Tell us about your book(s)!
So far, I have released two books and I think they’re as different as chalk and cheese.
The first, ‘From This Day Forward’, is a ‘Pride & Prejudice’ sequel for history fanatics – my take on the Darcys’ marriage, set in context. Written at a time when I wasn’t even dreaming of publication, it was my sweet escapism into the long-lost world of Regency charm and into a vanished way of life, after spending ages reading everything I could find about how Regency gentry lived – what they did for fun, what they gossiped about and what sort of events or people influenced their lives.
My second release, ‘The Subsequent Proposal’ is very different – history dialled right down, but plenty of drama. It’s a fast-paced variation – a ‘what-if’ story that sprang from my fascination with both ‘Pride & Prejudice’ and ‘Persuasion’.
I’ve always wondered what might have happened if, on a rebound after Hunsford, Darcy came across someone who was very like him in temperament and manner. Or if the dashing Captain Wentworth came home from the high seas to settle down – and didn’t encounter the cheerful and scatterbrained Louisa Musgrove, but someone else, who had cheerfulness aplenty, but also sparkling wit, intelligence and charm. Someone like, say, Elizabeth Bennet…
I’ve often wondered – and I’ve always found that, after ‘Pride and Prejudice’, ‘Persuasion’ is Jane Austen’s second most romantic novel, and it was very tempting to bring the two together! ‘The Subsequent Proposal’ does exactly that. It brings together characters who are very much alike, at a time of upheaval in their lives, when they should have known better than making life-altering decisions on the rebound from heartache and disappointment!
Perhaps I should stop here for fear of spoilers, but I just can’t move on without saying that, in this wonderful JAFF world of ours, I believe there is another truth, just as universally acknowledged: no matter what crazy obstacles are dreamed up and heartlessly set before them, Elizabeth and Darcy should never be apart!
What is your next project?
I have two other stories in the pipeline, and both are ‘Pride & Prejudice’ variations (looks like there’s a pattern forming here).
‘The Second Chance’ is based on an older story, posted eight years ago on ‘Derbyshire Writers Guild’ in a different version and under a different title – ‘Steady To His Purpose’. I’m revising it now and hope to release it in 2014, probably sometime in the spring. ‘The Second Chance’ is another tie-in, this time with ‘Sense & Sensibility’, where I once more attempt to bring similar Austen characters together. It struck me, all those years ago, when I first started writing this story, that some of Jane Austen’s wonderful creations just beg to be allowed to interact, and that they would get on like a house on fire. Mrs Bennet and Mrs Jennings for instance; Elizabeth and Elinor; Darcy and Brandon even, if there is no conflict of interest in their association.
My other project is a different kind of variation – a more daring one that takes Elizabeth and Darcy out of their comfort zones of tame, reasonably peaceful life in England and brings them into a world of secrets, on the windswept coasts of Cornwall. No swash buckling pirates though – this has been done beautifully by other authors – but plenty of mysteries and some ‘cloak-and-dagger’ thrown in for good measure!
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
If I knew a way to put Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle back in their late twenties and keep them there… I enjoyed all other adaptations, but I must admit, I often write with the 1995 Pride & Prejudice cast in mind.
Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
Nothing is foolproof for me, but it feels good to sit outside somewhere (back garden; park; coffee-shop forecourt) with a hot cup of chocolate, and try to imagine what the characters are likely to do next. This is a lot more fun in the summer though, so at this time of year swapping the hot chocolate for mulled wine sounds like a far better game plan. Also, parks and coffee shops have their disadvantages: it won’t do to look like a mad woman sipping hot drinks and talking to myself, so I guess mulled wine in the back garden will just have to do!
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
Good reviews are heavenly, there’s no doubt about it! I hope my kind reviewers read this, so that I can let them know how much I appreciate their thoughtfulness!
It’s the greatest feeling in the world to read a review and think: “Yes! THANK YOU! You got me, 100%! You understand exactly what I wrote and why – and you like it more than I ever hoped you would!”
I really wish I could meet these lovely people and hug them! I honestly can’t thank them enough for the happiness they brought me, and the tremendous encouragement, especially when I needed it most!
As for bad reviews, I think they come in very different categories. Most of them are tremendously helpful actually, and I have learned a lot from them. It’s great to have someone point out the failings I haven’t seen for myself, and show me how they can be corrected. I’m enormously grateful to those reviewers, because they’ve helped me write a better story, and thank goodness for Amazon and the option of uploading revised versions!
I can’t possibly be upset either by reviews that just say ‘It’s not my style, I didn’t enjoy it’. It’s fresh, it’s honest and it’s true. We all like different things, and that’s exactly how it should be! In fact, regardless of the number of stars they come with, none of the above reviews can be classed as bad!
The only difficult ones, in my opinion, are those that misunderstand the premise and are dismissively critical, without offering anything constructive. Still, what can I say? It’s not fun, but we put ourselves out there, so we just have to take the rough with the smooth.
How do you relax?
With a warm drink and a good book.
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
“Thank your stars that matters are not worse!”
What is your favorite book?
This is where I get totally boring! ‘Pride and Prejudice’, what else! I actually have it in several copies all over the house. This is what obsession looks like!
Who is your favorite author?
Predictably, Jane Austen.
What is your favorite movie?
1995 ‘Pride and Prejudice’ – but if that’s a series and doesn’t count, then it’s a draw between ‘Love, Actually’ and ‘Master and Commander’.
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Again – the lady herself, for so many reasons, but first and foremost to find out from her what was edited out when she turned ‘First Impressions’ into ‘Pride and Prejudice’. It’s one of the things I can’t stop wondering about: what was there, in that large chunk (a third of the book, no less!!) that was left out, and we’ll never get to see?
Still, if I was asked to leave my obsession aside for a moment and come up with at least one answer that’s not Austen related, my second choice would be Lord Byron. I’ve always wondered whether he might have lived longer and written more if he hadn’t made that disastrous marriage of his! I would have liked to warn him – but of course he wouldn’t have believed me and would have probably imagined he just had a very weird dream or a bad hangover!
What is the most interesting trip you have ever taken?
A distant cousin of my grandmother’s had a holiday cottage kept totally unchanged in terms of décor since about 1912, down to the tiniest detail. I don’t know why she chose to do that, I was very young when I visited the place and I didn’t have the courage to ask her – but it was an amazing sentiment of going back in time!
What was your most embarrassing moment?
My sister’s boyfriend mistook me for her and kissed me (same haircut & poor lighting).
Probably his most embarrassing moment too!
White wine or red? Red, always!
Coffee or tea? Coffee in the morning. Tea on a miserably cold day.
Cook dinner or order take-out/delivery? Home cooked – provided somebody else cooks it!
Vanilla or chocolate ice-cream? Chocolate, every time!
Pancakes or eggs? Pancakes.
Sleep in or get up early? Get up early.
Laptop or desktop for writing? Desktop, mostly.
This was great fun! Thanks again for inviting me here, it’s been a great pleasure.
Joana is Generously giving away one copy of her first release and two copies of her 2 release to three Lucky commenters who answer the question, "What brought you to Jane Austen Fan Fiction and what sort of stories keep you here?"