Everyone asked some great questions this month!
Linda is the author of Longbourn to London, The Red Chrysanthemum, and her newest
A Will of Iron
Are you ready for Linda’s answers? I know I am!
Just a quick note to let the inquisitors and readers know most of these questions were answered from the beautiful campus of Linfield College in McMinnville, OR. There is nothing like an arboretum and fresh oxygen to get the words flowing.
Besides P&P, what is your favourite JA novel?
We were just talking about this in the AHA chat room the other night. It might be Sense and Sensibility for me. I appreciate Elinor, although she has lousy taste in men. But I like how she thinks, generally. And I pity her a vast deal, being saddled with a sister with not much more wit than Lydia Bennet.
I know most JAFF writers prefer to write stories based on characters and themes from P&P especially if it involves Darcy and Elizabeth. Have you ever thought of reaching out to other five novels of Jane Austen? If so, which book will you pick?
(Lúthien84 & Michelle Hall)
How about an Anne Elliot with a spine, or at least spine enough to tell Wentworth he behaved like a right bastard when he reappeared in her life. His flirtatious behavior with the young cute girls was unappealingly vengeful. Another option would be revisiting Sanditon to write my own ending.
Which Austen character would your husband say you most resemble?
(J Dawn King)
Given his limited knowledge on the subject (and I’d prefer to keep it that way), he might say Mrs. Gardiner. DH has watched P&P’95 with me, and is reading an annotated version of P&P now. These are his only brushes with JA. DH has not read my stories. My fiction writing is my thing, and mine alone. He had no idea I was writing JAFF, or any fiction at all, until I showed him the email from Meryton Press accepting the proposal for The Red Chrysanthemum.
If you could relive your 20’s in 2015, which Austen character would best describe you?
(J Dawn King)
Great question. The knee-jerk response is Elizabeth Bennet, but Charlotte Lucas might be more honest—not a beauty but I liked to dance; cynical about men and marriage from a young age. It is a difficult comparison. I was active in an Elizabeth Bennet sort of way, running, hiking, biking—outdoorsy. EB is really the only of JA’s heroines about whom that could be said. I was a great reader. I’ve always felt EB was showing a good deal of false modesty when she said she was not a great reader. At that age I was not so quietly compassionate as Anne Elliot, I was not a matchmaker and gossip like Emma, and I was not a sanctimonious innocent like Fanny Price.
Which Jane Austen character do you think you most closely resemble?(Debbie Fortin)
At this point in my life see myself as a mash-up of Charlotte Lucas (pre-marriage) and Aunt Gardiner. I am often asked to occupy an advisory role.
What inspired you to start writing P&P stories?
Do you like variations and alternate paths or would you consider writing a sequel to Pride & Prejudice?
Taking the original canon plot of P&P and giving it a twist here and a tug there is much more interesting to me than writing a sequel. I have written one three-part short story, a sequel “of sorts” to Longbourn to London, called A Little Night Music at Rosings. The story is a peek at the Darcy’s relationship about eight or so years—and several children—into their marriage. I have a nearly completed shorter story about Elizabeth working herself up to tell Darcy they are expecting their first child; it takes place about five months into their first year of marriage. It is very sexy; she’s afraid he’ll stop granting her his favors if he knows she’s in a delicate condition.
But those two short stories aside, I am much more intrigued to find some chink in the armour of P & P’s plot, or in the motivations of the characters, and exploit it. Then it becomes a puzzle for me, to match the Regency language, lifestyle details/history, personalities, and plot points.
Do you have a favourite time and place to write your novels?
(Lúthien84 & Debbie Fortin)
I am a night owl. I wrote a portion of Longbourn to London in Chinese hotels in the summer of 2012. I did not have a laptop then, and was writing longhand on legal pads. It was fun to write that way again. Editing was a bugger, though, with arrows all over the place! I love writing in quiet hotel rooms. Weird, I know, but there are so few distractions.
My absolute favorite place to write is my mother’s home on the Oregon coast. Fabulous view, and I can lay out my laptop, research materials and note pad, plus a coaster with wine glass on her dining room table and get so much done! I must be alone to write. I can edit with folks around if they’re respectful, but the original creation takes silence and solitude.
I always have a copy of the annotated P & P with me as I write. Jane Austen has been all over the world with me (well, since I started writing JAFF in early 2012).
Where/how do you get fresh ideas for stories? There’s written so much already, so it’s hard to think of something new and original, I imagine
Have you heard of “peak oil”? It is the notion that at some point we will have reached maximum oil extraction from the earth, and production will diminish after that. It is said we have already passed “peak oil”, sometime in the 1990s. I often wonder if we are near “peak Austen”. Is there a point where there will be no new questions to answer about Elizabeth and Darcy and the Bennets, and no new ways to tweak the plot?
That answers the second part of your question first, which is typical of me, non-linear thinking. To answer your first part, at the point where I said, “Hey, I bet I can do this as well as some of these other folks”, I looked into Pride and Prejudice for a place where the plot was not filled in well. That became Longbourn to London, which is the betrothal period of six weeks, followed by earning my Pervy Horde credentials adding the first week of their marriage. Yes, you read that right: L to L came before The Red Chrysanthemum.
In canon, Darcy reveals a lot about himself in those last few pages, but the question that always burned in my mind was, why was he at the Lambton inn when EB got the news about Lydia? It shows a staggering and uncharacteristic lack of curiosity that she never asks him how he came to be there. In L to L she asks, but his answer, to talk about Bingley and Jane, proved to be the taking off point for The Red Chrysanthemum.
Within the editing process of TRC, my editor and I started riffing on what would happen if Elizabeth and Darcy got back together sooner than at Pemberley. That conversation became the plot bunny for A Will of Iron.
When Meryton Press accepted The Red Chrysanthemum, they suggested I check out the A Happy Assembly website. I had no idea there were sites devoted to writers of Jane Austen fan fiction. I was utterly intimidated. (I will refrain from the usual quote about courage rising and intimidation…) Meryton Press suggested that, if I had any other story besides TRC, to consider posting it there. Hence, L to L was posted in the spring/summer of 2013.
What do you do that helps your creativity (walking, gardening, etc)?
I come up with things while I am driving. Elizabeth and Darcy sometimes talk to me as I drive. (Uh oh, what are those men with straight-jackets doing here?) Also, there is a wonderful island in the Willamette River, accessible in the summer, and I love walking my dog Tess Waterdog Trueheart there. In fact, I never go now without a legal pad and pen. I think I can remember really good dialogue until I get home (it is only 10 minutes away), but I can’t. And of course, walking on the Oregon beaches. In editing Longbourn to London for publication, my editor set me a tough challenge. By the fourth long walk over a weekend, I not only admitted she was right, but I had a handle on how to solve the problem.
How long does it usually take you to go from idea to finished rough draft? Do you use an outline or write as you go?
(J Dawn King)
Longbourn to London came barreling out of me at breakneck speed, finished in less than three months. Once the plot bunny for TRC emerged, I had to force myself to finish L to L. TRC took perhaps six months. I knew it was a better first novel to pitch to a publisher than L to L because of the meaning of flowers twist, which had not been done before. (“But aren’t there a lot of them now?” she asked, winking.)
Once I was a reader on AHA, I was seeing a lot more moderns than I had reading JAFF from the library and Powell’s Books. The first five and last four chapters of Mr Darcy’s Gardener, my one long modern posted at AHA, were also written very fast. Before MDG, I had never written with betas. It never occurred to me! (That conceited arrogance thing again.) But with MDG knew I needed help bridging the powerful opening with the HMS at the end. I enlisted two betas to look over the outline. They then assisted in the usual beta way to get from beginning to end. Finally, because Liz Bennet is an American working in England, I had an English cold-reader look it over.
It felt like it took forever to get A Will of Iron completed. The plot bunny hatched in the spring of 2013. It is just now published! MDG happened in the middle of it, as well as many short stories. I submitted L to L to Meryton Press for publication to buy time to complete AWOI, but L to L needed more work to get prepped that I anticipated; nothing got done on AWOI while L to L was in edits. That plan backfired!
Do you dream about your stories while you write them? Are the characters that real in your mind?
(J Dawn King)
I don’t nighttime dream about my stories, but I daydream constantly. Yes, the characters are real in my mind. Vividly so.
Are any of the scenes in your novels based on real life situations? Any characters based on real life individuals?
When I write Regency, I am following canon and P&P’95 pretty strictly. I don’t add major new characters, as some authors do. Sure, a servant or lawyer or doctor now and then, but no new love interest to muddy the waters. I like many stories with well done new characters, but it isn’t how my mind works as a writer. So no real life people in my Regency stories. As for situations, well, a lady doesn’t kiss—or worse—and tell.
In Mr Darcy’s Gardener, there are characters drawn from my life mashed up with the P & P characters when I needed certain niches filled. I call MDG “canonesque”; it only sort of follows canon. There are fewer characters—Liz is an only child—but some characters, like Jillian, fill multiple roles.
My father was a Mr. Bennet, and I was his Lizzy. So there’s that.
You are one of the best writers of steamy scenes in JAFF. What is your process for writing them?
Wow. I wish I could explain this. I am writing what I want to read. If I had picked up JAFF titles with sex scenes like mine, I wouldn’t have had to try to write my own! How’s that for conceited arrogance?
I can say this for a certainty: the most difficult sex scene I ever wrote was Lizzy and Darcy’s wedding night in AWOI. I could not get the tone exactly right, fussing with it until the manuscript had to go to my (our!) editor at Meryton Press. What ultimately made the chapter work was the addition of another entry in Anne de Bourgh’s journal. It felt right that she have the last word!
And thank you, Suzan, for the compliment; you’re no slouch yourself!
What intrigues you about Fitzwilliam Darcy? Do you have a definite picture of his looks and actions in your mind or is he a vague image that changes from story to story?
(J Dawn King)
What intrigues me about Darcy? What doesn’t? I think Wickham reveals a lot when he says Darcy can be liberal-minded. Darcy is used to getting what he wants and being in control even in situations where he has no skin in the game. But to reconcile himself to loving Elizabeth Bennet, he has to strain the limits of his liberal-mindedness to the nth degree to make that first calamitous proposal.
As for your second question, the answer is Colin Firth, every time. My devotion is unwavering. Which is not to say I think the 1995 Darcy is perfect, but my quibble is with the script and direction. How many half-smiles were left on the cutting room floor? Those of us steeped in the Darcy minutiae in canon know there were smiles as they debated at Netherfield or early on in their one dance. Was the decision for Darcy to be more buttoned up Firth’s, the script’s, or the director’s? Andrew Davies said he wishes he had written a Darcy more forthcoming after the second proposal. Poor Jennifer Ehle looks so ready to be kissed.
But no one before or since gives us the essence of Darcy’s unwanted but infuriatingly ceaseless passion for Elizabeth Bennet the way Firth does. And that is the core of Darcy…love beyond his power to reason. He is the only Austen hero so utterly taken beyond himself by love…what woman could resist?
Do you have any modern plot bunnies bouncing around waiting for their story to be told?
(J Dawn King)
No, I cannot say as I do. Mr Darcy’s Gardener cuts too close to my bones. They say to write what you know, and in a modern I think this is key. So that’s what I did. I wrote a Liz Bennet who is, in her late 20s, what I would have wanted to be academically, knowing what I know of myself now. And she has the “does not suffer fools gladly” attitude I had at that age. I wrote about vines and curating a plant collection, something I do daily. And I’ve visited England four times, touring public and private gardens for at least two weeks on each visit. I know some of the gardeners I name-drop, because they have visited Portland, Oregon to speak, or to visit the plant collection and garden I administer. Perhaps my reluctance to publish MDG is because it is, in some ways, too personal. I have always said MDG, posted at AHA, will likely be my only modern long story. So far, so true.
I have done a couple of modern short stories, and more might bubble to the surface. With short stories, I never know what is coming next. They just arrive and I write them out as quick as I can.
I would like to know which you prefer to write, Regency or Modern as you have a great talent for both.
Thank you (she said getting all fan-girl flustered being asked by the wonderful Jen Red). I prefer Regency.
I really enjoyed The Red Chrysanthemum, it was a lovely book. I am not a purist so I do not mind steamy scenes. Do you like time travel books? I have read two by Mary Lydon Simonsen and thoroughly enjoyed them.
Time travel with Austen characters has not captured my imagination. Of course I say that knowing full well Darcy and Elizabeth are, as their Regency selves, watching out my eyes as I drive to work, amazed at our fleet horseless carriages and wide roads, the radio blaring, and are appalled at the fast food I occasionally talk myself into buying. They are also in a state of wonderment at me knowing so much about their sex lives. So I’m not going to say never.
How did it ever occur to you to have Anne de Bourgh be the center of all the plot in this book?
This was alluded to earlier, but I had to get Darcy back to Elizabeth while they were both still raw and shaken by the Hunsford proposal and his letter in response. Anne’s death became the way to do it, but I couldn’t have her just die of boredom. Once I hit upon her having complications from a hidden pregnancy, everything else fell into place, because her journal could document not just her hasty decisions, but her shrewd observations about her cousins, the Hunsford crowd, and her mother. She was a right minx to write, my Anne. Being her mother’s daughter, she tried more than once to upstage the other major players. This was one story that absolutely required an outline. Dates had to be adhered to for both the journal and the real-time story.
You are giving Anne a life of the mind…are you revealing any other character’s hidden depth or secrets?
Both Bingley and Jane show more moxie here than most readers assume they have, as perceived in canon. I do not think it was ever JA’s intention to have either Bingley seen as a puppyish buffoon or Jane Bennet as a Pollyanna-like simpleton. That is our collective modern spin on those characters. We get an interesting look at Charlotte Collins in AWOI, too.
You were a bit of a mentor and sounding board for me when I published, as The Red Chrysanthemum came out a couple months before Alias Thomas Bennet. You continue to help authors as a beta and cheerleader when they’re starting out, encourage select individuals to submit to Meryton Press, and give advice to friends. Do you see commonalities in what new authors should know? How about established authors? Are there any tips you’d like to share for someone considering publication of their story?
Thank you, Suzan. You were one of the first to befriend me at AHA (and within months we had met in RL!) and you have filled much the same role, too. I think the most important advice to any author is to stand back and allow your work to be edited. None of us have the genius of Jane Austen. I have accused myself of conceited arrogance, and as I write my rough drafts this is much in evidence. But I turn groveling and submissive once my stories are in the hands of a professional editor. I also see a rush to publish in the face of rejection from a “bricks and mortar” publisher, as an all too human reaction: I’ll show them. That attitude misses a profound opportunity to be honest with yourself as a writer. Ask yourself why you’re writing. We all become praise junkies as we post online. How could all of those readers love us, and a publisher not? Instead of assuming you know something a publisher doesn’t, the more realistic (and yes, painful) admission is that they know A LOT more than a new author does. It is a fearful thing, to send your baby out into the world. It is a delicate balance to both believe in your story, yet understand it can be improved. Hell, TRC won an award the year it came out, and I still know exactly where more could be cut to tighten the doldrums as we wait for Lydia and Wickham to marry and head north.
There are other advantages to holding back, refining your stories, and waiting to get on with an established publisher. In addition to great editors, a publisher will connect you to an artist who will create an original cover for you. Our L. L. Diamond is Lucky Lady Diamond to be both a gifted writer and able to create her own unique covers. In the past month, I am seeing the same Elizabeth and Darcy (and he is MUCH too swarthy for my taste) on numerous self-published offerings on amazon. I do hope the model for Elizabeth in particular is getting some royalties for the over-use of her image. Don’t authors look at what else is out there before selecting a cover? I am sorry to insult anyone, but I am less likely to buy a new story with the same Elizabeth Bennet as on the last two I bought!
Are you writing something new at the moment?
My next long story is entitled “Your Mr Bingley”. The prologue and first chapter is in the Coming Attractions forum at AHA. The premise is Bingley shaking out of the tight leash Darcy and Caroline Bingley have him wearing, and he sneaks back to Netherfield in late January, unknowing Jane is still in London. The trick in writing this is, if Bingley becomes his own hero, where does that leave Darcy? Bingley must bumble along under his own power, and Jane is not disposed to be instantly forgiving. This story will post online before it is published.
Why clematis? What intrigues you so about this particular plant?
(J Dawn King)
There are over 300 clematis species worldwide. They are on all the major continents except Antarctica (but including Oceania). They can be anything from 8” x 8” shrublets growing in the subalpine scree on the South Island of New Zealand, to charming herbaceous perennials thriving along the frozen shores of Lake Baikal in Siberia, to vines used by Tarzan (one hopes) in Africa. As I write, new species are being documented for the first time in the southeastern USA. Infinite variety has bred infinite fascination, at least for the late Brewster Rogerson, founder of the collection I curate, and for me. I have about 200+ clematis in my own garden.
What is your absolute favorite clematis? Is there an elusive plant you would love to have?
(J Dawn King)
My favorite clematis is ‘Venosa Violacea’. My “Holy Grail” clematis was ‘Hainton Ruby’, a luscious red hybrid. I searched for it from 1996, when I first saw it at the Chelsea Flower Show in London, to autumn 2014, when it was given to me by the astonishing, generous Sue Austin of Completely Clematis Nursery in Ipswich, MA. I have yet to develop a similar lust for another clematis, but I assume I will! You can see these plants at Clematis on the Web, http://www.clematis.hull.ac.uk/new-clemalphasearch.cfm
Loved reading The Red Chrysanthemum. Do you consider the meaning of a flower or bouquet when giving it to someone?
I do, even when I know they won’t know the meaning. And in a modern short story I wrote, Nothing Like a Dispute, which is a P&P/Monty Python mash-up, I was careful to look up the meaning of the flowers Darcy brings to Elizabeth on their first date, even though I didn’t mention it in the story.
Which Austen character would you most like to join you for a glass (or a bottle) of wine? (A glass/bottle of red or white?)
(J Dawn King)
Mr. Bennet. My dad died in 2002, and I miss him. He would drink port; I’d drink champagne.
What is the one question you would like to ask Jane Austen if you had the opportunity?
(J Dawn King)
I would take an artist with me in the way-back machine, and demand she sit for a portrait.
Before you go don’t forget to leave that question because Linda is offering one signed paperback of A Will of Iron as a giveaway and the giveaway is open internationally! Everyone who leaves a question or more gets their name put into the pot once, but if you leave a question and give a comment on the final interview, you get two chances to win!
I hope everyone has a query or two for Linda!
Final date for comments to be entered into the drawing Wednesday, 12 August.
Winner will be announced Friday, 14 August!
Leave Linda your questions in the comments below!
Good luck everyone!!