Hello dear readers, today Austenesque Reviews is paid a visit from a lovely new author, Ginger Monette, who just published a companion novel to Pride and Prejudice about Charlotte and Colonel Fitzwilliam titled Tree of Life. Ginger has thoughtfully prepared a little Q&A to share with you today, which I, myself, very much enjoyed reading! I hope you enjoy learning more about Ginger, her writing, and her new novel, Tree of Life!
Q: You are a new author to Austeneque. Tell us a little about yourself.
A: Over the last eighteen years I have immersed myself in family and homeschooling my three children. Along the way, various interests captured my attention—sewing, decorating, and reading quality children’s literature with my children. But surprisingly, I rarely read adult fiction. In our school lessons, however, I discovered a love for historical fiction. It gives us an emotional attachment to the events of history which makes them memorable. Six years ago I began working at The Homeschool Room, an educational consignment store in Charlotte, NC. I do curricula consulting on the side.
A: Because P&P is a staple of high school literature, we sell a lot of copies at the store. My colleagues could not believe I had not read the book or seen the DVD. My boss lent me the 1995 & 2005 versions of the movie, and in short order I became a Janeite—reading up to three novels a week. I just could not get enough of Lizzy and Darcy! Then I branched out with period drama and nearly had a fit when I watched North & South. Not normally one to swoon, Richard Armitage as John Thorton makes me swoon…but that is another topic.
Some time in the summer of 2012, I got an idea for Charlotte to meet Colonel Fitzwilliam at a ball and could not seem to stop the ideas from coming. Although I had done quite a bit of expository writing, I had NEVER written fiction—not even in high school! I thought I might try to pass the story outline on to a ‘real’ author, but it was for me to do.
Q: Can you talk a little about your writing process?
A: I vividly remember the day in mid-November 2012, when I sat in my bedroom chair, laptop open, and tapped out the first words of the story—a battle scene part-way through the book. Immediately I was hooked on the whole writing process and often spent ten hours a day blissfully sculpting scenes. Being a methodical person, I was surprised that I wrote the book like a patchwork quilt—a scene here a scene there. My daily walks with my dogs proved to be an excellent time to daydream plot.
But I can’t say I did it alone. I had begun emailing an outstanding Austeneque fan fiction writer in England who is also an avid history buff. She offered to help me. We emailed every day for months with fascinating discussions on everything from the role of horses in Regency England to the layout of a Master’s dressing room. I had five other outstanding betas as well: two are Austeneque authors, two have expertise in grammatical editing, and one lent her knowledge of the military.
Q: Miss Austen did not fully develop either Charlotte or Colonel Fitzwilliam. Was there anyone that inspired you in fleshing out those characters?
A: I believe an army colonel repeatedly exposed to bloody battles would be more gritty than the movies’ portrayals of Colonel Fitzwilliam. My Richard Fitzwilliam was inspired by Russell Crowe’s authoritative Jack Aubrey in Master and Commander. However, I retained the Colonel’s jovial, playful characteristics we all know and love.
The idea of a doctor being a key figure in the story also came from that movie, although my Doctor Scott is not the embodiment of Dr. Maturin. Charlotte is actually somewhat a revelation of my own thoughts and feelings.
Anne de Bourgh, who plays an important role in Tree of Life, was inspired by the sweet Melanie Wilkes from Gone with the Wind. While writing for Lord Matlock, I envisioned the actions and speech of Donald Trump.
Q: Because your story is a companion to Pride & Prejudice, can we expect any overlap with canon?
A: Yes, but from a different point of view. We see the Meryton Assembly through the eyes of Charlotte Lucas. Several chapters tread atop the nephews’ visit to Rosings. The same events look very different when interpreted by others.
Though it is not overlap with canon, many of the mysteries of canon are solved—like how did everyone know Darcy was worth ten thousand a year at the Meryton Assmebly? Who wrote the sonnet to Jane Bennet when she was fifteen? And what heartbreak led to Charlotte Lucas being yet unmarried at twenty-seven?
Q: I understand this story has a spiritual element as one of its themes. Can you talk about that and any other themes?
A: One reviewer pointed out that Tree of Life does not really contain a villain. She is right. The conflict all stems from life itself: the confinements of the era’s social protocol, war, and the sort of inner questioning and turmoil we all deal with in our process of maturing and deeply loving another.
As for the spiritual, the Colonel is plunged into the depths of despair as a result of a serious battle wound, bringing him to question his role and value in life. He has a quiet but profound spiritual experience ignited by three simple words that cause him to view life from an entirely different perspective and change his values.
Another theme is how our actions, intentional or unintentional, influence the lives of those around us. There are also recurring situations of “what goes around comes around.” Ironically, a stone is a thread woven throughout the story. And there is one final theme that is related to the title, but you will have to read the story to discover that one.
Q: So, do you have any plans for another novel?
A: Yes! I am knee deep in research for my next novel (probably split into two) set during World War I. In part one/book one, tentatively titled Darcy’s Hope ~ Up From Ashes, Elizabeth is a nurse near the Western Front in France, and Darcy is an army captain. It will take place after Darcy’s visit to Rosings, but Elizabeth does not read his letter… In the tense atmosphere of war, there are plenty of opportunities for his affection to smolder while she continues to interpret his every action through her prejudicial lens. Anyone excited about the new BBC mini-series “The Ark” about nurses at the Front will probably enjoy this as well.
Part two/book two, tentatively titled Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey, will be set at the home of George and Emma Knightley’s descendents. Like Downton Abbey Donwell will house a convalescent home for injured soldiers, with Hartfield serving as a hospital.
It is a steep hill of research to climb—a new era with its own social mores, life in the trenches, and all the ins and outs of medical care for the wounded. Telephone/telegraph plays an important role as well. All these require meticulous researched. Currently I am devouring war diaries at a frantic pace as it is utterly fascinating. It is purely coincidental that I am undertaking this project in 2014, the centennial year of the war’s outbreak.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
A: Yes. Tree of Life has some unique features. First, I am unaware of any other stories that pair Charlotte and Colonel Fitzwilliam. I think it is also rare that one of its themes is spiritual.
I like to compare the novel to a corkscrew. It starts on the surface and goes down, down, deeper and deeper. By the end, it will hardly resemble the story of the first few chapters. My hope is that readers will be savoring the characters and story long after they’ve finished the last chapter.
You can read the first three chapters here and purchase your copy in Kindle or paperback. (Also available on other worldwide Amazon sites.)
Thank you, Ginger! I am greatly looking forward to reading your tale about Charlotte and Colonel Fitzwilliam! And I am very intrigued about your upcoming projects! Love the idea of integrating WWI with Jane Austen!! How unique!
Book Trailer for Tree of Life
Today Author Ginger Monette generously brings with her 2 eBook copies of Tree of Life for me to give away to 2 randomly selected winners!
To enter this giveaway, leave a comment, question, or some love for Ginger!
- This giveaway is open worldwide. Thank you, Ginger!
- This giveaway ends February 14th!