October 11, 2010
Interview and Giveaway with Author Abigail Reynolds
Hi Abigail, welcome to Psychotic State and thank you for taking the time to chat with me and my readers. I think the burning question on readers’ minds everywhere is how a doctor becomes a popular writer of Jane Austen-inspired novels and sequels?
AR: There’s a long tradition of doctors who write. Seeing patients is all about telling stories – hearing their story, knowing the right questions to ask to transform it into a medical story that makes sense, and then translating it back into their lives. It’s about character and life and reality. I write Austen-inspired novels to provide an escape into another world with characters we know and love. Austen fits my idea of the perfect book – interesting, great characterizations, fun, and a happy ending. As Cassie Boulton says in my book The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice, “I like my coffee with cream and my literature with optimism.”
Did you always want to be a writer?
AR: I’ve always told myself stories, and sometimes I’d write them down, but I never thought of it as being a writer. I still have trouble identifying myself as a writer.
Did you receive any advice as a struggling or new writer that you’d like to share with budding writers out there?
AR: I’d tell them that the most important thing is to tell the story that’s in your heart, not the story that you think a publisher or agent will want. The best story is the one that comes from you.
I recently read Mr. Darcy’s Obsession and thought it was a fantastic premise to take on the Pride and Prejudice classic. What inspired you to change the Bennet family’s circumstances and make a match between Darcy and Lizzy even more difficult and unlikely?
AR: I wanted to give modern readers a sense of just how much Darcy sacrifices for love in the original Pride and Prejudice. To our modern selves, it doesn’t seem like there was that big a difference in their statuses, but for the time period, it was huge. He was betraying his family duty by marrying Elizabeth. I wanted to capture the essence of that incredible love in a way modern readers could understand, so I made the social differences between Darcy and Elizabeth even greater.
When you began writing your first Pride and Prejudice variation, did you originally conceive it as a series or did it evolve as you wrote that first book?
AR: When I wrote my first book, I never expected to write another one, but once it was done, I discovered I was hooked by the writing bug. I’d developed so many different ideas while writing that first book that it was natural to start exploring them. I had no idea I’d eventually write so many books!
What is it about Pride and Prejudice that inspires you and not another Jane Austen work?
AR: It’s the characters. When I’m writing, the characters live in my head 24/7, so they have to be characters I enjoy. I’d go nuts if I had Emma or Fanny Price in my head all the time!
Besides Jane Austen, are there any particular authors that inspire you or that you enjoy reading?
AR: I’m a very eclectic reader. A few of my favorites are Gillian Bradshaw, Robin McKinley, Mary Renault, and Dorothy Sayers.
Can you take us through a normal day in the life of Abigail Reynolds?
AR: Like any parent, I don’t have any normal days! But an average one involves juggling lots of chaos between kids, home, and work. I squeeze in writing whenever I can, usually in the evening or late at night when everybody else is in bed.
One of the best parts of Mr. Darcy’s Obsession, in my opinion, was the descriptions of the ton, specifically the dark and seedy aspects and somewhat immoral underbelly. I would imagine that takes quite a bit of research. How do you organize and handle the research?
AR: I do most of my research on the internet, and I always delve into far more detail than I need because I get fascinated by questions about doorknobs or sidesaddles and can’t rest till I find out the answer. Most of it never shows up in the books, but it’s great fun.
How long did it take you to write Mr. Darcy’s Obsession?
AR: About a year.
I heard that you may be working on a sequel to Mr. Darcy’s Obsession (insert loud squee here!). Can you give us any details or hints about that?
AR: The main story line focuses on Mary and Georgiana and the two young men who come courting them. Naturally, the men both fall in love with the wrong girl, leading to great consternation about appropriate matches, etc. (Note from Lori: Can we preorder now? I so want to read this!)
What can you tell us about the new Austen Authors blog?
AR: Austen Authors is a way for lovers of Austenesque fiction to find new books. Since the books are scattered throughout the fiction section in bookstores, many readers would discover only one of us and never realize there are lots more books out there. The original idea was to try to find 8 or so interested Austen Authors. Instead, the new blog is one-stop shopping with 27 Austenesque writers – find one of them, you find them all! It’s also a great way to connect to our own readers. The delightful surprise has been the community that has developed between the authors there. (Note from Lori: Very true! I have found many wonderful Austenesque books and writers that I would never have been lucky enough to discover wandering around the store. Austen Authors can be found here.)
Which character (existing or new) have you most enjoyed writing in your books?
AR: I loved writing Aunt Augusta in Mr. Darcy’s Obsession. She’s a riot and a scene-stealer. Writing Darcy always comes easily to me; I’m more Darcy than Elizabeth, I’d say. (Note from Lori: I loved Aunt Augusta too. Here’s hoping we’ll see her again.)
Have you considered writing a book featuring characters from another Austen book?
AR: I’ve written a modern Persuasion as a companion for The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice, but unfortunately my publisher is of the opinion that books based on Persuasion don’t sell. I’m looking at alternate possibilities now.
If you could jump into a time machine and go back to the Regency era, what one question would you like to ask Jane Austen?
AR: Only one question? I’d ask her what happened to First Impressions, the original story that she later rewrote as Pride and Prejudice. I’d give a lot to be able to read that.
Lastly, if you could use one word to describe Mr. Darcy’s Obsession, what would it be?
Thank you so much, Abigail, for taking the time to answer my questions and best of luck with Mr. Darcy’s Obsession!
AR: Thanks for inviting me!
What if Mr. Darcy never had the opportunity to propose to Elizabeth Bennet at Hunsford, and did not meet her again until her circumstances were reduced? In Mr. Darcy's Obsession, Mr. Darcy has an even greater social distance to bridge if he wishes to marry Elizabeth. Add in some Fitzwilliam relations with links to the Prince Regent and the loose morals typical of Regency high society who feel that Elizabeth is the material of which mistresses, not wives, are made, and Mr. Darcy has to make a painful choice between the demands of a decadent society and his personal moral sense. The background of this novel is the morally bankrupt ton which Jane Austen knew well, but did not describe in detail in her novels, perhaps because it was a given to her and her contemporaneous readers. Against this backdrop, the characters of Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet shine brightly as they seek to find an alternative to the bounds of decorum that constrain Darcy's usual marital prospects.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Abigail Reynolds is a lifelong Jane Austen enthusiast and a physician. In addition to writing, she has a part-time private practice and enjoys spending time with her family. Originally from upstate New York, she studied Russian, theater, and marine biology before deciding to attend medical school. She began writing From Lambton to Longbourn in 2001 to spend more time with her favorite characters from Pride and Prejudice. Encouragement from fellow Austen fans convinced her to continue asking ‘What if…?’, which led to four other Pemberley Variations and her modern novel, The Man Who Loved Pride and Prejudice (formerly Pemberley by the Sea). She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, two teenaged children, and a menagerie of pets.
For more information, please visit her website.
To read my review of Mr. Darcy's Obsession, please click here.
And now for a GIVEAWAY! The lovely Danielle Jackson at Sourcebooks has offered a copy of Mr. Darcy's Obsession to TWO lucky readers! This was a fantastic book, so trust me when I say you don't want to miss out!
To enter, simply leave me a comment and let me know what one question you would like to ask Jane Austen. That's all! Leave me a comment with your name and email address and you're entered to win your own copy of Mr. Darcy's Obsession!
U.S. and Canada only (my apologies to our overseas friends) and no P.O. boxes.
NO EMAIL ADDRESS WITH YOUR ENTRY = NO ENTRY!
Contest to end on Monday, October 25, 2010 at 11:59 P.M. PST and the lucky winners drawn by randomizer.org on Tuesday, October 26, 2010.