Thanks for everyone’s questions for Maria Grace! Don’t forget to read on after the interview because Maria Grace is generously giving away one e-book of Mistaking Her Character!
But onto the questions and answers!!!
Since you are married to the rare specimen of manliness who is willing to dress in Regency togs and wear it with considerable style, would you please tell us a bit about your marriage, Maria Grace? How long have you been married to your Mr. Darcy? How does he feel about your writing career? Has he read Jane Austen? Does he read your stories?(Joy Dawn King)
My husband and I have been married 25 years this year. We met in college in a computer programing class and married four years after that. He is an electrical engineer and very much like Mr. Darcy. From the beginning we’ve always done things together and as the kids came along that expanded to include them. We are very much a family team.
My Mr. Darcy has a background in musical theater, so he isn’t put off by costuming at all and his experience in marching band left him open to the idea of Regency era dance. We have a great deal of fun with it.
He is probably the most supportive human being on the planet and has been entirely supportive of my writing. I really could imagine how he could be more so. He is an avid reader, but the period style of Jane Austen is not his cup of tea. He tried. But he does love all the film adaptations of her books and we watch them together, at his suggestion, often. He has read all of my books and gets the very first electronic copies delivered straight to his reading app!
If your family could choose one of Jane Austen’s characters to describe you, who would it be?
(Joy Dawn King)
Hands down, no doubt it would be Anne Elliot. Persuasion is my favorite of Jane Austen’s books because of the kinship I’ve always felt with Anne.
Do you read other authors that were Jane Austen contemporaries? (Radcliffe, Bronte sisters)
(Joy Dawn King)
I read Jane Eyre long before I was introduced to Jane Austen and that continues to be one of my favorite classics.
Do you have a favorite book that you read when you need to relax with a “friend”?
(Joy Dawn King)
I think the Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery has always been a favorite friend of mine, all except the one where Anne’s son Walter dies in the war. That one I only read once—it left me crying for days!
Who is your favorite Austen hero?
(Joy Dawn King)
That’s a tough question. I love Mr. Darcy, of course, but there’s something about the way that Wentworth grows and comes to value Anne and realize that he has been as much to blame as she that deeply appeals to me.
Who is the Jane Austen character you think you are most like?
(Joy Dawn King)
No doubt, it is Anne Elliot. I have never been the bright, witty, popular Elizabeth Bennet. I’m the one people call when they need information or a favor, the dependable, if boring one. People talk to me like in the scene of the Ciarán Hinds/Amanda Root version of Persuasion where everyone is talking to Anne. My middle son has watched it happen in the grocery store where random people will just tell me things, sometimes very personal and private things, and I have no idea why. But I always try to lend an ear and encourage or sympathize where I can.
Have you always been a writer?
(Joy Dawn King)
Yes. I remember, and I think I still have my first writing project, a book of poetry and short stories I wrote in the third grade. I had a lovely, encouraging teacher who probably turned me into a life-long writer. I wrote though elementary, middle and high school. Some high school trauma and angst left me putting my pen down for the next couple of decades while college, marriage and children took center stage. I started back up eight years ago and wonder how I did without all those years!
This is my favourite question for authors of JAFF. I know the majority tend to write P&P stories because it is their favourite Jane Austen novel and the story gives us many ideas on how to continue the plot, retell it from a different character or point of view and even diverge somewhere in the original book. What is your opinion on this?(Lúthien84)
I think that in many ways the characters in Pride and Prejudice are the easiest to write about. Elizabeth is the girl we all want to be and Darcy is a dashing, wealthy hero, who is dark, brooding and handsome. They are the easiest to imagine in another story. Characters like Emma Woodhouse and Fanny Price are much harder to like and it is very, very difficult to write about characters one doesn’t really like. Anne Elliot and Elinor Dashwood are dull compared to Elizabeth and their partners are not nearly so romantic as Darcy. It is much harder to think about what-if scenarios about these other characters.
Maria, I have enjoyed reading your WIP as you post chapter by chapter. What motivates you to use this process? Also, what is your favourite of all your books? Thank you for the giveaway.
I like posting WIP because of the feedback and interaction I get with the readers. Writing can be very isolating and lonely and sometimes it is hard to tell how things will look from a reader’s perspective. I really love to hear what readers are thinking and feeling about the story as it progresses.
My favorite of my books? It is actually a series I have not yet finished or published it. It is in a very different genre, science fiction, so I don’t talk about it much in the Austen circles. I love it though because the characters and worlds are entirely my creations. I do hope to publish it eventually, but I recently realized I needed to restructure the series to make it a five book rather than a three book series. I have the middle three books drafted, but not the first and last. That’s what I’m working on now.
Do you use an outline when you write or do you write by the seat of your pants?
(Joy Dawn King)
I have tried to outline, really I have. I love lists and am a very organized person. But when it comes to writing, outlines are the bane of my muse. I write one and my muse leaves the building and won’t return until I throw it out. That is not to say I am entirely by the seat of my pants. I generally have a sense of the major plot points, so I know where each segment of the book is going and all of my scenes lead to that point. I write notes along the way, as the path to the next plot point becomes clear.
I usually handwrite my first draft and the top and side margins of my notes books are full of notes and diagrams about what scenes need to come next to get to my destination. I leave the first couple of pages in each notebook blank to record a list of what has been written and what I think needs to happen next, along with important lists like names and places to keep me straight. It seems to be a good working compromise with my muse.
Your books and stories always seem to have a “jumping off” point of a JA book, but you do something very different and show us a whole world that is different. How do you begin to research for this, as I know it must take a lot of research.
I discovered the ‘Feedly’ application that allows me to subscribe to over one hundred different websites, including many Regency and Georgian history sites. I keep extensive research material in my One Note program on my computer (backed up in three different places!). I also have a sizeable collection of digitized period references thanks to Google Books. So I read research material constantly and it kind of hangs around in the back of my mind.
The laudanum overdose scene in Mistaking Her Character came out of that. I found the case study in a period medical journal and it just stuck with me. As I was writing Mistaking Her Character I remembered it and realized it would make the perfect, historically accurate, plot point for the story.
Sometimes I will research specific issues, like how housekeeping and cleaning were done for Mrs. Drummond’s School for Girls. While I enjoy that part, I really rather just read whatever I can get my hands on and let the subconscious take over for how it all ends up on a page.
Which is your favorite part of the writing process? Your least favorite?(Joy Dawn King)
Rough/first drafts are my favorite part. I like the freedom to just let the characters and plot run in whatever direction they want and allow me to come along for the ride.
What do I hate? Editing. I don’t mind structural editing so much. That’s the process of making sure everything is happening in the right place and it all ties logically together. Sometimes it means I need to move things around, or add or delete a scene. I actually kind of enjoy that sort of polishing. But the final steps of polishing, making sure I haven’t over used words or actions, getting rid of lazy or sloppy wording, and checking all the punctuation, that part makes me utterly crazy.
If it weren’t for the help of some fabulous proofreaders who take over at that point, I think I’d be a jabbering idiot right now.
What is your biggest distraction to getting a story done? Do you write on schedule or when the muse moves you?
(Joy Dawn King)
My biggest distractions? Real life is a huge distraction. Two of my three boys are still at home and life with teen-age/college age sons is always distracting!
I try to write every day, but I don’t put stories on schedule until I’m deep in editing. The muse checks out if I put too many constraints on her.
Sometimes it is hard to write when you think the story is going on way and the muse wants to take it a different path. Other times, the creative energies get drained by other things and it gets really difficult to write. During those times I try to work on something else. It is often a good time to work on non-fiction articles or website work.
I had not had the opportunity to read any of your novels (Given Good Principles series) yet, but it’s high on my TBR list of series to read. What inspired you to write the series?
Most of my writing is inspired by a ‘what if’ question. In the case of Given Good Principles, it was ‘What if Darcy had a mentor who taught him to follow the good principles he had been given?’ That gave rise to the entire series. For Remember the Past’ the question was ‘What if Mr. Bennet was a successful naval officer, not a land owner?’ In Mistaking Her Character I asked ‘What if Lady Catherine was Mr. Bennet’s patron and they were tied to Rosings Park?’
It is amazing how one little question can start the ball rolling and lead to a brand new world.
How did you come up with the concept for Mistaking Her Character? On Goodreads it says it volume I. Will there be more to the series and if so how many?
In Mistaking Her Character I played with Mr. Bennet’s profession, making him a second son who had to take on a gentlemanly profession to provide for his family. There were four options for such a son, clergy, medicine, law or the military. I made him a doctor, with Lady Catherine for a patron and the story took shape from here.
After the story was finished, so many readers asked me about the fates of the other sisters that I began writing those stories a well. Mrs. Drummond’s School for Girls, currently posting on my site, RandomBitsofFascination.com and JaneAustenVariations.com, is the second in the series. If follows Lydia as Mr. Darcy sends her off to school for improvement. It is quite the unexpected tale.
I think I’ll be writing Mary’s story next, called the Heir of Rosings Park. That will be the third book of the series. Jane’s story intimidates me, so I’m not sure if I’ll end up writing that one, and poor Kitty had very little part in the original story, so I’m not sure what I’m going to do with her.
In this story, Mr. Bennet is horrid. How did he come to be such a character in your thinking? (Maria Grace, can I just say that I hated my Mr. Bennet in A Father’s Sins, but I LOATHED yours. Talk about a well-written character.)
(Joy Dawn King)
I didn’t exactly intend for Mr. Bennet to be loathsome. My original plan was that it would be Mrs. Bennet who was awful, but in a different way.
This is where being a writer can get weird. The unconscious/subconscious can take over and surprising things happen.
While I was writing this, my mother had a major health crisis. In dealing with that, a great deal of personal angst got stirred up. All of that ended up written into the characters without really intending for it. You see, my mother is Mr. Bennet in this book. I really hadn’t intended to write it that way and I didn’t even know I had until readers started pointing it out to me. It was rather shocking to tell you the truth. Made me do a great deal of thinking.
Did you have more fun/interest in writing about ODC in Mistaking Her Character or Lydia in the sequel? I found the plot very original and loved the twists and layers that were added! Thank you for writing!(Nicole)
Writing about Elizabeth and Darcy is fairly natural and straight forward and I love doing it. I have no idea what possessed me to write about Lydia, to be honest. I have always hated the character and avoid her in the story whenever I can.
So when I started Lydia’s story, I didn’t have a whole lot invested as I didn’t like her at all. I vaguely knew where it was going and just let the characters run with it.
That has changed, pretty dramatically. The more I wrote, the more I found layers to Lydia’s character, and depth that I hadn’t expected were there. I began to see what made her who she was and that was fascinating. As the circumstances have changed and matured her, I have grown very fond of her and am rooting for her as the story draws to the climax. It has been a very different writing experience.
Any thoughts on writing an Austenesque story other than P&P? Persuasion, Emma or perhaps S&S or NA? I’m hoping you will write a Persuasion-based story as it is one of my favourite novel.
I love Persuasion, but I haven’t stumbled upon a plot I want to write yet, although there are the seeds of one kicking around in the back of my mind. I am also playing with a story about Harriet Smith from Emma. Everyone kind of dismisses Harriet as a dumb bunny, but I’ve wondered if she is really stupid, or just easily influenced by those she cares about because of a very sweet temperament. It is a short story now and I’m not sure it will be fleshed out to novel form. But I will be posting it soon.
All of your published works are historical based. Do you plan to try your hand at writing a modern story in future?
I don’t think I will be writing moderns. Even from childhood writings, my stories have almost always been set in another world, either historical, fantasy or science fiction. Not sure why, but that’s how they end up evolving.
Is there a chance that you will publish a book that has nothing to do with JAFF?
Absolutely. My dear husband is ever after me to finish my science fiction series and I do plan on doing just that. I also have a fantasy plot that I am developing and want to see in print.
What is your next book and when can we expect it will be published?(Lúthien84)
I think the next book will be a set of short stories, including Harriet’s. I hope to have it out by fall. After that I’m not sure. I am working on another non-fiction, Regency era history book and of course Lydia’s story. I fantasize about having one of those done by the end of the year, but I don’t want to promise anything just yet.
If you were stranded on a desert island with only five books, which five would you choose?
(Joy Dawn King)
Five? Only five? You must be joking! Pretty please, don’t leave me with only five books! Can’t I take my kindle?
I’d like to say a big Thank You to Maria Grace for being this month’s guest!
For those who haven’t yet checked out Mistaking Her Character, it’s now available on Amazon and other major retailers, and check in with Maria Grace on her blog, twitter, and Facebook for her latest news on her writing and the blog tour for Mistaking Her Character!
Website/Blog: Random Bits of Fascination
Austen Variations blog: Jane Austen Variations
Don’t forget the GIVEAWAY!!!
Usual rules apply – Every person who submits a question gets one chance entered into the pot. If you submit a question and a comment on the final interview you get two chances!
Time to comment!
Final date for comments to be entered into the drawing Wednesday, 15 July.
Winner will be announced Friday, 17 July!
Leave your comments below!
GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!!