Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Interview with Marilyn Brant + GIVEAWAY!!

Today I have the honor of welcoming the talented Marilyn Brant to Leatherbound Reviews. I have read several of Brant’s books and have thoroughly enjoyed each one. There is a reason she has won the RWA’s Golden Heart Award, the Reviewers’ Choice Award, and the Heart of Excellence Readers’ Choice Award.
This past November, Brant released her latest novel, A Summer in Europe. Since this is a “summer” book, I have been anxiously awaiting summer’s arrival to read this. With summer weather is upon us in the Deep South, I thought now would be the perfect time to pick up my copy and travel abroad with the characters.
While reading, I became such a part of the book, the characters became new friends and the locations tangible, that I just had to ask Marilyn more about her novel, characters and inspiration.

Thank you so much, Marilyn, for satisfying my hunger for more about A Summer in Europe in answering these questions.
You have your protagonist, Gwen, listen to a lot of Andrew Lloyd Webber, particularly, “All I Ask of You” from Phantom of the Opera.” Was there a reason you chose Webber and show tunes?

Yes, I'm a big Andrew Lloyd Webber fan myself, and I happen to be very familiar with songs from a number of his soundtracks. That made it easy for me to find connections between some of his musicals and what was happening in the novel. "The Phantom of the Opera" was especially useful because it has scenes in Paris (which my characters visit) and, thematically, there's a major love triangle going on in that play. Also, being British and so popular in musical circles, Webber's shows have had long runs in London (another city my characters visit), so I knew seeing one of his plays would be a realistic excursion for Gwen and her traveling companions. As for musicals in general, there's something just so delightful and freeing about people breaking into song to express themselves. I fell in love with "The Sound of Music" when I was in 3rd grade and was completely charmed when I watched my first live musical -- "The Music Man" -- when I was in junior high. I've seen more live theatrical productions now than I can count, and I've even taken part in a few, but I never tire of them. I almost always leave feeling uplifted. It's the kind of lighthearted experience a character like Gwen needs more of in her life.

Oh, I agree! I thought the music fit so well with your themes and characters’ experiences. I also liked that one doesn’t need to be well-versed in musicals to pick up on the musical connection and understand its importance to Gwen and Emerson.
I also noticed in According to Jane, music plays a key role. Do you always try to incorporate music into your novels, or is this just a coincidence?

Oh, it's not a coincidence at all!! I am a HUGE music geek. I love so many styles of music and I get a thrill out of being able to showcase them in a story. The kind of songs a character enjoys conveys something about their personality, in my opinion, and certain lyrics are absolutely perfect for underscoring a novel's theme or a character's emotion. I can't imagine life without a musical soundtrack, but that may be because I have one constantly playing in my head, running parallel to my personal life, too. At any given time, you could ask me what song is currently on my mental radio station, and I can always tell you. (Right this second: "Crazy for You" - Gershwin; Yesterday: I distinctly remember several hours of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven," LOL.)

LOL! I love that you have a constant playlist going on in your head! I think you are on to something connecting music to your themes and characters’ emotions. Whenever I hear a familiar song, I am always taken back in time to some memory or emotion. Music is such a powerful conveyor of those things.
Did you have fun writing the scenes with the S&M Club? I have to admit, you had me snickering so much I woke up my poor husband. I just loved this group and their desire to live life to the fullest.

I'm so thrilled you enjoyed my little "S&M" Club!! And, yes, it was a BLAST writing these characters. Aunt Bea and Dr. Louie and Hester and Zenia were like friends of mine by the time I finished the novel. While I don't have people in my real life who are exactly like any of these characters, I do have some fabulous 70+ year-old relatives and friends who are funny, charming and so very wise. I love talking to them, and I don't feel they are remotely "old." Their spirit and spunkiness has been an inspiration to me for years. My late mother-in-law, who passed away when she was 85, had been one of my very best friends -- I could talk and laugh with her for hours. She may have been 45 years older than me, but I'd never felt her to be anything but a peer. And her sister, who lived until age 90, was a riot. So warm and funny and full of life. So, I wanted to channel some of these great traits into my characters. I figured Gwen could learn a lot from them!

Yes! I also think they have a lot to teach Gwen. :) I do hope I am a bit like them, warm, funny, and full of life, like you say, when I am older.
Now, what gave you the idea for a Sudoku and Mah-jongg group? Do you play? If not, how did you research the rules and terminology?

I do play Sudoku, although not at all at a competitive level. My son and dad and brother all play, too, so we've worked on puzzles together during holidays and other family events. I come from a serious math-science family, so we'd do things like "solve story problems" during Thanksgiving gatherings for fun. It was the source of much amusement to my husband, who assured me that this was not at all "normal family behavior" in his experience, LOL. In any case, I knew the basics of Sudoku, and I read about tournament play online, so I could create my own fictional international competition. Mah-jongg, however, was another story. I'd never played even once in my life, but I wanted an "S&M" Club, so I needed a good "M" and "Mah-jongg" seemed more intriguing and offbeat to me than any other "M" I could come up with... My good friend, YA author Simone Elkeles, had played a great deal of Mah-jongg, though, and she promised she could teach me and that it would be an easy thing for me to learn. SO NOT TRUE!! It was quite a feat trying to understand the rules of the game, and my attempts at learning them ended up being pretty hilarious to us. So much so that I actually wrote a fun "extra," which is included at the end of A Summer in Europe, explaining what had happened when Simone tried to teach me to play the game at our local Steak-n-Shake. One of these days, I might give it another try...

Thank you for including your Mah-jongg lesson in the back of the book. It was quite entertaining to read!
Switching gears again, I know you have traveled quite a bit when younger. Are the places visited in ASIE all places you have seen or are some places you still wish to go? And is this where the majority of your research came from?

Look at the happy couple in Paris!

I was incredibly fortunate to have traveled to all eight of the countries Gwen and her companions visited in A Summer in Europe. I went to almost all of the individual sites, too, with the exception of Monet's home in Giverny, France and Waverley Abbey in Surrey, England (and I still want to see both of those, so I'll have to figure out a way to get back to Europe again :). However, there were a lot of details I needed to research online because it had been so long since I was abroad. I knew a great many things had changed or, even if they hadn't, my memory wasn't exacting enough to remember how long it took to cross the English Channel or how many steps it would take to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower. There were plenty of specifics I needed to look up!

You have done most, if not all, of your traveling with your husband. Did he read A Summer in Europe? What were his thoughts? Did he help you at all in your recollections?

Marilyn and hubby in Capri
Ha! Yes, I definitely did most of my European traveling with my husband, although not all... When I was 19, I toured Europe for six weeks with my college dance group and the live band that performed with us. It was a blast! We met tons of other dancers and musicians from around the world and got such a great workout every day because we were either rehearsing or onstage all of the time. Some of the people I met on that trip helped to form the adventure I wrote for Gwen. But my husband and I traveled extensively as a backpacking couple and went on bus tours and countless historical excursions. He's a world history teacher, so it was like having my own private tour guide through many of the major sites and, ohhh, he could lecture endlessly on some of them when he wanted to, LOL. I wrote and revised A Summer in Europe before he read it (I believe he got ahold of it when it was already at the Advanced Reader Copy stage), and he told me he loved it. For him, he said it was his favorite of my novels because he knew some of my inspirations, such as where I gotten a few of the scene elements, several lines of dialogue and most of the site descriptions. There were times when I was working on the draft that I'd ask him about something (i.e., "Hey, remember when we were in Capri? Do you have any idea how long the ferry ride to the island took us?"), but he mostly helped by having kept our recollections of European travel alive through all those years when we didn't journey any further than the American Midwest. We still often talk about funny moments or interesting impressions from those old travel days...they remain a very special time in our lives.

So, what you are telling me through this is that you had your very own personal Emerson while vacationing with your husband. Lucky you!

Aunt Bea & Zenia love The Bold and the Beautiful. At one point, you go into great detail about the plot and drama in the soap opera. Is this a guilty pleasure of yours? I am curious to know how you knew all the details on who was really whose son.

Excellent question!! There's actually quite a story behind this... I'd originally come up with a fictitious soap opera for the book that I'd called "The Bold and the Brazen." I created what I thought was the wackiest, most outrageous plot lines for this fake soap and named the characters with very soap-opera-ish names like "Rafe" and "Esmeralda." When I turned in the book to my editor, though, he told me that I should just use the plot lines and names from "The Bold and the Beautiful" because he was a fan of the soap and he just KNEW that was what I was basing mine on. Well, in truth, I'd never seen even one episode of "The Bold and the Beautiful" before then, and I didn't know any of the characters or their stories -- I was just spoofing the title. When I went online and started reading about the Forrester clan and all of their machinations, though, I couldn't believe it! If I thought MY plot lines were outrageous, THEIRS were even more so!! I read through several seasons of drama on the soap (marriages, divorces, affairs, out-of-wedlock babies, attempted murders, kidnappings, etc.) and watched a handful of episodes and, then, I realized I only had to slightly rewrite the scenes where the soap characters make an appearance. It was stunning to me how seamlessly the real program fit with my wild original ideas!

I’m dying to know who your favorite characters were to write. I am thinking it would be rather fun to write about Aunt Bea, Hester and Zenia.

Hester and Zenia were a hoot to write. I loved letting Gwen listen in on their conversations, especially when Hester was "getting ideas" for her murder mystery, LOL. I really had fun writing Aunt Bea, too, just because she cared about Gwen so much and was trying in her own eccentric way to give her niece such an important gift. Emerson and Thoreau's mom was a piece of work, so I enjoyed her a whole lot (!!), and, I'll admit, when it came down to the last couple of chapters, it was a pleasure writing ALL of the characters. I knew them so well by then, it was easy to imagine their interactions together in London. The theater scenes at "The Phantom of the Opera" with Gwen, Richard and Emerson were especially exciting to choreograph, and I truly loved getting to visualize what was happening onstage with what was happening in the audience...not to mention adding in Thoreau and all of his post-play questions. I'd laugh to myself as I was writing those segments of the story. But behavior like that is what makes people think writers are a little crazy, so I tried to do most of my drafting (particularly toward the end of the novel) at home!!

Well, you did a great job with the “Phantom” scenes. I loved seeing what was going on onstage to what was taking place in the audience! The connections were so well-developed & delivered. And then throwing in Thoreau’s post-play questions had me laughing out loud too!
Thank you so much Marilyn for taking time and allowing me to relive the book through your answers. I hope you are able to visit Europe with your son sometime soon. Maybe for a graduation present? It’s a win-win for all three of you!
If you have EVER wanted to visit Europe or you have been and want to relive your experience, you need to pick up a copy of A Summer in Europe! Or if you just want a great read, then pick up ASIE!
To find out more about Marilyn's journey and writing experience with ASIE stop by her blog.
Thank you, Jakki for having me here. It has been a pleasure, and I just love sharing my European experience with readers.

*I will be posting my vlog on Friday. Make sure you come back and hear my thoughts on Aunt Bea’s club and for more chances to win A Summer in Europe!*


Marilyn Brant is graciously giving away ONE Hardcover book-club copy of A Summer in Europe!! (US & Canada residence)

To enter, simply leave a comment about the interview or tell us if you can travel anywhere in Europe, where would it be?
After you comment, tweet, etc. make sure you fill out the Rafflecopter form as that is how the winner will be selected!

Winner will be announced Friday, June 8! Check back to see if you won! Good Luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Thank you so much Marilyn Brant for the amazing giveaway!! Again, the winner will be announced Friday, June 8! Good Luck!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Review: A Summer in Europe by Marilyn Brant

“Gwennie,” Aunt Bea began, “we’ve got a little surprise for you.”
Her aunt shot a look at Connie Sue, who raised her eyebrows at Hester and who, in turn, nudged Zenia, who blurted out, “Angie’s havin’ a hip replacement.”
“I-I’m sorry to hear that,” Gwen replied...”
“What Zenia means, dear,” her aunt interrupted, “is that Angie and Thomas aren’t going to be taking the trip with the group… So, I bought their tickets and transferred them to our names,” her aunt said brightly. “We’re going on the trip instead.”
“Surprise!” the S&M club members cried in gleeful harmony.
Gwen’s heart paused, as if not sure whether it should keep beating. The anxiety at the prospect of undertaking such a journey with this nearly insane crew tangoed with the allure of her first foreign adventure. I could see a world I’ve only read about... (from A Summer in Europe p.22-24)

For her thirtieth birthday, Gwendolyn Reese doesn’t receive the expected engagement ring from her boyfriend. Instead, her aunt and the Sudoku and Mahjongg Club present Gwen with a grand tour of Europe. With no ring, Gwen decides to go abroad, her first step in finding herself. Having rarely left the comfort of the Midwest, and uncertain as to whether she is up to spending a summer with her aunt’s crazy friends, Gwen is apprehensive. Yet, it is somewhere between Capri and Sorrento that Gwen has her great awakening. Everything now is vivid, vibrant, and alive; she is alive.
Helping her along is physics professor Emerson Edwards. However, the more time Gwen spends in Emerson’s company, the greater her struggle becomes, as her new passion for culture is not the only awakening Gwen is having. Even though things may be platonic between the two, there’s no getting around the sparks flying from all the sexual tension. From feeding each other linguini and chocolate cake to their unique understanding for each other, I was completely wrapped up in their story. But will Gwen’s renaissance take root enough for her to forget the safety and predictability of life back in Iowa with her boyfriend Richard or will she take a chance in her search for her own passions?
Adding to the amusement of the story was the S&M Club. It didn’t matter if Hester, Zenia and Aunt Bea were discussing The Bold and the Beautiful, which men are “fling-worthy,” or a new way to dispose of someone as a plot for a novel, they had me in stitches. I mean, who expects a sixty-seven year old aunt to encourage her niece to “lose” her hotel key so she will have no other choice than to spend the night elsewhere?
A Summer in Europe was truly an enjoyable novel. I found Brant’s storytelling supreme, her characters real, and Europe breathtaking. In addition to the lovable characters, it was the author’s picturesque language that had me experiencing Gwen’s awakening and Europe first hand. Brant’s ability to take the smallest details and tie them into the major themes and motifs, as well as her perfectly chosen descriptions, wove this story together like one of Zenia’s finely knitted scarves.
I was not ready to say good-bye to my new friends or to unpack my bags and put away my passport. In doing so, it would mean my summer in Europe was over, and while entertaining and introspective, A Summer in Europe was a journey I did not want to end.

*Wednesday I will be interviewing Marilyn Brant, who is generously GIVING AWAY a copy of A Summer in Europe!!

About the Author:
As a former teacher, library staff member, freelance magazine writer and national book reviewer, Marilyn has spent much of her life lost in literature. She’s been told — and not always with the intent to flatter — that she’s “insatiably curious” and “a travel addict.” Marilyn has traveled to 46 states and over 30 countries (so far — she’s not done yet!), but she now lives in the Chicago suburbs with her family. When she isn’t rereading Jane’s books or enjoying the latest releases by her writer friends, she’s working on her next novel, eating chocolate indiscriminately and hiding from the laundry.

Marilyn Brant
Twitter: @marilynbrant

A Summer in Europe
Available on Amazon
Available on Barnes and Noble

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Three Colonels Vlog with Colonel Buford

There are many things I love about Austenesque literature (watch Why Jane Austen vlog to find out more) from the romance, to my wonderings of how Elizabeth and Darcy will overcome their obstacles in this variation, to my anticipation over Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth finding each other after all of these years, my curiosity in how Caroline Bingley will be portrayed, and even which new characters will appear. I quite enjoy it when authors incorporate original characters into their work. I never know how the new character is going to throw a wrench in things. This unknown helps keeps my interest.
An original character I just love is Colonel Sir John Buford from Jack Caldwell’s The Three Colonels. He is dashing, brave, intelligent, and even somewhat of a reformed rake! Combine all of those things and you get one alluring original character.
Listen to this excerpt from The Three Colonels to get just a small glimpse of Colonel Buford.

Other original characters I love are archangels Michael & Gabriel from Robin Helm’s Guardian Trilogy, Hussein from Compulsively Mr. Darcy by Nina Benneton, All three men (Mr. Basford, Mr. Card, & Mr. Rushton) from Jennifer Becton’s works, and Mr. & Mrs. Joseph from Christmas at Pemberley by Regina Jeffers. And even though these are not variations, they are Austen-inspired: Sam Elliot from According to Jane by Marilyn Brant, and last, but certainly not least… wait for it… Alyssa Goodnight’s infamous kilt-wearing Sean MacInnes from Austentatious!!
I could go on and on, but I want to know, who are some of your favorite original characters from Austenesque novels?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Review: The Three Colonels by Jack Caldwell

From the Publisher:
Love reigns supreme for our three brave colonels at the start of this epic tale. Colonels Fitzwilliam, Buford, and Brandon are enjoying their courtships and their early married lives with three beloved Jane Austen heroines. The couples lead tranquil lives - until Napoleon escapes from exile. While the military men set out to meet their destiny on the fields of Waterloo, Anne, Caroline, and Marianne defend their hearts against the fear of losing their loved ones.

Three cheers for The Three Colonels! Trading in post Civil War America for Regency England, Jack Caldwell delivers another memorable Austenesque romance.

At a time when each couple is getting their foothold on marriage and courting, our three colonels, Brandon, Fitzwilliam and Buford, are called to the Continent to stop Napoleon. With only their love and letters keeping them going, Marianne, Anne and Caroline prepare their hearts for the worst. All together, with the support of family and friends, as well as immense help from the Darcys, our heroines find solace and are able to go about daily life. 
I always enjoy it when Austenesque authors develop original characters. This time around, it is Colonel Sir John Buford. *sigh* Caldwell’s authorial tagline is, “It takes a real man to write historical romance.” Well, Mr. Caldwell must be the most manly man out there, because every word to Caroline that came out of Buford’s mouth had me weak in the knees. Don’t get me wrong, Buford still has his demons to slay and isn’t by any means perfect, but the way he treats Caroline is so romantic.
As much as it pains me to say it, I found myself liking Caroline and empathizing with her, just like I did with Jennifer Becton’s Caroline. In The Three Colonels, readers are given a reborn Caroline. While she may have realized people’s value doesn’t come from their social standings, Caroline still contains fire and spunk, and still delivers the cutting remarks for which she is so well-known; however, now those remarks are said in defense of those dear to her. It was also through events towards the end of the novel where Caroline truly proves herself a changed and better person.
Another one of Caldwell’s characters I enjoyed was Anne de Bourgh. Due to some measures on Mrs. Jenkinson’s part, Anne is no longer of a sickly constitution. She is feisty, intelligent, and has a backbone that would make Elizabeth Bennet proud. Not only is Anne changed, but Mr. Collins has changed in some regards as well, and I have to say it was a surprisingly nice change.
Similar to Mary Simonsen, Caldwell cleverly incorporates historical factoids into his work. It was as if I was being educated and entertained simultaneously. These nuggets of information were so well placed. They did not distract from the story, or make it seem boring. Rather, they enhanced the plot, making it richer and realer.
From the weak-in-the-knees romance, well-developed characterization and the historical tidbits, Caldwell gave me a novel I didn’t want to put down.

*On Thursday I talk about Colonel Buford in my vlog. Be sure to check back-- I would love to hear your thoughts!!*

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bewitched, Body and Soul Giveaway Winner!!

Bewitched, Body and Soul ebook winner: Candy M

Congratulations, Candy M! Please email me (@ jakki36 at yahoo dot com) with your email address and mailing address at your convenience to claim your prize!

Thank you everyone who left comments for the Bewitched, Body and Soul giveaway and P O Dixon's interview. What an honor it is to interview such a talented writer. Bewitched, Body and Soul is now available for the Kindle on Amazon. For those of you who prefer paperbacks, those will be availbe soon. Stay tuned to P O Dixon's blog for further information on the paperback release. I hope you enjoy Dixon's works as much as I have.
Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mr. Darcy Forever Vlog: Why Jane Austen?

One of the things I just love about Victoria Connelly’s Jane Austen Addicts Trilogy is how each heroine is obsessed with Jane Austen. They not only love Austen’s six novels, but she offers each of them a sort of comfort.  In A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, Katherine Roberts finds Jane Austen is the only thing keeping her sane. Needing a break from her chaotic life, Katherine sojourns to Hampshire to attend a Jane Austen Addicts conference. Oh, the solace of surrounding oneself with other Janeites. After all, people who share our love for Jane Austen are some of the kindest people.
In Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, Kay Ashton decides moving to Lyme Regis is just the thing she needs to finish her book, The Illustrated Darcy. What better inspiration for painting the seafront and Cobb than being there? It is here Kay turns to Northanger Abby and Persuasion for comfort and discernment.
Last, but surely not least, are Sara and Mia Castle from Mr. Darcy Forever, who are more like Elinor and Marianne Dashwood.  Knowing this about themselves, the sisters are able to use Austen’s characters to help them through some difficult times. It is on their annual trip to the Jane Austen Festival in Bath that they realize the healing powers of Bath.

Listen in on Sara Castle’s thoughts on why Jane Austen is still so popular and what Austen means to her.

Just like Sara, I love how timeless Austen's characters are. Sometimes when I am out shopping or at the park with my children, I like to observe people (or even my friends and family members) and find various traits in them that Austen's characters hold.

I love Austen's humor.  Her wit, irony, and the way she pokes fun at society keep me entertained. I enjoy watching Elizabeth Bennet, Catherine Morland, and Anne Elliot grow and find courage, reminding me there is always room for change.

Why do you like Jane Austen? What kind of comforts has Jane Austen provided you?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Review: Mr. Darcy Forever by Victoria Connelly

From the Publisher:
Sisters are forever...
Sarah and Mia Castle are closer than best friends and share just about everything, including a deep and abiding love for all things relating to Jane Austen. Their annual trip to the Jane Austen Festival in Bath is a highlight of their lives—until the year they discover that no matter how close two sisters may be, it's impossible to share one man between them. Even ifhe does seem like their own perfect Mr. Darcy, if one wins him, won' t both of them lose?

Planning a staycation this summer? Whether you are a Janeite, travel enthusiast, or romantic, Victoria Connelly offers a stress-free, cost-free, delightful getaway. Through her trilogy, Connelly takes readers to Hampshire in A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, Lyme Regis in Dreaming of Mr. Darcy and Bath in Mr. Darcy Forever.  Jane Austen Addicts Trilogy is the perfect summer read, allowing readers to escape reality and voyage to the beautiful sights of England and experience flirty romance first hand.
In the pages of Connelly’s novel, you will visit the Royal Crescent, Pump Room, Pultney Bridge, the Circus, and spend a week in Devon at Barton Cottage. It was here I could see the myriad of colors the scenery offered: pink and red campions, bluebells and lush green fields. I watched women in Regency dresses, adorned with bonnets and reticules, and men in tight breeches promenade through the Royal Crescent. It was as if I was a passerby, observing the elegantly dressed people and seeing firsthand the beautiful stonework and history of Bath. It’s these breathtaking sights that make each book memorable.
Similar to the other two books in the trilogy, in Mr. Darcy Forever, we are given two romances for the price of one! Sisters, Sara and Mia Castle, normally attend the Jane Austen Festival in Bath together each year. However, after a falling out, the two have not spoken nor attended the festival for three years. Throughout the story, the reader is taken back in time to Sara and Mia’s holiday at Barton Cottage and slowly given the sordid details behind their row. The transitions between present day Bath and the Barton Cottage flashbacks flow smoothly. I could not put down the book because I had to know what kind of guy could come between these best friends.
Coming face to face with their pain, each sister finds the healing power in talking about the past three years. Having opened up about their private struggles, there is an immediate bond formed between each sister and her new beau. Could these guys be the Mr. Darcys Sarah and Mia have been searching for? While their relationships do move rather fast, it did not bother me because they connected on such an emotional level already. And hey, any guy willing to enter a Mr. Darcy wet t-shirt competition must be a keeper, right?
I loved how many characters from A Weekend with Mr. Darcy and Dreaming of Mr. Darcy make cameos. It was like bumping into old friends. This was such fun trilogy; I cannot believe it is over. I really enjoyed my sojourns to Hampshire, Lyme Regis and Bath.
Those who find yourselves as sad as I am that the trilogy is over, put away your hankies, for Ms. Connelly is planning a novella sequel for Kindle called Christmas with Mr. Darcy, which will unite the main characters from each trilogy as they attend a special conference at Purley Hall in Hampshire.

*Stop by Thursday to watch my vlog for Mr. Darcy Forever!*

Mr. Darcy Forever
Available on Amazon
Available on Barnes and Noble
Available on Sourcebooks

Victoria Connelly's website:
Twitter: @VictoriaDarcy
Facebook: Victoria Connelly

Friday, May 11, 2012

Still a Young Man Giveaway Winners!!

Still a Young Man paperback: Felicia
Still a Young Man ebook: MonicaP

Congratulations, ladies! Please email me (@ jakki36 at yahoo dot com) with your email address and mailing address (for the paperback) at your convenience to claim your prize!

Thank you everyone who left comments for the Still a Young Man giveaway! You all are so wonderful! I am also truly honored to have been able to interview P O Dixon, as well as review her books. I cannot tell you guys how excited I am Dixon has another novel (Bewitched, Body and Soul) out and one in the works. I hope you enjoy Dixon's works as much as I have.
Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

P O Dixon Interview & GIVEAWAY!!!

Today I welcome author P O Dixon, to Leatherbound Reviews. Recently, I have been devouring Dixon’s books and I am happy to say on Saturday, May 5, Dixon released the Kindle edition of her latest novel, Bewitched, Body and Soul. After reading He Taught Me to Hope, my mind was filled with so many questions I just had to ask P O Dixon. I hope you enjoy this interview!

What are your favorite scenes and lines from Pride and Prejudice? Do you have favorite scenes you like to write?

One of my favorite lines comes from Elizabeth’s rejection of Darcy’s initial proposal.

“From the very beginning, from the first moment I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form that ground-work of disapprobation, on which succeeding events have built so immoveable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.”
I always strive to include that scene in my stories, appropriately tweaked to match the storyline. In the case of He Taught Me to Hope, Elizabeth utters those famous words to someone other than Mr. Darcy.
Two other lines I love that I like to include in my adaptations follow:

“There are few people in England, I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of music than myself, or a better natural taste. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient. And so would Anne, if her health had allowed her to apply.”

“Heaven and earth!—of what are you thinking? Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?”
Like so many of Lady Catherine’s lines, I find those two hilarious.
I can just imagine the fun in writing Lady Catherine scenes. Speaking of fun, what gave you the idea for weaving together Arthurian legend with Pride and Prejudice? I never would have thought of meshing the two together, but it works rather well. Were you well-versed in Arthurian legend or did you have to do much research for this book? I know some authors visit places they write about to get a feel for the setting and time period. Did you do anything special in your research for He Taught Me to Hope?

When I first thought of writing He Taught Me to Hope, I had another historical adventure in mind— The Three Musketeers. My research indicated that was entirely implausible for the story was written around 1844. I mention providence on numerous occasions in He Taught Me to Hope with good reason. I consider it a matter of divine intervention that my initial plans fell through. I had a lot of fun weaving the Arthurian legend into the story. I was only vaguely familiar with the details from the legend of King Arthur, so I had to do a bit of research to tie the two tales together.

Well, I would have thought you a great proficient in Arthurian legend from how well you tied the two tales together. You must be taking lessons from Lady C.! Now, I see you have boards on Pinterest for your books. I love the picture you have pinned for Camelot/Rosings. It fits perfectly with your description of Rosings. Tell me, do you find pictures for inspiration while you are plotting and writing? I know some authors find it helps.

Often, I find inspiration for my books from certain pictures and songs. This is but one of the reasons I love Pinterest so much. Not only do I think it is an excellent place to organize inspirational photos, now readers have easy access to the pictures, as well.

Since I have a clear picture of Mr. Darcy in my mind, there is no shortage of visual depictions to spur my muse. The same applies to Elizabeth. I like to think I enjoyed another act of providence, as regards He Taught Me to Hope. I had no idea that there was a King Arthur 2004 film until an angel, who is adored by many in the Jane Austen Fan Fiction community, shared pictures from the movie on the online board where I posted the story serially. Every week, she shared a different one. A perfect picture of Kiera Knightly, as Lady Guinevere holding a bow and arrow, was the catalyst for Darcy’s shooting lesson. The most adorable photo was the one she shared as a depiction of young Ben. Fans lovingly refer to the precocious lad as ‘Bencelot.’ Thanks, Gayle!

Johnny Brennan in King Arthur
Oh, I just adored Darcy’s shooting lesson (what a hot, yet chaste scene, as I mention in my review). I would gladly study under his tutelage any day, lucky Elizabeth. And I think it is only appropriate that your fans came up with the name, “Bencelot!” I couldn’t think of a better name for him.
     (See P.O. Dixon’s boards for each novel on Pinterest)
In HTMTH, Mr. Bennet is stricter and Jane is less forgiving. What gave you the idea to portray them in this light? I found it fit well with the story.

Elizabeth was only seventeen at the time of her marriage in this adaptation. Mr. Bennet objected to the fact that her betrothed was too young to contemplate marriage. The backstory for Mr. Bennet, in this case, is that he gave up his carefree years too soon before marrying and raising a family. He suffers a bit of regret. That being the case, it explains his indifference towards Mrs. Bennet and his general disrespect. He projects these feelings onto the young man. He does not want his favorite daughter to wake up one day and find herself in such a marriage. His harshness towards Elizabeth after she defies his wishes is a reflection of a father who has lost his ability to control the life of his favorite child. He readily accepts her back into the fold when he thinks he has a chance to reassert his influence over her decisions.

When the elder Mr. Collins arrived at Longbourn with the intention of choosing a bride from among his fair cousins, Jane would have gladly accepted him. He is a decent, respectable man and a devoted father. His handsome looks and intelligence add to his estimable traits. Jane feels slighted by his obvious preference for Elizabeth when they first meet, which manifests itself in unspoken resentment. Months later, after having given up on the possibility of a future with Bingley, she readily accepts Mr. Collins’s courtship. All the reasons that rendered him a poor match for Elizabeth—issues that dealt the final blow to her tolerance for Mr. Collins—would never have come to bear in his relationship with Jane.

You do such a great job developing characters and seeing all facets, like what you did with Mr. B and Jane. Can you tell your anxious readers something about your newest release, Bewitched, Body and Soul?

Bewitched, Body and Soul is a story of Elizabeth’s determination to correct the injustice against Jane as a result of Caroline Bingley’s interference. Everything that happens in canon up to that point serves as the backdrop of this adaptation. Here’s where the story deviates. Elizabeth goes to town instead of Jane. Mrs. Bennet, having washed her hands of finding a husband for her second eldest daughter after her rejection of Mr. Collins, insists upon Elizabeth’s acceptance of the Gardiners’ invitation to town. She thinks Elizabeth might stand a chance of finding a husband in London. Elizabeth has her own reasons—to clear up the misunderstanding surrounding Bingley’s hasty departure from Netherfield Park and to convince him of Jane’s true feelings.

Two original characters are introduced in this story. The first is Darcy’s close friend, Lord Trevor Helmsley, the Earl of Latham. The second is Lady Gwendolen Helmsley, Lord Latham’s sister. Beautiful, accomplished, and caring, her greatest ambition is to be the next mistress of Pemberley.

Oh, my goodness! This story sounds just as intriguing as the others. I cannot wait to read it! And I just love the two new characters. I have a feeling there will be some “issues” between Elizabeth and Lady Gwendolen.

Indeed. Of course, the odds are in Elizabeth’s favour. I’m glad you are intrigued. I am also glad for this chance to interview on Leatherbound Reviews. Congratulations on your successful launch! I look forward to reading many exciting reviews and tuning into your vlogs.

It truly was my pleasure and honor having you, P.O.!

Stay tuned to P.O. Dixon’s website and blog to hear the latest news and reviews for Bewitched, Body and Soul!

Follow P O Dixon:
Twitter: @PODixon

P O Dixon is graciously giving away ONE Kindle edition copy of Bewitched, Body and Soul in celebration of its recent release!! To enter, simply leave a comment about the interview or tell us what you find interesting or like about Dixon’s writing. (Since the giveaway is a Kindle copy, the giveaway is open worldwide). Winner will be announced Friday, May 18! Check back to see if you won! Good Luck!!

To enter, leave a comment for any of the following: (Make sure to leave a separate comment for each entry).
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Thank you so much P O Dixon for the amazing giveaway!! Again, the winner will be announced Friday, May 18! Good Luck!