Hello dear readers, today Austenesque Reviews is paid a visit from a lovely new author, Leigh Dreyer, who just published (today!) her debut novel, The Best Laid Flight Plans – a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice! I’m so excited for this story as it combines Jane Austen with the US Air Force. 😉 Leigh has thoughtfully prepared a little Q&A to share with you today, which I hope you enjoy reading! I hope you enjoy learning more about Leigh, her writing, and her debut release, The Best Laid Flight Plans!
1. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I work as a speech pathologist, currently in the Las Vegas area. I work both in person and doing teletherapy (which I absolutely love) from my home. I write while my kids take naps and during teletherapy breaks. I also have just been the lead in the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie. I have an incredible husband who is a pilot in the Air Force and two amazing kids. My son is three and my daughter is eighteen months. Both my husband and I are Air Force brats, both children of pilots which makes for fun family get togethers.
2. Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
Elizabeth Bennet and “Fitz” William Darcy are well known to any regular JAFF readers, but in my novel it was fun to see them in the military, a culture with which I’m so familiar. When I’ve read Pride and Prejudice, I’ve often wondered what amazing things Elizabeth would do in a time where women could go and do anything a man could, and I loved seeing her go out and reach for her dreams.
3. What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
I went to a book club attended by Diana J Oaks and told my sister in law my idea about Darcy in the Air Force and I started writing the next day.
4. Where do you get your ideas?
Life, really. I’ve been around the Air Force my entire life and it is something I know well. Every time I’ve gone to an Air Force event over the last few years, I’ve sent my husband weird note-taking text messages about the event so I can remember them and put them in a book later. I think it’s important for me to give a glimpse for all the civilians into the world of the modern military. There aren’t many books written about them these days that isn’t about the combat aspect, and while that is certainly important, my husband has been deployed several times and that is an ever-present theme in our lives, I think the culture of the military outside of combat is just as interesting.
5. If this book is part of a series, tell us a little about it?
The Best Laid Flight Plans will be book one in a series (although I think it stands alone quite well). I really wanted to see the journey of Elizabeth Bennet and see how our dreams change based on factors outside our control. My Elizabeth is a strong, independent, woman who, unlike the original, doesn’t need a man to help her move up or continue in the world and I think it is interesting to explore how love changes us.
6. Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about.
The photoshoot was done in Utah at the Air Force museum at Hill Air Force Base. It was important to me to highlight Elizabeth as a female pilot. Females are so rare in the pilot world that I wanted to be able to see Elizabeth as I see her, a strong woman who is willing to work harder than anyone else to achieve what she sees for herself. I made the choice to have the little ringlets and her hair up in a kind of braid Mohawk, because I thought it was a fun throwback to the Regency hairstyles. The back cover is Darcy and I love his name tag and the idea of a compass for Elizabeth’s journey.
7. What are you working on at the minute?
Book two, The Flight Path Less Travelled and a short story about how Mr. and Mrs. Bennet meet and get married.
8. What’s it about?
The Flight Path Less Travelled will start where The Best Laid Flight Plans ends and will continue the story to see where Elizabeth’s dreams end up.
Thank you so much for sharing, Leigh! It is great to learn a little more about you! I’m so excited to see Jane Austen’s characters in the world of military life! And I love that Diana J. Oaks inspired you to write! That so wonderful to hear that this first book is part of a series! I cannot wait to read it, myself!
In this modern Pride and Prejudice variation, Captain William “Fitz” Darcy has just received a new assignment as an instructor pilot at Meryton Air Force Base. Soon he meets the intrepid 2nd Lieutenant Elizabeth Bennet, a new student at the base that he cannot keep out of his head. Elizabeth, on the other hand, finds Captain Darcy to be arrogant and prideful and attempts to avoid him at every turn. Despite Darcy’s insulting manners, Elizabeth soars her way through pilot training, but can she soar her way into love as well?
And because I can’t resist whetting your appetite a little…here is a little of Chapter One from The Best Laid Flight Plans!
The clouds burst below and wispy peaks spiraled out as the plane surged through the sky. Captain William Darcy gazed at the horizon, crimson ribbons blazing across the sunrise. These peaceful moments were the only time he participated in anything resembling prayer. He checked his altitude and trimmed up.
“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings…”
Darcy recited these lines from “High Flight” to himself as he scanned his surroundings and instruments again, his situational awareness high.
This mission was bittersweet. His last in the F-22. He would miss the deep alien whistle from the engines as it flew over the base, close enough to wave at families walking near the harbor. This sortie was an easy ride, nothing but practice and war games, but he took it seriously. He knew a few meters off perfection meant life and death. A slight left bank and the deep green mountains were to the east as he approached the runway for a quick touch and go.
Those jade Hawaiian mountains rising from the blackness of the earth were what he loved most about this base. Oddly, they were quite alien to his upbringing in Central New York. The woods surrounding Pemberley were green but never quite this other-worldly, tropical color. Somehow Pemberley’s hills and forests were more real, and he missed seeing the horizon curve over the gentle hills of his land. Here, that prospect was only available in the sky and he ached for it. He loved that feeling of being alone in the world and watching it go on forever.
Pushing forward on the stick, he felt the quick descent in a tactical approach before touching the runway for a split second—up on the thrust and away again, off to his place in the clouds and his head. He ran through the memorized checklist he needed to complete on this ride… Touch and goes: check. Ship car: incomplete. Go to the TMO office: incomplete. Schedule movers: incomplete. He blinked, staring unseeingly at his controls. Damn moving checklist! He halted the intruding checklist and reoriented to task. Tactical approach: check. One more turn and then in for landing.
He could not allow himself to think about moving again as he had spent enough energy on it already. He would have a quick Pilot Instructor Training in San Antonio and then the three-hour drive to the Mexican border to Longbourn City and Meryton Air Force Base to train America’s best and brightest student pilots. He loved flying more than anything in the world but wondered if that love extended to the staleness of helping brand new pilots grasp the basics of the T-38 Talon.
Darcy hated moving; it was the worst aspect about the Air Force. Having grown up at Pemberley, near the Finger Lakes, Darcy always knew his place in that perfect, idyllic world. He did not understand how anyone would ever want to leave where they had grown up. Pemberley was the place his soul lived. He looked again at the green around him as he flew, but it was not the right shade—nothing like the bright emerald leaves at home. Pemberley had the best views the world had to offer: brilliant green trees in the summer, vibrant fall colors in autumn, winters full of snow and sledding, and fields of wildflowers to rival any florist shop in spring. There were lakes for swimming, canoeing, or fishing. There were large rocks and mountains to hike. Darcy had never known a bored moment in his childhood.
His father had taught him to fly at twelve, first in a small Cessna and then later in the Bonanza. Together with his father, Darcy had grown up looking down on the prospect of his family’s holdings and missed them every time he was in the air. Flying was the only thing that kept him connected to his father and, thus far, the only reason he continued to tolerate moving by whim of the Air Force.
Meanwhile, Meryton, Texas was stuck in the middle of a desert. When he looked up information about the base, the pictures only showed brown dirt, brown grass, brown sage bushes, and brown mesquite trees. The only positive was that there were ranches nearby. Bingley had even talked about leasing a little working farm and maybe living together when he arrived. Perhaps this move would be fun if he could put himself back in wide, open spaces where he belonged. He might even mentor Bingley in the business of agriculture along the way. William Darcy and Charles Bingley had become best friends at Cornell despite Bingley being a couple years junior. Both had been business majors and in the challenging program, Darcy’s reticence had balanced Bingley’s natural exuberance; it was a relationship that worked well for them both and followed into their military careers.
Darcy shook his head brusquely. He could feel his precision lagging as he pulled back from his daydreaming. Bank left, roll right. He held the stick just a little tighter and felt the metal, hot and slippery in his hand. It was hot. The cockpit was always hot, regardless of the external temperature, and as he pulled his damp flight suit away from his sticky chest, he smelled the musk of his sweat. It would be even hotter at Meryton. Hotter than Pemberley, to be sure. Possibly hotter than Hell itself, if his friends were to be believed.
On the upside, at Meryton, he would be able to go home to Pemberley occasionally as Meryton was near an airport and the ops tempo was significantly lower. As an instructor, he would be able to enjoy holidays, a luxury he had not experienced in the last four years; he might even be able to get other leave approved for once. Hawaii was too far to go home often and when he did go, he just depressed himself. Georgiana deserved more than a brother who moped around the house, seeing ghosts around every bend, and hearing voices that could no longer be heard. Besides, he missed Mrs. Reynolds’ meals. He added “Enjoy a glass of Pemberley cabernet franc” to his moving checklist.
Connect with Leigh
In celebration of her new release, Leigh is offering a special giveaway in conjunction with her visit to Austenesque Reviews today! Included in this giveaway is an ebook of The Best Laid Flights Plans and some Darcy and Elizabeth squadron patches!. Woot woot!!
To enter this giveaway leave a question, comment, or some love for Leigh! (And wish her a happy birthday because today is not only her book’s release day, but also HER birthday!!)
- This giveaway is open to worldwide. Thank you, Leigh!
- This giveaway ends May 4th!