Thursday, 12 August 2010

TALKING JANE AUSTEN - LYNN SHEPHERD PART I


Get a chance to win a signed copy of Lynn Shepherd's novel
Read through this post and discover how!!!

I'm glad to have a very special guest to "talk Jane Austen" with today. She'll be here again next Thursday  19th August. My guest is Lynn Shepherd. Reading and commenting the two parts of this interview you'll have  a double chance two win a signed copy of her delightful Austen-based novel just published also in the Us and Canada. The details of the giveaway are at the end of the interview.

Lynn Shepherd  lives in Berkshire, England, with her husband Simon. Murder at Mansfield Park is her first novel, but she has  been a professional copywriter for the last ten years.
She studied English at Oxford in the 1980s, and went back to do a doctorate in 2003. By that time she'd spent 15 years in business, first in the City, and later in PR. She'd always wanted to be a writer, and going freelance in 2000 gave her the time she needed to see if she could make that dream into a reality. Ten years and two and a half unpublished novels later, it’s finally happened!

First of all,  a warm welcome! I’m so glad to have the chance to talk with you about your novel,  Lynn. I’ve just finished reading it and I’m so curious about what you had in mind while writing  but, of course, I know you can’t reveal all your secrets! First of all the characters I’m most stirred by Mary Crawford and Mr Maddox. Let’s start from her. When and why did you decide she was your heroine?

As soon as I got the idea for Murder at Mansfield Park I knew straightaway that Mary would be my heroine. I’ve always liked her, and always felt that Austen weighed the scales against her, when she’s actually far more appealing than Fanny. But of course, ‘my’ Mary is not the same character as in the original. She has no money for a start, which always made a vast difference in Regency society. She’s had quite a hard life, and a lonely one in many ways, and that gives subtleties to her character that aren’t there in Mansfield Park.

Your Mr Maddox is a very intriguing character. As I wrote in my review, he is the hero of the novel in my opinion, more than Edmund or Henry Crawford. Who inspired you this rude fascinating thief-taker?

He was my favourite character to write! Probably because he is entirely mine, and nothing like anyone you find in Austen. I loved the idea that he dresses beautifully and looks every inch the gentleman, but has a very different social background, and a very different code of behaviour, which is why he can play such sophisticated games with his aristocratic suspects. I didn’t have anyone in particular in mind as a model, but I think his detective methods owe a lot to Sherlock Holmes, who is also all about ‘logic and observation’.

 Do you think he could be involved in any other adventure of yours? It would be nice to have him investigating alone, with other Austen heroines or with Mary Crawford herself again.
You won’t be surprised to hear that many readers have asked if Maddox will make a return! In fact I’m nearing the end of the first draft of a second novel, in which Maddox appears, but not perhaps in the way people will expect…

 Your Fanny Price is not the typical Austen heroine and she is not at all what we all thought her to be in Mansfield Park. Was it fun to create such a new, complex, completely different character? Was it instead troublesome?I think I’ve mentioned before that my inspiration for my version of Fanny Price was Kingsley Amis’ quote about her being a ‘monster of complacency and pride’ operating under a ‘cloak’ of demureness, and using that to dominate what goes on. I’m not sure I agree with that as a description of the original Fanny, but it was a wonderful basis upon which to construct my new one. And yes, it was enormous fun to do that, and I was surprised how many of the original speeches I could re-use without changing them at all!

Edmund and Henry are the other male main characters in the novel. Again quite different from the original characters though substantially similar. Why did you decide to give them the same main features as JA gave them? Does this mean you basically like them?
I think Henry is one of those appealing bad boys that women have been falling in love with for hundreds of years. Again, by making my version poor, rather than rich, I was able to change the whole basis of Henry’s social status, and bring some new pressures and stresses to bear on his character, which result in some interesting twists. As for Edmund, I do find the original version very trying, and very pompous on occasion. My challenge with him was precisely the fact that I wanted to keep him the same, but show what might be going on behind that rather irritating façade – to make him more human and vulnerable, which I think also makes him more appealing as a character.

You gave some of the servants in the house a relevant role in the story. Is there any specific reason why you did it?
That’s a really perceptive point. Of course there are servants in Austen – dozens of them in fact, especially in a big house like Pemberley, but hardly any of them ever get a voice, or even a name. The intriguing thing about introducing a murder, of course, is that these silent and invisible people suddenly become just as important as the main characters, as potential witnesses. In fact, as Maddox knows perfectly well, they’re actually more useful, because they can tell him what’s really been going on behind closed doors, and they’re not trying to maintain an illusion of unity, as the family are.

Part of the investigation in the book reminds me of Christie’s Poirot‘s procedures and part of contemporary murder stories with several macabre details (coroner’s style). Are you keen on mystery and murder stories as a reader? Did you read anything in particular to prepare yourself to the task?
I absolutely adore mysteries – especially good old-fashioned English detective fiction. I’ve read and seen hundreds of these over the years, and one of the main inspirations for my book was the realisation that the set-up of Mansfield Park is exactly like a country house murder – the family in the big house, the buried tensions, and the charismatic outsider who sets off a disastrous chain of events. Having seen that connection, it was a wonderful puzzle to put together an authentic Regency ‘Christie’.

You left part of the mystery unsolved. Namely, Henry Crawford’s background story involves another mysterious unsolved crime. Are you going to write something starting from there?
Yes that was quite deliberate – I want to leave it open to my readers to decide what happened with that earlier crime. I don’t have any plans to solve it for them, but I suppose anything’s possible!

How long did it take to write and get to publish your first novel? Have you got any suggestion for the many bloggers dreaming to become published writers I know?
I first starting trying to write a novel 10 years ago, and have been working at it ever since. My first unpublished one included some Austen pastiche, and it lay in a drawer for about a decade before I finally had the idea for Murder at Mansfield Park, and was able to turn it into something someone wanted to publish. But that’s a hard process, and you have to be very determined, and grow a pretty thick skin. But the key thing is never to give up. And get a good agent!

My last question is one I’d have asked Jane Austen herself if I had had the chance to interview her about Mansfield Park. I’d like to ask you, thinking of YOUR novel … are you pretty sure that THAT is the finale you actually wanted to write? Any regrets? Is that the right man for your heroine? I’m still puzzled actually… I feel like something different can still happen … LOL
It’s hard to answer this one without giving too much away to those who haven’t read it! Shall we say that both Mary and I were very tempted by the alternative she’s offered in the closing pages, but I felt I had to remain true to the original, and return to that at the end – and as any Austen fan will realise, my last sentence (like my first) is exactly as she wrote it. So yes – I think mine ends the right way, though I’m not sure Miss Austen could say the same of hers…!

Ok! That's all for today, Lynn. See you next week. I've got much to ask you about Jane Austen and her work and still something about your novel. Thanks for your time and your kindness!
 
(Australia & New Zealand front cover)

Now darling readers and Janeite friends it's your turn! GIVEAWAY!!! Lynn Shepherd has generously granted one of you a copy of the American edition of Murder at Mansfield Park. You'll have a double chance to win it, leaving your comments both on  this post and  on TALKING JANE AUSTEN - LYNN SHEPHERD PART II  you'll find on My JA Book Club next Thursday.

1. The giveaway is open worldwide
2. Winner will be announced on August 26th
3. You can leave just one comment under each post (so double chance to win)
4. Don't forget to add your e-mail address. I won't enter you without it!

Follow Lynn Shepherd at  her site http://www.lynn-shepherd.com/ 

19 comments:

~ Babs ~ said...

I love JA and this looks like a great read.
Bhitwr at gmail.com
I am a new follower love the site.

Meredith said...

Fantastic interview! The more I read about this lovely book the more I want to read it! I'm very intrigued to meet this newcomer, Mr. Maddox, he sounds fascinating! Can't wait for part 2!

merry816@aol.com

Lua said...

Thank you for the fantastic interview Maria! Lynn’s book sounds amazing- I love Austen (and naturally all things Austen related) and can’t wait to read her book :)
And what a great idea with the giveaway, I’d love to participate! My email address: luafowles@gmail.com

Elegant Female said...

Wonderful interview. I haven't read too many fan-fics regarding Mansfield Park. I'd love to win this, looks like a wonderful read!

felicialso@gmail.com


Felicia

Audra said...

*Great* interview, although this -- I want to leave it open to my readers to decide what happened with that earlier crime. -- made me shake my fist in the air! (Lovingly.) I do love when authors torture me. Mostly.

Seriously, though, I am taking strength from Ms Shepherd's admission that it took her about 10 years to get her novel done -- there's hope for me. :)

Thank you for the giveaway! thesibylqueen at gmail.com

Kaitlyn Devin and Grace said...

What a great interview! I would love to win this book, I love anything Austen :)

k8thebookbuff@yahoo.com

-Kate the Book Buff

phylly3 said...

This sounds fascinating! Thanks for the chance to win, MG!
phylly3@gmail.com

buddyt said...

I am a great fan of Anne Perry's Monk and Pitt series and this sounds as if it would be something similar so I would love to get a chance to read it.

Has Lynn read any of Perry's books and what does she think of them ?

Thanks for the giveaway.

Carol T

buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@buddyt
Here, Carol, is a message for you from Lynn:
" I haven't read any Anne Perry, but perhaps I should!"

Patty said...

Great interview as usual.
I'd like to read this book and I admire its author so much, especially after I read her post on Richardson over at AustenProse. I've been reading Clarissa for three months and I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel yet ;)

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@Patty
Could you, please, add an e-mail address where I can contact you in case you were the winner? I'd be so sorry if I had to keep you out from the giveaway for this reason. I hope you'll read this note, Patty.

Katy F. said...

Oh, how fun! I love mysteries, I love Austen, this sounds like a fun mash-up.

srfbluemama[at]gmail[dot]com

Karen M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen M said...

I think I'm already following Lynn Shepherd on Twitter... Murder at MP sounds interesting.

In fact, MP is my favorite of Austen's novels. It wasn't always, but has become so, over time.

karentmurphy [at] gmail [dot] com

Luthien84 said...

I think I have never read any Mansfield Park inspired fiction if I could correctly recall my memory. Nevertheless, I will add this book to my TBR pile which is already growing. Do add me for this giveaway.

Thanks.
evangelineace2020(at)yahoo(dot)com

Padme A'Tea (Lyn) said...

Thank you for this interview. I've been searching for a new mystery to read. I love Jane Austen and this book may very well lead to another mystery addiction for me.

Padme A'Tea (Lyn Gilbert)
whiterose0729@gmail.com

loves2read said...

I love mansfield park and this looks like an intersting book too.
marcie.turner@yahoo.com

junewilliams7 said...

I too would have liked to interview Jane Austen about Mansfield Park, specifically her feelings about slavery and why she didn't reform Henry Crawford.
~ junewilliams7 at yahoo dot com

adilenekornfreak said...

I want to read this book
I have Barely began to become a Jane Austen fan and i would love to read this book... I want it!!

adilenekornfreak@yahoo.com