Your questions have been asked and I added a few of my own and our featured author this month has responded! While reading the interview you may notice a (R) before some questions. Since I did not have permission to list names with questions for everyone, I used this to designate which questions came from a reader. (Something I learned for next time!) I hope you enjoy the segment enough to leave a comment for Sarah!
Hi Sarah! Welcome to Ask the Author at lldiamondwrites.com and thanks so much for being our first victim!
Thanks Leslie! I love having this opportunity, and being the first just makes it all the more fun since I really don’t know what to expect!
First thing’s first! Please tell us a little about yourself. What don’t we know about Sarah Johnson?
lol – There is probably a lot people don’t know – I am a very private person. Hmmm…let me see. I married my own Mr Darcy (unfortunately without the same catchy name) 16 years ago. We have six children (yes, six!), all our both of ours, and yes, we did plan it that way (sort of…lol). My husband was in the military for 15 years, so we have been through a lot of transitions and changes, moving all over the world, but we are now back to civilian life and settled where I grew up in Texas. What time I am not devoting to writing and reading usually goes to family time, homeschooling, and church events.
(R)Which of her daughter’s would Mrs. Bennet say you are most like?
Hmmmm…that’s a tough one. I am not flighty, so definitely not Lydia or Kitty. Mary is a little too preachy for me (canon Mary that is), I am quiet like Jane, but definitely not as naïve as she is. So I guess that leaves Elizabeth. If I could pick any P&P character that I am the most like though, it would be Darcy. I am the quiet, brooding, can be in charge when it is needed, but otherwise avoids everyone as much as I can type of person.
(R)Where do your ideas for an alternate view for a classic come from? How do you go about “dreaming up” a new storyline for these characters?
What a great question! All have come from different places. Most began with a themed writers challenge, and then grew from there. Often I know the very end of a story, and I know a few of the points between A and Z, but until I get to them I don’t know how they will play out. Most of the story lines just come as I write. I always have ideas I want to use, and when I see a place they can fit I work them in. Sometimes they stay, sometimes they are too much and get eliminated.
I happen to know you have a very hectic personal life. What keeps you focused when you are writing?
lol – yes, very hectic! I am basically an OCD person who cannot stop my brain from going going going. My kids know pretty much to leave me alone when I am in a writing craze. Luckily we have two that are old enough to take care of any issues the little ones might have if I am a little overcome with a scene at that time, and my hubby is a great man to step up when he is around as well.
(R)What helps you write when you’re having trouble with a scene?
Another great question! Some scenes I just need to talk it out. So I hunt down my beta and friend, Anita, and we chat and hash out scenarios. This is usually enough to get the ideas flowing again. Sometimes, if I know where the scene should go and just can’t get there, stopping and stepping back for a few hours or a few days helps. Then when I come back to it I start a few scenes or chapters before and read up to where I am. That helps in getting into the groove again. So far I have not had a writer’s block that one of these methods could not cure – except on a story I started about Mr Collins…but, hey, what can I say – it’s about Mr Collins.
(R)I know you created a five-book series from a long story with one main plot line. That must have been daunting, and I’m curious about the how you eventually “saw” each book peel off the main story. Can you outline the a-ha moments, those that helped you realize your direction and allowed the series to become reality?
Wow! All these questions are fabulous – how will I choose which is my favorite!
I would not say have created – it is more like am in the midst of creating. I remember well the day when I decided to expand the one scene I had written for the challenge into a longer story. The first thing I did was in deciding what it would be about, and my husband suggested I follow the five sisters. I loved the idea, and that evening we both named the story Leaving Bennet Behind – then it grew from there into a story of nearly 300,000 words.
When I decided to publish I knew it was too long, so it had to either be edited dramatically (cut down by at least 1/3) or it would need to be broken up. My friend Suzan Lauder encouraged me to break it up into a series, and so the enormous task was set before me – how and when to break it up. The story itself follows the five Bennet sisters through the years of courtships and ends with the eventual marriage of them all. So it struck me that it would be great to break it up into five stories. As it turns out, the story itself naturally divides into focusing on one sister for a portion of it during which her courtship and marriage is played out, with the rest of the family members carrying the story along as well. So when I went over the details with Anita, it was pretty easy to see where they would each begin and end.
Book #1 (Chosen) saw Elizabeth through her fast and furious courtship and eventual marriage to Mr Darcy, as well as introducing us to the extended families and the backstory that ties them all together.
Book #2 focuses on Jane and Bingley, who are just as smitten, just not quite as eager to get married as the first pair were. It will tell more details of the lives of the Bingley siblings, as well as the courtship and marriage of Bingley to Jane.
Book #3 is where the series will differ from the original story. In Leaving Bennet Behind, the next sister to get married was Kitty, but in the series it will be Mary. I had a bunch of comments while posting the story online about how I was dragging out Mary’s happiness, and, yeah, I was. I could not see the end yet, and I knew at that time I wanted it to end with her marriage. I have since decided the end has enough to hold its own without making her suffer. So her courtship and marriage will be detailed in book 3. This will take some major moving of scenes, but luckily not too many rewrites.
Book #4 will then be Kitty Bennet. The original story does not have a lot about this particular couple, so I will be adding a lot more to the story to fill in and make this book long enough to be stand-alone. I have some ideas already playing around in my mind, but for now that is all they are doing.
Book #5 will, of course, be Lydia. I do not want to ruin the story for those who have not read it, but the situation surrounding her marriage is quite interesting, and there is so much more I could have gone into detail about with that. In this book I will be doing so. That time frame in the long story is only about three chapters worth, so in this book I will be adding a lot more – possibly even some love interest for Georgiana. Again, these ideas are just rolling around in my head at this point, but I know in the end it will be well worth the effort of adding to it.
Now on to your new release, Just to Hear I Love You. In canon, we do not see much of Mary Bennet, so what made you decide to do a story that is more centered on her than Elizabeth?
It just seemed right. I thought of using Elizabeth, but she is such a strong personality already that I did not want to try to fight against that well-known and loved canon character. Mary is not so much – but she grows into a strong woman through the trials she is dealt. I relate more to Mary I guess. I was able to dig deeper into her soul than I was able to do with Elizabeth, and this story required that.
(R)What inspired you to do a story about a deaf woman?
Just to Hear ‘I Love You’ came to be because of an article I read talking of Jane Austen and her use of sign language with her brother. He was not spoken of often and did not live with the family, but as someone who knows some sign and has other difficulties in hearing loss, this intrigued me. I know there are a few other stories about people with disabilities, but I really wanted to delve into one about a deaf character. There is so much about Mary we are not told in the original book, so I like playing with her. She turned out to be the perfect person to handle the challenge I set before her. The loss of the rest of the Bennet family came in that I had just finished writing Leaving Bennet Behind when I began this story, and with 17 main characters it was quite an overwhelming task, so for this story I wanted to focus on just two – Elizabeth and Mary. So I eliminated the others, thus giving the sisters quite the obstacles to overcome as they grew up. It is by far my favorite of the stories I have written.
(R)Was your writing of the feelings Mary Bennet has with her hearing loss from the experience of a close friend or family?
Oh definitely! I have hearing loss because of facial paralysis (Bells Palsy), so a lot of the challenges she faces in the story – those of not understanding people, feeling alone, not fitting in with others – are all things I have had to face. I read lips a lot of times, and have to have people repeat themselves often so I can look at them when they talk. My particular issues can not be fixed with a hearing aid, so it is something I have just had to get used to for the rest of my life.
What made you decide to go with a less than likeable Georgiana?
Georgiana in Leaving Bennet Behind was so sweet, and she had a disability to face (because of a carriage accident), so I did not want the characters from the two stories to blend together in my mind. Also I felt the story should mostly focus on the two sisters and their beaus, without much regard to the others outside their small group, and having a less than ideal Georgiana allowed me to bring the much needed angst into the household. She was the most difficult of the characters to embrace though. It took a lot of time, a bunch of rewrites, and oh so many chats and emails with my plot beta Anita to get Georgiana’s character cemented into the story. Then everyone hated her! I saw her in a different light – that of the redemption I knew would come to her character – so it was difficult to have so many readers hate her. I hope I was able to redeem her well enough to appease the masses.
Regency culture was in some ways very unforgiving. You touch on this several times in Just to Hear I Love You. Without giving too much away, what was the driving force that made you choose Maria Lucas’ fate?
I had already done so much to and with Georgiana, and she needed to see where her life could have been if not for the loving family she did have. Since I needed the story to have a “Lydia moment”, and I was without a Lydia, I went with the next best thing – her best friend from canon, Maria Lucas. This not only allowed me to give Georgiana the development she required, it also allowed a form of closure with Mary and the horrible things in her past that play out in the story. Her true nature is seen through her compassion even in the face of those who will not give her the time of day.
(R)Most JAFF writers tend to write and publish stories inspired by Pride & Prejudice. Will you decide to branch out and include themes and settings from other Jane Austen’s novels like Persuasion, Emma and Sense & Sensibility?
Wow – another great reader question! (This is getting more difficult to choose my favorite each time I read another one from a reader).
I am not a huge fan of the other Jane Austen stories, but I might branch out into Mansfield Park sometime. It is my second favorite of her books. (Some weeks if you ask me, it might be my #1 favorite…lol). I do not agree with our dear author on the final pairing of Fanny and Edmund though – they just don’t have the passion and fierce soul-mate connection that Elizabeth and Darcy possess. So if I ever do branch out into other books, I can guarantee Edmund will not be the winner of her hand – unless I drastically change his personality.
Do you have a new book in the works? If so what can you tell us about it?
My next goal is to get the rest of the Leaving Bennet Behind series out – so book #2 has been calling my name the last few weeks. I hope to have it ready by Christmas, but that will be greatly determined by life and whether I can get it done in time. I hope so! So far it is going well and I have not hit too many snags. I know where I have to add scenes in, have a great layout in front of me, and it shouldn’t be too difficult.
Do you have any other projects in the works that we should know about?
Always! I like to stay busy! lol. I am on the council of a new web site for authors and readers. We are just setting it up now, so it is a ground floor operation, but it is a fun project. The web site is: Love To Read Ebooks (dot) com .
Another project of mine is to start a newsletter with a few of my friends, you included of course. It will be called: The Peculiar Ramblings of… and will include articles, games, history and culture, and much more (including an exclusive story) – all from the collaborative group of: me, Leslie L Diamond, Rose Fairbanks, Zoe Burton, and Eileen Brown. If you are interested in signing up for the monthly newsletter, you can do so at:
Now, for those readers who do not have the links, please tell us where you can be found online, twitter, facebook, etc!
The easiest way to find me is through my web site – MyPeculiarWorld(dot)com – where you can find links to me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc.
My stories (in beta’d form, but not edited quite as much as the published books) are posted at the following forums:
A Happy Assembly
Darcy and Lizzy
My books can all be found through Amazon:
If someone wishes to purchase an ebook version suitable for other ereaders besides the Kindle, they can contact me through my web site.
Those interested in receiving a monthly newsletter with upcoming events and giveaways, as well as fun articles, games, and even stories from me and my collaborators – Leslie L Diamond, Rose Fairbanks, Zoe Burton, and Eileen Brown – you can sign up for that here:
I would like to thank Sarah Johnson for agreeing to come by and answer our questions and I would like to thank all of you who sent such great questions!
Now, Sarah graciously offered to giveaway one copy of her ebook Just to Hear I Love You to one lucky person!
I indicated which questions were posed by readers and, after Sarah decided she could not choose a favorite, she picked a number out of a hat, selecting….(drum roll)…
Sylvia Claire Chan!
Do not forget that Sarah’s book Just to Hear I Love You comes out
Monday, September 29!!!
You can pre-order your copy today!
Come back next month and check out October’s featured author ~ Brenda J. Webb, who will be soon releasing her new book A Most Unlikely Couple!
This is a new segment, and I am interested in continuing! If you are an author and liked what you read in this interview send me a message through Facebook and I can schedule you on the list. I only have one Ask the Author Interview to schedule per month. I do not want people to get tired of me constantly posting for questions. I am willing to have guest posts for anyone who might need a particular month due to a book release, and the Ask the Author slot is filled.
Thanks everyone for dropping by!!!