Thanks so much for hosting me here, Maria, and letting me talk a bit about my new, slightly off-kilter romantic comedy, Mendacity & Mourning.
Tell us about Mendacity & Mourning.
Summed up simply: Mildly depressed boy meets lively girl. Each misunderstands the other’s attachment. Gleeful gossip and mendacious mayhem ensue. Many jokes and metaphors are made about fluffy clouds, errant sheep, lumpy heads, creamed turnips, and the importance of Thursdays in marital felicity on the road to their shared happiness. Also, Kitty idolizes Miss Bingley, there is a naughty artist, and the Fitzwilliams are a colorful bunch who enjoy fruit.
So…some characters are a bit eccentric?
Anyone with the last name of Fitzwilliam is a tad suspect, especially the women. It’s a family joke that Darcy fears making aloud. And a few original characters, such as Peregrine Dumfries, are a little offbeat. The Colonel certainly is put off by the man, and has a slew of insulting nicknames for the man he calls a popinjay. Of course, the Colonel always is a joy to create in any story. Here he is the mustachioed know-it-all and best friend to Darcy, far savvier in the ways of women and the world—or so he thinks. By the end of the story, he simply wants to return to France, thinking that fighting a war is far simpler than fighting his way through “the honeyed fog” of love and marriage and, as his father puts it, “the ol’ rumpity pumpity.”
Is the Colonel your favorite character?
He’s fun, but I’m far too fond of Darcy and Elizabeth and their journeys, separate and together. I love building on the sly wit Jane Austen gave them, and ensuring their foibles and mistakes are very human and relatable.
When did you first read Jane Austen, and when did you discover JAFF?
My route into this world was like that of many others…I read Pride & Prejudice, Emma, and Sense & Sensibility as a teenager and fell in love with the strong, witty, sometimes misguided but always opinionated women in those books and with the voice of the woman who created them. And like so many people, I love stories of unrequited love made whole. One day in my thirties, I found Linda Berdoll’s and Pamela Aiden’s books—so different in style but equally compelling—and it was an easy step from there to the early JAFF websites, like Firthness, Hyacinth Gardens, and Bits of Ivory. A few stories struck a deep chord in me and those variations made me wonder what would happen next to Darcy and Elizabeth. And so I began to write.
A number of readers and reviewers comment on your distinct voice.
When I finally dared to try my hand at writing JAFF, I wrote a few short moderns, and when those found a receptive audience, I wrote a few short regencies. Those tended to be somewhat comic, and although I tried to ensure I was using the formal cadences of Regency times, my more modern voice still came through. I’m not terribly well-read on Heyer or any of the novelists my fellow authors are so conversant on (and I’m a bit intimidated by that), but I’m trained as a journalist to write short meaningful sentences and influenced by the novelists I read in teen years. And much of my writing voice was affected by the old screwball comedies I grew up watching on TV, with the fast-paced, snappy banter between characters. When I started writing, dialogue was the toughest part, but now it is the easiest thing to write. Lucky for me, Austen wrote amazing dialogue and created stories where one can read between the lines and find new depths (and alternative plots and paths).
You’ve written a modern P&P, A Searing Acquaintance, released last year, and now a Regency romantic comedy. What are you writing now?
I’m currently finishing up a modern P&P set in the Midwest, and I’ve written the first third of a more solemn Regency. Each storyline is serious, but I cannot keep my sense of humor bottled up for long, so lighthearted banter and heartfelt yearning are sprinkled throughout.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a gossip in possession of misheard tales and desirous of both a good wife and an eager audience need only descend upon the sitting rooms of a small country town in order to find satisfaction. And with a push from Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins sets alight a series of misunderstandings, rumours, and lies that create obstacles to a romance between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.
This slightly unhinged romantic comedy follows Darcy as he sets off to find himself a wife and instead finds himself pulled into the mire of his aunt’s machinations and his own fascination with Elizabeth, whom he believes betrothed to another. As Meryton judges him the grieving groom of Anne de Bourgh and a caddish dallier with the hearts of others, Darcy must ferret out the truth behind his cousin’s disappearance, protect his sister from the fretful fate of all Fitzwilliam females, and, most importantly, win Elizabeth’s heart.
About the Author
Jan Ashton didn’t meet Jane Austen until she was in her late teens, but in a happy coincidence, she shares a similarity of name with the author and celebrates her birthday on the same day Pride & Prejudice was first published. Sadly, she’s yet to find any Darcy and Elizabeth candles on her cake, but she does own the action figures.
Like so many Austen fans, Jan was an early and avid reader with a vivid imagination and a well-used library card. Her family’s frequent moves around the U.S and abroad encouraged her to think of books and their authors as reliable friends. It took a history degree and another decade or two for her to start imagining variations on Pride & Prejudice, and another decade—filled with career, marriage, kids, and a menagerie of pets—to start writing them. Today, in between writing Austen variations, Jan lives in the Chicago area, eats out far too often with her own Mr. Darcy, and enjoys membership in the local and national chapters of the Jane Austen Society of North America.
Mendacity & Mourning is her second book with Meryton Press. She published A Searing Acquaintance in 2016.
Blog Tour Schedule:
06/19 Babblings of a Bookworm; Vignette, GA
06/20 My Jane Austen Book Club; Author/Character Interview, GA
06/21 Half Agony, Half Hope; Review, Excerpt
06/22 From Pemberley to Milton; Guest Post, Excerpt, GA
06/23 More Agreeably Engaged; Vignette, GA
06/24 Just Jane 1813; Review, GA
06/25 Margie’s Must Reads; Guest Post, GA
06/26 Of Pens and Pages; Review, Excerpt, GA
06/27 Tomorrow is Another Day; Review, GA
06/28 Austenesque Reviews; Vignette, GA
06/29 My Vices and Weaknesses; Character Interview, GA
06/30 A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life; Guest Post
07/01 Darcyholic Diversions; Author Interview, GA
07/02 Laughing With Lizzie; Vignette, Excerpt, GA
07/03 Diary of an Eccentric; Review