This interview first appeared on My Lady Web: Women’s History and Women Authors http://www.myladyweb.blogspot.com/
What is it about Jane Austen-inspired literature that captured your fancy?
I have been in love with Jane Austen’s stories for as long as I can remember. When I was twelve, I read Pride and Prejudice and was hooked. Perhaps, it was being a product of the 1950s and 1960s. Those decades were a male dominated period (Have you ever watched “Mad Men”?). Jane Austen’s works looked at society through a comedic screen while examining issues found in a male dominated world. Charlotte Lucas symbolizes the prevailing attitude toward women, while Elizabeth Bennet does not condemn feminine “virtues,” but rather balances them with a sensible mind. In each of Austen’s novels, the main characters have experiences that create a profound and permanent transformation (Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice; Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility; Emma Woodhouse in Emma; Anne Elliot in Persuasion; Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey; and Edmund in Mansfield Park). Austen’s witty, satirical approach to her subjects resonates across the centuries.
Tell us about your favorite novel that you have written, and why it is your favorite?
The Phantom of Pemberley is my favorite because it was my first attempt at writing a cozy mystery. I have read cozies for years, and I loved the idea of trying to incorporate all the characteristics of the genre into my Pride and Prejudice mystery. Normally, a cozy is set in a village, where all those involved are familiar with each other. There is no graphic violence, no explicit sex scenes, and no profanity. Cozies are considered “genteel” mysteries. Think of “Murder She Wrote” on TV or Agatha Christie, and one has the cozy format. A cozy would never make a good “action” movie: the emphasis is on plot twists and character development. In The Phantom of Pemberley, I used the idea of “The Shadow Man,” which is what Wes Craven reportedly used for his Freddy Krueger. In England, the “shadow man” is a popular legend. Plus, Adam Lawrence becomes an active member of the story line. Lawrence has had “walk throughs” in several of my novels. In “Phantom,” he became an integral part of the cast, and I am so pleased with the outcome. (I have written a novella that tells Lawrence’s story. I hope to publish it soon.) I was rewarded for my attempts by having “Phantom” marked with a third place finish in Romantic Suspense in a RWA (Romance Writers of America) contest in 2010.
What is the most difficult part of writing for you?
I do not write comedic scenes well. With comedy, a person must not only take note of those characteristics that define his subject, but he must exaggerate those qualities in order to achieve a humorous effect. I possess a very refined humor, one generally based on word manipulation (no bathroom humor for me), but I have difficulty bringing the situation to a “ridiculous” conclusion. I do not do exaggeration and distortion well. I suppose that the line between tragedy and comedy does truly run thin and indistinct.
Where is your favorite place to read?
In all honesty, I would say anywhere. I could live in a library or a bookstore and never feel deprived of the outside world. My mother placed a book before me when I was nothing more than an infant, and I have been fascinated by books every since. I read cereal boxes, road signs, recipes, newspapers, etc. (Kind of like the father-in-law in the Billy Crystal movie “Forget Paris.” Anything is fair game. When I read for pleasure at home, I read either in my favorite chair or sitting on the bench under the weeping willow in my back yard or snuggled under the covers in bed late at night.
What is your favorite (OUT OF YOUR GENRE) book and author? Why?
Again, this is a difficult question for me for I have several favorites that I read and reread for different reasons.
My mother and I often shared reading choices. Together, we read a series based on a family dynasty in the mid 1850s to current times. The first book in the trilogy by Ronald S. Joseph is called The Kingdom. Once we had read that title, we made it our mission to continue the story of Anne Trevor and the Scotsman Alex Cameron. It was a guilty pleasure we shared. The others in the series are The Power and The Glory. When I am missing my mother’s presence in my life, I pull out my copies and reread this series.
Homer Hickman’s October Sky takes place in my native West Virginia. Set in 1957, the story speaks of people and places of which I am familiar. It also addresses the uncertain future many of my fellow West Virginians faced as the prospects of coal as our state’s salvation began to dwindle.
I absolutely love Broadway and the theatre districts. When I need a good laugh, I seek out my copy of The Collected Plays of Neil Simon. I absolutely love God’s Favorite, a parody of the story of Job from the Bible. I can repeat many of the lines by heart from this one.
From the classics (other than Austen’s works), I love Jane Eyre. The first time I read it, I was blown away with Mr. Rochester’s transformation and the revealing of his wife’s insanity.
I taught high school and young adult literature for years. One of my favorites is a series written by Ellen Emerson White (using the pseudonym of Zack Emerson). It is the Echo Company series and deals with the Vietnam War. I have read and reread the series, but I never tire of it. Another of those I like is Julius Lester’s novelized version of Shakespeare’s Othello. Lester uses many of the original lines while creating a unique tale that brings tears to ones’ eyes. I would also include Adeline Yen Mah’s Chinese Cinderella. It is the true story of a childhood forgotten.
What is your favorite quote?
Optime positum est beneficium ubi meminit qui accipit. – Syrus, Maxims
“It is best to do favours for people with good memories.”
What subjects, themes and dilemmas of the Regency period do you return to time and again? What subjects have you introduced?
The true Regency Period lasted only nine years, from 1811 to 1820. Most writers of the period place their stories somewhere between 1800 and 1820; however, a few feature everything from the French Revolution to the Reform. When I am creating a Jane Austen adaptation, my setting is defined by Austen’s original story line. In my original Regencies, I tend to place my characters in situations that occur between 1810 and 1815. It is the time period of which I am most familiar.
The Regency is characterized by both elegance and vulgarity. Social norms and interactions were carefully scripted. Society’s tone was set by the ever-decadent Prince Regent. George IV was a man of intelligence and impeccable manners, when the situation so suited him, but he was also notorious for his appalling extravagances. Society in the early nineteenth century had become more egalitarian, and the nouveaux riche had loosened the standards of acceptance. It was a time of great transition. Yet, it was still a time when a pauper with a title had more influence than the richest tradesman. Women’s lack of choices remains a consistent theme.
I like to discover unusual facts and incorporate them into my story lines. The events of Peterloo appear in “His Irish Eve”; the efforts of Lord Cochrane to bring “chemical warfare” to the Napoleonic Wars can be found in Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion; the legend of the Shadow Man is a central part of The Phantom of Pemberley; well dressing ceremonies play out in Darcy’s Temptation; and the “rebirth” of St. Cuthbert in Vampire Darcy’s Desire; I also like to add what we think of as “modern” issues to the past: dissociative identity disorder; sexual abuse; OCD; and the infamous generation gap.
My latest book, The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, includes the Scottish legend of Sawney Bean, the weather conditions at Waterloo, and the first railroad system in Scotland.
Shackled in the dungeon of a macabre castle with no recollection of her past, a young woman finds herself falling in love with her captor – the estate’s master. Yet, placing her trust in him before she regains her memory and unravels the castle’s wicked truths would be a catastrophe.
Far away at Pemberley, the Darcys happily gather to celebrate the marriage of Kitty Bennet. But a dark cloud sweeps through the festivities: Georgiana Darcy has disappeared without a trace. Upon receiving word of his sister’s likely demise, Darcy and wife, Elizabeth, set off across the English countryside, seeking answers in the unfamiliar and menacing Scottish moors.
How can Darcy keep his sister safe from the most sinister threat she has ever faced when he doesn’t even know if she’s alive? True to Austen’s style and rife with malicious villains, dramatic revelations and heroic gestures, this suspense-packed mystery places Darcy and Elizabeth in the most harrowing situation they have ever faced – finding Georgiana before it is too late.
Website – www.rjeffers.com
Twitter – @reginajeffers
Publisher – Ulysses Press http://ulyssespress.com/