Thank you for supporting the “Salute to our Veterans” event at Just Jane 1813. I love reading JAFF stories that have a focus on Colonel Fitzwilliam. First, what made you decide to focus your book on Colonel Fitzwilliam? Next, provide us the “low-down” on how this book is tied to others in your Austen arsenal.
In my first novel, “Darcy’s Passions,” back in 2009, I placed the good colonel with Anne De Bourgh, but afterwards, I was never satisfied with the pairing. In subsequent books, I found the pairing of the colonel with Georgiana more to my liking. Even so, I wondered of the colonel’s “amiability.” Men of the era often put on the “good face” to protect the women in their lives. I thought at times that the colonel was too perfect. War affects men, especially men who experience it over a long period of time. The English conflict with Napoleon lasted from 1803 to 1815. As a colonel and a minor son of the aristocracy, Fitzwilliam would have seen service on at least one front and likely more than one. There was a story waiting to be told and not necessarily a happy one. The challenge was to give my readers a satisfying tale with a “happily ever after.”
In “Christmas at Pemberley,” Colonel Fitzwilliam returns home from the Canadian front during the War of 1812 to discover Georgiana had blossomed into a full fledged woman, and he has the notion that Georgiana’s goodness will wash away all the years of devastation from war; that with her he will feel “clean” again.
“The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy,” another Pride and Prejudice mystery, happens right after the Battle of Waterloo. The colonel returns to England to discover Georgiana missing. He executes a desperate race to find her before something terrible occurs. In this book, both Darcy and Elizabeth express their concern that it will be difficult for Fitzwilliam to leave the war behind. They worry that the colonel also assumes the affection he feels for his new wife will keep him from the nightmares of the war – of the dead, which haunt him. At the book’s end, Fitzwilliam resigns his commission and takes a property in Oxfordshire to spend his life as a gentleman with his wife and expected child, but the war is not so easy to forget.
In “The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin,” the war comes back to smack Fitzwilliam in the face. As is customary with many who spend years in war, leaving the highs and lows behind are not so easily achieved. Fitzwilliam deserts Georgiana and his daughter to seek out another commission, but he gets caught up in a nightmare of murders (based on the real-life Ratcliffe Highway murders). The problem is that Fitzwilliam cannot recall whether he committed the murders or not.
In your book, you focus on Colonel Fitzwilliam’s war experiences and how the war has really affected his life. Why did you make this decision? I have felt that many JAFF authors have avoided this topic, so why did you decide to tackle it?
I am a military brat and a military wife. My parents’ generation had World War II and the Korean War. My generation knew over twenty years of the Vietnam conflict. The issues of what we now call PTSD is a reality to me and mine. I could not imagine what a soldier of the Napoleonic Wars must have experienced. I have read multiple journals, etc., from the soldiers on both sides of the conflict, and it seemed to me if Fitzwilliam had been in service to the King long enough to claim the rank of “colonel,” then he had deep secrets he kept from all his family and friends. A gentleman of the time would be expected NOT to speak of the atrocities he experienced.
What was the hardest thing about writing this book? How did you, as a writer, overcome these challenges?
My biggest concern in writing this story was getting the court drama correct. Many would think that as an earl’s son that Fitzwilliam would have special privileges in the British court system, but the truth is Fitzwilliam and even older brother (the heir apparent) are considered “commoners” under the law. Only the earl and his countess would hold any leeway. If Matlock was accused of the crime, he would be tried by the House of Lords. (To learn more, see my piece on the procedural practices of the HOL at this link: https://reginajeffers.wordpress.com/2015/06/29/procedure-for-a-trial-in-the-house-of-lords/ )
At the time of this story, in the court system, Fitzwilliam must serve as his own defense. There were prosecutors, but not defense attorneys. He would have the right to petition witness, but they were not required to attend the court proceedings (although those called by the prosecution had to attend). He would need to cross examine the witnesses and prove his points, without anything more than the advice of a barrister prior to the trial. Customarily, a group of defendants were brought in together. All the cases were tried, and then the jury would decide the fate of each of the accused. Most trials lasted no more than 30 minutes. [I did take some dramatic license here. The trial against Fitzwilliam was longer because of the number of deaths that occurred.
To get it right, I studied every court procedure I could get my hands on to learn more of the language used during the trial and the consequences of the crimes. Old Bailey Online (http://oldbaileyonline.org) served as an excellent source. In addition, I purchased several books that chronicled trials of the era.
What inspires you to write JAFF?
I really do not know how to explain this other than to say that a love of Jane Austen’s works is ingrained upon my soul. I fell in love with her stores when I was twelve. I am now sixty-eight. I cannot recall a time Austen was not “whispering” in my ear.
How do you find JAFF books that you enjoy reading?
I am one of the odd balls that was never was a part of the JAFF blogs where everyone posted their stories. This fact is not from criticism of the blogs dedicated to Austen. In truth, I was an older mother (having lost two children before I claimed parenthood). Therefore when everyone else was jumping on the JAFF band wagon, I was busy keeping up with three boys and being a military wife. There simply was not enough time for Austen.
Nowadays, to choose my reading, I simply view the excerpts on Amazon and listen carefully to friends’ recommendations to find Austen-inspired stories. I also read LOTS of other genres to “cleanse” my palate before writing my own stories.
Darcy’s relationship with Colonel Fitzwilliam has always been one that I have enjoyed reading about in JAFF books. What are your feelings about their relationship and why have you focused on it in your book?
I always assumed that Darcy respected Fitzwilliam, as Darcy’s father named the colonel as a co-guardian of Georgiana. In my mind, they were opposite sides of the same coin, but once I decided to bring Fitzwilliam and Georgiana together, I suspected that their relationship might become more contentious. Darcy’s innate need to protect his sister would turn on Fitzwilliam for as Georgiana’s husband, Fitzwilliam would have great “control” over Georgiana. Darcy would not relinquish that “control” easily, and so their changing relationship became a major plot point.
Jane Austen is tremendously popular 200 years after the publication of her work. Why do you think she is so popular today and what do you think, in regards to Austen, really resonates with modern audiences?
In Ian Watt’s “Rise of the Novel,” the author says Austen combines the internal and external approaches to character, that she has authenticity without diffuseness or trickery, and that Austen offers a sense of social order, which is not achieved at the expense of individuality and autonomy of the characters.
And Devoney Looser says in “Feminist Impressions of the Silver Screen Austen,” that Austen’s worlds “…were not populated with upper-class gentlemen. Sir Walter Scott referred to Austen’s novels as about the ‘middling classes,’…and Madame de Staël called them simply ‘vulgaire.’ …It was not until our own century that Lord David Cecil tried to ‘co-opt Austen…into the aristocracy.’” But it does not take a genius to see that “what motivates the action is neither aristocratic arrogance or greed. Anxieties about money and status abound in the novels and the adaptations – and not simply to keep up with the Joneses or the de Bourghs.”
As we all know, Austen conveys life stories, which are small, but perfect. Her subjects are common, ordinary families. Her happy endings translate the heroine’s moral assets into material ones.
Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image?
I purchased the image long before I wrote the story, and I offered it to Pegasus for the cover. I thought the man handsome, but not overly “pretty.” He possesses a strong jaw and the look of determination. However, when Pegasus Books first did the cover it was quite bland, and I cringed: Their cover was the image on a dark brown background and with red font for the title and my name. I declined the cover’s approval. For one thing the model has lace cuffs (like a pirate, rather than a soldier) that needed to be concealed, but I wanted the sword to show for “a sword” is an important plot point in the story. I have a young girl who was once my student who does the covers for my Indie titles. I had her do a mockup to correct the image, font, etc. Although she did not receive the credit for the cover, Sarah Kate Callaham did the work.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I am writing three novels at once, two of which are Pride and Prejudice variations: Mr. Darcy’s Bargain and The Great Road. The third (The Earl Finds His Comfort) is the sequel to a Regency romance, Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep, being released by Black Opal Books in 2016.
What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
Honest reviews are always welcomed on bookseller websites. Word of mouth is still the best advertisement of any book. Talk it up to others.
How can the readers discover more about you and your work?
Regina Jeffers is an award-winning author of cozy mysteries, Austenesque sequels and retellings, and Regency era romances. A teacher for thirty-nine years, Jeffers often serves as a consultant for Language Arts and Media Literacy programs. With multiple degrees, Regina has been a Time Warner Star Teacher, Columbus (OH) Teacher of the Year, and a Martha Holden Jennings Scholar. With 5 new releases coming out in 2015, Jeffers is considered one of publishing’s most prolific authors. Come check out some of her 19 novels: Darcy’s Passions, Captain Frederick Wentworth’s Persuasion, The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy, A Touch of Grace, A Touch of Honor, and The First Wives’ Club.
Every Woman Dreams Blog reginajeffers.wordpress.com
Austen Authors Blog austenauthors.net
Regina Jeffers Website (excerpts, news and events, reviews, etc.) www.rjeffers.com
You may also find Regina at
Twitter @reginajeffers https://twitter.com/reginajeffers
THE DARCYS AND THE BENNETS CORDIALLY INVITE YOU TO CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY: A PRIDE & PREJUDICE HOLIDAY SEQUEL
Darcy has invited the Bennets and the Bingleys to spend the Christmastide’s festive days at Pemberley. But as he and Elizabeth journey to their estate to join the gathered families, a blizzard blankets the English countryside. The Darcys find themselves stranded at a small inn while Pemberley is inundated with refugees seeking shelter from the storm.
Without her brother’s strong presence, Georgiana Darcy tries desperately to manage the chaos surrounding the arrival of six invited guests and eleven unscheduled visitors. But bitter feuds, old jealousies and intimate secrets quickly rise to the surface. Has Lady Catherine returned to Pemberley for forgiveness or revenge? Will the manipulative Caroline Bingley find a soul mate? Shall Kitty Bennet and Georgiana know happiness?
Written in Regency style and including Austen’s romantic entanglements and sardonic humor, Christmas at Pemberley places Jane Austen’s most beloved characters in an exciting yuletide story that speaks to the love, the family spirit and the generosity that remain as the heart of Christmas.
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF GEORGIANA DARCY: A PRIDE AND PREJUDICE MYSTERY
A THRILLING NOVEL OF MALICIOUS VILLAINS, DRAMATIC REVELATIONS, AND HEROIC GESTURES THAT STAYS TRUE TO AUSTEN’S STYLE
SHACKLED IN THE DUNGEON of a macabre castle with no recollection of her past, a young woman finds herself falling in love with her captor—the estate’s master. Trusting him before she regains her memory and unravels the castle’s wicked truths would be a catastrophe.
Far away at Pemberley, the Darcys happily gather to celebrate the marriage of Kitty Bennet. But a dark cloud sweeps through the festivities: Georgiana has disappeared without a trace. Upon receiving word of his sister’s likely demise, Darcy and his wife, Elizabeth, set off across the English countryside, seeking answers in the unfamiliar and menacing Scottish moors.
How can Darcy keep his sister safe from the most sinister threat she has ever faced when he doesn’t even know if she’s alive? True to Austen’s style and rife with malicious villains, dramatic revelations and heroic gestures, this suspense-packed mystery places Darcy and Elizabeth in the most harrowing situation they have ever faced— finding Georgiana before it’s too late.
The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin: A Pride and Prejudice Mystery
Fitzwilliam Darcy is enjoying his marital bliss. His wife, the former Elizabeth Bennet, presented him two sons and a world of contentment. All is well until Darcy receives a note of urgency from his sister Georgiana. In truth, Darcy never fully approved of Georgiana’s joining with their cousin. Major General Edward Fitzwilliam for Darcy assumed the major general held Georgiana at arm’s length, dooming Darcy’s sister to a life of unhappiness.
Forced to seek his cousin in the slews of London’s underbelly, at length, Darcy discovers the major general and returns Fitzwilliam to his family. Even so, the Darcy’s troubles are far from over. During the major general’s absence from home, witnesses note Fitzwilliam’s presence in the area of two horrific murders. When Edward Fitzwilliam is arrested for the crimes, Darcy must discover the real culprit before his cousin is hanged for the crimes and the Fitzwilliam name is marked by shame.
Thank you for joining us here, for another event, at Just Jane 1813. As you can see, I really enjoy your books and I look forward to reading the “Pride and Prejudice” variations that you are currently working on, when they are published in the future. I loved learning about your journey as a writer and as a military wife. I also want to thank you for your generous giveaway for our readers. I know our lucky winner will love this gripping mystery!