Tell us about your latest work ~ Title, genre, etc. and why you wrote it.
Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen is the sequel to The Man Who Loved Jane Austen (2006/Kensington). Although I (we; my late husband and I collaborated on The Man Who Loved Jane Austen) never planned on writing a sequel, I had begun what I hoped would be a companion piece; a small journal ‘austensibily’;-) kept by Jane Austen chronicling the five days she spent with the American Mr. Darcy in the spring of 1810 whose trip through time was the premise for The Man Who Loved Jane Austen. At the end of one of the earliest entries I wrote “I wonder what Mr. Darcy is doing right now.” Before I knew it I was writing what was happening at the 21st century Darcy’s Virginia estate, Pemberley Farms and Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen was born.
What draws you to your genre? Why is this type of story compelling to you?
I do not write in a specific genre. My books are listed as general, contemporary and literary fiction. If there is a single thread that runs through my writing it is relationships; whether it be with lovers, friends, family and even pets. Often they are about how loss impacts those relationships.
What is your writing process like? Do you map the whole thing out or do you just let it unfold?
My late husband, with whom I collaborated on my first three published works, was my teacher, so from his lessons I create a base premise and start to write. No elaborate plan, no note cards, no outlines just the premise. I work on projects every day, whether actual writing, notes, research or editing. Sometimes I’ll write something and the next day wonder what I was thinking and toss it out but it may very well lead me in a direction I hadn’t considered before. Writing is a progression for me; I allow the story to take me where it wants to go rather than trying to force it into a set pattern or plan.
What kind of research was involved?
I wanted to capture the spirit of Jane Austen so I did some in depth research into her life, family and relationships using biographies, family journals and her letters. I wanted readers to feel as though they had stepped into Austen’s world so did much research into everyday life during the Georgian and Regency eras including the language. For the modern part of the story I studied horse breeding, then and now, as well as general equestrian information. A colleague whose husband breeds race horses help immensely in this area as I knew almost nothing of horses. Like Austen’s world I wanted readers to experience a Virginia horse breeding farm so some research into our colonial and federalist past was necessary as well.
How much of YOU makes it into your characters?
When I was working with Mike (my late husband) the central female characters tended to be a lot like me and the central male characters like Mike although I find that even now I continue to do that, so Eliza Knight, the heroine of Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen is a lot like me and my Mr. Darcy will always be Mike.
How do you balance the need to have time to write with the needs of family and society?
I suspect it is a bit easier for me than for a lot of people. While I do have a full time job (I’m a surgical scrub nurse at a cancer research facility), as a widowed senior citizen I have none of the day to day family concerns of younger authors. Writing has simply become a regular part of my day, a second job if you will.
Have there been any authors in particular, that inspired your writing?
Not really. Jane Austen’s writing inspired me to learn more about her which ultimately led to the creation of The Man Who Loved Jane Austen and then Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen. There are writers I enjoy reading but they don’t necessarily inspire what I do. Mike has and always will be my inspiration. Without his encouragement and teachings I never would have written any of the books.
Is there a story you want to tell behind or about your work?
The story behind Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen and the prequel is fairly involved, but the short version is after re-reading Austen’s six published novels (only four of which were published in her lifetime) I became fascinated by the author and how it was that in an era when women were considered not much more than chattel, she wrote strong, independent women (within the confines of her society) and men who loved the women because of those characteristics and not in spite of them.
My research into Jane Austen answered some of those questions but far from all. The Man Who Loved Jane Austen posits a possible answer to the question of what or who inspired Austen and Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen delves into the complex nature of the man who may have been Jane Austen’s muse.
What other projects are you currently working on or about to start?
I’m working on a project tentatively titled, Physician Heal Thyself. It’s the story of college sweethearts who meet again twenty years after graduation. But it’s not as simple as rekindling the spark when they discover that one of them is a reincarnated spirit.
On the back burner is another Jane Austen piece which will be the third and last. Also on the back burner is a ghost story set in San Francisco’s Chinatown and a fairy story set in the central coast California.
Could you share some of your marketing strategies? Which ones are the most effective in your opinion?
Marketing is an on-going learning process for me. My first three books were traditionally published and like most books were simply put out into the stores and left to their own devices. What promotion got done was largely done by me which was limited as I do work full time. I’m still working on how best to utilize the social networking systems.
I’ve been using the internet for a long time (I used to have a web-based company that sold the ingredients for homemade toiletries) but social networking and blogs are still relatively new to me so I have no actual strategy, I’ve been taking it one step at a time. I’ve done some blog hops and two blog blasts and this is my first official blog tour. I can’t really say what is most effective because I’ve not done any of it enough to know.
I am a contributor to a website called Austen Authors and that has been a huge help in reaching the Jane Austen fan base. However, I would like Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen to reach readers who are not necessarily Jane Austen fans. Most of what the industry calls Jane Austen Fan Fiction are sequels and prequels to Austen’s work or reworking the stories by adding vampires, zombies and the like. Enjoyment of Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen does not require an interest or knowledge of Austen or her works. In fact with Austen as a character both The Man Who Loved Jane Austen and Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen has inspired some readers to read Pride and Prejudice for the first time.
I have created four book trailers which I did mostly because it was a fun exercise but I am not yet convinced that trailers are a viable marketing tool. I’ve seen many trailers that are long and slow or loud and choppy which I suspect does not engage readers.
I’ve recently created a trailer for the newly released audio book of Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen which includes snippets of the wonderful narration done by Kendra Hoffman. I would like to know what your readers think of this trailer specifically and of trailers as a whole.
Ultimately it is what works to get the book out there and the answer to that is time. I will have to wait and see what works and what doesn’t.
What would be the top five things you would tell aspiring authors?
There’s only one thing you have to do if you want to be an author/writer ~ WRITE! Saying you want to be a writer or thinking about it won’t make it happen, you have to sit down and write. Treat it as a job and do it every day even if it’s a second job as it is for me.
Do you have a favorite line or scene from the book?
Actually I have several but for this I will use Chapter 20, Fitz Darcy and Eliza Knight are having an evening picnic near a lake on his estate. It is a transitional sequence where in the couple goes from wondering what their relationship is to making a plan. But mostly I just like the visuals it conjures.
Tell us about the inspiration for Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen.
Jane Austen herself was the inspiration for Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen. I was enamored of the author’s ability to create strong, independent women in a world where they were far and few between and men who wanted their women to be strong and intelligent.
Her creation of a man of wealth and stature who takes to heart the condemnation by a woman he considers his social inferior and looks into himself, determining that she was right and he could be a better person seemed far more contemporary than Regency era. So my husband and I created a possible scenario for what inspired Jane Austen when she wrote Pride and Prejudice.
What part of the book came to you first?
What ultimately became Chapter 5, shows what Darcy is doing present day as he analyzes his feelings for the two women in his life. It was what I wrote after the journal entry (mentioned earlier), “I wonder what Mr. Darcy is doing right now.”
How did you envision the plot of the book and what changed as you went through the planning, research and writing process?
The plot was simple, which of the two women Darcy loved would end up with him. That never changed although things around it did. I don’t really plan anything so nothing changed in that regard and research is an ongoing process while I write and sometimes something I read during the research will end up in the story somewhere. Often something as silly as a comment from someone will trigger an idea.
An example of that is the character (entirely fictional) of Lord Moore-Jeffries, the Earl of Lasham. He started out as a throw away character used simply because I liked the sound of the name. I used the name of a friend and when he read the page with his name he wanted to know if the character could kill someone. I told him that it wasn’t a political thriller or murder mystery (his preferred reading material). However, the conversation triggered the idea of a duel so now Lord Moore-Jeffries tells Jane the story of avenging his young sister’s honor in a duel, ultimately killing the blackguard. The chance that I would have come up with that scenario is remote but thanks to Dr. Moore-Jeffries it became an important aspect of the story.
You obviously did extensive research for this novel: what are some of your most useful or favorite sources that you’d recommend to others?
I love history and researching so I did much more than was necessary as I never tire of learning. I particularly enjoyed Jane Austen’s letters because they were her conversational words and gave me a very good picture of who she was and it was the spirit in her letters that I tried to instill in the character in Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen. There was one book that was fun to read called What Jane Austen ate and Charles Dickens knew by Daniel Pool.
Please open your book at a random page and tell us the first paragraph…
Mansfield Park lay on the seat beside her. It was the novel Mr. Darcy had told her about while it was still only an idea. As ludicrous as it seemed at the time, his knowledge of the details of the story she had yet to start coupled with his clothing, which had zippers and elastic, as well as a watch that talked certainly gave credence to his claim of coming from the future. His description of the future with societal upheavals giving women independence of mind and person were proven by his treatment of her.Thank you Sally for an interesting interview. For those who wish to enter the drawing for a free copy of Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen Go to:Book Giveaways
Staring at her image in the dressing table mirror, Jane turned her head to the right and then to the left, assessing the different profiles. She was not homely, she supposed, but her sister Cassie was the pretty one in the family with her bright, clear complexion and eyes the colour of a summer sky.
She touched the cool glass; Darcy had taken notice and complimented her many times when she had stopped wearing her dust cap. Almost everyone she knew considered her dark, curly hair her best feature, and she had wanted him to see it glistening in the morning sun. But he had said her best feature was her eyes. Although the golden flecks made them seem almost honey coloured, it was the fire of intelligence he saw there that made her one of the most beautiful women of his acquaintance, and she suspected there were many women. For a man to admire her mind, her curiosity and her talent and consider her beautiful because of them had been a heady experience, indeed.
She looked over her shoulder and glanced around the room. Assured that she was alone she reached behind the mirror and extracted the small packet of letters. She read the one he had sent her just before his departure.
May 12th, 1810
The Captain has found me out. I am being forced to go into hiding immediately. But if I am able, I shall still be waiting at the same spot tonight. Then you will know everything you wish to know.
The audio book with Kendra Hoffman wonderful narration is now available at Audible.com, Amazon and iTunes
Trade paperback available at Amazon and eBooks available pretty much everywhere.