Good Afternoon everyone,
I am pleased to welcome for the first time at From Pemberley to Milton author Ridge Kennedy who is about to release Murder & Miss Austen’s Ball, a very interesting Jane Austen inspired novel. I was very curious about this story when he contacted me, and became even more after reading his guest post. There is something about his writting that captivates me, and I believe I will enjoy his debut novel.
I hope you all like to learn more about Murder & Miss Austen’s Ball, and that you do not refrain from giving us your opinion in the comments. We are opening the blog tour today, but there will be more stops throughout the month, so there are more opportunities to learn more about the book.
Thank you for visiting Mr. Kennedy, it was a pleasure having you here 🙂
Miss Austen vs. the Publishers:
Speculation on What Might have Been
Attempting to write a story in a Regency Style is a lesson in humility, at least for this author. In my new novel, Murder & Miss Austen’s Ball, I’ve made every effort to adhere to Austen-era convention. Conversation is defined by vocabulary, action inhibited by etiquette and plotting requires careful passage though the social mores. And on occasion, I had bend and stretch things to craft a story that would not cause a great gnashing of teeth among the cognoscenti.
The ladies in Miss Austen’s era, of course, understood the rules. But I do think that some, including Miss Austen herself, felt tightly constrained by them. In that, I as an author, feel their pain.
The superficial description of Jane’s situation in Chawton in 1815 when the novel is set, would seems to describe a life of relative ease. Her home is provided by her brother Edward. Several of the brothers chip in to pay the household expenses. Brother Henry Austen is available to handle Jane’s business dealings. All is well. Bob’s your uncle.
Really? C’mon, ma’am.
Facts on the Ground
Henry’s bank is going bust. One of his partners in the Alton establishment may have walked off with a large portion of its capital. (History tells us he is mere months from failing.) Edward, meanwhile, is being sued by other claimants to his properties. He will eventually settle, paying off the litigants by selling a great deal of timber from one of his estates.
Undoubtedly, Miss Austen knew all about these threats to her brothers. A reckoning was coming. And yet, what could she do?
In looking at the well-documented history of the publication of her books, one critical moment stands out: The sale of the copyright of Pride and Prejudice for 110 pounds. Sure, there is a letter in which Jane says she was perfectly happy with that arrangement. So the written record says she approved of the deal. As a storyteller, as a writer, as a publisher, and as an objective observer looking 245 years back in time, I call B.S. on that.
I don’t speculate in my story about what, if anything, was said to convince her to take the deal to sell the copyright to P&P. I don’t speculate about what motives Henry might have had (lack of cash, maybe?) for wanting her to accept it. However, in this telling of the story, it is clear that Jane is very, very unhappy about the P&P business.
Her Real Feelings?
Jane earned approximately 150 pounds with Sense and Sensibility, a sum sufficient to keep Chawton Cottage running for a year. Then she has to agree to sell the copyright of P&P for 110 pounds? And watch Egerton print a second edition and clear at least 400 pounds? No, dear Reader, the storyteller and writer in me say that she was not at all pleased—no matter what was said in public.
I also concluded that, at least for my story, her cousin/sister Eliza was a major influence. Jane saw how Eliza assisted Henry in the banking business, networking, building business relationships and, frankly, motivating him. She was prepared to take the same tack with Henry. She would build business relationships within the bounds of propriety (which she might stretch, just a bit) and then prod Henry into action. The decidedly unconventional Eliza provided Jane with a model for what could be done.
Losses to the World
There is much to mourn in Miss Austen’s untimely death; the loss of so many great books that might have been. She was producing about one novel per year. If she had lived to age 60, perhaps 15 more books?
But we can also mourn for missing out on the effect her success might have had on the publishing industry in paving the way for more women of letters. Working for the same publisher (in London) as Sir Walter Scott, might she not have built a strong, evergreen catalog of books? Might she have earned enough to buy back the copyright to P&P? Might she have primed the market for earlier and greater successes from authors such as Maria Edgeworth and Elizabeth Gaskell?
In Murder & Miss Austen’s Ball, Jane stretches the bonds of propriety in many way, including the business side of being an authoress.
Approaching her 40th birthday in 1815, Miss Jane Austen, a modestly successful authoress, has determined to host a ball and posts a letter to Mr Thomas Wilson, the preeminent figure in the dance scene in London to request his services.
When the dancing master arrives in the village of Chawton, Miss Austen discovers that this man may not be who he seems. The dancing master, for his part, discovers that this lady he is speaking with may not be who she seems. And together, they discover that life in rural Hampshire is undergoing serious disruption, that dangerous men are about, and the best laid plans may sometimes go terribly awry.
Through the course of the story, Miss Austen and her dancing master discover their mutual interest in music: for dancing, for singing, for busking, for entertaining, for delighting in the intimate glow that harmonious musicians may share.
There’s a murder. There’s an investigation. There’s mystery, indignation and the pursuit of justice. And there is more. Much more.
Miss Austen’s brothers Frank and Charles serve in the Royal Navy, and have told her of life at sea. But there’s a different perspective when you’re looking out from between the decks.
After Waterloo, peace is breaking out, and the wartime economy is winding down. And yes, Miss Austen is caught in the downdraft. And what of the need for an income? And what of the need for a man of business? Cannot a lady chart her own course?
Of course, there is a ball and more dancing besides. Of course, we will find partners. Of course, we shall dance.
From Chawton to Bristol, from Alton to Bath; from the plains of Salisbury to the sea; there is no want of adventure.
A Gentleman is responsible for the telling of this story; he claims first-hand knowledge of the events. He is elderly, however. Perhaps his mind is failing? One cannot be completely sure. Your author can only attest that this is the tale as he tells it. And your author humbly suggests that you, dear reader, will find it engaging, at times amusing, and … no … no… You must make what you will of that.
Murder & Miss Austen’s Ball will be availble at Amazon on December 16.
Ridge Kennedy’s day jobs have included set designer, university professor, newspaper reporter, tech writer, publisher, advertising/PR guy, IT specialist and more. His involvement in folk music began during the Great Folk Scare of the 1960s as a song leader. “I always wanted to grow up to be Pete Seeger,” he says. After discovering the world of traditional American and English Country Dance, he became a dance caller and has been the “dancing master” at hundreds of contra, square, English and other dances around the US. For more information visit www.ridgekennedy.com . Murder & Miss Austen’s Ball is his first novel.
Ridge Kennedy is offering one ebook copy of Murder & Miss Austen’s Ball during his blog tour. Leave a comment here to be in the drawing for one eBook copy. The giveaway is international and open until the 17th of December.
Good Luck Everyone!