I have been a big fan of Sophie Turner’s JAFF stories since the publication of the first book in her “Pride and Prejudice” series, “A Constant Love.” For readers looking to see how Jane Austen may give continued her stories from “Pride and Prejudice,” you don’t have to look any further than Ms. Turner’s series.
Sophie’s work emulates Austen’s style and tone in many aspects. The language she crafts resembles the Regency era language found in Austen’s stories and her characterizations of Austen’s characters feels spot on in her sequels. She also has skillfully developed new characters for her series that are as likable in her stories as Austen’s very own characters. Along with these aspects of her writing, I also marvel at the way she infuses the behaviors and customs, alongside many of the crucial events of the Regency era with precise historical accuracy within her charming stories.
I want to thank you, Sophie, for joining us today at Just Jane 1813. I have had the pleasure of getting to know you and your work over the past year and I’m thrilled that I will be sharing a review and a giveaway of your next book in this series, “A Change of Legacies,” with my readers right before it is released next week. Before we talk about your new book, can you start by sharing with my readers some background about your own life?
Sure! But first, I’d like to say thank you so much for having me here for the interview. I really enjoy the blog and everything you’re doing for JAFF, so it’s a real honor to be here.
I grew up in the Midwest, and readers may be surprised to learn that my undergraduate degree was actually in news journalism. That might not seem very applicable to writing novels, and indeed my writing style has probably undergone two major revolutions in the course of my life, but there were some very useful things I took from it. One, of course, was really learning the fundamentals of grammar, while the other was listening to people talk, so I could record quotes. It helps in writing dialogue to have spent a lot of time listening to real people speak, even if they aren’t from the Regency.
I did work in the journalism field for a while as an online editor, but eventually I did a career shift, as well as a fairly big move. So now I live in the Washington D.C. area and do web design as my day job.
Those who’ve read my work may be less surprised to learn that I rode and showed horses for many years, and that has been very useful experience for my writing. I also took sailing lessons for a summer, but I was not nearly as skilled at that! Now, aside from writing, which takes up huge chunks of my free time, my main hobby is travel. I go to Great Britain every year, usually to a different area every time – for such a small place, there is so much to see! These started out as trips just for fun, but now they’re increasingly taken up with research, although I love the research so much that it’s basically just a slightly more disciplined form of fun.
Can you tell us a little about “A Change of Legacies” and what inspired you to write a series of sequels based on Jane Austen’s book, “Pride and Prejudice?”
The series of sequels wasn’t originally intended to be a series of sequels. I had read a lot of JAFF and my preference was decidedly for sequels, but there just wasn’t as much of what I wanted to read out there, which was historically accurate stories that followed Austen’s tone. I’d also read Patrick O’Brian’s 20-book Aubrey-Maturin masterpiece, and I was fascinated that the series, which I love every bit as much as Austen’s work, takes place in the same time period, but the characters might as well be in totally different worlds. I was interested in trying to bring those two worlds together, and began kicking around the idea of a romance interrupted by Napoleon’s Hundred Days – when it seemed as though the war would continue on for as long as it had before (although it didn’t). Eventually, all of these things congealed into “A Constant Love.”
I mentioned earlier that my writing style had undergone two revolutions. The first was to go from a dry, journalistic style to something more suited for fiction, but heavily based in using present tense – it’s the voice that’s used in “Less Proud and More Persuasive.” That wasn’t what I wanted for a sequel, though. I certainly can’t precisely emulate Austen’s prose, but I spent a lot of time studying it, and what made it work (as well as re-learning how to write in past tense!), to re-develop my voice as a writer in order to be able to do the book.
“A Constant Love” was originally meant to be a standalone story, but by the time I was approaching the end of writing it, I was beginning to get ideas for what could happen to the characters beyond the end of the story. Over time, these things started to solidify into actual, planned novels, and the next of these was “A Change of Legacies.”
There are new romances in “Legacies,” of course. At the end of “A Constant Love,” Mary Bennet had been conversing frequently with a clergyman who was part of a house party at Pemberley, and this romance continues. Mary is not your typical romantic heroine, and I really enjoyed writing her story because of this – I found her sort of adorably prudish. There’s also another romance that takes place more in the background for much of the book, and it diverted pretty far from my original plans – I’m starting to realize that I don’t have 100% control over these characters!
Beyond the new romances, I think the two biggest themes are youthful follies, and childbirth. Several characters, Georgiana most of all, must consider the mistakes they might have made when they were younger, and how these mistakes might have affected their current lives. There are two stories within the story, and they’re an exploration of this theme. Childbirth and children, meanwhile, dominate the entire story. I purposely delayed pregnancies in “A Constant Love” because I just wasn’t sure how I was going to deal with things. I’m glad I did because I learned a lot in researching “Legacies,” and that enabled me to make things more historically accurate. In the first world today, we don’t really think about birth as a scary thing, but for families in this time, it was – nearly one in five women died in childbirth. So think about how that frames a great romance like Elizabeth’s and Darcy’s – poor Mr. Darcy has finally got the young lady he desired for so long, and there’s a good chance she will die in childbirth.
Compared to “A Constant Love,” it’s a bit more internally focused. It takes place over a shorter period of time, so there are fewer historical events involved, although the historical context is still very much there. One of the things that’s been interesting about “Legacies” is that although it’s very much grounded in history, there were themes that still felt very relevant today – a more tolerant Christianity vs. a more judgmental one, struggling to hire the right candidate for a key job, a woman’s body image issues.
I know my readers would love to know more about your series. What can you share with us about your plans for this series?
One of the key drivers for the first book was the enduring love of Elizabeth and Darcy, and that will remain, well, constant, throughout (punctuated, of course, with the arguments and misunderstandings that people of their passionate nature manage to get up to in my head with relative frequency). Georgiana continues to be the other primary narrator, although she isn’t always telling her own story. I’ve always been fascinated by her as a character – so much backstory in the original, with nary a line of dialogue, so there’s so much opportunity to take her in my own directions as an author, while leveraging that amazing backstory.
Beyond that, every book will have at least one new love story, some many more than one. While I want to show the evolving relationships of the married couples, that’s never quite the same as a new romance, so I intend to keep those as part of the plotlines, in order to keep things fresh. And the minor characters from “Pride and Prejudice” see development even beyond romance, although sometimes, as it did in “Pride and Prejudice,” the romance serves as a catalyst.
There’ll also be a fair amount of travel beyond England’s shores, which becomes more possible, now that there are naval characters within the series; some secrets from the previous generation uncovered; some family connections ranging from difficult to dangerous; a lovely group of children coming of age; and an enduring house – Pemberley, which is almost a character in its own right. I am incredibly excited about everything that’s coming within the series, and getting to share it with readers!
Can you please tell us what inspires you to create a JAFF series that also reads as a great work of historical fiction? I actually just added a new JAFF category to my blog titled, JAFF Historical Fiction! I also must thank Sophia Rose for the lovely suggestion too.
Ooh, how delightful – I love the idea of a Historical Fiction category! I will admit, though, that “A Constant Love” wasn’t originally intended to be as much of a work of historical fiction as it ended up being. It was always important to me to be historically accurate in terms of the customs and the way they lived – that, to me, is part of what makes the characters who they are – but I hadn’t planned on including as many historical events as I did. The initial draft didn’t actually have anything about the Corn Bill in it, although as I mentioned, Napoleon’s Hundred Days were a part of the plan from the beginning. Then I read “Our Tempestuous Day,” an excellent history of the Regency, and realized that the news of Napoleon’s escape reached London immediately after the Corn Bill riots. It would have been weird to touch on one historical event and not the other, so I decided to work in the Corn Bill and the riots, and I think that actually ended up becoming one of the better parts of the story.
Once I included those events, I began to look at other historical events that would be approaching in the series’ timeline, and could see how much potential they gave to my plots. I will share that the working title for book three in the series is “A Season Lost,” and this is because the year in which much of it will take place, 1816, was known as “the year without a summer.” To me, this is excellent fodder to drive a plot – every estate in England is going to have a bad harvest – so I’m absolutely going to take advantage of it.
Austen didn’t use much in the line of historical events in her books; there were military officers, and the war was happening in the background, but it’s never anything overt. But I think in her time, her books would have been an escape from what troubled her readers, including the war. Now, 200 years later, the history of that time can provide our own escape. And this is such a fascinating time period – so much transition is going to happen during these characters’ lifetimes, in fashion, in transportation, in industrialization, and in Great Britain’s position in the world. A child born in 1815 will be in his or her early 20s when Queen Victoria is crowned, so the children of these characters really are the first Victorians. I’m excited about the possibility of bringing readers on a journey through that transition.
Why do you think people are still so drawn to Jane Austen and her work over 200 years later?
Oh, there are so many reasons, but I will start with her characters. She created such amazing, vivid, and unique characters – there is so much difference between Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse, and Anne Elliot, to name a few examples. But it’s not just the lead characters – each of her books is populated with such an amazing cast of characters. Just from Pride and Prejudice, her characters have been able to form the foundation for a seven-book series for me, so I’m particularly grateful for them. And I think that’s a big part of the reason why JAFF has become so popular – these characters are so memorable and so loveable (or in some cases love-to-hate-able) that we all want to spend more time with them, and experience them in different ways.
These characters enable so much of the wit and social commentary that can be found in her novels, but I know at least in my own case, I didn’t pick up on as much of that when I first started reading her work. I think that was a big part of her appeal during the Regency, but today, you have to understand more about the period in order to fully “get” her work. I think that’s the amazing thing about Austen, though – even if you don’t get exactly everything that she’s communicating, her stories are still populated with these wonderful characters and delightful storylines. Now that I know more about the time period, it just enhances her work all the more.
Beyond the characters, I think her romantic plots are a big part of the appeal. If you look at her work and pare back everything else, there are some fundamental romantic plots – two characters meet and there’s a bad first impression (exacerbated by a love triangle), a character is secretly in love with another in a long-suffering fashion (also involving a love triangle), a romance ended badly and one character desires a reconciliation with another (yep, love triangle), a character is in love with the “bad boy” and doesn’t see that the good guy is the one she should be with, etc. I don’t know that Austen was the first to come out with each of these plots – there’s at least a bit of Shakespeare in there, as there nearly always is, in everything – but she executed them pretty much perfectly, and then fleshed them out with all of these supporting plotlines and characters. But you can see how good these plots are, fundamentally, by how they’ve been picked up and used in modern times, in works like “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and “Clueless.” I think in most romances, you can see one of Austen’s plots if you look closely enough – Georgiana’s romance in “A Constant Love,” for example, was based on “Emma,” while Mary has her own sort of Hunsford moment within “Legacies”.
I think there’s also something fundamentally enjoyable about romance set in the Regency era, and this is in part responsible for the appeal of not only Austen, but Georgette Heyer and others. There’s something very appealing about these characters that present a proper face to the world, yet in their hearts are deeply passionate. And there’s a lot more riding on their romances – divorce was only for the very rich, and even then, it was incredibly scandalous, so there was a lot more pressure on the characters of that era to make the right choice.
Please tell us a little bit about your cover art and the decisions behind the style of your covers for this series.
I had no idea how well “A Constant Love” was going to sell, so I wanted to keep the cover fairly inexpensive to produce. I also wanted to keep it simple – there can be a tendency with covers to put too many twiddly bits into them – and have something that could work as a format for an entire series. So I decided to use a favorite photograph from my travels. It was shot in Bath, not London, but the primary focus is on that big bold flower in the foreground, anyway, not the townhouse behind it. Since one of the major plotlines in the story hinges on a letter, and another letter features prominently, I went with the torn paper and the script font, and that will be what I carry through the series, along with the photos.
For “Legacies,” I used a photo of a graveyard I took in Canterbury – I really liked where the shadows and light fell within the picture. Now I have the challenge of shooting the photos for the rest of the series, but I got quite a few good candidates on my last trip, and hope to get even more this year, when I go to Derbyshire for the first time. The biggest challenge is finding scenes without any modern elements in them – one electrical wire or a sign can ruin everything.
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
My blog, “A Lady’s Imagination,” is the best place to learn more about my writing and travels. With “A Change of Legacies” coming out, I’ll be featuring a variety of posts to give more historical context on what happens in the book, to help enhance the reading experience. Readers can also follow me via Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter, depending on how they want to keep up with new posts. I’m also on Pinterest, with a variety of boards on different historical topics.
Thank you Sophie, for spending time with us today at Just Jane 1813. Getting to know JAFF authors through interviews is one of my favorite parts of creating this blog in the JAFF community. The other activity I adore is reading all of the wonderful stories, and yours is no exception! I am looking forward to reviewing your latest book next week for my readers and sharing your generous giveaway with them as well.
For readers who want to catch up on the first book in this series, visit Amazon to purchase “A Constant Love,” and to pre-order “A Change of Legacies.” If you’ve read “A Constant Love,” I think you’ll love this exclusive letter written for Just Jane 1813 readers from Matthew Stanton to Georgiana Darcy. Happy reading!