Like many JAFF readers, last year I had the pleasure to meet Beau North and Brooke West through their JAFF publications. First, through Beau’s debut novel, “Longbourn’s Songbird” and next, from reading their co-creation, “Holiday Tape Mix, from the Meryton Press “Then Comes Winter” anthology.
I knew that when these two authors joined together to create another JAFF collaboration, I would love to support their endeavor, and I have to say, it’s been a genuine pleasure getting to know both of them, so I thought it would be great to share an exclusive interview with both of them on Just Jane 1813 and shine some light on their own lives.
Please help me welcome Beau North and Brooke West to Just Jane 1813.
Good morning ladies! It’s wonderful to have both of you here today to join me in a cross-country interview. While I am here in New York, both of you are on opposite sides of the country, correct? I have to ask how two ladies who are separated by thousands of miles came together to write not one, but two JAFF stories together?
Beau: Thanks so much for having us, Claudine! Brooke and I have known each other for many years, we met back in 1999 in Columbia, SC and immediately hit it off. We bonded over books and reading, and at the time we were both more obsessed with writing bad poetry than fan fiction. As the years passed and I sought Brooke’s opinions on my writing, I realized that we had a special kind of partnership I’d never thought possible. With her, the ideas just seemed to come pouring out of my head. If a particular scene was bothering me she would say “Well have you tried this?” And more often than not, it worked! The idea to collaborate just seemed to come about organically. We experimented first by writing sample chapters in the other’s stories. When the submission call for Then Comes Winter came along, I already had 3000 words of a short story written, a modern-day take on Persuasion set in present day Portland. I was in the middle of the editing process on Longbourn’s Songbird, so I asked Brooke if she’d like to step in and help me out with the anthology submission. We were so happy with that result we decided to try something more ambitious!
Brooke: Our official collaborations began just over a year ago, when we joined forces for the anthology, but it feels like I’ve been writing with Beau for years. She has been my best friend for nearly half of my life. So when I hit a low, rough spot in my personal life a number of years ago, Beau was there with me. She had just finished her first draft of the story that would eventually become Longbourn’s Songbird and shared it with me. This was my first introduction to JAFF and I was fascinated. We started talking over other story ideas we had in our heads, and worlds began to take shape. With every discussion, characters would solidify, plot lines coalesce, motivations reveal themselves. Beau and I share an uncommon creative affinity. It was a natural step from inspiring each other to collaborating on a story. And don’t think this one will be the last.
Can you tell us what inspires both of you to write JAFF stories, and what was the inspiration behind The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy?
Beau: JAFF is one of those things that, after you try it once, you start seeing it everywhere. Almost everything I see, hear, read, gives me ideas in how it would translate to JAFF. The inspiration for this particular story was all Brooke’s! She said, “what would you think of a story that crosses Pride & Prejudice with Groundhog Day?” I think a few days later I had 4000 words written and said, “you mean like this?” I didn’t really give her much of a choice on collaborating with me on this one!
Brooke: I focused on Romantic English literature in my English degree, so Jane Austen’s worlds are like a second home to me. When Beau introduced me to JAFF, I knew I’d found a special niche. I have more ideas for JAFF stories in my head than I think I will ever be able to write down! The delight of throwing well-known, beloved characters into new situations keeps me, and all of us, coming back.
Like all of the best ideas, The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy sprang into my mind all on its own. I love to torment my characters and a frazzled Darcy is my favorite Darcy. Once the idea struck, I knew I had to write it. So I called Beau, gave her the pitch, we argued over whether it should be set primarily at the Netherfield Ball or at Hunsford (Beau won that argument, and rightly so), and off we went!
Please describe for us what it’s like to write a story with another author. What’s different and similar about this process when compared to writing a story on your own?
Beau: In some ways, it’s a lot easier, because you don’t have to second-guess yourself constantly. You have that sounding board immediately available, someone to say “no, that idea stinks” or “that works, go with that.” It really is invaluable. It’s also a great way to flex your creative muscles, trying to write scenes by outlined instructions, or to write nuanced characters without making them a basket case between the two of you!
That isn’t to say collaboration doesn’t have it’s limitations. Brooke has an extremely busy day job, so there were some efforts in communication.
Brooke: Though I know I’ll be writing some stories (mostly) on my own, I love working with Beau. She is so talented and is such a hard worker. I do have a busy day job, so it’s a comfort knowing the story will get told even when I cannot give it my full focus. As in all relationships, however, there are compromises to be made. And, as in the relationships worth keeping, the compromises are outweighed by the benefits. Having a partner on whom you can rely to write that difficult part you can’t seem to get out or to tell you that your dialogue is rubbish is invaluable. It’s even better to have a partner who believes in your ideas and is moved by your writing. The miraculous part of working with Beau is that our voices fit together seamlessly. No one yet has been able to identify who wrote which portions of our stories.
What did you learn about yourself as a writer, and as a person from this process?
Beau: (laughs) That I can write a book in a year! I’ve been writing full-time for about a year and a half now, so this was a big win for me. I worried that without the structure of a day job I’d lose my discipline. I’m glad to say that this project proved that I still know how to put my nose to the grindstone when need be.
Brooke: This project gave me some much-needed confidence. Because I cannot commit myself full-time to writing, I often feel like a charlatan saying I’m an author and I don’t talk about my writing in my “real” life. Finishing and publishing a novel has removed a lot of that self-consciousness.
What did your writing process look like when you wrote this book?
Beau: We sketched out an outline first, then we called dibs on the sections we wanted. Happily, they were scattered enough that when you read this book, it could be my words on one page and Brooke’s on the next.
Brooke: I did what Beau told me to.
What did you learn about each other as writers that surprised you during this process?
Beau:. Mostly I learned that after all these years, Brooke still inspires me and my writing. I really must commend her on a particular choice she made in regards to Lady Catherine’s character. There’s a scene written by Brooke later in the story between Lady Catherine and Darcy that is so wonderfully human I felt myself moved to tears!
Brooke: Aww, I’m blushing! I can’t say I learned anything new about Beau as a writer as I am so familiar with her style and voice. I continue to be amazed at the ease with which words flow from her fingertips. We often worked in shared documents that we could edit at the same time. There were moments when I would just sit back and watch in real time as Beau typed out a scene. The beauty of watching her work, reading her unedited thoughts, seeing her delete them and start over, knowing that no other person would ever know what she had written, was delightful.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Beau: Unquestionably it was keeping the timeline straight, for reasons that become obvious when reading it.
Brooke: Quieting that ugly voice in my head that told me I should stop, stop wasting my time and presuming upon others’ time. Never listen to that voice.
It is often said that a writer has something of herself in every character. Is that true for you, and if so, which character(s) do you most easily relate to from your story?
Beau: I like to think I see myself most in Anne de Bourgh, who in this version is smart, observant, and most importantly knows her own mind, but could definitely use a little more confidence in herself.
Brooke: Darcy. Always Darcy. The world on his shoulders, but only because he put it there.
Can you describe what the editing process was like for this book? I’d love to hear what it’s like to work with Christina Boyd.
Beau: Christina is a fantastic editor. She has a real talent for immersing herself in the story and finding inconsistencies or themes that could be expanded on. She seems to have no trouble getting inside of our heads and asking “would your character do this?” which is an important distinction to make from “would Austen’s character do this?”
Brooke: Though I am no visual artist, to answer this question I want to draw you a picture of majestic unicorns prancing on rainbows over fields of scarlet poppies and pristine daisies with silver starlight dancing in the distant sky, the whole world awash with a soft, glittery glow. Because language cannot contain the joy of working with such a consummate professional. I have no words to describe Christina Boyd, only Lisa Frank-esque ebullience.
What do you expect from a reader in understanding your portrayal of these characters’ actions and desires in The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy?
Beau: I try not to have expectations of readers, because storytelling is such a personal thing. If I had to choose something I would say that the reader keeps an open mind, and an understanding that our characters are flawed, sometimes deeply, for a reason. We want them to be human beings, to feel alive and three-dimensional to the reader. We want the reader to experience Darcy’s frustration, his confusion, his hope.
Brooke: I cannot have expectations of my readers. Once the story is out of my hands, it is theirs to do with as they like. A man once defended to me his choice of explaining his intent to his readers and said, “It is not the reader’s job to misinterpret what I write!” To which I replied, “The reader cannot misinterpret what you write.”
What are your future writing intentions? Will you co-author another JAFF story in the future?
Beau: Oh I’m sure you haven’t seen the last of us! We do have plans to collaborate on a dark fantasy JAFF titled “Among the Ruins,” which portrays a world that is very different from Austen’s world.
Brooke: “Among the Ruins” is my current focus. Stay tuned!
Would you mind answering this five additional questions?
Who’s your Darcy? Colin or Matthew?
Beau: Oh dear…I’m sure this will lose readers for me, but I’m going to say neither, actually. At least not when I’m writing. I can never really picture Darcy when I’m writing beyond the usual . . . tall, dark hair, looks great in a cravat. Now if we are just talking which I prefer from the adaptations, I can’t decide. Why not both?
Brooke: Oh, my Darcy is my own. He is more of an idea or an impression. Tall, dark hair…I know he has stern features, but I cannot tell you what his face looks like.
Which Austen heroine would you want to be in real life?
Beau: Mary Crawford! I know you said “heroine” but there are so few to choose from and we can’t all be Elizabeth Bennet.
Brooke: We all want to be Elizabeth Bennet, but I find I’ve got a good bit of Anne Elliot in me too.
Favorite Austen bad boy?
Beau: Henry Crawford, without question.
Brooke: Henry Crawford, no question. Stupid Fanny….
Most beloved Austen book?
Beau: As much as I adore Pride & Prejudice, Persuasion holds a special place in my heart. Always.
Brooke: It all depends on the day, honestly. How can I choose just one? I cycle among Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, and Persuasion.What would you miss the most if you were transported back to Regency England?
What would you miss the most if you were transported back to Regency England?
Beau: Netflix, Advil, my Sonicare toothbrush, sweatpants
Brooke: My shower, delivery pizza, independence
Thank you, ladies, for dropping by today. It’s been a pleasure getting to know both of you! I certainly look forward to reading more JAFF by both of you in the future and I wish you continued success with The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy.
Readers can connect with Beau & Brooke at the following virtual places:
Facebook: Beau North Writes
Facebook: Brooke West
Twitter: @WordyWest and @BrookeWest
Beau North is the author of Longbourn’s Songbird and a contributor to the anthology Then Comes Winter. Beau is a native southerner who now calls Portland, Oregon home with her husband and two cats. She attended the University of South Carolina where she began a lifelong obsession with Literature. In her spare time, Beau is the brains behind Rhymes With Nerdy, a pop culture podcast and website, and a contributor at the San Francisco Book Review.
Brooke West is a contributing author to the anthology Then Comes Winter. Brooke has a naturally creative soul that pulls her into myriad artistic endeavors. While writing fiction always has been her life’s passion, Brooke also finds joy in silversmithing, sculpting, and costuming. Between projects, she runs and practices yoga. She lives in South Carolina with her fiancé, son, and three cats.
Book Blurb for The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy
“He could no longer claim to be Fitzwilliam Darcy of Derbyshire, brother to Georgiana, master of Pemberley. In that moment, he was but a man. A man filled with more frustration than most souls could bear. A man torn asunder by his desperation, his fruitless dreams and desires.”
After Elizabeth Bennet rejects his marriage proposal, Fitzwilliam Darcy finds himself in the most unusual of circumstances. At first believing the extraordinary turn of events has granted him an inexplicable boon, he is eager to put the humiliating proposal behind him.
He soon discovers that he is trapped in the same waking dream with no end in sight and no possible escape. All that he holds dear—his name, his home, his love—remains ever out of reach. How will he find his way back to his normal life? Will one mistake haunt the rest of his days? It will take all of his fortitude to weather the storms of his strange new fate, and all of his courage to grasp the promise of his future.
October 8/ My Jane Austen Book Club/Launch Post & Giveaway
October 9/ Just Jane 1813/Interview with Beau and Brooke
October 10/ Pemberley to Milton/Book Review & Giveaway
October 11/ A Covent Garden Madame Gilflurt’s Guide to Life/Guest Post
October 12/ Austenesque Reviews/ Excerpt & Giveaway
October 13/ Margie’s Must Reads/ Book Review & Giveaway
October 14/ Babblings of a Bookworm/ Book Review & Giveaway
October 15/ The Calico Critic/Excerpt & Giveaway
October 16/ Obsessed with Mr. Darcy/ Guest Post
October 17/ Diary of an Eccentric/Book Review & Giveaway
October 18/ My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice/ Book Review & Giveaway
October 19/ More Agreeably Engaged/ Fitzwilliam Vignette
October 20/ So Little Time… So Much to Read/ Excerpt & Giveaway
For readers who wish to vote in our The Many Faces of Fitzwilliam Darcy contest, the choices are shown below:
To vote for your favorite image of Fitzwilliam Darcy from the images shown above, go to The Many Faces of Fitzwilliam Darcy Contest Link. The winning image and the winner will be announced on October 20, 2016, at our last blog stop, So Little Time… So Much to Read.