Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Darcy in Wonderland...Alexa Adams, Katy Wiedemann

Available at Amazon
Ever since Alexa Adams mentioned the idea of doing a post with her sister, I have been looking forward to today. I am fortunate to have two extremely talented sisters, Alexa Adams and Katy Wiedemann, talk about their work. As you know, Alexa Adams is an author and her sister, Katy, is an illustrator. She drew the pictures and covers for the latest release by Alexa Adams, Darcy in Wonderland. I love that these two sisters were able to work together and create such a neat book. I knew Alexa to be an excellent writer and now I know her sister to be just as excellent of an illustrator. 

Alexa and Katy share some of their conversations during the process of developing pictures for the book. It is interesting to read their interactions, their thought processes and how they worked together. Thanks, ladies, for sharing your talents and your conversations with me and my readers. It is such a privilege to have you both visiting More Agreeably Engaged. Welcome!


Thank you so much, Janet, for hosting not just me today, but also my incredible little sister, Katy Wiedemann, who illustrated my new book, Darcy in Wonderland. As you too are an artist and illustrator, it seemed intuitive to focus this post on the development of the images used in the book. The following is a conversation conducted over email between my sister and I reflecting on the process of illustrating the book. She is currently living in Australia, while I live in Switzerland, so it is always good to have an excuse to catch up. I miss her dearly.

Alexa: I've been begging you to illustrate my books for years. With such a talented sister, how could I not? You always had a good excuse not to: school, travel, or other projects that kept you busy. Yet I suspect there were alternative reasons for your reluctance, in particular a lack of interest in Jane Austen. I was much more confident of your acceptance with this project, knowing Alice is a passion we share. Am I right about Austen just not being in your "zone," maybe even intimidating?

Katy: That is definitely true. There were several factors that made a book illustration project intimidating to me, and the fact that the subject was Jane Austen was only one of them. One of the most important things with a series of book illustrations is designing a group of characters that need to be unique as well as consistent, which is something I definitely struggle with. It's one of those skills that I have always coveted in other artists, but haven't really pushed myself to develop, so I'm quite glad I got the chance to work on it with this project.

Another thing that made me a bit nervous going into a project for one of your books is knowing how important historical accuracy is for you. I didn't want to disappoint my big sister! I found myself calling you very frequently while drawing to ask questions about certain details, such as "Would Mr. Darcy wear a hat to dinner in his own home?" or "How should the architecture for the musician's gallery look?" But you had an answer for every one of my questions, so as long as you weren't bothered with the constant questions, it didn't turn out to be much of an issue. 

There was also the fact that there is a very distinctive style of illustration from the Regency period, which is quite different to how I draw. Having this story be a crossover with Alice gave me more options stylistically. I tried to reference the linear quality of Sir John Tenniel's original illustrations for Alice while maintaining my own style. 

As you were writing, did you envision the scenes and characters very differently? How did you feel seeing a visualization of your work through my eyes?

Alexa: I actually don't often have a clear image of the scenes that I write. My characters are pretty much always faceless in my mind (the one big exception being Sir James Stratton of Second Glances, who came to me in a dream). I think you got all the visual genes. As we discussed possible illustrations for the book, I might have formulated some preconception of how they might appear, but as soon as I saw your drawings they became the predominate images. I think the only issues I had when reviewing them involved perspective (I remember discussing how Alice looked uncomfortable sleeping behind the musician’s gallery).

I really enjoyed looking for period pictures to guide your work. Especially those involving clothing, which is always a subject of fascination. It was a bit tricky, as the book doesn't have a definite time period, straddling the time between when Carroll published Alice in Wonderland (1865) and the years in which the Darcys would still be raising their family (post-1813 to the late 1830s). Fortunately, fashions didn't change quite as quickly back then as they do now, though the late Regency to early Victorian Era is kind of an exception. I also really enjoyed researching illustrations of Mrs. Bennet for you to morph into her pigeon self. I think the hardest "assignment" you gave me was finding children's beds from the period, as such furniture was rarely preserved, and also pictures of musician’s galleries, as there are such an infinite variety, almost always viewed from the ball room, while we needed the back of the gallery, where Alice sneaks down from bed in order to watch the action. 

As a scientific illustrator, it makes sense that you would feel most comfortable working from concrete sources, rather than letting your imagination take over. Though I said earlier that you have the visual genes, I don't think this is actually all that different from how I approach writing. Yes, the story lines are completely invented, but I am a stickler for historical accuracy, and I am always considering what is possible, both for the period and also in regards to human reactions and responses. I always need a reason for someone to do something. It made working in the highly bizarre space of Wonderland rather tricky, and is probably why I stuck so close to the original story. 

One image that did surprise me was that of the White Rabbit, probably because you based it on your roommate's pet rabbit, whom I have never had the pleasure of meeting. I know you've done portraits of live animals before, namely the family dogs, and I think you used pictures of them for your work, but does having a live model change the end result? To me, it feels like such portraits have more personality. Do you think knowing and living with the animals makes a big difference in the finished product? 

Katy: Having a live model absolutely helps, predominantly because I can pose them however I need to. It was rather convenient that I had a white rabbit jumping around my house at the very moment I needed one, and all I needed was a carrot to get the him to stand up on his hind legs for the pose that I wanted. I think because of this, that particular illustration came the most naturally to me. I agree that the illustrations I do from live models always have more character. I think when I know a person or animal well it gives me more of the ability to capture their personality in the illustration. 

One of the other aspects of this project that was difficult was the fact that I know the illustrations from the original Alice books so well. There were a few of the scenes we wanted to be in the book, but I just couldn't get the originals out of my head. For example, I really wanted to have the Griffin and the Mock Turtle dancing the Lobster Quadrille with Alice and Mr. Darcy, but every sketch I did ended up looking too much like the original illustration. So we ended up scratching that scene and choosing another one instead. 

You mentioned that you struggled with some of the absurdities in the Wonderland part of the book, do you think some of that was due to the fact that you are also so familiar with it?

Alexa: No, I don't think it was the familiarity that made it difficult. After all, I'm super familiar with Austen's novels and have not the slightest difficulty in bending them to my whims. Knowing Carroll's work so well allowed me to feel comfortable working within it, certainly, but my safe zone was having Darcy trying to impose reality upon it. The struggle was in creating new preposterous elements. So there are no new talking animal characters, just Carroll's originals, and there aren't any additional growth or shrinking spurts. I played a little with trying to create new opportunities to bend the laws of the natural world, but in all honesty, poor Darcy was already being subjected to plenty of physical challenges. Carroll provides an ample supply.   

It's actually a bit strange that I feel so comfortable manipulating Austen's worlds but not Carroll's. One would think that the fantastic nature of Wonderland would readily lend itself to adaptation. Tim Burton certainly had no difficulty altering it (then again, I believe I read that he was totally unfamiliar with the actual text when he began his series of films, which kind of shows in his total disregard for it - interesting how familiarity can actually hamper your imagination). But as I said before, I need reasons for something to happen. I can get into Austen's characters’ heads and figure out what motivates them and how they would react to different stimuli, but Carroll's characters have no rhyme nor reason to their behavior, so it's a lot harder for me. I suppose I'm too rigid: a lot like Darcy, actually. I would probably be just as disconcerted by Wonderland as he is. 

Speaking of Darcy, I was very interested in how you came to portray him. As previously stated, your scientific illustration background makes you want to have a concrete model from which to work. Probably because of my influence and all the years of Colin Firth worship, you first tried to use him as a model for your depiction, but in the end I believe you went with David Rintoul from the 1980 version of Pride and Prejudice (who does look so very Darcy). Will you explain why Firth was difficult to draw and the process through which we arrived at Rintoul as a better model? Could Matthew Macfadyen have worked?

Katy: The issue I found with using either Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen is that they both have very soft features. They look lovely in person, however, sharper features tend to look more appealing when simplified to a line drawing. I did want Darcy to look similar to how your audience knows and loves him, but I also wanted the character to be unique. I ended up deciding that the perfect reference for Mr. Darcy would be James Dean, but with David Rintoul's nose (which I love). I chose James Dean both because he is so classically beautiful and he has the sharp features to work as a line based drawing. I did find that as I was sketching his nose was so perfectly sloped that it looked unrealistic, so I threw in a bit of a bump to connect it more to David Rintoul's profile and add a bit of character. I do remember our phone conversation when I asked you if you thought this reference would be appropriate and you found it quite hilarious but also agreed that it worked. 

We also discussed the potential of giving Mr. Darcy a beard since different facial hair styles came into fashion during the Victorian Era. You seemed quite divided on this matter and ended up turning to your fans for advice. Most of them responded with strong opposition to him having a beard, so we stuck with his usual sideburns. 

Because Darcy is such a beloved character, I am interested to know how your fans are reacting to how we have both portrayed him in such a foreign environment. I know you initially had doubts about using the image of Darcy's neck stretched high above the tree tops as the cover illustration because you thought it might freak people out. What made you change your mind? And how have the early reactions been?

Alexa: Oh yes! I'd forgotten reaching out on the beard issue. Most fans were strongly opposed to the idea of a bearded Darcy. We can stick him in the Victorian Era, but I suppose we can't take away the Regency trappings. It's a bit sad really. Reminds me of people who still dress like they did in college twenty or thirty years later: stuck in their heyday.

I was concerned about the cover freaking people out a bit. I've been fairly sensitive about my covers ever since Christmas at Pemberley was declared "creepy" by several readers. I loved it and was totally shocked by this reaction. The experience has made me cautious, but as I didn't receive any negative feedback upon first revealing this cover, I thought we were safe, and now that it is released people seem to truly love it. It's such a fabulous illustration. I think it's my favorite that you did. Do you have a favorite from the book?

If I go on to write Lizzy Through the Looking Glass, which I'm seriously contemplating, are you on board for the illustrations?

Katy: I think the cover illustration is my favorite as well. I had so much fun drawing it. The white rabbit is a close second though, mostly because of how much it looks like the rabbit who lives in my house.

Even though this project was so different from what I typically do, I had a great time working on it with you. I would love to do another Wonderland series, so I really hope you write the sequel! I would love to draw the Jabberwock.

Alexa: I can't even begin to imagine how you would portray the Jabberwock, except that I doubt it would bear much resemblance to Tim Burton's. 

This has been so much fun, Katy - both working with you and chatting about it. I do hope we get to do it again. Thank you so much for your participation. 

Katy: No problem! I’ve enjoyed it.

Thanks again, Janet! We’ve had a lovely visit.


For more of Katy’s work, please visit her at www.wiedemannillustrations.com and www.katywiedemann.com.

Catch up with Alexa at one of the following:


I enjoyed so much reading your conversations. It was neat to see how you decided on certain things, the inspirations for Katy's drawings, and the way you discussed what each of you thought. I bet this was a fun project. It certainly is a unique one that deserves much attention. I hope you will decide to do Lizzy Through the Looking Glass. That sounds just as fascinating.

Ladies, thank you so much, for taking time to tell me and my readers a little about your process and the fun you had across the miles creating this novel! Congratulations to you both for a wonderfully crafted project! 

Readers, it's giveaway time! Yes, one of you lucky fans, will be the happy recipient of this lovely book. There is one Paperback or eBook of Darcy in Wonderland, winner's choice, to giveaway and the giveaway is international. All you need to do to enter, is leave us a comment. Tell us your thoughts. Be sure I can reach you should you be the winner. Giveaway will end at 11:59 PM on the 21st of August. Good luck everyone!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Cover Reveal, These Dreams by Nicole Clarkston

It is my pleasure this morning to host the cover reveal for Nicole Clarkston's soon to be released novel, These Dreams. This novel is a Pride & Prejudice variation and is different from any I have ever read. I have had the good fortune to read along as Nicole was writing her story. It has been a rewarding and enjoyable experience, although there were quite a few times that I felt like 'strangling' her for leaving me in such a bad place! :) Of course, I jest, but I did shriek while she laughed with a maniacal chortle at my distress. She was having a delightful time, too delightful if you ask me, while writing those heart-wrenching scenes. Oh, but they were delicious and kept me wanting more—and more—and more! I am eager for each of you to have a chance to read These Dreams.

Before revealing the cover, I will give you a taste of what is inside
by showing you the back cover blurb! Enjoy!


An abandoned bride
A missing man
And a dream which refuses to die...

Pride and patriotism lend fervor to greed and cruelty, and Fitzwilliam Darcy
is caught at the centre of a decades old international feud. Taken far
from England, presumed dead by his family, and lost to all he holds dear, 
only one name remains as his beacon in the darkness: Elizabeth.

Georgiana Darcy is now the reluctant, heartbroken heiress to Pemberley,
and Colonel Fitwilliam her bewildered guardian. Vulnerable and unprepared,
Georgiana desperately longs for a friend, while Fitzwilliam seeks to protect her
from his own family. As the conspiracy around Darcy's death widens and 
questions mount, Colonel Fitzwilliam must confront his own past. 
An impossible dream, long ago sacrificed for duty, may become his only hope.

Newly married Lydia Wickham returns to Longbourn- alone and under
mysterious circumstances. Elizabeth Bennet watches one sister suffer and
another find joy, while she lives her own days in empty regrets over what might
have been. Believing Darcy lost forever, she closes her heart against both pain
and happiness, but finds no escape from her dreams of him.


Nicole and I actually started working on this cover months ago. It has been finished, except for spine width, for quite some time. Of course, we would tweak one more thing or change a font color, 
but the essentials stayed the same.

Are you ready to see? Let's do it!

Drum roll, please!


So, what do you think? Is your interest piqued?


Nicole, any thoughts you want to share?

Janet and I started talking about this cover back in February, when the book was still in its infancy. She had been reading right along from the beginning, but she knew very little about some of those landmark scenes that were so clear in my imagination. I knew I wanted a heartbroken Elizabeth on the front cover, and we were still hesitant about whether or not we would include Darcy.

We flipped through dozens of images; or at least I did, I’m sure Janet’s count was probably in the hundreds. I knew I wanted a vintage painting that we could tweak as needed, but that narrowed our selections considerably. When Janet found this poor girl leaning against the tree, I almost fell out of my chair. What she did not yet know was that I had already planned several key scenes which looked just like that!

Darcy was harder. We almost excluded him entirely, but Janet faithfully looked and looked, trying to find something that would fit. The first image she saw was the one we used, but she initially discarded it because he was facing away from the viewer. In the end, that was what we loved best about him. Meanwhile, we flipped through several others. On one particularly snippy day (for which I am still apologising) I said one of her gentlemen reminded me of Zoolander. Thank goodness for her generous heart, she is still speaking to me!

As you may have already guessed from the back cover, Colonel Fitzwilliam plays an enormous role in this story. Yes, that is our devastatingly hot colonel gracing the back cover, in a custom uniform which Janet crafted herself. This is why I no longer do my own covers, ladies and gentlemen. The identity of that sultry lady next to him will remain, for now, a mystery, but I absolutely love that girl. I cannot wait to introduce you to her on another day!


I can hardly wait for you to introduce the readers to that sultry young lady, as well.

As for 'Zoolander' Darcy face, I keep coming across that same gentleman in picture searches. Every time I see him, I stop,... look at him;... then wonder...what was I thinking? Darcy - NOT! Zoolander - YEP! Good call, Nicole! (and you were not snippy) lol

After sending Nicole the painting that we used for the front cover, and she told me about the key scenes that she had planned which looked just like that painting, I got 'gooseflesh'!
When I originally saw the painting, I thought it would be so perfect,
but of course, I had no idea of just how perfect!
Isn't it neat how things work sometimes? I love it!

Thank you for having me do this cover, Nicole. It was such a pleasure working on it and making it come together to fit your story. I must confess, I rather enjoyed working on the Colonel! :)
Thank you also for allowing me to read the story as you wrote it. It's fabulous and I cannot wait for all my readers and the rest of the JAFF community to have a chance to read it for themselves. It was great fun working with you and giving a 'face' to 'your baby'. I cannot count the number of times I laughed out loud reading our back and forth dialogue!

Now, get this turkey out of the oven and on the table! lol

To read an excerpt and make sense of the above sentence,
read Nicole's post about this book at Austen Variations. :)

Get ready, folks! There is a giveaway! YAY! Two lucky winners will each get an eARC
of These Dreams! The giveaway is international and is for two eARCs.
Please leave us a comment, some love, or whatever else you feel like on this fine Friday.
Leave me a way to contact you if you are new to my blog.
I am always sad to lose winners because I have no way of reaching them.
Giveaway will end on the 17th of August at 11:59 P.M. Good luck to all.

We hope you enjoy the cover reveal for These Dreams by Nicole Clarkston. Keep 'an eye out'
because there is a blog tour coming the later part of September! There will be much
to look forward to with excerpts, guest posts, vignettes, giveaways, and some reviews.
I hope you will all join in the fun. Dates to follow in a few weeks.
The book is available for pre-order! :) This is a universal link and will provide all pre-order sites as they become available.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

And the winner is...When We Are Married

It is time to announce another winner!
Isn't this part fun?! I love it! 
We have the winner for the eBook, When We Are Married,
by Caitlin Williams.


Congratulations to you, Anji! I hope you enjoy this book
as much as I did. 
Please let me know your thoughts once you have read it. 
Thank you for supporting my blog.

A special thanks to Caitlin Williams for giving away an eBook
and to Claudine Pepe for organizing the blog tour.
Thank you ladies!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

And the winner is...The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen

Good morning and happy Wednesday to everyone.
I hope your week is going good.
I have a winner to announce so will get right to it!

The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen
by Ada Bright and Cass Grafton

Jan Hahn

Congratulations, Jan. 

Thanks to all of you for stopping by and reading my review. I loved reading all your comments. Those of you who had already read the book and loved it, felt the same as I did about this fab book! 
I'm so anxious and excited for the sequel!

Thank you, Cass and Ada. I appreciate so much your willingness to have a giveaway to coincide with my review. It was lovely of you ladies to do and I know the readers appreciated it. I hope you will visit again when the sequel releases! You are always welcome to visit 
More Agreeably Engaged!