Monday, March 25, 2013

Cassandra Grafton Interview, Excerpt, and Giveaway!!

Dear readers, I am excited to bring you a new Austenesque author, Ms. Cassandra Grafton. Cassie fell in love with Mr. Darcy at the tender age of 15 when Pride & Prejudice was a set book for her English Lit examination and feels like they have been going steady ever since! Having dabbled in attempts at writing for many years, she finally took the plunge in 2006 to write some P&P inspired short stories for an online community of writers who have since all become friends. The next natural step seemed to be a full-length story, and A Fair Prospect was born.  

Ms. Grafton has been gracious enough to answer some interview questions about her and her debut novel, A Fair Prospect.

Welcome, Cassie! It’s so nice to have you on the blog and get to know you and your work a little better. I thought that since you are a new Austenesque author, you would like to tell readers a little about yourself and your writing journey.

Thank you, Jakki, and thank you also for inviting me to your blog!

My only hobby as a child was reading, and when I was engrossed in a book, nothing could penetrate my world – I was oblivious to everything going on around me, much to the amusement of my family. This love of reading inspired an interest in trying my hand at some stories of my own. I started writing in my teens but never completed anything (though I still have these poor attempts locked away somewhere!) Then life took over, and I became a wife and mother, and although I still dreamed of being a writer one day, I never applied myself enough to get beyond the opening chapters of any story.

Then, in 2002 we moved to the USA for five years, and I suddenly had time on my hands! I discovered an online fan fiction community and started to co-write short stories with a fellow member, and thanks to her support, these were the first pieces of writing I ever completed. It was a small step then to discovering the online Jane Austen communities, where, in 2006, I ventured into writing short stories on my own. It was other forum members asking me if I planned to write a full-length story that inspired me to have a go!
What gave you the idea for the premise for A Fair Prospect?

I wanted to write a truly romantic story, one that would touch people’s hearts and that was very much about the characters and their journey.

Initially, I was inspired by the proposal in the rain that takes place in the 2005 film. That scene ends with Darcy walking away and Elizabeth remaining behind, and I wondered what would happen if he came back? As a result, A Fair Prospect opens with the first proposal and that is precisely what happens!

I know that some fans can be divided over how Darcy is portrayed on film, but I have a definite soft spot for both Colin Firth and Matthew MacFadyen, and I believe both of them have influenced my version of Darcy in this story in different ways. Although when I was originally writing it, Matthew’s Darcy was very much in mind, since finishing the story I have worked hard on it to try and leave interpretation open to the reader, and so I now hope that A Fair Prospect can be read by anyone who loves Pride & Prejudice, be it a fan of the book or one of the many TV/film adaptations.

Aside from this, two other things inspired the story. Firstly, how might you see someone differently if you had an unexpected innocent, but physical, encounter with them – how might it influence your thoughts about that person (something I have personal experience of, for it is what turned my husband from being just an old friend into my partner for life).

This led me to thinking about the restrictions on physical touch back in the Regency era – how might it affect Elizabeth Bennet’s thoughts about the man if something, albeit innocent, happened that opened her eyes to Darcy in a physical way? This feeds the opening scenes of my story and introduces a theme that runs through all three volumes: can there be so much awareness in a man's touch?

Secondly, I have always wondered about those months in Pride & Prejudice when Elizabeth and Darcy did not meet. From April to August they were on their own separate paths, but I wanted them to continue in each other’s company throughout all the awkwardness of the aftermath of the failed proposal, to see where this might take them, bearing in mind Elizabeth’s seeing Darcy through new eyes.

From the blub, I see that Mr. Darcy has a bit of competition. Personally, I love a jealous Darcy! I’m dying to know a bit about Mr. Nicholas Harington.

Nicholas Harington and Elizabeth have known each other all their lives – he is the Godson of Mrs. Gardiner (she was at school with his mother and they remain very close friends). He is the middle son of three, and he and Elizabeth have developed a very close friendship over the years, for they are very alike. It is his request for Elizabeth to come to London earlier than planned and to make some stay with her aunt and uncle that precipitates her following Darcy to town a day after he and the Colonel leave Rosings.

A Fair Prospect Volume 1: Disappointed Hopes is currently available, can you tell readers when volumes 2 & 3 will be published?

Volume II: Darcy’s Dilemma will be available in May, and Volume III: Desperate Measures will be out in the summer.

From the publisher:
Nursing his wounds after his rejection by Miss Elizabeth Bennet, Fitzwilliam Darcy returns to London a devastated and humbled man. The lady, meanwhile, is battling the unprecedented feelings stirred by having endured an innocent but intimate encounter with the gentleman in the aftermath of his proposal. Soon on her way to Town herself for an unanticipated stay, she is comforted by the presence of an old family friend, one Nicholas Harington – the son of a wealthy family whose position in society rivals that of the Darcys of Pemberley. Circumstance soon throws Darcy back into the company of Elizabeth, much to their mutual consternation, and also introduces him to Harington who has emerged as a potential suitor for Elizabeth’s hand, a union that is viewed as a fair prospect by all – except, perhaps, Darcy himself.

A Fair Prospect Excerpt:
 Preoccupied as she was, it was a moment before Elizabeth realised she was no longer alone and, with a gasp, she found herself face to face once more with the source of her displeasure.

“Mr Darcy!”
Forcing himself to execute a bow, Darcy ignored her outraged tone and launched into speech.
“Be not alarmed, Madam. I have no desire to continue our discourse. I am come merely to escort you back to the parsonage; you cannot walk in conditions such as these.”
“Really, Sir? Is that so?”
He was unsurprised at the indignation in her tone. Yet despite her lack of regard for his conduct, when presented  with the curricle and thus the means to remove her safely home and dry, he had been unable to do anything but rein in his own humiliation and anger and return to do just that.
As the older brother and guardian of a young teenage woman, Darcy knew full well how to stand his ground, and he met the challenging look in her eye with one of his own. Yet before he could respond, she spoke again.
“And how do you propose to escort me, that I might have no need of the power of walking?”
“I have a curricle waiting at the end of the path, Madam. I must insist upon your accompanying me. This storm shows no sign of abating.”
"And pray who are you, to determine what I may and may not do?”
Darcy was cold and wet, almost to the point of numbness. It went without saying that she must be experiencing something similar, if not worse, for her garments were hardly proof against the rain that was even now making its presence duly felt. If he was not so very angry, he was certain he would feel something – frustration, despair even – but this was no time for such indulgence.
“Your response, Madam, whilst not unexpected, does you no favour.”
“How so, Sir?”
“What do you gain from refusing to return to the warmth and security of the parsonage in such a swift and easy manner?”
“I retain the freedom to choose the manner and timing of my return, without recourse to one such as yourself!”
Part of him wished he could leave her there but Darcy knew he would regret it later, and he said in a biting voice: “If you will not accompany me willingly, then you leave me no choice. I shall remove you to the curricle myself!”
He was in no fit state to acknowledge his triumph as, for the first time in their acquaintance, he appeared to have robbed Elizabeth Bennet of the power of speech. She glared fiercely at him, a blush staining her damp cheeks, her mouth slightly open.
Then, she bit out, “You would not dare, Sir!”
Darcy let out a bitter laugh. “Do not tempt me, Madam. I am in no humour for games.”
Pursing her lips, she threw him one more glance full of fire, then stormed past him down the path at a rapid pace.
Within moments, they were both installed under the raised hood of the curricle, and Darcy guided the horses up a bank in the direction of Hunsford parsonage. The journey progressed in a powerful silence; the only sounds were the soft thud of hooves against the sodden earth and the staccato raps of the rain on the leather hood.
He focused his gaze on the horses, his fierce desire to look at Elizabeth countered by the disparagement he might perceive on her countenance. Impatiently, he flicked the reins. Despite his endeavour, it was impossible not to be conscious of her beside him. The sodden fabric of her coat was so close to his own equally saturated leg that every lurch of the conveyance threatened a touch he was ill-equipped to contend with. Thus it was with no little relief that he determined the low wall that formed the boundary to the parsonage’s garden, and soon he halted the curricle and vaulted from his seat with almost indecent haste.
Hardly pausing to draw breath, he made his way round to the other side. Despite her ill opinion of him, he could not allow her to descend from such a height without assistance, yet it was no surprise when he fetched up in front of her to see that she was poised upon the edge of her seat, clearly intending to dismount unaided.
She met his look with a glare, raising her chin as their eyes locked. Resolutely, Darcy held out his hand, his intention apparent, struggling to contain the flash of anger that flared when he detected the look of disbelief that briefly crossed her features.
The fury Elizabeth had felt during her earlier confrontation with Mr Darcy vied with her annoyance at being obliged to accept a place in his conveyance. There had, for a fleeting moment, been a look in his eye back there that had persuaded her she had pushed him as far as it was wise to go and that his proclaimed intent to pick her up and bodily throw her into the curricle was no idle threat.
Yet here she was, safely returned to the sanctuary of the parsonage, blissfully empty of its sycophantic incumbent for a few hours, and certainly drier than the gentleman in front of her, who was currently being drenched anew by the treacherous onslaught of a fresh downpour, whilst she remained protected by the large hood of the curricle.
Elizabeth refused to acknowledge his outstretched hand. Agitated as she was by their angry confrontation and by his insistence on seeing her safely home, she remained in no mood to give him credit for his gesture and in no humour to accept it.
Refusing to break eye contact, she fixed him with a glacial look as she stood up and took the prideful step that must preface a fall. Her foot slipped on the wet footboard, and she fell forward with nothing to grasp onto but the shoulders of the one man she least wished to encounter.
As the full weight of Elizabeth’s body struck him, Darcy took a step backwards. His arms had reflexively caught her, but as the speed of her fall propelled her forward into his unintentional embrace, he found himself clasping her to his body, her hands tightly gripping his shoulders and her eyes wide with surprise mere inches from his own.

***Giveaway Time***
Now, the moment you all have been waiting for!! In celebration of releasing her first novel, Cassandra Grafton is giving away 2 copies of A Fair Prospect (print or any format of eBook ~ winner’s choice)! To enter, simply comment on this interview telling us what intrigues you about this book or ask Cassandra a question about her debut novel.Please leave your email address so I know how to contact the winner. For extra entries, tweet about the giveaway and follow Cassandra Grafton on Twitter. Please comment that you have done these things. OPEN INTERNATIONALLY!!
Giveaway ends April 1! Good Luck!!

Connect with Cassandra Grafton
Read It Now!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Winner: A Most Civil Proposal by C.P. Odom

Monica P.!!

Congratulations, Monica! I hope you enjoy A Most Civil Proposal. I want to thank C.P. Odom for allowing me to pick his brain and Meryton Press for generously donating the paperback copy for giveaway! And thank you to all of you who left comments. 

Didn't win? Want another opportunity to win a copy of A Most Civil Proposal? Head over to Janet Taylor's blog, More Agreeably Engaged for another opportunity to win. Giveaway ends March 22, so hurry over! 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Winner: Love Will Grow by P O Dixon


Congratulations, Kaewink! I would like to thank everyone who left a comment and tweeted! I hope each of you gets to enjoy this endearing tale. Thank you, P O Dixon for kindly offering an ebook of Love Will Grow for giveaway! 
 Didn't win? You can purchase a copy on Amazon.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Interview with C P Odom +Giveaway

Today I have the privilege of having debut author C.P. Odom with me. His premiere novel, A Most Civil Proposal, is a Pride and Prejudice variation that explores what would happen if Mr. Darcy realized the folly in expressing the “struggles” he had to overcome before allowing his ardent love for Elizabeth to rule.

Meryton Press has kindly offered one trade Paperback for GIVEAWAY. To enter, leave a comment or question for Mr. Odom along with your email address so I know how to contact the winner.

On Meryton Press’s site you mention that it was after watching part of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice mini-series that had you wanting to know what happened during the part you missed, which led to you reading Austen’s most popular novel as well as watching both the 1995 and 2005 adaptations in their entirety. Which parts of Austen’s work held you captivated and which story elements had you thinking of writing your own variation?

Before I answer that, I need to lay a little groundwork.  Over the years, I’ve enjoyed a number of romantic films such as “An Affair to Remember,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “The Princess Bride,” etc.  I’ve been kidded a few times for liking movies that some people rather inelegantly refer to as “chick-flicks,” but I figure that my “Guy Credentials” (former Marine, football player, etc.) are good enough so that I can watch whatever I want.  Anyway, “You’ve Got Mail” is one of my favorites, and if you’ve ever seen the movie, you know that the director, Nora Ephron, implicitly included a lot of “Pride and Prejudice” elements in the plot and even explicitly mentions Jane Austen, Elizabeth Bennet, and Mr. Darcy.  However, at the time, I hadn’t read “P&P.”  Thus, while I enjoyed “You’ve Got Mail,” I didn’t “get” the references to the “P&P” elements.

Anyway, one weekend day I nodded off watching TV and woke up midway through the “Pride & Prejudice” mini-series.  Half asleep, I started watching this heretofore unknown movie and caught references to “Mr. Darcy,” “Lizzy,” and “Mrs. Bennet.”  I was so ignorant that it took a while before I realized what I was watching, but it was the connection to “You’ve Got Mail” that first piqued my interest.  However, even after watching the rest of the movie, I didn’t know why Elizabeth Bennet was so upset with Mr. Darcy, who was this Mr. Wickham, etc., etc.

To assuage my curiosity, I dug out my first wife’s copy of “P&P,” read it, and later watched both the 1979 and the 1995 miniseries.  My present wife kind of smiled tolerantly and kept on watching her own favorites (which usually involved vampires somewhere, such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and let me go my own way.  Then one day on a whim, I did a search online for sequels to “P&P” and found Jane Austen fan fiction.  I happened to get lucky and read several pretty good stories, and my interest was again piqued.  One reason for my interest is that I read a lot of science fiction, including a sub-genre called Alternative History (such as, what if the South had won the Civil War?).  Clearly, Jane Austen fan fiction leans heavily on such topics, which in turn led me to wonder, “What would have happened if Darcy hadn’t been a jerk when he proposed?”

The more I thought on it, the deeper I got, and I was soon jotting down notes of what parts of the story might have turned out differently.  Before long, I started fleshing out my notes with backstory elements and dialogue, and some months later, I started posting the initial chapters of “A Most Civil Proposal” online.  It took a while to finish posting since I hadn’t finished the story when I started, but eventually, I got it done to generally positive comments.

My wife continues to smile tolerantly, but she still hasn’t read any of my stories.  Perhaps if I put some vampires in a story?  “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” has already been done, but what about vampires?  Elizabeth Bennet the Vampire Slayer anybody?

The idea of Mr. Darcy realizing how supercilious his initial proposal to Elizabeth sounded and therefore changing it to a more civil proposal sounds interesting. What inspired your muse to come up with this topic?

As for Darcy recognizing how supercilious he was being, well, he wasn’t quite there yet (no surprise there!) before the proposal, but he did manage to realize how objectionable it would be to say to her, “In vain I have struggled.  It will not do.  My feelings will not be repressed.”  He resolves to be more gentle, but he still has some edges that he needs to have polished off.  In this variation, Elizabeth is more the sandpaper than the hammer, which is partly due to the civility of his proposal.

For the question of what inspired my muse, the answer is that I myself have struggled with my mouth leading a life of its own.  In my job, I wanted to move into engineering management, and speaking first and thinking afterward is kind of an obstacle to such a goal.  So I had to train myself to imagine how what I wanted to say might sound to the other person BEFORE I actually said it.  It took a while, needless to say, but I did get better.  When I read the proposal passage in “P&P,” that training led me to think, “There ought to be some way to make this less objectionable,” which then led to imagining Darcy making a civil proposal and what would transpire from that.  But just making a civil proposal didn’t mean he was instantly a smoothie.  To paraphrase Mrs. Gardiner, it would take a good wife to teach him such things.

Who is your favorite P&P character?

     It’s a close race between Elizabeth Bennet and Col. Fitzwilliam.  EB is attractive to me as a guy because she’s spirited and optimistic at a time when such characteristics were rather unusual, but I think I have to give the award to Col. Fitzwilliam, because he appeals to me as an author for a rather strange reason, which is that we really don’t know too much about him.  EB, Darcy, Bingley, Mr. Bennet, etc., are all sketched fairly completely by JA, but I can almost make Col. Fitzwilliam whatever I please, as long as he remains a younger son, an army officer (we don’t know it it’s Lt. Col or Col., for example), & shares guardianship of Georgiana.

Who’s your least favorite character?

     Bingley, without a doubt, because he’s a wimp.  Getting talked out of marrying Jane because she might be indifferent?  Pulleaze!  He’ll find that out when he makes an offer, and, if she accepts him, then she cannot be too indifferent.  He doesn’t deserve her.

What is your favorite Jane Austen quote?

     There’s a lot of competition, but I think Mr. Bennet’s comment when he refuses to make EB marry Mr. Collins is at the top of the list:  “An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth.  From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents.  Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”

If you lived during Austen's time, what is the one thing you would dislike the most and the one thing you would most enjoy?

        Probably my least favorite thing would be the social stratification, which prevented enterprising people from achieving their dreams by hard work and effort.  That is despite the fact that I know that Regency England was a breath of fresh air compared to the rest of Europe.

     My favorite thing is probably the civility and manners that were part of social interaction.  I think good manners are the grease that make any society work.  All societies are inherently unwieldy, and “frankness” and “telling it like it is” are highly overrated “virtues.”  Too many people today use them to justify rudeness and arrogance.

Meryton Press is kindly offering ONE TRADE PAPERBACK of A Most Civil Proposal to one lucy commenter (US only). Simply leave a comment or question for C.P. Odom. Also, please provide your email address so I know how to contact the winner. For extra entires, tweet about the giveaway and provide the Twitter link to your tweet. Giveaway ends Monday, March 18. Best of luck!! =)

From the publisher:

"You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you." When Fitzwilliam Darcy spoke these words to Elizabeth Bennet as part of his marriage proposal, they expressed his concealed feelings completely, but their meaning was at odds with the rest of his prideful and arrogant offer of marriage. It was therefore rather easy for Elizabeth to reject his offer in much the same manner. But what if Darcy, never one at ease when trying to speak of inner sentiments, had realized beforehand how his intended proposal would sound to the young woman he hoped to make his bride? What if he had attempted a much more civil and thoughtful proposal of marriage? Could Elizabeth Bennet have coldly and angrily rejected an offer made in such a manner? A Most Civil Proposal, a variation on Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice", examines and explores how the lives of the two main characters and their families and friends might have turned out differently had Darcy realized his error beforehand and thus avoided being so forcefully instructed and corrected by the love of his life.