Good morning, Just Jane 1813 readers! I am thrilled that you joined me today to give a big, warm welcome to debut JAFF author, Melanie Rachel, whose first Pride and Prejudice sequel was published last week. This new release titled, Courage Rises, is the first book in her two book series. Her next book, Courage Requires, will be released early in 2017. I look forward to sharing my review of Courage Rises, as well as a giveaway of this book, within the next few days.
Melanie, as a new JAFF author, I am sure you have a lot to share with us about your love for Austen and the steps you took between being an aspiring writer to a published writer. Would you share with us some of your background and tell us about the person behind the writer?
Claudine, first, I want to thank you very much for the honor and privilege of an introduction through your blog to the marvelous JAFF community. I am a latecomer to this particular world and I am enjoying myself immensely, having now devoured almost every variation and continuation I can get my hands on!
I have been an Austen devotee for a very long time. I was a devoted girl scout and went to camp for two or three weeks every summer. I purposely chose the most rustic camp I could find, as I liked being outdoors. We slept in the woods on old WWII hospital beds, literally outside under the stars, gathered or cut up wood to heat the pipes so we could take hot showers, and learned to fix 1940s plumbing. We did have flush toilets and showers, but not much else. No electricity except in the main lodge for the lights and the kitchen. There were certainly no electronics of any kind. In this environment, we read, swapping the books we loved with each other, and what caught on were the classics. We read the classic monster tales first—Dracula, Frankenstein, The Strange Adventures of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and then moved on over the years to the Brontes, Dickens, and of course, Jane Austen. We were all at least a little like Lizzy Bennet in our love of nature, and as we were still young, preferred mountains to men (although that did eventually change). When we grew a little older, many of us became camp staff, and our reading continued apace. It is not surprising that many of us eventually became teachers and university professors.
Wow, what a wonderful way to fall in love with stories! I love that you had so many kindred souls to read the classics with as a young girl.
Can you please share with us the premise of your upcoming release, Courage Rises, and anything else you’d like to share with us about your decisions to write this particular story?
When I first thought about writing Courage Rises, I was considering writing a time travel tale in order to make our Regency-era characters face a modern woman. The more I researched it, though, the more I realized that this had already been done, and done well. Without giving too much away, I will say that I thought it might be a fun challenge to figure out how some Regency-era characters might form those more modern characteristics as well as how they would then function in a period where social rules were so tightly proscribed. What would be the consequences? What compromises would it require? I have long had an interest in soldiers (my nephew’s first deployment was to the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 and we have had up to five in active service at one time and in harm’s way over the past fifteen years—today we have only one left in the reserves) and so I had a personal interest in Colonel Fitzwilliam and the toll his service might begin to take on him. I also wanted to flesh out his brotherly relationship with Darcy and knew that his experiences would affect that relationship. I found so much material in these ideas that I now need to write a second book to finish the story.
I love the cover for Courage Rises. Can you describe for my readers your process for designing this cover?
I know that the painting has been used in other ways on covers in the past, but I think it’s because we all have seen the intelligence in this young lady’s eyes, and have considered her a decent representation of an Elizabeth Bennet. The picture in the background has a canteen with the numbers 95/2 on it—that’s the 95th Regiment of the Foot, 2nd Battalion, which plays a prominent role in the story. This regiment was later renamed “Riflemen,” because that was their specialty—they were taught to shoot using the highly accurate Baker rifles. These rifles took longer to reload (20 seconds if the soldier was proficient) but held two rounds at a time and could be used to make long shots with accuracy, some 200, even 300 feet away. Thomas Plunkett was the most well-known member of the 95thdue to his famous shot that killed a French Commander named Colbert from 600 feet away, and then also killed the officer who rode to his aid, effectively ending the battle. To make these shots, he used the Plunkett position, which Captain Oliver Hawke uses at the start of the novel to save Colonel Fitzwilliam’s life. This kind of long-distance shooting was the future of warfare and still very impressive. Oliver Hawke is not a better shot than Plunkett, but he is very good.
Why do think after 200 years, so many people are still reading Jane Austen’s books?
One of the reasons books become classics is because the characters and/or the situations themselves transcend time. People are people and things such as love, anger, hate, jealousy, envy, ambition, greed—do not change much. We will always love a romance where the characters face obstacles before realizing their feelings, even though the details of those obstacles may change. We love to read classics because we can still identify with the characters. It’s why Shakespeare is still read despite the difficulty some modern readers have with the language, and it’s why we still read romances where women would be considered wanton if they revealed their ankles to anyone other than their husbands.
What can readers do to support your work?
I would love to hear any ideas they might have for the second book—I’d be thrilled to try to work some in if at all possible. I have really benefitted from having readers of my work early on and am trying to work very hard to get the second book out around the beginning of next year. All your ideas help!
Thank you for soliciting our support. I can’t wait to hear what readers come up with for you and your next book! Where can readers connect with you and learn more about your writing?
I’m still pretty new to this, so all I have right now is my FaceBook page: https://www.facebook.com/melanie.rachel.583 –-please feel free to visit!
Thank you, Melanie, for stopping by Just Jane 1813 this morning to visit with us. Good luck with the release of Courage Rises, which I look forward to reviewing and hosting a giveaway for in the next few days.
Courage Rises is available on Amazon, along with early reader reviews.
Courage Rises can also be found on Goodreads.
Please feel free, Just Jane 1813 readers, to say “Hello” to Melanie and/or ask her a question(s) in the comments section below. I know she’d love to meet and hear from lots of JAFF readers!