Hi, Linda! Thank you so much for stopping by Austenesque Reviews for a little tête-à-tête! I greatly enjoyed your new novel, The Red Chrysanthemum, and I am so happy to have you visit Austenesque Reviews on your blog tour! How about we begin by talking about what was the inspiration behind your new release, The Red Chrysanthemum?
My inspiration can only be called a “perfect storm” of aligning factors. The 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice was very influential, and I’m not just talking about Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth! This version has a brilliant screenplay, and the “outdoorsiness” of it—with so much action taking place in gardens or the countryside—struck a chord. The scenes are bright, and other than Rosings, the interior spaces are cheerful. There is nothing dark about this adaptation, just as I find nothing dark about Jane Austen’s novel. I also found myself asking more questions as I reread Pride and Prejudice, and after reading a lot of Austenesque novels, I found the courage to answer my questions for myself. Then I had to work up even more courage to ask Meryton Press to publish it!
So glad you were able to summon your courage on both occasions, Linda! In your Acknowledgements you mention two Austenesque novels by name – What Would Mr. Darcy Do? by Abigail Reynolds and Confessions of Fitzwilliam Darcy by Mary Street. That’s wonderful that you were inspired to write your own novel after reading these works! What types of Austenesque novels do you enjoy reading? What do you love about the Austenesque genre?
The more what-ifs of Pride and Prejudice I read, the more I know what I like. I started out, in September 2011, reading Abigail Reynolds and quickly blew through everything she’d written to that point. Then I picked up most of the other major authors. Mary Street’s Confessions… seems to have been a one off. She didn’t write anything else, but I loved the way she seamlessly worked her vision of Darcy into the original novel. The novels I have bought and kept are light-hearted. Generally I prefer the what-ifs to the sequels. Excessive angst does not entertain me, as I am definitely reading to relax and escape into the Regency world. I appreciate novels that are thoroughly researched, and also those giving us both Darcy and Elizabeth’s thoughts. Novels introducing a host of new characters put me off a bit, as I find our dear couple endlessly fascinating. And clever authentic use of the language is always a plus!
Obviously I don’t mind a little physical affection in a story, shall we say, after Elizabeth and Darcy marry. If they anticipate their vows I am usually disappointed, especially if Elizabeth is the moving party. That just doesn’t ring true for me. Having said that, I do like to know they are felicitously married, by any definition.
I don’t think I could ever get tired of watching Darcy and Elizabeth fall in love with each other! Speaking of…I greatly enjoyed how Darcy and Elizabeth communicated with the language of flowers in this novel, and I loved learning about different flowers and their meanings. I bet it was a lot of fun to do research for those scenes and conversations! Did you learn anything interesting or surprising?
When I was a full time floral designer, I was constantly asked about the meanings of flowers. It is amazing how important the concept still is to gardeners and people in the habit of buying flowers. This is not a dead language! When I wrote Garden to Vase (Timber Press, 2007, out of print), I included the meanings of the flowers profiled in the book but was self-limited to those things known to be good cut flowers or foliage, since that was the book’s focus. So, when I decided to pursue a floral conversation between Elizabeth and Darcy, some of the research was already done. The challenge was to follow the changes in nomenclature to make sure of which flowers were being referred to by which old Latin names. What surprised me is how the symbolism of flowers has evolved over time. It was like putting a puzzle together!
Speaking of flowers, let’s talk a little about your love of flowers and horticultural background. Can you share with us a little about your garden at home? What are some of your favorite flowers? What does your dream garden look like?
Our house is a 1907 cottage in a neighborhood full of little houses of mostly the same era. I wanted a vine covered cottage, and we do call it Tanglevine Cottage. I love clematis…even though I work with them in a public garden, I also grow them at home, along with other flowering vines, like honeysuckles. Roses are a particular passion, the old fragrant varieties especially. Cottage gardens were multi-functional and my garden lives up to that, with a shady “stumpery” of ferns and hosta, two fruit trees, and a little area where I sit and write—my “Pink Flamingo Lounge.” I collect garden stuff, things like watering cans, vintage sprinklers and nozzles, squirrel figures, and I know this is odd, but I have some old shopping carts, ideal for growing peas and sweet peas and beans. The shopping carts are in the vegetable beds. Yeah…we’re long on whimsy around here. When I travel I look for blue glass objects to hang in my souvenir tree. My dream garden? It’s a lot bigger than this one, that’s for sure. It would kill me to maintain the gardens at Pemberley, but at least I’d die happy!
Your garden is beautiful, Linda! I love it! I’m sure maintaining your garden is a lot of work! What is next for you in the Austenesque world, Linda? Are there any more plot seedlings ready to bloom? (sorry, couldn’t resist!)
Yes, I am nurturing a couple of ideas—they’re getting a lot of “fertilizer”, anyway. I have a completed outline and am a couple of chapters into a new novel tentatively titled “Death Comes to Rosings”. It is not a mystery, more of a farce, so the name may have to change. The story takes up after the ill-starred Hunsford proposal, when Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam return to Rosings before Elizabeth leaves Hunsford, because of a death in the family. Most of the action takes place at Rosings Park and Hunsford. Think of it as Pride and Prejudice meets A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
How about we end with a game of “flower analogies?” In The Red Chrysanthemum, Darcy, Georgiana, and Elizabeth consult an herbal to determine the meaning of various flowers. Using your handy herbal, Linda, what flower would you use as a symbolic metaphor for these following characters and why:
- Mr. Darcy: Sweet William is obvious. It means gallantry, and once his affections are engaged, Darcy is nothing if not gallant.
- Elizabeth Bennet: The timing was wrong for me to include in Darcy’s nosegay to Elizabeth variegated (striped) tulips. They signify beautiful eyes. But they bloom in May, not July…sigh.
- Jane Bennet: Oh, our dear sweet Jane! Let us assign to her the cape jasmine, which quotes her when she says, “I am too happy.”
- Kitty Bennet: Poor Kitty, the follower. Let’s enhance her with some white oak for independence and lilac primroses for confidence.
- Mr. Bennet: Not everyone loves Mr. Bennet, but I do. However, he is not a man above flaws. Let’s be philosophical and give him colchicum, the meadow saffron, which says, “My best days are past.”
- Lady Catherine: Was ever a flower more perfect for anyone than spiked willow herb (now we call it fireweed) is for her? It is the flower of pretension.
- Georgiana Darcy: In The Red Chrysanthemum we watch her progress from being anxious and trembling—red columbine—to being a tower of strength for her brother, cedar.
- Mrs. Gardiner: Everyone’s favorite aunt, fashionable and such pleasing manners! She deserves ox-eye daisies for her patience and red clover for her industry on behalf of Elizabeth and Jane.
Oh those are all wonderfully appropriate!! I love that there is “flower of pretension!” That’s just too funny! Thank you Linda, for indulging me in this game and for so kindly taking the time to answer my questions!!
Michele and the lovely people at Meryton Press have kindly donated 1 paperback and 1 digital copy of The Red Chrysanthemum for me to giveaway to 2 lucky winners! Woot Woot!
To enter this giveaway, leave a comment, question, or some love for Linda!
- This giveaway is open worldwide. Thank you, Meryton Press!
- This giveaway ends November 7th!
Double your chances of winning by leaving a comment on my review (which will post on Friday!)