Jul 232018
 

Hello readers! I’m very excited to welcome back one of my long-time favorite authors, Karen M. Cox, to Austenesque Reviews today! If you are unfamiliar with the captivating novels by Karen Cox, her specialty is Austenesque retellings that take place in different time periods, and she is phenomenal at finding inventive ways to tie her story into the unique setting she chooses!

Karen is here to celebrate the re-release of one of my favorite books! Originally published as At the Edge of the Sea, Son of a Preacher Man has received a new title and new cover! And I hope many more Austenesque readers will be picking it up soon (if they haven’t already) because it truly is a sensational and moving story!

Hi Karen! I’m so excited to have you visit my blog and to have this opportunity to finally interview you! I cannot believe in all eight years of book reviews, blog tours, and author visits we’ve never done an interview together! I’ve got to make this is a good one (the pressure’s on!)

Thanks for inviting me, Meredith!

For my first question, I would like to learn a little about your approach to writing. What kind of aspects of your story do you plan in advance? Do your muse or characters ever take you in directions you’d not expect?

I guess you could call my approach to writing a “hybrid” approach—I’m neither a strict plotter nor a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-er. Usually, I have an idea for setting, time period, characters. My natural inclination is to write character-driven stories, so any major plot points need some extra attention before I start. If the story is Austen-inspired, I puzzle out what things in my chosen setting fit well alongside the novel I’m working with. I also decide what character traits I want to bring forward; for example, when I wrote I Could Write a Book, I wanted to spotlight Emma’s love for her family and friends as motivation for her actions (even though she is sometimes misguided) and her sheltered life, based on the choices she made.

I make a general outline of events that move the story, but I’m not tied to it. Things change, characters insist on one thing, refuse to do the next. So, yes, sometimes they surprise me!

What aspects of Son of a Preacher Man did you have planned or outlined in advance? Did anything alter or surprise you along the away?

Son of a Preacher Man grew directly out of a discussion about how “bad” Lizzy Bennet could be and still be Lizzy, and what the biggest differences in status between Lizzy and Darcy would look like in various time periods. In Son of a Preacher Man, the “Darcy” character, Billy Ray Davenport, is the son of an itinerant minister who is in town for the summer to intern with the local doctor before going to medical school. He meets Lizzie, who is (as I think you first described her) the town’s “sadder but wiser” girl. Because the book is informed and inspired by Pride and Prejudice, I knew the stories would have certain elements in common: an insult, some early animosity, some unwanted attraction to our heroine, a letter. But along the way, other elements appeared. Lizzie, in particular, is the wild card—what is her real story? What will she do next? As the tale veered farther and farther from P&P, it really became something other than a variation, which is why I call it an “original story inspired by P&P.” Those types of stories are a time-honored tradition, appearing in movies such as “You’ve Got Mail” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary”, and in books such as E.A. Adams’s Green Card, and Beau North’s Modern Love (to name a couple from our own JAFF community.)

So, did Billy Ray and Lizzie surprise me? Continually!

I love stories like yours and the ones you’ve mentioned above especially because they don’t follow the same exact formula of Pride and Prejudice. It is interesting to see a more unique interpretation. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the many time periods and settings you’ve used in your stories, and I can only imagine how much research it takes to get such an authentic (yet beautifully understated) vibe and backdrop for each time period!! Can you tell us a little about your process? What made you choose the late fifties/early sixties for Son of a Preacher Man? What were some of the challenges of writing in this time period?

I chose that time period for the story so long ago, I hardly remember exactly what I was thinking! I did want a time when men’s and women’s roles were more “traditional” (even though, as Mrs. Gardener says in the book, it’s debatable whether that post-war idea of “traditional” life is valid). The interesting thing about the 1950s/early 60s is I think you can see the rumblings of the cultural shift that is to come—the Sexual Revolution, the re-emergence of women in the outside-the-home workforce, political changes like the Cold War—it’s a really interesting time. Things haven’t changed yet, but in hindsight, we know they’re about to. It must have been an intriguing time to come of age; Billy Ray and Lizzie are defining themselves at the end of an era when many young people’s lives were rigidly defined for them. That idea fascinated me.

The challenges of writing in that time period? Well, mostly, I felt I had to resist the urge to either romanticize the time and the small-town setting, or on the other hand, to demonize it. Like any time and place, there is good and bad, and I tried really hard to reflect that complexity in the book.

I think you struck a very good balance of the two in this story (in fact, in all your stories!) I thought it was unique that this story was told from the hero’s perspective and focused on his coming-of-age story. So many times (especially in the Austenesque genre) we encounter stories that focus on the heroine’s journey and development. What inspired you to tell this story from Billy Ray Davenport’s point-of-view?

The story started coming to me in his point-of-view from the very beginning. Lizzie’s the mystery; Billy Ray is the observer, the storyteller. Everything went along swimmingly, until about 2/3 of the way in, when there were important plot points that needed to come to light and no way for Billy Ray to know them unless Lizzie told him. Then, I had to decide what she would say and what she wouldn’t. I let her character make that decision for me, and I think that actually makes the story deeper and more compelling.

I enjoyed seeing Billy Ray as the storyteller. Speaking of, let’s talk more about your memorable and dynamic characters from Son of a Preacher Man – Lizzie Quinlan (the sadder but wiser girl with a reputation) and Billy Ray Davenport (the reserved and fastidious son of an evangelist preacher). Many readers, I am sure, will instantly see the connections and similar traits to Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, but what is something else you hope they see/understand about these characters throughout your story?

Sure, there are similarities to the Lizzy and Darcy characters, but these people have a tale of their own to tell. For one thing, Billy Ray’s minister father plays a significant role in the story—not because he’s on the page all that much—but because, like many of our parents, Reverend Davenport casts a long shadow over his son’s life. It’s neither a completely good thing nor a bad thing; it just is. Billy Ray has to determine which parts of his father he will keep, and which he will put aside. (By the way, I actually love the reverend a lot. He is a good man, coming to grips with the reality of letting a beloved child become an adult. As a parent, I can totally see his dilemma, even if I don’t always agree with him.)

Lizzie is a survivor, a scrappy, little firebrand; she has a side that I think many of us can relate to. We all fall a little bit in love with Lizzy Bennet—her charm, her wit—but I think modern readers may be able to empathize more with Lizzie Quinlan. What the two characters share, however, is the ability to see their flaws and grow into better people at the end of the story than they were at the beginning.

It is so rewarding and gratifying to see a character do that, isn’t it? I love stories that highlight personal growth. Can you tell us what is next for you? I know you might have a short-story in the works, is there anything else you can share with us?

My short story for the Quill Collective anthology, Rational Creatures, is titled “A Nominal Mistress” and features the elegant and kind Eleanor Tilney, sister of muslin-connoisseur Henry Tilney. Catherine Morland (the heroine of Austen’s Northanger Abbey) says that “no friend can be better worth keeping than Eleanor.” Jane Austen herself said, “I know no one more entitled, by unpretending merit, or better prepared by habitual suffering, to receive and enjoy felicity.” Read the Rational Creatures anthology this fall and see if you agree!

After that, I’m not sure where I’ll go next: I have a women’s fiction piece about 50% written, a return to the 80s with a coming-of-age romance which is about 80% written, and ideas for an early 20th century western and a Regency novel. Any thoughts on what I should prioritize, readers?

Ummm you can definitely count on us reading Rational Creatures!!! We can’t wait!! And what great projects you have in the works! I think they all sound amazing! I’ll be curious to see what others think! How about we switch it up with some Quick-Fire Questions?

  • If you could live in one of your novels, which one would you choose? I Could Write a Book – nice Woodhouse mansion, most of the wonders of modern medicine and indoor plumbing, and handsome, gentlemanly Mr. Knightley. Yessir, that’s where I’d like to be!
  • Of all your characters in all your stories, which one is your favorite? That’s like asking me which of my children is my favorite – it varies from day-to-day, lol. But honestly, Billy Ray and Lizzie are probably my favorites so far: complex and loyal, a couple with amazing chemistry, and the potential for true, lasting love against the odds.
  • Of all Jane Austen’s characters, which one is your favorite? If I have to choose just one…Anne Eliot – there’s an elegant competence to her that I admire. You see it in Elinor Dashwood too, but in Anne, I think there’s mature acceptance but hopefulness for the future.
  • What time period or setting do you one day dream of writing a story in? World War 2 – I don’t have the story yet, but it intrigues me. Or maybe the Jazz Age of the 1920s.
  • What time period or setting do you definitely not see yourself writing a story in? I almost hate to jinx myself – as soon as I say it, a story idea will occur to me, but…I don’t know, Ancient Egypt? Or Ancient Greece?
  • What is one of your favorite scenes from Son of a Preacher Man? I love the scene where they meet and go swimming at the lake. They are so Lizzy and Darcy in that scene: Billy Ray is all haughty and judgmental, and Lizzie is all spunk and bravado.
  • What is one of your favorite quotes from Son of a Preacher Man? “I watched her walk away, fading into the purple ink of tree shadows until she disappeared completely.”
  • What would be one of the biggest challenges for you if you lived in during the time of Son of a Preacher Man? No cell phone and no internet. Can you imagine?

It would be pretty tough to adapt to that, I agree! Thank you so very much for taking the time to answer my questions, Karen! It was such a special treat to have the opportunity to interview you! Congrats again on the re-release of your beautiful story – Son of a Preacher Man!!

Connect with Karen

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GIVEAWAY TIME!

In conjunction with our interview, Karen is generously giving away a $10 Etsy Gift Card to ONE lucky winner!

To enter, leave a comment below answering Karen’s question about her upcoming projects, or with a question of your own, a comment, or some love for Karen!

  • This giveaway is open worldwide.  Thank you, Karen!
  • This giveaway will end July 30th.
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  47 Responses to “Interview + Giveaway with Author Karen Cox!!!”

  1.  

    sounds like a very delicious story to devour–love Karen’s books

    denise

  2.  

    Enjoyed the interview. Although I enjoy WWII era books, I haven’t come across very many stories set during the jazz age of the 1920s so I think that would be an interesting setting.

  3.  

    This wonderful post is fascinating and learning about the author and her writing as well as the future projects interests me greatly. She is so talented and creative. The twentieth century Western which you will write appeals to me as does any historical since novels written from the 1930’s during wartime to the 1950’s are meaningful and memorable.

    •  

      Thanks, April – you’re very kind 🙂 I’ve never done a Western, which would mean lots of research!

  4.  

    The return to the 80’s coming of age romance especially catches my interest!

    •  

      That’s my own time period for coming-of-age (although it isn’t my story…at all 😀 ) Thank you, Paige!

  5.  

    Fantastic interview ladies, such great questions and superb answers! Lovely to hear about your writing process, Karen, and about your next projects too. I’d love to read ‘Son of a Preacher Man’ – here’s hoping I win the giveaway. I’m definitely gonna read ‘Rational Creatures’ when it comes out too. Best of luck with the release, Karen!

  6.  

    I read this story under both titles and loved it just as well the second time as the first. I do enjoy all Karen’s stories. Thanks for sharing.

  7.  

    I can’t imagine no phone or internet. That sounds awful!

  8.  

    What a wonderful interview and the visuals with quotes are perfection! I love your writing. Process. I also love how when you write a love scene, it’s one of the last things you write…how you go back to it after the rest is finished. Love that!

    •  

      Thanks, Christina! I always want the love scenes to fit with the story, and that helps me keep the tone of the scene consistent with the rest.

    •  

      Thanks so much for checking out our interview, Christina! Karen is so awesome to work with! Love everything about Karen’s writing!

  9.  

    Great interview! Looking forward to reading this story and I so enjoy the various time periods you have chosen to set your stories in. Can’t wait for ‘Rational Creatures’ and would love to see what you would do with the Regency period!

  10.  

    On prioritizing? My self serving thoughts would have you delving into and delivering up that wee Regency tale.. no pressure mind you . Just a lot of interest and appreciation!
    Thanks for interview insights ..
    Here’s to new releases from one more Rational Creature!

    •  

      Glad you stopped by! Don’t you just love the title of that anthology? Rational Creatures – just says it all, doesn’t it?

  11.  

    Wow! 🙂 I really enjoyed Ms. Cox’s Find Wonder in All Things and this one sounds like a worthy successor. Love her ability to take an Austin classic & turn it into a fresh, heart-rendering tale of adolescence & adulthood from both male & female POV. For the next book, I think the 80’s would be an interesting era! Congrats on the new re-release! 🙂

    •  

      Absolutely! I do think I may even love this one more than Find Wonder in All Things! Hope you get the chance to read it soon!

    •  

      Thanks, Mary 🙂 Somehow I missed your comment last week. So glad you liked Find Wonder. Son of a Preacher Man is different, but it’s a good different!

  12.  

    Congratulations on sharing SoaP-Man with a general audience, Karen. I loved it at AHA!

  13.  

    This book is definitely on my list of books to buy next. I love the quotes I have read – so romantic.
    I don’t really mind what time frame you write in as long as Darcy and Elizabeth are the main characters.
    I was born in 1951 so technology was (and unfortunately still is) much of a mystery to me. I remember my dad coming to pick me up from the Grammar School (one time only) because he had managed to get Radio Caroline by standing the radio on the mantelpiece and attaching a clip from the aerial to the metal wall light!!!
    The only way I could speak to my friend when not in school was for me to go to my brother’s and call the phone box at the end of her road (and hope nobody else was using it!)
    Thank you for sharing your writing ideas.

    •  

      What a story, Glynis! Times and technology sure have changed!

    •  

      Isn’t it amazing to think of how times have changed so drastically?!? How phones and internet are such daily and (hourly) uses in our lives now, but how not too long ago they were used quite differently.

  14.  

    I can so easily understand how a character could take over the direction of the book. I have enjoyed your previous books, but I have not read this one. What made you re-release it? Did you make any changes to the writing before you re-released? I would be interested to know if Billy Ray’s father supports a relationship with Lizzie or is there a bit of Lady Catherine’s attitude in him? I think a book during the jazz era would be very interesting. Thank you for the giveaway.

    •  

      Hi – thanks for your interest! I re-released Son of a Preacher Man because I loved the story, and while it got great reviews and won some national awards, a lot of people didn’t know about it when it came out 5 years ago. I made some minor changes, “tightening” the prose some, changed the cover, went back to its original title. And finally, Billy Ray’s father’s response to Lizzie is, well…complex, I guess is the best word 🙂

  15.  

    Regency novel!! 😉 Lovely interview, ladies!

  16.  

    I’d love to read a WWI or WWII-era tale, Karen!! Thank you for your rich and wonderful interview with Meredith; oyed learning about your books and your research methods. And I’m definitely putting Son of a Preacher Man at the top of my Want-to-Buy on Kindle list!! All of your books look amazing, Karen!!!

    Warmly,
    Susanne 🙂

    •  

      Thank you, Suzanne 🙂 I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed my books and hope you like Son of a Preacher Man as well!

  17.  

    This is a fantastic story! Karen’s “other era” writing always comes across so well. I’m just a few years too young to remeber these times and the changes that were about to happen, but this book is just like being there, as it feels so authentic in its detail. Highly recommended!

  18.  

    Karen has done it again! This sounds another one that will keep me up all night long!

  19.  

    Oh I love this: What the two characters share, is the ability to see their flaws and grow into better people at the end of the story than they were at the beginning.

    That’s always my favorite thing about a book, going through that with the characters 😀 Your story sounds wonderful!!

    •  

      I think that’s one of the main reasons we read fiction – to watch how people grow, and relate it to our own lives. Thanks for stopping by!

  20.  

    Congratulations on the re-release, Karen. And thank you for sharing about yourself and Son of a Preacher Man. And what a brilliant idea to focus on Eleanor Tilney in your next short story. Can’t wait for the publication of Rational Creatures. The women’s fiction you mentioned certainly intrigues me. Does it takes place in our time (2010s) or earlier?

    The interview was very enlightening and entertaining, Meredith. You asked just the right questions to keep us hook and know Karen’s answers. It must have been difficult trying to come up with ideas on what to ask her without sounding too repetitive.

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