An Interview with Linda Beutler
While on Her
My Mr. Darcy & Your Mr. Bingley
What a treat it is to be hosting Linda Beutler on her current blog tour! Her bolder Jane and Bingley make for an intriguing variation. I hope you enjoy getting to know her a bit better in the interview here and have a chance to check out her newest book as well. Welcome Linda!
Before I dive into your many “home questions”, as Colonel
Fitzwilliam would say, I just want to thank you for making the time for this
interview and for me! We live in busy times, and for you to have signed on to
the blog tour and then read My Mr. Darcy
& Your Mr. Bingley to prepare is kindness plain and simple, and very
much appreciated. As you commented as we communicated in advance of this, there
are so many JAFF titles out right now, how do we authors distinguish ourselves?
I’m hoping that’s a rhetorical question, because there are as many answers as
there are readers! Perhaps the best way is to just keep at it? And of course
inspiration striking is always helpful.
With that thought in mind—how does inspiration come?—I’ll
get right down to addressing your questions.
Thanks again for hosting MMD&YMB,
Q: When did you first find Jane Austen’s books? How did you
LB: There is a pesky little memory in the back of my mind of
watching what must have been a TV dramatization of Pride and Prejudice with my mother and sister when I was quite
small (maybe a rerun of the 1958 version?). I only recall not liking any of the
men, and wondering why Jane got to have Bingley and Lizzy didn’t (now there’s a plot bunny). As I say, I was quite young. It wasn’t the
Olivier/Garson production, because I’d have remembered when we watched it in
high school. That was memorable because one of my friends, who went on to
become a costumer for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, was appalled at the
antebellum gowns. She was so deeply offended that she spent days designing
proper costumes, earning a massive extra credit points in our theater class.
Maybe the woefully anachronistic hoop skirts worn by Greer and the gang are
what sent my schoolmate off on her successful career! At the time, my heart was
not so easily touched.
During my years as an English major—studying Wilde and Shaw
and F. Scott Fitzgerald—I picked up Jane Austen’s Sanditon on the paperback rack at the five-and-dime where I worked.
It was fascinating to think of her dying in the middle and others presuming to
finish it. I’ve come to many famous authors the same way, wriggling my way in
through minor works. In 1980 I was an interested follower of the BBC P&P TV adaptation (Elizabeth Garvey
and David Rintoul), and sometime during my career at the Multnomah County
Library I purchased Jane Austen’s collected works (the six novels) and barreled
through the whole thing.
Q: How did you find Jane Austen inspired literature?
LB: Sometime in early 2011 I read a review of one of Abigail
Reynolds’ books in the Sunday arts & leisure section of The Oregonian newspaper. I thought it a
highly singular thing to have done, audacious and arrogant, but gave it no more
thought. That September, during
the break between summer and autumn teaching terms, there was What Would Mr. Darcy Do? on the “staff
recommendations” shelf at my local library. Everything about it blew me away.
It was a portal to a world I had never dreamed existed. I read everything
Abigail had written up to then, and moved on to everyone else. Even then there
was a wide array of great, good, bad, and indifferent and at a certain point, I
started doodling my own paragraphs and storylines. By December of 2012 I had
written two novels. On January 10, 2013 I hit the “send” button to Meryton
Press with the first three chapters of The
Red Chrysanthemum. It was published that year.
Now mind you, to that point, I had no idea of the even
larger online world. When I signed my contract with MP, they suggested I have a
look-in at the Meryton Literary Society and their A Happy Assembly forum (AHA),
and I’ve been happy there. I have not posted online anywhere else, and I have
stayed with Meryton Press as my publisher.
Q: Did one of the Austen film adaptations become part of the
reason that you found Jane Austen inspired literature?
LB: The 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice wasn’t the reason I found the “JAFF-o-sphere”,
as I call it, but it is by far the version exerting the greatest influence on my work. If I try to be high-minded I
credit Andrew Davies’ screenplay, but if I’m honest, it is the casting. I saw the mini-series when it first ran,
but after reading Abigail Reynolds, I watched it again and bought my own DVD
As to Austen’s other novels, I have found much to like in
each of their adaptations, but something about how those novels are plotted
keeps me from venturing away from P&P for source material.
Q: Is there anything about your life outside of writing that
was part of your creative decision to write your latest book?
LB: Life outside of writing? Between garden writing,
technical writing for work, and all of the writing involved with teaching
horticulture, I am pretty much writing something or other everyday! But I don’t
necessarily work on Jane Austen-esque writing everyday.
My current novel started out as a brief short-story wherein
Bingley’s sisters are not at home when Jane Bennet calls in London, but Bingley
learns she’s there and sweeps her off her feet. I’ve always thought Louisa and
Caroline took a big risk not responding to Jane’s letters telling them she was
coming—quite a thing to leave to chance. In one of the discussion forums at
AHA, a spirited debate (one wouldn’t want to say heated at an assembly such as that) arose about Bingley and the
nature of personal responsibility. Rather than engage in the discussion, I
scuttled off for a little consultation with Mr. Bingley and began writing Your Mr. Bingley, as the present novel
was first known.
inspiration come, and how did I create a stronger Bingley and Jane? The story
really did flow out of that online debate. If Bingley did as I’m sure every
Austen reader wishes and returned to Netherfield on his own, how does that tilt
the story? What if Jane is still in London? How does Darcy take it when his
duplicity to Bingley is revealed? What if Jane doesn’t want to appear to be
chasing Bingley by returning home? This one action by Bingley opened a whole
glorious and fun-to-write can of worms!
After I was several chapters into the thing, I sent it off
to a cold-reader. She quite brutally said it was an interesting premise, but
she would not continue reading if Darcy wasn’t given a bigger role. Truth to
tell, neither would I, were I reading and not writing. I modified the outline
and went from there. Some early reviewers have said it is as if the book has
two halves, the Bingley half and the Darcy half. I think that’s a fair
Q: I find it interesting that there are a
couple characters from the original that are almost entirely absent from your
story—Carolyn Bingley and Mr. Collins. There has to be a reason. Do
LB: I’m not sure I’d call Caroline
absent, exactly. But the poor dear never shows up without Darcy delivering a
set-down. Mr. Collins got a lot of face-time in my last novel, A Will of Iron, and here, the story at
Rosings and Hunsford really drills into Elizabeth and Darcy misreading each
other. Wickham is mentioned for the canker he always is, but with his true
character becoming more generally known through other means, his only
appearance merely serves to strengthen Elizabeth’s resolve to do the right
thing. I usually do not add outside-of-canon characters, but in this story a
mysterious lady emerged. The next thing I know, she’s the love interest for
Colonel Fitzwilliam! Yes,
characters can take over!
Q: Do you have certain actors that are
'cast' in your story?
LB: Oh, I do. But it has become a thing
with me to not impose my cast on my readers. I think cover-artist Janet Taylor
was really clever to keep us from seeing all of Bingley’s face and only Jane’s
hands. I suppose I’m this way from reading so much at AHA. I get entranced with
a story, then it publishes and the characters on the front don’t look a thing
like I imagined. I don’t want to do that to my readers. Now that you’ve got me
thinking about this, I have to laugh. My covers are almost totally hands or
Q: What was your favorite part of your
LB: The scene at the theatre in London,
followed second by the scene in the streets of Meryton when Darcy returns. The
theatre scene happens when Darcy and Elizabeth are back in London just after
the Hunsford contretemps. They are in no way emotionally prepared to see each
other so soon. All of their feelings are completely raw. They think they’re
being cool, but their friends and family are well aware of the tension. At the
opposite end of the emotional spectrum, the scene in Meryton is written for
laughs and finds some characters way, way out of their comfort zone.
Q: Are you currently writing anything
LB: A friend has been encouraging me to
write a Jane Austen/P.G. Wodehouse mash-up, set in the 1920s. I have an
outline, lots of research done, and a few chapters written. I’ve promised to
post it at AHA, but I am not sure about publishing it. That will depend on if
copyrights to Wodehouse’s early work have been renewed. This will put my
reputation for comedy to a real test. It’s like putting a big, hilarious puzzle
together and hoping others are amused, too.
Barbara—Thanks enormously for allowing
me to natter on. Your questions helped me reveal a few insights into My Mr. Darcy & Your Mr. Bingley
about which I haven’t said much thus far. But I am quite sure that by now your
readers are hoping you will get back to writing, too!
I am indebted to your generosity!
One never quite knows where the inspiration will strike. For
award-winning author Linda Beutler and My
Mr. Darcy & Your Mr. Bingley, the moment of genesis arrived in a
particularly contentious thread at the online forum A Happy Assembly. What is
the nature of personal responsibility? Where do we draw the line between Mr.
Bingley being too subject to Mr. Darcy’s “persuasion” and Mr. Darcy playing too
heavily on Mr. Bingley’s “sensibility”? This is a conundrum guaranteed to raise
even more questions.
happens to the plot and character dynamics of Pride & Prejudice if Mr. Bingley is given just a dash more
spine? Or if Jane Bennet decides enough embarrassment is too much? How does Mr.
Darcy manage the crucial apology a more stalwart Mr. Bingley necessitates he
make? What if Mr. Darcy meets relations of Elizabeth Bennet’s for whom she need
not blush on their home turf rather
than his? Suffice it to say, this is a story of rebuked pride, missing mail, a
man with “vision”, a frisky cat, and an evening gown that seems to have its own
Linda Beutler’s professional life is spent in a garden, an
organic garden housing America’s foremost public collection of clematis vines
and a host of fabulous companion plants. Her home life reveals a more personal
garden, still full of clematis, but also antique roses and vintage perennials
planted around and over a 1907 cottage. But one can never have enough of
gardening, so in 2011 she began cultivating a weedy patch of Jane Austen Fan
Fiction ideas. The first of these to ripen was The Red Chrysanthemum (Meryton Press, 2013), which won a silver
IPPY for romance writing in 2014. You might put this down as beginner’s
luck—Linda certainly does. The next harvest brought Longbourn to London (Meryton Press, 2014), known widely as “the
[too] sexy one”. In 2015 Meryton Press published the bestseller A Will of Iron, a macabre rom-com based
on the surprising journals of Anne de Bourgh.
after a year-long break in JAFF writing to produce Plant Lovers Guide to Clematis (Timber Press, 2016)—the third in a
bouquet of books on gardening—we have My
Mr. Darcy and Your Mr. Bingley bursting into bloom.
(Each website is
linked to the name.)
The eBook is available on Amazon. The Paperback
should follow in two to three weeks.
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