Friday, June 23, 2017

Mendacity & Mourning...J.L. Ashton

It is my pleasure to have J. L. Ashton visit my blog today as this is my first time to host her. I was scheduled to have her visit when her first book, A Searing Acquaintance, was released but unfortunately, I became very ill with pneumonia and Jakki Leatherberry took over my spot. Thankfully, I am able to host you this time around, Jan, and have been looking forward to your visit. I have been following your blog tour and have enjoyed each stop.

Today, Jan concludes a vignette that was begun on her first stop of the tour over at Ceri's blog, Babblings of a Bookworm. If you haven't had a chance to read Part One, the link is here and below. 

Once again Jan, I'm so glad to have you visit. Welcome to More Agreeably Engaged. 

*****

Thanks so much to you, Janet, for hosting me and Mendacity & Mourning here at More Agreeably Engaged. Part One of this vignette, featuring scenes that don’t appear in the book but are alluded to, appeared at Babblings of a Bookworm on June 19.

In this scene, an outtake from chapter six, Darcy parries with his cousin about the goings-on in (and the ladies of) Hertfordshire.


Games, Part Two

“So let me understand this. You passed not one, nay two, but four afternoons at the Bennets, eating cakes, making moony eyes, and playing games?”

“No,” Darcy replied irritably. “Hurst ate cake, Bingley made moony eyes, and I played chess.” He wiped the sweat from his brow and stepped back to examine his foil. “Chess is not a game,” he said solemnly.

“Oh no, chess is a battlefield of wood and ivory. Chess, like fencing, is a rich man’s substitute for war.” The colonel loosened his grip on his own weapon, sauntered over to the bench where he’d dropped his coat. Breathing heavily, he sat down and leaned over to adjust his boot. “Poorly made Hessians,” he grumbled under his breath.

Darcy bit back a chuckle and settled on a jibe. “Does this conversation on chess hold some meaning, old man?”

His cousin leaned back and looked at him carefully. “Was the company so deficient at Netherworld that the only matches you could make were in a houseful of ladies? Eligible young ladies? Or were you there simply to assist Bingley? And what of Hurst?”

“Did our corps à corps damage your brain?” Darcy gave him a piercing look. “It is Netherfield. Bingley’s estate is called Netherfield.”

Richard waved his hand. “Netherworld, Netherfield. The name is of little matter, it is leased. Answer my questions.”

Darcy sighed and sank down onto the bench. “If you needed to rest, you might have been clearer.” He gazed across the vast room, taking in the handful of other men practicing their skills with sword and foil. He recognised one man, a minor duke known for spouting inane insults while playing cards, quite badly, with men of far great skill.  The fool’s honor has been challenged.

“As to your questions,” he began, “Mrs. Bennet sets a fine table and takes pleasure in exhibiting her cook’s many talents. Hurst found a kindred spirit there in a Mr. Collins, the cousin to Mr. Bennet, who enjoyed the repasts there for many weeks. Long, unbearable weeks, according to the Bennet sisters.”

“Ho!” Richard sat up straight. “You are a confidant to these young ladies?”

Darcy stared at his cousin, his eyes hard and flinty. The other man stared back, slowly crossing his eyes until—as he had since he was a boy—Darcy began to laugh at the sight. Then he caught himself and scowled. “You, old man, are quite predictable in eyeballing battles. It makes you quite the hapless chess player. Shall I fear for you in France, that the soldiers will guess your every strategy?”

“I worry more for yours, cousin. You lack a certain strategy. A grand plan.”

Bingley has a plan, Darcy thought. He has met a lady of fair and luminous beauty, a kind demeanor, and a bottomless well of prim smiles. She was perfectly fine for his friend. But not for him.

He laughed quietly.

“What is it?”

“Bingley. He apprised me of the simple recipe for a woman to end my yearnings.”

“Do tell.”

“A pretty girl with a happy disposition, a dislike of dancing, a love of books, and patience for my dark moods and odd ramblings on Greek philosophy and chess manoeuvers,” Darcy said quietly. “Or somesuch thing. I should have had him write it down but his handwriting suffers such a lack of clarity.”

“As does his brain, yet I believe he is onto something here.” Richard noted his cousin’s expression, which he might have called wistful on a weaker, more romantic man. He shifted his eyes back to the fencers across the room and swore under his breath at the ungainly parries made by a large heavy man. “Swivel-eyed drumbelo,” he muttered.

Darcy ignored him, content for his mind to drift to Elizabeth Bennet and the flash of mirth in her eyes when she spoke solemnly of the burnt books of Netherfield and the insouciant turn of her lips when Miss Bingley tutted about the low thresholds and dearth of quality lace in small country towns.

She is remarkable.

He sighed.

“Zooks!” Richard whistled. “You do have a plan.”

“I have no such thing. I have a goal, to find myself a wife.”

“Apparently one who plays chess and is as inscrutable as you is perfect.” His moustache twitched. “Might I add to Bingley’s list that you find one with good teeth, a high tolerance for grumpiness, and her own generous set of bosoms?”

Darcy rolled his eyes. “Your needs and demands in a lady are quite low, Richard. Rather like your endurance for this match.” He rose and strode a few feet away before bowing. “Shall we?”

Richard jumped up, his sword firmly in hand. “Oh yes. And with my inevitable victory will come further revelations.”

At Darcy’s glare, he relented. “Fine, then. Some of your best port.”

An hour later, upon reaching Darcy House, the host served the loser only his third-best port. His cousin was none the wiser.
  

The End

*****

Book Blurb:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a gossip in possession of misheard tales and desirous of both a good wife and an eager audience need only descend upon the sitting rooms of a small country town in order to find satisfaction. And with a push from Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins sets alight a series of misunderstandings, rumours, and lies that create obstacles to a romance between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.

This slightly unhinged romantic comedy follows Darcy as he sets off to find himself a wife and instead finds himself pulled into the mire of his aunt’s machinations and his own fascination with Elizabeth, whom he believes betrothed to another. As Meryton judges him the grieving groom of Anne de Bourgh and a caddish dallier with the hearts of others, Darcy must ferret out the truth behind his cousin’s disappearance, protect his sister from the fretful fate of all Fitzwilliam females, and, most importantly, win Elizabeth’s heart.

Author Bio:

Jan Ashton didn’t meet Jane Austen until she was in her late teens, but in a happy coincidence, she shares a similarity of name with the author and celebrates her birthday on the same day Pride & Prejudice was first published. Sadly, she’s yet to find any Darcy and Elizabeth candles on her cake, but she does own the action figures.

Like so many Austen fans, Jan was an early and avid reader with a vivid imagination and a well-used library card. Her family’s frequent moves around the U.S and abroad encouraged her to think of books and their authors as reliable friends. It took a history degree and another decade or two for her to start imagining variations on Pride & Prejudice, and another decade—filled with career, marriage, kids, and a menagerie of pets—to start writing them. Today, in between writing Austen variations, Jan lives in the Chicago area, eats out far too often with her own Mr. Darcy, and enjoys membership in the local and national chapters of the Jane Austen Society of North America. 

Mendacity & Mourning is her second book with Meryton Press. She published A Searing Acquaintance in 2016.

Contact Info: 

Facebook
Blog 

Buy Links:



Blog Tour Schedule:

06/19   Babblings of a Bookworm; Vignette, GA
06/20   My Jane Austen Book Club; Author/Character Interview, GA
06/21   Half Agony, Half Hope; Review, Excerpt
06/22   From Pemberley to Milton; Guest Post, Excerpt, GA
06/23   More Agreeably Engaged; Vignette, GA
06/24   Just Jane 1813; Review, GA
06/25   Margie’s Must Reads; Guest Post, GA
06/26   Of Pens and Pages; Review, Excerpt, GA
06/27   Tomorrow is Another Day; Review, GA
06/28   Austenesque Reviews; Vignette, GA
06/29   My Vices and Weaknesses; Character Interview, GA
07/01   Darcyholic Diversions; Author Interview, GA
07/02   Laughing With Lizzie; Vignette, Excerpt, GA
07/03   Diary of an Eccentric; Review

Giveaway:

Meryton Press is giving away 8 eBooks and the giveaway is international. Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented (which will be verified). If an entrant does not do so, that entry will be disqualified. Remember: Tweet and comment once daily to earn extra entries.

A winner may win ONLY 1 (ONE) eBook of Mendacity & Mourning by J. L. Ashton.  Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and again, the giveaway is international.






















a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you, Jan, for supplying us with the most delightful ending to the vignette. I laughed several times reading the cousins' banter. It was fun! I'm so happy you got to pop in on your busy blog tour and I hope you are having a great time. I wish you much success with your new release. It seems to be getting great reviews and that is fantastic. Congratulations. I look forward to what else you have in store for us.

I have to say that the cover of your book, both front and back, makes me ponder many things. What do the peacock and the tiger have to do with the book? Why is the paper torn down the middle and what does that signify? I have some thoughts on that one but no clue on the others.Then on the back cover...who is that lady in the painting and why are the two people looking at her the way they are? She must have something to do with peacocks because of the background in her painting. Questions, questions, and more questions. I think I must read the book to find the answers to this intriguing cover.   

Dear Readers, I hope you will stop by the other blogs and enter for more chances to win an eBook of Mendacity & Mourning.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Exile Part 1 Introduction with Don Jacobson

Available at Amazon
Good morning and happy Wednesday to all of you. I have a surprise visitor today! Don Jacobson has popped in to do a pre-blog tour introductory post with us. This is his first time at More Agreeably Engaged and I am thrilled to have him visit. I find his series about The Bennet Wardrobe fascinating. I hope you will too. Don is giving us a 'taste' about The Bennet Wardrobe and what is behind it. 

The blog tour for The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque, begins on the 15th. He decided it would be good to give a little history beforehand. Since we are doing this here today, I am including this post in the blog tour Rafflecopter giveaway. More info about it at the bottom of the post. Now, please welcome Don Jacobson.

*****

What Is Behind The Bennet Wardrobe?
I am thrilled to be kicking off the blog tour for The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque here at Janet’s wonderful blog More Agreeably Engaged.
Through my years of reading Jane Austen’s fiction, I found myself often gravitating toward the side characters—particularly those in Pride & Prejudice…Mary the moralizing sister…Kitty who coughed and wilted in the glare of her younger sister’s boisterousness…Lydia who could only have been charitably described as being ready to throw herself at any redcoat…and Thomas who could have done so much more as a father.  Yet, I was left only with the smallest speculation of their futures after the double wedding at the end of the book.
Lydia had virtually vanished from the stage.  Austen herself suggested that Mary would wed a clerk in her uncle’s law office. Kitty was relegated, in Austen’s mind, to a backcountry parsonage. Mr. Bennet, with Mrs. Bennet on his arm, is last seen waving from the steps of Longbourn chapel.
Contrast Mary and Kitty’s suggested fates with the brilliant matches made by Jane and Lizzy.  And, if Mary and Kitty truly became Darcy’s family, how did they make such financially unsound matches contrary to Mama’s projections after the engagements?
Ms. Austen’s treatment of Lizzy’s younger sisters has bothered me.  I do recognize that she used certain characters to embody stereotypical manners and attitudes for dramatic purposes (see the vulgar Mrs. Philips, the wife of a tradesman, or the social-climbing daughter of trade Caroline Bingley).  These, though, were often two-dimensional renditions and served to get Regency readers nodding in recognition. Yet, once the reader gets past Lizzy and Jane, the remaining girls exhibit none of their elders’ virtues and embody nearly every vice that is assumed to infect humankind.
I feel that the younger sisters have gotten short shrift. They are, I believe, heroes in waiting.
Mary’s “challenged looks” and emotional mistreatment at the hands of her mother could have led her to become abusive to Longbourn’s servants or the tenants’ children. She could have taken advantage of being a daughter in one of the leading houses in the area to assert unbecoming social airs.  Rather, she chose faith.
Mary must have had deep-seated beliefs to spur her to find authorities to help inform her study even though shelacked guidance. Why would she pick a hopelessly outdated circa 1755 religious screed? Fordyce was a staunch Presbyterian of a darkly moralistic bent. Was Austen challenging the Dissenters, in many ways the far-too-serious inheritors of the Puritans, in an “equal opportunity” offsetting of her skewering of the Anglican Collins?
I, however, felt that her faith would have found greater shaping in the teachings of the conservative reformist Clapham Sect[i] which supported abolition, prison reform, and other social causes. The Mary Bennet who emerges in The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey would have been familiar to those in the 19th Century and seen as a worthy successor to Claphamites William Wilberforce (abolition), Henry Thornton (economics), and Hannah More (education).
Many JAFF authors (particularly Don Miller) have fixed upon Kitty’s artistic talent.  This may be a process of elimination.  Lizzy plays (at whatever level Lady Catherine may believe) and sings, but embroiders only passably. Lydia is the clotheshorse. Jane rests at the side of the family portrait serenely embroidering.  Mary attacks the pianoforte with Wagnerian zeal.  What is left to Kitty but painting and drawing?  
Yet, Kitty, although older, is characterized as always being led around by Lydia.   Many argue that she was Lydia’s accomplice.  Her coughing suggests a nervous constitution exacerbated both by her mother’s constant nattering as well as a desire to be anywhere but where she is at the moment.  There are likely deeper traumas hidden under her compliant nature. These are the underlying framework for Kitty’s story in The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque.
Lydia poses the most difficult challenge.  She truly is foolish.  Her character is laid before us as fully formed even though she is just 16 by the time P&P ends.  Can she no longer change?  She is presented as someone whose personality was fixed the moment she hit puberty.
In the Austen canon, Lydia got her “just desserts” for her frankly sluttish behavior by being saddled with Wickham.  JAFF writers often have tried to rescue her by killing off Wickham in various horrible ways, but rarely does Lydia improve.  There have been efforts to have Wickham rehabilitate himself, but usually without Lydia.
In order for her to avoid becoming a pathetic, Becky Sharp-type character, she must avoid growing into a 43-year-old who still acts as if she is 16.
If the core of Pride and Prejudice is Change, then should not Lydia, as well as Kitty and Mary, be given some vehicle which allows them to realize some sort of destiny?
The Bennet Wardrobe is an alternative history in the Jane Austen Universe. While the characters are familiar, I have endeavored to provide each of them with an opportunity to grow into three-dimensional personalities, although not necessarily in the Regency period.  If they were shaped or stifled by the conventions of the period, the time-traveling powers of The Wardrobe helped solve their problems, make penance, and learn lessons by giving them a chance to escape that time frame, if only for a brief, life-changing interlude.
The Wardrobe underlines my conviction that each of these characters could enjoy fulfilling lives once they had overcome the inner demons holding them back.
 Would it have been possible for them to do so staying on the Regency timeline?
Perhaps. However, something tickled my brain—maybe it was one of the many efforts to translate the P&P storyline to the present day—that threw the idea of the Wardrobe up in front of me.  Now my protagonists could be immersed in different timeframes beyond the Regency to learn that which they needed to learn in order to realize their potentials and in the process carry the eternal story of love and change forward to even the 21st Century.
Some Bennets will travel further and remain in the future longer than others. We may not be privy to accounts of all of the journeys they take. Rather, we may see whispers of those trips as they impact others. Consider the open question of whether Lizzy Bennet ever used The Wardrobe.
The Wardrobe Series is currently projected as six books to realize the grand arc of the Wardrobe’s Plan.
The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey (2016)
The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque (2017) (Pt. 1)
The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn (proj. 2017) (Pt. 2)
The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and the Father’s Lament (proj. 2018)
The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and the Soldier’s Portion (proj. 2018/19)
The Grail: Saving Elizabeth Darcy (proj. 2019)

Please enjoy the following excerpt from The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque.
From Chapter IX
In which Kitty attends the ball held in honor of the betrothal of Lord Henry Fitzwilliam and Lady Astrid Winters.

The orchestra had been playing for about an hour when Henry approached Kitty for his dance with her. He had already waltzed with Astrid and his mother and had partnered Ellie in a mazurka. For her part, Kitty had been anticipating the next few minutes of waltzing because she had resolved to clear the air between them.
Henry bestowed a friendly smile upon her as he reached out to lead her onto the floor.
Both felt an undeniable jolt as her sapphire silk wrapped hand grasped his brilliant white glove. Unbidden, both momentarily tensed until the sensation passed.
Strauss’ Du und Du[ii] paced the couple round the crowded floor. 
Both were silent for several long moments as Kitty gazed into Henry’s steel grey eyes, the color of clouds over the Channel on a winter’s afternoon. He, levelly, returned the look into her china blue orbs. As they glided around the floor without saying a word, Kitty began to grow frustrated. 
Why cannot this Fitzwilliam be more like a Fitzwilliam rather than a Darcy? I am surprised that Lizzy did not throttle Mr. Darcy at the Netherfield Ball. I will not abide the next five minutes without a word passing between us.
“Lord Gladney, Henry, I assume you invited me to dance with you in order to enjoy the pleasure of my company. Yet, I am hard-pressed to understand how you are deriving any gratification by simply spinning around the floor with me in your arms,” she challenged.
Henry lifted his left eyebrow and replied somewhat formally, “I assure you, Miss Bennet, Kitty, that holding you in the dance is enough pleasure for me.”
Insufferable man!
“That will not do. One must speak a little, you know. It would look odd to be entirely silent.
“I, for one, do have many subjects about which we could comfortably converse as we enjoy Herr Strauss’ fine music…that is if you would drag yourself from the clouds and back into the ballroom,” she reposted.
Up to this point, Henry had been only briefly attending to his partner, allowing muscle memory to lead them through the correct steps. His mind, as Miss Bennet had correctly observed, had been 1,000 miles away…actually only 150…in Deauville.
Fitzwilliam had been deep inside himself as they had danced. Contrary to Kitty’s protestations that he was seemingly ignoring her, he was acutely aware of her presence and the impact it was having on his composure. His carefully constructed defenses of the previous four years had been knocked over like skittles on the lawn. The woman in his arms attracted every fiber of his being and bored deeply into his soul like none other save one—and she was lost to him some twenty-five years from now. He had mourned that for seven years.
I only recall her scent: roses over freshly mowed grass.
As Kierkegaard wrote, “The most painful state of being is remembering the future, particularly the one you will never have.”  
Yet, there was something eternal in our communion. If only…
He had overheard Kitty and Ellie speculating about his proposal to Astrid. They were half correct…and half dead wrong.
They were spot-on when they aligned his offer with his daily mindfulness of his father’s impending mortality.  Henry knew he needed to set up his nursery for, unlike Pemberley’s title, the Earldom of Matlock demanded a male heir. He was settling.  His feelings for Astrid were enough, as far as he was concerned, to allow him to perform his marital duties without distaste or any fear of deeper attachment.
That was where the two girls were wrong. He had always believed that he would marry only for the deepest love. But he knew that was impossible…for he had found true love and it had slipped through his fingers. She existed on another plane, only reached once thanks to the Wardrobe.
If I cannot have Her—the Voice—in my bed…for She is always in my heart…then any well-born lady will do. Once we have sons, we can remain polite companions until the Lord takes me home, I pray, to rest softly in Her cherished arms.  
Kitty was threatening his entire scheme of detachment from love…and he could not understand how she was doing it.
Kitty’s animated appeal to him brought his conscious mind into focus.
“Pray, cousin Kitty, forgive me.  I was not paying attention.  The music and movement reminded me of that first ball you attended when cousin Caroline Anne and Lord John were marrying. You and Ellie were quite excited at the prospects, if I recall,” he offered.
Kitty accepted this lengthy speech as partial expiation for his ignoring her. Then she decided to address the elephant in the room.
“T’is odd you should mention the Cecil-Bingley ball, my lord, for that was on my mind as well.
“I have been puzzled by your behavior toward me these past four years…”
Henry swiftly interrupted her with a concerned voice, “Have I acted improperly toward you, Miss Bennet? I have made every effort to be friendly and tolerant of your behavior recognizing that you were placed out of your own time.”
Kitty huffed and fixed him with a steely stare, “No…never improper, to be sure. But your exaggerated propriety and extreme tolerance has been nearly unbearable.
“Am I so deficient in manners and intellect that you must treat me as if I were a small child utterly unaware of the problems I have faced and will continue to address on this timeline?
“Why cannot you treat me as Eddie and Tommy do? They are men of your class and with both greater and lesser responsibilities. Yet, they find it within themselves to be my friend.”
Fitzwilliam knew that he could not truthfully answer her…for he had no response that did not involve him making a fool of himself. He had made his choice—to live in the gray half-life of a loveless marriage with a pleasant woman. Lengthy exposure to Catherine Marie Bennet threatened it all.
Unseen by Kitty, he caught the attention of his future brother-in-law, Lord Junius, and widened his eyes in a silent plea. Winters caught the hint and ambled over to cut in, relieving Henry of the need to reply.
Kitty threw a frustrated look at Henry’s retreating back.





[i] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Clapham-Sect
[ii] Du und Du (Thou and Thou) waltz, Opus 367, 1874.

*****

Don, I truly enjoyed reading your thoughts behind The Wardrobe and the Bennets. As I said earlier and have said to you, I find this storyline fascinating. It is a brilliant idea and what I have read to date supports my feelings. Thank you for sharing such good books with us, the readers. 

The excerpt that you chose to share is one that I enjoyed reading in the book. I felt for both Kitty and Henry. I look forward to more excerpts and posts when your blog tour begins on Thursday. I wish you the best with it and with The Keeper: Mary Bennet's Extraordiary Journey (V1) and The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque, Part 1 (V2). I will add to those of you wondering about the books, I read Volume 2 first and then Volume 1. The books can stand alone and the reader still be able to grasp the storyline, but I do recommend reading them in order. There are things missed and/or questions answered if they are read as they should be.

Author Bio:

Don Jacobson has written professionally for forty years.  His output has ranged from news and features to advertising, television and radio.  His work has been nominated for Emmys and other awards.  He has previously published five books, all non-fiction.  In 2016, he published the first volume of The Bennet Wardrobe SeriesThe Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey, novel that grew from two earlier novellas. The Exile is the second volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series.  Other JAFF P&P Variations include the paired books “Of Fortune’s Reversal” and “The Maid and The Footman.”
 Jacobson holds an advanced degree in History with a specialty in American Foreign Relations.  As a college instructor, Don teaches United States History, World History, the History of Western Civilization and Research Writing.
He is a member of JASNA-Puget Sound.  Likewise, Don is a member of the Austen Authors collective (see the internet, Facebook and Twitter).
            He lives in the Seattle, WA area with his wife and co-author, Pam, a woman Ms. Austen would have been hard-pressed to categorize, and their rather assertive four-and-twenty pound cat, Bear.  Besides thoroughly immersing himself in the JAFF world, Don also enjoys cooking; dining out, fine wine and well-aged scotch whiskey.  
His other passion is cycling.  Most days from April through October will find him “putting in the miles” around the Seattle area (yes there are hills).  He has ridden several “centuries” (100 mile days).  Don is especially proud that he successfully completed the AIDS Ride—Midwest (500 miles from Minneapolis to Chicago) and the Make-A-Wish Miracle Ride (300 miles from Traverse City, MI to Brooklyn, MI).

Contact Info: 

Website
   

Buy Links:



Blog Tour Schedule:

06/15   From Pemberley to Milton Guest Post, GA
06/16   My Jane Austen Book Club Guest Post, Excerpt, GA
06/17   Just Jane 1813 Review, Excerpt, GA
06/18   Free Date
06/19   Diary of an Eccentric Excerpt, GA
06/20   Savvy Verse and Wit  Guest Post, GA
06/21   Darcyholic Diversions Author Interview, GA
06/22   My Vices and Weaknesses Review, Excerpt, GA
06/23   Babblings of a Bookworm Character Interview, GA
06/25  My Love for Jane Austen Vignette, GA
06/26   Interests of a Jane Austen Girl Review, Excerpt, GA
06/27   So little time… Guest Post, GA
06/28   Laughing With Lizzie Guest Post/Vignette, Excerpt, GA 


Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I hope you will leave a comment and tell us what you think about The Bennet Wardrobe. We would love to hear your thoughts. If you get a chance to read The Keeper, you will learn much more about it and how it came to be. Thanks for stopping by and good luck in the giveaway. It consists of 8 eBooks  of The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque, and is international. There will be 8 lucky winners!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Robin Helm...Interview

Available at Amazon
Today I welcome Robin Helm to More Agreeably Engaged. It's been awhile since her last visit so this is a special day. Robin graciously allowed me to interview her and I hope you enjoy reading her answers as much as I did. Thank you, Robin, for taking the time to share with me and my readers, allowing us to know you a little better. I'm so excited to have you visit today and have been looking forward to it since we set the date. Thank you for coming by.

Before I start the interview, just look at the cover of Robin's latest book. Isn't it beautiful! Her daughter is a gorgeous young woman and makes the perfect front cover picture of Elizabeth. I love it!

*****

How and when did your interest in Jane Austen and Pride & Prejudice take root?

I was always a bookish person. I read Austen’s books as a teen and young adult, but the 1995 miniseries really revived my love of Pride and Prejudice, as well as the other books. Yes, I’m a huge Firth fan. He brought Darcy to life for me. (Now I’ve aged myself.)

Goodness! If that ages you, then I'm aged, too. The 1995 miniseries started it all for me and sent me back to Pride & Prejudice. I've never looked back. Since you are a 'bookish' person, what drove you to start writing your own books? Did you write other things before writing PnP variations?

My sister Gayle introduced me to JAFF stories online. We bought the books together at bookstores, too. I still have the first Austenesque books I ever bought - Pamela Aiden’s Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series. A little later, I also bought the mystery books written by Carrie Bebris, the Mercy’s Embrace series by Laura Hile, and Susan Kaye’s Frederick Wentworth: Captain books.

Soon after reading those books, I decided to write my own. I published Guardian in 2011 and have since published six more Austen-inspired books.

Before I started writing fiction, I wrote a column for a local newspaper and was published in several poetry anthologies.

I have all the Austenesque books I have bought too. I need a new bookshelf! When you write, do you have a muse that causes your story to lead you at times or do you use an outline and follow it religiously? What is your writing routine?

I definitely depend on my muse. My outlines are extremely short and general. I actually fill them in as I write. Posting my stories on our forum (with Wendi Sotis and other authors), Beyond Austen, helps to keep me motivated, and the reader feedback is vital to me.

That is great that you have the instant feedback of a forum. I can see where that could help. Is there any setting that is more inspirational to you when writing?

I write best in my messy office when I’m home alone, though I keep a small notebook with me everywhere I go. If an idea comes to mind, I write it down.

Let's don't talk about messy offices. I'm sitting in one right now and it's not yours! Let's talk about something more fun! What about the Regency era is appealing to you?

The televised, “moviefied” version of the Regency era is appealing to me, but I doubt the reality of living in that era would be as pleasant as our idealized versions. I explored that idea in my Yours by Design series. Regency Darcy and modern Darcy switch places in time. I had fun with that. (Just think of Regency Darcy waking up from a horrific horse riding accident in a modern hospital in Atlanta. Women are working as nurses! Wearing pants! Touching him!)

I love the idea of courtesy and manners – knowing what is proper and what isn’t. I like the clothing and style.

In reality, however, I would miss modern bathrooms, the freedom of modern clothing and class structure, my role as a twenty-first century woman, and modern conveniences. I depend on labor-saving devices. Sometimes, my house is humming with all of them running at the same time. (Right now, in fact.)

Air conditioning is necessary to a comfortable life in the South. I grew up without heat or air conditioning. Sorry, Darcy, but you take a back seat to my comfort.

It would be hard to do without our modern conveniences but I do love the romantic version of the Regency era. The manners, the proper way of doing things, I think those are worthy and sometimes sorely missed in this era. Tell us something about your newest book that you love most. (if you can without giving anything away)

I love presenting Elizabeth as a strong, intelligent equal to Darcy. They fall in love over chess. I love to thaw the man out just a bit.

Interesting thought...to thaw the man out just a bit! I believe a strong Elizabeth is one thing that attracts Darcy. Moving on to you, what have you learned from writing that has helped you in your daily life?

I’ve learned to be more organized with my time. Jobs, church work, and my family all come before my writing. (Housework is always last on my list.) I’ve had to be careful about wasting my free hours. Because of that, I’ve had to prioritize. I had to decide what was important – what could stay and what I needed to discard in my life. I allow no negativism to stay in my mind. Reviews are great, but I don’t dwell on the bad ones. Those are that person’s opinions. They don’t define me. Writing has strengthened me.

I also learned that I can do things that are important to me if I write and publish. It’s empowering. I’ve put new floors in my house, bought new living room furniture, traveled to Japan, and purchased a car with my royalties. Since I want to remodel my bathrooms and kitchen and put new carpeting in my bedrooms, I am highly motivated to keep writing.

Then there’s that pesky retirement looming large in my future. We’ll need money for Larry’s nursing home. (That’s a running joke between us. When I forget anything, he asks, “Have you chosen your nursing home yet?” He’s a Knightley, not a Darcy.)

Can you teach me to be more organized with my time? I'm trying to prioritize but I'm not doing so good. I do think it's wonderful that writing has allowed you to do things important to you. I'm especially impressed that you allow no negativism to stay in your life. That is truly awesome. Those are some special things...is there anything else special about yourself or your writing that you would be willing to share with us?

I can’t write anything that goes against my religious beliefs. My conscience is very tender, and my books are in the church library. I teach music to children of all ages. They follow me wherever I go, and I won’t write what they can’t read. My books are my legacy. I hope they will remain after I’m gone. In that sense, I suppose I’ll never stop talking.

I admire you for your convictions and find them/you inspiring. Do you have a modern day author that has inspired you? If yes, what was it about their writing that was an inspiration?

Though I don’t write fantasy that contradicts my beliefs, I do read it. I realize that it’s a product of imagination, not an attack on religion. As such, I enjoy the works of believers and non-believers. C.S. Lewis (Chronicles of Narnia, Out of the Silent Planet) and J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings) have inspired me, as well as Stephenie Meyer (The Twilight Saga), Susan Ee (Penryn, End of Days Trilogy), Tahereh Mafi (Shatter Me), Sarah Maas (Throne of Glass books), Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games), Veronica Roth (Divergent series), and others. These books all have fantasy or sci-fi elements. I am amazed at the creativity and outpouring of imagination. Also, they have appealed to younger and older readers alike. I want to do that. I want my books to be loved, I want them to challenge, and I want them to leave my readers thinking in a different way about life. I want to engage the reader’s imagination. That’s why all of my books (so far) have a paranormal element.

I like your thoughts on modern day authors that have inspired you. I feel the same about several of them. Your desire to have your books loved and to challenge is a worthy goal. I have a feeling you most definitely engage your reader's imagination. Now for a very important question, we all have our special reasons for loving Mr. Darcy, what are your reasons?

Mr. Darcy (as portrayed in the original Austen novel) is intelligent, handsome, wealthy, and family oriented, but he isn’t perfect. He’s opinionated, conceited, stubborn, class-conscious, proud, and meddlesome. His self-importance is off the charts. How wonderful that Austen wrote a man who needed to change and did so!

I’m shallow enough to require a handsome hero, but I’m deep enough to want him to have faults. Perfect people really get on my nerves, and in the end, they really aren’t as perfect as we think they are. Something is being hidden from the rest of us, and it always comes out eventually and unpleasantly.

I know that I have faults. I can list them in detail. Therefore, I could never love a perfect hero, because I would never deserve him. He wouldn’t love me.

I love Darcy for his imperfections. And, of course, he’s very handsome, intelligent, and rich. I’m SO shallow. (sigh)

Oh, you have me laughing on that last note, Robin. I'm shallow right along with you! I think most of the Darcy lovers fit right in the same category. Oh, dear. Now am I stereotyping? How dare me! lol Seriously, your answers inspired me and I feel that your wishes on your writing legacy will come true. It was great having you visit again, Robin. I'm so pleased you came by. I invite you to come back anytime. 

It's giveaway time! Ms. Helm is generously giving away 1. International; an eBook of her latest, Understanding Elizabeth 2. US only; an eBook or paperback, winner's choice of Understanding Elizabeth. Isn't that great!  Readers, that's two of you that will have a new book to read! Thank you, Robin. Leave a comment and your contact info below. We would love to hear your share in the conversation. The giveaway will end at 11:59 PM on the 19th of June. Good luck to all.