Friday, 12 February 2016

JANE AND THE WATERLOO MAP BLOG TOUR - TALKING JANE AUSTEN WITH ... STEPHANIE BARRON

Stephanie Barron
Award winning author Stephanie Barron has been touring the blogosphere since February 2nd and will go on till February 22nd, 2016 to share her latest release, Jane and the Waterloo Map. Twenty popular book bloggers specializing in Austenesque fiction, mystery and Regency history are featuring guest blogs, interviews, excerpts and book reviews from this highly anticipated novel in the acclaimed Being a Jane Austen Mystery series. The tour started right here at My Jane Austen Book Club and I'm so glad to have the opportunity to have Stephanie as my guest again today to talk Jane Austen with her.  The fabulous giveaway contest, including copies of Ms. Barron’s book and other Jane Austen-themed items, which I linked to the previous post is still running and will be open  till the end of the tour.  Now, please,  enjoy our chat and join the discussion in the comment section, if you wish.


Hello and thank you so much, Stehanie, for taking the time to answer my questions. First one is, do you remember your first encounter with Jane Austen and her work? What were your first impressions? Have they changed over the years?

I vividly remember the first Austen novel I read: PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, when I was twelve years old. I had been staying with my Aunt Cass at her home in Westchester County, NY. She was a wonderful throwback to a different age, and I think a great deal like me, although at the time I didn’t understand that. She was a horticulture judge—daffodils were her specialty—a lover of opera, a needlepointer, and a great cook. This particular afternoon it was raining heavily and I was roaming Cass’s library out of boredom. I stumbled on P&P; and being the last of a family of six girls myself, I found that the story made immediate sense. Once I got past the strangeness of Eliza’s parents calling each other Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, I was quickly enthralled—and stayed up late in bed that night to learn the outcome of Darcy’s passion for Elizabeth. I was never the same, naturally.

Jane and the Waterloo Map is the 13th instalment in your Being a Jane Austen Mystery series. Looking back at your early beginnings in the series, when did the idea of a Jane Austen as detective come to mind? What were your biggest challenges to bring the concept to print?

Back in 1994 when I wrote the first Austen mystery, I had already published two contemporary detective novels. I was rereading one of Jane’s books, and found that the language and curious diction of that time—Austen’s distinctive voice—was so embedded in my brain that I was starting to talk as though I were a character in one of her novels. I thought about how rich her language was, and how comparatively impoverished the discourse of own day has become, and decided it would be fun to see if I could use the style of 1815 in a book intended for current readers. From there it was a fairly simple step to using Austen herself as a detective. I had studied the Napoleonic and Regency periods as a history major in college, and could tap that knowledge for the book; but I knew less about Jane’s life. It was a treat to research it and plot the first story. I believed that if I gave her a mystery to solve, contemporary readers might put up with the antiquated diction and follow where she led.
Happily, I encountered no difficulties in finding a publisher. The remarkable Kate Miciak at Bantam bought the first Jane and shepherded the next ten books to publication. Lately, Juliet Grames has taken over editing the series at Soho Crime with complete aplomb.

What kind of detective is your Jane Austen? What are her biggest challenges as a Regency-era woman investigating crime in a man’s world?

One of Austen’s great qualities as a writer is her ability to portray the deepest motivations of the human heart. She is adept, too, at presenting characters who may err, but are wise enough to recognize their failings and repair the damage they may have done. Alternatively, she has a wicked tendency to skewer the foolish, the self-deluding, and the destructive personalities her heroines encounter. Those skills suggested to me that as a detective she would bring her intelligence and perception to bear upon the suspects in a murderous tangle, and shrewdly unravel the truth. That’s an informal approach to detection—one ideally suited for her age, when there was no formal police force in England, and most justice systems were overseen by the elites within the local social hierarchy. Justices of the Peace were appointed by the Lord Lieutenant of the county, who was usually the most senior nobleman. They could be male, like Jane’s brother Edward who served as a magistrate in Canterbury, or female, if their status was high enough. Lady Catherine de Bourgh is a Justice of the Peace in her Kentish locality, unelected and yet administering judgment with a firm hand. In such a relational system of justice, Jane is perfectly placed to intervene in crime in an amateurish way. She uses the people she knows—her social networks—to gather information and see justice done.

Can you share what kind of mystery Jane investigates in Jane and the Waterloo Map?

I’ll try to avoid spoilers! The book is set in November, 1815, when Jane was staying in London with her brother Henry, who was ill. She had gone to Town to shepherd the publication of her fourth novel, EMMA, and was invited to tour Carlton House, the Prince Regent’s London residence. In my version of events, she stumbles over a dying soldier in the Regent’s library—and is launched on a sort of encoded treasure hunt. The Battle of Waterloo is such an important coda to the warfare that dominated Jane’s entire life, that I had to frame a book with it.

In Jane and the Waterloo Map you bring the historical events to the forefront. History is just in the background in Austen’s novels and very distant. Especially wars.  How important is historical accuracy in historical fiction?

I would argue that Jane does refer to the political events of her day—current events, in her view, but historical to us—although she does so obliquely. She felt no need to detail for 1813 readers why Eliza Bennet is subject to a shortage of gentlemen at the Meryton Assembly, for instance; everyone reading PRIDE AND PREJUDICE would know that it was because so many men were abroad fighting by land and sea in American and Europe. Similarly, she does not explain what it means to be an Admiral of the Red or White in PERSUASION, or the significance of having survived the Trafalgar action; this was understood by her public. It is present-day readers in 2016 who miss her implicit cues. That said, I do attempt to put Jane firmly in the context of period events in each of the books. The source material for the novels is primarily her letters—and she frequently references politics and warfare in her correspondence. She was a constant reader of newspapers and avidly followed the “intelligence,” as she would have called it, of her world.
As for historical accuracy—I think it’s essential. That doesn’t mean, however, that I’m writing a monograph. I’m writing fiction. When I invent things, however, I try to do so in a manner that respects the underlying reality.

P.D. James paid homage to Jane Austen in her successful sequel to Pride and Prejudice, Death Comes to Pemberley; Val McDermid’s retold Northanger Abbey with refreshing characters and setting; Joanna Trollope rewrote Sense and Sensibility. What is the allure of Jane Austen’s world to writers?

In a lecture to the British Jane Austen Society, Dame P.D. noted that EMMA is possibly the first detective novel written in the English language. (I made a similar argument without knowing she had already done so, in a lecture I gave at a JASNA AGM a year later.) The crime in EMMA is a social one, not a murder, but the plot is structured like a detective novel regardless. I think James’s lifelong fascination with Austen as a master of plot and character encouraged her to play with DEATH COMES TO PEMBERLEY at the end of her life, as a fusion of her literary world and Jane’s. The other projects, however, strike me as a publisher’s attempt to profit from an enduring interest in Austen’s work by tampering with it—and I’m not sure how successful the idea is or ought to be.

Which is your favourite Austen hero? Heroine? Novel?

I find it difficult to choose favorites! Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth are two, however. PERSUASION is definitely the Austen novel I admire most. I enjoy Lizzie Bennet’s wit and Mr. Darcy’s intelligence—Colonel Brandon’s integrity and quiet passion are profoundly moving.

Can you share any information about your next writing project?

It’s not a Jane! I’m currently working on a novel about the marriage of Winston Churchill’s parents.

Good luck with your new project, then, and many thanks for your answers. 


JANE AND THE WATERLOO MAP

November, 1815. The Battle of Waterloo has come and gone, leaving the British economy in shreds; Henry Austen, high-flying banker, is about to declare bankruptcy—dragging several of his brothers down with him. The crisis destroys Henry’s health, and Jane flies to his London bedside, believing him to be dying. While she’s there, the chaplain to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent invites Jane to tour Carlton House, the Prince’s fabulous London home. The chaplain is a fan of Jane’s books, and during the tour he suggests she dedicate her next novel—Emma—to HRH, whom she despises.

However, before she can speak to HRH, Jane stumbles upon a body—sprawled on the carpet in the Regent’s library. The dying man, Colonel MacFarland, was a cavalry hero and a friend of Wellington’s. He utters a single failing phrase: “Waterloo map” . . . and Jane is on the hunt for a treasure of incalculable value and a killer of considerable cunning.

Genre: Regency-era Mystery/ Historical Mystery/Austenesque Mystery
Publisher: Soho Crime (February 02, 2016)
Format: Hardcover & eBook (320) pages


"A well-crafted narrative with multiple subplots drives Barron’s splendid 13th Jane Austen mystery. Series fans will be happy to see more of Jane’s extended family and friends, and Austenites will enjoy the imaginative power with which Barron spins another riveting mystery around a writer generally assumed to have led a quiet and uneventful life." — Publishers Weekly, Starred Review 


"Writing in the form of Jane’s diaries, Barron has spun a credible tale from a true encounter, enhanced with meticulous research and use of period vocabulary."

 Booklist


"Barron, who's picked up the pace since Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, portrays an even more seasoned and unflinching heroine in the face of nasty death and her own peril." — Kirkus Reviews 

"Barron deftly imitates Austen’s voice, wit, and occasional melancholy while spinning a well-researched plot that will please historical mystery readers and Janeites everywhere. Jane Austen died two years after the events of Waterloo; one hopes that Barron conjures a few more adventures for her beloved protagonist before historical fact suspends her fiction." — Library Journal 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephanie Barron was born in Binghamton, New York, the last of six girls. She attended Princeton and Stanford Universities, where she studied history, before going on to work as an intelligence analyst at the CIA. She wrote her first book in 1992 and left the Agency a year later. Since then, she has written fifteen books. She lives and works in Denver, Colorado. Learn more about Stephanie and her books at her website, visit her on Facebook andGoodreads.

GIVEAWAY DETAILS

In celebration of the release of Jane and the Waterloo Map, Stephanie is offering a chance to win one of three prize packages filled with an amazing selection of Jane Austen-inspired gifts and books!  



To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on Jane and the Waterloo Map Blog Tour starting February 02, 2016 through 11:59 pm PT, February 29, 2016. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Stephanie’s website on March 3, 2016. Winners have until March 10, 2016 to claim their prize. Shipment is to US addresses. Good luck to all!


Check out all the dates in the blog tour and be ready to read and comment all the posts for more chances to win!


JANE AND THE WATERLOO MAP BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

February 02              My Jane Austen Book Club (Guest Blog)
February 03              Laura's Reviews (Excerpt)                                            
February 04              A Bookish Way of Life (Review)           
February 05              The Calico Critic (Review)         
February 06              So Little Time…So Much to Read (Excerpt)                          
February 07              Reflections of a Book Addict (Spotlight)                               
February 08              Mimi Matthews Blog (Guest Blog)                                
February 09              Jane Austen’s World (Interview)                                              
February 10              Just Jane 1813 (Review)                                    
February 11              Confessions of a Book Addict (Excerpt)                               
February 12              History of the 18th and 19th Centuries (Guest Blog)             
February 13              My Jane Austen Book Club (Interview)                                  
February 14              Living Read Girl (Review)                                  
February 14              Austenprose (Review)
February 15              Mystery Fanfare (Guest Blog)                           
February 16              Laura's Reviews (Review)                                             
February 17              Jane Austen in Vermont (Excerpt)                                          
February 18              From Pemberley to Milton (Interview)                                     
February 19              More Agreeably Engaged (Review)
February 20              Babblings of a Bookworm (Review)                                      
February 21              A Covent Garden Gilflurt's Guide to Life (Guest Blog)
February 22              Diary of an Eccentric (Review)


19 comments:

dstoutholcomb said...

wonderful Q&A!

denise

BookLuver88 said...

I'm now curious about Winston Churchill's family. Cant wait to read it!

Betty Strohecker said...

Sounds so interesting. Have read several books based around Waterloo.

PdxIrishGirl said...

Loved reading about how you first read Jane
Austen and how you came to write this
wonderful mystery series!

Just Commonly said...

Loved this interview! I love how you first read Pride & Prejudice at your aunt's in Westchester! Everyone starts some where with Jane Austen. For me it was an assignment in 6th grade and I just loved it. Great choices for your characters - all my picase as well! Thanks!

Summer Mobley said...

I first read Jane when I was 15, at the insistence of my best friend. I have been grateful to her ever since!

Seth Carrico said...

Enjoyable Q&A, always interesting to get inside the author's head. Jane's mysteries are one of my favourite series.

NovElla said...

Great interview! It’s always interesting to hear thoughts on Jane Austen, in relation to your book.

Stephanie Barron said...

Thanks for the comments, folks. Yes, everyone starts somewhere with Jane...and I'm curious if most of us start with Pride and Prejudice, or something else! I have a suspicion that present-day fans start with a movie, or a television production. Something Jane could not possibly have imagined.

Caryl Kane said...

Great interview! I love it that you starting talk as though you were a character in one of Austen's novels. Reading this tidbit has me even more excited to read this series!

Alisha D Trenalone said...

Really pleased with this series and the way the author has handled her characters and historical setting--it's just great!

Laura Lloyd said...

I first read Pride and Prejudoce when I was around 13 and have read everything else Jane wrote in the years following. I'm delighted to enjoy those stories her writing inspired. Great Q&A Stephabie. Thanks.

Linda said...

I was invited .by a friend to attend that Jane Austen Society gathering where PD James talked about Jane Austen's books and how there were mysteries in them. That was a highlight of my time in the UK. One of the reasons I love these books is that they combine two of my favorite things--Jane Austen and mysteries.

Joanna said...

The new book about Winston Churchill's parents sounds interesting.
For me, I can't remember for certain which Austen book I read first, but I believe it was Sense and Sensibility after seeing Emma Thompson's film version as a young teenager. My aunt had the movie tie-in edition of the book. I'm sure the next would have been Pride and Prejudice though. My favorite has always been Persuasion.

lynnquiltsalot said...

I love history and JA. This book combines the two and the "mystery" is the cherry on top! I'm really excited to read Stephanie's latest in her wonderful series.

Angela Holland said...

Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed reading the interview and the answers - it helps to learn a little more about the author.

holdenj said...

I really enjoyed the interview and have been looking forward to the new book!

Jessica said...

Jane Austen, I never have to think twice when I have to use secret questions for forms...favorite author, forever and always...

pailofpearls said...

Yay! It looks great.