Sunday, 17 November 2019


Jane Austen commenced writing The Watsons over two hundred years ago, putting it aside unfinished, never to return and complete it. Now, Rose Servitova, author of acclaimed humour title, The Longbourn Letters: The Correspondence between Mr Collins and Mr Bennet has finished Austen’s manuscript in a manner true to Austen’s style and wit.

The Watsons' Blog Tour starts today here at My Jane Austen Book Club with an interview with Rose Servitova. Join us in the discussion in the comment section below the post. Whether you've read Jane Austen's fragment or not, we'd love to hear from you.

Hello and welcome to our online Austen Book Club, Rose. Let's start from a question about you as a reader. What was the first book you read as a child that had a lasting impression on you?

My grandmother had lovely nursery rhyme books that I believe she read to her own children in the 1940s and 1950s and then went on to read to her grandchildren in the 1970s. My favorite was ‘How do you like to go up in a Swing?’ by Robert Louis Stevenson. I remember so vividly an aunt reading it to me over and over because it was my favorite rhyme.

When did you discover that you wanted to be a writer?

I did not really have a time when I said aloud ‘I want to be a writer’ but I believe the signs were always there. I wished so badly to be Jo March from Little Women and I always worked in bookshops and libraries. I secretly wrote short essays and funny poetry and surrounded myself with writers and artists. I believe the first time it hit home was when I attended a literary event in 2014 at which writers were discussing their books and everything about it felt so familiar that I guessed I had better try at least and see where it took me.

What was the best writing advice you ever received?

There is too much – I was like a sponge for the first year or two of writing, attending every event I could, listening to writers talk about their craft and taking from it those pieces of advice that resonated with me (and ignoring the rest). By meeting and listening to so many writers I realized that learning to trust yourself is one of the most important skills to master and that has helped me in just about every aspect of writing, editing and speaking. I also came to the conclusion that they too were finding their way - exploring and discovering what worked best for them etc… it was a lesson in getting to know yourself and trusting in creativity.

What was the first Jane Austen novel that you read? What were your first impressions?

It was, of course, Pride and Prejudice. I was probably dumbfounded by her observations and character development. I’m still in awe of it. Naturally, as a young teenager, it was the love stories that first caught my attention but on re-reading it again and again over the years, it was every subtle detail, every witty comment and all the wonderful minor characters that brought me joy. Like so many other Austen fans, it was my steady, constant comfort-blanket over the years.

After your success with your first novel, The Longbourn Letters (2017), were you encouraged to write a second Austenesque novel?

Not at first. I was attempting to write a humor novel in the style of P.G. Wodehouse. I had a very minor character in The Longbourn Letters called Captain McCarthy who marries Maria Lucas. All we know of him in that novel is that he is a soldier whom Mr Bennet approves of, for he once heard him gargle ‘God Save the King’ with astonishing clarity. I decided to give him a back story but as I wrote it (during a time of great stress in my life) it was not working. I finally realized that in order for it to work, his loyal steed, the horse, would need dialogue and decided that I had finally lost my marbles and had better step away from that story. Just at that moment, I was at Bath on a trip to their annual festival and in learning more of Austen’s unfinished works, I decided I might attempt to finish The Watsons and hence returned once more to Austenesque.

Since The Watsons is an unfinished fragment, it is not as widely read as Austen’s more popular novels such as Pride and Prejudice or Emma. Why were you attracted to it?

To be honest, it was the first of the two unfinished novels I read and I decided to complete it, having read it. However, when I had my first draft written I read Sanditon and was so relieved that I had not read it first as it was much more polished and ridiculous/humorous in tone and I would not have given The Watsons a second glance, had I read Sanditon first. As ITV had then announced that Andrew Davis was working on a screen adaptation of Sanditon, I was relieved that it was The Watsons I had chosen. Having read The Watsons, I could see why Virginia Woolf had alluded to it being a scanty, unpolished first draft and I knew that in many ways I could make the transition from her fragment to my finishing, more seamless as it held so much potential.

Why do you think Jane Austen set aside The Watsons and did not return to it?

Most people believe it is because the circumstances of which she wrote in The Watsons – a group of sisters (without wealth) possibly becoming fully dependent on their brothers if their clergyman father died and they were unwed, was too close to her own life story. In a case of life imitating art, her father George Austen died not long after (1805), leaving the women of the household moving from house to house in Bath, their standard of living sinking with each move they were forced to make and becoming dependent on her brothers. There is also a theory that Austen was not particularly happy in Bath and that she wrote most and best when happily settled in the countryside i.e. Steventon or Chawton. I suppose a sense of security and contentedness are something that all writers seek in order to feel safe to pursue a writer’s life. Who knows but she may have intended to return to The Watsons in time but her untimely death prevented her doing so.

Completing another author’s work is a daunting task. How did you approach writing The Watsons, and were there challenges to completing Jane Austen’s story?

My vision from the start was to complete The Watsons in a manner that would have one think it had just been discovered beneath the floorboards at Chawton Cottage. There was never a question of me taking off in a flight of fancy, introducing zombies or time machines. I love fantasy and science fiction but it was my intention, for this work, to remain rooted in realism and continue loyal to the existing text, style and plot up to the point at which Austen had finished it. The challenge was not in the fragment but in it being Jane Austen. With such a legacy as Austen’s, it is safe to say that her work is almost untouchable – certainly to go so close to her own words as to attempt to finish them for her, might be considered madness in some quarters. That is the challenge but also the great reward when one finishes it and is happy with how it turned out.

What was one of the most interesting or inspiring things you learned while you were writing The Watsons?

I knew before that much of my writing style was similar to Austen’s i.e. concentration on dialogue and character with very, very little description of any sort. Now when I read other fiction, I’m struck with how nature, smells or a character’s movements are described in minute detail. Austen cut to the chase – a character enters a room and says such-and-such to another character and we are often left to fill in many of the details ourselves.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Walking country roads near where I live or just walking in nature generally. I have young children and treasure the time I spend with them as it is flying past so fast. Travel has always been a passion. I enjoy doing some form of meditation daily.

Can you share any hints or insights about your next writing project?

When I read Sanditon, I sketched an outline as to how I would envision it ending. Over the last year, I’ve been adding to it here and there whenever a character develops more fully or a possible conflict arises in my mind. Out of the half-baked projects in my head, finishing Sanditon, if only for myself and sticking it in a drawer, is the one I can definitely see myself tackling. Otherwise, I love non-fiction and essays and I’d like to delve into those too.

About the book

Can she honour her family and stay true to herself?

Emma Watson returns to her family home after fourteen years with her wealthy and indulgent aunt. Now more refined than her siblings, Emma is shocked by her sisters’ flagrant and desperate attempts to ensnare a husband. To the surprise of the neighbourhood, Emma immediately attracts the attention of eligible suitors – notably the socially awkward Lord Osborne, heir to Osborne Castle – who could provide her with a home and high status if she is left with neither after her father’s death. Soon Emma finds herself navigating a world of unfamiliar social mores, making missteps that could affect the rest of her life. How can she make amends for the wrongs she is seen to have committed without betraying her own sense of what is right? 

“A gift for Austen fans everywhere – full of wit, informed imagination and palpable affection for Austen’s characters.” — Natalie Jenner, author of The Jane Austen Society

“Very satisfying, sometimes moving and often laugh-out-loud hilarious.” — Jane Austen Regency World Magazine

About the author

Irish author Rose Servitova is an award-winning humor writer, event manager, and job coach for people with special needs. Her debut novel, The Longbourn Letters – The Correspondence between Mr. Collins & Mr. Bennet, described as a ‘literary triumph’, has received international acclaim since its publication in 2017. Rose enjoys talking at literary events, drinking tea and walking on Irish country roads. She lives in County Limerick with her husband, two young children and three indifferent cats. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.



November 18           My Jane Austen Book Club (Interview)
November 18           Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog (Review)
November 19           The Lit Bitch (Excerpt)
November 20           Austenesque Reviews (Review)          
November 20           vvb32 Reads (Review)    
November 21           All Things Austen (Review)       
November 22           My Love for Jane Austen (Spotlight)
November 25           From Pemberley to Milton (Excerpt)
November 25           Diary of an Eccentric (Interview)          
November 26            So Little Time… (Excerpt)
November 27           Impressions in Ink (Review)
November 27           Babblings of a Bookworm (Spotlight)
November 28           More Agreeably Engaged (Review)
November 29           My Vices and Weaknesses (Excerpt)
November 29           The Fiction Addiction (Review)


Vesper said...

I have liked all the finished versions of the Watsons that I have read, so looking forward to this

Rose Servitova said...

Thank you Vesper. I do hope you enjoy it. Rose

Elaine said...

Great to find out more about you and how you came to complete 'The Watsons', Rose. I did so enjoy reading it. Very much looking forward to reading more of your work - I do hope you write a completion of 'Sanditon', as I'd love to read that too! Good luck with the new release, it deserves to do very well. :)

Rose Servitova said...

Thanks Elaine and your generous words mean so much. I'd love to do a little bit more Austen & maybe start a little non-fiction too. Thanks for dropping by. Rose

Laurel Ann Nattress said...

A great interview Maria. Servitova's desire to continue Austen's story as if it had been discovered under the floorboards at Chawton Cottage is compelling. Anyone familiar with Austen's work (and who isn't) would be intrigued to discover if she achieved it. I found it remarkable, and I hope others do too.

Rose Servitova said...

Thanks so much Laurel Ann, I love interviews especially when the readers are as passionate about Austen as I am. Thanks, Rose

Anji said...

Just having a catchup on blog emails and discovered your blog tour, Rosa. I loved your debut Austenesque work and look forward to reading this one, too. Having read the original fragment several times, it still takes me by surprise when it ends! I've only read one completion, the one by Ann Mychal, which I thought was pretty good. It'll be interesting to see which direction you take the story in. Best wishes to you for your future writing.

Buturot said...

Been following the book tour.I am not familiar with the story and I appreciate the excerpts, summaries esp description of the character with each site I visit. Eager to know/read this story