Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Nancy Kelley - The Surprise Plot plus GIVEAWAY!

The lovely author Nancy Kelley had this fab idea to swap posts this week and so I am thrilled to welcome Nancy here today! We were chatting about how very often, when writing, the characters in your novel can behave unpredictably, and as much as we try to keep them in line they go their own sweet way and start demanding to change the plot! Other problems occur when an author thinks she has resolved a carefully constructed plot, which suddenly falls apart because another character complains that they've been left out or have not been given a big enough voice or part in the unfolding story. The eventual plot can be something of a surprise!

Here is Nancy to tell us about her experiences of the surprise plot when writing Loving Miss Darcy.

Nancy is giving away an e-book copy of Loving Miss Darcy, open internationally - to enter, answer Nancy's question below by leaving a comment! The Giveaway is open for one week only - closes Tuesday, April 30th 2013. 

Thanks to Jane for agreeing to trade places with me today. I love meeting new blog friends. Jane has posted on my blog, along with a giveaway; make sure to check it out!

Every author, from the ones who plan out every detail to the ones who just write as the story comes to them, is eventually surprised by something in their book. The characters start doing something you hadn’t anticipated, or a plot development arises that you weren’t expecting.

When I started writing Loving Miss Darcy, I was absolutely adamant that the main plot of the book would have nothing to do with George Wickham. This is Georgiana three years later, after all—wouldn’t she be over that by now? From the perspective of the author, I knew that several other books had already investigated that plot line and I wanted to do something different.

There followed six months of struggling with the book, trying to find the plot. Finally my good friend and critique partner told me I needed to explore Wickham. I fought and railed against it (for reasons not wholly creative), but finally gave in.

As soon as I allowed Georgiana the space to still feel shame for what Wickham had done, her personality and story unfolded beautifully. I hadn’t let her be herself, so I couldn’t see her story.

Now the Wickham debacle plays a central role in the plot of Loving Miss Darcy. Though it was three years ago, she knows others would be scandalized if they knew. In this rather poignant scene with Richard, she asks how she’s supposed to marry a man without letting him know all of who she is.

Loving Miss Darcy - Nancy Kelley
Farther down the same corridor, Georgiana was less fortunate. No matter how much she tried to convince herself the argument with Richard had been over his mistaking her age, she could not lie to herself any longer. He and Fitzwilliam constantly insisted on recommending men who deserved her but…

I do not deserve anyone! she thought morosely. I have made more mistakes than a young lady is usually allowed, and yet they pretend…

She paced in front of her fireplace, her fingers clenching and unclenching in the folds of her dressing gown. Elizabeth had asked her over a month ago if her reluctance to go to Town had anything to do with Wickham, and she had denied it.

How could I have been so blind to my own fears? And why do I still allow him such a hold over me?

The thought grew in her mind that she must make Richard see how little she deserved his regard. Knowing his habit of slipping out of the house early in the morning, she did not tarry in her own room. As soon as light touched the eastern horizon, she dressed as best she could without any help from Annie and walked silently down the stairs to the breakfast room. A word to the maid laying the fire ensured a cold repast would be laid on the table soon, along with Richard’s preferred coffee.

Richard did not disappoint. He appeared not long after the food, clearly dressed for the road. “Good morning, Cousin,” she greeted him.

He stood still for an instant before turning to face her. “Good morning, Georgiana. I did not think to see you up so early. Why are you hiding in the shadows?”

She stepped into the light and shook her head. “It is hardly my fault it is still so dark—it is your habit of sneaking out that drew me from my bed,” she chided him. “I could not let you leave with yesterday’s angry words hanging between us.”

Richard sat down and poured two cups of coffee. “Break your fast with me, Georgiana.”

Though phrased politely, Georgiana heard the note of command in his voice and sat in the chair opposite him. She could feel his gaze on her as she filled a plate with cheese and bread, but she did not return it.

“Look at me, Georgiana.” Reluctantly, she raised her eyes to his and sagged in relief when she saw no anger there, only confusion. “Our argument kept me up most of the night, and there is one point I do not understand.”

“What is that?”

“When you spoke of going to London for the Season, you still sounded… unenthusiastic.”

Georgiana bit her lip and pondered her answer. “Do I truly need a Season, Richard?” she finally asked, deciding at the last minute not to bring up Wickham unless she absolutely had to.

Richard leaned back in his chair. “I am afraid you do, Cuz.”

“But why?” Her own desperation took her by surprise, but she would not back down from the request.

His brow furrowed. “I thought the suggestion to have Kitty join us in Town for the Season had allayed most of your concerns.”

She shrugged and ran a finger over the pattern of the tablecloth. “Most, but not all. Kitty is so much… friendlier than I am. She does not worry what people will think of her.”

Richard took a swallow of coffee. “I see. And you do?” Georgiana nodded. “Tell me what it is about London that bothers you so much.”

Georgiana clenched her hands together in front of her. The food on her plate remained untouched, but she had no appetite for it. “You know enough of my past to guess, surely,” she said finally, seeing there was no way around it.

A gravelly sound caught her ear, and she looked up at Richard. His hand clutched the handle of his mug so tightly that she honestly feared he would break it. “Richard?”

He set the mug down carefully and spread his hand out, palm down, on the table top. “You cannot allow him to control your life, Georgiana.”

She raised her eyebrows. “How can I look these young men in the face and pretend I have nothing to hide, that I am as innocent and unblemished as any of the other ladies they might dance with?”

Richard’s face turned an alarming shade of red. “You are innocent.”

From anyone else, this level of anger would have quieted Georgiana. However, she was upset enough and trusted Richard enough that instead, she matched his vehemence with all the bitterness she felt. “Oh yes, of course I am—I am innocent of all but foolishness, but you know as well as I that not everyone will see it that way. How can we know which of those young men would not turn away from me when they found out the truth?”

“They need never know.”

She laughed, though she felt no amusement. “Oh, that is not fair to them, not fair at all,” she protested. “You cannot expect me to keep a secret like this from my husband. And if I am as innocent as you and my brother constantly proclaim, then why should it be a secret at all?”

Richard stared at her, gape-mouthed for some minutes. “I do not like to admit it, but you have a point,” he finally said.

Georgiana spread jam on her thick slice of bread and took a bite before speaking again. “So I ask again, how can I know which gentlemen would understand and stand by my side, and which would run, or worse, try to ruin me?

The room was quiet for a very long time, and finally Georgiana wiped her hands on a serviette and rose from the table. “You see why I do not look on the idea of a Season with much pleasure,” she said.

In the end, it is the threat of scandal that drives the final confrontation and climax. If I hadn’t let Georgiana surprise me, the book likely would never have been finished. What do you think? How much long-term impact would Wickham have had on Georgiana?

Nancy Kelley—Janeite, blogger, and chocoholic—is the author of two Jane Austen sequels, His Good Opinion: A Mr. Darcy Novel and Loving Miss Darcy. Her third novel, Against His Will, will come out in fall of 2013.

If Nancy could possess any fictional device, it would be a Time-Turner. Then perhaps she could juggle a full-time library job, writing, and blogging; and still find time for sleep and a life. Until then, she lives on high doses of tea and substitutes multiple viewings of Doctor Who for a social life.

You can find Nancy on Twitter @Nancy_Kelley , at nancykelleywrites.com  and on Indiejane.org. She also blogs regularly about Doctor Who for Smitten by Britain.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A walk around Hampstead and the Heath!

George Romney's House
I took a walk to Hampstead Heath with a friend this week and took a lot of photos. The day had started fine but ominous looking clouds soon covered the periwinkle sky. Nothing could take away the beauty of the Heath and the surrounding area - it was wonderful to be outside again and looking at trees and plants springing forth. The magnolias in Golders Hill Park are not quite out but there were daffodils and irises, and blossom on the trees.

The Pergola, Hampstead Heath

Beautiful twisting trunks of Magnolias-not quite out!

This reminds me of Daphne du Maurier's 'The Birds'

A view of the Pergola, Hampstead Heath

Keats's House

The Pergola, Hampstead Heath

Hampstead Heath filled with trees that could have been drawn by Arthur Rackham

The Pergola, Hampstead Heath

Romney's house

The whole area is so wonderfully atmospheric. I'm reading a couple of books at the moment with associations to Hampstead - one is a re-read, although most of the action is set in sunny Italy - The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Armin - a favourite of mine. One of the characters, Mrs Wilkins, believes she has seen Keats crossing the road in front of his house. It's a wonderful way to give an insight into her character - she's rather dreamy and I imagine would not find seeing such a sight disturbing. Sadly, I didn't see him, but I imagined that I felt Fanny Brawne walking beside me on the Heath - her grief almost tangible. It made me want to get out Keats's poems and the love letters between him and Fanny - and also watch Brightstar, which I loved - a wonderful film directed by Jane Campion filled with haunting images.
The other book I'm reading and finding hard to put down to get on with any work is Justine Picardie's Daphne. It's so beautifully written, and a fascinating story about Daphne du Maurier's passionate interest in Bramwell Bronte - all intertwined with Daphne's life and books. I love Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel and Frenchman's Creek, and Justine's book feels like visiting an old friend.
At every turn we could have bumped into Daphne du Maurier who lived at Cannon Hall as a child or J M Barrie who wrote The Admirable Crichton, in which her parents acted. And was that Henry James we spotted as he rounded the corner? I could smell the paint as I passed Romney's House and I swear I saw him watching through the window, cleaning his brushes on a paint-stained rag.
A lovely day - I must go back soon when the leaves are out on the trees! 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Jane Austen and Springtime!

Spring has finally sprung here in England! I was beginning to think winter would never end; we've been experiencing very cold weather and lots of snow.
Jane Austen refers often to the seasons in her writing and with spring, it seems, the season often heralds a change or action of some sort. In this first example, Mrs Dashwood is thinking about Barton Cottage and the changes she might make to the building when the weather improves.

From Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility:

With the size and furniture of the house Mrs. Dashwood was upon the whole well satisfied; for though her former style of life rendered many additions to the latter indispensable, yet to add and improve was a delight to her; and she had at this time ready money enough to supply all that was wanted of greater elegance to the apartments. "As for the house itself, to be sure," said she, "it is too small for our family, but we will make ourselves tolerably comfortable for the present, as it is too late in the year for improvements. Perhaps in the spring, if I have plenty of money, as I dare say I shall, we may think about building. These parlours are both too small for such parties of our friends as I hope to see often collected here; and I have some thoughts of throwing the passage into one of them with perhaps a part of the other, and so leave the remainder of that other for an entrance; this, with a new drawing-room which may be easily added, and a bed-chamber and garret above, will make it a very snug little cottage. I could wish the stairs were handsome. But one must not expect everything; though I suppose it would be no difficult matter to widen them. I shall see how much I am before-hand with the world in the spring, and we will plan our improvements accordingly."

The next extract is from Northanger Abbey. Isabella Thorpe writes to Catherine Morland from Bath. Jane Austen uses the season to illustrate Isabella's silly and shallow character. Although she professes one minute to be missing Catherine and expressing her love for Catherine's brother, in the next second she is talking about fashion and hats. 

Bath, April
My dearest Catherine, I received your two kind letters with the greatest delight, and have a thousand apologies to make for not answering them sooner. I really am quite ashamed of my idleness; but in this horrid place one can find time for nothing. I have had my pen in my hand to begin a letter to you almost every day since you left Bath, but have always been prevented by some silly trifler or other. Pray write to me soon, and direct to my own home. Thank God, we leave this vile place tomorrow. Since you went away, I have had no pleasure in it — the dust is beyond anything; and everybody one cares for is gone. I believe if I could see you I should not mind the rest, for you are dearer to me than anybody can conceive. I am quite uneasy about your dear brother, not having heard from him since he went to Oxford; and am fearful of some misunderstanding. Your kind offices will set all right: he is the only man I ever did or could love, and I trust you will convince him of it. The spring fashions are partly down; and the hats the most frightful you can imagine. I hope you spend your time pleasantly, but am afraid you never think of me.

Lastly, from Pride and Prejudice, Jane has become engaged to Mr Bingley and finds out that his sister Caroline had done everything to keep them apart last spring:

Mr Bingley and Jane Bennet
 "He has made me so happy," said she one evening, "by telling me, that he was totally ignorant of my being in town last spring! I had not believed it possible."

   "I suspected as much," replied Elizabeth. "But how did he account for it?"
   "It must have been his sister's doing. They were certainly no friends to his acquaintance with me, which I cannot wonder at, since he might have chosen so much more advantageously in many respects. But when they see, as I trust they will, that their brother is happy with me, they will learn to be contented, and we shall be on good terms again; though we can never be what we once were to each other."
   "That is the most unforgiving speech," said Elizabeth, "that I ever heard you utter. Good girl! It would vex me, indeed, to see you again the dupe of Miss Bingley's pretended regard."
   "Would you believe it, Lizzy, that when he went to town last November, he really loved me, and nothing but a persuasion of my being indifferent would have prevented his coming down again?"
   "He made a little mistake, to be sure; but it is to the credit of his modesty."
   This naturally introduced a panegyric from Jane on his diffidence, and the little value he put on his own good qualities.
   Elizabeth was pleased to find that he had not betrayed the interference of his friend; for, though Jane had the most generous and forgiving heart in the world, she knew it was a circumstance which must prejudice her against him.
   "I am certainly the most fortunate creature that ever existed!" cried Jane. "Oh! Lizzy, why am I thus singled from my family, and blessed above them all! If I could but see you as happy! If there were but such another man for you!"
   "If you were to give me forty such men, I never could be so happy as you. Till I have your disposition, your goodness, I never can have your happiness. No, no, let me shift for myself; and perhaps, if I have very good luck, I may meet with another Mr. Collins in time."

Monday, April 1, 2013

Shannon Winslow - Return to Longbourn - Blog Tour!

 I hope you're all having a lovely Easter! I am absolutely delighted to welcome Shannon Winslow, a fellow Austen Author, to my blog - she's celebrating the release of her new novel, Return to Longbourn, and she is sharing an exclusive, never-before-seen extract with us today! Over to you, Shannon.

Shannon Winslow

I was delighted when Jane invited me to stop here on my blog tour for my new novel Return to Longbourn. Writing this book was an absolute joy! It was such a treat to have an excuse to spend time with Darcy, Elizabeth, and the rest of the Pride and Prejudice cast again, and to revisit Longbourn, Netherfield, and Pemberley.

I pick up the story again about five years later (after the end of The Darcys of Pemberley), when Mr. Bennet sadly passes away. With Mr. Tristan Collins (the new heir to the Longbourn estate) on his way from America to claim his property, Mrs. Bennet hatches her plan. The man simply must marry one of her daughters. Nothing else will do. But will it be Mary or Kitty singled out for this dubious honor?

Neither of them is too eager at first. Kitty cannot imagine how being married to anybody by the name of Collins could be even tolerably agreeable. And, by this time, Mary is comfortably settled in her chosen life as governess to the family at Netherfield. Well, perhaps I shouldn’t have used the word “comfortably,” for her employer, Mr. Harrison Farnsworth, is not an easy man to get along with. That was apparent from the first moment Mary met him, four years past:

Return to Longbourn - Shannon Winslow

In those former days especially, the atmosphere at Netherfield altered perceptibly with the master’s presence. An air of apprehension crept over the place from top to bottom, as if the house itself held its breath in anticipation of some unknown outburst or accident. Thus, it required nothing more than Mr. Farnsworth’s suddenly coming into a room to start his wife and servants fidgeting and his children forgetting how to behave.
Mary had observed the phenomenon from her earliest days on the premises, and she could not help but feel fiercely sympathetic on Mrs. Farnsworth’s account.
 “So, this is the new governess,” declared the lord and master at his first setting eyes on Mary those years ago.
Mr. Farnsworth was not an especially imposing man to look at, being of no more than average height and build, yet his autocratic tone made even this simple statement of fact sound like a challenge – daring her to deny the charge.
Rising to face him, Mary had only nodded curtly in response.
“Yes, my dear,” his wife, who looked more frayed about the edges than usual, hastened to say. “This is Miss Bennet, Miss Mary Bennet from Longbourn. You will recall that I told you about her. She is a most accomplished and genteel young woman, and I am sure she will do very well by the children.”
I will be the judge of that, if you please, Madam.”
“Naturally,” Mrs. Farnsworth murmured, dropping her eyes to her lap, where her hands were tightly clasped.
A maid, who had come in with the tea tray, cringed as she set it down with more clatter than she intended.
“Must you make such an infernal racket?” Mr. Farnsworth barked, darting an eye in the direction of the offender.
“Sorry, sir,” said the maid as she shrank from the room.
“The rest of you, out as well,” he said, pointing to the door. “Mrs. Farnsworth, kindly take your children and go. I wish to speak to Miss Bennet.”
Mr. Farnsworth had once been a captain in the Navy, so his military bearing did not surprise Mary. Whilst the others scrambled to obey, she studied her new employer, taking his features apart one by one – the bristling dark hair, the deliberately narrowed cobalt eyes, the hard set of his mouth, and the prematurely graying beard. The beard, she told herself with devilish satisfaction, had probably been grown by way of disguising what would ultimately prove to be a weak chin. Yes, that must be the case.
It was a trick she sometimes used to steady herself when confronted with an ominous problem, mentally dissecting it into a collection of smaller, more manageable bits. In the brutish case before her, she perceived one part tyrant and one part diffident boy, both covered over with a quantity of practiced intimidation. The gentleman did not appear so alarming under this analysis. He was formidable, not by true essence, she concluded. It was rather by considerable effort, as if he could only bolster his own confidence by cowering others. Judging from the prodigious scowl he wore, Mr. Farnsworth had next set himself the task of cowering her.
“Well, Miss Bennet,” he commenced, slowly striding across the room with hands clasped behind his back and a cool, sideways gaze leveled at her. “Let us come to a right understanding at once. My wife may have engaged your services, but you shall stay or go according to my verdict. Is that clear?”

I’m proud to report that Mary stood her ground, earning a degree of respect and a wary truce with her employer. Then, when his wife died, much of the fight seemed to drain out of Mr. Farnsworth. The effects of a tormented conscience, perhaps, for treating the woman badly while she lived? These days, his moods are so changeable that Mary never knows what to expect when they meet – the old tyrant or the new man of enlightenment. The only truly safe course is to stay out of his way completely.

So maybe Mary should consider making a play for Mr. Tristan Collins after all. Then she might end by being mistress of Longbourn instead of a governess forever. On the face of things, it shouldn’t be a difficult choice, especially when her returning cousin proves to be surprisingly handsome and excellent company. Still, it wouldn’t be easy to leave Netherfield and the three children she’s become attached to. And now Kitty has taken an interest in Mr. Collins as well, setting herself up as Mary’s rival.

What do you think? Should Mary open herself up – to the possibility of romance, but also to the risk of emotional ruin? Does she stand a chance with Tristan Collins against her younger, prettier sister? Or is she fated to find her future at Netherfield?

I didn’t know the answers myself when I began, but I’ll tell you this much. The story started pure Jane Austen, and somewhere along the way it took a turn for Jane Eyre.


Shannon Winslow, her two sons now grown, devotes much of her time to her diverse interests in music, literature, and the visual arts – writing claiming the lion’s share of her creative energies in recent years.

Ms. Winslow has published three novels to date. In 2011, she debuted with The Darcys of Pemberley, a popular sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and PrejudiceFor Myself Alone a stand-alone Austenesque story, followed in 2012. And now comes Return to Longbourn, the next chapter of her Pride and Prejudice series.

Shannon lives with her husband in the log home they built in the countryside south of Seattle, where she writes and paints in her studio facing Mt. Rainier.

Learn more at Shannon’s website/blog (www.shannonwinslow.com), and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Austen Authors.

Thank you for joining me today, Shannon, on your blog tour and for sharing such a fantastic excerpt! What will happen next for Mary Bennet, I wonder?!!!