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Guest Post: Author Laura Fitzgerald’s Writing Space of Her Own

Today, I’d like to welcome Dreaming in English, which hits stores on Feb. 1, author Laura Fitzgerald.

In the sequel to Veil of Roses, “Iranian-born Tami Soroush and her American husband, Ike, face the joys and challenges of cross-cultural married love.  While Tami and Ike may be eager to begin their new life together, their families and U.S. Immigration Services challenge them at every turn.  Tami discovers that freedom is not for the meek and she will have to stand up and fight for her American dream.” (from Penguin)

Laura has agreed to share her writing space with us today, so let’s take a look inside her inspirational muse.

I have a room of my own in which to do my writing.

Let me repeat: I have a room of my own in which to do my writing!

And it’s not just a room of my own. It’s a room of my own outside my home. It’s an office — an executive suite that I rent on a month-to-month basis. My office neighbors are lawyers, union representatives, non-profit directors, and the like.

And then there’s me:  The writer. Coming to my office to write.

Tucson is hugged by mountain ranges on all sides, and my sixth-floor office has a great view of the Catalina Mountains to the north. You’d think the mountains were static and that the view would be the same day after day, but in fact, shadows play on them throughout the day. They frame crisp sunrises and watercolor sunsets and everything in between, so they change, minute by minute. I love that about them.

I haven’t always had this office, only two years. Previously, I worked from home, which meant there were innumerable ways for me to procrastinate:  I should really get a load of laundry going before I start writing. How can I write facing those dishes? Shoot, if I don’t get that movie back in the mail, we won’t have a new one to watch for this weekend. Ooh, I finally have a moment to read that book! Maybe just for fifteen minutes. . .

And don’t get me started on the Internet.

Seriously, don’t.

I got my office after being a stay-at-home mom for five-ish years, once both my kids were in school and I’d sold my first novel, Veil of Roses. That is, once writing became a career for me rather than just a hobby. It was only then that I could justify it to myself. Before that, I’d write in coffee shops or the university library, or at home before anybody else woke up. Having been a newspaper reporter for a few years, I could write just about anywhere, with any sort of distraction – except my kids. And the laundry they create. And the dishes they dirty.

And the Internet.

Once all those things came along, my ability to concentrate took a serious nosedive.

I specifically looked for an office that had no Internet connection. I have no phone in my office, either, and I often leave my cell phone in my car or at the receptionist’s desk (this because I was stupid enough to get a smart phone with . . . you guessed it . . . Internet access). At my office, my powers of concentration are about a million-fold better than anywhere else. I sit, I think, I write. There’s really not much else to do, and that’s the point.

Here’s my routine: To get to my office, I drive or bike about two miles. I take an elevator to the sixth floor, say hello to Blanca at the front desk, and then head down the hallway to my office, Suite L.

I slip my key in the lock, the door opens, and my heart calms instantly as I leave the real world behind me and step into my hundred-square-feet of writer’s heaven, which I also lovingly think of as my pretty little prison cell. I keep my desk largely clear, except for a few non-killable faux cacti and a few candles. I have a nice blue reading chair in a corner, and I face my desk so there’s nothing in front of me except for the mountains.

On the wall to my right, I have artistic prints of two things I love – a book and a cup of coffee. On my left wall, there is a print of Mark Twain with a quote by him that reads, I find that it usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech, which I like because I’m a firm believer in the power of revision.

When I walk into my office, nowhere is there evidence of technology. (My laptop is either with me in my backpack or stored inside my desk.) It’s stunning to realize the difference that makes to me. I’m alone with only my thoughts; it’s my job to draw them out and make sense of them, and then put them together in a way that I alone can — all the while feeling like I’m getting away with something pretty grand.

Please check out the slide show below for more photos of this gorgeous, serene writing space:

Thanks, Laura, for showing us such a unique writing space.  Wow, breathtaking isn’t it?

Copyright Eileen Connel

About the Author:

Laura Fitzgerald, a native of Wisconsin, lives in Arizona with her husband, who is of Iranian descent, and their two children.  Her Website, Facebook Fan page, GoodReads page, and LibraryThing page.

Guest Post: Author Ann Wertz Garvin’s Writing Space

Ann Wertz Garvin, author of On Maggie’s Watch, recently agreed to share her writing space with my readers.  But before we get to her guest post, you should check out the synopsis of her book (courtesy of Penguin):

Having survived the wrenching loss of their first baby, Maggie Finley and her husband have moved back to her small hometown in an effort to assuage their grief and start again. Now, pregnant with their second child, Maggie worries about everything around her. She decides to resurrect the town’s long-defunct Neighborhood Watch as a way to control her anxieties. While the Watch members are busy worrying about litterbugs, graffiti and neighbors not picking up after their dogs, Maggie discovers a more serious threat lurking behind the gingham curtains of a home nearby. Determined to take matters into her own hands, Maggie decides she will do whatever it takes to expel the offender from their leafy neighborhood.

Without further ado, here’s Ann with her writing space:

Writing is Messy

Writing spaces. I picture my favorite authors writing in sleek loft spaces in New York City or overlooking the ocean from a dove colored shingled cottage. Big dreamy sigh. Such is the glamorous life of an author. In the largest arrogant leap known to man I decided I could write a novel. What was I thinking? I had no loft space, no beach house, no chalet or cottage, hell no skills to speak of. I love that my writing space reflects that.

Your browser may not support display of this image.My daughters were five and seven when I started the novel in 2006. Life is/was busy; my job, family, everyone’s overwhelming needs. They take a lot of maintenance those children. Apparently you have to feed them on a regular schedule or the court gets involved (*kidding). When my office got over run I wrote on my bed, at coffee shops, airports, and in my dining room which is much tidier but can’t be shut behind a door. I do live in a 100 year old Victorian which may or may not be haunted. If it is haunted it is a very respectful ghost who sometimes tosses things off shelves. On second thought, that may be just gravity but I like to think it’s my ghost tenant who is whispering ideas into my brain and when I’m not listening helps the natural laws along and flings things to the floor.

Another place I write and please don’t tell anyone at my University. I write in committee meetings. I have a legal pad and have already carried the plot line in my head for a few days so, long hand, I write. I look terribly diligent, in my meetings. Of course, I am insubordinate –but in a nice way.

I write whenever and where ever I can. Here’s what I’ve learned. You don’t need a loft space or a fancy, organized, tidy space. You can write amidst the clutter of life. In fact, if you wait for the clutter of life to de-clutter you will never write.

Thanks, Ann, for sharing your writing space with us.  Check out a couple videos for On Maggie’s Watch.

About the Author:

Ann Wertz Garvin has a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a doctorate from University of Wisconsin-Madison in Exercise Psychology. She is a professor at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater where she teaches courses on nutrition, stress management and other health topics. On Maggie’s Watch is her first novel. Ann has lived all over the country but currently resides in a small town in Wisconsin that provided the inspiration for this novel.

Guest Post: Mary Lydon Simonsen on Research and Travel

Welcome to today’s guest post from author Mary Lydon Simonsen, author of The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy. Following the guest post, be sure to check out the giveaway for US/Canada residents.

Let’s give Mary a warm welcome!

Thank you for inviting me to post on your blog.

You have asked me to talk about my research in general and if I have toured England as part of doing my research for The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy.

I have been reading non-fiction books on the Regency and Georgian Eras for probably thirty years. I just had no idea that at the time I was reading them that I was researching future novels. Like most people, I was drawn to the tangibles of that time, especially the gorgeous clothes, hairstyles, literature, architecture, romanticized view of traveling in elegant carriages, etc., but I was also attracted to the intangibles, such as the manners and speech of people who appear in Jane Austen’s books.

Having read so much about the era, I know how constrained the lives of most women were. From the moment of their birth, they were under the control of their fathers or a male guardian, then their husbands, or if they never married, possibly their brothers or another male relation. But Elizabeth Bennet is different. She has spunk, and I like spunk. After all, she turned down an offer of marriage from Mr. Darcy, one of England’s elite and someone who would have made her financially secure for the rest of her life. That took courage.

On behalf of the era’s repressed females, in The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy, I stormed the fortress and liberated two ladies in Miss Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: Anne de Bourgh and Georgiana Darcy. In this story, Anne is no longer the voiceless daughter of Lady Catherine, but a woman who sees how her cousin, Fitzwilliam Darcy, suffers as a result of failing to capture the heart of the woman he loves, and she sets out to change that. On the way, she enlists Georgiana Darcy, who will shortly make her debut in society, and a flower ready to blossom. I wanted to open up Georgiana’s character, and so I wrote about a typical teenager: chatty, nosy, teasing, and curious, but someone who cares deeply about her brother.

As far as travel is concerned, I have been to England twice. During my first visit, I was more interested in the Tudors, and so I visited Hampton Court, the Tower of London, Warwick Castle, etc. On my second visit, I traveled with my two teenage daughters, who were not jumping up and down at the idea of visiting Chawton Cottage, Austen’s last home before moving to Winchester. I did, however, get to Bath and visited all the public rooms, an experience that was very helpful when I wrote Anne Elliot, A New Beginning.  I also drove through Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, and Derbyshire doing drive-by research. Although I did not stop at any Austen locales (except Winchester Cathedral), the countryside left an indelible impression on me and proved invaluable when I started to write Austen re-imaginings.

Thanks Mary for sharing your research and travel experiences with us.

About the Author:

Mary Lydon Simonsen’s first book, Searching for Pemberley, was acclaimed by Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and RT Book Reviews. She is well loved and widely followed on all the Jane Austen fanfic sites, with tens of thousands of hits and hundreds of reviews whenever she posts. She lives in Peoria, Arizona where she is working on her next Jane Austen novel. For more information, please visit http://marysimonsenfanfiction.blogspot.com/ and http://www.austenauthors.com/, where she regularly contributes.

Dear readers, Sourcebooks is offering 2 copies of A Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen for 2 U.S. or Canadian readers.

To Enter:

1.  Leave a comment on this post about one of your favorite travel spots

2.  For a second entry, Tweet, Facebook, etc. the giveaway and leave a link and comment on this post.

Deadline:  January 12, 2011, at 11:59 PM EST

For another chance to win this book, visit Austen Authors.

Guest Post: John Aubrey Anderson, Author of The Cool Woman

John Aubrey Anderson‘s The Cool Woman is a novel that is on my Vietnam War reading list, and I plan to read and review it here before the end of the year.   Book Reviews by Molly already reviewed the book, so check that out.

In the meantime, I’ve got a treat for you!  I’m going to tantalize you with a portion of the author’s guest post, which you can read in full at War Through the Generations.

Check out an excerpt and then head on over.

As part of a school project, my granddaughter was required to interview a Vietnam War vet . . . she chose me. Her questions served to remind me . . . that I was relaxed about going to Vietnam because that was my job, that I wept when we buried one of my best friends in Arlington National Cemetery, and that my best memory of that part of my life is of returning home to my family.

The reality of the hell of war cannot be captured in the written word — be it fact or fiction. Nonetheless, I chose the chaos of the war in Vietnam as the backdrop for my fourth novel, The Cool Woman, because I wanted my main characters in an environment that would help “refine their thinking.” I tell much of the story from the cockpit — a vantage point familiar to me.

Please read the rest of the guest post at War Through the Generations today!

Also, the new 2011 War Through the Generations Topic is posted!

Sign up for the new 2011 Reading Challenge!

Guest Post: Richard Vnuk Talks About the Vietnam War

Today at War Through the Generations, Author Richard Vnuk discusses the Vietnam War and his book, Tested in the Fire of Hell, which he wrote after 40 years of silence.

I hope that you will hop on over to check out this author and his book and what inspired him to finally write about a war that he had kept silent about for a very long time.

Also, please remember to vote in the WTTG poll on what war should be covered in 2011.  There are three options: 1 year of American Revolution; 1 year of American Civil War; and 6 months each of the American Revolution and the American Civil War.

The poll will close on Nov. 22, and we will post the results after Thanksgiving.

Also, if anyone has some recommendations for books on either the Civil War and the American Revolution, please feel free to send them to warthroughgenerations AT gmail DOT com

Excerpt from The Nighttime Novelist by Joseph Bates in Honor of NaNoWriMo

As many of you know, November is National Novel Writing Month.  Although I won’t be participating this month, I did want to call attention to the one month out of the year where aspiring writers simply sit down and write for 30 days to reach the ultimate word count of 50,000 words.  Writers can lock themselves away or join others at local write-ins to share the joy of the experience.

In honor of NaNoWriMo, I’d like to share an excerpt from Joseph Bates‘ release from Writer’s Digest Books, The Nighttime Novelist, about what elements make up a good opening scene.  Check out the excerpt and let me know what you’ll be writing this month.

A good opening scene:

1.    Has a compelling hook. A hook is an opening line that entices the reader into your story by (1) beginning in a clear moment of action or interaction and (2) serving as a tease, revealing just enough information to ground the reader in the moment while maintaining enough mystery — through the careful omission of certain information — to keep her reading.

By moment of action, I don’t mean that you begin with a bomb ticking,or someone running for his life, or a massive explosion. Rather it means that you avoid synopsis, stage direction, and backstory by dropping us directly into a scene in progress so that were in the midst of the action, or in medias res. (Such a direct opening can be particularly difficult for the meticulous writer, who’s thought so much about her protagonist and his backstory that she’s not really sure where to begin.)

Likewise, the tease of a compelling hook is not about intentionally hiding things from the reader, making it difficult for her to figure out what’s going on. Inexperienced writers often confuse abstraction for mystery, and they’ll believe that an interesting opening scene is one where the reader has no clue what’s going on and has to figure it out for himself, as when the reader is dropped into the middle of a dream, or a drug trip, or a riot, or the ocean, or whatever. (“What was that? Who’s talki — wait, something was touching her now — Is that a voice she heard? Who’s talking? And what was touching her on the leg? And is that a white glowing mist in the distance — ?”) The result, as you can see, is less one of mystery than frustration, which is obviously not what you want your reader to experience — on page one or anywhere else.

So let’s consider what we do mean by a compelling hook. Let’s say your opening scene takes place in a dentist’s office, with your protagonist going in for a root canal. Probably your first inclination would be to begin with some straight-up information getting the character there: “Barbara Morris walked into the dentist’s office and up to the receptionist’s window to sign in for her root canal.” But while that’s very informative, it’s also a bit of a bore. How, then, might we convey the same basic information — we’re in a dentist’s office for a procedure — that begins in the action of the moment and also holds enough mystery to convince the reader to keep going?

Maybe something like this: “Barbara Morris breathed in the hissing gas and immediately felt her face sliding off her skull.”

At the baseline, this conveys the same basic information as the previous first line we tried. But it puts us in the moment, with the reader feeling as if he has that little hissing mask on his face, too, already an improvement over the first. Plus, in the first line we tried out, there’s very little mystery involved; we know what’s likely to come next (the character is going to speak to the receptionist). But in the second one, we get the feeling that anything might still happen: Barbara Morris might panic and try to take the mask off; she might accidentally reveal her darkest secret while loopy on gas; she might look at those two hairy dentist’s hands coming toward her and suddenly realize she’s in love. We don’t know what’ll happen next, but hopefully we’re intrigued enough to read to the next line to find out.

And all of this is accomplished by starting with something fairly general (going to the dentist), considering what exact moment there we might focus on to begin, and finding a first line that conveys the moment in an interesting way and makes us, as authors, want to write the next line.

2.    Grounds us in the protagonist’s perspective. It’s good to begin in a moment of action or interaction, something to grab the reader’s attention right away, but it’s important to remember that your reader experiences your fictional world as your protagonist does. Thus a good opening scene is one that grounds us in the main character’s perspective, shows us the world through his eyes, from the very beginning.

Immediate action that’s not grounded in character is just Stuff Happening and can be disorienting for a reader. As an editor and teacher I see this quite a bit: stories that begin with a gun battle, for instance, with characters barking out orders and bullets flying and lots of Stuff Happening — high action, the author thinks, this’ll hook a reader — but that offers no way for the reader to know whom to root for, whom to run from, what’s important and what’s just chaos. And our reaction to such a scene at the beginning of a novel is much the same as if we’d been dropped into a gun battle in real life: Get me outta here.

This is the double burden of a solid opening: introduce the character and get us into his head and heart while simultaneously engaging us in action. But when you find that opening that does both of these things well, the chances are good that your reader — not to mention your potential editor and publisher — will be drawn into the story and will feel compelled to keep going.

NOTE:  The use of the third-person omniscient narrator for a novel with a large cast (e.g. the example on pages 75–6 from Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell) might seem like a possible exception to the “protagonist first” rule, but if you go back and take a look at those introductory lines, you’ll see that we’re still grounded by a particular perspective and personality from the start: that of the omniscient- narrator-as-storyteller.

3.    Has a complete arc of its own but also urges us toward the next.
Your opening scene has an arc of its own: We have our protagonist, who we understand has a clear internal motivation because we’re grounded in the protagonist’s perspective; we have a conflict, which comes up against the character’s motivation or want; and finally we have a resolution that’s satisfying by the scene’s end — though the way the arc plays out should raise a number of related questions that keep us reading, to see how those questions or problems play out.

It’s tempting to think of your opening scene as an introduction, something that’s slyly moving pieces into place that’ll become revelatory later, and in a sense this is what an opening scene does (as we’ll discuss in just a moment). But your first scene can’t merely be a scene that delays, that promises something more important coming later on if you’ll just keep reading; we need to see stakes right away. Making sure your scene has a complete arc is one way you assure the reader has a sense of something at stake immediately, even if what’s at risk in this first scene is relatively minor in relation to what’s coming up (as you get to the first act’s Inciting Incident and Plot Point 1 that leads us to the second act, both of which raise the overall stakes even more).

But while the arc we see play out in the opening scene must be, in relation to what’s coming up, minor, your opening scene can’t simply be a throwaway scene, just a quick conflict for conflict’s sake; in fact, this first minor arc and how it plays out will resonate throughout the rest of your book. And that’s because a good opening scene . . .

4.    Contains or suggests the end of your novel. What’s that? We have to start thinking about the end so soon? Actually, yes. There are really two closely related arcs launched at the beginning of your novel: one that plays out and resolves itself by the end of the opening scene (the external motivation and conflict of the particular moment), and one that plays out over the course of the book (the character’s internal motivation and conflict: what’s revealed about what he wants in the longer run). Thus, an important consideration in crafting your opening scene is to begin thinking about and crafting the end of your novel, planning for how you believe the story will resolve, and then making sure that whatever ending or resolution you have in mind is established in the beginning.

Think back, for example, to the overall arc of The Wizard of Oz. We begin and end that story in the same place, Kansas — I defy you not see it in black-and-white — though the scenes we have in the beginning and end are poles apart from each other, showing the far ends of Dorothy’s arc. In the beginning we see Dorothy feeling unwanted and unsure she belongs, wishing she were someplace else; at the end, we see her knowing that this is home, the place she belongs. That ending scene is the completion of what we see of Dorothy’s arc from the very first scene. In the beginning of that story is the end.

The above is an excerpt from the book The Nighttime Novelist: Finish Your Novel in Your Spare Time by Joseph Bates. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2010 Joseph Bates, author of The Nighttime Novelist: Finish Your Novel in Your Spare Time.

About the Author:

Joseph Bates’ fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The South Carolina Review, Identity Theory, Lunch Hour Stories, The Cincinnati Review, Shenandoah, and Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market.  He holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature and fiction writing from the University of Cincinnati and teaches in the creative writing program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

For more information please visit www.nighttimenovelist.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.

Stay tuned for my review of The Nighttime Novelist later this month.  Happy writing, everyone.

Kara Louise Shares Her Writing Space

Kara Louise’s Darcy’s Voyage is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice under different circumstances — a journey to America.  Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy meet under unusual conditions, on Pemberley’s Promise, a ship sailing to America.  Darcy is on a voyage to collect his sister and bring her home, while Elizabeth is on her way to visit her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner.  Do sparks fly on the open sea?  What happens when they get back to England?

Kara Louise has offered to share her writing space with my readers, and Sourcebooks has offered 2 copies to my readers in the U.S. and Canada.  Stay tuned for details about the giveaway.

Without further ado, please welcome Kara Louise.

Thanks for inviting me to chat with you and your readers today. I hope you find it enjoyable to read about my writing space and my writing routine. This is a fun topic for me.

I have three writing places where I tend to do most of my writing. The first is my computer room, the second is a hanging chair out on our patio, and the third, since I have a laptop, is just about anywhere. I will tell you about the first two.

I do most of my writing in my computer room. It looks out over the front of our property at a lot of grass, trees, a pond, and if my husband has opened the gate to the pasture, often has our 3 horses grazing about.

I have a corner computer desk with a PC on one side and a MAC on the other. My husband recently became a MAC fan, and has tried to get me to convert. While I do enjoy using it, there are just some programs I will not give up on the PC! It’s also nice having 2 computers in case something goes wrong with one.

Our computer room is just an ordinary room, but there is something very special in it. I have sent along a picture of my bookcase that lines one wall. On the top of it there are some very special mementos. I’ll explain what some of those are.

On the left, you’ll see a pair of ship bookends. These are holding 6 hardcover books of each of the novels I self-published. The ship bookends represent, Pemberley’s Promise, which is the name of the ship in Darcy’s Voyage, released just this week by Sourecebooks. Darcy’s Voyage is a variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, where Elizabeth and Darcy meet on a ship bound for America. The events that take place on the ship then directly influence their meeting again in Hertfordshire, beginning when Elizabeth walks to Netherfield to visit her ailing sister.

Now, back to the bookcase. In front of the bookends on the right, you’ll see the small action figure of Jane Austen with quill in hand, her writing desk, and a small book entitled, Pride and Prejudice. To the right of that is a doll I bought that I call my Elizabeth Bennet doll. I thought she looked just like what I would imagine Elizabeth Bennet to look like. Next to her are other items that are all representative of something in each of my books. If I need any inspiration to write, I just look up there. If nothing else, I get a big smile on my face. By the way, I have since added my copy of Darcy’s Voyage to the other books.

Now, shall we go outside to my very favorite place to write? Our back porch goes along almost the full length of the house. We have a table with chairs, chaise lounges, a porch swing, but my favorite place to write is my hanging hammock swing. I have included a picture of it, as well.

Unfortunately, I can only sit out there when the weather is nice. In Kansas we have pretty cold winters, and in spring we can have severe thunderstorms. In summer the days can get quite hot (as they did this summer!), and fall, well, I love the fall! It is my favorite season, and you can find me in this chair as often as I can. The other seasons do have nice days, occasionally, and when the day is pleasant, I’ll grab my laptop, a bottle of water, my IPod, maybe the phone, and settle into the chair and write, and possibly doze off to sleep. Nothing can surpass that!

As for my writing routine, what really works best for me is when I am alone and have a good block of time. It’s those times I can be found in the computer room or swaying in my hammock chair outside typing away. Sometimes I like to put on music. I have a very broad love of music from my parents’ era like Gershwin, Sinatra, and instrumentals by Mantovani. I love music of the 50s, 60s, and 70s, musical numbers, and a variety of contemporary artists.

But most of all, I find it easy to write when I have a good plot in my head and feel it will be interesting and enjoyed by others. Then my fingers will fly at the keyboard in an attempt to bring it to life. That’s when I can truly get the writing accomplished!

Thanks Kara for sharing your writing space with us.

About the Author:

Ever since Kara Louise discovered and fell in love with the writings of Jane Austen she has spent her time answering the “what happened next” and the “what ifs” in Elizabeth’s and Darcy’s story. She has written 6 novels based on Pride and Prejudice. She lives with her husband in Wichita, Kansas. For more information, please visit her website, Jane Austen’s Land of Ahhhs.

Giveaway details:

2 copies for US/Canada readers.

1.  Leave a comment about what you would have in your dream writing space.

2.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, etc. the giveaway and leave a link for a second entry.

Deadline Sept. 26, 2010, at 11:59 PM EST

C. Allyn Pierson’s Inspiration for Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister

C. Allyn Pierson, author of Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister available from Sourcebooks, recently agreed to share with my readers not only her inspiration for the novel, but also her initial thoughts about Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen upon first reading it.

Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister focuses on Georgiana as she blossoms into a young woman from a small girl growing up under her brother’s care and the many changes that can bring.  Stay tuned for my review tomorrow, Sept. 3.

Additionally, the publisher is offering my US/Canada readers an opportunity to win Pierson’s book and read it for themselves.  Check out those details after the guest post.

Without further ado, please give C. Allyn Pierson a warm welcome.

Like many people, I read Pride and Prejudice in school and I liked it, but somehow it didn’t really click with me, probably because of the outdated language.  Then, when my children were young, we hired au pairs from England to care for them because we had difficulty finding suitable care for our younger son, who has autism.  Au pairs are only allowed to stay for a year so we went through quite a number of them, but our third was a big Austen fan.  She not only induced me to reread all of Austen’s major works, she introduced me to the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice and gave me the book about the making of the series and I was hooked!

For a number of years I read and reread Austen’s works and I would pick up new insights with every reading.  Finally I decided to try Pamela Aiden’s three book series telling the P&P story from Darcy’s point of view.  Although I enjoyed her book very much, I found that I had very strong feelings about how the characters in Pride and Prejudice were developing and my opinion was different than Ms. Aiden’s.  It was not quite a stroke of lightning, but I suddenly wanted to write the story of what I felt happened after Darcy and Elizabeth married. I wrote in secret, when my husband was working or playing tennis, and did not tell anyone what I was doing because I did not know if I would actually finish it.  I was rather tied at home since my younger son went to bed early and could not be left alone, and it was a perfect situation for writing.

When I finally decided to publish I knew that my stumbling efforts were not ready to interest a traditional publisher, so I decided to self-publish with iUniverse.  At that point I needed to let my husband know I was going to be spending some significant money to publish. My husband and I have a standing date on Tuesdays and I picked one evening to tell him that I had written a book.  He was absolutely flabbergasted (and let me tell you it is not easy to bring an eye surgeon to a complete standstill!), but, after a long, disbelieving pause, said, “You might just be able to sell that” and encouraged me to move ahead on publication.

Living in a small town, I did not have a lot of contacts with other writers or teachers who were experienced in publishing so I purchased the editing services I needed from iUniverse and basically used the various editors as my teachers.  Not surprisingly, the manuscript evolved over time and became more and more Georgiana’s story, since the first year of the Darcys’ marriage would include Georgiana’s coming of age.  I was pleased with the final book and it caught the eye of an agent, and the rest is history…

Thanks so much for sharing your inspiration with us, C. Allyn Pierson.

About the Author:

C. Allyn Pierson is the nom-de-plume of a physician, who has combined her many years of interest in the works of Jane Austen and the history of Regency England into this sequel to Pride and Prejudice. She lives with her family and three dogs in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

Giveaway details:

2 copies of Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister are up for grabs.  Sorry, US/Canada residents only.

1.  Leave a comment about your first impressions of Pride & Prejudice.

2.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, etc. for a second entry.

Deadline is Sept. 17, 2010, at 11:59 PM EST.

Isla Morley’s Writing Space

Today, I have a special treat for my readers.  We’re going to get a peek inside author Isla Morley‘s writing space.  She’s the author of Come Sunday, a novel about how a mother deals with the loss of her daughter and the devastating loss it dredges up from her past in South Africa.  Married to a minister and living in Hawaii, Abbe Deighton must confront her demons and find solace.

Please give Isla a warm welcome.

Much of the writing of Come Sunday took place in the spare room closet of a 1920s parsonage.  On the rod above my computer monitor hung a few of my husband’s denim shirts.  On the top shelf were several handmade Tongan quilts we’d received as gifts while living in Hawaii, and a wildly colorful afghan crocheted by a great-granny – much loved, but too scratchy to use.

The closet suited me well, mirroring my secret activity.  Apart from my husband and a close friend, nobody knew I spent hours following the life of Abbe Deighton.  I’d go into my little closet, close my eyes and she would appear to me, every bit as compelling as the first night she materialized at my bedside.  Many times I felt I was recording her story rather than writing it, and as the words piled up, I was both exhilarated and terrified.

Last year we moved from the quaint little cottage to our own home in the hills.  It’s situated on a couple of acres, surrounded by Live Oak, Walnut and Pine trees, and it faces the majestic San Gabriel Mountains.  The house has enough room for me to claim my own office.  Requisite bookshelves line one wall, and against the other is my desk, strewn with scraps of paper and post-it notes and fairy figurines and dozens of things which belong some place else.  There’s a window seat with a view of the garden, and a picture of Kjell Sandved’s alphabet on butterfly wings behind my chair.  If that isn’t enough to inspire me, there’s a framed promise from a long-ago prophet about there being a plan for my life, a future filled with hope.

You’d think this would do it.  You’d think I’d spend the hours my daughter is at school typing furiously away at the next novel, occasionally rubbing the crystal my friend promised unleashes the imagination, trying to persuade the cat not to keeping marching back and forth across my keyboard.  But no.  It’s outside you will find me.  On the deck at the table where the view beyond the Magnolia trees stretches for miles.  The voices in my head have to compete with the mockingbird which is so desperate for a mate he has added to his repertoire the sound of the neighbor’s rap music.  I wonder if I could place an ad in the personals for the poor guy.  The koi swim in the pond behind me as Samson, our dog, scans the sky for that beastly blue heron which treats the pond as his personal buffet.  Every day, the lizard pays me a visit.  He does a few push-ups as though to remind me that I can’t spend the whole day sitting observing all creation. Come on, love, back to work! he seems to insinuate.

I take another sip of tea, then lift my pen, and turn to a fresh page in my notebook.  The bees hum, and in the far distance, cars roar along the freeway, going someplace important, no doubt.  But my soul tunes to another sound; another story is waiting to be told.

Thanks, Isla, for sharing your space with us.

Photo © 2009 Holly Hawkey

About the Author:

Isla Morley grew up in South Africa during apartheid, the child of a British father and fourth-generation South African mother.  During the country’s State of Emergency, she graduated from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth with a degree in English Literature.

She has lived in some of the most culturally diverse places of the world, including Johannesburg, London and Honolulu.  Now in the Los Angeles area, she shares a home with her husband, daughter, two cats, a dog and a tortoise.  Check out her Facebook page.

Giveaway details:

1 copy to a US/Canada reader

1.  Leave a comment on this post with an email

2.  Tweet, Facebook, etc. and leave a link for a second entry.

Deadline is Sept. 3, 2010 at 11:59PM EST

Tatjana Soli Talks About Vietnam

I’ve been a bit quiet this week, but I did want to call your attention to a great guest post from Tatjana Soli, author of The Lotus Eaters, that Anna and I posted on War Through the Generations.

Soli raises a great number of questions about what war means and how location plays into that, but she also highlights how the impact of war is best seen from the individual perspective — whether it is the soldier, the journalist, or the average civilian.  In a way, this post explains how she became inspired enough to write The Lotus Eaters.

I hope you take the time to check out the guest post and leave a comment.  If you missed my review of this phenomenal book, please check that out as well.

***As an aside, have you seen the episode of Samantha Brown’s travel show?   You should check out the episode on Vietnam.

Guest Post: Peer Into Eve Marie Mont’s Alternate Writing Space

I’ve got a real treat for you today. Eve Marie Mont, author of Free to a Good Home — a new novel in stores today (July 6) and is available in paperback and Kindle versions — will share with us a peek into her alternate writing space.

Here’s a synopsis of her book, which the author sent along:

Noelle Ryan works as a veterinary technician at a New England animal shelter, helping pets find the perfect homes. If only it were as easy to find the same thing for herself. After discovering that she can’t have children—and watching her marriage fall apart after a shocking revelation by her husband—Noelle feels as forlorn and abandoned as the strays she rescues.

She can’t seem to get over her ex, Jay. Unfortunately, all Jay wants from her is a whopper of a favor: serving as a caretaker for his elderly mother, who still blames Noelle for the breakup. While Jay heads off to Atlanta to live the life of a bachelor, Noelle is left with only her Great Dane, Zeke, to comfort her. But when a carefree musician named Jasper gives her a second chance at life—and at love—Noelle comes to realize that home is truly where the heart is.

Please check out the contest on Eve’s website for a chance to win a book club package of eight signed copies and a Skype call-in. Also, if you’d like to read a sneak preview, click here.

OK, without further ado, let’s check out her alternate writing space; shall we?

Thank you so much to Serena for inviting me to guest post on Savvy Verse and Wit. I was reading all the wonderful posts Serena has compiled featuring authors and their writing spaces, complete with photos of finely appointed offices with antique desks and fireplaces or cozy screened-in porches with Adirondack chairs. Then I looked at the space where I do most of my writing and thought, “I can’t possibly send Serena a photo of a plaid loveseat in front of an air conditioner!” But literally, that is what my writing space looks like. Don’t get me wrong, there are some lovely features to my living room as well — the soothing lemony yellow color my husband painted it, the sun that bathes the room in late afternoon, my favorite Picasso print that hangs across from me. But it’s not a space worthy of showcasing on a blog!

So I’ll tell you a little about my alternate writing space, or more accurately, my alternate thinking space: my backyard. I don’t get much actual writing done out here because the setting is far too distracting, but I take my trusty canine companion, Maggie, and we sit by the creek in the dappled sunshine and watch the goldfinches play and the ducklings swim. The breeze rustles through the trees above, and my favorite blue heron sometimes stops by to feed on the minnows. I finally get some time away from my laptop and get back to the basics: me, a pad of paper and a pencil, and some focused daydreaming time. Maggie sits by my feet chewing on sticks, while I fill my notebook with ideas and characters and settings.

This is not to say that my writing life is all lazy afternoons by a picturesque creek with waves of inspiration washing over me. I teach high school English full-time, so much of my year is devoted to planning lessons and grading papers, and I often get very little writing — or thinking, for that matter — done at all. Another reality is that this very same creek floods nearly every time it rains, often knocking down our fence and creating a lot of headache for me and my husband. But when summer arrives and the weather is fine, this is my “go-to” writing and thinking space. When I think of all the enjoyment and inspiration to be found in my own backyard, I know I’m lucky to live where I do—plaid loveseat and ugly air conditioner included.

What is the place that inspires you most? Leave a comment below for a chance to win a free copy of Free to a Good Home.

Deadline for the U.S./Canada giveaway is July 15, 2010, at 11:59 PM

EST.  Good Luck!

About the author:

Eve Marie Mont lives with her husband, Ken, and her shelter dog, Maggie, in suburban Philadelphia, where she teaches high school English and creative writing. Free to a Good Home is her first novel. She is currently revising her second novel, a YA book inspired by Jane Eyre.

Michael Baron’s Path to Publication


Michael Baron writes stories about enduring love and passion, and his latest novel, The Journey Home, is no exception.  If you missed my review, please check it out.

Today, Baron has offered to talk about his path to publication.

Serena asked me to write about my path to publication. Like most, I think this path was difficult to discern at times; sometimes it had become overgrown, other times it had a huge tree crashed across it blocking my passage. Occasionally, it stopped being a path and became a dark alley populated by gremlins mocking me for the audacity of thinking I deserved to get through unscathed. When I finally came to the other end, it turned out to be an entirely different place than I imagined, fortunately one where I was comfortable settling.

Every now and then I get an e-mail message from a teenager telling me about his or her manuscript, fully convinced that publication will come before college essays are due. I always encourage these writers – some of whom exhibit real talent – because one should never discourage the passion to write. The reality, though, is that the odds against publication are overwhelming and they are exponentially more overwhelming when you’re in your teens. Christopher Paolini wrote his first novel when he was something like fifteen, had a bestseller with it, and saw a big-budget movie made from it. He is decidedly an outlier.

Like Paolini, I completed my first novel when I was in my middle teens. It was not Eragon . To be honest, it was barely English. I was proud of it for a few weeks, pitched it to a couple of publishers, and then put it away, never to see the light of day again. When I was in college, I wrote another novel. This one was significantly better, which is to say that it had complete sentences, characters, and many of the other important things that make up good fiction, like chapters. A professor read it and liked it enough to recommend it to his agent. The agent was polite enough to speak with me on the phone and let me know that the novel might be worth his consideration if I changed just about everything in it.

That was it for me and fiction for a long time. As it turned out, I wasn’t the kind of person who took rejection well, and to me, fiction and rejection had become synonymous. I got serious about my career, first as a teacher and then in retail and I allowed the notion of becoming a writer to simmer in the back of my brain where it settled along with the notions of becoming a rock star and a world-class chef.

Then fate intervened. A friend of a friend knew someone who had an interesting story to tell but didn’t have the writing skill to tell it. I met with this person and agreed to commit some of this story to the page. I seemed to have some skill at this and the book proposal we created found an agent and the agent found us a publisher. Just like that, after years of trying to be a writer and then years of pretending that it didn’t bother me that I’d failed to become one, I had a book deal. The book didn’t do particularly well, but it connected me with the agent and he in turn connected me with others who needed writers. Soon enough, I could leave all other work behind and concentrate on this full-time. This was hugely satisfying, but I’ve never forgotten how accidental it all was. If the friend of my friend hadn’t mentioned that he knew someone who wanted to write a book, and if my friend hadn’t mentioned to him that I’d once talked about being a writer, none of this would have happened.

A couple of years ago, I decided to think about fiction again. I had a good number of books under my belt by this point, and a friend in the industry who was starting a new publishing house. I showed him the first hundred pages of When You Went Away (check out my review) and he didn’t tell me that he thought it would be great if I changed every last bit of it. What we decided was that I would finish this novel, then finish another, Crossing the Bridge, and then get started on a third while he published the first. That third novel, The Journey Home, has just gone on sale.

My path to publication was a circuitous one. I think it always is for those not named Paolini. However, I arrived refreshed. This is a good thing, because publication is not a destination. It is simply a stop along the way. Professional writers are always moving forward, always heading down new paths, complete with new crashed trees and new gremlins.

Thanks for providing us with a look inside your journey to publication.