Thursday, November 8, 2012

Interview and Giveaway with Sally Smith O'Rourke +GIVEAWAY!!

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing author Sally Smith O'Rourke as part of her blog tour for the release of her latest novel, Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen. Ms. O'Rourke has also been kind enough to include a tempting excerpt from her newest release and is providing a 2 copy ebook giveaway of Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen, open internationally! Let's give Sally a warm welcome and get started! 

What gave you the idea for the premise of your story? Eliza Knight discovers letters written between Jane Austen and a real man, Fitzwilliam Darcy, most likely giving Jane fodder for the character we have all come to love.

After re-reading Austen’s novels, I wanted to know why a woman living in an era when females were deemed little more than bargaining chips and vessels for the continuation of family names and wealth wrote intelligent, strong and independent heroines and the men who loved them, so I read several biographies. According to those biographies Jane based the characters she wrote on the people in her life. The one exception was Mr. Darcy. So we decided to create the man on who she based him.

In Pride and Prejudice, after Elizabeth rejects his offer of marriage, Mr. Darcy realizes that his arrogance did not please “a woman worth pleasing” and so alters his perceptions and attitudes in an attempt to better himself, with no other expectation of any kind. This seemed to me to be the actions of a modern man and so was born The Man Who Loved Jane Austen.

The letters in that book are not so much the fodder for the character as the trigger for the story. Researching the letters leads Eliza Knight to Pemberley Farms, Fitz Darcy and his epic tale of love, romance and adventure in Regency England.

The continuation of the story in Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen delves into the complex nature of the man who became the embodiment of one of the most romantic characters in English literature. It also explores the blossoming relationship between Fitz and Eliza. That relationship is juxtaposed with Jane Austen’s summer of 1813 after the successful publication of Pride and Prejudice.

Eliza Knight believes she is in competition with Jane Austen for Fitzwilliam’s love. How did you go about writing that part to the story with out vilifying either lady? Was it tricky to accomplish?

Eliza realizes that the feeling of competition with Austen isn’t rational as the author has been dead for almost two centuries, but when things happen in Chawton, England that seem to alter that reality, nerves start to fray.

I made every effort to not vilify any of my protagonists. I won’t go into particulars here (you have to read the book), I will tell you that a beta reader said he was impressed that not only had I kept both women sympathetic but had managed to create a happy ending when only one of the women could be with him.

I didn’t find it particularly tricky; what I did seemed to go along with the natural flow of the story.

I know on Austen Authors, you said that The Man Who Loved Jane Austen was brought to life out of the love you and your late husband shared for each other. Do you see Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen to be a gift to his memory?

Yes! Absolutely! Everything I write is a tribute to Michael. He was my husband, partner and teacher and the love of my life.

Does one have to read The Man Who Loved Jane Austen prior to reading Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen?

I hope not. I tried to make the book stand alone as I suspected most people haven't read the first one. I do hope that it will make people want to read The Man Who Loved Jane Austen, though. Something I discovered with TMWLJA was it made people want to read Pride and Prejudice. So that was a good thing.

As far as current works-in-progress, I see you have started a story of reincarnation that takes place in Pasadena, CA and are making notes for a ghost story set in San Francisco. Both sound interesting. Do you hope to have either of these out by next fall, a perfect time for releasing such stories?

Hopefully, Physician, Heal Thyself will be out by next fall but I’m making no promises. The reincarnation piece takes place as you mentioned in Pasadena, California after a sizeable earthquake. It is a love-hate sparring match between two psychiatrists.

In the meantime if you are interested in a fun Halloween read, please take a look at The Maidenstone Lighthouse. It’s the story of a haunted lighthouse on the Rhode Island coast. There’s romance and adventure and a cold blooded killer.

Thank you Sally Smith O'Rourke for being a guest on Leatherbound Reviews! Now, the moment readers have been waiting for, the GIVEAWAY!!

As mentioned, Ms. O'Rourke has generously donated TWO ebook copies of Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen!! This giveaway is OPEN INTERNATIONALLY!! To enter, simply comment on the interview or excerpt! Best of luck!
Winners will be announced Friday, November 16th!

Now, for your reading pleasure, Ms O'Rourke has provided an excerpt from Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen. Enjoy! 

Although the sun was fully up in the Virginia summer sky, it was not yet hot. Fitz found jumping exhilarating; the cool morning air caressing his face, and Lord Nelson, so strong and graceful, took all the jumps with no effort.
Heritage Week was over so things could get back to normal. He shrugged. Whatever normal is. He realized there was a very good chance that his normal was about to change radically. Eliza’s letter—the one she had found written to him from Jane—had ended his search for the truth of his Regency encounter. But Eliza did much more than give him the letter.
He had been merely surviving, not living, in the years since his mother’s death. He’d thrown himself into the business of Pemberley Farms to the exclusion of almost everything else. Eliza’s arrival had heralded an acute awareness of that fact. It was as though a light was suddenly shining so he could see the world around him. She made him want to live again. And she had given him the letter… Jane’s letter.
Fitz reined Lord Nelson to a walk as they entered the cool shade of the woods on the edge of his property.
Jane. He had spent more than three years seeking proof of his meeting with her and of her feelings for him. Almost as if he’d been transported again back to Chawton in 1810, the image of Jane’s sweet face flooded his mind. He thought back to that morning and his inauspicious entrance into Jane Austen’s life.

The combination of his head injury and the laudanum prescribed by Mr. Hudson, the Austen family physician, caused Darcy to slip in and out of consciousness. He tried to sit up, the effort making him dizzy.
Jane gently laid a hand on his chest. “Please, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Hudson wants you to remain still.”
Through a cotton mouth, his head spinning, Darcy asked, “Mr. Hudson?”
“The doctor,” Jane said. “You must rest now Mr. Darcy.” The American looked at her face. Her curiosity was palpable even in his drugged state. Unable to think clearly, never mind responding to questions he wasn’t sure he could answer, he closed his eyes completely and turned his head away.
Jane returned to her vanity table where she continued to write; a single candle and the flames in the fireplace her only light. Interrupted in her writing by a low murmur from Darcy, she took the candle and quietly approached the bed. He was tossing back and forth, his face flushed and contorted; he was speaking in quiet tones, a hodgepodge of words that meant nothing to her. He spoke what she could only suppose were the nonsensical ramblings of a sick brain; she attributed words like television and jet to his head injury and delirium. She placed her hand softly on his cheek and was distressed by the heat radiating from him. Using fresh linen soaked in water from the pitcher on her wash stand, Jane swabbed his face and neck, then laid it across his forehead. It seemed to calm him and she went back to her writing.
Each time he grew restless Jane stopped writing and went to the bed to refresh the linen with cool water. After three episodes in close succession she remained on the edge of the bed so she was at hand, and each time he started to toss and turn she would caress his face and neck with the cool, damp linen in hopes that it would, in time, reduce his fever.
She stayed there until Darcy’s features turned placid and he was breathing more evenly. He finally seemed to be sleeping comfortably. She laid her small, soft hand on his cheek. The fever was broken. She dropped the cloth into the basin. Stiff from sitting in one position for so long without support, she stood up and stretched. She was not particularly tired but needed to get some rest.
Quietly she crossed the wooden floor and slipped the small pages of writing she was working on into the drawer of the vanity, then took a nightgown from the closet next to the fireplace. Glancing back at the bed she stepped behind the screen.
He opened his eyes just enough to see her slender, full-breasted figure silhouetted on the muslin screen, back-lit by the remnants of the fire as the light fabric of her nightgown floated down to envelope her.
Jane stopped at the bed before making her way to Cassandra’s room for a few hours of sleep. As she stood over him he watched surreptitiously through the veil of his eyelashes. She leaned down and whispered, “Good night, Mr. Darcy,” almost brushing his lips with her own. In spite of his continuing laudanum haze, he could see that her eyes were filled with a tenderness that caused him to grab her hand as she straightened up; he didn’t want her to go.
Without opening his eyes or letting go of her hand he said, “Please don’t leave me.”
Unsure whether this was further evidence of the delirium or whether he was actually requesting her presence, she pulled her hand away. He did not move to take it again but said, “Please, stay.”
Cognizant of Mr. Hudson’s admonition of keeping the injured American calm and concerned her leaving might agitate him, Jane sat once again on the edge of the bed. Darcy smiled in the flickering flame of the dying fire. He said nothing more but gently took her hand. He did not relinquish it again until she rose to move to a chair by the side of the bed where she finally slept.
The movement woke him. His mind finally clear of drugs, he scanned the room in the dim, pre-dawn light. There were no electrical outlets or switches, no lamps, television or telephone, and the only clock appeared to be pendulum driven. Everyone he’d seen wore costumes similar to the ones people wore to the Rose Ball. Those things and the medical treatment he had received led him to the inexplicable conclusion that somehow he’d fallen into another time—a time when Jane Austen was alive.
And there she sat, serene in what had to be an uncomfortable position for sleep; his nurse, his savior and much prettier than she was depicted in the only portrait of her to survive to the twenty-first century. She was not the brazen hussy of Darcy family lore but a sweet and loving woman who took care of him without concern for her own safety or expecting anything in return. His mother would have said she was a true Christian.
As he watched her in the pale light of the dying embers his head started to throb as though a nail was being driven through it. He closed his eyes and blessed sleep overtook him.
Jane was an incredibly strong, intelligent, willful and virtuous woman who followed the propriety of the day… mostly. During the last three years he’d often wondered what might have happened between them if he’d been forced to stay in early nineteenth-century England. Of course with the way her brothers felt about him, he probably wouldn’t have seen her again.
If the circumstances had been different would he have married her? He could have been happy with her, he supposed, but over the years he’d come to realize that the love he felt for her was based on who she was, the awe in which he held her, caring for him when she certainly didn’t have to, loving him. Then again, did she love him? She had never said it and the letter Eliza had found and given him showed obvious affection but she urged him to find his true love. Apparently she didn’t think she was it. Had they ever loved each other or had it just been a fling across the ages?
He laughed. What difference did any of it make? Jane Austen had been dead for almost two hundred years. Still, the undisputed icon of witty English romance had kissed him whether she loved him or not. He still had to pinch himself to believe it had ever happened.
He had no such questions about Eliza. Everything felt right when he was with her. This was no fling. He had no idea where they were headed, but for the first time in years he was looking forward to the rest of his life. As long as Eliza was with him he didn’t care where they were headed.
Fitz and Lord Nelson crossed the bridge at a leisurely gait; the ground fog was burning off in the warm morning sun. Had it really been only two days since he and the great stallion were galloping across the bridge before the fog had lifted and run Eliza off the road and into a muddy drainage ditch? He hadn’t even realized she was there until it had happened. When he did, he brought Nelson to a stop and, without questioning who she was or why she was walking along a road on his property, he had lifted her onto Lord Nelson’s back and then swung up behind her. She was slightly light headed from the sudden fall, and once on the horse she had leaned against his chest and he’d had to control a strong desire to kiss the top of her head. He still didn’t understand how a complete stranger could make him feel that way, but he didn’t really care. From the first moment, being with her felt right and wonderful and that was all that mattered.
She had touched something in him that no one else ever had, including Jane, even before he knew her. At the Austen exhibit at the New York Public Library he had found himself staring at her. He laughed remembering that he had thought of her as a raven-haired beauty. Then two days ago she had come out of the fog and into his life.
He had told her his story about jumping through a rift in time and meeting Jane Austen. It had been very difficult at first, but once he started it tumbled out and had been a relief that he wasn’t carrying it around anymore. It was as though a weight had been lifted and this slight, feisty New Yorker had done the lifting. She had listened to him with an intensity that had made her a part of the story. She had been kind and compassionate—he had seen real grief when she asked him about leaving Jane—and she had given him the letter that answered his questions about whether he’d actually met Jane Austen and how Jane felt about him.
Jane would always hold a special place in his heart, but Eliza held his heart. Maybe it was too early to take it all for love, but it certainly felt the way he'd always thought love is supposed to feel.
Horse and rider stepped out from the cool canopy of the woods and into the warm summer sun. Spurring his favorite horse to a full gallop Fitz guided him over every fence and stream on their way back to the barn.

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  1. Lovely interview and excerpt! It's wonderful that you had such an inspirational love story of your own with Michael. I just borrowed a copy of TMWLJA and I look forward to reading it very soon. Thanks for the giveaway of YA, JA.

    1. I hope you enjoy TMWLJA, Monica. I agree. Sally & Michael's story is very tender isn't it? Best of luck with the giveaway! :)

  2. WOW! Sounds fascinating! Great interview! Would love to be entered in the draw! Greetings from Australia - thanks for making it international!

    1. Greetings to you too, Helen! :) Thanks for stopping by! I wish you the best of luck in the giveaway!

  3. WOW! Sounds fascinating! Great interview! Would love to be entered in the draw! Greetings from Australia - thanks for making it international!

  4. That is a very unique storyline. Really interesting, Sally. And I like the excerpt. Thank you for including it - and Jakki for conducting the interview. Very informative (as all your posts are ;) ). I especially liked the part about both Eliza and Jane being written really positiv with a happy, satisfying ending, despite the fact only one can have the man. That is a hard thing to write, I´m sure!

    I´m always in for a giveaway, an international one. :)) Yey!

    1. My pleasure, Katrin! I am glad you enjoyed the excerpt. Yes, isn't the premise to Sally O'Rourke's story a unique one? Good luck with the giveaway!

  5. I very much enjoyed the interview and to learn more about the story of Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen. Thank you to Jakki and Sally for it. Hope I am able to win it as I have heard many people praising the book.

    1. Hi Luthien! So glad you stopped by! :) It was fun learning a bit more about YA,JA. I wish you the best of luck in the giveaway!

  6. I loved the first one so I'm really looking forward to reading the second one! Thanks for the excerpt and interview!

    1. Hi Stephanie! I am so glad you enjoyed The Man Who Loved Jane Austen! I think these premises are interesting. Good luck in the giveaway! :)

  7. Lovely interview, ladies. This book sounds great! I am really looking forward to reading it! Thanks for the giveaway!!=)

    1. Thanks, Kelli! It does sound interesting, huh?! Wishing you the best of luck in the giveaway! :)

  8. The excerpt was amazing...and the interview as well!! Thank you so much for the giveaway!

    1. Thanks for stopping by redrose! Good luck in the giveaway! :)

  9. Great interview and fascinating story line! I haven't yet read The Man Who Loved Jane Austen but it's definitely on my to-read list now, followed by Yours Affectionately of course!

    1. Hi Nicole, thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoy both books and best of luck in the giveaway! :)