I am very excited to welcome Maria Grace, author of a newly released Pride and Prejudice novella titled, Twelfth Night at Longbourn to Austenesque Reviews today! I got to meet the lovely Maria Grace back in September 2012 and have enjoyed reading and reviewing the previous three installments of her Given Good Principles series, but this is the first time I have had the opportunity to interview her! Thank you, for stopping by for this little chat, Maria!
It was great to meet you at the Decatur Book Festival. That was really the high point of my year in 2012, getting to meet you and so many other Janeites in Georgia.
I’m really excited to get to do an interview with you. I don’t talk much about myself as a rule. I’m usually the listener, not the talker. So it’s interesting to switch roles for a little while.
That is something we both share in common. 🙂 After reading your fun author blurb in each of your books and seeing it on Amazon and Goodreads, I’ve always wanted to ask you about your degrees – two graduate degrees and four undergraduate majors! Wow! There’s got to be a story there! Can you share with us what you studied? What degrees, if any, help you with your writing?
Would you believe you’re the only interviewer to ask me about those? You’re right, there is a story.
From birth I was told I was to be an engineer, so I went into college thinking I would be a chemical engineer when I grew up.
Not so much.
After one semester I decided that I would not survive one more hour holed up with me, myself and my calculator. So, much to my parent’s chagrin, I changed majors. And I decided to major in everything. Seriously, in four years I completed a BA in—get ready for it—economics, sociology, managerial studies and behavioral sciences. Yeah, really.
After interviewing with IBM, I decided I was not ready to face the real world, so I settled on a graduate school course, in—you’ll never guess—counseling. So my first graduate degree is a master’s in counseling.
I got married and started a doctoral program shortly after that. I received my PhD three weeks prior to the birth of my second son. My doctorate is in Education Psychology, with an emphasis in human growth and behavior.
Oddly enough, in all of that I took only one history course and no English classes, having placed out of the later from high school credits. So you would think the LAST thing I might write would be historical fiction. But people are still people and all the psychology, sociology and economics, with a smidge of anthropology and business courses thrown in has turned out to be a great mix to write from.
Good for you, Maria! I’m glad you followed your own path! And I’m also glad that path has led you to write novels! 🙂 With the Given Good Principles series you implement quite a few changes in plot and include some new very likable characters. I found the twists and alterations you constructed to be refreshing, plausible, and gratifying to witness. What inspired you to write this series and create such an inventive and unique alternate path for Pride and Prejudice?
Given Good Principles stemmed from a very difficult period in my life. I was involved with a group of people who did not choose to act upon the good principles they knew. It was an extremely painful, difficult situation. One day, while running, I wondered how things might have been different if they had followed their principles. One thought led to another and I remembered Darcy telling Elizabeth how he was given good principles as a child, but left to follow them in vanity and conceit. So I wondered what it might have taken for him to have learned to follow his own principles and how the story might have been different if he had. Four books later, I think I’ve figured it out, more or less. LOL
I always find it fascinating when I hear how ideas and musings come together and form a story like that! One of my favorite aspects of your novellas is your characters – I loved both of your new characters, Mr. Pierce and Mr. Bradley, and I loved your sympathetic portrayals of Mr. Bennet, Mrs. Bennet, and Kitty. I found your psychological depictions of these characters to be insightful and perceptive. What prompted your characterizations of Jane Austen’s characters and your creations of some new ones?
I tried to keep Jane Austen’s characters as true to the originals as I could, but I had to modify some for the sake of my plot. I guess I kind of worked backwards. I knew where I needed the plot to go and created the people who would take it there.
One of my big pet peeves is characters who are psychologically impossible or inconsistent. I’m sure, given my background that’s a huge surprise. LOL
I think people are incredibly complex and not perfectly predictable. But there are generally underlying reasons for people’s behavior, motives that drive people to do the things that they do. As an author, for me at least, it is essential to understand those reasons, even if they don’t make it into the published story. That’s where the bonus chapters and extra materials for the bonus book ‘Bits of Bobbin Lace’ came from. A number of those chapters were my attempts to better understand the complexities of my characters.
As for the new characters, in this case, they were the people I needed to make the story play out as I saw it in my head. In other cases, like the last two manuscripts I have finished and the one I’m working on now, I start with an interesting character and see when he or she takes me.
After seeing your character portrayals, I just knew you had to have some background in psychology or sociology! Yes, I quite agree with you about people being incredibly complex and like Elizabeth Bennet says “intricate characters are the most amusing!” In Twelfth Night at Longbourn we see Kitty celebrate Christmas Day and Twelfth Night with traditional meals, games, and activities. What Regency Era traditions for Christmas or Twelfth Night would you like to adopt? What holiday food or drink would you like a “receipt” for?
Next year I want to host a Twelfth Night Party, maybe complete with the characters and party games—ok, maybe not Snapdragon with flaming brandy-soaked raisins, but some of the other games. I think it would be great fun. I have a recipe for minced pie that I’m itching to try and syllabub looks fascinating, but I’m not sure I can locate a convenient cow under which to make it. I also have a recipe for white soup which I definitely have to test out.
That sounds like such a lovely party, Maria!! My favorite tradition from your novel was the Christmas pudding with hidden charms! 🙂 Now that you have completed a fourth installment in the Given Good Principles series, what is next for you? What future projects do you have planned?
Just this afternoon I sat down with my calendar to try and sort out my publishing plans for next year. If everything lands jelly side up, I hope to have three new books out next year. Two of the manuscripts are already finished and just in need of edits, the third is halfway finished, but is handwritten and needs to be typed before I can edit.
I also have a plot bunny pound with three or four new JAFF ideas biding their time for a chance to get written. Then there’s the science fiction series that I’m drafting the world building notes for this month and an original Regency Romance series I’m toying with that will take some of my JAFF plots and impose them on original characters and settings. So I’ve got plenty to keep me busy. Oh yeah, almost forgot, there’s also a medieval fantasy plot that jumped out of the woods at me while I was running this spring. That heroine is rather insistent as well.
Wow! So much to look forward to, you sure keep busy!! How about we switch it up with some Quickfire Questions:
Setting the timer here for 60 seconds…
– Who is your favorite Pride and Prejudice character (besides Darcy and Elizabeth)?
Mary Bennet, because I think she is highly misunderstood
– Who is your least favorite Pride and Prejudice character?
Mr. Collins, no matter how I look at it, he just gives me the heeby-jeebies
– Who is one of your favorite characters from your own novels?
I like Mr. Bradley a great deal, as well as Aunt Gardiner
– What is one of your favorite scenes in Pride and Prejudice?
I love the scene where Darcy runs into Elizabeth on Pemberley grounds and they fumble and falter for words
– From your own novels what is one of your favorite scenes?
I love Mr. Pierce’s proposal to Mary Bennet, oh and Col. Fitzwilliam’s proposal to Jane, can’t forget that one.
– What do you love most about Pride and Prejudice?
I love how two imperfect, difficult people can sort out their differences and come together for a lovely happily ever after.
– What is your “truth universally acknowledged?”
I think there are two that are fairly closely related. The first is that a man or woman reaps what s/he sows and the second is that you can know a man or woman by the fruit that s/he bears.
– If you were to meet Jane Austen, what would you like to hear her say?
Now that’s an interesting question. I think I’d like to hear her say that she found my attempts at story telling with her characters amusing and complimentary.
I’m sure she would! 🙂 Thank you, Maria, for this lovely chat!! I so enjoyed getting to know you better!
Thanks so much for the opportunity to come by and visit today. I had a wonderful time.
Connect with Maria
Today, Maria Grace brings with her two copies of newly released novel, Twelfth Night at Longbourn (1 paperback and 1 ebook), for me to giveaway to TWO lucky winners!
To enter this giveaway, leave a question, a comment, or some love for Maria below!
- The giveaway of the ebook is open worldwide, the giveaway of the paperback is open to US residents. Thank you, Maria!
- This giveaway ends January 13th!
DOUBLE your chances of winning by coming back WEDNESDAY and leaving a comment on my review!