My blog tour is well underway, and I’m having a marvelous time of it. It’s a lot of work for a lean writer like me, who doesn’t have much in the way of cut scenes from the original story and thus I’m inventing new “outtakes” along the way. Earlier this week, I spent a little time at My Jane Austen Book Club, being interviewed by the gracious Maria Grazia:
Thanks so much for hosting me here, Maria, and letting me talk a bit about my new, slightly off-kilter romantic comedy, Mendacity & Mourning.
Tell us about Mendacity & Mourning.
Summed up simply: Mildly depressed boy meets lively girl. Each misunderstands the other’s attachment. Gleeful gossip and mendacious mayhem ensue. Many jokes and metaphors are made about fluffy clouds, errant sheep, lumpy heads, creamed turnips, and the importance of Thursdays in marital felicity on the road to their shared happiness. Also, Kitty idolizes Miss Bingley, there is a naughty artist, and the Fitzwilliams are a colorful bunch who enjoy fruit.
So…some characters are a bit eccentric?
Anyone with the last name of Fitzwilliam is a tad suspect, especially the women. It’s a family joke that Darcy fears making aloud. And a few original characters, such as Peregrine Dumfries, are a little offbeat. The Colonel certainly is put off by the man, and has a slew of insulting nicknames for the man he calls a popinjay. Of course, the Colonel always is a joy to create in any story. Here he is the mustachioed know-it-all and best friend to Darcy, far savvier in the ways of women and the world—or so he thinks. By the end of the story, he simply wants to return to France, thinking that fighting a war is far simpler than fighting his way through “the honeyed fog” of love and marriage and, as his father puts it, “the ol’ rumpity pumpity.”
Is the Colonel your favorite character?
He’s fun, but I’m far too fond of Darcy and Elizabeth and their journeys, separate and together. I love building on the sly wit Jane Austen gave them, and ensuring their foibles and mistakes are very human and relatable.
When did you first read Jane Austen, and when did you discover JAFF?
My route into this world was like that of many others…I read Pride & Prejudice, Emma, and Sense & Sensibility as a teenager and fell in love with the strong, witty, sometimes misguided but always opinionated women in those books and with the voice of the woman who created them. And like so many people, I love stories of unrequited love made whole. One day in my thirties, I found Linda Berdoll’s and Pamela Aiden’s books—so different in style but equally compelling—and it was an easy step from there to the early JAFF websites, like Firthness, Hyacinth Gardens, and Bits of Ivory. A few stories struck a deep chord in me and those variations made me wonder what would happen next to Darcy and Elizabeth. And so I began to write.
A number of readers and reviewers comment on your distinct voice.
When I finally dared to try my hand at writing JAFF, I wrote a few short moderns, and when those found a receptive audience, I wrote a few short regencies. Those tended to be somewhat comic, and although I tried to ensure I was using the formal cadences of Regency times, my more modern voice still came through. I’m not terribly well-read on Heyer or any of the novelists my fellow authors are so conversant on (and I’m a bit intimidated by that), but I’m trained as a journalist to write short meaningful sentences and influenced by the novelists I read in teen years. And much of my writing voice was affected by the old screwball comedies I grew up watching on TV, with the fast-paced, snappy banter between characters. When I started writing, dialogue was the toughest part, but now it is the easiest thing to write. Lucky for me, Austen wrote amazing dialogue and created stories where one can read between the lines and find new depths (and alternative plots and paths).
You’ve written a modern P&P, A Searing Acquaintance, released last year, and now a Regency romantic comedy. What are you writing now?
I’m currently finishing up a modern P&P set in the Midwest, and I’ve written the first third of a more solemn Regency. Each storyline is serious, but I cannot keep my sense of humor bottled up for long, so lighthearted banter and heartfelt yearning are sprinkled throughout.