I am pleased to welcome Susan Andrews at From Pemberley to Milton today.
Ms Andrews has just released the second book in the Camp Jane Series and has agreed to answer a few of my questions about it. I really enjoyed the first book of the series (check my review if you want to know why), so I am looking forward to read the second installment.
If there is anything you’d like to know about this book, please do not hesitate to comment and ask Ms Andrews. I am sure she will love replying to all your questions, plus you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to enter the giveaway 🙂
Welcome Ms. Andrews, it is a pleasure to welcome you here at From Pemberley to Milton. I always like to know more about the authors who are visiting, and this is our very first interview, so I would like to start by asking you to tell us a little about yourself.
Hi, Rita. It’s a treat to be here. I grew up in the Chicago area then moved to Oklahoma where I had a job I loved for over 30 years working in the Education Department of a residential psychiatric hospital for children and teens. First I was afraid, I was petrified…no, wait. That’s a song. First, I was a TEACHER (also petrified but I got over it) then an administrator and later a school psychologist. After I retired in 2019, my journalist hubby and I moved to Roatan, Honduras where we do a lot of volunteering and work online as ghost writers and indie publishers of out of print books.
There is such an interesting journey! I have to ask, have you ever heard about ghost writing in JAFF? Or is that an area that hasn’t reached JAFF yet?
It probably happens but we haven’t personally done any JAFF ghostwriting. There would likely be a market, especially among JAFF writers for whom English is a second language if someone wants to try it.
I would personally would love to know more about ghost writing, but I’ll leave that to another time, for now, I would like to focus on JAFF. How did you discovered it? Why did you decided to start writing in the genre?
During COVID, Honduras had a hard lockdown where we could only leave the house twice a month for about a year. So I spent some time re-reading my favorite humo(u)rists, Austen and P.G. Wodehouse, and finding the Jane Austen Fan Club and other JA boards online. After seeing some JAFF stories advertised there, I dipped my toe into a few extensions and variations and was pleasantly surprised. About the same time, some of my ghostwritten work found some success, used by a nonprofit as a voiceover in a video ad. It gave me confidence and helped me have the courage to write under my own name.
Your first JAFF Book, Camp Jane, was a Jane Austen Inspired novel that involved many Janeites getting together and living the time of their lives. I’ve read and reviewed it here at From Pemberley to Milton, but in case our readers have missed the review, would you care to tell us what the book is about and how you got inspired to write it?
I loved the Jane Austen community! They are such proud bookworms and unafraid to embrace the fact that they are viewed as a bit quirky by the non-Janeite world. Huzzah, say they! We care not! It occurred to me, hey, WE are the real story here! Sure, we’re quirky but also a great brother-and-sisterhood of humans, too. I’ve always loved the Austen movie adaptations along with British sitcoms. And when I saw the “Austenland” concept where Austen-obsessed readers go on a scripted holiday. I thought, hey, let’s take it to the next level! Let’s have ALL of Austen’s storylines play out simultaneously in a lush resort where Pemberley is just a few steps from Northanger Abbey and Highbury! And if those storylines were role-played by modern folks who were actually temperamentally SIMILAR to Lizzy Bennet and Darcy and Henry Tilney and Willoughby, it would be a big Austen mashup. Hilarious hijinks would ensue, right? Camp Jane, the ultimate Austen destination where we can all go play, was born.
I’ve mentioned in my review at the time that you were one of the best authors I’ve read who added diversity into JAFF because it felt completely natural. Was it a conscious decision to do so?
I really appreciated your thoughts on that. I’ll just say this: if it’s natural, it’s probably because I SEE it as natural. Janeites are a very diverse group nowadays, wonderfully so. Once you see bloggers like “Black Girl Loves Jane” from the US (also those with indigenous roots and Latinx bloggers,) along with Spanish-language JAFF writers and Austen fans from India, Australia, Canada, the UK and the Carribean islands, those ARE the folks that would be applying to role-play or visit at a modern day Camp Jane resort. You and I would visit, right, Rita? So Portugal and Central America would be represented! It was the only way to write the modern Janeite story, in my view.
That is a great way of putting it! And it also gives us the idea of the reach JAFF can have, do you know if your audience is spread through the world of if they are mainly US and UK based readers despite their origins?
I’ve gotten a few sales in Australia and Canada in addition to the US and the UK and I’ve corresponded with a wonderful fan in India and a friend from Jamaica. But it has been extremely difficult to market in scattered markets like the Caribbean and equally difficult in large population areas like India. With Humorous International JAFF being a rare (and by “rare” I mean nonexistent) demographic category, it’s been difficult to know how to get my book in front of people who would enjoy it, especially overseas.
Now you’re releasing book 2, and I was expecting to see a different set of characters in it, but we will have recurring characters from book 1. How is that possible? Why are these characters returning to Camp Jane?
Oh, but the fun has just begun with the characters we met last time! Book One was just the winning role-players TRAINING WEEK. Now in Book Two, the quirky Janeite tourists arrive and they are TONS of fun. With their permission, I used tourist names that many Janeites will recognize since they are actual people from the Jane Austen online discussion groups. One really hip Janeite said that using actual people in the story is very “meta.” It sounds incredibly cool so I keep saying it. Camp Jane Book Two is totally “meta.” (See? Cool, right?)
After having received training, and now that they know what to expect at Camp Jane, which new situations will these characters face?
The storylines begin so our role-players now have all their offstage antics between scenes of real Austen canon. Main character Maggie to figure out whether she wants a handsome but stiff Darcy or her super funny best friend Henry Tilney for a romantic partner. (Lots of us have had to walk through that minefield. And by the way, why can’t one person be funny AND handsome, hmm?) And there is a new mystery afoot at the Northanger Abbey site so we get a taste of gothic fun, too while the peril our Maggie/Lizzy faces might be fictional but might be very real, too.
That sounds exciting! Will there be a tourist with a particular importance in this book? Or is the action centered around the actors?
Everyone contributes something! But as the plot developed, I found that my (imaginary) wild school librarians club, headed by a very real and delightfully imaginative school librarian named Laura Vranes from Omaha, were just who were needed at a critical moment to HELP the actors. (The librarians are introduced in the excerpt.) And two real Janeites, both named Jen, create a strategy that the librarians implement. A real child therapist is right there to hear a critical piece of evidence from a child character. Even a blogger makes an offstage cameo. It’s not you, though, Rita. Maybe you can visit in Book 3!
I would love to visit it in real life, but fiction will work too 😉 You’ve mentioned before that Austen’s humour is a characteristic you appreciate, is that something you try to add to your novels?
Life can be pretty grim, but it is also packed with irony and the hilarious juxtaposition of serious things with ridiculous things. Better to laugh than cry is my view. I think Austen felt that way, too. One of my favorite quotes is from a letter where she said: “I could not sit seriously down to write a serious Romance under any other motive than to save my life, & if it were indispensable for me to keep it up & never relax into laughing at myself or other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first chapter.” I feel the same way. If writing has to be all angsty, yikes. As Monty Pythonites might say, “what’s the sport in that?”
Spot On! But do you find it easy? I’ve read a few books where Lizzy’s wit or humour weren’t achieved, is that something you’ve struggled with? Is there any method that can help you overcome that type of difficulties, if they exist?
I don’t say my every attempt is pure gold, but I’ve been a smart aleck and a student of humor for a long time now, soaking in comedic structure and timing from sitcoms when I was just a wee kiddo and later from humorist authors. So it’s pretty much who I am every day, not just when I sit down to write. It’s all about taking normal daily things and putting it alongside (or ratcheting it up to) something ridiculous. Like in Austen’s quote, she’s being forced to write “seriously” on pain of death but oh no, she can’t keep from laughing so she has to be hung! I think a writer can learn to be “humor aware” and spice their works with sprinkles of humor at regular intervals like good speakers do. But with Austen, that wry humor is a constant undercurrent and I think that is simply about how one sees the absurdities of the world around us. The old joke about how many psychologists it takes to change a lightbulb applies here. It only takes one, but the bulb really has to WANT to change. If a writer really wants to BE more funny, they must learn to SEE more funny.
You know I’ve been an enthusiast of turning this book into a series from the beginning, is that what we’re seeing here? Does this mean we will also have book 3? If so, will the characters remain the same?
Yes! Once you’ve got two, count ’em TWO, books, HUZ to the ZAH, it’s a series, I’m told. And yes, Book Three is definitely planned and germinating on my computer even now. There’s a teaser at the end of Book Two that lays the groundwork for Book Three. So your wishes are coming true, Rita. We all get to play at Camp Jane for another funny round. One, two, three, Camp Jane, y’all!
We’re librarians … so … We’ll catalogue you … yeah … Before we crush you … uh huh… That’s how we rolllllllllll … YEAH!”
The quirky Janeite guests, including a raucous band of librarians, have arrived at Camp Jane, doubling both the laughs and the troubles for the character players at the Austen-themed Regency Resort. Not only must Maggie (Lizzy Bennet) unexpectedly play two of Austen’s favorite fictional characters but behind the scenes, she must also decide between two real-life suitors, the handsome, brooding Will (Mr. Darcy) or her fun-loving friend, Henry (Mr. Tilney.) With a mystery afoot at gothic Northanger Abbey that puts Maggie in real peril, can the castmates work together to sort out fact from fiction before it’s too late?
You can find Camp Jane Book Two at:
“Chapter Six of Camp Jane Book Two: Double Trouble for Lizzy”Meanwhile, on the croquet field behind Netherfield…
“What on earth?” Maggie exclaimed, peering through the trees as she set the hand brake on the golf cart. “They can’t all be staying at Netherfield, can they? There must be forty women out there. I can’t be seen at Netherfield until I come in later, you know, with the muddy hem. I’ll have to text Janie.” Glancing around, she pulled out her colorful phone and started tapping. “Netherfield only got the overflow, thank God,” Darcy explained. “It’s a school librarians’ club from Nebraska. They rent out all the singles rooms at the Highbury Emma location for a sort of girls’ bacchanal at the end of every school year. Rather famous for going a bit wild.” Maggie walked closer and peered out through the trees. The ladies seemed to be having a grand time indeed, many with at least one mimosa glass in hand. A ragged cheerleading squad was standing near Jane and Bingley’s bench, for example, shouting aggressively and taking cues from a de facto head cheerleader. “That’s their queen, a woman named Laura Vranes from Omaha,” Darcy whispered, pointing at the leader. The dark-haired lady’s dress was exquisitely decorated with lines from Austen’s works printed along the hem. “That headband in her hair … is it made out of donuts?” Maggie asked, tilting her head. “I love it. Eccentric, but also delicious, right?” “Yummy,” Darcy said glumly. Under Ms. Vranes’ tutelage, the cheerleaders were now performing a coordinated routine with lots of hip shaking and finger-wagging directed toward the opposing players. “We’re librarians … so … We’ll catalogue you … yeah … Before we crush you … uh huh… That’s how we rolllllllllll … YEAH!” “Well,” Maggie observed, “they don’t seem too wild.” “Maybe not yet,” Darcy replied dubiously. “But they stole a gnome last year, you know.” Maggie looked at him uncertainly. “I’m sorry, they did what?” “Stole … a … gnome,” Darcy enunciated clearly. “A three-foot-tall statue from the garden maze over at Northanger. Said it’s their mascot. Put a top hat on it, took it to the Meryton Distillery and bought it drinks all night, which of course, they had to consume. Lady Catherine was not amused.” Maggie snickered. “I like ‘em already. But I’ve got to get Jane and get going, like, now, and she’s not hearing her texts.” She waved her phone at him in frustration. “Please, Darcy, go get her for me.” “What, in that mob?” Darcy said with alarm. “Do you know what they named their pet gnome? My Little Darcy! Can you imagine what they’d do to the original? No, thank you!” “Look, you’ve got to mingle with the guests. That’s part of your role. You don’t have to like it, you know. The real Darcy would have hated it. So, hey. Show your disdain or whatever but go get Janie. Please, Will. We’re so late.” “It’s not safe!” Darcy remonstrated. “Look at the sheer numbers!” Maggie inhaled to tell Darcy what a complete wimp he was being but just then a heavy ball clunked noisily into the golf cart behind them and rolled onto the ground with a muffled thump. The younger Engelvardt daughter Dora, she of the many curtsies, entered the woods a few seconds later, awkwardly lugging a mallet with a handle taller than she was, clearly looking for something. “Uh-oh,” Maggie murmured. “You and I are not supposed to be here but I think we’re busted.”
Ms Andrews would like to offer one ebook copy of Camp Jane Book 2 to one of my readers, to apply to the giveaway all you have to do is leave a comment below and let us know what you think of this idea. And if you’d like to start your adventure with book 1 first, you can find it on Kindle Unlimited and currently on sale for 0,99$ on Amazon.
The giveaway is open until the 8th of July and the winner will be announced shortly after that.
Good luck everyone!