Jul 092014


Hello dear readers, today Austenesque Reviews is paid a visit from a lovely new author, Ann Mychal, who just published a novel based on Jane Austen’s unfinished fragment, The Watsons, titled Emma and Elizabeth.  Ann has been kind enough to answer some questions of mine.  I hope you enjoy learning more about Ann, her writing, and her new novel, Emma and Elizabeth!

Hello Meredith. Thank you for posing such thought provoking questions. I can’t tell you how I have struggled to answer them, but I’ve enjoyed the challenge immensely.

P1020417Glad to hear you enjoyed them, hopefully they weren’t too arduous!  Since you may be a relatively new author to some of my readers, how about we start with you telling us a bit about yourself, Ann.

I’m English. I live by the sea in the beautiful county of North Yorkshire. (Fans of Downton Abbey may recall references made to North Yorkshire towns such as Thirsk, Ripon, Malton and Whitby in some of the episodes.) I have loved Jane Austen’s novels ever since I first came across them in my teens, and I have taken them with me everywhere I’ve lived and worked. It would be hard to choose a favorite, but if pressed I’d have to go with Persuasion. I’ve worked in the education and charity sectors most of my life, both in the UK and overseas. I originally trained as a school teacher but have ended up in higher education. Emma and Elizabeth is my first published novel.

Oh how lucky you are to live where you do!  🙂 I love that you have given us a continuation for Jane Austen’s uncompleted fragment, The Watsons! What was it about this unfinished story and these characters that inspired you to write your own novel?

Curiosity. The Watsons is an intriguing fragment. It seems to portray a bleak realism that is not present to the same extent in the major novels. There’s always the danger of reading too much into a text, particularly when it comes to drawing parallels between the writer’s life and her fictional world, but that is what I want to do here because it is, in part, what I find fascinating about The Watsons. I wonder whether Jane Austen’s treatment of the familiar themes of love and marriage in The Watsons reflects something of the realities of her own transition from young woman (of marriageable age) to spinster.

An incident recounted in a letter Jane wrote to her sister in 1805 seems to mirror the opening scene of The Watsons. Jane, writing to Cassandra on August 27th, describes how Lady Forbes had offered Harriot Bridges (the younger sister of Elizabeth, wife of Edward Knight) a ticket to a ‘grand ball, with an invitation to come to her house…before and after it’. Harriot, though determined to decline the offer of ‘dressing and sleeping’ at Lady Forbes’ house, was eventually persuaded by Jane to attend the ball. (You’ll find that a minor character named Lady Forbes creeps into the pages of Emma and Elizabeth.)

Could this event have inspired the opening scene between Emma and Elizabeth in The Watsons? If so, perhaps Jane didn’t begin working on The Watsons until sometime after that event. As you know, balls were not just social events; they were where young women found husbands. And husbands had to be found if young women were to avoid lives of poverty and obscurity. Jane pressed Harriot to go to the grand ball, just as Elizabeth urged Emma to attend the first assembly of the season. It led me to think about the relationship between the Watson sisters. As the fragment opens, Elizabeth is on the verge of spinsterhood, facing a life of poverty, while Emma, with youth on her side, holds to more romantic ideals of love and marriage – that people should marry for love rather than necessity or material gain. I found the relationship between the two sisters a fascinating starting point for the story. For weeks, though, I had the greatest difficulty thinking of a title for the novel, even though it was jumping off the page at me!

An unusual feature of The Watsons is the inclusion of a child as one of the main characters. Charles Blake plays an important part early on in the fragment, being the means of bringing Emma to the notice of the Osborne set. Of course, I didn’t want to lose him – he’s one of my favorite characters and was fun to write.

austen_watsons_1Oh, I love Charles!  His relationship with Emma was one I greatly enjoyed witnessing!  Back to Jane Austen’s manuscript.  Instead of using the 17000 word fragment by Jane Austen as your exposition in its entirety, you used parts of the fragment and blended it together with your own writing (which I greatly enjoyed!) What prompted this decision?

I simply didn’t have the skill to take up the novel from the point at which Jane Austen left off. And so rather than using the fragment in its entirety, I took inspiration from the extracts that told me something about the characters, and helped me drive the narrative forward. Blending short passages of the original text into the narrative (together with some amusing little extracts from Jane Austen’s letters) helped my writing process, particularly in terms of plot development and characterization.

That makes sense!  Many scholars have pondered and have diverse theories of why Jane Austen abandoned this unfinished novel and never returned to it later on. What do you personally think is the reason the Watson family was discarded and never again picked up?

This is a difficult question to answer. Unlike Sanditon, a novel Jane Austen would most probably have completed had she lived, The Watsons was put aside, but not destroyed. Would Jane Austen have returned to it at a later date? It’s impossible to say. We know that it was read within Austen family circles long after her death.

Interestingly, The Watsons was written midway between the six major novels, and may have been the product of that transitional period in Jane Austen’s life when she was coming to terms with the harsh reality of her situation and status. There is, after all, little of the comic irony present in The Watsons that is characteristic of Jane Austen’s style of writing. It may have been a story that at the time she found, for personal reasons, difficult to sustain. I once abandoned a novel for precisely that reason: I was too close to the subject matter.

SLIGHT SPOILER!! That is interesting how Jane Austen, herself, was at such a pivotal time in her life and how that might be the reason she didn’t continue to work on The Watsons.  One thing I loved about Emma and Elizabeth was that you took these characters in new directions – ones, that according to Cassandra Austen, perhaps weren’t what Jane Austen was intending. I especially loved the focus on the relationship between Elizabeth and Emma and your singular choice of hero! Did you find it easier to go your own route with these characters? What were some the challenges you faced with working on this novel?

I found it easier to take some of the characters in different directions though I think it was more a case of the characters taking me with them. I found, for example, that I couldn’t rein in Mary Edwards once I’d described her as used to ‘getting her own way’.

Emma and ElizabethThe choice of hero was influenced in part by Frances Burney’s Evelina. Some readers of Jane Austen today may not be as familiar with the novels read by her contemporaries in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Had the fragment been available to the reading public at the time, connections might have been made between the two central characters in Evelina and two of the main characters in The Watsons who bear the same initials. Amusing parallels can be drawn between the hero of Evelina and the corresponding male character in The Watsons. I won’t say more as I don’t want to give too much away, but once the parallels became apparent to me, I knew who the hero of Emma and Elizabeth would be.

One of the biggest challenges I faced was how to manage the many characters mentioned in the original fragment. In the end I omitted some and, for the purposes of the plot, introduced other minor characters. Another challenge was the ‘declaration of love’ scene: I find love scenes terribly difficult to write without them sounding trite or melodramatic. I’m not sure I have succeeded in avoiding these pitfalls, but I hope I have. The final chapter was, surprisingly, one of the easiest chapters to write, but I’ve no idea why.

Good call, the amount of characters introduced in The Watsons reminds me a little of Highbury, there are so many neighbors and families introduced from Stanton!  Lastly, I’m dying to know given how much I thoroughly enjoyed Emma and Elizabeth, what is next for you, Ann? Any more Austenesque projects in the works?

Yes. All I can say at this point is that I am working on another Austenesque project which I hope will be ready by the end of the year.

Thrilled to hear this!!! How about we switch it up with some Quickfire Questions:

– Which Watson character do you think you most resemble?

Lady Osborne (love of intrigue, gossip and concert recitals) and Charles Blake (love of food and poor at Latin)

– Which Watson character would you least like to have a visit with?

Miss Carr.

– Would you rather go fishing or horseback riding with young Charles Blake?

Horseback riding – as long as I’m not expected to hunt foxes. Galloping through the grounds of Osborne Park with Charles (pretending to be dangerous highwaymen) would be fun.

– What is your favorite scene from Emma and Elizabeth?

My favourite scene is from Jane Austen’s original fragment – the one in which Emma talks about female economy. The scenes I enjoyed writing the most involved Lady Osborne recounting tales of the assemblies she attended in Bath.

– What do you love most about Jane Austen’s novels?

I love her observation of human nature and her use of comic irony to expose its frailties.

– If you were to meet Jane Austen, what would you like to hear her say?

“Join me for lunch and I’ll tell you why I abandoned The Watsons.”

Perfect!  Thank you so much for participating in this interview, Ann! It has been a real treat to have you answer my questions and for me to read your lovely novel, Emma and Elizabeth!!  I wish you the best of luck with your upcoming release and all your future endeavors! 



Today Ann Mychal  generously brings with her 10 BRAND NEW copies (winners’ choice – paperback or ebook) of Emma and Elizabeth for me to giveaway!!  (You know you need to WOOT WOOT for this!!:D  So incredible, Ann!  Thank you!

 Emma and Elizabeth Emma and Elizabeth Emma and Elizabeth Emma and Elizabeth Emma and Elizabeth Emma and Elizabeth Emma and Elizabeth Emma and Elizabeth Emma and Elizabeth Emma and Elizabeth

To enter this giveaway, leave a comment, question, or some love for Ann!

  • This giveaway is open worldwide.  Thank you, Ann!
  • This giveaway ends July 16th!
  • To receive an extra entry for this giveaway, leave a comment on my review!! (if you haven’t already!)


*manuscript image from The Morgan Library and Museum







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  71 Responses to “Interview + Giveaway with Author Ann Mychal”


    I read The Watsons about 40 years ago. This makes me want to both reread the original plus read Emma and Elizabeth! I love Ann’s answers especially that if pushed Persuasion is her favorite. As I get older I have the same answer.
    Thanks for the review and the giveaway. I am off to pull the Watsons off my bookshelf!


      I first became interested in Jane Austen through watching an adaptation of Persuasion on the TV. It was the first of Jane Austen’s novels I read and loved. Captain Wentworth’s love letter must be one of the best in English literature. What draws you particularly to Persuasion, Theresa?


    Really enjoyed this interview, as The Watsons has always intrigued me. I
    am looking forward to reading this new
    novel and would really love a paper copy
    so much!


    What a delightful interview. I have not read The Watsons yet but now I shall. Are you planning to write more Jane Austen related stories, Ann? Maybe a Persuasion adaptation? That would be lovely. Thank you for letting us come to know you a bit better.

    Great questions, Meredith.


      I so enjoyed answering Meredith’s questions. I am working on another Jane Austen related story. Strangely enough, I hadn’t thought of a Persuasion adaptation. You’ve got me thinking!


    Yay! Woot! Woot! Definitely excited about this book. I’ve always enjoyed reading completions of Jane’s fragments. Sanditon and The Watsons both leave your imagination turning. I’m looking forward to Emma and Elizabeth.


      Absolutely, Amanda. There’s something about an unfinished novel that feeds the imagination, and there are so many possibilities for plot and character development in Sanditon and The Watsons. I hope you enjoy the ending of ‘Emma and Elizabeth’.


    I enjoyed your interview and how you made this book your own. I have the Ebook on my TBR and am looking forward to reading about Emma & Elizabeth.


    Definitely a woot woot!! I’ve always wanted to see The Watsons completed. This book is already on my wish list, so I’m excited for this chance to win it. =D

    I really enjoyed the interview and the choices you made. I can’t imagine writing a book when you are so emotionally attached to the topic. It is too easy to allow your own angst and shortcomings to color your characters. I can only imagine if this book was a reflection of how Jane was seeing her life unfolding she would have HAD to step back or go mad.

    Thanks for the giveaway! Really looking forward to this one!


      Thank you for your comments, Stephanie. Are you a writer? In my own case, I can say that being too emotionally attached to a subject blocks my thought process. I don’t know if that is true for other writers. Distance, patience and hindsight I sometimes think can help to put things into perspective and lead to greater creativity.


    Love all the questions and answers! I was always intrigued by this incomplete novel by Jane Austen and it seems that you did an amazing job “finishing” it 🙂
    Can’t wait to read it.
    Thank you for the amazing giveaway!


      I’m glad you enjoyed the answers, Kristia. They wouldn’t have been half so good if it hadn’t been for Meredith’s excellent questions. I hope you like to novel. I’d love to know what you think of it.


    I’ve always been intrigued by the Watsons, but I’ve never read a continuation/reimagining. I’d love to join Ann’s lunch with Jane and learn why she abandoned it but still kept it all those years.

    My curiosity has been piqued about what changes the author made and who the hero is. Plus, Charles Blake sounds adorable, so this is going on my to-read pile.

    Thank you so much for the interview, ladies!


      Hello Heather. I’m sure lunch with Jane would be very entertaining. What question would you ask Jane at our lunch party?


        Hi Ann! Other than asking Jane about the Watsons I’d like to know how Pride and Prejudice differs from her manuscript First Impressions. Plus, I’d love to know if she’s flattered or horrified by all of these sequels and reinaginings 🙂


    This sounds so good! I read The Watsons continuation by Joan Aiken & liked it. I think it’s fun to read books based on the lesser known works. Thank you both for the giveaway. One book would be generous but 10 is amazing! 🙂


      Thank you, Amy. I also enjoy reading lesser known works, including the early writings of Jane Austen. Do you have a favourite?


    As a failed Watsons completer, I am very impressed with the way you approached and thought through your story. It would not have occurred to me to focus the plot on the polarities between Emma and Elizabeth; I was totally focused on Emma, and the story simply wouldn’t play out with the single focus. I also followed the fragment word-for-word, which was clearly a mistake. Query: where do you think The Watsons was set? My guess was Surrey, because JA visited friends and relatives there so much, and I imagined the market town was based on Dorking. I even went there to do research, but came up dry as far as JA was concerned. On the bright side, I fell in love with the stories that could be found there around the time she would have visited, and am writing a series of books set in the Dorking area in 1800 (with a few Watsons characters playing bit roles, of course!). I very much appreciate your giveaway, and as a new author myself, promise faithfully to enter reviews of it on Amazon and Goodreads once read (will be happy to buy it if not selected).


      Hello Abigail. I was so interested to hear that you also completed The Watsons and that you have taken inspiration from the fragment in your own series of books set in the Dorking area. I’d love to read them.

      Yes, Surrey seems the most likely. Dorking, as you know, is generally accepted as the town of ‘D’ referred to in The Watsons. The geography makes sense because of its proximity to Reigate, Guildford and Croydon. My ‘D’ is a fictional town, but set in a similar geographical location.

      I’d love to know which Watson characters feature in your stories.


    Wonderful interview!! What a generous offer of 10 Books/E-Books to give-away! Thanks for the chance.


    Would love to win a copy but it is on my Wish List, if I don’t win so some day it will be read.


    Woot, woot – of course.

    There is something so romantic about an unfinished manuscript: what would have come next, what was the author thinking, and what were her intentions. So many “if only’s”. And such a lovely – and romantic – cover!

    Good luck with this and with your next project, Ann!


      I’m so glad you liked the cover, Lilyane. It makes me think of Jane sitting at her table in front of an empty piece of paper dreaming up all her wonderful characters.


    Woot! Woot! Well, Meredith, you finally got me to use your very cute words!! Remember I get senior discounts!! 🙂
    What a great interview! I’m so looking forward to reading it. I admire your bravery in not using the fragment as a whole, choosing which characters to retain, etc. Everything about your novel, Ann, sounds intriguing.
    Thank you so much for the giveaway, and best wishes for your first adventure in JAFF.


      Thank you for your kind comments, Catherine. If you had to dispense with one character from The Watsons, who would it be?


    I have not heard of this book until Meredith posted about it on Austenesque Agenda for this month. Thanks for introducing new authors to us, Meredith. I enjoyed learning new Austenesque authors and the inspiration behind penning the novel.

    Ann, it’s nice to know you and thank you very much for the generous donation.


    Wonderful interview Meredith and great questions. I love hearing what inspires authors to write. What I also find fascinating is that character(s) take over or lead the author on different path from where they originally intended to take the story. Triple woot woot for the amazing giveaway! If I should be so lucky, I would love to win a book!


    Hello everyone, I’ve just been reading the conversation above and I have to say I’m overwhelmed by all the wonderful comments you’ve left about ‘Emma and Elizabeth’. Meredith, thank you so much for your lovely review, and for posing such great interview questions.


    I haven’t read The Watsons in an antho of her minor works since I was in highschool and have no memory of it. I love the idea that it is now made whole. I definitely think it was a good move not to just continue the story because that sounds like all sorts of pressure. Congrats on the new release, Ann and thanks for the giveaway opportunity.


    Woot Woot! 10 copies for giveaway is fantastic! Thank you, Ann! I haven’t read The Watsons. Terrible, I know! 😉 Emma and Elizabeth sounds like a great read!
    Wonderful interview! I would have gone fishing rather than horseback riding. =)


    WOOT WOOT! That’s fantastically generous, thank you! Much though I love Jane Austen I haven’t read The Watsons so this intrigues me greatly. I find it fascinating that those pivotal transition periods of a woman’s life, where her approach to her own future is rearranged, is such a timeless event. Not that we modern gals have as much at stake as Regency women did, but I know of several twentieth and twenty-first century female authors whose writing style changed noticeably once they hit that crucial period.


    Dear Ms. Mychal, thank you for your kind reply. Sadly, I never got more than about 150 pages into my Watsons completion before giving it up as a dead end (pun not intended). And my Dorking series (to be called Darking Hundred), is still a few years in the future–I’m only 50 pages into the first one. I just published an Austenesque novel, but it’s set in the modern day (albeit written in Jane Austen’s words). Your Emma and Elizabeth is tops on my to-read list!


    This sounds so interesting and clever! Thank you for the thoughtful post and review.


    Oops. Joy. Not jiy 🙂


    This novel sounds very intriguing and I look forward to reading it. Thanks for the interview and the giveaway! Woot Woot! –Leslie


    This has made me want to go and read again The Watsons version that has been completed so that I can compare then two

    After your review I went to amazon Canada and there was no information for a paperback version – will it be available in Canada?

    meikleblog at gmail dot com


    I look forward to reading you upcoming book, it sounds intriguing


    Thank you for the review of this book. I am remiss in that I have read The Watsons only once and am now anxious to read it again after reading this review. Thank you for the giveaway and for the courage to write a JAFF based on The Watsons. It was so interesting to learn how the plot evolved.


    Such a short snippet but held such promise…glad you brought closure to THE WATSON”S…would love to win a copy


    What a wonderful giveaway which would be a treasure which I would cherish. Best wishes.


    This is fascinating and special I haven’t read this so it would be a captivating book.


    The Watson’s sounds captivating and beautiful. Love this.


    I have to confess theat I’ve not read The Watsons. Now, I think I have to put it to the top of my TBR list. Ann, your continuation sounds intriguing and if I was lucky, I’d prefer the paperback.

    I live in North Yorkshire, too, in Harrogate. Whereabouts are you?

    Thanks so much for your generosity with the giveaway.

    Meredith – Woot, woot!!


    A most interesting feature which introduced me to a new author and this book. A memorable post.


    I’m not familiar with Jane Austen fragment of The Watsons, but love her work.

    Great interview & questions. I love reading how an author gets their inspiration for a novel. Looking forward to reading Emma & Elizabeth.


    Great interview, Meredith, as always! I loved your answers, Ann. You have my complete attention now and I definitely want to read your book. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

    The cover is awesome, too! (and so it your extremely generous giveaway! Thank you.


    Woot woot!! Thank you Ann and Meredith, this sounds really great. Makes me want to read the Watsons again! Great answers I am especially intrigued about the parallels and look forward to reading it. Good luck on the success of your book 🙂


    i look forward to reading this book. It is a part of Jane Austen’s work that I am not familiar with.


    This a wonderful opportunity, not to be missed! I love ‘The Watsons’ and I so wish it could have been finished!!! And now, yay! it is 🙂 And the cover is absolutely stunning!!!!!
    Thanks for this amazing post, Anne and Meredith, and also for the awesome and very generous giveaway.
    So I’ll add my Woot Woot and cross a few fingers and toes. Thanks again!


    Thank you Ann and Meredith for a chance to add another book to my ever growing JAFF pile of books. Even if I don’t win I’ll be looking into getting this book. I too and curious as to the Watsons. Thanks!!


    What a fantastic giveaway! I haven’t read The Watsons but I’m planning to, and then I’d definitely like to give this one a try. It seems to me to be a really good idea to use the events of the original rather than the text in its entirety, as you’d have to try and write in somebody else’s voice exactly, I am guessing it could be stifling. All the very best with the book, and I’ll definitely keep an eye out for further works.


    Oh, my goodness! I’ve learned something new today- The Watsons! More Jane Austen & Austen fanfic to read,yippee!


    I haven’t read “The Watsons” yet, so I should do that, and I’d like to read your book. Thank you, Ann, for such a generous giveaway.

    The more I watch the various “Persuasion” movies/miniseries and read the novel, the more I like it.


    Haven’t read The Watsons but now I think I really should get to it ASAP as my holidays are also going on 😀


    I’m happy to have seen your post on Goodreads because that led me to your blog! I haven’t read that many Austen-esque novels, but I love Jane Austen. I’ll have to read The Watsons, and Emma and Elizabeth. Thank you for the tips! Woot! Woot!


    Hello Ann!
    A very interesting interview. You’ve been brave for taking an unfinished novel and giving it some new twists keeping the original substance!. I’m willing to see the relationship between the sisters because I haven’t read the original ” Watsons”. It must have been a beautiful experience to see your first novel published 🙂
    And how lovely it must be living in Yorkshire!. I fell in love with the place with Downton Abbey! LOL and with a book series I’m reading: the James Herriot’s books. They are nothing to do with Jane Austen but portray the beautiful landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales!.
    I wish you the best in your first novel and the next and thank you for being so generous offering 10 novels! Woot, Woot!.
    Thanks, Meredith for the interview, you should have been journalist 😉


    Your book sound really interesting. I love the fragment of the Watsons and i really like books whoexpand that story. And I am happy to found another writer who love Persuasion. P&P have so many stories about its characters and i think Persuasion need more love and stories about its characters. Thanks very much for the giveaway! I hope to win but in any case your book is on my tbr list


    What a nice interview. I love Jane Austens books and would sure love to read this one too. If I wont win hope I will soon have a chance to buy it! Still, keeping my thumbs up!


    I’d love to read a copy. It sounds like it would be a pleasure to read. Any idea when or if it will be published and available on this side of the pond?


    Congratulations on your first book!

    I was so thrilled when I discovered Jane Austen’s The Watson’s fragment. I’d love to read you’re expansion of it.


    a MUST-READ for me!!!!
    thank you for the giveaway!!!


    Woot Woot!! That’s an amazing giveaway! I loved your review, Meredith and reading this interview was fantastic! Definitely a book to read! 🙂


    I do remember hearing Ripon mentioned in Downton Abbey. I have the book The Watsons which was finished by Joan Aiken, I think. It also has another story in it.

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