Tuesday, 10 December 2019


Hello and welcome to My Jane Austen Book Club, Jessie. Congratulations on your new release,
Speechless! Let’s start right away talking about the premise of your Pride and Prejudice Variation. 

It’s set during the winter following the Netherfield ball, after which Darcy leaves Hertfordshire and takes Bingley with him. As I’m sure your readers will know, at that point in the original story, Darcy is in denial about his feelings for Elizabeth, whereas Elizabeth is very clear about her feelings for Darcy: she detests him! That is how we find them at the start of Speechless, when a horrible accident leaves them stranded together at a remote inn. Darcy has been badly injured,and despite her antipathy towards him, Elizabeth is forced to be his nursemaid. You can imagine how unimpressed either of them is with this turn of events, and it gets even worse when they realise Darcy’s wound has left him unable to speak. Our dear couple have to work out how to understand the words they’re saying before they can even begin to understand what each other means.

There’s something which makes Darcy irresistible to ladies through ages, since Jane Austen’s
era to nowadays. What’s his secret? Have you discovered what his X factor is?

I often think it must be a nightmare for modern men to walk the tightrope between behaviour that is at once respectful, supportive, gentlemanly and protective, without crossing the ever-thinning line into behaviour that is, or at least could be perceived as, controlling, disrespectful or condescending (or worse). It’s that balance that I believe Darcy has pretty much nailed. He is a strong, commanding character but without being controlling. He is passionate without being forceful. He is respectful without being fawning. Whether in the context of Austen’s time or ours, he is the epitome of how a man can properly respect a woman without being any less of the man he wishes to be.

What about the Darcy in your story, is he different from or loyal to the original Austen hero?

I have been known to take some of Austen’s characters on rather unexpected story arcs, but where Darcy is concerned, I always try to make him true to the original. There is a major difference in Speechless, however, in that he is severely injured, and therefore far more vulnerable than his usually authoritative, decisive self. You still see him trying to be strong, trying to behave politely and trying to fix everything (as he does in canon), but you also see his frustration and embarrassment at not being able to. As a result, at times he’s a little more “just a frightened young man” than “Mr Darcy of Pemberley,” though that is inevitably what helps Elizabeth come to understand him better.

And what about your Elizabeth Bennet?

As with Darcy, I always try to keep her just as Austen wrote her, because frankly, who would want to change such a delightful character! I adore the quick-witted, mature-but-fun-loving person Austen created when she wrote Elizabeth, and as far as I am able, I try to emulate the same liveliness, humour and compassion in all her actions and dialogue. One of the loveliest things about Elizabeth is her ability to tease without ever being nasty, and that was particularly useful in Speechless. She is exasperated to be stuck with Darcy but can’t do anything about it. Her outlet is in witty remarks and clever conversation. It allows her to vent her frustration without being unkind. What made this story particularly fun to write is that it’s told entirely through Darcy’s eyes, and he’s got a lot to learn about Elizabeth, so quite a few of her teasing remarks go right over his head. Only the readers will know that she’s having a bit of sport at poor Darcy’s expense.

When did you first get in touch with Jane Austen and her world?

I first read Pride and Prejudice when I was a teenager. I loved it, and even stumbled across a sequel or two afterwards, but I’m no spring chicken, and at that time, there was no internet, so the world of Fanfiction hadn’t exploded yet. It wasn’t until I was at home with two young children over a decade later that I reconnected with Austen’s world. I watched a re-run of the 1995 miniseries and fell in love all over again, went digging for more, found the JAFF site, A Happy Assembly, and lost about two years of my life, during which I didn’t sleep at all, reading everything posted there.

What are your favourite Austen novel/hero/heroine?

Pride and Prejudice is by far my favourite. Possibly because it was the first of hers that I read, although equally probably because it’s just wonderful. Candy for the heartstrings. It follows, then, that Darcy and Elizabeth are my favourite characters, for all the reasons I’ve already talked about. I must put in a word for Lady Susan, though. She is such a delightfully awful person, but she’s so clever and so cutting…she’d give The Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey a run for her money, that’s for sure. Austen was so talented at writing sharp wit, and it’s amazing to see how she can apply in benignly (Elizabeth Bennet) and maliciously (Lady Susan) and pretty much everywhere in between!

Which one of Jane Austen’s skills do you particularly envy her?

I think I just answered that, ha ha! There are many things Austen does well, from powerful social commentary to incredible insight into human nature. I love the way she investigates all these things through her characters’ conversation and actions whilst keeping her observations subtle enough that you never feel lectured. All her characters act, think and talk in plausible ways, even when they do outrageous things, and in that way, they feel like real people rather than just fictional characters. But the thing I most admire must be Austen’s wit. It’s so subtle, so clever, and so darned funny—yes, I would be very happy to be able to write as cleverly as that!

Do you like watching Austen adaptations for the screen? Do you have one you particularly like?

I really do enjoy watching adaptations. Some I enjoy more than others but seeing her world—the world I spend so much time thinking and writing about—brought to life, with the costumes and scenery and language, is always a pleasure. I do wish, though, that screenwriters would make more of Austen’s humour. I have never seen an adaptation of any of her works that was actually witty. They always focus on the romance, which is nice, but to exclude any humour does an injustice to Austen. Her wit is what makes her works so real, because life is nothing if not ridiculous. I’m going to see “Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of)” at the Oxford Playhouse next year. It’s an all-female karaoke version that is reportedly still surprisingly faithful to the original. I have high hopes that it will be suitably amusing. My favourite TV adaptation, again probably because it was the first one I saw, was the 1995 BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice. I am perfectly ready to be won over by a new adaptation though and that’s why I’m eagerly anticipating the ITV version being written by Nina Raine (who also worked on Poldark and Victoria), due to air in 2020.

What do you think is the appeal of Jane Austen’s work and world to a contemporary audience?

So many things! I think the Regency era has been romanticised, much like the Medieval era has been. Neither was probably much fun to live in unless you were massively wealthy, but we all like to look back on history with rose tinted glasses and imagine ourselves as something else—a heroine princess or a courageous Elizabeth Bennet. And in fiction—particularly romantic fiction—it’s got to be ok to do that. We’re allowed a little warm fuzziness now and again to keep us sane! So in terms of feel-good factor, Austen’s penchant for happy-ever-afters is always going to appeal. But as Austen herself said, she didn’t intend to write Romances. She wrote about people—and she did it brilliantly. Her insight into how people behave and why is remarkable. It makes her characters real, keeps her readers engrossed, and has given generations of scholars palpitations of delight.

If you could time travel and end up in the Regency Era, what would you be more thrilled to experience and what would you miss the most instead?

I would love to meet my ancestors. Apparently, in the Regency era, my family were loaded, with several estates and enough dosh to make Mr Darcy’s eyes water. Alas, somewhere between then and now, it all got squandered and there’s not a penny left, but it’d be great fun to find out how they lived (and maybe persuade them not to lose it all!). What I’d miss most: Costa coffee!

What books are on your bedside table at the moment?

The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer, The Georgian Seaside by Louise Allen, The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce and The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley.

Are you writing a new book? What is it about?

Yes, I have a couple in the works. One is another Austen inspired story—about Darcy and Elizabeth, naturally. I’m forever coming up with ideas of how to spend more time with those two, so no surprises that once Speechless was done, I couldn’t resist starting another story with them in it.
The other is a Regency novel, though it’s not Austenesque. In it, the young, enigmatic and vastly popular Miss Hattie Davenport meets an unexpected group of friends who try to convince her that her aspirations are misplaced, and society’s adulation is (probably) not going to make her quite as happy as she hopes.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions and for talking Jane Austen with me!

My pleasure. Thank you for inviting me to talk about her and Speechless.


Could anything be worse than to be trapped in a confined space with the woman you love?

Fitzwilliam Darcy knows his duty, and it does not involve succumbing to his fascination for a dark-eyed beauty from an unheard of family in Hertfordshire. He has run away from her once already. Yet fate has a wicked sense of humour and deals him a blow that not only throws him back into her path but quite literally puts him at Elizabeth Bennet’s mercy. Stranded with her at a remote inn and seriously hampered by injury, Darcy very quickly loses the battle to conquer his feelings, but can he win the war to make himself better understood without the ability to speak?

Thus begins an intense journey to love and understanding that is at times harrowing, sometimes hilarious and at all times heartwarming. 

                                                       Kindle Edition           Paperback Edition


Jessie Lewis, author of Mistaken and The Edification of Lady Susan, enjoys words far too much for her own good and was forced to take up writing them down in order to save her family and friends from having to listen to her saying so many of them. She dabbled in poetry during her teenage years, though it was her studies in Literature and Philosophy at university that firmly established her admiration for the potency of the English language. She has always been particularly in awe of Jane Austen’s literary cunning and has delighted in exploring Austen’s regency world in her own historical fiction writing. It is of no relevance whatsoever to her ability to string words together coherently that she lives in Hertfordshire with two tame cats, two feral children and a pet husband. She is also quite tall, in case you were wondering.

You can check out her musings on the absurdities of language and life on her blog, Life in Words, or see what she’s reading over at Goodreads. Or you can drop her a line on Twitter, @JessieWriter or on her Facebook page, Jessie Lewis Author.


Quills & Quartos Publishing is giving away one ebook of Speechless per blog tour stop. All you need to do to enter the giveaway is comment on this blog post, and Quills & Quartos will randomly choose winners for the entire blog tour on December 19. So, make sure you join in the conversation! Good luck!


Vesper said...

But with this closeness has Elizabeth been compromised

Christina Boyd said...

“He is a strong, commanding character but without being controlling. He is passionate without being forceful. He is respectful without being fawning. Whether in the context of Austen’s time or ours, he is the epitome of how a man can properly respect a woman without being any less of the man he wishes to be.” Well said. All that is very sexy to me. Swoon.

darcybennett said...

Enjoyed the interview. This book sounds wonderful and am thrilled to hear there’s another Austen-inspired one in the works.

BeckyC said...

Wonderful interview. This story has my attention! I am looking forward to reading

Jessie said...

Thank you, everyone! Good luck to all of you in the draw - I hope you all get the chance to read Speechless and that it gives you all some warm fuzzy feelings this cold December :)

Eva said...

I agree that I, too, look at the Regency Era through rose tinted glasses and would only want to live if my family was wealthy. Thank you for staying true to the characters one Elizabeth and Darcy. I would love to read about Darcy be "speechless" and at Elizabeth's mercy.

NovElla said...

Great interview – thanks for sharing! I like the point of view change, especially as someone who is very shy.

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