Happy Saturday, my lovely readers! Now that you’ve eaten plenty of turkey, and hopefully got a jumpstart on your holiday shopping, why not treat yourself to an interview with one of my favorite JAFF authors, and to a wonderful giveaway?
Please join me in welcoming Joana Starnes back to Just Jane 1813.
Good morning, Joana. It’s my pleasure to speak with you today and share our conversation with my Just Jane 1813 readers.
I’m delighted to be your guest today, Claudine. I love Just Jane 1813. Your blog is so beautifully informative, and you and your readers are ever so kind and welcoming!
As an early reader of your new story, “Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter,” I was captivated by your portrayal of the Darcys’ unequal marriage, which occurs right after Elizabeth and Darcy are in Kent together. In this story, we have a Fitzwilliam Darcy who is really still the same man from his earlier visit to Hertfordshire, except now he is so in love with Elizabeth Bennet that he believes he must marry her to save her from a terrible fate.
I’m so glad you were one of the earliest readers of Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter and huge thanks again for making it better with advice on issues that needed clarifying and the amazing portrait you recommended for the cover, which captures the spirit of this story’s Elizabeth to perfection. As to Darcy, you’ve just highlighted the main issue: yes, he really is the same man from his earlier visit to Hertfordshire. He has every reason in the world to think well of himself and expect his marriage proposal to be instantly and gladly accepted.
He isn’t provoked into ranting about the inferiority of Elizabeth’s connections, but that doesn’t mean he is any less prejudiced against them. Likewise, Elizabeth’s prejudices against him remain unchallenged for a fair while. Since there is no insulting Hunsford proposal and she doesn’t get to find out about Darcy’s role in separating Bingley from Jane, Elizabeth doesn’t take him to task and he doesn’t write that letter. His less insulting first proposal is accepted as a means to an end, in view of Mr Bennet’s suddenly precarious health. Head over heels in love yet still thinking himself as God’s gift to virtually every woman in the kingdom, Darcy has no reason to imagine Elizabeth’s views are any different. Thus, in Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter they both arrive at the altar with the whole assortment of potentially flammable baggage.
I am really curious about what your writing process looked like for this story. Can you share this process with us (including that all-nighter) and tell us what compelled you to have a go at an early marriage scenario for Darcy and Elizabeth?
I’m giggling now because come to think of it the writing process for this story was unlike anything I’ve ever done before. To begin with, the idea came to me in the waiting room of an orthodontics practice, as my son and I were waiting for his appointment. Can’t imagine why, and since thankfully we’re not talking about Regency-style dental treatment I can’t even blame it on some aura of pain and misery hanging over the place 🙂 . That’s when the all-nighter came into it. That night, as soon as the house was quiet once everyone had gone to bed, I started to jot down the outline of the story and I also wrote some of the main scenes. By the time I finished, it was broad daylight. The story changed a lot since then, most notably the Darcys’ roughest patch was shortened from a couple of months to a couple of weeks, some ideas were dropped and others added, but that’s how it started.
How it continued is rather funny too. My family and friends know this as ‘the laundry-room story’ because a large part of it was scribbled in the laundry-room of a Derbyshire campsite last April, when I went away with my family for the Easter holidays. Freezing, it was! Ice on the tent in the mornings on a couple of occasions. My husband and kids went and snuggled up in their sleeping bags while I took my pens and notebook to the laundry room. Well lit, warm, nobody there in the middle of the night or before dawn, so I scribbled away. I wish I had a photo of the laundry-room, but I do have one of a beautiful sunrise I was lucky enough to catch on the way to my ‘study.’
You also asked what compelled me to write an early marriage scenario. I think I’ve read and loved all JAFF written on this subject. I mainly love the tension that invariably comes with such a situation. He is deeply in love and she has no idea just how deeply. They both have a number of unresolved issues that could raise their ugly heads at any time and cause misunderstandings and heartache. And it’s profoundly moving to imagine them trying to learn how to live with each other long before they know how, each pining for a truly close relationship and not exactly knowing if it’s possible or how to go about achieving it. I simply had to have a go at that scenario.
I know that you frequently visit historic sites throughout England to learn more about Jane Austen’s life and work. Can you share with us any visit(s) in particular that helped you craft this story?
The camping trip I mentioned had a lot to do with that as well – not so much with learning more about Jane Austen’s life as with immersing myself in the magical world of the adaptations. Whenever I get a chance, I persuade my family to go cycling or trekking in Derbyshire, and when we do go they often drop me off at one of the Pemberleys and come to pick me up at closing time. The same happened this time: they went for a long walk leaving me to blissfully freeze by the side of the lake at Lyme Park with my notebook. A large part of Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter was written there, just as a large part of The Unthinkable Triangle was jotted down in the gardens at Chatsworth.
And when I wasn’t scribbling away I was amusing myself with looking at the house and imagining which windows might belong to the master bedroom, to Elizabeth’s or Georgiana’s, which might be the drawing room or the music room. Fun times.
This book contains your first ever published mature adult scene, which I found tasteful and crucial to the development of their early marriage because I think Elizabeth learned a lot about Darcy as a man and as a husband. What was your experience like when you wrote this scene?
I’m ever so happy you found it tasteful, and also that you thought it was crucial to the story. I too felt that, with the given premise, it was a pivotal scene – otherwise I might have shied away from writing it. I stepped way out of my comfort zone there; I prefer to imply intimacy rather than describe it. But, just as you said, I felt it was crucial for Elizabeth to learn more about Darcy as a man and a husband.
I can barely imagine how nerve-racking it must have been for any real-life genteel young woman two hundred years ago to set out with very little knowledge of the world, leave everything familiar behind, leave the sanctuary that was her girlhood home to become somebody’s wife. Even when she married for love. In an early marriage scenario, Elizabeth must have been extremely edgy, to say the least. Terrified, most likely. All of a sudden she is expected to live with this man she doesn’t love, whom she doesn’t even like and has little enough reason to trust. She expects him to be selfish and overbearing, as he had often come across in their previous interactions. And yet she finds him unexpectedly thoughtful, kind and considerate.
I think this is the best opportunity to thank one of my beta readers, Mira, to whom this scene owes an awful lot. She read it – read the whole story – then said:
“You have Elizabeth mentioning to Jane the next day that he was kind, but you don’t show it. You’ve got to show it.”
“But I do.”
“Not enough. You must get them to talk.”
“What about? I’m not having him give Elizabeth an anatomy lesson!!”
“Fine. Just get him to talk.”
“Of course you can! C’mon, think about it! It’s Darcy!!”
She was 100% right, of course. In its original form the scene was written solely from Elizabeth’s perspective, she was jittery, so without Darcy having his say he did come across as detached and rather cold. So I took her advice, bit the bullet and got them to talk. Thanks, Mira!! It really made all the difference!
Do you plan on writing more scenes like this in your future books?
It depends on the premise, I think.
I love the dialogues between your characters because they make me feel up-close and personal with your characters. Can you share with us any thoughts about how you develop your dialogues?
Wonderful to hear they give you that feeling! I’m not sure what I can say, other than sometimes it feels almost like I’m watching a film, they’re speaking for themselves and I’m just writing it down. Some characters are such a delight to write! Especially ‘Angry Darcy’, ‘Smarmy Collins’, ‘Wicked Wicky’ – and Mrs Bennet when she’s at her most embarrassing.
A few reviewers have complimented your portrayal of Fitzwilliam Darcy’s character. Is there anything specific that inspires you when you channel his character throughout your stories and can you share more about this with us?
I’m over the moon and honoured by their praise! I think what inspires me the most is the concept that his love for Elizabeth is the central tenet of his existence. He may fight it or dismiss it as mere attraction – and he often does – but he is deeply and irrevocably in love with her. He doesn’t lose track of everything else that he is and remains true to his core values. It’s just that everything else has to reshape itself around his love for her.
Let’s get to the angst! I love angst, and I can’t typically love a story without it, but I don’t usually enjoy it as much when it feels either over-the-top or artificial in its delivery. Can you give us a little peek into your thought process when you are developing the angsty moments/events in your stories?
Oh, I agree, there has to be angst! Other people’s constant happiness, even Darcy and Elizabeth’s, can be rather boring otherwise 🙂 . I don’t often go for thriller-style angst – the duels in The Falmouth Connection and The Subsequent Proposal were a couple of exceptions. I find it easier to relate to real-life angst: misunderstandings, heartache, the suffering of a loved one, the pain of rejection and unrequited love, the green-eyed monster and the age-old dilemma ‘she/he loves me – loves me not.’
In a funny kind of way, I almost can’t believe I’ve managed to give myself a bit of a reputation. I loved Rita’s comment “It can’t get any worse! Hang on, who am I kidding, it’s a Joana Starnes novel. Of course it can get worse!”. I also loved the new rating Mira has devised for my books, based on the number of chocolate bars and boxes of tissues needed to see the reader through. I think my early books were tamer as regards angst, but perhaps they were too tame and not much came to challenge the characters and influence their choices. And there should be challenges – that’s how both real people and fictional characters grow.
In Pride and Prejudice as well as in variations Darcy and Elizabeth can’t be truly happy together until they grow to fully understand each other and finally put their differences to rest. I think the attraction of early marriage scenarios is that they must resolve their issues while under the same roof, rather than miles apart.
Having said that, there comes a time in Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter when the full truth is seen as the ultimate betrayal of love and trust, and thus impossible to be dealt with at close quarters. Particularly as it comes to light once everyone is lured into a sense of security. Come to think of it, I suppose there is a pattern to my writing angst: I tend to go for the ‘thunder out of the blue’ approach, in either making things worse or fixing them. Change, either to the worse or the better, is so much more of a challenge when it’s unexpected.
What can we expect from you in the future regarding future JAFF stories?
More Pride and Prejudice variations, definitely. I’d love to focus on other novels, but I simply can’t let go of Darcy and Elizabeth. I would love to write a sequel to The Unthinkable Triangle, but I’m also thinking of other scenarios, perhaps less angst-ridden ones this time.
How can readers support your writing and how can they connect with you online?
It’s wonderful when my readers get in touch! They can find me on my website, Facebook, and Twitter at www.joanastarnes.co.uk, www.facebook.com/joana.a.starnes, and www.twitter.com/Joana_Starnes and also on my author page at www.facebook.com/AllRoadsLeadToPemberley.JoanaStarnes, where I’m collecting images and details that have inspired my stories.
The best possible support that readers could give is sharing their opinion and letting me and others know what they thought of my books. I’m deeply grateful to all my readers who already had. Over the years I have learned an awful lot from readers’ reviews and I’m looking forward to learning how I can do better.
Huge thanks again to you, Claudine, for this lovely opportunity to chat, and for the wonderful experience that the launch of ‘Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter’ was, from start to finish!
Joana Starnes lives in the south of England with her family. A medical graduate, in more recent years she has developed an unrelated but enduring fascination with Georgian Britain in general and the works of Jane Austen in particular, as well as with the remarkable and flamboyant set of people who have given the Regency Period its charm and sparkle.
Joana Starnes is the author of:
* ‘From This Day Forward ~ The Darcys of Pemberley’, a ‘Pride & Prejudice’ sequel
* ‘The Subsequent Proposal ~ A Tale of Pride, Prejudice & Persuasion’
* ‘The Second Chance’, a ‘Pride & Prejudice’ ~ ‘Sense & Sensibility’ variation
* ‘The Falmouth Connection’, a ‘Pride & Prejudice’ variation where Jane Austen’s beloved characters are compelled to leave their tame and reasonably peaceful lives in the south of England and travel to the far reaches of Cornwall, into a world of deceit and peril, where few – if any! – are what they seem to be…
* ‘The Unthinkable Triangle’, a ‘Pride & Prejudice’ variation that dwells on the most uncomfortable love-triangle of them all. What if Mr. Darcy’s rival for Miss Bennet’s hand and heart is none other than his dearest, closest friend? And how can they all find their ‘happily-ever-after’?
*’Miss Darcy’s Companion’ – a variation that explores what might have happened if the warm-hearted Miss Elizabeth Bennet were employed instead of the scheming Mrs Younge.
Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter Book Description:
When Colonel Fitzwilliam’s disclosures are interrupted by the bearer of distressing news from Longbourn, Miss Elizabeth Bennet is compelled to consider an offer she would have otherwise dismissed out of hand. An offer of marriage from the all-too-proud Mr Darcy.
Yet how is she to live with a husband she hardly knows and does not love? Would she be trapped in a marriage of convenience while events conspire to divide them? Or would love grow as, day by day and hour after hour, she learns to understand the man she married, before she loses his trust and his heart?
November 17/ My Jane Austen Book Club/Launch Post & Giveaway
November 18/Pemberley to Milton/Book Review & Giveaway
November 19/Obsessed with Mr. Darcy/ Book Review & Giveaway
November 20/ A Covent Garden Madame Gilflurt’s Guide to Life/Guest Post & Giveaway
November 21/ Margie’s Must Reads/ Book Review & Giveaway
November 22/ Babblings of a Bookworm/ Book Review & Giveaway
November 23/Diary of an Eccentric/Book Review & Giveaway
November 24/ Happy Thanksgiving
November 25/ So Little Time… So Much to Read/ Excerpt & Giveaway
November 26/ Just Jane 1813/Interview with Joana Starnes & Giveaway
November 27 / My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice/ Guest Post & Giveaway
November 28/ More Agreeably Engaged/ Vignette & Giveaway
December 1/ My Vices and Weaknesses/ Book Review & Giveaway
December 2/ Austenesque Reviews/ Excerpt & Giveaway
Now it’s giveaway time! Joana would like to offer one Just Jane 1813 reader the opportunity to win an ebook of Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter. Please leave a comment on this post below no later than midnight, December 5th. The winner will be announced on this blog on December 6, 2016.
Thank you to all of the readers who have already supported Joana’s new book, which has helped make it a bestseller on Amazon. We appreciate your support and hope you love this story!