Mailbox Monday #162

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is the At Home With Books.

Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailbox meme.

Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

1. The Golden Hour by Margaret Wurtele for review from Penguin.

2. No Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie unrequested from HarperCollins.

3. My City, My New York by Jeryl Brunner for review from the author; check out my Interview.

4. Guardians of the Gate by Vincent Parrillo for review from the author.

5. The Auroras by David St. John for review from HarperCollins.

6. The Girl in the Box by Sheila Dalton, unrequested from the publisher.

7. The Last Storyteller by Frank Delaney for review.

What did you receive this week?

Jane Austen Made Me Do It Edited by Laurel Ann Nattress

Laurel Ann Nattress, the woman behind Austenprose.com, is now the editor of Jane Austen Made Me Do It, a collection of Jane Austen-inspired short stories (check out the tour).  Authors not considered Austenites per se, like Frank Delaney writes with Diane Meier and Adriana Trigiani join those known for their Austen spinoffs, like Amanda Grange, Jane Odiwe, Alexandra Potter, and more.  The collection even includes the winner of the Jane Austen Made Me Do It short story contest — Brenna Aubrey’s “The Love Letter.”  But some Austen retelling favorites like Abigail Reynolds, Mary Simonsen, and Eucharista Ward are notably absent.  However, this only begs the question as to whether there will be another anthology in the future as the Austen subgenre continues to grow.

It is only fitting that the collection begins with the woman who started my journey onward into the world of Jane Austen and subsequent retellings and inspired novels, Syrie James with “Jane Austen’s Nightmare.”  The short story personifies every writer’s nightmare — that the characters will not like how they have been drawn and will seek justice.  From characters perceived as too perfect to those with a great number of flaws, Austen meets them all in her nightmare set in Bath, a city she despises.  Kicking off the collection here is a great introduction to all of Austen’s novels and characters and to her own fears and character as we know her to have been, possibly.

“Austen’s rise to fame has been steady since her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh’s biography, A Memoir of Jane Austen, introduced ‘dear Aunt Jane’ to broader readership in 1869, but recently, two elements have been her strongest catalyst:  the Internet and a wet shirt.”  (page xii)

There are stories for five of her six novels, and Mansfield Park, though mentioned in passing or referred to slightly, is the one left out as an inspiration for a complete story.  Each author tackles a different novel and/or theme from the ridiculousness of ghost stories in “A Night at Northanger” by Lauren Willig to the trials of living with one’s in-laws, like in “Nothing Less Than Fairy-Land” by Monica Fairview.  Clever renderings of finding love in the most unlikely places in Beth Patillo’s “When Only a Darcy Will Do” are joined by modernized stories of renewed love and patience.  These stories are perfect for those looking for more Austen and for those who are unsure whether they would like Austen retellings/continuations.

There are outstanding stories and those that are not quite as good, but let’s be clear, if you love all-things Austen, you want this collection and there are no stories here that you will want to miss.  Writing Austenesque stories requires a certain level of imagination, while at the same time a certain commitment to her characters as she has created them.  Each of these writers does just that.  Jane Austen Made Me Do It has enough clever wit and modern sensibility for any reader, and would suit those looking for prime examples of how a short story can capture the heart.

About the Editor:

A life-long acolyte of Jane Austen, Laurel Ann Nattress is the author/editor of Austenprose.com a blog devoted to the oeuvre of her favorite author and the many books and movies that she has inspired. She is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, a regular contributor to the PBS blog Remotely Connected and the Jane Austen Centre online magazine. An expatriate of southern California, Laurel Ann lives in a country cottage near Snohomish, Washington. Visit Laurel Ann at her blogs Austenprose.com and JaneAustenMadeMeDoIt.com, on Twitter as @Austenprose, and on Facebook as Laurel Ann Nattress.

Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show by Frank Delaney

Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show by Frank Delaney is a coming of age novel set during a tumultuous time in Ireland’s history.  Set in the early 1930s, Ireland and Britain were in the midst of an economic battle in which farmers refused to keep paying back the loans that enabled them to buy farmland.  And Britain consequently began placing tariffs on all Irish goods — all the while the political system in Ireland was tenuous.

“Of course it was all still being run by politicians.  We have an old saying here:  ‘No matter who you vote for, the government always gets in.'”  (Page 15)

The narration is conversational in tone as Ben MacCarthy tells his family history, with tales on the side about the political climate of the time.  Although he digresses from the main story of his father’s disappearance and reappearance with the Venetia Kelly Traveling Show, MacCarthy warns you ahead of time that he often falls off topic, but that most of his stories have some relevance to the main narration.  A quirky technique, but enjoyable given that the digressions are entertaining.

“So, throughout this story you can expect three kinds of sidesteps:  Important Digression, which will usually be something to do with factual history; Important Digression, where a clarification needs facts and I will ferry them in from a side road; and — my favorite — Unimportant Digression, which can be about anything.”  (Page 10)

Delaney has created a multitude of characters with their own depth and meaning in the story, and there are references throughout to other classic works.  He has created an energized menagerie through which readers will see and experience through Ben’s eyes as a young man in search of his father and himself.  In many ways Ben is like his father, especially as the narration progresses.  Readers will find that he is unwinding his story slowly and deliberately, mirroring how his father contains his emotions and his true passions from his family.

“Beside me, my father reacted so hard that he made the bones of his chair creak.  He pulled back his hands, tightened them into fists, and held them in front of him like a man containing himself.”  (Page 79)

The deliberate way in which the story unfolds enables readers to learn more about the MacCarthy family, the Kelly’s, and the climate of Ireland at the time.  A nation and families stuck between the old traditions and the modern ways of the world, seeking the best path through to the other side.  What propels Ben on this journey and what does he learn?  Readers will want to pick up a copy of Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show to find out.

To enter for 1 signed copy of Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show or 1 audiobook narrated by Frank Delaney (US/Canada only):

1.  Leave a comment on this post of what you would like to see in Ireland.
2.  Leave a comment on my interview with Frank Delaney.
3.  Blog, Facebook, Tweet, or spread the word about the giveaway.

Deadline March 1, 2010, at 11:59PM EST.

About the Author: (Photo Credit: Jerry Bauer)

Frank Delaney was born in Tipperary, Ireland. A career in broadcasting earned him fame across the United Kingdom. A judge for the Booker Prize, several of his nonfiction books were bestsellers in the UK, and he writes frequently for American and British publications. He now lives with his wife, Diane Meier, in New York and Connecticut. Ireland is his first novel to be published in the United States.

 This is my 11th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

My 1st book for the 2010 Ireland Reading Challenge.

FTC Disclosure:  I received a free copy of Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show by Frank Delaney from publicist Leah Paulos and Random House.  Clicking on title links or images will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary.

Interview With Frank Delaney, Author of Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show

Look to your right and you will see a dashing photo of Frank Delaney taken by Jerry Bauer!  He — Delaney, not Bauer — is the author of Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show, which will hit stores Feb. 23.

I’ve been reading his book and enjoying the author’s style, but since I want to do the work justice, I figured I would postpone my review until Feb. 22.  Instead, I’m going to bring you a fun interview with Delaney where he talks about books, writing, and more.

Without further ado, here’s the interview. Please give Frank Delaney a warm welcome.

1.  Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show takes place in the 1930s, and many of your previous novels have either dealt with or been set in Ireland during previous decades.  Has it been your intention to revisit Ireland in each book with a new decade?  Why or why not?
I wanted to write a “history” of Ireland in the 20th century, when so much happened to create the country we know today, and in which I grew up. And it’s a place and period full of rich incident, eccentric character, and arresting themes. Also, I love the idea of taking the readers into an unknown world – which was after all so familiar to me – and allowing them to stand on the sidelines and observe what’s happening in that world, sharing with them what I saw and know. 

2.  Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show reminds me of the gypsy shows seen in many movies.  Did you have a particular inspiration for the traveling show and is it based on an actual show you’ve seen or researched?

I’ve seen so many of them! There was one I actually used to follow across the country; it was part theatrical, part medicine show, with the worst and goofiest performers you ever saw. But there were others, gifted acting troupes, who brought Shakespeare and Sophocles and Strindberg and all the great dramas to small country towns, and they live for ever in my mind. I was captivated by them.

3.  Tackling the betrayal of a spouse can be difficult, especially for a child.  Ben MacCarthy must take a journey to bring his father home after he runs off with the caravan.  How would you say your coming-of-age novel that sets a young man out on his own differs from other novels of a similar ilk?
Great question! This is what I was trying to do: I was trying to apply some of today’s experience, where children routinely observe such upheavals in their families, to an unlikely time and place – rural Ireland in the 1930’s, because I wanted to show that whenever it happens, distress is distress, and therefore a bond is created between past and present. The time-lapse, I felt, might sharpen the edge of his rite of passage. As a consequence, the book is full of deliberate mistakes (perpetrated by Ben or his father), misunderstandings and unexpected discord – as they would be in a story from today’s family experience. It’s also packed with mythological references, some hidden, some not,, because I like to do that stuff! I believe it gives a book depth and subtlety, all smuggled into a “story,” which – like all my novels – starts deliberately slowly, and then (when, as I hope, I’ve captured you) begins to go much, much faster.
4.  You were born in Ireland and made a name for yourself in broadcasting.  Could you describe the transition you made from being a broadcaster in Ireland to an author in America and any hardships you may have encountered?
It’s been a long journey. I don”t know if I’d use the word “hardships” – but there certainly have been obstacles. In the UK I worked as a broadcaster for the BBC for many years and learned so much about one-air audiences at their excellent hands (I hope it shows in my audiobooks: I always read the recordings of my own novels). But that didn’t dim or reduce the requirement to learn the skills necessary in reaching an audience for writing, and that will always be, as for every professional writer, the “hardship” of the ongoing challenge. In fact the world is now so full of challenges for authors that I’ve actually started writing a book about the future of authorship.
5.  Please share a few of your obsessions.(i.e. a love of chocolate, animals, crosswords)? 
Ha! Crosswords, certainly – though I do genuinely believe that the language barrier across the Atlantic makes the New York Times crossword v. difficult for me, so I download the Daily Telegraph Crossword from London instead! Chocolate – Yummmm! BUT – take note; on a significant birthday I made myself a promise that I would never let a day of my life go by without eating ice-cream. By and large I’ve kept to that. As to animals – if I could, I’d have a Sumatran elephant as a pet. And watch out (in a year or so) for a significant animal pet in the novel I’m writing at the moment.
6.  When writing poetry, prose, essays, and other works do you listen to music, do you have a particular playlist for each genre you work in or does the playlist stay the same? What are the top 5 songs on that playlist? If you don’t listen to music while writing, do you have any other routines or habits?
I have specific music that I use for different phases of work. Dominant of these is techno – and I have a number of Internet radio stations (some coming out of France) that I listen to. I prefer the truly insistent house stuff, I find the the drive of it very energizing. I also try to find North African music; I developed a taste for it in Greece many years ago and it fires me up. I’m looking at my lists now and – a random glance – I see Diana Krall, Manhattan Transfer, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and one of my all-time favorites, Gundula Janowitz‘s’s recording of The Four Last Songs. For the ultimate kick-start on a slow day – Wagner. Bach for warming down! 
7.  Which books have you been reading lately, and are there any you would recommend in particular?  Which books do you think should be read by more readers?  
Am reading Game Change, the bestseller of the 2008 election campaign; am finishing an excellent biography of John Fowles (whom I knew); re-reading (again) The Great Gatsby; will always be dipping into Ulysses – that’s the book more people should read, because it’s so huge and rich. Just finished an old Ed McBain thriller – took not much more than an hour or two, but oh, boy! Did he know how to roll a story? To declare my interest – I’m also re-reading my wife, Diane Meier’s deliciously edgy first novel, The Season of Second Chances. (And from what I’ve seen – her second will be even better!) If there’s a new Alan Furst coming, I’ll be onto it straightaway. And Shakespeare, always Shakespeare. 
8.  As an author and interviewer of authors, what is the one question you would like to be asked and answered?  How would you answer it? 
Good question! Yes, there is – it has been asked a few times and it’s always welcome: The question is this: “Frank Delaney, -is there more to your books than meets the eye? Is there more to them than just the simple story?” And my answer is, with a big smile, “You bet! But go looking for it – because the fun I’ve had building in the layers and references and subtleties might just transmit itself to you.”

Thank you for answering my questions, Frank.  We wish you luck in all you do.  Stay tuned for my review of Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show on Monday, Feb. 22. 

FTC Disclosure:  Clicking on title links will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page, no purchase necessary.