December 8, 2010
Author Interview: Jack Caldwell and a Giveaway
Hi Jack, welcome to Psychotic State and thank you for taking the time to chat with me and my readers.
JC: Thank you. I’m very happy to be here.
I just finished Pemberley Ranch and I adored it! And this is coming from a reader who will generally shy away from westerns so this is effusive praise. How on earth did you get the idea to marry Jane Austen with the post-Civil War era?
JC: I’m very happy you enjoyed Pemberley Ranch. One of the themes of Pride and Prejudice is the preconceived notions and miscomprehensions the principals have about each other, and how two good people can overcome them. In Austen’s work, the over-riding issue is the class system of the Regency period. I decided to take Darcy and Elizabeth into a time period where the walls preventing understanding were much harder to scale—the Reconstruction Era in southern United States after the Civil War. Thanks to war-fever and propaganda, the civilians on both sides were unaware of the full truth, and they made their decisions on closely-held beliefs, rumors, and lies. I made Elizabeth a Yankee and Darcy a Rebel—and let the sparks fly!
Speaking of Jane Austen, how long have you been a fan of her work?
JC: I first read Jane Austen in 1981, after watching the BBC Pride and Prejudice mini-series on PBS. I have been fortunate to read all her major works.
Being a male author who is not only a fan of Austen but also writing an Austen-inspired book, did you feel there were more or less expectations placed on you?
JC: I am beyond grateful that the mainly female readers of Austen-inspired fiction have embraced a male writer. I knew I could write Darcy and the other male characters. My concern was to get the females right, especially Elizabeth. I was attracted to her because I enjoy strong women. My family is full of strong women and I made sure I married one. My female characters can stand on their own two feet; they are not angst-filled wallpaper. Thankfully, the readers seem to enjoy my take.
Pemberley Ranch included a wide assortment of characters from various Jane Austen works, with wonderful creative license on your part with some of them.
JC: There was no way I could be a slave to Austen canon and have the story work, so I had to make changes. As for characters from other Austen novels, like Northanger Abbey and Emma, there is a reason in the Jane Austen Fan Fiction universe I am considered the “King of Crossovers.” It’s fun.
Which character did you find most interesting to write and why?
JC: Much of the history of the period is told through Will Darcy, so I would have to say him. However, the romance between Charlotte and Fitz was a lot of fun to write.
Which character was the most difficult for you to express and why?
JC: Evil is poisonous. Every time I visited Whitehead’s thoughts, I felt like taking a shower.
Pemberley Ranch is a feast with its rich history and narrative. How much research went into writing it?
JC: I’m a history buff, so it was a matter of inserting what I knew into the story. Still, I want to get things right, so I did research during the six-month writing period. I learned some new things, like Morgan’s Raid into Ohio in 1863 and the struggle for the Texas constitution of 1876, which is still used today.
What was the most difficult part of taking Regency era British characters and transporting them to Texas?
JC: Not all that hard. Remember, I had to toss out some of Austen canon to get the story to work. The structure of behavior, especially between men and woman, was not that different. The hardest thing was to ditch some of Austen’s great lines. I got to keep a lot, but I had to re-word them for 1872 Texas.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
JC: Yes. I have always had stories in my head. Unfortunately, in high school an English teacher thought my writing terrible, and I was discouraged. It would be over a dozen years before I wrote again.
What advice would you consider most valuable to an unpublished author?
JC: Are you writing for yourself or an audience? Do you want to sell a book? If so, you must make compromises.
Frankly, the language in Pemberley Ranch is not as raw as I originally wrote it. It was a lot more like Huckleberry Finn. However, my kind and wise editor explained to me that while certain words may have been authentic for the period, they are considered unmentionable today. People won’t buy it and libraries won’t stock it. What good does it do me to “stay true to my vision” if nobody reads the thing?
If you truly are a good writer, if you have any talent at all, you can get the same point across using acceptable words. It’s why I like classic movies. You don’t have to have nudity to have a really sexy scene—you just have to have talent. Watch the fireworks scene in Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief, and then tell me what you think.
Besides Jane Austen, are there any other writers that inspire you or that you enjoy reading?
JC: For the Regency, I strongly suggest Patrick O’Brian (Aubrey/Maturin series) and C.S. Forester’s Hornblower novels. There is a wonderful gang of writers at Austen Authors. I have incredible respect for J. K. Rowling—her seven-year epic Harry Potter series is an instant classic. It’s much more than a bunch of children’s books.
What is a normal day in the life of Jack Caldwell like?
JC: I do have a day job—I am an economic development consultant. But that includes a lot of writing, as well. As I am a Cajun, I do all the cooking at home. Gumbo, anyone?
Can you tell us what you’re working on now? Any chance you may be working on another Austen-themed novel?
JC: Funny you should ask. My next novel, set for release in the spring of 2012, is a grand sequel to both Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. I told you I was King of the Crossovers.
The book’s title is The Three Colonels. It is set mainly in 1815, during the Hundred Days crisis that began with Napoleon’s escape from Elba and climaxes with the Battle of Waterloo. It’s a huge cast, and while the Darcys are all over it, the central characters are some of Jane Austen’s fighting men—particularly Colonels Fitzwilliam and Brandon—and the women they love. I have original characters in it, and introduce the dashing and dangerous Colonel Sir John Buford to the Austen universe. If the book is successful, it will lead to other post-Regency novels. (Lori's note: Hooray! But Spring of 2012 seems so far away . . .)
If you could sit down with Jane Austen and ask her one question, what would that question be?
JC: I would love to pick her brain and find out how she came up with such immortal lines. Is there a better start to a novel than, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man, in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”?
In an Old West brawl, who emerges victorious:
• Mr. Rushworth or Mr. Collins? Rushworth would only have to sit on Collins to make him cry “uncle!”
• Kid Denny or George Whitehead? Denny would take Whitehead, unless ole George shot him in the back first.
• Charlotte Lucas or Jane Bennet? I’ve gotta put my money on Charlotte—she has to deal with Sheriff Lucas every day. She’s tough.
• Mr. Darcy or Fitzwilliam? Darcy vs, Fitz? I’m not going there! Let’s have the readers comment on that, shall we? (Lori's note: Great idea! See below)
And lastly, if you could use one word to describe Pemberley Ranch, what would it be?
JC: Exciting. (Lori's note: Absolutely agree!)
Thank you so much, Jack, for taking the time to answer my questions and I wish you the best of luck with the exciting Pemberley Ranch. Readers, go get this book now!
When the smoke has cleared from the battlefields and the civil war has finally ended, fervent Union supporter Beth Bennet reluctantly moves with her family from their home in Meryton, Ohio, to the windswept plains of Rosings, Texas. Handsome, haughty Will Darcy, a Confederate officer back from the war, owns half the land around Rosings, and his even haughtier cousin, Cate Burroughs, owns the other half.
In a town as small as Rosings, Beth and Will inevitably cross paths. But as Will becomes enchanted with the fiery Yankee, Beth won’t allow herself to warm to the man who represents the one thing she hates most: the army that killed her only brother.
But when carpetbagger George Whitehead arrives in Rosings, all that Beth thought to be true is turned on its head, and the only man who can save her home is the one she swore she’d never trust…
“It’s Pride and Prejudice meets Gone with the Wind—with that kind of romance and excitement.”
—Sharon Lathan, bestselling author of In the Arms of Mr. Darcy
About the Author
Jack Caldwell, a native of Louisiana living in the Midwest, is an economic developer by trade. Mr. Caldwell has been an amateur history buff and a fan of Jane Austen for many years. Pemberley Ranch is his first published work. He lives with his wife in Minnesota. For more information, please visit http://webpages.charter.net/jvcla25/ and on http://www.austenauthors.com/, where he regularly contributes.
AND A GIVEAWAY!
Thanks to the lovely Danielle Jackson at Sourcebooks, I have not just one but TWO copies of Pemberley Ranch to give away!
Don't hesitate to get your own copy of the first version of Pride and Prejudice set in Texas - - it is worth every moment spent reading and then some. To read my review of this fantastic adventure, click HERE.
To enter, simply leave me a comment and let me know who you think would be king in an Old West throwdown - - Darcy or Fitzwilliam. Feel free to add why, if you'd like, or just choose your man.
Me personally? I am choosing Darcy. Nothing against Fitz, I wouldn't want go up against him and he certainly proves his mettle in Pemberley Ranch but it's Mr. Darcy . . .
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 Friday, December 17, 2010 at 11:59 P.M. PST and the lucky winners drawn by randomizer.org on Saturday, December 18, 2010.