Hello, Jeanna, and welcome at My Jane Austen Book Club. My first question for you is: When and How did your lucky encounter with Jane Austen take place?
My very first encounter was at a garage sale at least 10 years ago where I picked up my first copy of Pride and Prejudice (couldn’t tell you where that copy went since then). My reintroduction was with the 2005 movie, of which I loved and bought a copy immediately. But it wasn’t until my sister, KaraLynne Mackrory, started writing JAFF books and sending me the chapters as she wrote them that I went from liking the book, to loving the story, to obsessing over it and becoming a badge-wearing-fully-fledged-hopeless addict. That was January 2012. I remember it well because my divorce had been final for just over a year and I hadn’t ventured into the dating world yet. Darcy looked pretty darn good to a romance-starved single mother of three daughters.
How did it change your life?
It has changed my life in so many ways. First, I started reading every JAFF book I could find on Amazon.com, at the library, loaned from my fellow JAFF addict sister, and those I researched online. I currently have about 6 JAFF books on my kindle waiting for me to read, a few more on my wish list on Amazon, and I just ordered another that will be coming in the mail. I get a little jittery when I don’t have a “to be read next” list. But it is more than that. It changed the way I look at life. I wish I could be more like Elizabeth Bennet. My bad marriage and good divorce (let’s face it, a good divorce is better than any bad marriage) left me with a lack of faith in men in general and a sense of I-can-do-it-on-my-own-I-don’t-need-a-man attitude. I also went from repressing my inner Lizzy due to shell shock, to being a little impertinent at times, more so than before I fell in love with Elizabeth Bennet. It changed my vocabulary which now has affected my daughters’ vocabulary as well, whose affirmative answer to me when I ask them a question is now “Indeed”. It made me push myself outside of my very comfortable (and single) life into one where I risk loving and being loved, all because now I believe there are real Mr. Darcys out there, and let’s face it, I kind of would like to find a Mr. Darcy. And of course, it changed the fact that now I am an author, a title I never thought I wanted for myself.
When did you decide to write a variation of Pride and Prejudice and why do you want to try yourself in such a challenging task?
When we are in pain, we go to the doctor. He usually gives us suggestions in the form of doctor’s orders or a prescription that he feels will help us. This is a good analogy of what I was going through right before I started writing. I mentioned I started reading JAFF in January 2012, but by April 2012 I was having full-on conversations in my head with 200 year old fictionalcharacters. I was having “what if’s” and “plot bunnies” coming at me in everything I did, saw, read, heard, or dreamed about. Yes, even in my sleep these ideas would roll around being quite entertaining, but I have to admit that they were snowballing and not getting easier to control. So just as a patient who is in pain needs a solution, I went to the only other JAFF addict I knew for advice, my sister. Of course her prescription was to write a plot outline, which I did. She told me to try to write the first chapter, so I did. From that moment on it was like a narcotic for me. I was able to put on paper what was consuming my mind. The first book took me less than 2 months to write because I wrote or edited in every spare moment I had. I rationalized it saying that I was following doctor’s orders (or fellow JAFF author’s orders J). I do believe my kids missed me during that time. Once they grounded me from my laptop so that we could watch a movie together. I had been so wrapped up in writing in Regency time period that it was as if television had never been invented. I honestly simply did not do anything other than write, cook, occasionally clean (I paid my daughters to clean the bathrooms), work, and sleep. I did find a better balance with my second and third books, which each took four months. I am not sure I can say that with my fourth, ha ha.
What was the premise of your retelling?
I found I was intrigued with the freedom to explore a post marriage courtship which had a much broader range of acceptable behavior rather than a courtship before marriage. I was new enough that I knew I did not want to try to match up all the Regency rules, so that is what I wrote about, a forced marriage scenario. Darcy is thought to have compromised Elizabeth and Mr. Bennet is under the impression that Elizabeth admires Darcy and so a forced marriage was a win-win; save her reputation, give her a love match. In Mr. Darcy’s Promise, our dear couple candled chicken eggs at night alone in a barn, went on many unchaparoned walks, had private conversations, went shopping for dresses for Elizabeth, watched chickens hatch while cuddled under a blanket, woke up in each other’s arms, and had long carriage rides where they talked. None of which could have happened if they were not already married.
How much do your Elizabeth and your Darcy differ from the Austen models?
My Elizabeth is more emotional and I’ve been told takes offence too easily. Much of which would have been resolved if Darcy had just been a good communicator. She is just as strong and stubborn and impertinent. She finds strength inside herself that she never knew she had because she has to find her own form of happiness in what she thinks is a loveless marriage, but from the very beginning, she commits herself to this acceptance and quest for companionship. Darcy is more anxious, many times to the point of nausea, but I like writing an imperfect Darcy. Too many times, people think he is the perfect guy and write him with pride being his only fault, of which by the end of the book he seems to have corrected. I give Darcy a weaker ego, so much so that he is hesitant to tell Elizabeth his real feelings for her, which definitely cause more problems than simply being proud.
What is it that you particularly like in Jane Austen’s world?
I liked that there was a difference between a “man” and a “gentleman” as well as a difference between a “woman” and a “lady”. The model for how one should behave was clearly written. Nowadays rules are flexible and the spectrum of acceptable behavior and speech is so wide that there is no longer a way to offer the distinction of respect by calling someone sir or ma’am. Having the title of a “lady” meant that you acted like a lady. Being called a “gentleman” meant that one could expect kindness, chivalry, and respect for propriety. This simply isn’t the same now. I do not think the words “lady” and “gentleman” are words that are widely used, but they should be. Perhaps they are not widely used because there are actually fewer true ladies and gentlemen out there who are worthy of the title.
Your favorite hero/heroine are …
Is this a joke? DARCY AND ELIZABETH! Hands down. Second place is Mr. Knightley and Emma.
For which of the minor characters would you like to write a spin off? Why?
Colonel Fitzwilliam, for sure. His character was so ill defined in canon but so vital in what we assume was Darcy’s life. A best friend to Darcy, a guardian to Georgiana, and a man who has so much potential! I always imagine him as being super confident and charismatic but also a reality check for Darcy. Only one out of my four books does not make him a prominentcharacter.
Let’s play Lost in Austen! Which of her novels would you like to end up in?
Since I write Pride and Prejudice variations, I think this would be a given, however, I appreciate all her books. There are a few I haven’t read in a while but they are on my kindle and I read my favorite parts frequently. But in all honesty? The Darcy I love best is the one I get to say all the right things and do all the right things at the touch of a keyboard. So although I don’t think I’m anywhere near Jane Austen, I do like to pull a blanket up and read one of my own novels as much as any other JAFF author. I admit it, I still make myself cry in chapter 12 of Mr. Darcy’s Promise when he finally (FINALLY) tells her he loves her.
How would you present your Mr. Darcy’s Promise in about 50 words?
Georgiana is courageous. Wickham is wicked. Elizabeth is naïve. Darcy is heroic. Mr. Bennet is obstinate. Elizabeth is sad. Darcy is honorable. Elizabeth is committed. Darcy is romantic. Elizabeth is stubborn. Darcy is adorable. Elizabeth is happy. Darcy is happy. Reader is happy. Reader recommends book to friend. Author is happy. Cycle repeats. The end. (Forgive me, the inner Elizabeth that just came out. I told you it has changed me a bit.)
What are you up next? Are you working on another Jane Austen – inspired writing projector something totally different?
I am a little over 1/3 the way through my fourth book called Hope For Mr. Darcy. In this book, Elizabeth gets very ill right after the horrid first proposal and feels compelled to write Darcy back after the Hunsford letter, of which she does, but gets so ill that she basically has an out-of-body experience. It was great fun to write about what Elizabeth Bennet’s heaven would look like. I chose the title, because Darcy ends up escorting her in this out-of-body experience and she sees the kind of man that he is and falls in love with him, making her HOPE (verb) for Mr. Darcy. The letter finds its way to Mr. Darcy and therefore offers HOPE (noun) for Mr. Darcy. I am putting it down for a week or two so my beta can catch up and so I can start the publication process of my second book, Pride and Persistence, which has a March 2014 publication goal. So keep your eyes and ears out for Pride and Persistence and shortly thereafter I will start publication of To Refine Like Silver (my third book).
Thank you so much, Maria Grazia, for this opportunity to share a little about Mr. Darcy’s Promise and how I got into writing!
I love to connect with my readers. Visit my website for my blog archive and more information on my works in progress. You can even read the first chapter of my books. WWW.heyladypublications.com
Like me and my website on facebook:
You are welcome, Jeanna! It's been a great pleasure to have you as my guest and talk Jane Austen with you. Best wishes and good luck!
About the author: Jeanna Ellsworth
Jeanna is a mother of three daughters, all of whom are well versed in all things Pride and Prejudice. She most definitely would say they are her best friends. She shares her best and worst days with them and they share theirs with her. She also proudly states she is the eighth of thirteen children. When she isn't scrapbooking, quilting, or cooking, she is thoroughly ignoring her house for a few hours at a time in order to read yet another fan fiction novel. Somewhere between being a mom, a sister, a cook, and a best friend, she squeezes in three 12 hour shifts a week as a Registered Nurse in a Neurological ICU. She raises chickens, helps her daughter run a rabbitry, and gardens as much as she can. In all her still-under-forty years, she has never claimed to be as happy as she is now. Out of this mindset came a surge of creativity that simply had to be written down. Since she finished Mr. Darcy's Promise, she has stated several times that she has gained something no one can take away from her; hope for her own Mr. Darcy. More than anything, she hopes to prepare her three best friends to look for their own Mr. Darcy and to settle for nothing less.
About the book: Mr Darcy's Promise
Jane Austen’s classic Regency story comes alive again in a tale of pride, prejudice, and a promise. Georgiana Darcy makes her way to Netherfield Park to meet the woman her brother so admires. While at first Georgiana’s presence smooths the course of true love between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, the ghosts of her past appear to wreak havoc on all of them. Unhappily, Elizabeth finds herself placed in the care of the Darcy family at Pemberley. Assuming he knows the cause of Elizabeth’s distress, Mr. Darcy makes a promise on his gentleman’s honor. The promise, although made with good intentions, becomes nearly impossible to keep for Mr. Darcy, and somewhat vexing for Elizabeth. Some promises are made to be broken but will the ever-trustworthy gentleman let go enough to secure Elizabeth’s heart?
Take your chances in the rafflecopter forms below to win an e-book (internationally) or a paperback (US and Canada only) of Mr Darcy's Promise! Deadline October 1st.