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Sunday, January 20, 2019

A Very Austen Valentine Interview with Robin Helm and Wendi Sotis

A Very Austen Valentine Interview with Robin Helm and Wendi Sotis
by Barbara Tiller Cole

Please help me welcome Robin Helm and Wendi Sotis to Darcyholic Diversions today as we get to know them and their stories in the newest Austen Anthology, A Very Austen Valentine.  Be sure to comment and follow the rafflecopter link at the end of the post for a chance to win the give aways that are a part of the Blog Tour.

And now to visit with Robin and Wendi:

BTCOLE:  Wendi and Robin, I am so excited that you and Robin are visiting with us here at
Darcyholic Diversions today to chat a bit and talk about A Very Austen Valentine.  Let’s start with you Wendi.  Remind me where you are from and a little bit about your family.

Wendi Sotis

WS:  Hi Barbara! I’m thrilled to be here!  I grew up on Long Island, New York, USA, and have a BA in Psychology. I married my Mr. Darcy… goodness, it will be 30 years in April! We have triplets who just entered college this past fall. When they were very young and I needed a bit of mommy-time, I’d read. However, with
three toddlers, most times I would be only be able to get through a few sentences at a time before being interrupted, so I stuck with books that I knew very well, like re-reading Jane Austen’s novels.
BTCOLE:  Triplets! It is the first thing I remember about you!  
Have you written a story where our couple has triplets yet?

WS:  I came this close to doing it once, but I decided to limit it to twins instead. Maybe someday!

BTCOLE:  Robin, let’s hear from you.  I understand that
where you were born has a historical story in
itself.  Tell us about that.

RHELM:  I was born in Monroe, North Carolina, but lived five miles out of the small town of Pageland, South Carolina, until I was twenty-two. The house was part of what had been the tiny burg of Hornesboro during the
pre-Civil War era. General Sherman marched through there during that war, burning everything but the house. He used it to quarter his troops.

I went away to college in Winston-Salem, NC when I was eighteen, but I
always returned to the one hundred fifty year old plantation-style
farmhouse my family owned and renovated.

BTCOLE:  Wendi, How did you discover Jane Austen inspired writings?

WS:  I became interested in Jane Austen-Inspired fiction when a fellow mom of multiples, also a Janeite, told me she’d read a version of Pride and Prejudice from Darcy’s point-of-view, and I went online to search
for it. I struck gold by coming across a forum where people shared their stories. I was hooked instantly!
My story is similar yet completely different!  That feeling of striking gold though I certainly remember!  What was your initial inspiration to write Jane Austen inspired books? While reading Austen-inspired stories, I had a lot of ideas for stories of my own, but for a long time, I lacked the confidence to try writing one. One morning I woke up from an especially good story-idea-dream and decided I HAD to write it, so I did. It took a great deal of courage to actually post that story on the forum. To my surprise, people liked it! :-) I haven't stopped writing since. 

Robin Helm

BTCOLE:  Robin, How did you meet your own Austen man?

RH:  He’s from Michigan, and I’m a Southern girl. We met our freshman year at college in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I actually remember the very first time I saw him, and I can’t say that about any other man.
He was sitting on a low wall with his girlfriend. I looked at that handsome, kind face and thought, “The good ones are always taken.” When we were twenty-two, we married, living in Winston-Salem for a year before we moved to Fort Lauderdale, taking a position at the first church we ministered in full-time.  At that time, he was a Music
Minister. Now, he’s a Senior Adult Pastor.

BTCOLE:  Attending the seminary myself I know that there are many things expected from the spouse of a minister.  What have your done for a living besides the responsibilities that are attached to being the
wife of a minister?

RH:  We lived in Fort Lauderdale for six years where I worked in a bank and for Holiday Inns. Larry and I then moved to Palatka (Florida) for eight years. I taught in two different Christian schools in Palatka. For the past twenty-seven years, we’ve been at the same church in Lancaster, South Carolina, about twenty-five miles from where I grew up. For seventeen of those years, I taught in a Christian school in my hometown.

I was a full-time schoolteacher for twenty-five years before I started writing. I taught music part-time in a charter school for eight years after I left the classroom. I founded a Music Academy at our church nine years ago, and I teach piano, flute, and (occasionally) organ. I’m also Associate in Music at our church.

BTCOLE:  Wendi, I haven’t had time to be active on forums for awhile now, but I do
remember reading the first story you posted online!  What inspired the
particular story you are writing about for this anthology?

WS:  When we decided the theme of this anthology to be Valentine’s Day, I started researching Valentine’s Day in Regency times. I found two “Valentine Writer” books that had been reprinted, one from 1780 and the other from 1794. Each has many verses to give young ladies and gentlemen ideas as to what they could write to their valentines. Everything else just filled in around the idea of using some of them in the story.

BTCOLE:  I enjoyed the history you shared in your story about Regency Valentines.  Your Colonel and Anne were definitely devious in how it came to be that Elizabeth received Valentines!  What was your favorite part of this story?

WS: Thanks! This question is so difficult to answer! I always seem to love the scene I’m writing at that moment the most.

BTCOLE:  I was intrigued by the Bingley’s empty townhouse!  Many stories speak of remodeling but I don’t honestly remember one that was empty!  Did you have dollhouses as a kid?  Do you particularly enjoy decorating?

WS:  I have to admit it was something I didn’t research (shame on me!), but I figured if the previous family sold their house instead of leasing it out, they would take most of their things with them, just like we would do now. I imagined the house would be pretty much empty at this stage. I had Barbie houses which mostly came with furniture built in, LOL! I do love to dress up the house at Christmas.

BTCOLE:  Robin, back to you.  How did you discover Jane Austen and Austen inspired literature?

RH:  As a student and later as a teacher, I have long loved the books Austen wrote, and I instilled that love in my husband, my daughters, and many of my students.

My sister Gayle and I were in Myrtle Beach at a teachers’ convention when she told me about the Austenesque books she’d found. I thought it was amazing, so we went to a book store, and I bought several of them. I was hooked immediately. I read all the Austenesque books Gayle had, as well as the ones I bought. Then, she introduced me to the online readers’ forums. I read on your forum, Barbara, and on A Happy
Assembly, Derbyshire Writers’ Guild, and Darcy & Lizzy. I now have my own readers/writers forum, Beyond Austen, I post my WIPs along with other like-minded authors.

BTCOLE:  What was your inspiration to write Austen inspired literature of your own?

RH:  Probably two years or so after that, I decided to write, and I settled on the idea of Darcy as Elizabeth’s guardian angel. There are many who think The Guardian Trilogy has nothing to do with Mr. Darcy, but in my
mind, it was a perfect fit. According to Scripture, Christ was made a little lower than the angels when He became human. That means that angels are higher beings than we are – just as Darcy had a higher place in society than Elizabeth Bennet did. Angels and humans aren’t supposed to marry, so loving Elizabeth in the way he did was
forbidden. He took a lower form to marry her. I think Xander (Fitzwilliam Alexander Darcy) is a good representation of the honorable gentleman from Derbyshire.

I posted Guardian, SoulFire, and Legacy on the same forums where I read. I recently put all three books in one volume – The Guardian Trilogy.

BTCOLE:  What inspired the particular story you are writing about for this anthology?

RH:  Actually, I Dream of You was the third story I wrote for the anthology. My original story was More to Love. It grew to fifty thousand words, and Laura Hile reminded me that our stories were supposed to be around twenty to thirty thousand words. She insisted that instead of cutting words from More to Love, it should be a
standalone, and she was right.

Immediately, I dropped More to Love (which I am now finishing), and began working on Maestro, a story close to my musician’s heart. I felt it so deeply that it is some of my best work, but again Laura balked. She told me Maestro deserved to be a full-length novel, not a short story. She was right. Again. (Don’t you just hate when that happens?)

After a few sleepless nights worrying about the looming deadline, she suggested I look back at one-shots and shorts I had written a few years before. When I did that, I came up with the concept of using Elizabeth’s dreams to develop the story. I wrote I Dream of You in a month or so. It just flowed with no struggle, and that was a first for me.

BTCOLE:  How exciting that we will expect two more works from you inspired by your novella for A Very Austen Valentine!  But about this story, was there personal inspiration for Elizabeth dreams?  Do you have vivid
dreams yourself?

RH:  Yes. I have very vivid dreams. In fact, I dream storylines in color. How weird is that? My dad used to go to bed worried about problems with his machines (motor graders, backhoes, bull dozers), and he’d dream the answer to repairing them. He told me God sent him the dreams.  I believed that with him, and I believe it in my own case.

BTCOLE:  Elizabeth had a determination to be a fine horse woman in your story. Have you ever ridden yourself?  

RH:  I use to ride although it has been many years.

I rode my brother-in-law’s horses when I was in college. I had a
friend who lived on a farm a few miles away. She had her own horse,
and we would ride when I was home on the weekends and during summers.
Our boyfriends would join us. It was so much fun.

BTCOLE:  Back to you Wendi, Do you have any special Valentine’s planned yourself this year?

WS:  It will be just before our 30th anniversary, so we should do something special, but I’m not sure what it will be yet!

BTCOLE:  Do you have any works in progress you would like to tell us about?

WendiS:  I’m working on an Austen-Inspired Regency now, but as usual, life keeps getting in the way and it’s not as far along as I’d like it to be. My goal is for it to come out summer 2019. Fingers crossed! It’s untitled as of yet. More than likely, I’ll need others’ help finding a title after I’m finished writing the entire story unless something jumps out at me from the start. Canon timeline is a bit scrambled… Miss Elizabeth Bennet has just
returned from Hunsford, where she stayed with Mr. Collins and his new wife, Charlotte.  We understand she has met Lady Catherine, Anne, and Col. Fitzwilliam, but only caught mention of a "Mr. Darcy" who was another nephew of her cousin’s benefactor. From what she’s heard, he sounds like a male version of Lady Catherine, so she has no interest in meeting him—ever. Soon after her return from Kent, Elizabeth leaves for a holiday trip with the Gardiners. Their journey to the Lake District is redirected when they receive an express letter stating
Mrs. Gardiners’ sister and two nephews have fallen ill, and her brother-in-law desperately needs their help. The trio proceeds to assist the ailing family, who lease a tenant farm on the estate of Pemberley.

BTCOLE:  Anything else you would like to share with the readers here at  Darcyholic Diversions?

WS:  I’d just like to thank all your readers for their interest, and I wish you good luck in the giveaway!

BTCOLE:  And back to you Robin, Do you have any special Valentine’s Day plans for your own Darcy this
year?  Or are  you afraid he will read this post?

RH:  I’ll probably cook some of his favorites. My Mr. Knightley doesn’t eat chocolate, and I’m diabetic, so the obvious choices are out. My hubby is not a Darcy. He has never been a proud man, and he has never been
wealthy by the world’s standards. Everyone loves him. Definitely a hard-working, dependable, genial Mr. Knightley of unimpeachable character, a wonderful husband and the best father I’ve ever seen. He could give lessons in how to be a father.

BTCOLE:  Anything else you would like to let us know about your works in progress?

RH:  More to Love addresses body image. When Darcy first sees Elizabeth at the Assembly, she’s eating a cookie (and, yes, Americans had developed cookie recipes by then). He says, “She is tolerable, I suppose, but
there’s too much of her to tempt me.”  You can imagine how that goes. Ha!

Lawfully Innocent is part of The Lawkeepers series. I’m contributing a book along with many other authors. Mine is an historical romance set in the pre-Civil War South. Benjamin Beckett (youngest of the four Beckett brothers) is a U.S. Marshal for the District of South Carolina. He’s from England, and he’s against slavery.

Maestro is the story from my musician’s heart. Alessandro Landini is a concert artist. He sings, conducts, and plays. Mary Bennet is in London with the Darcys (who are married). Darcy takes Elizabeth and Mary to one of Landini’s concerts, and she is shocked at the depth of the connection she feels with him through the music. In this story, I write how music makes me feel – how it affects me. It may be my best work.

I haven’t yet started my story for A Very Austen Romance: Austen Anthologies, Book 3, but it will, of course, be an historical romance novella. It may be a sequel to I Dream of You, my story in A Very Austen Valentine. I like that idea.

BTCOLE:  Well I thank you both Robin Helm and Wendi Sotis for visiting with us today!  And I hope that all of you readers will begin making some fun plans for Valentines Day inspired from the anthology!

Contact Information:
Robin Helm
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Robin-Helm/e/B005MLFMTG
Website:  BeyondAusten.com https://www.beyondausten.com/
Twitter: @rmhelm
Facebook: Robin Helm https://www.facebook.com/RobinHelmAuthor/
Facebook: Austen Anthologies
Instagram: @jrhelm  or @AustenAnthologies
Goodreads: Robin_M_Helm
Blogging: Robin M. Helm https://robinmhelm.com/

Wendi Sotis
Amazon Author Page:     https://www.amazon.com/Wendi-Sotis/e/B005CSBVFS/
Website: http://wendisotis.com
Facebook: Wendi Sotis, Author https://www.facebook.com/author.wendi.sotis/
Twitter: @WendiSotis
Forum: BeyondAusten.com http://BeyondAusten.com
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5009020.Wendi_Sotis

A Very Austen Valentine Blog Tour Schedule
01/06 Just the Write Escape; Guest Post, Giveaway
01/07 Margie’s Must Reads; Review, Giveaway
01/08 So Little Time…; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway
01/09 Babblings of a Bookworm; Author Interview/Character Interview, Giveaway
01/10 Half Agony, Half Hope; Review, Excerpt
01/11 Austenesque Reviews; Vignette, Giveaway
01/12 My Love for Jane Austen; Vignette, Giveaway
01/13 open
01/14 From Pemberley to Milton; Excerpt, Review or Vignette, Giveaway
01/15 My life journey; Review, Excerpt, Giveaway
01/16 My Vices and Weaknesses; Guest Post or Vignette. Excerpt, Giveaway
01/17 open
01/18 Diary of an Eccentric; Review, Giveaway
01/19 open
01/20 Darcyholic Diversions; Author Interview, Giveaway
01/21 Austenprose; Author Interview


  1. Enjoyed the interviews. Thanks for sharing and the for the chance to win a copy of the book.

    1. Thank you, darcybennett! Best of luck in the giveaway. 😁

    2. This has been such a fun tour, darcybennett. The Rafflecopter thingy tells me we have only 32 hours left. Oh boy!

    3. Hi darcybennett! Thanks so much for following us around the web! Good luck :-)

  2. What delightful interview interactions! Thank you, Barbara, for hosting us and for showcasing Wendi and Robin so well. Always I learn something new about my friends from author interviews.

    Yes, it is all my fault that Robin is going crazy with so many simultaneous book projects. When you read them, you'll understand why they had to stand alone. :)

  3. Thanks so much for posting this interview, Barbara! It was a lot of fun!

    Speaking of long stories, my story is 40k, but I wasn't able to write another like Robin did. She is much better at writing quickly than I, but you'd never know it from her well-thought-out stories!

    I've beta-read More to Love -- it's fantastic. :-)

  4. Thank you, Barb, for hosting us!

  5. Great interview Barb, thanks for sharing.

  6. Great interview, ladies. It was enlightening and very interesting. Thanks for letting us learn a little bit more about you.

    Good job, Barbara. Thanks for hosting.