Thursday, July 23, 2020

Murder?! Said Mr. Collins

 Murder?!  Said Mr. Collins
 Shannon Winslow and Mr. Collins Traditional Book Release Interview for her latest novel!
(First of all, before the interview, I want to thank Shannon for visiting with Darcyholic Diversions today.  I look forward to each of Mr. Collins interviews! The two of them visit with us here after each of Shannon's new book releases.  Murder at Northanger Abbey has a fun, comedic flare--in addition to the traditional gothic creapiness--that I believe those of you who decide to widen your Jane Austen fan fiction genre by reading this sequel to Northanger Abbey will really enjoy! You won't be sorry if you do!  Very happy to be a part of Shannon's blog tour!  Good luck on your launch Shannon! BTC)
It has become something of a tradition that, with the publication of each new book, I sit down for an interview with Mr. Collins (now Sir William Collins). Did you know that, after his run as a legendary literary figure, he turned his talents to a new career as a talk-show host? It’s true. But he and I have not always been on the best of terms, I’m sorry to say. The awkwardness stems from the fact that I made his early demise my top priority as a writer. In fact, Mr. Collins expired in the very first chapter of my very first novel (The Darcys of Pemberley). I’m afraid he has never quite forgiven me for that, as you may be able to tell from the tone of our recent interview:
[The Meet the Author set has undergone some changes since our last visit. Where before there had always been two chairs close together on the raised platform at center stage, now there is only one. The second has been repositioned approximately fifteen feet away on the floor level. Sir William Collins enters at the director’s cue, mounts the platform, and strikes a dignified pose. There is no live audience, and so canned applause is substituted, rising in an impressive crescendo.]
Collins: Thank you, thank you. No [motioning for the ‘audience’ to settle down], really, you are too kind. But now allow me to introduce today’s guest, somewhat renowned Austenesque author Shannon Winslow.
[More artificial applause. Winslow enters, looking uncharacteristically unsure of herself until Sir William points very emphatically to direct her away from himself and towards the distant second chair]
Collins:  Please do be seated, Ms. Winslow.
Winslow:  Certainly, Sir William. [They both sit] I see you have made some… some alterations since I was here last. I feel like I need to shout, you are so far away… and above me.
Collins:  No need for that, madam. The microphones are perfectly adequate to the task. And we must abide by the current ‘social distancing’ requirements. You understand.
Winslow:  Of course, except I thought that was only six feet. Well, regardless, thank you for having me. I am very glad to be here to share with… [she peers into the empty, blackened audience area] …to share with your viewers about my new novel Murder at Northanger Abbey. It’s a slightly spooky sequel to Jane Austen’s parody of the Gothic novel. All very tongue-in-cheek like the original.
Collins:  Murder? So you’re up to it again.
Winslow:  Again? No, actually this is the first time I’ve written a murder mystery. But it was great fun, and I certainly would not rule out the idea of doing it again!
Collins:  You enjoyed it, did you?
Winslow:  Yes, very much! 
Collins:  I suppose I should not be surprised. And if it were ever permissible to contradict a lady, I should beg to disagree with you on one point, Ms. Winslow; you have committed homicide before.
Winslow:  What do you mean, sir? I’ve never written… Oh! Now I understand what you are driving at, Sir William. But that was an entirely different situation. Mr. Collins’s death was accidental, not at the hands of another. Choked on a mouthful of mutton, as you will recall. I wrote that you were hurrying your dinner to avoid being late for an appointment with Lady Catherine. She was always very strict about punctuality. No, contrariwise, the victim in this new book dies by violence, not accident.
Collins: [hand protectively at his throat and speaking with some difficulty] Choking was violent enough, Madam, I assure you! [shudders and then seems to regain his composure] Nevertheless, for the sake of my thousands and thousands of viewers, I might at least inquire how this poor fellow – your latest victim – meets his end.
Winslow:  I could not possibly give that away! And who says it was a man at all. It might just as easily have been a woman, don’t you think? 
Collins:  Lord, have mercy! Is there no limit to the atrocities you are willing to commit?
Winslow:  Why, Sir William, I am surprised at your being so squeamish! It is only a story after all. And when you think of a proper sequel to Northanger Abbey, there must be some kind of skullduggery – a stormy night, a masked ball at an ancient possibly-haunted house, strange noises are heard, the candles blow out, a blood curdling scream, and a body is discovered. Then it’s up to Catherine and Henry to solve the mystery. What could be better?
Collins:  What happened to ‘they all lived happily ever after’? I thought that was your trademark, Ms. Winslow. It says here in my notes that your favorite Jane Austen quote is from Mansfield ParkLet other pens dwell on guilt and misery…
Winslow:  I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore every body, not greatly in fault themselves, to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest. Yes, that’s right. And don’t worry; everybody lives happily ever after at the end of Murder at Northanger Abbey. Well… not absolutely everybody, I suppose, but at least Catherine and Henry do. You can’t have 300 pages of that sort of thing, though, or there would be no story. There must be a good deal of mischief and trouble first before we can quit those subjects and restore our hero and heroine to tolerable comfort again. In this case, I might even go so far as to say ‘sublime comfort.’ The newlyweds are still in their honeymoon period, after all!
Collins:  Honeymoon period? I hope you are not so indelicate as to refer to… to refer to… Some things are best left...
Winslow:  Some things are best left to the imagination, yes. I quite agree, and I think I can set your mind at ease on that score. Much is implied in the book about the young couple’s love life, but there’s absolutely nothing graphic. It’s all innuendo. You know. Nod, nod, wink, wink, and say no more. Strictly PG. [pauses] But I see you are still uneasy, Sir William. Remember, Catherine and Henry ARE married, so therefore it natural to assume…
Collins: Ms. Winslow…
Winslow:  That is to say, it is permissible, even in an Austen-style book to at least imply…
Collins:  Ms. Winslow!
Winslow:  Yes?
Collins:  I’m afraid we are out of time.
Winslow:  Already? Too bad, for I was enjoying myself immensely. Weren’t you?
Collins:  Enjoying myself? Can you be serious, madam? I believe I would rather navigate an actual mine field than another interview with you. [grimly] It would be safer.
[Thus ends another colorful live Meet the Author segment. The director quickly cuts to one of those annoying car insurance commercials with the green lizzard. Meanwhile, Ms. Winslow is escorted from the set while Sir William Collins’s personal assistant rushes to his aid.]

Murder at Northanger Abbey 

Sequel to Jane Austen’s Spoof on the Gothic Novel

Newly married to her beloved Henry, Catherine’s eyes are now open to the grownup pleasures of wedded life. Yet she still hasn’t quite given up her girlhood fascination with all things Gothic. When she first visited Northanger Abbey, she only imagined dreadful events had occurred there. This time the horror is all too real. There’s been a murder, and Henry has fallen under suspicion. Catherine is determined to clear her husband’s name, but at the same time, she’s afraid for her own safety, since there’s a very good chance the real murderer is still in the house.
This delightful sequel reprises the mischievous spirit of Austen’s original spoof on the Gothic novel, while giving Catherine a genuine murder mystery to unravel.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Reap Rewards With 'Rebellion'

 Reap Rewards With 'Rebellion'

 Guest Post by Victoria Kincaid

I am very grateful to welcome, Victoria Kincaid, with very interesting information about the British agricultural revolution that was a significant part of the inspiration for Victoria's new book.  I have a very good farmer friend who TODAY plants turnips in the winter and/or clover.  So these methods had a remarkably noteworthy contribution to today's farming methods.  Victoria is giving away an e-copy of her book to a lucky commenter.   So please comment below.  Extra chances for joining the blog, each repost of the blog post, friending me or Victoria on Facebook.  List any extra in a separate comment below your comment on the post!  Deadline for entries will be Monday 7/13/20.  And enjoy Victoria's post below.  

Hi Barbara!  Thank you for welcoming me back for a visit to talk about my latest book, Rebellion at Longbourn.  The premise of this novel is that Mr. Collins has taken possession of Longbourn but he has proven to be a poor landowner since he refuses to implement any modern agricultural practices while simultaneously using the estate to support a lavish lifestyle.  Pride and Prejudice takes place during a time known as the British Agricultural Revolution when agricultural techniques were improving in sophistication and productivity was increasing.  Here is what Wikipedia says about the time:

The British Agricultural Revolution, or Second Agricultural Revolution, was the unprecedented increase in agricultural production in Britain due to increases in labour and land productivity between the mid-17th and late 19th centuries. Agricultural output grew faster than the population over the century to 1770, and thereafter productivity remained among the highest in the world. This increase in the food supply contributed to the rapid growth of population in England and Wales, from 5.5 million in 1700 to over 9 million by 1801, though domestic production gave way increasingly to food imports in the nineteenth century as the population more than tripled to over 35 million.[1] The rise in productivity accelerated the decline of the agricultural share of the labour force, adding to the urban workforce on which industrialization depended: the Agricultural Revolution has therefore been cited as a cause of the Industrial Revolution.

One important change in farming methods was the move in crop rotation to turnips and clover in place of fallow. Turnips can be grown in winter and are deep-rooted, allowing them to gather minerals unavailable to shallow-rooted crops. Clover fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere into a form of fertiliser. This permitted the intensive arable cultivation of light soils on enclosed farms and provided fodder to support increased livestock numbers whose manure added further to soil fertility.

The four crop rotation system mentioned above was pioneered in Belgium and championed by Charles Townshend (2nd Viscount Townshend) who earned the nickname Turnip Townshend.  Because Townshend was from Norfolk, the system was often called the Norfolk four course system.  The revolution also encompassed the use of new plows, better fertilizer, seed drills, and other techniques. However, the adoption of the agricultural revolution’s ideas was uneven, and it’s quite conceivable that someone like Collins would cling to the old ways of doing things. 

Below is a scene from the beginning of Rebellion at Longbourn where Elizabeth and Mary are trying unsuccessfully to convince Collins to try new methods.  Enjoy!

Mary tapped her finger on the page.  “This article by Thomas Coke, the noted agriculturist, explains how the Norfolk four-crop system is a vast improvement on the customary three-crop system.  The greatest benefit is that you are not required to leave fields fallow for a year.  Using the Norfolk four-course system, fields would be sown with wheat one year, turnips in the next, followed by barley in the third, and clover in the fourth. This produces two cash crops and two animal feed crops.  Since Longbourn does not have many cattle, we could sell the fodder for a profit.  None of the fields must be fallow since alternating the crops ensures that vital nutrients are replenished in the soil.”
Collins appeared about to ask a question, but Mary raced ahead, opening a book to a picture depicting a large wooden contraption, a little taller than a spinning wheel.  “Seed drills sow seeds more evenly and at a greater depth than sowing them by hand. This ensures that the seeds are distributed evenly and are covered by soil, preventing them from being eaten by birds and animals.  As a result, more seeds take root and grow, so more plants grow and flourish—”
Collins’s officiousness finally overcame his reluctance to interrupt a woman.  “Cousin, this is all very interesting, and I am quite gratified that you are taking an interest in…farming.” He said it as if Mary had suddenly developed an unhealthy obsession with sewers.  “But Longbourn simply does not have the funds to invest in unproven theories.”
“But they are not unproven!” Mary objected.  “If you would read—”
Collins waved this away.  “Anyone may write anything in a book or journal.  How would we know the truth of his words?”
Mary gaped, flummoxed at the idea that scientists might lie about their results. 
“This seed drill would not be cheap even if we could locate one,” Collins continued.  “Furthermore, if we tried this four-crop system and it failed, Longbourn stands to lose quite a bit of money!”
“We could test the system in a few fields to start,” Mary suggested.  “Spring planting will begin soon.  Now is the perfect time—”
Collins shook his head with the patient condescension of a parent denying a child who requested another sweet.  “The system might work well in Norfolk, but there is no evidence it would flourish in a climate like Hertfordshire’s.”
“They are not so different—” Mary said.
Collins spoke over her.  “I refuse to experiment with my own fields.”
“It is not an experiment!” Elizabeth exclaimed.  “It is common practice on many estates.”  Unfortunately, nobody near Meryton yet practiced the method, so she could not point to their neighbors as examples.
Collins arched a brow.  “And yet your father did not implement it.”
Although it felt disloyal to her father, Elizabeth had prepared for this argument. “My father did not…expect Longbourn to yield the profits that you do.” It was a diplomatic way to say her father had been a bit lazy, and Collins was rather greedy.
Collins shook his head in a mockery of sympathy at her grief. “No, your father was too lenient with the tenants. Such was the reason why Longbourn was a shambles when I took possession.  An enterprise such as this must be run with a firm hand.” Elizabeth would have bet money that he was quoting Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
She pressed her lips together and resisted the impulse to argue with him over a claim she had heard many times before.  Longbourn had fared well under her father’s ownership.  To be sure, he had taken a rather laissez faire attitude toward much of the estate’s operations. It could have been more profitable if he had expended more effort, but he had treated his tenants fairly and everyone had prospered. 
But Collins was determined to portray her father’s ownership as nearly ruinous to Longbourn and view his arrival as the estate’s salvation.  This narrative served him well—at least in his own mind—allowing him to justify many of his actions.  As with so many other things, it was difficult to discern if the man actually believed his reasoning or was merely using it as a convenient justification for his actions.
“These articles are quite compelling.  If you would—” Mary pointed to the journal.
Their cousin bestowed the sort of smile one gives a child who endeavors to read a book that is beyond her ability.  “I am quite impressed with your efforts, Cousin.  But perhaps your time would be better occupied with needlework, pianoforte practice, or Fordyce’s sermons.”  Mary seemed crestfallen.  Elizabeth knew that after they retreated from the room, she would need to reassure her sister that an interest in farming was not unfeminine but quite admirable. 
Elizabeth Bennet’s father died two years ago, and her odious cousin Mr. Collins has taken possession of the Longbourn estate. Although Collins and his wife Charlotte have allowed the Bennet sisters and their mother to continue living at Longbourn, the situation is difficult. Viewing Elizabeth and her sisters as little more than unpaid servants, Collins also mistreats the tenants, spends the estate’s money with abandon, and rejects any suggestions about improving or modernizing Longbourn. After one particularly egregious incident, Elizabeth decides she must organize a covert resistance among her sisters and the tenants, secretly using more modern agricultural methods to help the estate thrive. Her scheme is just getting underway when Mr. Darcy appears in Meryton.
Upon returning from a long international voyage, Darcy is forced to admit he cannot forget his love for Elizabeth. When he learns of the Bennet family’s plight, he hurries to Hertfordshire, hoping he can provide assistance. Sinking into poverty, Elizabeth is further out of Darcy’s reach than ever; still, he cannot help falling even more deeply in love. But what will he do when he discovers her covert rebellion against Longbourn’s rightful owner?   
Falling in love with Mr. Darcy was not part of Elizabeth’s plan, but it cannot be denied.  Darcy struggles to separate his love for her from his abhorrence for deception.  Will their feelings for each other help or hinder the Rebellion at Longbourn?