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Guest Post: Jack Caldwell Talks About Writing

Yesterday, I reviewed The Three Colonels:  Jane Austen’s Fighting Men by Jack Caldwell, which is set just after Napoleon is exiled to Elba and combines characters from Pride & Prejudice with those from Sense & Sensibility, along with some new characters.  From romance to intrigue and war, Caldwell combines the best of Austen’s social commentary with the action of a war novel, but tempers it with wit and drama. 

Today, Jack has offered to talk about his writing, his inspiration, and his writing space.  Please give him a warm welcome.

Good day, everybody. Jack Caldwell here, the author of THE THREE COLONELS – Jane Austen’s Fighting Men, a sequel to Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility, now available from Sourcebooks Landmark. My first novel, PEMBERLEY RANCH, a reimagining of Pride & Prejudice set in post-Civil War Texas, came out in 2010.

The kind and lovely Serena asked me to talk to you about how and where I write, and what inspires me. Well, I’m hesitant to do so. You know how shy we authors are. We never want to talk about our work—

Alright, Serena, you can stop laughing hysterically now.

The first thing you must know is that I’m a guy. Therefore, I own my own computer. That may sound like a strange boast, but from what I understand, many of my female compatriots must fight the rest of their family to get computer time to write. I don’t have that problem. This machine is mine. Nobody touches it but me!

(Note: My wife has her own laptop. I ain’t stupid. Happy wife – happy life.)

I’ve taken over one of the spare bedrooms to serve as my office. I have a desk, two printers, the computer, network equipment, files, and bookcases filled with novels and reference books. This is my Pemberley Library, my inner sanctum, my Batcave.

But this is not where I write. This is where I type.

Believe it or not, I write in bed while I sleep — while I dream. You see, I have this uncanny ability to control my dreams. I run the plot of my current writing project through my mind like a movie while I sleep. The best part is when I run into a dead end, stop everything, back up, and try again on a slightly different path, all while remaining asleep. The next day, I transcribe my dream into the computer. Cool, huh?

Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a roadmap. I do, because before I write a word, I put together a detailed outline. I know how my story ends before I write it; in fact, the last chapter is often one of the first I write. This way, I always finish my projects.

I also depend on a team of extraordinary women to help me. They are my editors, whom I call affectionately my Beta Babes. They go over every word I write. The group has changed membership slightly over the years, but the one constant has been Beta Babe #1, my wife, Barbara.

Writing is a lot of work. Some days I put down only a few hundred words, other days several thousand. But I need to write every day. Even at that pace, it takes between six to nine months to write a novel, averaging 100,000 words.

Then, if my publisher likes it, I get to cut it — a lot. It ain’t fun, but usually her suggestions are the right ones. The finished novel runs about 85,000-95,000 words. We bounce it back and forth, polishing it up, and after the final edit is accepted, we start all over again with a new book.

I’m having a ball.

So how do I get the ideas of what to write? My muse, my dear friends — that harsh mistress who lovingly and relentlessly drives me to write. Here’s her photo:

Hot, isn’t she? She’s the one who challenged me to write in the first place. She helped me overcome a high school teacher who thirty-five years ago told me I had no writing ability.

She also spurs my ideas, especially as she found out writers can write off a portion of their travel if it is used for research for their work. She’d LOVE it if I wrote a Pride & Prejudice reimagining set in Hawaii! Who knows—maybe one day…?

Anyhow, I hope all of you enjoy THE THREE COLONELS, especially as I’m writing a sequel to it right now. Which means that not everybody dies in it (I have such a bad reputation about that).

And remember, it takes a real man to write historical romance, so let me tell you a story.

~*~*~

So, which do you like better—sequels or reimaginings? Where would you move your favorite Austen characters in time and space? Let’s have some fun!

About the Author:

Jack Caldwell is an author, amateur historian, professional economic developer, playwright, and like many Cajuns, a darn good cook. Born and raised in the Bayou County of Louisiana, Jack and his wife, Barbara, are Hurricane Katrina victims who now make the upper Midwest their home.

His nickname—The Cajun Cheesehead—came from his devotion to his two favorite NFL teams: the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers. (Every now and then, Jack has to play the DVD again to make sure the Saints really won in 2010.)

Always a history buff, Jack found and fell in love with Jane Austen in his twenties, struck by her innate understanding of the human condition. Jack uses his work to share his knowledge of history. Through his characters, he hopes the reader gains a better understanding of what went on before, developing an appreciation for our ancestors’ trials and tribulations.

When not writing or traveling with Barbara, Jack attempts to play golf. A devout convert to Roman Catholicism, Jack is married with three grown sons.

Check out Jack’s blog, The Cajun Cheesehead Chronicles, at Austen Authors, his Website — Ramblings of a Cajun in Exile — and his Facebook page.

Thanks, Jack, for sharing your writing and inspirations with us.  Also check out my review of Pemberley Ranch.  I personally love both sequels and reimaginings!  And I cannot wait for the sequel to The Three Colonels!

  • Jakki L.

    Great post, Jack! I am always interested to hear how authors write. Lucky you, who gets to plot while sleeping. It’s like you are blessed with extra time many others don’t have! 😉
    Looking forward to reading The Three Colonels!

  • I wish I had dreams worth writing down – mine are all crazy.

  • I’ve never really thought about how nice it is to have a computer of my own! Since we have at least 5 of them in my family, everybody can be happy. I really like reimagined stories right now. It’s wonderful how creative authors are being with that concept right now!

  • Loved this guest post! I don’t mind sequels, but right now I’d have to say I prefer reimaginings more. I love it when authors make the characters their own but stay as true as they can to the originals. Persuasion set in WWII would be my idea of a good story. 😉

    • I liked this guest post as well.

    • WWII seems to be the readers’ favorite. We’ll see what the muse comes up with! Thanks!