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Interview with Mary Anne Mushatt, author of For the Deepest Love

We have a great interview today from Mary Anne Mushatt. But before we get to that Pride & Prejudice lovers, check out this blurb of her new book, For the Deepest Love:

“After thinking long and hard, I have come to the conclusion that—although it may not be the kind of love my sister and I once had in mind—marrying Mr Darcy would be marrying for a love of the deepest kind.”

Recovering from their parents’ deaths, Elizabeth and Jane Bennet have held their family together, leaning on the support of their uncle, Edward Gardiner, to help them survive. Thus, when Mr Gardiner is threatened with scandal and ruin, Elizabeth vows to help him. Hearing of her distress, the scandalous Fitzwilliam Darcy enters her life—offering his aid in exchange for her hand.

Accepting his proposal upends her life in unimaginable ways as she learns of the treachery of the peer courting her, the betrayal and violence committed by her childhood friend, and the threat to her country as it faces another war.

As Elizabeth and Darcy face the turmoil and trials swirling around them, they risk opening their hearts to unexpected passion. In order to survive challenges from without and fears within, they must summon unknown strengths and forge new bonds to solidify a love of the deepest kind.

Please welcome, Mary, to the blog:

Hi Serena,

Thank you so much for having me here today, and thank you for supporting For The Deepest Love.

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer and who inspired you to take the plunge?

I believe I began writing when my father got sick with colon cancer in my junior year in high school, then died in my freshman year of college. It was a dark period in my life, where a lot of men in my family passed, and I was rather lost. After college, I moved to New York City, studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute to learn what actors needed in a script. At that time, I was writing plays while working at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. When they departed for Duluth, Minnesota, I worked odd jobs in NYC, living a bohemian life in the East Village.

Real life caught up with me and, after a decade, I moved to New Orleans, but all the while keeping journals to record my flights of fancy. I started ‘seriously’ writing in 2006, when exiled from my home. I would drop off my two sons and niece at their schools, head to a coffee shop and write for hours. This was an enchanting time for me, because I felt I could leave the outer reality and enter the world living on the pages of my notebook. When I found Austen fanfiction, I was hooked, somehow feeling these characters, in this particular time period, were my writing home.

2. Tell us a little bit about your first novel, Darcy and the Duchess?

Once I discovered Pride and Prejudice, admittedly very late in my life, I was spellbound by it and the abundant stories accessible through the internet. One genre that particularly held me enthralled was where Elizabeth had a previous marriage that elevated her status. Perhaps I wanted to give her equal footing to Darcy, or independence from her parents. I wanted her to have a loving relationship, but as her husband is ill when they meet, there is no potential for them to have the intimate bond that I believe links Darcy and Elizabeth.

To be completely honest, I believe what I truly love about this plot line is that Elizabeth has the status to back up her sass. As a duchess her intelligence and impertinence are accepted and, in many ways, she is freed from the constraints placed upon Elizabeth of Longbourn. Of course, there are other constraints imposed by her status, but she comes to Darcy with a breadth of experience of her own.

3. How has writing your subsequent books, Taken and For the Deepest Love, differed from your experience in writing the first one?

Taken is one of my favorite stories, if a writer allowed to have one. I remember writing it incessantly. There are parts that made me cry when I began editing it for publication. I wrote it nearly a decade ago, but revisiting it was a joy. In terms of writing, let me backtrack. All three of these books were written a number of years ago, and each taught me how to expand characters, scenes and write dialogue that felt like real people might speak—not that I claim to know how 19th century Regency folks really spoke. What has markedly improved is what my editors have taught me.

How to tighten scenes without losing the essence of what propels the story forward. How to highlight details to create atmosphere rather than elaborate and down the scene with them.

From then to now, I feel I am a better writer. I’ve learned how to trust the first draft, to write and write and not care if I say something three times in a scene, knowing I will winnow it back to the best version. I’ve learned when to listen to my cold readers, betas, and editors and when to stand up for my choices and intent. And maybe what is most important, at least to me, is to allow myself to follow plot lines that appeal to me, and not worry they may not please anyone else. Because, even if they don’t, they have something to teach me.

4. What is your favorite Jane Austen novel and why?

Pride and Prejudice, hands down. I was flying from New Orleans to Boston and had laid hands on a copy for my vacation read. I read it through to the last page Then turned back to the beginning and read it again, and again, and again. I read it in the car from Boston to Cape Cod even though I get carsick when I read. I read it over and over again throughout my vacation and even when I got home.

Now, as to why, that may be harder to pinpoint. Miss Austen has a fine ear for the nuances of dialogue, gestures, and the intimate—and often delicate—nature of relationships between young women, their families, and the world. Take the Bennets. We are given their characters, their strengths, and their foibles as warp strands that Miss Austen then weaves into remarkable tapestries by the experiences and adventures, actions and reactions of their day-to-day lives.

And then, of course, there is Mr. Darcy. Need I say more? What I adore about him is, that despite the hubris inculcated in him by his social position, he is a decent, responsible man, who has the inner strength to change to become a better man. What’s not to love? Oh, and did I mention he’s tall, dark, and handsome?

5. If you were to live in Jane Austen’s novels, which character would you be and why?

Elizabeth Bennet. Of course. For me, she has the most freedom. While Jane Bennet is admired for her beauty, it is a burden as well. Her mother imposes the salvation of their family on Jane’s shoulders. She is to marry a wealthy man and establish her sisters, and of course keep Mrs. B from the hedgerows.

Elizabeth, however, has the education to see and think beyond her little hamlet. While her time and social station limit her, she is the free-est from the inner limits the condescension of rank may impose on others. She evaluates—dare I say judges? —people by their characters and how they treat others, and this is a quality to emulate.

6. Offer one piece of writing advice that you wish someone had told you and one piece of writing advice you did receive that you found helpful.

The piece of advice I received that has helped me the most is to just write. Don’t judge or edit the first version, just start writing and get the ideas on paper. You will go back and revise later. For me, it is crucial to just start and get the words rolling.

What I wish someone had told me is to let my imagination run uncensored. It builds on what I just said, but that was for the actual writing process. What I’m talking about is to let the plot flow where it wants to go. To trust it to create its own links so it ties together, however loosely, at the end. While it’s great to have an outline—and I have worked with them—there comes a point where is ok to break free and let a subplot grow.

A second piece of advice—I wish I had learned earlier is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. I try and make a scene, a chapter, and a story as honest, interesting, and polished as I can, but I’m still learning, and next time I’ll do better.

7. When not writing Jane-Austen-inspired novels, what do you love to do? Any unique hobbies?

I love being in my garden. I often find story lines or characters develop while tending my flowers. Living in New Orleans, we have a collection of Mardi Gras beads, and I’ve taken to hot gluing them on wooden eggs to create Easter eggs, or cones to make Christmas trees. I use the translucent beads of the traditional green,
gold/yellow or purple, but the krews now throw pinks, blues and orange beads so my ‘palette.’ I’m going to try gluing them on to glass vases, hoping to create a stained-glass effect.

In one of my subsequent stories, one of the subplots involves human trafficking. While working on it, I realized that if my fictional Elizabeth could do something about trafficking, so could I. Fortunately, New Orleans has an active anti-trafficking network, and now I help bring awareness that trafficking is happening right under our noses to the general public.

8. When and where do you most often write? Do you have special totems on your desk? Music playing in the background? Paint a picture of your writing space and day, or include a couple of photos.

When my kids were in school, I would write at our dining table. During the pandemic when both my ‘boys’—one now, as of May 20 th a college graduate, and the other a freshman at university—were home, I took a small table, plucked it down in front of one of our French-door windows in the front room, out of the way, and wrote for a couple of hours in the morning. The window looks out to our garden, and tall stalks of ginger grew in front of the window. They blocked the strong Southern sun, and when I was stuck, there was always a little lizard or butterfly to distract me.

While writing spaces are important, mainly in terms of letting my family members not to disturb me, it is more my supplies. In the last 5 to 7 years or so, I have discovered a fascination for fountain pens, and now, that is what I prefer to write with. That and notebooks. There is something about the shape of the pen nib scratching across the paper that is soothing to me, maybe because my stories are set in Regency England, but I feel it makes something undefinable, accessible to me. Whatever it is, it helps me shut out the present, turning inward where my stories find me.

9. What’s your next project? Any hints?

While I’ve started another Regency story, I’m working up to starting a story set in
the 1930’s.

Thank you, Mary. We can’t wait to read For the Deepest Love.

About the Author:

A lifelong writer, Mary Anne Mushatt relocated to New Orleans last century, where she earned an MFA and created a documentary of oral histories in the African-American and Native American communities along Louisiana’s River Road. When the levees failed, exiling her family from their home, she discovered the community of Jane Austen acolytes and began writing novels placing the beloved characters of Pride & Prejudice in innovative situations. Taken is her second published novel. As a result of one of her earlier novels, she works with a multi-disciplinary team aiding victims of human trafficking become survivors.

Mary Anne lives in New Orleans with her husband, two sons, and two dogs.

Follow the blog tour and leave comments and be entered into the giveaway:

The blog tour wraps up on June 8. Winners will be chosen on June 8, 2021. The winners will be posted on the Quills and Quartos Facebook and Instagram pages.

Comments

  1. Thanks everyone for reading this delightful interview. Good luck in the giveaway.

  2. Thanks for this insightful interview. Thank you for sharing your experience as a writer. i know someone who would benefit from your advice… just write and do the changes later. Eager for another book to read. thank you for this chance

  3. Great interview! I am handwriting the novel I’m writing now, partly because I’m stuck on the computer all day at work and can’t stand it for longer than necessary and partly because I also love the feel of a pen scratching across the paper. I have an obsession with gel pens and journals…just wish I had more time to fill them up. I also like the point about Elizabeth being limited but also having more freedom than Jane.

  4. Jennifer Redlarczyk says

    Loving this blog tour and I can’t wait to read this new book. It sounds lovely. Best Wishes with your new release. Jen Red

  5. Great interview. Thanks for sharing a little bit about your writing process and advice. I always find it interesting to hear what works for different writers. Congratulations on the new book!

  6. Xena Anne says

    I love the advice to just write! So true for any creative endeavor.

  7. DarcyBennett says

    Enjoyed the interview. Congratulations on the release.

  8. What a great interview! I always like to read about what gives an author inspiration and how they go about writing their ideas down.
    It seems to be a common theme among authors that their stories develop a life of their own!
    I’m looking forward to this one!

    • Mary Anne Anne Mushatt says

      I hope it satisfies. The first time this sensation happened, it was almost overwhelming — to be in the present, but also somewhere else. It’s a wonderous feeling I know some people call ‘the zone’, and there are so many ways to access it. My wish would be that everyone gets to experience it in the way that works for them.

  9. Great questions + great answers = Fantastic interview !
    I enjoyed reading this interview a great deal.

    • Mary Anne Anne Mushatt says

      Thanks. I enjoyed answering the questions because they let me think about my process and why I keep doing it.

  10. ForeverHis says

    Wonderful interview. It seems that this author has worked hard to bring us well edited, great stories with interesting plots. Thanks for entering me in the drawing.

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