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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Jane Odiwe: It Wasn't Love At First Sight!

 Jane Odiwe:  It Wasn't Love At First Sight!
(I am happy to have Jane Odiwe visiting Darcyholic Diversions today!  There is more information at the bottom of this post about Jane's double give away.  But as always, additional chances will be given for being a GFC here at the site, Liking BTCole on Facebook, posting this link on Twitter or Facebook, etc.  Hope you enjoy getting to know Jane!)
Thank you Barbara for inviting me to talk about my obsession - I’m thrilled to be here!
I have been in love with Mr Darcy for a very long time, though I have to say it wasn’t love at first sight! My first encounter with this dashing hero was watching the old black and white movie of Pride and Prejudice with Lawrence Olivier as Darcy. I was about ten at the time and really didn’t pay him much attention. Elizabeth Bennet was the character I loved. From Mr Darcy’s first put-down Elizabeth was the heroine for me as she proved to be his equal in wit and intelligence.
Later on my Mum introduced me to Pride and Prejudice from the library and though initially I found the language quite strange and difficult, Jane Austen’s words soon wove their magic. As the story unfolded, I made the wonderful discovery that Mr Darcy finds himself attracted to Elizabeth even though he is determined to find fault with her.
When the Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth adaptation was screened on television, the chemistry between the actors really brought the book to life. Along with several other million women across the globe, I saw Mr Darcy take on a whole new persona. No other actor had made such an impact on a character or made Darcy seem so sexy.
For me, the scene at the Netherfield Ball, both in the book and in this adaptation represents all that is best about Jane Austen’s writing and her characterisations. Darcy begins to enjoy Lizzy’s lively conversation and pert manners. Although she is determined to continue her dislike of him, she agrees to dance with him before she can help herself. The conversation that flies between them is an exercise in brilliant dialogue as each of them tries to better the other with a witty retort. Elizabeth is beginning to realize that however fixed her first impressions of Darcy seem, her opinion of him is changing. She recognizes that they have similarities in their characters; they both like to think that they can use their intellect coupled with a wry sense of humour to win an argument or to make a point, all meted out in an economy of language. Darcy and Elizabeth behave for the most part as opposing forces that cannot help being attracted to the other. Elizabeth prides herself on reading the psychology of people – she likes to know what makes them tick. The infuriating thing is that she cannot make Darcy out. When she thinks she has the upper hand, he then seizes power to have the whip hand over her.
Watching this new adaptation changed my life. I re-read Pride and Prejudice, then all of the other novels and became obsessed with the author and what she looked like. In 2003, I was inspired to write and paint a small picture book, Effusions of Fancy, and then as the first sequels were being written I decided to try my hand at a comic tale. Lydia Bennet’s Story was my first novel, swiftly followed by a Sense and Sensibility sequel, Willoughby’s Return. I hesitated over writing a novel with Darcy and Elizabeth because I wanted so much to get it right. Finally, I felt ready to write Mr Darcy’s Secret. I wanted to write a book about Elizabeth and Darcy’s marriage in its early days. In Pride and Prejudice we learn very little of Darcy’s past, and I wondered how Elizabeth might feel if she thought she’d discovered something about her husband’s history that she can do nothing about.
 I enjoy weaving a couple of stories together and really loved writing Georgiana’s story too. The themes of pride and prejudice are as strong as ever, and all takes place against the stunning backdrops of Derbyshire and the Lake District. The Bennets, Bingleys, Collinses, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh all make an appearance as well as Mr Wickham with one or two new characters of my own. In true Jane Austen style everything turns out well in the end.
Elizabeth Darcy is ecstatically happy as mistress of a grand house and wife to the dashing, yet proud Mr Darcy who is proving to be everything she has dreamed of in a loving husband. His former arrogance is rapidly diminishing under her sunny influence; he is even becoming indulgent and sensitive towards her visiting family. But when revelations from an old adversary expose the fact that Darcy was once in love with the mysterious Viola Wickham, it comes as shocking news, not least because Elizabeth is not even aware that her scandalous brother-in-law George Wickham has a stepsister.  As mounting speculation about the paternity of a local boy is hinted at, the discovery of love letters from Viola to Mr Darcy do nothing to allay Elizabeth’s worst fears that her unborn child is not the only Darcy heir and the questions that are provoked about her husband’s true character and reputation will not go away.
Mr Darcy’s secret is a story about love and misunderstandings; of overcoming doubt and trusting to the real feelings of the heart as our sparkling, witty heroine Elizabeth and the powerful, compelling figure of Mr Darcy take centre stage in this romantic tale set in Regency Derbyshire and the Lakes alongside the beloved characters from Pride and Prejudice.

My new book, just launched, is Searching for Captain Wentworth. I am just as in love with Captain Wentworth and I’ve chosen to move away from sequels with this novel which is about a modern heroine who travels across time to meet her very own Captain Wentworth. I’ve absolutely loved writing this book - it’s my love letter to Jane Austen, Bath, Lyme, and of course, Captain Wentworth!

When aspiring writer, Sophie Elliot, receives the keys to the family townhouse in Bath, it's an invitation she can’t turn down, especially when she learns that she will be living next door to the house her favourite author, Jane Austen, lived in. But, the neglected house is harbouring more than the antiquated furniture and nesting mice, though initially Sophie tries to dismiss the haunting visions of a young girl. On discovering that an ancient glove belonging to her mysterious neighbour, Josh Strafford, will transport her back in time to Regency Bath, she questions her sanity, but Sophie is soon caught up in two dimensions, each reality as certain as the other. Torn between her life in the modern world, and that of her ancestor who befriends Jane Austen and her fascinating brother Charles, Sophie's story travels two hundred years across time, and back again, to unite this modern heroine with her own Captain Wentworth. Blending fact and fiction together the tale of Jane Austen’s own quest for happiness weaves alongside, creating a believable world of new possibilities for the inspiration behind the beloved novel, Persuasion. 

I would like to offer two books for an International Giveaway. If you’d like to own either a copy of Mr Darcy’s Secret or a copy of Searching for Captain Wentworth please leave a comment below stating which book you’d prefer and also telling me who is your favourite of Jane Austen’s heroes.

Jane Odiwe
Twitter -- @janeodiwe

Monday, October 22, 2012

Amanda Grange: A Darcy Love Affair Began at the Local Library

Amanda Grange: 
A Darcy Love Affair Began At the Local Library
The photo shows Amanda signing books at the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton last year.
(I am very happy to have Amanda Grange with us at Darcyholic Diversions today.  I began to get to know Amanda during preparations for the Decatur Book Festival this year.  I hope you enjoy her post as much as I did!  Comments on Amanda's post will be entries into the October drawings here on the site. BTCole)

 I first discovered Pride and Prejudice at my local library when I was about twelve or thirteen and I loved it straight away. Jane Austen took me into a whole new world and I loved everything about it: the clothes, the carriages, the balls, the people - the comic characters and the sensible characters - and most of all, Mr Darcy. I’m sure everyone here will know that feeling!
There is something about Mr Darcy that is special. There must be, because he is still enthralling us, two hundred years after Jane Austen first wrote about him.
I’ve often wondered exactly what it is that makes us love him so. I’ve come up with many answers to that question over the years: we love him because he grows throughout the novel and becomes a better man; because he takes notice of Lizzy when she tells him that he’s insufferable; because he’s sensible enough to love Lizzy in the first place; because he’s a good brother and a good friend – the list is endless. But none of these things quite explain his appeal. Mr Darcy is definitely a case of a man being more than the sum of his parts. There’s something special about him, and there was something extra special about Jane Austen when she invented him. She was young and exuberant and I think she must have been half in love with him herself, to write about him so well.
When I’d finished Pride and Prejudice, I went on to read all of Jane Austen’s novels many times, but Pride and Prejudice  is still my favourite.
I first started writing about Mr Darcy in 2003. It’s hard to believe it’s so long ago! I had already written about ten Regency romances, which were published in hardback by UK publisher Robert Hale Ltd. I felt a real thrill when I held my first book – A Most Unusual Governess – in my hands, and when I saw it in the library, where I had had many happy reading sessions. But I had no idea at the time that I would soon be writing something similar, but at the same time different, a retelling of Pride and Prejudice from the hero’s point of view.
It came about by accident. My work as a writer had made me look at some of my favourite books in a different way, and when I was reading Pride and Prejudice again, I thought it was a very modern book because it had a lot of things an editor would look for today. It had a fast pace, a lot of dialogue and short chapters. The only thing it didn’t have, which an editor would want today, was some scenes from the hero’s point of view.
The more I thought about it, the more I was intrigued. I wondered what exactly had happened when Mr Darcy followed Wickham to London, after Wickham’s elopement with Lydia. I started to write my idea of their meeting. I did it for my own amusement because it never occurred to me that I would write a whole book. I loved thinking about exactly what Mr Darcy would have said and done, and what Wickham would have said, and when I’d finished that scene, I wrote the scene where Darcy finds his sister about to elope with Wickham. They were both scenes that were missing from Pride and Prejudice, but we know they took place because Jane Austen gave us some information about them.
I loved writing those scenes, and when I’d finished writing about Darcy’s visit to Georgiana, I found I couldn’t stop. I was intrigued. I wanted to find out what Mr Darcy was thinking and feeling when he first met Elizabeth . . . when he danced with her at the Netherfield ball . . .  I went on and on, until I found, to my surprise, that I’d written the whole book from Mr Darcy’s point of view. The book, of course, was Mr Darcy’s Diary.
I had no idea what my publishers would think of it. There wasn’t really an Austenesque genre in the UK at the time, and I didn’t know anything about the US market. It seems incredible now, but I had no idea if they would take it. I fully expected them to say that it wasn’t I my usual style, and could I please write an other Regency romance instead? But luckily they loved it and they agreed to publish it.
It came out in hardback in the UK in 2005, and it was published in the US in paperback in 2007, and the rest, as they say, is history. It’s still my most popular book and new fans are discovering it all the time, just as new fans are discovering Mr Darcy, Pride and Prejudice,  and the whole world of Austenesque fiction. And I continue to write about Mr Darcy, most recently in Dear Mr Darcy, a retelling in the form of letters, and Pride and Pyramids, which is a sequel which shows us Elizabeth and Darcy fifteen years on from Pride and Prejudice, when they are blissfully married with six lively children! I think you could definitely call me a Darcyholic!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Karen Wasylowski: It All Began with a Battle Over The Remote

Karen Wasylowski: It All Began With a Battle Over the Remote
I am very happy to welcome Karen Wasylowski to Darcyholic Diversions today as she discusses her most recent release, Sons and Daughters.  Karen is offering a copy of her book (either eBook or softcover--the winners choice) to one lucky reader.  Your comment enters you into the drawing.  Additional entries for becoming a Google Friend Follower of this blog, tweeting this post, Liking Barbara Tiller Cole on Facebook, or sharing this on your facebook wall.

Sons and Daughters
(1 October, 2012)
By Karen V. Wasylowski

A sequel to her book
(1 February, 2011)

Which was a sequel to Jane Austen’s
(28 January, 1813)

The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother." 
-- Theodore Hesburgh, Catholic Priest and President Emeritus of the University of Notre Dame

It began seven years ago now.  I was watching “Pride and Prejudice” on television and my husband was nagging me to write – something – anything to get the remote back.  Well, we were living in Florida (and still are) and I was bored to tears, so I easily tuned him out and began to fantasize about the movie I had just seen and perhaps what would have happened to all the pretty people.  After all, Pride and Prejudice is really just a simple family story about sibling rivalries, young love, hopes and dreams.  No monsters – no homicidal maniacs living in the attic (although, it does have its share of crabby aunts, beleaguered fathers, ditzy mothers, sisters, cousins, friends)… 

Thus was born my first book.  “Darcy and Fitzwilliam” began the journey, following (read stalking) the gorgeous Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and his affable cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam.  I love family stories and there are definite hints in Pride and Prejudice that the two men were close, probably raised like brothers.  After all, old Mr. Darcy had given guardianship of his precious daughter, Georgiana, to both young men - together.  And, you can assume that Darcy’s mother and Fitzwilliam’s father were brother and sister.  In those days a first born son was often given the surname of his mother as his Christian name.  So Colonel Fitzwilliam’s father was probably brother to Anne Fitzwilliam; then Anne married George Darcy and became Anne Fitzwilliam Darcy and her son was named Fitzwilliam Darcy and her daughter was Georgiana – George and Anna. 

You can see I was really, really bored in those days; I had a lot of time to sort this all out.

Pride and Prejudice, to me, is the beginning of this family saga. 

DARCY AND FITZWILLIAM was published in February of 2011.  I had picked up the tale of Darcy and Lizzy shortly after their marriage when they are starry eyed newlyweds, still struggling with her annoying mother and father, her sisters, his horrid aunt.  The Colonel comes back into their lives then, returned from Waterloo, a man with no purpose, no direction – no money.  He has nightmares, mood swings; he has seen too much death, too many atrocities; and, he has been living a rather debauched lifestyle.  I envisioned him as a man opposite to Darcy in many ways.  Where Darcy was meticulous, elegant and urbane, Fitzwilliam is a rogue, a fashion disaster, a rascal.  Where Darcy has the huge responsibility of Pemberley thrust upon him at a young age, Fitzwilliam is a second son, so nothing is expected of him – except to marry well.

My first book followed the men as they learn to live with the women they love and eventually become fathers.  They make some mistakes along the way, as we all do, but they are loved enough to be forgiven.  But the story was not over yet – it couldn’t be –
I wasn’t ready to let go of my boys.

SONS AND DAUGHTERS (Book Two of Darcy and Fitzwilliam) was published October 2012 and I was able to continue my family saga.  It begins five years after the ending of DARCY AND FITZWILLIAM.  The men are in their thirties and have young children now, their marriages are older and more settled, familiar.  And, like all married men, their responsibilities have doubled.  Every decision they make now affects many lives; people they love deeply depend upon them to choose what is best for their futures – each man faces unique challenges to his character. 

Then there are the children – my favorite part – the “Fitzwilliam Mob” of brothers, sisters and cousins growing up together, almost as one unit.  At first they are seen as little children, adoring their fathers, finding their voices, forming alliances.  Driving their parents insane...

Then they are adolescents – discovering fathers are human after all, struggling to break free and assert their own identities, becoming sexually aware, questioning authority.  Driving their parents insane…

Then they are adults – falling in love, becoming heartbroken, fearing to disappoint their parents and yet willing to stand on their own, make their own choices, their own mistakes.  Driving their parents insane…

Some things never change, no matter what the era.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Linda Gonschior: I Was a Darcyholic Before I Even Knew Jane Austen's Name

Linda Gonschior:
I Was a Darcyholic Before I Even Knew Jane Austen’s Name
Very happy to have Linda Gonschior (known to some as TEG) and Mickey!  TEG is someone that I met online on the fan fiction boards a long time ago. I was happy along with some of you that her story, Reflections, is now in book form! Hope you enjoy getting to know her.

Linda and Meryton Press are giving away a copy of Reflections to one lucky commenter.  Additional entries will be given for joining this site, tweeting this post, joining this site as a member via Google Friend Connect (GFC) (See the left hand column on the blog to join!), sharing this on Facebook or your blog, Friend Barbara Tiller Cole on Facebook,  clicking 'like’ on Barbara Tiller Cole, Author's Facebook Page.

Five times, at least, I watched Greer Garson and Lawrence Olivier grace my TV screen on a Sunday afternoon and still I’d never heard of Jane Austen.  Always missing the first fifteen minutes of the film, I never knew its title, that the story was from a famous novel nor that it actually bore little resemblance to the time period it represented.  Flouncy skirts on fluffy dresses were hardly Regency.

But I digress.

I loved that movie, obviously having watched it several times, and many years later when I picked a book from the shelf at a friend’s cottage, little did I realize what would happen.  About a third of the way into the story I was thinking ‘I’ve read this before, haven’t I?’ but I was wrong. I hadn’t read it. I had watched a skinny movie version that I loved.  However, this bit about five daughters and a rich guy ... I just knew there was going to be a failed proposal happening halfway through the telling.

At seven months pregnant I wasn’t feeling up to much more than sitting back and reading that day, and was too engrossed to put the book down anyway, let alone want to leave it behind when it was time to go home. Fortunately, our friend was horrified at the thought of a romance novel occupying the bookshelf in his cottage and he begged me to take it away.  Naturally, I obliged.

Eventually, after more readings than I can count, my first copy of Pride and Prejudice fell apart. By then I had a set of videos of the 1995 BBC series!  I could listen and look and love it endlessly!  Such immersion cannot but lead one to imagine, wish and then write down those imaginings.  What began as delightful escape from the stresses of normal, everyday life soon led to an obsession with the characters. They weren’t fictional. They lived in my head and insisted on being introduced to the world at large.  They argued while I washed the dishes, had full conversations while I walked the dog and inspired new adventures as I watched my son at play in the park.

I gathered notebooks and secretly wrote these snippets and stories, bits and pieces cobbled together so that Darcy and Elizabeth could live beyond the confines of their book.  One day the inspiration was so powerful that I wrote for twelve hours straight, from midafternoon to the wee hours of the next morning, and finished a full twenty-one typed pages story.  This was Reflections at its birth.  The only person with whom I shared this was a co-worker, a teacher who encouraged me to explore this interest I had in writing.  He had never read Austen but I lent him my copy of Pride and Prejudice, which he loved, and we had many a fine chat about her talents.

Then I discovered the online world of fellow Obsessives ...er...Darcyholics, which further fed my imagination.  I lurked for months before finally working up the courage to post the first chapter of Reflections, which by then had undergone a transformation and was about to become five times its original length.  It wasn’t long before a sequel started forming in my head and then another and more ideas and more ... Regency, modern, silly, serious, it didn’t matter.  Writing was as much an obsession as reading every story post.

Never having any intention of publishing, it was a surprise when Meryton Press contacted me about putting the Reflections series into print.  My life was a bit chaotic at the time and so it took several months before I revisited the question and said yes.  The adventure began and the stories I said I would never revise were suddenly priority one.

With the publication of Reflections now a reality I have been working hard on revising the second story in this modern series, A Tarnished Image.  These first two books are set in 1995, about the time I wrote them, and the final installment takes place 20 years later.  That one will present the challenge in revising as I did not anticipate how much technology would change in that time, how it would affect the way we live our lives, pursue relationships and maintain contact with our friends and family.

Why do I do it?

Writing allows me to explore the fascinating complexity of personal relationships, how people understand and misunderstand one another, as well as the challenges and tragedies of everyday life.  Jane Austen created characters so realistic in their strengths and weaknesses that it is easy to feel a part of their lives and that they could just as easily exist in our own.  Who doesn’t know a man who is a good and generous but somehow turns off those unfamiliar with him?  Or the affable guy who is everyone’s friend, so easily manipulated that you fear him getting involved with the wrong crowd.  Ladies with sharp wit, or one whose goal in life is to pair up her single friends with the perfect mate, and the naive girl with the big imagination are plentiful enough, too.

Strangely, I was never one for romance novels but what I have always liked in the books I read is the characterization and the relationships between those characters more than anything else.  I grow bored with narrative detail about settings, technical specs (I’ve read a LOT of Star Trek books) and ‘lecture material’ while I soak up the way dialogue is written, what it says or doesn’t say about the character uttering the line.  Right or wrong, my imagination fills in the blanks.

Isn’t that what we love most about Jane Austen’s works?  What she didn’t say is as important as what she did.  It certainly has left the door wide open for debate amongst her readers and, to our greatest delight, fuelled the imaginations of so many that the publishing world cannot ignore it.

So now my ‘secret’ is out.  My closet existence as a JAFF writer is exposed to friends and family who never had a clue.

Yes, I’m a Darcyholic and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

C. Allyn Pierson: Jane Austen and Me, a Memoir

C. Allyn Pierson:
 Jane Austen and Me, a Memoir
I am very happy to have C. Allyn Pierson visiting with us here today.  Here she is posing with her Newfoundland, Muzzy, better known to some as 'The Beast'.  As he is in both of her books, it is only fair that you get to meet both of them today!

C. Allyn Pierson will be giving away a copy of Mr. Darcy's Little Sister to a lucky winner.  Commenting on this post will enter you into the drawing along with:  joining this site, tweeting this post, joining this site as a member via Google Friend Connect (GFC) (See the left hand column on the blog to join!), sharing this on Facebook or your blog, Friend Barbara Tiller Cole on Facebook,  clicking 'like’ on Barbara Tiller Cole, Author's Facebook Page.

My loving and intimate relationship with Jane Austen began 22 years ago and was highly dependent upon several chance occurrences. My husband and I are both physicians and our younger son has autism. When he was young childcare was a problem- he needed extra attention and our older son needed care as well. I tried hiring nannies that would come in during the day (we did not have room for a live-in nanny), but was very disappointed with them. It seemed that all the professional nannies left Iowa to work in California and New York, where there were more people who hired live-in nannies and where they could see some of the world. The ones who stayed behind seemed to regard childcare as a job suitable for someone who was uneducated, untrained and therefore unable to get a job that did not involved flipping burgers. Sorry, not what I wanted for my children. 

By the time my younger son turned three we were just finishing up building our dream house, and we included a bed-sitting room on the lower level for an au pair. For those of you who are unfamiliar with au pairs, it is a cultural exchange program administered by the US government that allows foreigners, usually from Europe, to come to the US for one year to do childcare. The program requires that the au pairs not work more than 40 hours a week, they must get 6 credit hours of college level classes while they are here and they must be between ages 18 and 26.  We were able to hire a much higher quality of babysitter through the au pair program and also had the fun of meeting people from England, South Africa, and Latvia over the course of 15 years.

Our third au pair was the one who changed my life. She was a big fan of Jane Austen and, most importantly, introduced me to the 1995 BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice! I did not study Jane Austen in any of the literature classes I had taken (the teachers always seemed to prefer depressing authors like Hardy and Dostoyevsky). I had struggled through Pride and Prejudice when my children were infants, and for some reason it just didn’t click with me. I did not understand why the women thought Mr. Darcy was at all desirable and did not see any reason for Elizabeth Bennet to change her mind about him. I just did not get it. Perhaps the word “infants” is the key here…baby brain is a terrible thing, but fortunately it does pass, and when Karen came to live with us I was ripe for the transformation into a Janeite. I read Pride and Prejudice again and it was a revelation!

How could I have missed Jane’s wit and humour, her unsentimental view of society and the foibles of human beings? How could I have allowed the 19th Century word usage to blind me to the universal truths contained in Jane’s deceptively simple stories?

Not surprisingly, I devoured her books, but there were so few of them that I was left unsatisfied. I watched many of the films of her novels, but most of them were seriously flawed (such as Elizabeth Bennet looking much more like Scarlett O’Hara than a Regency lady…). I treasured those that seemed to me to embody the spirit of the books: the BBC/A&E production of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility. They were wonderful!

Eventually I very carefully tried a retelling of Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s point of view. I looked at a lot of reviews and decided that Pamela Aiden’s sounded good. I timed it well- I only had to wait for a couple of months for the third volume to be released and I was eager to get it. I enjoyed her writing and her knowledge of the Regency, and when I got to the end I found myself thinking about what came next. I soon realized that I had a strong feeling about where the story should go and sat down at my laptop and started writing. This book might never have been finished if my elder son had not left for college. I wrote in his room after my younger son went to bed, and when my husband wasn’t home.

In fact, I did not tell my husband I was writing a book until I was almost finished and knew that I would be able to complete it. I told him when we were out to dinner on one of our weekly “date” nights, beginning with “There is something I need to tell you.” He looked a little worried for a moment, then was stunned when I told him what I had done. I had decided to go with a self-publishing company because I knew my manuscript was not ready for prime time and I did not know anyone who could direct me to editors and other professionals for help (we live in a small town in Iowa!). When I told him what my book was about he paused a few seconds, then said, “You just might be able to sell that.”

After self-publishing my book, titled And This Our Life: Chronicles of the Darcy Family, which told about the first year of married life for the Darcy’s, I was contacted by an agent who was interested in selling the book to a publisher who carried a lot of Jane Austen related works. They wanted the story to be about Georgiana Darcy (who was very important in my original work) and I was good with this- by the time my original book had gone through editing and rewriting I was wishing that I could redo it with Georgiana as the lead character. I rewrote it completely in three weeks (boy did I have a headache!) and it was published as Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister.

Not long before that release I was invited to join Austen Author blog and I am still a member after 2 years. Through AuAu I have met many wonderful writers, who are now friends as well as great sources of information. It’s good to hang around people who speak your language and don’t think you are weird when you say that you are “all astonishment!”

Friday, October 12, 2012

Sally Smith O'Rourke Shares Her Own Special Story of a Darcy Dedication

Sally Smith O'Rourke's Special Story of a Darcy Dedication
Through the Decatur Book Festival I was blessed to begin to know a number of Austen inspired authors that I had not yet had the opportunity to know.  Sally was one of those.  I am very happy to have her visit with us at Darcyholic Diversions today and learn a bit more about her latest release.

Sally is offering two eBook copies of her latest release, Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen, for those who comment on the her post.  Additional entries will be given for joining this site, tweeting this post, joining this site as a member via Google Friend Connect (GFC) (See the left hand column on the blog to join!), sharing this on Facebook or your blog, Friend Barbara Tiller Cole on Facebook,  clicking 'like’ on Barbara Tiller Cole, Author's Facebook Page. 

Some of you may be aware that my late husband, Michael, and I collaborated on The Man Who Loved Jane Austen. It was a very personal project that he called the ultimate valentine because it came out of our love for each other.

We decided to bind the finished product and give it as gifts to friends and family. Originally we did a dozen copies that were hand bound with green ribbon in three volumes as Austen’s books were printed. When people started asking for additional copies we had them professionally printed and bound rather than trying to keep up with the demand with handmade editions.

It was fun that everyone seemed to enjoy the book, but the fun didn’t last long. I lost Michael suddenly on November 14, 2001; my world crashed. Everything went on the shelf, even my life.

A few months after the funeral, a close friend (the best man at our wedding) called and told me that I needed to get out so he was taking me to the screening of a movie. He was right of course, it would have been very easy for me to become a hermit. As a member of BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) he had passes to an, as yet, unreleased British film. I grudgingly agreed to go and just as I was leaving he called again and asked that I bring a copy of the book. “Why?” I asked (he had gotten one of the original hand bound editions). “I want to give it to someone.” I picked up a copy and left.

The screening was at one of the film and television studios in Hollywood. As it was only a short time after 9/11 the security was extreme. There were check points to get on to the parking lot, the walk through gate, the building entrance and the theatre itself. Very time consuming.

When we reached the stairs leading to the theatre it was clear the theatre was not yet open as a crowd was gathering in the hall. Apparently the film had arrived without numbers differentiating the reels so the projectionist had no idea in which order they were to run. Until it was cleared up they wouldn’t let anyone in the theatre (never was really sure why, overly secure I guess). A tall, handsome young man politely made his way through the crowd and straightened it all out and we were finally allowed to enter the screening room.

While Roger made his rounds to visit with friends I sat down and waited, still finding it difficult to mingle with people; particularly strangers. After a while he came over, handed me the book and looked up the aisle, “Go give it to him.” I looked over my shoulder, six feet away was the star of the movie we were there to see. The tall young man who had fixed the film roll problem. I looked back at Roger quizzically. “You dedicated the book to him, give it to him.” “Seriously?” I asked. He pulled me to my feet, “Yes.”

We had dedicated the book to him. To him, Jennifer Ehle and Jane Austen. I took a deep breath and looked back at Roger; he nodded his head and sat down. Slowly I made my way up the steps and stood next to him as he finished a conversation with someone else. He turned to me and smiled, “Hello.” I didn’t reciprocate the greeting, I just said, “I have something for you.”

His lovely smile turned to trepidation and I realized that he was afraid I was a stalker. I assured him I wasn’t, told him about the book and showed him the dedication. The smile returned and he thanked me as the house lights dimmed and we returned to our seats.

After a much anticipated Question and Answer session with the film’s director, producer and cast, Roger and I headed to the exit. As we neared the door the young man stopped me. He thanked me again, saying he was exceedingly touched and had never been given a nicer compliment. He bent down and kissed my cheek and then was pulled away by another fan.

In the tram that took us to the car a woman’s voice asked, “You’re the one who gave Colin the book aren’t you?” I turned around, the question had been asked by Minnie Driver who was sitting next to Saffron Burrows. I only had time to respond in the affirmative when we arrived at the car.

It was an amazing evening but I didn’t really appreciate and enjoy it as much as I might have. The wound incurred by the loss of Mike was still raw and I was very much in a daze most of the time. Still the gracious young man left an indelible impression and what else can you say when you’ve been kissed by Colin Firth?

Somehow Darcyholic Diversions seemed the perfect place for the telling of this story even though this post is supposed to be for the launch of my newest book, Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen (also dedicated to Jane Austen, Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth). It is the expansion and continuation of the story in The Man Who Loved Jane Austen. It delves into the complex nature of Fitzwilliam Darcy, the 21st century American horseman who slipped through a rip in the fabric of time and met Jane Austen.

Eliza Knight, the Manhattan artist who finds the letter proving to Darcy that he did, in fact, travel in time, has fallen in love with the enigmatic Virginian after a long weekend at his home, Pemberley Farms. His epic tale of love and romance in Regency England puts Eliza on the defensive. How can she compete with the inimitable Jane Austen? And things are happening in the small hamlet of Chawton, England that could change everything. Will Jane Austen be the wedge that divides the modern couple or the tie that binds them?

Comments On Sally's Latest Release:

Ann Channon of Jane Austen’s House Museum (Chawton Cottage) said:
“I have finished Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen and really liked it. Your books are imaginative and very different. Your ideas are new and fresh and endearing. Well, done.”

…smartly old-fashioned love story that is poignant and completely enthralling." Regina Jeffers

A Sneak Peak Excerpt From Sally's Latest Book!

Pemberley Farms, Virginia
Summer, Now

Torch flames danced in the still summer night as liveried footmen ran ahead to light the way for the beautifully restored, horse drawn carriages. Gravel crunched under the wheels as the remaining guests of this year’s Rose Ball made their way to the gates of Pemberley Farms. It was meant to look like a scene from the past and Eliza Knight had no doubt that it did. In fact, she was sure this is how it looked in 1795 when the first Rose Ball was held. At least, she imagined this was how it looked and sounded.
Eliza pushed herself away from the railing on the balcony of her bedroom in Pemberley House as the grandfather clock on the second floor landing struck the half hour. Darkness fell over the estate as the young men doused their torches, leaving only moonlight. The footfalls of the remaining servants faded into the distance and all was quiet. The mournful cry of a hoot owl signaled the close of this amazing fairytale evening.

Although the sun was fully up in the Virginia summer sky, it was not yet hot. Fitz found jumping exhilarating; the cool morning air caressing his face, and Lord Nelson, so strong and graceful, took all the jumps with no effort.
Heritage Week was over so things could get back to normal. He shrugged. Whatever normal is. He realized there was a very good chance that his normal was about to change radically. Eliza’s letter—the one she had found written to him from Jane—had ended his search for the truth of his Regency encounter. But Eliza did much more than give him the letter.
He had been merely surviving, not living, in the years since his mother’s death. He’d thrown himself into the business of Pemberley Farms to the exclusion of almost everything else. Eliza’s arrival had heralded an acute awareness of that fact. It was as though a light was suddenly shining so he could see the world around him. She made him want to live again. And she had given him the letter… Jane’s letter.
Fitz reined Lord Nelson to a walk as they entered the cool shade of the woods on the edge of his property.
Jane. He had spent more than three years seeking proof of his meeting with her and of her feelings for him. Almost as if he’d been transported again back to Chawton in 1810, the image of Jane’s sweet face flooded his mind. He thought back to that morning and his inauspicious entrance into Jane Austen’s life.

The combination of his head injury and the laudanum prescribed by Mr. Hudson, the Austen family physician, caused Darcy to slip in and out of consciousness. He tried to sit up, the effort making him dizzy.
Jane gently laid a hand on his chest. “Please, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Hudson wants you to remain still.”
Through a cotton mouth, his head spinning, Darcy asked, “Mr. Hudson?”
“The doctor,” Jane said. “You must rest now Mr. Darcy.” The American looked at her face. Her curiosity was palpable even in his drugged state. Unable to think clearly, never mind responding to questions he wasn’t sure he could answer, he closed his eyes completely and turned his head away.
Jane returned to her vanity table where she continued to write; a single candle and the flames in the fireplace her only light. Interrupted in her writing by a low murmur from Darcy, she took the candle and quietly approached the bed. He was tossing back and forth, his face flushed and contorted; he was speaking in quiet tones, a hodgepodge of words that meant nothing to her. He spoke what she could only suppose were the nonsensical ramblings of a sick brain; she attributed words like television and jet to his head injury and delirium. She placed her hand softly on his cheek and was distressed by the heat radiating from him. Using fresh linen soaked in water from the pitcher on her wash stand, Jane swabbed his face and neck, then laid it across his forehead. It seemed to calm him and she went back to her writing.
Each time he grew restless Jane stopped writing and went to the bed to refresh the linen with cool water. After three episodes in close succession she remained on the edge of the bed so she was at hand, and each time he started to toss and turn she would caress his face and neck with the cool, damp linen in hopes that it would, in time, reduce his fever.
She stayed there until Darcy’s features turned placid and he was breathing more evenly. He finally seemed to be sleeping comfortably. She laid her small, soft hand on his cheek. The fever was broken. She dropped the cloth into the basin. Stiff from sitting in one position for so long without support, she stood up and stretched. She was not particularly tired but needed to get some rest.
Quietly she crossed the wooden floor and slipped the small pages of writing she was working on into the drawer of the vanity, then took a nightgown from the closet next to the fireplace. Glancing back at the bed she stepped behind the screen.
He opened his eyes just enough to see her slender, full-breasted figure silhouetted on the muslin screen, back-lit by the remnants of the fire as the light fabric of her nightgown floated down to envelope her.
Jane stopped at the bed before making her way to Cassandra’s room for a few hours of sleep. As she stood over him he watched surreptitiously through the veil of his eyelashes. She leaned down and whispered, “Good night, Mr. Darcy,” almost brushing his lips with her own. In spite of his continuing laudanum haze, he could see that her eyes were filled with a tenderness that caused him to grab her hand as she straightened up; he didn’t want her to go.
Without opening his eyes or letting go of her hand he said, “Please don’t leave me.”
Unsure whether this was further evidence of the delirium or whether he was actually requesting her presence, she pulled her hand away. He did not move to take it again but said, “Please, stay.”
Cognizant of Mr. Hudson’s admonition of keeping the injured American calm and concerned her leaving might agitate him, Jane sat once again on the edge of the bed. Darcy smiled in the flickering flame of the dying fire. He said nothing more but gently took her hand. He did not relinquish it again until she rose to move to a chair by the side of the bed where she finally slept.
The movement woke him. His mind finally clear of drugs, he scanned the room in the dim, pre-dawn light. There were no electrical outlets or switches, no lamps, television or telephone, and the only clock appeared to be pendulum driven. Everyone he’d seen wore costumes similar to the ones people wore to the Rose Ball. Those things and the medical treatment he had received led him to the inexplicable conclusion that somehow he’d fallen into another time—a time when Jane Austen was alive.
And there she sat, serene in what had to be an uncomfortable position for sleep; his nurse, his savior and much prettier than she was depicted in the only portrait of her to survive to the twenty-first century. She was not the brazen hussy of Darcy family lore but a sweet and loving woman who took care of him without concern for her own safety or expecting anything in return. His mother would have said she was a true Christian.
As he watched her in the pale light of the dying embers his head started to throb as though a nail was being driven through it. He closed his eyes and blessed sleep overtook him.
Jane was an incredibly strong, intelligent, willful and virtuous woman who followed the propriety of the day… mostly. During the last three years he’d often wondered what might have happened between them if he’d been forced to stay in early nineteenth-century England. Of course with the way her brothers felt about him, he probably wouldn’t have seen her again.
If the circumstances had been different would he have married her? He could have been happy with her, he supposed, but over the years he’d come to realize that the love he felt for her was based on who she was, the awe in which he held her, caring for him when she certainly didn’t have to, loving him. Then again, did she love him? She had never said it and the letter Eliza had found and given him showed obvious affection but she urged him to find his true love. Apparently she didn’t think she was it. Had they ever loved each other or had it just been a fling across the ages?
He laughed. What difference did any of it make? Jane Austen had been dead for almost two hundred years. Still, the undisputed icon of witty English romance had kissed him whether she loved him or not. He still had to pinch himself to believe it had ever happened.
He had no such questions about Eliza. Everything felt right when he was with her. This was no fling. He had no idea where they were headed, but for the first time in years he was looking forward to the rest of his life. As long as Eliza was with him he didn’t care where they were headed.
Fitz and Lord Nelson crossed the bridge at a leisurely gait; the ground fog was burning off in the warm morning sun. Had it really been only two days since he and the great stallion were galloping across the bridge before the fog had lifted and run Eliza off the road and into a muddy drainage ditch? He hadn’t even realized she was there until it had happened. When he did, he brought Nelson to a stop and, without questioning who she was or why she was walking along a road on his property, he had lifted her onto Lord Nelson’s back and then swung up behind her. She was slightly light headed from the sudden fall, and once on the horse she had leaned against his chest and he’d had to control a strong desire to kiss the top of her head. He still didn’t understand how a complete stranger could make him feel that way, but he didn’t really care. From the first moment, being with her felt right and wonderful and that was all that mattered.
She had touched something in him that no one else ever had, including Jane, even before he knew her. At the Austen exhibit at the New York Public Library he had found himself staring at her. He laughed remembering that he had thought of her as a raven-haired beauty. Then two days ago she had come out of the fog and into his life.
He had told her his story about jumping through a rift in time and meeting Jane Austen. It had been very difficult at first, but once he started it tumbled out and had been a relief that he wasn’t carrying it around anymore. It was as though a weight had been lifted and this slight, feisty New Yorker had done the lifting. She had listened to him with an intensity that had made her a part of the story. She had been kind and compassionate—he had seen real grief when she asked him about leaving Jane—and she had given him the letter that answered his questions about whether he’d actually met Jane Austen and how Jane felt about him.
Jane would always hold a special place in his heart, but Eliza held his heart. Maybe it was too early to take it all for love, but it certainly felt the way he'd always thought love is supposed to feel.
Horse and rider stepped out from the cool canopy of the woods and into the warm summer sun. Spurring his favorite horse to a full gallop Fitz guided him over every fence and stream on their way back to the barn.

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