Welcome to Cassandra, thank you for appearing here on my blog! I will go straight to my questions;
S; What made you start writing Austen inspired fiction?
A combination of things, really. I’ve been writing since I was a child, but even as an adult, I struggled to get beyond the first few chapters of any story.
Ada & Cass at Hogwarts
Then, I met my friend, Ada, on a Harry Potter forum in 2002. We were in the great void between books 4 and 5 and both searching for a way to enjoy the world J.K. Rowling had created whilst we awaited a new book. We hit it off, and before long we were co-writing Harry Potter fan fiction! It was the first time I’d ever managed to complete a story!
Then, in 2005, the Pride & Prejudice film came out, and we moved into co-writing Austen-inspired fan fiction, having no idea there was such a vast empire of JAFF enthusiasts out there!
The film has its many critics, but I was swept away by the cinematography, the beautiful score and just the romance of it all. I think every adaptation has its faults, but I love them all for different reasons. It’s Jane Austen, after all, and I can always find something in each version to enjoy. In my head, I liken the 1995 series to a sumptuous 5-course dinner, whereas the 2005 film is a delicious midnight snack!
I then tried my hand at writing solo, and began Lizzy Bennet’s Diary (this was posted online back in 2006, and re-posted in 2014 at Austen Variations where it still sits.)
Cover of A Fair Prospect Vol I
On a high from finally having completed a story on my own, I then began A Fair Prospect. It’s the only book I’ve written solo so far. I was a co-author with four other authors from Austen Variations on The Darcy Brothers, and then Ada and I finally did what we’ve long promised ourselves we would do, and co-wrote a novel together which came out in July.
S; When did you have your first meeting with Austen and her works?
In 1977. Pride & Prejudice was a set book for a school examination. I fell in love with it, and quickly went on to take every Jane Austen book from the library!
S; Do you travel much to do research for your books?
Ha! Well, in publication terms, I’ve only ever produced books in the Austen-related genre, so my travel for research has been restricted to England (though I did write some notes for A Fair Prospect during a trip to Florence and used them in a conversation between Darcy and Elizabeth!)
Bath is my favorite city, so I was keen to get Darcy and Elizabeth there when I wrote A Fair Prospect. I had a lot of fun moving the characters around the city, and I did a lot of research in relation to their lodgings and where I wanted certain key scenes to happen.
However, in 2014 we moved to Switzerland and, rather hilariously, since then I’ve visited Bath about 6 times a year! Our new book, The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen, is set there but in the modern day, so a lot of knowledge about the city was already there, but I did do some extensive research at Bath Library, where the Local Studies Librarian was incredibly helpful and supportive. It’s a real delight to know that all my books, including the new co-written one, are in Bath Library!
Aside from that, I’ve visited London occasionally and Derbyshire often for research and the latter is a key location in a JAFF novel I’ve been tinkering with for about 4 years. Perhaps now I’ll make an effort to finish it!
S; What do you enjoy the most about writing your books?
Letting the characters take the lead and seeing where they take the story. Of course, that can be a nightmare too sometimes, but I love that you can sit down and plot out a rough outline and when you get to the end, you look back and realise you had no idea how the story would pan out!
S; When did you discover the JA festival and how many times have you attended?
I first found out about it and attended in 2009. We lived in the USA from 2001 to 2006, and came back to North Yorkshire, so I didn’t even realise the Festival in Bath had been set up and ran annually!
Then, in January 2009 I was taken ill and needed a few courses of treatment. To give me a focus and to keep my spirits up, my husband encouraged me to find something we could do when it was all over, which just happened to be September! Bath had always been a favourite city of ours, but we hadn’t been since returning home from the USA, and as soon as I discovered the Festival, there was no looking back!
JA Festival 2013 – photo credit Jane Odiwe
This year will be my 6th time, having returned in 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016! I’m already booked to return for the whole Festival in 2017, too!
S; Which book is your favorite of Austen’s works
This hops to and fro between Pride & Prejudice and Persuasion. I think it always was P&P in the past, but in more recent years, I’ve become more attached to the story and characters of Persuasion. Perhaps that’s an age thing!
S; What do your family think of having a popular if not famous Austen author as wife/mother? Does it ever affect your personal life?
They know how long I’ve wanted to be a writer, so they are very proud of me, but it never affects my personal life in any way whatsoever and is rarely discussed, unless a new book has come out. My husband has to live with the day to day, of course, when I’m writing, but he’s very interested in what I’m doing, so it’s nice to have someone to talk things through with.
S; Which Pemberley do you prefer? Lyme Park or Chatsworth?
Hmmm, neither? We really love Chatsworth, but not necessarily as Pemberley! We lived in North Yorkshire for 7 years and it was an easy drive down to Derbyshire to visit and we went often at all times of year. My husband even ran the Chatsworth 10k one year!
I also like to check in on the Darcy bust now and again to be sure he’s still there, because he went into storage for a while!
Lyme Park is an impressive building and the view from across the water, which we see in the 1995 series, is lovely, but I’m not so keen on the interior. It’s also not in Derbyshire!
My favourite Pemberley exterior is actually from the 1980 TV series. It may not have the handsomest Mr Darcy, but it’s the closest adaptation to the book and was the first series I ever saw. It’s Renishaw Hall & Gardens in Derbyshire. The gardens are just gorgeous, especially in the early summer months. The scene where Darcy surprises Elizabeth as she walks with the Gardiners is perfectly captured here.
Without question or doubt, the latest one! Co-writing with your best friend is one of the best experiences ever, and so much fun!
Photo 8: Ada and I in Bath with the book cover!
The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen is not fan fiction, though there is the Austen link with Jane herself joining us for the ride! It’s about friendship (online friendships especially), a gentle mystery with a hint of romance, and it all takes place during the Jane Austen Festival in Bath!
We both fell completely in love with our characters!
S: And finally Which Darcy do you prefer?
The one in my head! He’s been there since 1977 and no one has fully supplanted him yet…
Thank you, Cass for talking with me! And can I just say, your new book is wonderful! I can’t wait for the sequel