Good Afternoon everyone,
Today we continue with our 5 year anniversary celebration, and I thought that inviting the first 5 authors to be featured on this blog in 2015 would be a nice way to remember those earlier times, and also allow you get to know these authors a little better.
My first post was a review of Mr. Darcy’s Noble Connections, one of my All Time Favourite books, and definitely my favourite from Abigail Reynolds. At the time I was new to the community so I didn’t know much about Abigail Reynolds, except that she had many books I loved, but this one in particular was epic, so it was the first one I decided to review.
The second review of the blog was The Subsequent Proposal, the first mash up I ever read with a plot that seemed absolutely perfect at the time! Not only Joana Starnes picked up my favourite characters from Pride and Prejudice, but also the ones from Persuasion. She brought together my favourite Austen characters and novels in one single book and that had to be one of the firsts to be reviewed. I even reviewed it before my All Time Favourites The Falmouth Connection and The Unthinkable Triangle.
The Subsequent Proposal was followed by Pirates and Prejudice by Kara Louise which may seem like a “normal” premise nowadays, but at the time it was very innovative and I admit it got me skeptical. However, because I LOVE Kara Louise and Mr. Darcy’s Voyage was one of my all time favourites, I decided to give it a try, and guess what? I loved it!!! In fact, while writing this post, I started having this incredible urge to re-read these books because that kind of writing is just incredible!
After 3 P&P variations it was time for some North & South love, after all, the blog was named From Pemberley to Milton for a reason. My fourth review was of Unmapped Country, a North & South sequel and the reason I ever bought a kindle because the book only existed in ebook format and I really wanted to read it! The author, Chrissie Elmore is unfortunately no longer with us so I cannot invite her to answer these questions, but Unmapped Country will always ocupate a special place in my heart.
The following review I posted was Ardently, one of the most perfect Pride & Prejudice variations I have ever read! Even though Caitlin Williams has a special place n her heart for The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet, I confess Ardently remains my favourite book from this talented author. If you read it, you know why, I have never met anyone who was not completely rendered to this book!
My last guess today is Alexa Adams who is brave enough to write stories many do not even consider putting into paper. One of them is The Madness of Mr. Darcy which I reviewed on August 14th 2015 and marked me so much I could not stop talking about it over lunch break. One of my friends, who up until this day does not read JAFF, asked me every single day “so what happened now? is someone else dead?”, so you can imagine how much of an impact this book had. But fear not! The book has some initial darkness (which I loved by the way), but is also full of romance, and even though I only rated at 4,5 at the time, I feel this will always be one of my all time favourites. I believe I was more demanding at the time, because today this book would certainly be a 6 star book! What was I thinking by rating it 4,5? This is the one I always recommend when someone asks me for something different and good to read.
Anyway by now you already know who my 5 guests are right? I decided to ask Abigail Reynolds, Joana Starnes, Kara Louise, Caitlin Williams and Alexa Adams, these 5 questions:
1 – As a reader, which is your favourite Non-Austenesque book and why?
2 – Which one of your books is your favourite?
3 – How do you balance your own expectations with those of your readers?
4 – What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
5 – What do you love the most about your writing job?
Their answers are the following:
As a reader, which is your favourite Non-Austenesque book and why?
Abigail Reynolds: Oh, good heavens, this one is impossible! I love so many books. I’ve probably got a couple dozen life-time favorites, so here are a few that I return to again and again because I miss the characters and the world. Here are a few random ones no particular order: The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, The Beacon at Alexandria by Gillian Bradshaw, The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer, Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers, Jaran by Kate Elliott, the Fall of Ile-Rien series by Martha Wells, The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal. Oh, I could go on all day! As you can see, I’m a bit of a genre-hopper.
Joana Starnes: I didn’t think that this would be the hardest question of all, until I sat down to answer them . I’ve been in love with Pride and Prejudice since I was twelve. I almost can’t remember a time when I wasn’t obsessed with it. And I’m guessing that whatever I read when I went down the Austenesque research rabbit hole doesn’t count either.
Of all the other books I’ve read, I think Forsyte Saga is my non-Austenesque favourite, especially Flowering Wilderness in Vol. 3. My heart started to ache for Wilfrid Desert at about the same time when I began to have a more grown-up appreciation of Austen, Darcy and Elizabeth. He’s a good man, his heart is in the right place, yet by using his profound humanity against him (with all that it entails, its failings as well as its beauty), Fate forces him to stumble from his first love to his second, and it’s a heartbreaking experience each time. This is all the more affecting because there is nothing flamboyant about Galsworthy’s prose. No big words, no melodrama, just real, wrenching heartache in a very real, almost mundane setting. I’ve always needed happily-ever-afters, but Wilfrid Desert’s portrayal is so compelling that he stayed with me even if, of all the heroes in all the books I liked, I believe he is the only one who doesn’t get the girl. And IMO the girl settles, and doesn’t really get her true happily-ever-after either.
Kara Louise: I love Georgette Heyer, although you could say she writes in a way very much like Jane Austen. My favorite book of hers is Arabella. But to go to a completely different genre, I really enjoy the Ruth Galloway mysteries by Elly Griffiths. Ruth Galloway is a forensic archeologist and is often called in to help solve murders in Scotland.
Caitlin Williams: This changes now and then, but I do love Jane Eyre. It’s pretty much perfect.
Alexa Adams: I have many favorites, but the one book that has consistently been on that list pretty much my entire life is The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I reread it every few years, and it continues to awe me. Sara Crewe is not a particularly realistically character (she’s just too good to be true, much like Anne Elliot) but there is so much to admire in her. Many are familiar with Burnett’s books for children, but she wrote dozens of novels and short stories, mostly for adults. Several are phenomenal, like The Shuttle and T. Tambarom, both of which are about Americans trying to make their way in Europe, like me. It’s fascinating stuff.
Which one of your books is your favourite?
Abigail Reynolds: I can’t narrow it down to one, but there are four that are stand out as my particular favorites. In order of publication – Mr. Darcy’s Obsession, Mr. Darcy’s Noble Connections, Conceit & Concealment, and Mr. Darcy’s Enchantment. Those are all ones where I feel like the story really came to life in my hands.
Joana Starnes: It’s a draw between Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter, The Unthinkable Triangle and The Journey Home to Pemberley. If I really, really had to pick just one, I guess The Journey Home to Pemberley is ahead of the others by a whisker.
Kara Louise: For the longest time, Darcy’s Voyage was my favorite. It is also one of my earliest, self-published originally as Pemberley’s Promise. But now I think my favorite is Pirates and Prejudice, because it was a really fun book to write and very different than my others.
Caitlin Williams: The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet
Alexa Adams: Each book has its special resonance for me. The Madness of Mr. Darcy is probably closest to my heart (having poured my soul into it), but the writing of it was extremely painful. The book that brings me the most joy is probably Second Glances: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice Continues. It is mostly Kitty Bennet’s story and features my first original character, Sir James Stratton. I’m currently (so slowly) rewriting the book, and I’m falling madly in love with him all over again.
How do you balance your own expectations with those of your readers?
Abigail Reynolds: It’s a challenge sometimes, but I’ve learned that, no matter what I write, some readers are going to be happy with it and others will be upset. For my writing process to work, there has to be something in the story that makes my heart sing. When I try to write what readers ask for, I just get stuck and the story goes nowhere. A Matter of Honor almost got shelved because I got myself into such a mess trying to make one section of it more like my early books, and eventually I scrapped the entire section and rewrote it. But I know there are things that are important to my readers, like plenty of Elizabeth and Darcy time, and I try to make sure that happens.
Joana Starnes: In a way, I think I’m quite lucky because what I love to write about is Elizabeth and Mr Darcy finding their way to each other over and over and over again, which is what many readers in the Austenesque genre tend to like. The difficulties arise when it comes to specifics: what events and circumstances make them fall in love?
I’m not that good with action-packed, high-octane drama. In my novels, the major dramas tend to be fairly private, and many of them are unfolding in the characters’ heads and souls. I’m trying to imagine them in the sort of setting we find in the original novels and in Jane Austen’s letters, where gripping, real-life dramas only reach like faint echoes; where nothing visibly big happens, just people living their lives and finding love.
From what I can see, some readers are fond of that approach, while others expect something more dynamic. I’m hoping that they’ll keep telling me what their expectations are. In that respect, reviews – both good and bad – are incredibly useful. I doubt I’ll ever be able to move on to writing action-packed novels, but over the years I came across many reviews that have helped me fine-tune the delivery. So huge thanks to my readers for that!
Kara Louise: I have had to determine to write what I like, and hope for the best! I tend to question every story I write, whether the readers will enjoy it, but there are some stories I have to write that may not be as popular. For example, I have a story in the works that is a sequel to my modern story, Drive and Determination. This one is also more of a Persuasion inspired story. So being modern and Persuasion are 2 things that are not as popular, but I really want to write it. I keep putting it aside to work on something more acceptable (Regency and Darcy and Elizabeth), but I am determined to one day finish it.
Caitlin Williams: I try not to, I guess. I think you have to write for yourself. Write the story you want to read. It can get muddled if not. Though I do think there are certain JAFF rules that shouldn’t be broken.
Alexa Adams: I’m not sure I really do, though I learn a lot from reading reviews of my work. I tend to post my books before publishing, and I will definitely take into account reader feedback as I edit, but I write for me. This might be why each new book is quite different from the last, though I have been consistently focused on middle-aged protagonists in recent years (not exactly what most fans desire). I’m pursuing the ideas that I find compelling. Sometimes they hold very little interest for my readers, and I’m ok with that. I do try to relegate my least marketable notions for my novella series, Twisted Austen. Becoming Mrs. Norris was a particularly notable dud, sales wise, but I loved writing it. That first paragraph of Mansfield Park, which provides the structure for the story, is very inspiring. It also provided the premise for another Twisted Austen story, Young Wickham, though I’m not sure many readers noticed.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Abigail Reynolds: Not listening to the critical voices in my head that try to stop me from writing. After all these years, I carry lots of bad reviews in my head, and when I’m writing a scene, that voice says, ‘You know, so-and-so will say bad things about this’ or ‘Such-and-such says you do this too often.’ Those nasty little voices can derail my writing like nothing else. And the flip side of it is the fear of letting readers down, that this will be the book that will disappoint everyone.
Joana Starnes: Everything that comes after writing The End on the first draft is a bit of a challenge. Sometimes there are re-writes (big or small), and then I go through a WIP some 4-5 times to make sure that there’s nothing I should change. By the fifth read, I tend to get heartily sick of it. And each launch gives me the absolute jitters. But I’m ever so grateful to my wonderful, thorough and ever so supportive editors, to you and all the other Austenesque bloggers, to fellow writers who share their experiences, and especially to all the lovely people who read my books. Otherwise I don’t think I could keep pushing the boulder, rolling it into KDP and starting again.
Kara Louise: That has changed over the years. I began writing JAFF in 2001 and I had ideas galore! I also had more time to write, so I was able to write a book in 3 to 6 months. Now, I don’t have as many ideas,and I am lucky if I publish a book once a year. Part of my time constraints is watching my 3 granddaughters, which I love, so I really can’t complain.
Caitlin Williams: Starting a book is tough and the technical bits are tricky, e.g. Moving your characters around, getting them from A to B
Alexa Adams: Well, these days it’s just finding the time and space to write at all. My partner has been working from home since the pandemic began, and I am very grateful that he is able to do so, but we live in a small apartment with two children, and it’s really hard to find the solitude to concentrate. I’ve largely given up on getting anything done for the time being.
When I am actually working, my biggest challenge is not to rush through the story. I tend to get excited and speed through it. My second drafts are always longer than my firsts, as I try to flush out the skimpy scenes and add all the necessary details overlooked in my enthusiasm to get the story down on paper.
What do you love the most about your writing job?
Abigail Reynolds: (1) Creating new characters that live in my head, and (2) hearing from readers that they re-read them. It means a lot to me that there are a few people out there who return again and again to my books like I do with my beloved favorites that I mentioned above.
Congratulations on 5 great years!
Joana Starnes: That I get to spend nearly every day at Pemberley (or heading to Pemberley) with my favourite characters. That beats all the other jobs I’ve ever had!
Thanks so much for including me in your celebrations, Rita! Happy 5th Anniversary, and here’s to many more!
Kara Louise: I love the creative aspect of it. I am a creative person, and before I began writing, I was very much into crafts. I still have bins in my basement of craft supplies from years ago. When I began writing, my crafting took a back seat to writing. Now I have a new crafting focus with my granddaughters, hoping they will grow to love crafting as much as I did. Another thing I enjoy about writing is being able to work on it when I want and take a break from it when I need to.
Caitlin Williams: Sometimes you get on a roll and it flows, and scenes almost write themselves. Its lovely when that happens.
Alexa Adams: When I’m writing, it’s an adventure for my brain. Much like the adrenalin rush one experiences from the physical exertion of climbing a mountain or running a marathon, I find the feat of writing a novel an exhilarating challenge. Right now, my brain could really use the escape! I don’t know what I’ll write next, but each novel is an unforgettable experience, and I’m itching for a new one. It’s something to look forward to.
Congratulations on five awesome years, Rita! It’s been an honor to visit and be featured here. I hope we can do it again soon.
I was happy to see Abigail Reynolds literary tastes are as eclectic as mine and super excited about Kara Louise’s modern Persuasion story! I do love Persuasion, and I’ve read some really good modernizations, so this will be a must read once it comes out 🙂
I was surprised to see The Falmouth Connection isn’t amongst Joana Starnes favourites (you can tell it’s one of my favourites can’t you?), but not so surprised to know that The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet is still Caitlin William’s choice, I’m partial to Ardently, but I know many people were hooked with that one.
I also loved learning that Alexa Adams loves writing about middle age women, because guess what? I love reading about middle age women! That’s one of the reasons why I loved The Madness of Mr. Darcy and Being Mrs. Bennet. Lately I’ve been looking for more books with older versions of Elizabeth and they are hard to find, so please, do continue to write about women that age Alexa! I’ll buy anything from you with that type of protagonist 🙂
I would like to thank all these talented ladies for taking the time to answer these questions and for visiting From Pemberley to Milton! This was a very special post for me and having you all here meant a lot! Thank you so much!!!
I would like to give a special thanks to the authors that decided to giveaway some of their books to my readers! Thank you ladies!!!
Today we are offering several books which means we will have several winners! To apply to the giveaway all you have to do is comment on this post and let us know if you’ve read any book from these authors, or which book have you loved the most. Let me know if you’ve read any of those first books I reviewed at From Pemberley to Milton 5 years ago and if you’ve enjoyed them.
All comments until next Saturday will be considered for the drawing of the following:
1 ebook from Joana Starnes – Readers Choice
1 ebook from Kara Louise – Readers Choice
1 ebook from Caitlin Williams – Readers Choice
1 ebook from Alexa Adams – Readers Choice
2 copies of A Matter of Honor by Abigail Reynolds – Reader may choose ebook or audiobook
2 audiobooks from Joana Starnes – Readers Choice
Good Luck everyone!