Oct 302009
 

AuthorInterview

Austenesque Reviews is pleased to welcome Monica Fairview, who has kindly answered some questions of mine about writing, Jane Austen, and her novel The Other Mr. Darcy. Thank you so very much, Monica, for your time and participation in this interview.

It’s wonderful being here on this website. If there’s anybody who knows about Austenesque Sequels, it’s, you Meredith. You have been tirelessly making lists and writing reviews for some time now, and I think it’s great that you have decided to set up your own blog.

Where and when did you first discover Jane Austen? What is your favorite thing about Jane Austen and her novels?

I discovered Jane Austen at school when I was about 14. My English teacher was really into Pride and Prejudice, and she used to love reading it to us. She was particularly good at playing Mrs Bennet, and she played the role very dramatically. I can still hear her in my head now, after all these years. I loved that class. That’s really when my interest in Jane Austen was born.

My favorite thing about Jane Austen, surprisingly, isn’t the romance, though of course I love that. It’s her cast of characters, particularly in Pride and Prejudice. I love every one of them because they’re so wonderfully written!

I understand you spent some time as a literature professor. Can you tell us about your teaching experiences? What type of literature did you teach?

It’s easier to tell you what I didn’t teach because I taught a whole range, from Beowulf to 20th century African literature. For some reason I was given lots of different courses to teach. I didn’t teach some of the biggies, such as Milton and Chaucer. But having taught the history of British literature I covered a lot of writers. My area of specialty, though, was twentieth century British, and my focus was cultural studies.

As for teaching, I was always passionate about helping people realize that reading is an individual act, and that there are as many interpretations of a writer as there are people reading it. We all bring our life experiences into our reading and react accordingly. Many students come in and want to be told what to think about a particular writer. There is, of course, the historical background that people should know, but otherwise I always presented my interpretations as my own. The only thing I asked of people was that they could show me proof in the text.

Did you do anything to prepare for writing The Other Mr. Darcy? Was it difficult writing a novel that takes place during the Regency time period?

My first novel, An Improper Suitor, is a Regency romance, and so I’d already immersed myself in the Regency world. I’ve been reading traditional regencies for years, and I’ve read a great deal about the period and about Jane Austen. You could say I’ve been preparing to write regencies for a very long time.

But yes, you’d be amazed how much research goes into some of the small details. And then you have to really get into Jane Austen’s world and understand how things work there, because some of what we know about the Regency period focuses on London Society, especially the upper crust. You know the saying history is written by the victors? What we know of societies before the Industrial Revolution is skewed by the fact that those who knew how to read and write were a minority, and so we see the world through their eyes. But even within that group, you have a lot of differences. The rules for the landed gentry in the country are not necessarily the same as for those who lived in London. And there isn’t always agreement on the details.

For example, a short while ago there was a discussion about the hour for breakfast in the Regency period which involved researcher Nancy Meyer and a number of others, and it quickly became apparent that not only was it different in the country vs. Town, but it also differed according to economic status. The same was true of mourning customs and whether women attended funerals or not.

In many senses, it’s easier to research the Victorian period, which had much clearer rules and standards than the Regency, especially because more people could read, and so books became a way of standardizing acceptable behavior, especially for women, and these standards got picked up by the new middle class, so they became more widespread.

You only have to see the radical difference in clothing between the Georgian heavy fabrics and the sheer muslins of the Regency to appreciate that Regency society was very much a period of change and upheaval.

Tell us about Mr. Robert Darcy, the hero of your novel. Understandably you didn’t want to make him too similar to his English cousin, Fitzwilliam Darcy. How did you go about creating this new and different Mr. Darcy?

Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy was completely wrong for Caroline. Anyone can see that. If he remained as arrogant as he was at the beginning, they would have both have continued to feed on each other’s sense of superiority, and both ended up as really obnoxious beings. Luckily for Mr Darcy, Elizabeth came along. I thought really long and hard about who would be able to change Caroline, and it came to me it had to be someone who would be socially acceptable, but who didn’t follow the rules. Caroline needed to be jolted out of her complacency and made to see herself from an outsider’s perspective. Eventually it struck me that her Mr Darcy had to be American. And then it took off from there.

Which is more challenging: writing about characters already established or writing about one you created?

Oh, no question about it. Writing about characters already established, particularly if the characters are from Jane Austen. People are very familiar with Austen’s people, so you’d better not decide to go off and do your own thing!

The truth is, if you’re going to write a tribute to Jane Austen, you had better respect what she did. For one thing, you can’t improve on her characters, because no-one can equal her skill, let alone do it better. For another, why use Jane Austen characters if you want to write something else? The whole point is to try and keep the characters as close to the original as possible, while at the same time allowing them to react to different situations. This is tremendously difficult. I can only say that I’ve learned so much from the process.

So, to answer your question, starting with your own characters is sooo much simpler. But I love JA’s people too much to mind the restrictions they impose on my writing. It’s such a pleasure to re-inhabit their world.

There are many amusing and clever scenes in your book. What scene did you have the most fun writing?

Thank you, Meredith. The scene I enjoyed the most was the scene where Caroline drinks a bit too much sherry. I had a lot of fun with that.

Sourcebooks, Inc. publishes a lot of Jane Austen sequels and Austen inspired fiction, how was it working with a publishing company that deals with a lot of “Austenesque” novels? What are the advantages?

I’m lucky with both my publishers. Robert Hale has published traditional British-style Regencies (slower, more historically based than their US equivalents) since the 1970s, and there’s very little that my Hale editor Gill doesn’t know about that time period, and she’s a stickler. And of course at Sourcebooks Deb Werksman certainly knows her Jane Austen and her Regency era social history, as well as being familiar with all the other Austeneque writings. Consequently, I can feel secure that, between the two of them, my historical details have been carefully filtered. And at Sourcebooks you also have a team of hardworking people who are all familiar with the sequels, and know what to expect.

Another advantage is that there is a certain built-in audience that knows immediately when a new novel is out. Sourcebooks *is* the source for Jane Austen sequels, so it’s great to fit right in.

The disadvantage, of course, is that the competition is tough! But I suppose it’s tough anyway, for all writers.

Do you have any advice for any aspiring authors?

I’m a reader for the Romance Novelists’ Association in the UK, and we have a wonderful scheme called the New Writers’ Scheme in which those of us who are published critique unpublished writers’ work to help them along. From what I’ve seen, I would recommend two things:

The first is to remember that writing is a craft. You wouldn’t expect to become a carpenter by taking an axe and felling trees. You need to put the time in to learn the basic skills like characterization, plot and style, then you have to learn how to fine-tune these skills, and then you have to find your voice and learn to apply your skills to that new-found voice. There is no easy way to learn this, except to write and write and throw away a lot of things you’ve written until you realize one day that finally, you’ve worked out how to do this. Of course, workshops, online advice and critique groups are very important in this process, too.

The second essential advice I’d give to an aspiring writer is to be willing to accept criticism and learn from it. This is very tough, because we’re all very defensive about what we write. After all, it’s all very subjective, isn’t it? And to make this doubly difficult, not all criticism is actually helpful. There are always people who inflate their self-worth by criticizing others. But you have to be able to step back from what you’re doing and assess what your critic is saying, honestly and objectively. I’ve seen writers who have a lot of potential ignore criticism, and keep making the same mistakes over and over. If you do that, you end up never learning to write properly.

I think learning how to write requires a strange mix of humility, being able to take in on the jaw, and sheer hardheaded stubbornness.

What is next for you? Is there another book in the works?

My next novel, The Darcy Cousins, is coming out next spring, and is a lighter, “more sparkling novel” focusing mainly on Georgiana.

Meanwhile, my editor has given me the thumbs up for my next project, another Austenesque novel, but I can’t say anything more than that yet.

Thank you, Monica for your inisghtful answers and for taking the time to participate in this interview.  Best of luck with the release of The Other Mr. Darcy and I the publication of your next book, The Darcy Cousins!

 

The Other Mr. Darcy

The Other Mr. Darcy

Did you know that Mr. Darcy had an American cousin?!

In this highly original Pride and Prejudice sequel by British author Monica Fairview, Caroline Bingley is our heroine. Caroline is sincerely broken-hearted when Mr. Darcy marries Lizzy Bennet— that is, until she meets his charming and sympathetic American cousin…

Mr. Robert Darcy is as charming as Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy is proud, and he is stunned to find the beautiful Caroline weeping at his cousin’s wedding. Such depth of love, he thinks, is rare and precious. For him, it’s nearly love at first sight. But these British can be so haughty and off-putting. How can he let the young lady, who was understandably mortified to be discovered in such a vulnerable moment, know how much he feels for and sympathizes with her?

 

Austenesque Reviews is very happy to be hosting its very first GIVEAWAY!  Thanks to the lovely people at Sourcebooks, I have one wonderful copy of The Other Mr. Darcy to give away to my readers! (US and Canada only)

You can enter the giveaway by commenting on this post with a question for Monica Fairview OR a comment about which other Austen “bad girl” you’d like to see transform into a likeable heroine.

*To have your name entered twice, become a follower of my blog (if you are already a follower, you will automatically be entered twice).

**To have your name entered three times, post, sidebar, facebook or tweet about this giveaway (please let me know if you did this).

This contest will end November 11th.  Thank you for entering and best of luck!!!

Follow My Reviews!

No spam guarantee.

  30 Responses to “Interview + Giveaway with Author Monica Fairview”

  1.  

    What a great interview! I’m so looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of this book!

    I don’t know how it would be possible to transform her into someone more likable, since she’s such a snobby, selfish thing, but I’ve always wondered what happened to Anne’s older sister Elizabeth in Persuasion.

  2.  

    I really did enjoy reading this interview and thank you to Monica for taking the time to answer the questions. And especially thanks for your comments about using the characters of Jane Austen but then using them in ways that author never intended. That has been a personal mantra for me ever since I read my first Austen variation.

    Most readers of Pride and Prejudice thoroughly dislike Caroline Bingley. My question for Monica is: What was it about her basic character that made you want to “redeem” her? What did you see in her that most of us seem to have missed?

  3.  

    Such an interesting interview! The idea of providing Caroline with such a transformative experience is intriguing.

    As a fellow writer, I loved the observation that writing (and improving one’s writing) requires “sheer, hardheaded stubbornness.” I’m always curious to hear what another novelist’s writing schedule looks like.
    My questions are:
    What does a typical day in the writing life look like for you? Is there anything you find helpful for structuring your writing time?
    Thank you!

  4.  

    what a great interview!!!! I really want to get my hands on this book it looks awesome! to answer the question, Which “bad girl” I’d like to see in a new light? Believe it or not I’m curious about Catherine De Bourgh surely she’s a sour old woman for a reason? how was she when she was younger? 🙂
    maybe she was nicer when she was young? perhaps something must have happened to make her this way.

    pls enter me into the giveaway! 🙂

    sensitivemuse at gmail dot com

  5.  

    Which other Austen “bad girl” would I like to see redeemed? Lady Catherine de Bourgh, but no one’s going to do that. 😀 Still, I think it would be a real challenge.

    Very informative interview, and it’s made me want to read The Other Mr Darcy!

    Marian

    mdperera at hotmail dot com

  6.  

    Many thanks to Meredith for having me here, and to you all for dropping in for a visit.

    Marian, okbolover, Lady Catherine would be quite something to get to know, wouldn’t she? And Katy, it would be a lot of fun looking at Elizabeth Elliot. Hard to imagine getting inside either of their heads!

    Judy: There were a number of things that got me interested in Caroline as a character. The fact that Mr Darcy has no problem having her around for one. Because even after he had been “reformed” and was in love with Elizabeth, he still invited her to spend time in Pemberley. There must have been something good in her, or how would he put up with her. He’s not obliged to invite her along with Bingley. Another is that she’s Bingley’s sister, and we don’t see any sign of dissonance between then. Bingley seems perfectly content being around her. He disagrees with her, as he disagrees with Mr Darcy, but it never develops into irritation or frustration. If she was so nasty, surely there would have been signs of it. There are other little things like this that set me thinking.

    One of the crucial ones is that even Elizabeth gives her the benefit of the doubt at the beginning of Chapter 45, when she says “Convinced as Elizabeth now was that Miss Bingley’s dislike of her had originated in jealousy, she could not help feeling how very unwelcome her (Lizzy’s) appearance at Pemberley must be to her.” I felt that Elizabeth now recognizes that, in a sense, Caroline was entitled to resent her.

    These and several other things that didn’t add up made me feel I needed to get to know Caroline better. And, of course, the biggest is that I couldn’t help feeling sorry for her when Mr Darcy was stolen from right under her nose after all the effort she put into securing him.

    Cheryl, in some senses structure is built into my day because I have a school-age kid that needs to be picked up and dropped off. Disciplining myself is very difficult. The only way is by setting impossible goals for myself and so being forced to constantly push on. When I’m seriously writing, I won’t allow myself to do anything else unless, for example, I’ve drafted a whole chapter. No e-mails, no facebook, no lunch, no phone conversations. Not until I’ve finished.

    But the truth is, I do waste a lot of time. I like to think of it as time in which my ideas are brewing, and to some extent it’s true. On the other hand, there are times when every word is an effort, and staying in my seat requires all my willpower. I wrote quite a lot about my typical day on Bloody Bad Book http://www.trinsnook.blogspot.com
    so I won’t say any more about it here.

  7.  

    Lady Catherine?!? Excellent idea!! I never would have thought of choosing her as a heroine. I definitely want to read a book that gives us an in-depth look at her psyche!

  8.  

    Thanks for the great interview – I really enjoyed reading it and look forward to reading Mr. Darcy’s Cousin.

    The Austen “bad girl” I’d like to see transformed is Maria Bertram. Maria, like Fanny, is a product of her times and I think she deserved better than Mr. Rushworth.

    A

  9.  

    Oops, I meant The Other Mr. Darcy – too many things on my mind at the moment!

    A

  10.  

    I’ve always wanted to see Mary Crawford redeemed! She is probably my favorite character in Mansfield Park.

    On my right sidebar is a link to this giveaway: http://christysbooks.blogspot.com/

    runaway84(at)gmail.com

  11.  

    All I can think of is Caroline Bingley, I find her character to be a snob of sort but there is something there, I am sure

  12.  

    Monica, thank you so much for your insight into Carolyn Bingley. See, that is one of the things which push you toward writing and leaves me firmly in the “reader” category. I take what is written on the page and don’t move very far away from it, but you obviously do. Usually that is. With Austen it seems that I think more about her characters than those presented in more modern books.

    I realize that she isn’t a “bad” girl, but I would love to see someone with your talent take on Fanny from Mansfield Park. For some reason she just leaves me absolutely unmoved. Although, that would be such a profound variation I don’t know if you would be interested in attempting that one.

  13.  

    I also wanted to mention that I’m now a follower w/Google Friend Connect and I just tweeted the giveaway: http://twitter.com/afewmorepages/statuses/5607627979

    srfbluemama at gmail dot com

  14.  

    I also wanted to mention that I’m now a follower w/Google Friend Connect and I just tweeted the giveaway: http://twitter.com/afewmorepages/statuses/5607627979

    srfbluemama at gmail dot com

  15.  

    In reviewing Jane Austen’s “bad” girls, I found Jane Austen’s juvenile work The Beautiful Cassandra depicts Jane’s explicit reaction to the conduct books of the late eighteenth century. Cassandra’s ”day well spent” engaged in all manner of “bad” behaviors for young ladies. With your writing skills, it would be interesting to see how Cassandra could be turned from the “bad” woman fighting against society’s values (not that the values of that society were acceptable. Perhaps the values should be varied to allow Cassandra to fit in better?). Just some rambling thoughts.

    bstilwell12 at comcast dot net

  16.  

    In reviewing Jane Austen’s “bad” girls, I found Jane Austen’s juvenile work The Beautiful Cassandra depicts Jane’s explicit reaction to the conduct books of the late eighteenth century. Cassandra’s ”day well spent” engaged in all manner of “bad” behaviors for young ladies. With your writing skills, it would be interesting to see how Cassandra could be turned from the “bad” woman fighting against society’s values (not that the values of that society were acceptable. Perhaps the values should be varied to allow Cassandra to fit in better?). Just some rambling thoughts.

    bstilwell12 at comcast dot net

  17.  

    I am follower of your blog.

    bstilwell12 at comcast dot net

  18.  

    I tweeted about this giveaway:

    http://twitter.com/pine1211/status/5610256621

    bstilwell12 at comcast dot net

  19.  

    I tweeted about this giveaway:

    http://twitter.com/pine1211/status/5610256621

    bstilwell12 at comcast dot net

  20.  

    Barb, thanks for the suggestion about The Beautiful Cassandra. It would be fascinating to do something of that sort — to take JA’s rules for “bad behavior” and translate them into a new character. Something to think about.

    Judy, I’m not sure there is a way to rewrite Fanny without going against Jane Austen’s way of representing her. She’s a puzzle, isn’t she? Not at all JA’s typical heroine. Christy, Mary Crawford would make for a very interesting study, I agree, as would Maria Bertram (Anonymous). There’s a lot going on in Mansfield Park, with several rebellious women in there breaking away from society. I sometimes wonder if JA felt pressured to write about a more “virtuous” female character, but then balanced it out by having more than one who was not. What do you think?

  21.  

    That is a very interesting idea, Monica. Honestly, Mansfield Park is my least favorite Austen, and I find it hard to like the uber-virtuous Fanny Price even after several reads and discussions. Also, while not condoning what Mary Crawford, Maria or Julia did, I do feel a bit of empathy for them. I understand that Mansfield Park is more about virtue than anything else, but to me, it is the one JA that reveals the limitations of Regency society, particularly for women.

    Another character whose point of view I would like to see written is Isabella Thorpe, though there seems to be very little to redeem about her. I just like Northanger Abbey very much!

    A

  22.  

    That is a very interesting idea, Monica. Honestly, Mansfield Park is my least favorite Austen, and I find it hard to like the uber-virtuous Fanny Price even after several reads and discussions. Also, while not condoning what Mary Crawford, Maria or Julia did, I do feel a bit of empathy for them. I understand that Mansfield Park is more about virtue than anything else, but to me, it is the one JA that reveals the limitations of Regency society, particularly for women.

    Another character whose point of view I would like to see written is Isabella Thorpe, though there seems to be very little to redeem about her. I just like Northanger Abbey very much!

    A

  23.  

    I would really like to see bad girl Lydia Bennett transformed into a likeable character, as she is full of such energy and spunk albeit channeled in the wrong direction!

    Please enter me in this giveaway.

    saemmerson at yahoo dot com

    Sarah Emmerson

  24.  

    I would really like to see bad girl Lydia Bennett transformed into a likeable character, as she is full of such energy and spunk albeit channeled in the wrong direction!

    Please enter me in this giveaway.

    saemmerson at yahoo dot com

    Sarah Emmerson

  25.  

    I follow your blog.

    saemmerson at yahoo dot com

    Sarah Emmerson

  26.  

    I follow your blog.

    saemmerson at yahoo dot com

    Sarah Emmerson

  27.  

    I tweeted:

    http://twitter.com/saemmerson/status/5631947745

    saemmerson at yahoo dot com

    Sarah Emmerson

  28.  

    I tweeted:

    http://twitter.com/saemmerson/status/5631947745

    saemmerson at yahoo dot com

    Sarah Emmerson

  29.  

    Enjoyed the interview, and I will look forward to reading this book. Monica, I am curious about your favorite non-Austen authors among *recent* books. There are so many and I have had one or two bad experiences.

  30.  

    Sarah, Lydia Bennet gets a very thorough treatment by Jane Odiwe in Lydia Bennet’s Story.

    CLM — ah, that’s a hard question, because I’m a very eclectic reader. Did you mean any specific genre? Recently I enjoyed Julia Gregson’s East of the Sun, C J Sansom’s Winter in Madrid, Barbara Ewing’s Rosetta, and Kathleen Kent’s Heretic’s Daughter.

    Congratulations to Christy for winning!

Your conversation and participation is always welcome, please feel free to "have your share."

%d bloggers like this: