Part of the inspiration that keeps me plugging away on my laptop and reaching out to each one of you when I should or could be pursuing things such as housework, which I can’t believe I even hinted at, is to help my readers discover and enjoy terrific new JAFF authors. I will be forever grateful to Sheila for passing along to me her discovery of Caitlin Williams’ debut book, Ardently.
Last year, as soon as I made the final swipe across my iPhone 6 Plus and finished Ardently, I found the only place that I could leave a message for the author; right there on her newly published Amazon Author Page. Since then, she graciously indulged me, and my readers during my Twelve Days of Jane Holiday blog event, by writing a follow-up vignette to Ardently, titled, Even More Ardently. The post was a huge success and like many of you, I wondered what her next book would bring our way…
Today, I am thrilled to say that the wait is over and for readers who haven’t read her book, The Coming Of Age Of Elizabeth Bennet, I believe you are in for a real treat. I’d like to welcome Caitlin Williams to Just Jane 1813 for her very first author interview.
Caitlin, it’s quite an honor to have you join us here because I imagine many JAFF readers would love to meet the woman behind “Ardently,” which was widely praised amongst the JAFF community and currently has a 4.7-star rating after 111 reviews on Amazon.
Almost since the release of your debut book, you’ve been busy writing this new book, The Coming Of Age Of Elizabeth Bennet, which is a much longer book than Ardently and which takes your readers along a very different path for Darcy and Elizabeth. However, before we discuss your new book, can you please share with my readers a little bit about yourself?
Thanks, Claudine for having me here at JustJane1813. It’s an absolute pleasure because I love your blog and reviews. I’m a pretty average mother of two children, who struggles to stay awake past nine o’clock at night, has too much laundry to do and too little time to read and write! I have always loved historical drama and classic books. I remember being absolutely hooked on the BBC Pride & Prejudice mini-series as a teenager and I read everything from Austen to Thackeray to Dickens to the Brontes. I enjoy leaving this very confusing century behind and becoming engrossed in a completely different age.
Since this book takes your readers in a whole new direction from Ardently, as the events in this story begin five years prior to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, can you describe for us your decision-making process for developing this storyline?
I have always been fascinated by the Bennet’s precarious financial position and often thought what would happen to them all if Mr Bennet had died before the events of Pride and Prejudice took place. I also love Elizabeth as a character and I wanted to write something that focused very much on her. There are a lot of Darcy-centric observational pieces around, but I struggled to find something similar for Elizabeth. She’s a well-rounded character, full of confidence, wit, and sparkle when we meet her in the original book, but nobody starts out that way – we were all, at one time, an awkward teenager (I still am, I just look more grown up on the outside). In this book, she has her first flirtations, her first experience of drinking a bit too much, she embarrasses herself in public by losing her temper, and she’s very unsure of her looks and figure. It was a challenge to create what I hope is a believable fifteen-year-old Lizzy, then have her gradually get older to become at the end of the book, more like the Elizabeth we know and love.
Ardently, was a light-hearted mix-up of Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion, with a nod and a wink to Northanger Abbey, and this new story has more nods and winks to Austen’s other works. Can you tell us a little bit about why you enjoy mixing pieces from her other work into your stories and if you have a favorite book by Austen, which one is it and why?
I just can’t help myself when it comes to mixing in other references to Austen. It doesn’t happen deliberately, I just get to a scene that I am writing and it will remind me of something Austen wrote, so I go back and sneak it in, hopefully, without pulling readers out of the story too much. Austen is such an amazing writer. I think you could find a cool quote about pretty much any emotion or situation from her works, so it’s not difficult to do and hard to resist.
I love all of Austen’s books for many different reasons. For the perfect romantic story, I would have to go with Persuasion, but I love the humor in Pride and Prejudice and the characters are wonderful. Pride and Prejudice is the book that I pick up all the time and delve in and out of. I re-read it a LOT. I’m also fond of Northanger Abbey because it was one Austen’s early novels and it’s so playful and different in tone compared to her other works, so I find it fascinating.
Told in four volumes and nearly 500 pages long, this book covers a great deal of time during Elizabeth and Darcy’s earlier years, as well as including their everyday lives at Pemberley. Can you describe to us what your research and writing processes look like so that you are able to incorporate the significant details into your story that allow this your stories to read feel authentic within the Regency era, while at the same time, creating characters that are so appealing within the culture of this era?
My writing process is that I have the world’s oldest laptop (practically mice-powered) and a Kindle Fire with a big crack across the screen. I don’t make any notes or plan it too much. I sit at the kitchen table and just go for it. I actually try not to include too much Regency detail or too much history, as I don’t want the story to get bogged down by details. Hopefully, I put in just enough to make it feel authentic. As regards to the characters, I think it’s a very hard thing to keep them true to the era and still write for a modern audience. In this story, I did keep asking myself ‘why does Elizabeth put up with this?’, but had to keep reminding myself that I was writing about a time where women had very little power.
How did your love for Austen lead you to write your own JAFF stories and why did you choose the path of writing stories based on her Pride and Prejudice?
I happened to be at a train station without a book and picked up Longbourn by Jo Baker, which I really enjoyed, though I wasn’t always happy with the depictions of Darcy and Elizabeth, but it started me looking for other books on my Kindle and I was delighted to find that there were hundreds of variations and sequels, and I devoured them. There are some brilliant JAFF writers around and they inspired me. I remember reading Joana Starnes’ book The Falmouth Connection, putting it down and thinking ‘that was bloody great, I want to have a go myself.’ At that time I just used to read books I found on Amazon, and I had no idea there were blogs and places like ‘A Happy Assembly’ or even that Meryton Press existed. I’m a bit of a technophobe and I am only just figuring my way around Facebook. Twitter still completely terrifies me, but I did recently make an account where readers can follow me, which is @CaitlinCw, and where I hope to be able to connect with my readers. Back in those earlier days, I didn’t even know that Goodreads existed! I just wrote Ardently and stuck it on Amazon. I had no idea of what I was doing and I’m still floundering around in the dark a bit now.
I think Darcy and Elizabeth are the most portable characters in all Austen’s work, which is why I choose to focus on them in my writing. You can put them in any situation – zombies, witches, pirates, different eras, whatever – and somehow they still work. I would like to write something based on Austen’s other novels one day, however.
Why do think after 200 years, so many people are still reading Jane Austen’s books?
Austen’s prose was so stylish, but she never put style above substance. She wrote real stories that move along at a cracking pace and her characters are likable and engaging – they are never perfect, which makes them very believable. Mr Darcy is so snobbish at the start of Pride and Prejudice and Elizabeth thinks she knows everything and gets a shock when she realizes she doesn’t. Austen creates wonderful personal arcs for both of them. Although Austen was romantic, she still rooted everything in practicalities, and there is no overly-purple prose. She was a master of observational comedy and I’m pretty sure she will be just as popular in another 200 years as she is today – complete genius and my hero.
Thank you, Caitlin, for joining us today. For Just Jane 1813 readers who want to enter the giveaway for these ebooks, please check out the first two posts on this blog tour and the additional posts coming to the tour. Caitlin has plenty of great posts waiting for us!
From the pages of The Coming Of Age Of Elizabeth Bennet
The very worst has happened. Mr Bennet has died, leaving his wife and five young daughters bereft. The family estate, Longbourn, is now lost, entailed away and fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Bennet is to go two hundred miles away to live with strangers. George Darcy, repaying a debt of gratitude, has offered to take her to Pemberley, to live under the mantle of his care and be raised alongside his own daughter, Georgiana.
But on the day she is to leave Longbourn forever, young Elizabeth, grieving and confused, runs off into the Hertfordshire countryside. Fitzwilliam Darcy gives chase, telling his father he will have her back in an hour or two. Luck and fate, however, are not on his side and capturing Elizabeth Bennet turns out not only to be more difficult than he could ever have imagined, but events conspire to turn her little adventure into his worst nightmare.
The prideful man and the girl prejudiced against him, meet much earlier in this rethinking of Jane Austen’s masterpiece. Elizabeth grows up under the ever-watchful eye of Mr Darcy, from fifteen to twenty-one. She errs and falters, there are stumbles and trips, but could this ‘disobedient little hellion’ one day become mistress of Pemberley and the keeper of his heart?
Meet Caitlin Williams…
Caitlin Williams lives in Kent, England, with her family. She fell in love with all things Regency as a teenager, but particularly admires the work of Jane Austen and the way she masterfully combines humour and romance, while weaving them through such wonderful stories and characters.
Pride and Prejudice is Caitlin’s favourite novel and she finds Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet so deliciously entertaining that she likes to borrow them from Ms Austen and enjoys the challenge of putting them in different places and situations.
Her debut novel, Ardently, was written as a hobby, usually with her laptop balanced on the kitchen worktop, typing with one hand, a glass of wine in the other, while she also attempted to cook dinner and keep her children from killing each other. The success of Ardently was as much a surprise to her, as it was to anyone else, and she has been thrilled and genuinely thankful for the positive responses and reviews it generated.
Her second novel, The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet, is a portrait of a much younger Elizabeth, who is thrown into an extraordinary set of circumstances due to the premature death of Mr Bennet, and she hopes you all enjoy it very much.
You can connect with Caitlin Williams at the following virtual locations:
A coming-of-age story told in four volumes between Austen’s infamous couple; savor the story of the prideful man and the girl prejudiced against him, as they meet much earlier in this rethinking of Jane Austen’s masterpiece, Pride & Prejudice. Could this ‘disobedient little hellion’ one day become mistress of Pemberley and the keeper of his heart?
Caitlin Williams, author of the highly-praised book, Ardently, tours the blogosphere from June 13- June 26, 2016 to share her newest release, The Coming Of Age Of Elizabeth Bennet. Fourteen book bloggers, specializing in Austenesque fiction and romance stories, will share excerpts, guest posts, an exclusive interview with the author and book reviews from this highly awaited Austen-inspired novel. I’d like to offer them a tremendous amount of gratitude for eagerly joining us on this blog tour.
Eight ebooks are also being included in our giveaways and entry is available all readers who present their modern-day calling cards, AKA their email addresses and/or Facebook accounts!
June 13/ My Jane Austen Book Club/Launch Post/“Happy Birthday Fanny Burney & The Coming Of Age Of Elizabeth Bennet” & Giveaway
June 14/ So Little Time… / Book Excerpt & Giveaway
June 15/ Just Jane 1813/An Exclusive Interview with Caitlin Williams
June 16/ Pemberley to Milton/Book Review & Giveaway
June 17/ Margie’s Must Reads/ Book Excerpt & Giveaway
June 18/ The Calico Critic/Book Review & Giveaway
June 19/ Babblings of a Bookworm/“The Education of a Young Lady” Guest Post & Giveaway
June 20/ Half Agony, Half Hope/Book Review
June 21/ More Agreeably Engaged/ Book Review & Giveaway
June 22/ My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice /Book Excerpt & Giveaway
June 23/ Liz’s Reading Life / “A Nod and A Wink to Austen” Guest Post & Giveaway
June 24/ Diary of an Eccentric/Book Review
June 25/ Laughing With Lizzie/ “The Young Master” Guest Post & Giveaway
June 26/ A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life/ “A Most Scandalous” Guest Post
My dear Just Jane 1813 readers, Caitlin would love for you to have your share of the conversation, so please feel free to ask her your questions in the comments section below. I know she’d love to talk with you about what’s on your minds and offer a BIG thank you for supporting her book, which has been so well-received in the JAFF community.
Check out @justjane1813 on Twitter for blog tour updates and for our song-of-the-day released each day of the tour, which is inspired by The Coming Of Age Of Elizabeth Darcy.