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Interview with Abigail Reynolds, author of The Pemberley Variations

20 Dec


I have a lovely interview with Abigail Reynolds to round out my interview posts for the year! Thanks again for reading these interviews, and I look forward to your thoughts about my 2012 challenge to read all of Austen’s books and relate them to today’s problems.

Have a happy holiday season!

Abigail ReynoldsCarolyn Crist: What sparked you to pursue publication as an author?

Abigail Reynolds: I had no intention of publishing when I started out writing for internet fanfic sites, but readers kept encouraging me to try. Eventually I decided that if I didn’t try to get published, I’d always wonder what might have happened, so I gave it a shot, and here I am!


Carolyn: What ideas led to your books?

Abigail: My ideas for variations on Pride & Prejudice are all different. Sometimes it’s a scene in the original book that drives me crazy, like at the Lambton Inn when Darcy doesn’t tell Elizabeth that he still cares for her because he assumes she knows it. Other ideas are based on curiousity about what would happen if I changed a factor.


Mr. Darcy's UndoingCarolyn: What characters draw your attention?

Abigail: I’m fascinated with both Darcy and Lizzy – I want to know what makes them tick. I think Bingley has unplumbed depths.


Carolyn: What intrigues you about Jane Austen?

Abigail: I love her narrative voice. She mocks people, but it tends to be in a warm way. You don’t get the feeling that she really dislikes her characters – she may find them silly, thoughtless, or manipulative, but she’s never nasty about it.


Carolyn: How do you support yourself financially while writing?


Abigail: Easy answer – I don’t. To make enough money to live on, I’d have to write a lot faster than I do and have a very wide readership. Fortunately for me, my husband has a job that provides benefits, so we don’t have to depend on what I make from writing. I’ve worked part time through all of my writing career to date, but I’m quitting my job soon to write full time.

Mr. Darcy's Letter



Carolyn: And tell us about your blog tour – what is that like?


Abigail: Busy! Blog tours can be a lot of fun, but they’re also like Freshman English on steroids. For my last tour, I had to produce 16 posts of 500-800 words each over 4 weeks, mostly on assigned topics. The fun part is interacting with the readers. The hard part is balancing the time it takes with the need to be writing new fiction.

Thanks for inviting me!

Thanks, Abigail! And thank you for being my wonderful final interview for 2011.


Jane Austen’s birthday: Bringing changes to VJA in 2012

16 Dec

Happy birthday, Jane!

There are dozens of blogs and websites celebrating Jane today, which is a powerful thing. Think about all of the topics, guest posts, and online games occurring because of her and her impact. This and events from the past few weeks have helped me to re-think what this site should be in 2012.

The spinoff author interviews were relatively popular on VJA, but most importantly, they’re not what I want to host on here.  I may do one every now and then, but they won’t be the main focus any longer. I’ve really enjoyed them, and I hope you have, too.

But now it’s time to try something new and bring the conversation back!

I started thinking about what I like most about Jane and her world, and it’s her books. I like reading them, and I like highlighting the portions relevant to me at the time. It amazes me how new aspects jump out each time I read them.

For me, it’s all about her books. To be honest, I don’t like many spinoffs, and I don’t care to watch many of the movies. They’re excellent, and I highly support and appreciate the creative minds who make them happen, but I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to Jane. Her own words speak to me the most.

So what does that have to do with VJA and 2012?

I’m embarking on an adventure to read all of her novels again next year — shooting for one novel every two months. On VJA, I’ll regularly post comments and invite discussion. I realize that plenty of blogs host book discussions throughout the year, but I want to see if we can take it a bit further on VJA.

Rather than being just a blog about what’s going on in the world of Jane Austen today, VJA will reflect my own ideas in an attempt to uncover life’s truths in her novels. Instead of a hobby that I regularly update (but sometimes neglect), I’m really going to create a goal to post here on schedule and invite you to help me achieve it along the way. As I explore this aspect of Jane’s world with more excitement and passion, you’ll be able to tell. It’ll make for a much better read.

So here’s to you, Jane. A bit different than the post you’ll find on other blogs today, but I think that’s what I’m aiming for. My gift to her is the simple appreciation of her works and how much they continue to impact our lives. I plan to delve into them and investigate the characters, situations, and words we have grown to love.

Want to celebrate her in this way as well? Join me! I’ll create another post soon with a tentative schedule, discussion topics, and other ideas. Do you have any recommendations for me? Which book should I read first? Is there a particular topic I should emphasize throughout the year? Do you want to be one of my regulars?

Interview with Kim Izzo, author of the Jane Austen Marriage Manual

28 Nov


Kim IzzoI hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving, if you celebrate. I had a long weekend of not posting much, so I bring you a fresh post with Kim Izzo, author of The Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Decorum and The Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Grace Under Pressure. She also has a forthcoming book, the Jane Austen Marriage Manual.

I hope you enjoy! With November coming to a close, I have some great ideas for December and January as far as posts go. I hope you’ll tune in and let me know what you think.

The Fabulous Girl's Guide to Grade Under PressureCarolyn Crist: What sparked you to pursue publication as an author?

Kim Izzo: I think this was a lifelong dream. I always wanted to write fiction/novels and screenplays for movies. Journalism was something I fell into and it snowballed. So I see my novel as finally fulfilling my childhood/teenage and young woman dreams!



Carolyn: What ideas led to your forthcoming book, the Jane Austen Marriage Manual?

The Jane Austen Marriage ManualKim: I found myself on the eve of my 40th birthday and looked around my life and wasn’t where I wanted to be. My family home had been sold due to financial difficulties in my family, I was without a steady job and in a relationship that wasn’t making me happy. I felt a renewed kinship to many an Austen heroine and lamented to friends that I wish I’d just married a wealthy man when I was younger and had the chance! It was a joke at the time but the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if at 40, I was too old, if indeed marrying “well” was an option! So I thought it was a fun idea for a fictional character to pursue this notion of “How old is too old to marry well?” My character, a journalist, gets an assignment to see if Austen’s “rules” can still apply to modern women. Set in the recession my character, Kate Shaw, embarks on a globe hopping journey to track down and marry a rich man. Did I mention The Jane Austen Marriage Manual is a romantic comedy? It is!


Carolyn: What intrigues you about Jane Austen?

Kim: Her wit and insight into the social codes of male and female relationships as well as those of family and society as a whole. And the fact that all of her wit and insights have lost nothing over time and are as timeless and applicable to today’s social mores as in her day.


Fabulous Girl's Guide to DecorumCarolyn: Also, tell us a bit about The Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Decorum and The Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Grace Under Pressure — what sparked you to start these books?

Kim: I was raised by my English grandmother, so you can imagine that I was raised with a definite importance placed on manners. As I became a twenty-something single woman I saw that many, many women and men did not share these values and that civility was not what it should be. Basically, I saw enough bad manners that I had to comment on it. When my co-author and I began to write about it, first as a column in The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper and then in the books, we had no idea what a nerve we’d strike! But it remains a great topic!



Carolyn: How do you support yourself financially while writing?

Kim: I’m the deputy editor/beauty director at a national magazine called Zoomer. So my journalism keeps a roof over my head but writing fiction too means I don’t have much of a social life!  Having said that I recently became engaged so that’s not always true! LOL.

Kim, thank you so much! This is great, and we can’t wait to see the Jane Austen Marriage Manual.

Interview with Barbara Tiller Cole: Fitzwilliam Ebenezer Darcy

24 Nov

Happy Thanksgiving, Austen lovers!

I bring a special treat as you dig into a delicious casserole and turkey. I’m interviewing Barbara Tiller Cole, right in time for the holidays. On Halloween, she released Fitzwilliam Ebenezer Darcy, which is a Pride and Prejudice meets A Christmas Carol crossover story.

Darcy has fallen into self-loathing and despair when he believes that he has lost forever the chance to marry the only woman he has ever loved—Elizabeth Bennet. Seeing her son in such a state, the Ghost of Anne Darcy reaches out to him, informing him that three ghosts would visit him and give him hope.

Barbara Tiller Cole is an Atlanta native (same as me!) and the author of White Lies and Other Half Truths. The time around, her novel is a combination of the best of her two favorite authors, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens.

Barbara has generously offered a giveaway with this post! In the comment section below, write about the crossover story you’d love to do. Would you fuse a Jane Austen tale with another author’s, and which stories would you use? Post by Dec. 1, and I’ll announce the winner!

Carolyn Crist: What sparked you to pursue publication as an author?

White LiesBarbara Tiller Cole: Beginning to write and pursing publication were actually two separate inspirations. As far as writing goes, my husband is a professional writer, and has been writing since he was18, when he was on the night desk writing obits for his home town newspaper. He was a combat correspondent in Vietnam, and then a CLEO award winning creative director in the advertising business. But he is SO talented that I wanted him to use his talents to write a book. He said he didn’t think he had the time to do it.

So I began writing after hours and on the weekends to prove to him that it could be done no matter how much time he might have. I finished a book but didn’t know that I would ever have the courage to publish it. Then it came to a point when we needed the extra income. So the inspiration to publish was kind of a boring one. We needed extra money.


Carolyn: What ideas led to your books, especially a story about Darcy?

Fitzwilliam Ebenezer DarcyBarbara: As far as the inspiration to write Jane Austen inspired works, it began with Colin Firth and the 1995 A&E Mini Series. I might as well say that I am an obsessed fan. Colin led me to discovering Pride and Prejudice fan fiction. I started reading incomplete stories and found myself writing the ending in my head. I discovered I had some pretty creative ideas and eventually decided to try to put one to paper. Fitzwilliam Ebenezer Darcy is my second book. My parents were also part of my inspiration. My father would read A Christmas Carol each holiday to the family, and my mother inspired me to improve my mind by extensive reading, aka Jane Austen style. The idea for putting the two together actually happened in 2008 while I was watching the Bill Murray version of A Christmas Carol, Scrooged.
Buy it on Amazon — Fitzwilliam Ebenezer Darcy: ‘Pride and Prejudice’ meets ‘A Christmas Carol’


Carolyn: What characters draw your attention?

Barbara: I have long been a person who likes to observe intricate characters. I don’t know that I have ever been as wrong in my judgement of someone as Elizabeth Bennet was in Pride and Prejudice when she first attempted to make out the character of Fitzwilliam Darcy. Perhaps I have. But the more intricate the character the more I enjoy studying them. Fitzwilliam Darcy is by far my favorite character in all of Austen’s literature. I enjoy studying Colonel Brandon, George Knightley and Captain Wentworth as well. I enjoy the characters of Elizabeth Bennet, Emma, and Eleanor Dashwood the most among the female heroines of the stories. If I had a favorite villain, I guess it would be Willoughby, as I don’t know that he was really a villain just a coward.


Carolyn: What intrigues you about Jane Austen?

Barbara: I guess what intrigues me the most is that she took aspects of herself and put them into her characters, without the characters truly becoming her. I love the fact that she was successful as a writer in a time when women were to keep to the drawing rooms and net purses and cover screens. She, like her character Elizabeth Bennet, was determined NOT to do that. I find it sad that in her own determination not to marry except for the deepest love, that she never did. But if she had, I would suspect that we would not have her writings today.


Carolyn: How do you support yourself financially while writing?

Barbara: I am a therapist, currently in clinical management. I travel a lot currently for my job, and time alone in hotel rooms allows me the freedom to write undisturbed. It also gives me the money to pay my bills. If I was ever granted the success in my writing to be able to quit working I am not completely sure that I would. I like having a full and well rounded life. But it would be wonderful if I did not HAVE to work.

Thanks, Barbara! It has been fabulous getting to know you, and we can’t wait to see what else you contribute to the Austen world.

Interview with Lauren Willig, author of the Pink Carnation series and a story in Jane Austen Made Me Do It

21 Nov

Hello Austenties! Welcome to the beginning of another fabulous week.

Here on the university campus, students have the entire week off for Thanksgiving. I miss those days!

Today I’m hosting Lauren Willig, the author of the Pink Carnation series. I’ve looked up to her for quite some time, so I hope you enjoy this one as much as I do!

Find her on her website,, or on her Facebook page,

Lauren WilligCarolyn Crist: What sparked you to pursue publication as an author?

Lauren Willig: I was one of those irritating people who knew I wanted to be a writer by the time I was six years old. Before that, I had harbored the typical dreams of being a ballerina (liked the tutus, not so good at the dancing bit) or a princess (still haven’t quite given up on that one). But someone, probably one of our Lower School teachers, came up with the bright idea of having us write “books” in class one day, self-illustrated, on lined paper bound in bright construction paper covers. My story was—surprise, surprise—about a princess who runs away to be a ballerina. I can still remember the look and feel of that “book” in my hands. This is it, I thought, with a rush of certainty. This is what I’m going to do. And I have. Of course, there was a lot of drama and detour along the way….




Carolyn: What ideas led to your books, especially the Pink Carnation series?

Lauren: Picture it: Spring, 2001. Harvard Square. I was a disgruntled second year graduate burned out on caffeine and footnotes. After two years of being buried in the basement of Widener Library, squinting at microfilm, reading Seminal Texts, and wondering whether that coffee splotch on my skirt could be passed off as a pattern, I had just passed my Oral Exams. In celebration, I gave myself an evening away from the footnotes to enjoy some haute grad school cuisine (a hot dog with squirty cheese) and watch one of my favorite guilty pleasures: the Anthony Andrews Scarlet Pimpernel.

For those who haven’t seen this seminal work, it’s the ultimate in swash and buckle. Fool by day, man of mystery by night, Sir Percy Blakeney spirits aristocrats from the jaws of the guillotine, thwarting the forces of revolutionary France. It was all quite satisfying (there’s nothing like a good rendition of “They seek him here, they seek him there”), but my “what if” antennae started quivering. Yes, the story was all very well as it was, but, what if you gave your debonair English spy a real problem? Those French operatives, like Chauvelin, are always remarkably insignificant adversaries, rather like those Star Wars storm troopers who never manage to shoot straight.

Lauren Willig booksWhat if one were to take a dashing English spy, used to his missions always going as planned and his minions always obeying without question, and throw into his path the ultimate object of destruction: an attractive and spirited young lady. He would never know what hit him. Ha! I wolfed down the rest of my hotdog and raced for the computer. And thus The Secret History of the Pink Carnation was born. My heroine acquired a quirky chaperone, my hero acquired a very noisy and involved family. A whole world of characters, side characters, plots, and subplots blazed into being, all on the strength of that one “what if.”

Once you open the door to “what if,” there’s just no stopping it. Since writing the first Pink Carnation book, “what if” has led me to colonial India (what if you took a rebellious English debutante and drop her in the midst of intrigue in Hyderabad in 1804), the court of George III (what if his madness was caused not by hereditary illness, but foul play?), and, more recently, in The Mischief of the Mistletoe, to none other than the great Jane Austen.

What if the reason Austen didn’t finish the Watsons wasn’t grief over her father’s death, but— never mind. Spoilers!


Carolyn: What characters draw your attention?

Lauren: As a reader, I’m drawn to seemingly ordinary people placed in extraordinary situations. That, I think, is the lure of books like Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword or, for that matter, the Harry Potter series. The events become a crucible for characters, turning them from the ordinary to the extraordinary, as we wonder, “How I would react in that situation? Would I adapt as well?”

As a writer, I like to play with odd ducks, with counter-intuitive heroes and heroines: the blundering fool, the bitchy prom queen, the people we generally see as anti-heroes or side characters, not in lead roles. My most popular book so far has been The Mischief of the Mistletoe, which features a Bertie Wooster-esque bumbler named Turnip Fitzhugh. I loved the challenge of keeping Turnip true to Turnip, while showing his more lovable qualities; he might not be the brightest vegetable in the patch, but he has a heart of gold. One of the joys of writing a series is getting to explore a variety of different character types, and through it, to show that
everyone has a story worth telling.


Carolyn: How do you support yourself financially while writing?

Lauren: I’ve had a strange and rackety career path. Straight out of college, I toddled off to Harvard to study history, on the theory that the best possible way to write historically accurate novels was to acquire a PhD in the subject. I wrote the book that later became The Secret History of the Pink Carnation as a grad student, supporting myself by TA-ing classes. I was teaching the maximum load. Making up lesson plans and grading papers and exams set the novel back at least a year—and we won’t even discuss what it did to my dissertation!

In 2003, I decided it was time to be practical. I didn’t want to stay in academia and I knew there was very little chance of ever making my living as a writer. I wasn’t so into the whole “starving in a garret for my art” idea (those garrets never seem to turn out well) so I took a deep breath and enrolled at Harvard Law, knowing that, at least, as a lawyer, I would always be able to pay my rent. And I wouldn’t have to grade any more undergrad papers. Not grading undergrad papers played a large role in this decision.

Fate has a strange sense of humor. One month into my law school career, I signed my first book contract. Given my aversion to garrets, I wasn’t going to drop out of law school—but I also wasn’t going to turn down publication. So I did both. I emerged from law school with a JD and three books under my belt, then went on to practice law at a large New York law firm, since, after all, one never knew when the books might tank and there was that whole paying the rent issue. I managed to juggle writing and the day job for a year and a half, until it finally became clear that book deadlines and doc review don’t mix and that all those emails from my friends asking me if I was dead might be kind of a hint. So, four published books later, I left the law and now write full time (and by “write” I mean “find new and creative ways to procrastinate”).


Carolyn: What intrigues you about Jane Austen?

Lauren: I’m in awe of Austen’s brilliant grasp of human nature, which speaks to across the centuries. Put her characters in modern dress, a la Clueless, and they still make perfect sense. Certainly, her stories are dependent upon their specific settings, but the emotions and character quirks they portray carry across time. She doesn’t spare the point of her pen—quite frequently, she skewers her characters, comically sending up their weaknesses, their pettiness, their shallowness, but there’s a fundamental optimism about her work, even at its darkest, , an optimism that works with and because of her awareness of all the pitfalls and negatives out there, all the dark corners of human nature. She sees it all, and still provides us with a happy ending, or, at least, the happiest ending possible under the circumstances. That balance she strikes, between cynical observation and optimistic resolution, to me is the hallmark of her particular mastery.



Carolyn: Tell us a bit about your piece in Jane Austen Made Me Do It!

Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Lauren: When Laurel Ann approached me about writing a story for the anthology, I’d just finished writing a book on Jane Austen’s own turf, Bath in 1803. In fact, Austen had been a character in the story even though I’d sworn right and left I wasn’t going to do that—but that’s another story. I had about six months before the short story was due and I vaguely supposed that I would set it in that same world. I’d already written eight books set in the early nineteenth century, so it felt like home turf. My Austen book, The Mischief of the Mistletoe, had been loosely based on Austen’s The Watsons. The cranky sister, Margaret, could use a redemptive short story—or maybe I should do something about Austen herself?

I have no idea how I came to write a story set in 21st century Britain about an American journalist on a low budget TV program called Ghost Trekkers.

Blame it on Northanger Abbey, blame it on too many formative childhood watchings of Scooby-Doo, blame it on that last gin and tonic, but when Laurel Ann emailed to ask what I’d be writing about, it just popped out. I settled down to watch a few episodes of Ghost Hunters for inspiration, re-read Northanger Abbey, and there you go:

Cate Kartowsky has grand dreams of hosting serious news shows, but, instead, she’s found herself working for… Ghost Trekkers. Yes, Ghost Trekkers, that probing programme of supernatural investigation, or, as Cate likes to describe it in her darker moments, Tits ‘n Ghouls. Besides, Cate doesn’t believe in ghosts. Little does she know what she’s up against when she
spends a night at Northanger Abbey….

Thanks so much for having me here, Carolyn! Happy reading, all!

Thanks so much, Lauren!! We can’t wait to see what else you do next.

Interview with Patrice Sarath, author of The Unexpected Miss Bennet

14 Nov


Welcome Patrice Sarath, author of  The Unexpected Miss Bennet, which is new out this year from Robert Hale Ltd and is forthcoming from Penguin Berkley in December. The Unexpected Miss Bennet takes up Mary Bennet’s story. You can find Patrice on her website.

Her description  of the book:

Unexpected-Miss-BennetPride and Prejudice‘s Mary Bennet gets her own story…

The third of five daughters, Miss Mary Bennet is a rather unremarkable girl. With her countenance being somewhere between plain and pretty and in possession of no great accomplishments, few expect the third Bennet daughter to attract a respectable man. But although she is shy and would much prefer to keep her nose stuck in a book, Mary is uncertain she wants to meekly follow the path to spinsterhood set before her.

Determined that Mary should have a chance at happiness, the elder Bennet sisters concoct a plan. Lizzy invites Mary to visit at Pemberley, hoping to give her sister a place to grow and make new acquaintances. But it is only when Mary strikes out independently that she can attempt to become accomplished in her own right. And in a family renowned for its remarkable Misses, Mary Bennet may turn out to be the most wholly unexpected of them all…
Buy it on Amazon: The Unexpected Miss Bennet

Carolyn Crist: What sparked you to pursue publication as an author? (A former journalist, I’m turning to creative writing and wondering how others have started!)

Patrice Sarath: I also have a background as a reporter. I always wanted to write fiction, and I wrote short stories all throughout my childhood and teen years. In college, I won the short story contest and the first prize was $50! That was pretty awesome money back then, and actually still is. I consider that my first sale. But my focus was journalism – I was a magazine editor – until I got let go from a computer magazine position. I decided to take some time to write fiction and that’s when I began to write seriously.

And then I got a job offer right away, which was both a relief – I was married with a child, and we really couldn’t have me out of work – and a bit of a disappointment.

But I kept writing and started selling short stories, and sold my first novels, which are the fantasies Gordath Wood and Red Gold Bridge, after several years of trying. The Unexpected Miss Bennet is my third novel.


Carolyn: What ideas led to your books, especially a story about Mary?

Patrice: I was always intrigued by Mary Bennet from Pride & Prejudice. Here she is, shy, bookish, socially awkward – just like me, in fact. And I never understood why she was never Mr Collins’ first choice for a wife. She would have been perfect for him. So instead, I created a different life for Mary, in which she grows up and changes and sees life a little differently. I also provide a sweeter love interest for her than a stodgy vicar. (Apologies to all vicars out there, stodgy or otherwise.)

As for my other books, I am drawn to and fascinated by what I call “real magic.” That is, magic that exists in our mundane world, but it’s quiet and not flashy, and is transformative without being an attention hog. I also love stories in which heroes go to another world. So that’s what Gordath Wood and Red Gold Bridge are about – a mysterious portal transports two heroines to a dangerous fantasy world.


Carolyn: What characters draw your attention?

Patrice: Nice guys, the kind who are competent and good at what they do, but they wouldn’t dream of being a spoiled alpha male. I am so over alpha males. I like the “still waters run deep” hero and heroine.


Carolyn: What intrigues you about Jane Austen?

Patrice: Her genius as a novelist puts her on the same level as Shakespeare, yet she is absolutely unpretentious and accessible. Six books, all of them some of the best writing in the English language. Plus, she’s funny, and timeless and her characters are recognizable.


Carolyn: How do you support yourself financially while writing?

Patrice: I’m an industry analyst for a business information company. The day job offers security and routine, which is absolutely essential for the kind of writer I am. When things are unsettled, I can’t write. If I’m worried about money, I can’t write.

That said, I can’t come home from work and sit down and write. I have to give it a few hours and then settle in after 9 pm or so, and I write for a couple of hours a night.

Thanks for the interview! I enjoyed it!

Thanks, Patrice! I really admire what you do and can’t wait to read more.

Interview with Alexandra Potter, author of Me and Mr. Darcy

11 Nov
Alexandra Potter

Alexandra Potter

I’m quite excited to host Alexandra Potter today as a Friday treat!

Alexandra Potter is an award-winning author of eight bestselling romantic comedies, including Me and Mr. Darcy, for which she won the Jane Austen New Fiction award in 2007. Her latest book, The Two Lives of Miss Charlotte Merryweather is published by Plume. She has lived in London, Sydney, Los Angeles and New York and is currently traveling the world researching her new book. Visit Alexandra at her website Alexandra Potter.

Carolyn Crist: What sparked you to pursue publication as an author?

Alexandra Potter: I’ve always loved writing. As a child I had a vivid imagination and used to spend hours making up stories. Reading was a huge passion of mine and I ended up reading English Litertature at university. At that time my dream was to write for magazines and I moved to London to pursue my career. However the path never runs smooth! A redundancy from my ‘dream job’ saw me moving to Australia for a year where I became a sub-editor on magazines, which then led to me one day editing an article on several young authors who’d written their first novels. As I sat there in the office, reading this article, I thought to myself, ‘I can do that!’ and so I went away, thought of an idea, and started to write what would end up being my very first novel, ‘What’s New, Pussycat?


Carolyn: What ideas led to your Jane Austen books, especially Me and Mr. Darcy?


Me and Mr. Darcy

Me and Mr. Darcy

Alexandra: I love writing romantic comedies and exploring relationships between men and women. One day I was thinking about how women are always searching for ‘The Perfect Man’, their very own Mr Darcy who will sweep them off their feet, but how in reality it’s not always like that! That’s when the idea came to me. How about I write a book where the heroine gets to actually date Mr Darcy! I thought I could have a lot of fun with this idea, and it would allow me to explore the difference between reality and fantasy. It was never supposed to be a serious retelling of Pride and Prejudice, which is a criticism that has been made levelled at me by some Jane Austen fans. On the contrary, I would never be so arrogant to think I could re-tell such a wonderful story, I simply wanted to write a fun romantic comedy that would allow readers to ‘date’ Mr Darcy, and see what it would be really like! By doing this, I think I showed that actually, it might not be so much fun in real life, and actually the guy who’s real – who isn’t so perfect – is actually the right guy for you.

Buy it on Amazon – Me and Mr. Darcy: A Novel


Carolyn: What characters draw your attention?

Alexandra: I am fascinated by all different kinds of characters. As a writer you are constantly observing people. ‘People Watching’ is one of my favourite pastimes! Everyone has their own story. Everyone is important in their own life. That’s why I think it’s very important to give every character in my books – however minor – their own journey.


Carolyn: What intrigues you about Jane Austen?

Alexandra: She is the QUEEN of people watching! Her observations are wonderful!! Despite her writing in another era, her stories are as relevant today, which is incredible really when you think about it. So much has changed in the world since Jane Austen wrote her novels, and yet ultimately, people and their hopes and dreams haven’t really changed at all.



Carolyn: How did you support yourself financially while writing?

Alexandra: When I started writing my first novel, I was freelancing as a sub-editor. I did this until I had secured an agent, who told me to go away and write the rest of the book. As I needed to devote all my time to writing, I stopped freelancing and sold my car, which gave me just enough money to live on and pay my bills for six months. Which gave me my deadline! Six months to write my book! At the end of which I was very lucky. Several publishers wanted to buy it and a bidding war broke out, and within 24 hours I’d signed a two book deal and secured an advance to write the next one….



Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Carolyn: Tell us a bit about your piece in Jane Austen Made Me Do It!

Alexandra: I wanted to write a follow-up to Me and Mr Darcy and see what had happened to the characters of Emily and Spike since we last left them. Plus I wanted to have some more fun with Mr Darcy, I’ve missed him! Hopefully readers will find the story fun and romantic. This time I have Mr Darcy as an advisor in love to Emily and he ultimately helps bring Emily and Spike back together again. Mr Darcy a matchmaker, who would have thought? 🙂

Buy it on Amazon – Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart

Thanks so much, Alexandra! I can’t wait to hear more about the next book.

Interview with Laurel Ann Nattress, author/editor of Jane Austen Made Me Do It (plus a giveaway!)

7 Nov

Hello, hello Austenites,

Today I’m very excited to host Laurel Ann Nattress, author/editor of and editor of Jane Austen Made Me Do It, an anthology of Austenesque short stories!

A life-long acolyte of Jane Austen, Laurel Ann created to be a blog devoted to the oeuvre of her favorite author and the many books and movies that she has inspired. She is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, a regular contributor to the PBS blog Remotely Connected and the Jane Austen Centre online magazine. An expatriate of southern California, Laurel Ann lives in a country cottage near Snohomish, Washington. Visit Laurel Ann at her blogs and, on Twitter as @Austenprose, and
on Facebook as Laurel Ann Nattress.


Giveaway of Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Enter a chance to win one copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It by leaving a comment by
Nov. 11, stating what intrigues you about reading an Austen-inspired short story
anthology. Winners to be drawn at random and announced on Nov. 12. Shipment to U.S.
and Canadian addresses only. Good luck to all!


Carolyn Crist: What sparked you to pursue publication as an author?

Laurel Ann Nattress: I had been writing about Jane Austen and the many movies and books that she has inspired for about three years on my blog Austenprose. I really enjoyed working with
the authors to help promote their new books. I began to see a common thread between
my passion for Jane Austen and all of the books influenced by her. I thought that it would
be interesting to read an Austen anthology, but at that time there were none in print. I
realized that I had the connections with the authors to put one together. I mulled this in
my mind for a bit. Of course the biggest challenge would be finding a publisher.

Carolyn: What characters draw your attention?

Laurel Ann: While some readers admire Austen romantic heroes and heroines, I revel in her secondary characters who are a bit wobbly in the moral department. I am fascinated by Mary and
Henry Crawford from Mansfield Park, Isabella Thorpe in Northanger Abbey, Caroline Bingley in Pride and Prejudice and Frank Churchill in Emma. Austen does such a fantastic job with characterizations. She truly is a master at the details of personality types and motivations.

Carolyn: What intrigues you about Jane Austen?

Laurel Ann: Her insights into human personalities. She is renowned for her finely drawn characters and engaging dialogue. They just captivate me.

Carolyn: How do you support yourself financially while writing?

Laurel Ann: Personally, I know very few writers who support themselves entirely by their writing. In fact, looking at the authors in my anthology as an example, many are married, and only a
few make it on their own just by their writing. One assumes that you would have to enter the bestselling realm to procure enough “pewter” to live comfortably.

I think you can equate this to being an actor. There are many who are called to the profession, and struggle for years to become recognized for their talent. Some do become rich and famous, and others make a comfortable living.

Among the exciting and rewarding things about being a writer is that you can do it in your free time. Who does not want to write the great American novel? It is all a process. Personally, I am a professional bookseller. The two feed into to each other quite nicely. I am will always be puttering with a new book. It is just in my nature to be creative.

Carolyn: And of course, tell us a bit about Jane Austen Made Me Do It!

Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Laurel Ann: My anthology contains twenty-two short stories written by my personal favorite Austenesque authors or other genres that great admire Jane Austen. They range in experience from bestselling literary veteran to debut new voice. They are my dream team and I am delighted with the stories.

There is something for every reading preference. From Regency to contemporary, comical to fantastical, they all reaffirm Austen’s indelible mark on literature and lasting influence on culture and entertainment. It has been interesting to read people’s impressions of the stories. Just like Austen’s effect on her readers, everyone seems to be touched by one character or story in a different way. That is a great complement to the writers, and to Austen.

Thanks again Carolyn for hosting me at Vicariously Jane Austen. I have been having a
great time on my Grand Tour of the blogosphere in celebration of the release of my new
Austen-inspired anthology, Jane Austen Made Me Do It and am very honored to be here

Thanks, Laurel Ann!

Everyone, here’s the book info: Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress
Ballantine Books • ISBN: 978-0345524966

Interview with Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

4 Nov
Laurie Rigler

Laurie Rigler

I’m so excited to host Laurie Viera Rigler today. She’s probably one of the first Austen authors that I read a few years ago when I began reading Austen spinoffs.

Laurie Viera Rigler’s novels Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict (both published by Plume in North America and Bloomsbury in the UK) could have been considered semi-autobiographical had they not involved time travel and body switching. Her short story, Intolerable Stupidity, in which Mr. Darcy brings charges against all the writers of Pride and Prejudice sequels, spinoffs and retellings, appears in the anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It (Ballantine).

Sex and the Austen Girl

Sex and the Austen Girl

In addition to working on her third novel, Laurie is the creator of the web series Sex and the Austen Girl, which is inspired by her Austen Addict novels. All 23 episodes can be found at and at

Carolyn Crist: What ideas led to your Jane Austen books, specifically Confessions?

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

Laurie Rigler: The first scene of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict literally popped into my head while I was doing something mundane in my kitchen. I always find that the best ideas come to me when I’m not trying to summon them. And I can’t really say it was an idea that led to Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. It was more of a lifestyle. I was so immersed in reading and thinking about Austen’s works and fantasizing about what it would be like to live inside that world that it’s no wonder this scene popped into my head: I saw a twenty-first Austen fan awakening in Regency England—in someone else’s body, no less.

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict

Once I started writing Confessions, I assumed I would include in it the parallel story of the lady from Regency England living inside the life of the twenty-first-century Austen fan who took her place. But it just didn’t feel right to have both stories in one book. And, as it turned out, it was a gift to have all those years of writing Confessions as preparation for writing Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict. Writing Confessions changed me in many ways. I still adore reading about Austen’s world, but I have a much deeper appreciation of my own. Which is where the heroine of Rude Awakenings comes in. Through her I gained an even deeper appreciation of my world, because I got to rediscover it through her eyes, the eyes of a lady from Jane Austen’s world.


Carolyn: What types of characters do you like to write about and read about?

Laurie: Someone who is complex, flawed, desperately wants something, develops in an intriguing way, and is relatable. Even a villain should be relatable.


Carolyn: What intrigues you about Jane Austen?

Laurie: That she wrote in a decidedly modern style and created characters and stories that transcend time, especially when compared to her contemporaries. Austen’s characters may have worn gowns and tailcoats and ridden around in carriages, but they’re as relevant and recognizable as the people who populate our own personal worlds. There is a reason that we’re still reading Austen, that her stories are still being adapted to films and television and the stage.


Carolyn: And, of course, tell us a bit about your piece in Jane Austen Made Me Do It.

Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Laurie: I didn’t intend to write “Intolerable Stupidity,” which is the title of my story. I intended to spin off something from my web series, Sex and the Austen Girl, which is inspired by Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict. But there again, the idea came from my life. Here I was, participating in an anthology of works inspired by, spun-off from, and influenced by Jane Austen. And suddenly I saw in my mind this courtroom in which Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice was suing all of us for having the effrontery to mess with the “Creator’s” work. I mean, this was his life we were fooling with. Because in my story fictional characters aren’t fictional at all. They’re just as real as you and I.

Thanks for inviting me to Vicariously Jane Austen, Carolyn!

Thank you, Laurie! We can’t wait to hear what you have up your sleeve next.

Buy her books on Amazon:

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict: A Novel

Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart

Interview with Lev Raphael, Huffington Post blogger going on tour in Germany

3 Nov

Hello, Austenites!

Ready for a fun interview? Lev Raphael told me that he was going on tour in Germany, and I told him that I wanted to feature it on the site. I didn’t turn around a response with questions fast enough, so he was great and posed both questions and answers!

Lev has blogged several articles about Jane Austen for the Huffington Post, and I thought you guys might enjoy his perspective on book tours. Let me know what you think!


–So you’re going on another German book tour?

Yes, this is my fourth book tour in Germany, and the second for my memoir/travelogue My Germany, which is now out in paperback.  I’ll be speaking in Leipzig, Stuttgart, Munich and four other cities, traveling from from East to South to West.

–What’s the book about?

My parents were Holocaust survivors and I grew up with an understandably dark picture of Germany which changed when I went there and keeps deepening with each trip.  The experience has been so dramatic, I had to write about it, and it all started when a German publisher bought some of my previous books for translation on the condition that I tour.

–Wow, that must have been a thrill.

It was, but last year and this year are even more exciting.  The first two times, my German publisher set up the tour.  Last year I was a cultural ambassador because the tour was sponsored by the American Embassy in Berlin.  This year they’re sponsoring again, along with the American consulates in Frankfurt and Leipzig.

–It sounds like you’ll be doing a lot of travel there.

Yes, eight events in twelve days, but I get a day off mid-way and one at the end. And the trains are comfortable, plus you can get good food on them and in the train stations.

–Are German audiences different than American ones?

Very much so.  Writers are treated with more respect there, we’re artists, cultural figures, not just somebody else on the conveyer belt through the local chain book store.  And everywhere I’ve gone, people sponsoring the events have been very grateful, giving me books, CDs, chocolate, wine, calendars, and other presents.  I got so much stuff last time I had to send two boxes of gifts home.  I shared the wine, though, in Germany, with new friends.

–Do you speak German?

Not as well as I’d like to, my French is better, but I do my introductions in German and two of my readings will be in German, from the German translation of My Germany, which is an ebook over there.

–What’s it like to read your own work in a different language?

At first I didn’t think I could manage it, because the rhythm, the sound, the syntax, everything is different.  But I really came to enjoy it and enjoy the challenge. Every reading is a performance, so in effect I was being given a more difficult script to work with. And I was thrilled when some people complimented me on doing a good job.

–How did you prepare for reading in German?

I had a tutor here in Michigan last summer who gave me homework and listened to me and gave me notes as if she were a director.  She was tough but fun to work with.  I did sessions with her this fall to brush up.  And then I watch a lot of German movies and try to study or read something in German as often as I can.

–Have you written other memoirs?

Yes, and a historical novel, a children’s book, mysteries–twenty-one books all told.  The latest is a Jane Austen mashup, Pride and Prejudice: the Jewess and the Gentile.  It doesn’t have any monsters.  I didn’t break into Jane Austen’s house and trash it and leave graffiti, I snuck in and rearranged the furniture.

Thanks again, Lev! We can’t wait to hear more when you get back and then bring you back for another interview about Pride and Prejudice: the Jewess and the Gentile.