reveals a part of herself when she writes, and that’s a bit intimidating. In the case of Understanding Elizabeth, there are clues about my childhood and teen years.

I have never been very good at sports or physical games. I should clarify that I was actually hit in the forehead by a fly ball while holding my glove over my face trying to catch it. I was a teenager playing in a church softball game, and I had the attention of our entire small town at the time. Embarrassing? Yes. It knocked me flat on my back, and I think I passed out for a minute or two. Or maybe I just didn’t want to get up and face the crowd.

A similar incident, in which I was hit in my jaw by a ball straight off the bat, happened in elementary school. I was so humiliated that I stuck my finger down my throat so I could pretend to be sick and go home. It worked. I was a tricky little person.

However, I never had any problems with the three R’s, and I loved that aspect of school. I shared in a previous post that my sister Gayle (a natural-born teacher if there ever was one) taught me to read when I was four. She also taught me to play chess. Since I don’t remember when I couldn’t play, I have no idea how old I was.

I was lousy at basketball, softball, or anything else with “ball” in it, but I loved word games and games of strategy. Playing musical instruments came fairly easily as well, because I enjoyed practicing. My entire family was musical. Gayle and I played piano and flute, Layne played clarinet, and all of us (six children!) sang along with Mama and Daddy.

I incorporated that feeling of joy at being good at something into Understanding Elizabeth. My Elizabeth doesn’t ride a horse, though there’s a lovely scene in which Darcy teaches her (le sigh!), but she’s a chess master. She isn’t shy about it, either. They fall in love over books and chess.

Darcy is socially awkward, but he excels in academic and physical pursuits. He’s a man who can discuss favorite books with the heroine. (My husband read all of Jane Austen’s works so he could understand what my daughters and I were talking about. He’s watched the film versions several times, too. Yes, ladies, there really are men like that.)

These are two capable, intelligent people who recognize their strengths and their weaknesses.

I have no problem with knowing your strong points as long as you also know your limitations. To me, that isn’t being proud; it’s giving yourself realistic goals. It’s okay to feel a sense of accomplishment. It’s fine to be happy with yourself, as long as you don’t settle for less that what you can do.

I hope you enjoy reading Understanding Elizabeth as much as I enjoyed writing it. This book is very different from my six previous books. I will be very interested in your feedback.

 

 

Advertisements

Would Miss Austen approve?

There is much discussion lately about Jane Austen’s works and the variations written of them by people like me. I try to be very careful when I work with Miss Austen’s characters. My main objective is to avoid having her main characters say or do anything that goes against the way she wrote them. Canva Guardian Cover

I have written both modern and Regency books using the characters from Pride and Prejudice, but in my view, I have never had them do anything that would be objectionable to Miss Austen. The most controversial thing in my work is having Darcy be an angel in the Guardian Trilogy. He is separated from Elizabeth by the difference in their stations. According to the Bible, angels are higher in creation than are humans. Though Xander Darcy is not proud, he is commanding and reserved. He often holds himself aloof. Guarding Elizabeth causes him to change and loving her makes him willing to give up everything he is to marry her. He is a being of high principles. In that respect, I follow the plot line of Pride and Prejudice. There is a time when Darcy loves Elizabeth, but she doesn’t love him because she doesn’t really know him. After she becomes aware of him, there is a “Hunsford” which separates them and nearly destroys her. There is a reconciliation as well.

They do not sleep together before they are wed, and they don’t use foul language. I will never write a dark Darcy, though I have read a few variations with dark Darcys, and I’ve enjoyed them when they were written in good taste. I don’t write Elizabeths who are promiscuous, either.

That’s just me. I have to live with myself and my conscience. I am constrained by my personal beliefs.

I do realize that this blog post sounds judgmental, and heaven forbid we should state an opinion that someone else might not like. There was a day, not so very long ago, that most people would have agreed with me. Now, I’m an outlier. That being said, I haven’t given any bad reviews or heckled anyone who wrote more erotic Austen. Authors have the right to write whatever suits them.

I would hope that I would be allowed the same freedom.

 

 

Winter and Writing

Winter has finally come to the South. My husband mowed the leaves in our yard this past Saturday. When we were younger, we raked them a few times, but now he takes the easier route, and mowing the leaves is actually good for the soil.

I brought in all of my porch plants Friday. The temperature was forecast to dip to 31 degrees on Friday night, so I cut back their overgrowth and hauled them into the living room, dining room, and garage. Southerners and plants don’t like weather that’s below freezing. Lizard

This morning, as I looked at my plant-filled house, I noticed a stowaway. A lizard had hitched a ride in on my philodendron basket. Larry will have to catch him and take him back outside, or he’ll starve. My reflexes have never been fast enough to catch a lizard, even if I’d ever wanted to do so. Larry is the champion of lizards, spiders, and crickets. He won’t kill them, because they’re good. My thoughts hop from one thing to another.

This is good writing weather. My mind drifts. It’s too cold to enjoy being outdoors for very long, so I’ll sit at my laptop and work on my latest effort – Understanding Elizabeth. This odd story just keeps winding through my mind. What if Darcy knew beforehand that Elizabeth had overheard him at the Assembly? What if he knew what she thought of him? What if he could change that? What would he pay to change it?

If you could go back and change the course of your life, would you? What would you be willing to pay to do that? If the lizard had understood what it could cost him to hitch that ride, he might not have chosen to hide in my plant. Would you make a different choice if you knew the outcome beforehand?

Guest Author: Wendi Sotis!

My guest today is author Wendi Sotis, who has just published Safekeeping, a contemporary mystery thriller with a nod to Jane Austen.

Safekeeping

I “met” Wendi Sotis about seven years ago on a JAFF forum, and we began to beta for each other. Since that time, Wendi has published seven books, while I have published six. We have worked together on all sixteen of them. She is presently working on a new Austenesque story, A Lesson Hard Learned, as well as a non-Austen Regency romance, The Pact. (The Pact is shaping up to be my favorite of all of her books!) She’s a very dear friend of mine who not only betas for me, but also formats my e-books and critiques my covers.

Wendi is an indie author from New York. She has triplets who are rapidly turning into young adults, and her husband Matt does the art work for her covers. She’s one of the administrators of Beyond Austen.com, along with me, Gayle Mills, and Annette Wristen. All of her books are clean, flinch-free, and very entertaining. Wendi has a degree in psychology, and I love the way her mind works.

Her author page on Amazon gives more detailed information about Wendi, as well as links to her other books.

Wendi's books

What was your inspiration for writing Safekeeping?

I dreamt about it!  Since literally dreaming up story ideas is common for me, I often incorporate dreams into my books, though usually not as heavily as Safekeeping does. Sometimes I dream the beginning or middle of a story. Usually, it’s one scene or even a snippet of a scene. This time, I dreamt the solution to the mystery/suspense part of the story. Once I wrote that down, it was just a matter of working backward from there… asking myself, “How can I make this happen?” I love amnesia stories, and it was easy to incorporate that into this one. As a matter of fact, I had originally began a different story as an amnesia story, and had to rewrite it once I decided to go in that direction for Safekeeping.

Tell us about your characters in Safekeeping.

Elizabeth and Darcy in this book are not from Pride and Prejudice, as they are in my other books. Their names are a wink at Jane Austen’s classic, and Pride and Prejudice is part of the story, but Safekeeping cannot truly be considered JAFF. I’m not sure I should give away more than that!

How much research did you do?

I LOVE to research, so I always do a great deal of research for all my stories. For Safekeeping, knowing all I could find about amnesia was a biggie. A few friends, including you, Robin, helped me with some details about Florida (as well as “traveling” along the route Elizabeth would take in Florida using Google Earth.) I picked the brains of a physical therapist, who is the son of a friend, about certain injuries that Elizabeth had in the story. I talked to other friends who had similar injuries or had to wear casts/boots in the past, including your blog-mate, Gayle. I put a great deal of time into naming my fictitious towns. For example, much of the story takes place in Mt. Wonnig, in upstate New York. Wonnig is one possible word for “delightful/blissful” in German (or at least that’s what Google Translate tells me.) My husband helped me watch quite a few car chases on YouTube. And I’m still receiving spam from private investigating equipment companies 😉

 What was the hardest part of writing this story?

Making the two time-lines fit together so the climax of both happened at the same time. Safekeeping is actually two stories in one—Elizabeth’s prior life and her life after the amnesia— fused together in her discovery of who she is… was… is. I actually wrote the two story-lines separately, then had to find places in the “amnesia” parts for her to remember. How to transition between the two time-lines smoothly without a big jolts to the reader was also challenging. Formatting that aspect for print/eBook without it becoming annoying or confusing was a difficult decision to make. I don’t think this book can be made into an audiobook without hiring two narrators.

Deciding details about Elizabeth’s injuries and giving her time to heal enough to remove the cast without the story becoming boring was also tough. At almost last minute, I decided to have her break a non-weight-bearing bone in her leg and sprain her wrist instead of breaking it.

And for some reason, I had a difficult time deciding how and when in the story to take her cast off. I was completely stuck on that for months!  Once I got past that, everything flowed easily. I wrote the remainder of the story—about 100 pages in the printed book—in a little more than a week.

Are there messages or themes you hope your readers will get out of this book?

Unlike a lot of writers, I don’t start out with a message or theme I’m trying to convey—just what I hope will be a fun and interesting story—but I think I do it unconsciously. Usually, readers will tell me they saw a message in my books that I didn’t realize I put there! It’s a pleasant surprise when I have an “Ah ha!” moment like that.

What would be the perfectly specific genre title for Safekeeping?

Oh, gosh, that’s a really good and difficult question! How about: Romantic Suspense/Mystery/Clean Read/Nod to Jane Austen.

Wendi SotisThanks so much for having me on Jane Started It!, Robin. I love this blog!

Thank you for stopping by, Wendi! I’m going to beta your next chapter of A Lesson Hard Learned today, and I hope to get a new chapter of The Pact soon. (I’m a hard taskmaster and a greedy reader.)

Find Wendi on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest. She is presently posting A Lesson Hard Learned and The Pact on Beyond Austen.com.