Thursday, 14 October 2010

TALKING JANE AUSTEN WITH MONICA FAIRVIEW & GIVEAWAY


OUR GUEST
Monica Fairview writes novels set during the Regency period: Jane Austen-inspired novels, and Regency romances.  Before she started to write, as a literature professor, she enjoyed teaching students to love reading. Now she  enjoys writing books for people to read.
She is currently based in London, UK. In her former life as a student and professor she wandered the USA and  lived in Illinois, Los Angeles, Seattle, Texas, Colorado, Oregon and Boston. 



 GIVEAWAY
Monica Fairview is with us today to talk Jane Austen with me and to grant you a free copy of her latest work, THE DARCY COUSINS, if you live in the US or Canada. The giveaway ends on October 20th. Don't forget to add your e-mail address to your comments!


HERE'S MY INTERVIEW WITH MONICA FAIRVIEW!

 First of all, thank you Maria Grazia for inviting me to join you here on My Jane Austen Book Club. It’s a pleasure to be here and answer some of the original and challenging questions you’ve posed. I can tell at once that you’re a rather tough teacher!
 Do you really think so, Monica? Maybe my students will agree with you! Here we go, now. First question. You were a literature professor who tried to teach her students the love for reading, then you started writing.  Was writing your dream job or was it just an escape from a rather stressing career?
I had to laugh at this question. Yes, teaching is a stressful career, far more stressful than people credit. Teachers are the unsung heroes of society. But I wish things had been that cut and dry. My road to writing meandered through training to be an acupuncturist, then the recognition (bells finally ringing) that I’ve really always wanted to write, and it was about time I got round to doing it. Certainly, writing is my dream job, but it took me a long time to discover the fact. Having found it, of course, I would have a terrible time giving it up, because writing is truly addictive. 

This is something I must ask. Did you have any secret strategy in coping with many students’ refusal for engaging activities such as reading novels?
You’re addressing a question that was close to my heart as I’ve always been very text-oriented, and I did my best to reward students who’d actually done the reading. I had a very tricky strategy which involved not asking questions on tests or exams that could be gleaned from notes or class lectures. You could only answer if you’d read the book yourself. Coming up with these kinds of questions required inventiveness and strategic planning (one could almost say cunning), but in retrospect it was quite fun. I did earn the reputation for being a teacher who ‘made you do the reading,’ so probably students who didn’t want to do that avoided my classes. At university level students do have that choice.

 In your first book,  “An Improper Suitor”, you wrote a  Regency romance  with original characters. Then you turned to Austen-sequels, The Other Mr Darcy and The Darcy Cousins respectively with Caroline Bingley and Georgiana Darcy as their heroines. Can you tell us how you came to write these novels, the three of them? Did you carry out any special enquiry, study, research to get ready to portray the Regency society and propose JA-style witty prose?
A tremendous amount of research goes into writing a novel with a historical setting. In my case, years of reading Regencies, of reading about the period, and getting to know about everything from clothes to carriages and food was then supplemented with specifics I needed to do with the timeline of novel. I was careful to match external historic events with events in the characters’ lives. This usually involved specific research about things that were occurring on a particular day. For example, in The Darcy Cousins, I have a scene in which the characters row out to see Napoleon held as captive off the English shore. I read every account of it I could get hold of, and looked at paintings made of the scene before I felt comfortable enough to start writing. I was then able to provide simple details like the exact time that Napoleon appeared on deck and was seen by the characters. You’d be quite astonished at how research you may need for just a tiny detail. I’ve sometimes had to hold up my writing for several days because I needed to find out something that looks quite trivial, or something the reader may not even notice. Sad, but true. 

What is your favourite Austen heroine? Does she resemble you in anyway?
I don’t have one particular heroine I’m attached to because through my writing I’ve come to discover “hidden depths” to many of Jane Austen’s characters. I used to like Eliza best, but over time I’ve come to appreciate all Austen’s heroines, except for Fanny Price, I must admit.
Maybe it’s the rebel in me, but I can’t help feeling for some of the supposedly “bad girls” like Mary Crawford and Isabella Thorpe. I feel they’re given a raw deal. And of course, I liked Caroline Bingley enough to want to write her story. Caroline is really quite remarkable because she came from a trade background but was obviously holding her own in quite “elevated” company, and I always wonder, if Eliza hadn’t come along, would Darcy have married her? He fancied her well enough at the beginning – if you read the account of the Meryton dance that’s pretty clear -- and even much later on he invites her to Pemberley. It would be fun to write a ‘what if?’ novel along those lines.
  
Darcy is a recurrent name in your titles. Is he your favourite Austen hero? What makes him such a cult figure?
He’s a cult figure because Jane Austen created in him the prototype of the rich, powerful, unattainable man who succumbs to the charms of a relatively ordinary woman. He’s the embodiment of chivalry as well – he rides to the rescue (quite literally) of the heroine’s sister who has been abducted by an “evil knight” even though he has no real hope of winning her favor. Add to it a passion that we know is simmering behind that haughty exterior, and you’ve got a sizzling hero! 

As a mother with her children, you must be very proud of your “creatures”, your books. What is special to you in each of them?
People often compare women’s books with children. Do they do the same with men’s books? I don’t really feel they’re like children at all. Having said that, the act of creating a book never fails to amaze me because of all the things that humans are capable of, I think creating a book is one of the best. I must have a very skewed view of things, but I find it mind boggling to think that typing a series of letters over the course of two or three hundred blank pages produces living, breathing characters who mean something to complete strangers across the world. It’s absolutely fantastic that this can happen. In that sense, the act of creating a book is quite miraculous. As a writer it takes my breath away.
To answer your original question: each book is quite different. I enjoyed writing An Improper Suitor because it was a galloping, cheerful kind of novel, and it has some very interesting side characters. I loved The Darcy Cousins because it really made me laugh as I wrote it,  whereas The Other Mr Darcy was more intense, but it was fun seeing Robert Darcy slowly unravel Caroline Bingley’s defenses.


 I’m sure you’ve wondered why everything Austen seems to have such a warm popular  response among nowadays readers or viewers. What is the appeal of Regency to our world?
Part of the appeal at least is a matter of contrast. We live in a world where we’re bombarded by images, noises, smells and sensory messages competing constantly for our immediate attention. We rush around trying to accomplish a half-dozen things on impossibly short schedules.
In contrast, the Regency (as we perceive it) was an oasis of calm. The Regency was the final farewell to the rural feudal world where everything had a certain place and order, before the smoke of industrialization came and blew chaos into our lives, upsetting our social and ecological systems. In almost a literal way, seeing the Regency on-screen or reading about it is a breath of fresh air. If you look at Jane Austen adaptations, a lot of emphasis is placed on open green spaces, on being outside alone or with very few people around you, or, as in the famous ‘wet shirt’ scene, of communion with nature. Even the ballroom scenes, despite being crowded, are “redeemed” because of the orderly nature of the dancing. Order, an unhurried (and unharried) pace of life, and the pastoral – these are our idealized images of Jane Austen’s world, which is a large part of its appeal.
The same holds true of our concept of courtship, which was so much simpler when the rules were clear, and “honourable” gentleman still existed.
It’s a nostalgic view of a by-gone era, very much in the same flavour of the “retro” in which the past seems to offer a more manageable dose of life than the present.
But again, we have to remember that it’s Jane Austen who weaves this fairy tale for us, and her combination of hard-headed realism, wit, and elegant language is really the ultimate secret of her appeal.

Final task for you! Tweet-sized descriptions of your novels.

The Other Mr Darcy
 Ms Bingley falls apart at Darcy wedding, Robert Darcy witnesses & becomes nemesis. Ms B must shed inhibitions & learn to love.

The Darcy Cousins
Georgiana Darcy tries to be cool like cousin, but finds herself in competition for same man Can she learn to trust her instinct and steer out of trouble? 

Brilliant! That's all for now, Monica.Thank you so much for being my guest today. Till your next release. Enjoy  writing!
Now it's your turn, dear readers and friends! Leave your comments and e-mail addresses to enter the giveaway. Thanks to Sourcebooks and to Monica Fairview for this great chance!
 
Follow Monica Fairview at 

15 comments:

Alexa Adams said...

Loves the tweet synopses! I've had An Improper Suitor on my TBR list for a while now, and this interview has reminded me to hurry up and get a copy! Both The Other Mr. Darcy and The Darcy Cousins were wonderfully entertaining books (no need to enter me in the giveaway, by the way). Now that I have heard about all her travels, I understand why Monica is interested in bringing American characters into the Pride and Prejudice storyline. Also, what a great observation about the open green space in Austen adaptations! It's so true, but I had never thought about it before. Great interview ladies!

phylly3 said...

Very interesting interview. I am curious though as to why Monica now resides in Britain. Is it because it is easier to research her novels there?

Monica Fairview said...

Hello Alexa, great to see you again! *waves*. Thank you for stopping by and for your kind comments about my novels and about the interview. Isn't Maria a wonderful interviewer?

phylly3 Thank you. It certainly makes things easier being 'on-site' so to speak, but it wasn't the reason I live in the UK now. I lived a big chunk of my life in the UK and a big chunk in the US, so I feel attached to both (hence my liking for the cross-cultural element), but I basically went along with my husband when he got a job here. Our lives are so often dictated by mundane practicalities, aren't they?

Marcie said...

I love the tweet size synopsis! Thanks you for the interview. I like that Monica likes the bad girls of Austen. I've added both books to my TBR list.
marcie.turner@yahoo.com

MPGottaLoveMe said...

Great interview! Teachers are definitely unsung heroes in my mind as well. They're expected to do so much and are overworked and underpaid! I enjoyed The Other Mr Darcy and would love to win a copy of The Darcy Cousins, which I've not yet read. I do have to say that my mind screamed out "NO!" when you mentioned a what-if novel about Darcy and Caroline Bingley marrying. LOL I'm sure Monica would write it very well but I just can NOT imagine it, even though they are well suited for each other socially.

Monica P
mpgottaloveme@aol.com

suzan said...

I enjoyed the interview. I love Ms. Fairview's style of writing. It's hard to explain. I haven't read an "Improper Suitor" yet. But since I have read the other two I would love to add it to my tbr list. I'm with Monica above. Please no to Caroline and Darcy but it would have been the more logical choice I imagine. ick I just don't want to picture it I guess.

LadyDoc said...

I really enjoyed reading this interview! It has added 3 more books to my TBR list- and it would be lovely to win one of them. Thanks for the great post.

ladydoctw at hotmail dot com

Regina Jeffers said...

I learn something new about our Austen Authors group with each new interview and blog. You are quite exquisite!

Claudia said...

Very interesting interview. I was impressed by the idea of the Regency as an "oasis of calm", although it's an idealized perception. I totally agree with Monica. For sure, the topics she pointed out are the most attractive for today dreamer girls and women.

Claudia

claudiagaggioli@virgilio.it

Padme A'Tea (Lyn) said...

Dear Ones:

What a lovely interview. I find the Regency period very refreshing in the orderliness of life. The pace seems slower, people took their time. Even though its an idealized vision, maybe we need that.

Padme A'Tea

whiterose0729@gmail.com

Midnight Cowgirl said...

Wonderful interview! I would love to read The Darcy Cousins.

akaleistar (at) gmail (dot) com

Amy Z said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amy Z said...

Lovely interview, Monica. You summed up so eloquently every reason that I love the Regency setting in the books I read. It allows me to escape to a simpler more orderly time and place. I think sometimes (often, really) that having as many choices as we have today is not such a healthy thing. Flip side: I would not want to be as limited in my choices as Regency women were (of all classes). I guess that's why it's escapism -- we get to choose which things we wish we had and take comfort in the fact that we really don't have to give up one modern convenience or societal advancement! Thanks for sharing your gift with us. Amy Z

azelenka@ujft.org

Rebecca said...

Love, Love, LOVE the tweet synopses of the Darcy books!!!! :D

Def have them both on my To Read list! :)

quarterback.girl[at]gmail[dot]com
awordsworth.blogspot.com

Monica Fairview said...

Rebecca and Marcie -- thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed the tweets. Marcie -- the Austen Bad Girls deserve some attention, don't they?

Amy2 and Claudia -- I appreciate your kind words, and it's good to know we share a similar view of Austen's magic. Amy2-- Perhaps we can call it "rural" or "environmental" escapism?

Midnight Cowgirl and LadyDoc -- thank you for coming by. Very pleased to meet you.

Padme -- yes, I remember one of my teachers talking about Jane Austen as an example of the neo-classical period, with its constant need for order and symmetry. Of course, that isn't what we are looking for in the 21st century, but there is a yearning for that order.

Regina -- what a lovely thing to say!!

Suzan and Monica P -- I can imagine the horror on your faces. I won't write a book marrying Mr Darcy to Caroline. I would have rotton tomatoes thrown at me. But still, it might be fun.

MonicaP -- hello, my namesake!

Lovely to see you all!