(Originally published on November 11, 2011)
1. First, tell us a bit about yourself. Where you’re from? Past jobs, awards, the usual bio stuff.
Born in Huntington, West Virginia, over the years, I have held many positions: waitress, tax preparer, “Girl Friday” for a media mogul, Off-Broadway performer, media literacy consultant, and a public classroom teacher for forty years. I hold multiple advanced degrees from a variety of colleges and universities. I have been a Martha Holden Jennings Scholar, a Time Warner Star Teacher, Columbus (OH) Educator of the Year, and a guest panelist for the Smithsonian. I have been a daughter, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a teacher, and now an author.
2. What do you write? You’re welcome to include your latest title (shameless plug) and add a link to it.
I began my career writing Jane Austen-inspired novels. My first, Darcy’s Passions, is Austen’s Pride and Prejudice retold from Mr. Darcy’s point of view. Its sequel, Darcy’s Temptation was a 2009 Booksellers Best Award Finalist. The Phantom of Pemberley, a cozy mystery, placed third in romantic suspense in the 2010 Dixie Kane Memorial Contest. I also have a paranormal version in Vampire Darcy’s Desire, as well as Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion, a retelling of Austen’s Persuasion. Ulysses Press released my latest book, a Christmas-themed sequel to Pride and Prejudice entitled Christmas at Pemberley, on November 8.
I also write Regency romance. I have two series currently on the market. The first three books in the “Realm” (a fictionalized covert governmental group) are available: The Scandal of Lady Eleanor (Book 1), which Publisher’s Weekly called a “knockout” was released in March 2011. A Touch of Velvet (Book 2) and A Touch of Cashémere (Book 3) have followed, while A Touch of Grace and A Touch of Mercy are in the planning stages. In addition, the initial book in The First Wives’ Club trilogy has been released. Readers can preview each of my novels on my website (www.rjeffers.com).
3. Who has been the most difficult character for you to write?
In writing “extensions” of Austen’s classic tales, I am often called upon to bring to life one of her minor characters – creating a back story, a description, motivations, conflict, etc., for characters for which Austen offered few details: Caroline Bingley, Colonel Fitzwilliam, Charlotte Collins, Sir Walter Elliot, Captain Harville. An audience of avid Austen fans who have preconceived ideas of how the character looks and acts because of various film adaptation of Austen’s works compounds the problem. One must have Georgiana Darcy resemble Emilia Fox from the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, and Mr. Collins must have a strong resemblance to Tom Hollander from the 2005 film.
Of all Austen’s minor characters, I want Anne De Bourgh to know a different life. I have attempted three possible scenarios for Anne’s future, and although I am more comfortable with the rendering found in my Christmas at Pemberley, I am not totally satisfied with the depth of Anne’s characterization. I want to know more of Lady Catherine De Bourgh’s “sickly” daughter.
4. What characters are lying on your “office floor”? Why didn’t they come to life on the page and do you think they ever will? Or why not?
When I wrote A Touch of Velvet, I expected it to lead to two stories – one for each of Velvet Aldridge’s twin sisters, Cashémere and Satiné Aldridge. Of course, if I had thought about it, I would have known better. A Touch of Velvet was to be book one of the Realm series, but four chapters into writing the story of Brantley Fowler and Velvet Aldridge, I abandoned their story line. Brantley’s sister, Lady Eleanor Fowler, and his commanding officer, James Kerrington, were “screaming” at me to tell their story first. Book 3 was to be the story of Marcus Wellston’s discovering Cashémere Aldridge was everything he never knew he needed. Aidan Kimbolt and Satiné Aldridge were to come to a similar realization in Book 4. Yet, as I wrote A Touch of Cashémere, I found myself growing disillusioned by Satiné’s “woe is me” attitude. (Yes, I do realize that I gave her those qualities that I came to despise, but in my opinion, Satiné was not the appropriate match for Aidan Kimbolt, a character of whom I have grown quite fond.) Kimbolt deserved better. At the end of book 3, Satiné is in Europe. I remain uncertain as to her eventual fate. Perhaps, I will kill her off. Instead, book 4 will concern Gabriel Crowden’s and Grace Nelson’s joining. Aidan’s story will be the center of Book 5, A Touch of Mercy.
5. How much time does it take you to write a book?
I can finish a book in four months, but I would prefer a minimum of five. I hand write the first draft. I realize to many this appears counterproductive, but I find I am completing two steps at once. Because my cursive writing is slower than my typing, I have time to read aloud what I am writing. This gives me a good sense of how the story “sounds.” If I need a rewrite of a scene, I recognize it immediately and can fix it, or I can make a notation to revisit it after the book is complete. Then I word process the piece. Again, I read the story aloud in my head. This serves as my second draft. Finally, I correct one chapter per day the last month prior to my deadline. Although some revision does occur, this final check is more for editing. Surprisingly, my editorial changes are minimal because of the multiple checks prior to the final copy.
6. It seems there has always been an intense love of all things Jane Austen. I know many of your books are “Austen-related.” Why do you think there is this never-ending fascination with Austen, her writing, and the Regency period?
Austen’s appeal rests in the universality of her subject matter. She focuses on themes as old as time: marriage, the generation gap, and societal pressure. Jane Austen’s stories inspire self-reflection: what we never admit to ourselves, and what we will not permit others to know. In Austen, we discover the use of the family as the building block of society. Her stories take us back to a time “when things were simpler.” Her works are a mirror to our own society: as such, the reader is presented with a protagonist whose life and social standing is similar to his own. Her heroines are women of sense, who exemplify rational love. Meanwhile, Austen transforms distant heroes into expressively communicative heroes. It is a magical combination.
7. Any funny “researching your book stories” to share with readers?
While writing, I regularly stop to research the use of a particular phase or a historic fact. Often, such research changes the original story line. For example, I have spoken previously of writing an exquisite scene for my novella, “His American Heartsong,” in which the main character, Arabella, is sprayed by a skunk. I was laughing aloud as I created a scene reminiscent of a friend’s encounter with a black and white intruder. Unfortunately, my instincts screamed with the realization that there are no skunks in England. A quick check proved my hunch true. I filed the scene in the trash and created a less enjoyable one.
8. What do you find is the hardest part of writing?
I do not write comic relief well. This statement would never surprise my family and friends. I am terrible at telling jokes – being one of those people who always anticipates the punch line. I have been known to rehearse a joke in private several times before I share it with others. It is not that I do not appreciate humor. In fact, I usually start an audience’s response during a film or live performance with my own laughter. I love juxtaposition, puns, malapropos, and reversals. I simply struggle in writing the ultimate comic mix. I hold a strong appreciation of those who have mastered satire, parody, incongruity, and the double entendre.
(Join us tomorrow for part 2.)
To bring a renewed sense joy to his wife’s countenance, Fitzwilliam Darcy has secretly invited the Bennets and the Bingleys to spend the Christmastide festive days at Pemberley. But as he and Elizabeth journey to their estate to join the gathered families, a blizzard blankets the English countryside. The Darcys find themselves stranded at a small out-of-the-way inn with another couple preparing for the immediate delivery of their first child, while Pemberley is inundated with friends and relations seeking shelter from the storm.
Without her brother’s strong presence, Georgiana Darcy desperately attempts to manage the chaos surrounding the arrival of six invited guests and eleven unscheduled visitors. But bitter feuds, old jealousies, and intimate secrets quickly rise to the surface. Has Lady Catherine returned to Pemberley for forgiveness or revenge? Will the manipulative Caroline Bingley find a soul mate? Shall Kitty Bennet and Georgiana Darcy know happiness?
Written in Regency style and including Austen’s romantic entanglements and sardonic humor, Christmas at Pemberley places Jane Austen’s most beloved characters in an exciting yuletide story that speaks to the love, the family spirit, and the generosity that remain as the heart of Christmas.
Regina Jeffers, a public classroom teacher for thirty-nine years, considers herself a Jane Austen enthusiast. She is the author of several Austen-inspired novels, including Darcy’s Passions, Darcy’s Temptation, Vampire Darcy’s Desire, Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion, The Phantom of Pemberley, and the upcoming The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy. She also is a Regency romance author: The Scandal of Lady Eleanor, A Touch of Velvet, A Touch of Cashémere, and The First Wives’ Club. A Time Warner Star Teacher and Martha Holden Jennings Scholar, Jeffers often serves as a consultant in language arts and media literacy. Currently living outside Charlotte, North Carolina, she spends her time with her writing, gardening, and her new grandson.