Good Afternoon everyone,
Today I have the pleasure to interview Riana Everly, a very creative author whom I am always happy to see visiting From Pemberley to Milton. Ms. Everly has released a new series called Miss Mary Investigates whose main character is Mary Bennet my favourite sister, after Elizabeth of course. This series has two books already, a novella called The Mystery of the Missing Heiress, which is an introduction to the series (and currently free by the way) and Death of a Clergyman, the first book in the series.
Today Riana Everly is here to talk to us a little more about this book, and I hope you enjoy it 🙂 Don’t forget to comment to apply to the giveaway 🙂
First of all, thank you for visiting From Pemberley to Milton and taking the time to answer some of my questions Riana. I am really happy to have you here once more, and I am eager to hear more about the Miss Mary Investigates series. Can you tell us what readers may expect from it?
I’m always delighted to visit your lovely blog. Thank you for hosting me.
As for the Miss Mary Investigates series, I have in mind a short series of six mysteries, each taking place in one of Jane Austen’s novels. The first is set is 1811, and each subsequent story will happen in the next year. This means I’ve had to arrange exactly when the Persuasion story happens, because we know for certain when that is supposed to take place (1814-15).
Right now I have the second story at beta readers, and two more are written, but still in the very un-pretty first-draft stage. During the course of the series, Mary and Alexander’s relationship will change as well, as they grow and get to know each other.
That seems so interesting! I can’t wait to see the mash ups you will create for the other novels, especially Persuasion. How did you come up with this idea?
I have dreamed about writing mysteries for a very long time. In fact, my first attempt at a novel was a mystery. It got as far as chapter two, so not exactly a brilliant success! Of course, I love JAFF as well, so it made sense to see if the two ideas would work well together. I know I’m not the first to do this, nor will I be the last, but Austen’s worlds are so rich, there is ample room to play around and see – literally – where the bodies lie!
That’s true, mostly all Austen characters have some hidden appeal. In fact, it’s not everyday we see a book whose main character is Mary Bennet, but she does appear to be the sister authors mostly write about, why do you think that is so?
I think that in some ways, Mary is like Darcy. Jane Austen gave us some hints and outlines about both, but very little detail. This gives a writer so much room to explore and imagine. It lets us try to get to the person behind the character sketches we’ve been left. In the case of Darcy, we can muse and ponder over why he was so rude to Lizzy at the Meryton Assembly, or how he felt after leaving her at Hunsford. In the case of Mary, we can explore what’s behind those boring talks and endless performances at the piano.
We never really know from Jane Austen whether Mary is really pedantic, or whether she craves attention. Is she always hovering over her sermons because she has nothing else to say, or because she is deeply devout at heart? Or is she looking for a way to understand the world, by finding answers in a book when no one pays attention to her? Or is it a bit of everything?
Mary is ignored and easy to tease, but she also has so much potential. I think that is one reason why authors enjoy exploring her world.
I agree with you and I personally love stories about Mary. I also loved The Mystery of the Missing Heiress where you introduce us to Mary’s love interest. What can you tell about Alexander Lyons to readers who haven’t read the novella yet?
Alexander is my new book boyfriend! He is everything a man should be, if at all he can help it! He is smart, good-looking, and thoroughly decent. He is a red-haired Scot, the son of a country doctor, with a strong accent and a great deal of contempt for the toffs. He trained as a lawyer in Glasgow and came to London to work as a clerk, but quickly discovered that his eye for detail and deductive skills made him popular as an investigator. In Missing Heiress, he not only helps Darcy find his missing sister Georgiana, but also helps one of Darcy’s friends win the hand of his lady love. And in the process, he and Darcy find they have a lot in common and start on the road to a sort of friendship, despite the great difference in their situations.
I have to say I found this novella very interesting and cleverly written, especially because while introducing a new character and interactions into the story you were able to give a new light and perspective into the exact same events that took place in P&P. Can we also expect that particular connection in Death of a Clergyman?
Yes and no. Rather than inserting a mystery into the canon events of Pride and Prejudice, I have used some of the action to set a mystery in action. I have tried to keep the characters very much as Jane Austen left them to us, but I have, perhaps, given them some back-stories and motivations that veer from her wonderful novel.
The story starts with the discovery of Mr. Collins’ body in a stream, near where Lizzy likes to walk. She had just refused his marriage proposal that very morning, and every piece of evidence seems to point to her. So, immediately we are leaving Jane Austen’s series of events.
But Darcy is still Darcy and finds he needs to act to save Elizabeth, even though he himself does not yet know how he feels about her. Sir William is still the self-appointed social convenor of the town, but now I have made him the magistrate as well. Colonel Forster is still in charge of the regiment of militia, and Wickham is… well, dallying with anything in a skirt and losing money at the gambling tables!
It appears you included almost everyone in this story, and I can’t wait to know who actually killed Mr. Collins! What gave you more pleasure while writing this book? Apart from killing Collins, that is 🙂
I had so much fun writing this book, it’s hard to know what I enjoyed most about it. I loved getting to know Mary and Alexander, and it was a lot of fun seeing how Lizzy and Darcy interacted in such different circumstances. Would Darcy run away at the scandal attached to Lizzy? Would Lizzy start to think differently about Darcy when she discovered he believed in her?
But overall, I loved the mental challenge of putting a puzzle together, while providing enough clues that the ending made sense, without it being too obvious. (Hint: the butler did NOT do it.)
It is not the first time you choose a P&P secondary character to be your main character, do you consider giving them a voice a special challenge?
Secondary characters are a special joy to work with because, as I have mentioned earlier, we have hints about them from Jane Austen, but so much is left unsaid. Going back to The Assistant, we know that the Gardiners are elegant and successful people in a good marriage, but little else. The challenge there was finding their story that did not detract from the glimpse that Jane Austen gave us of them. Likewise, in Death of a Clergyman, I tried very hard to keep Mary as Miss Austen wrote her, but while looking at her from a different angle. She is not a particularly sympathetic character in P&P, but neither is she horrible. I wanted to acknowledge her shortcomings while highlighting her strengths as well, without changing the essence of what Jane Austen created.
Here’s a little glimpse into what’s coming up soon – I have a draft of a novel written all about Colonel Fitzwilliam! So there’s another secondary character about to move into the spotlight. It still needs a lot of rewriting and editing, and it will be a while before it’s ready to see the world, but he’s a fabulous character to write as well.
The Colonel is another favourite of mine, so those are the best of news! But if that is still under progress, perhaps you can tell us what to expect from Death in Highbury. That is the following book in the Miss Mary Investigates series isn’t it?
Yes, Death in Highbury should be ready for publication early in 2021. I’m really excited about that one. It’s not really a crossover between the two novels, taking place entirely within the world of Emma, with the exception of Mary and Alexander, who happen to be in Highbury when somebody (gasp) dies. A few other P&P characters may wander in and out of the other novels, but they are not really intrinsic to the stories. But they are part of Mary’s life, and so they come along with her.
Riana, before finishing our interview I must say how much I love the covers in this new series! Who is responsible for them? Is this something you enjoy working on too?
Thank you. These covers are a bit of a joint effort. My daughter created the silhouette of Alexander. She’s an artistic kid and knows her way about Photoshop. The concept behind the covers is mine: the background for each is a photograph of the location where the story takes place, and in the right season. So for Missing Heiress, the image is the seashore at Ramsgate. For Death of a Clergyman, the background is a photo of Hertfordshire in the autumn.
The wonderful cover artist who puts all this together is Mae Philips, at Coverfresh Designs, and she does a wonderful job. I enjoy playing with graphic design, but I could never come close to her lovely creations.
Thank you so much for visiting! It was a pleasure having you here. To my readers, expect reviews, very, very soon 🙂
Mary Bennet has always been the quiet sister, the studious and contemplative middle child in a busy family of five. She is not interested in balls and parties, and is only slightly bothered by the arrival of the distant cousin who will one day inherit her father’s estate. But then Mr. Collins is found dead, and Mary’s beloved sister Elizabeth is accused of his murder. Mary knows she must learn whatever she can to prove Elizabeth innocent of this most horrible crime, or her sister might be hanged as a murderess!
Alexander Lyons has made a pleasant life for himself in London, far from his home village in Scotland. He investigates missing documents and unfaithful wives, and earns an honest living. Then one day Mr. Darcy walks into his office, begging him to investigate the murder of Mr. Collins and to prove Elizabeth innocent of the crime. It seems like a straightforward enough case, but Alexander did not count on meeting a rather annoying young woman who seems to be in his way at every turn: Mary Bennet.
As the case grows more and more complicated, Mary and Alexander cannot stop arguing, and discover that each brings new insight into the case. But as they get close to some answers, will they survive the plans of an evildoer in the midst of quiet Meryton?
You can find Death of a Clergyman at:
Riana Everly was born in South Africa, but has called Canada home since she was eight years old. She has a Master’s degree in Medieval Studies and is trained as a classical musician, specialising in Baroque and early Classical music. She first encountered Jane Austen when her father handed her a copy of Emma at age 11, and has never looked back.
Riana now lives in Toronto with her family. When she is not writing, she can often be found playing string quartets with friends, biking around the beautiful province of Ontario with her husband, trying to improve her photography, thinking about what to make for dinner, and, of course, reading!
Riana Everly is giving away one eBook to one lucky blog visitor today. To enter, just leave a comment on the post and she will randomly select a winner five days after this blog is posted. Please include an email address so she can get in touch with the winner. “Name dot name (at) domain” will do fine if you want to avoid bots! She will contact the winner and email the book directly, so there are no concerns about not being able to receive Amazon gift copies, which sometimes happens.
Good Luck Everyone!