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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!

The Three Colonels: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men by Jack Caldwell

The Three Colonels: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men by Jack Caldwell is set during a time in Europe when empires were being built and shifted, including the Napoleonic empire.  Colonel Brandon, Colonel Buford, and Colonel Fitzwilliam are the main players here, but Mr. Darcy’s connection to Fitzwilliam and Brandon and Fitzwilliam’s connections to Buford blend the picture seamlessly.  A Regency period novel that begins with the exile of Napoleon to Elba is the calm before the storm as the world teeters on the brink of war once again, which can only bring the three colonels into danger, alongside that love-to-hate rogue Wickham.  Caldwell can always be counted on for creating tension that leads to fast-paced action in an Austenesque novel, and he even sprinkles in the romance and common misunderstandings Austen’s characters have dealt with in the past.

“Buford!’ cried his companion.  ‘If you truly wish to be known as a respectable gentleman, there are other ways to go about it than imitating Fitzwilliam Darcy!’ Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam gave his comrade-in-arms a lopsided grin.

Buford’s eyes never left the crowd.  ‘I beg your pardon, but I am certainly not as stiff as Darcy!’

Fitzwilliam laughed.  ‘Oh, Buford, you make a fireplace poker look flexible!'” (Page 45 ARC)

Buford is a dashing colonel who has won the affections of Caroline Bingley, despite his rakish reputation among the ton.  Buford softens Caroline’s edges, making her blush as she gains confidence slowly after being humiliated, but can he cause her to be ultimately vulnerable and fall in love and can she redeem him as he hopes to be saved?  These are just some of the questions Caldwell tackles in his novel.  Meanwhile, happily married Darcy and Colonel Brandon are enjoying their wives and their children when news of possible war hits, causing the men to worry about their families and the future of England.

Colonel Fitzwilliam’s troubles begin when he must step into the role of Rosings trustee that Darcy was forced to vacate when he married Lizzy against Lady Catherine’s wishes.  He butts heads with Lady Catherine, is unsure of how much authority he has to make changes to save the estate, and finds himself hopelessly in love with someone far above his station.  Caldwell stays true to Austen’s original characters here, but modifies them in ways that help them evolve in the new story lines he has created for them.  They are fresh and fun, and fully dramatic, with plenty of intrigue and backstabbing to go around on the international stage.

The Three Colonels: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men by Jack Caldwell blends not only Austen’s characters from Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility, but also adds historical figures and new characters to the mix.  Readers will enjoy revisiting some of their favorite characters, seeing new sides of old characters, and being introduced to new, engaging characters.  Overall, a unique novel that brings some action to the upper echelons of society.

Also by Jack Caldwell:

Pemberley Ranch

Mailbox Monday #161

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 Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy, which I received for my TLC Tour stop in March.

2.  Vampire Knits by Genevieve Miller, which came unsolicited from Random House.

These I won from BookHounds and some of these will find homes with my mother (who just loves mystery novels) and some other friends:

3. Fadeaway Girl by Martha Grimes

4. Day by Day Armageddon Beyond Exile by J.L. Bourne

5. The Rock Hole by Reavis Wortham

6. Bet Your Bones by Jeanne Matthews

7. Swift Justice by Laura DiSilverio

8. Electric Barracuda by Tim Dorsey

9. Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward

10. Dracula in Love by Karen Essex

11. Knit Two by Kate Jacobs

BACK to the review copies and the book buys from the weekend:

12. The Unauthorized Biography of Michele Bachman by Ken Brosky

13. The Three Colonels by Jack Caldwell for review from Sourcebooks

14. Mr. Darcy Forever by Victoria Connelly for review from Sourcebooks

15. Catalina by Laurie Soriano for consideration in the Indie Lit Awards Poetry category

16. If I Die in a Combat Zone by Tim O’Brien, which I bought at the book club meeting at Novel Places for $1.50 to complete by collection of O’Brien books.

17. The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore, which I also bought at the book club meeting at Novel Places for $1.99 because I loved this book when I first read it and want my own copy.

18. Definitely Not Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos, which I also bought at the book club meeting, since Anna told me it was hilarious.

What did you receive this week?

Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell

Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell is a re-imagining of Pride & Prejudice set during the U.S. Civil War and opens during the battle of Vicksburg, Miss., which was the final surge of the war between union or Yankee troops and southern confederates.  Darcy is a captain in the confederate army and readers are dropped right into the action of war as the novel opens.  He’s commanding his troops as union soldiers pin them down, but then they suddenly withdrawn.  Caldwell’s prose is descriptive down to the sidearms used by the battling troops.

The book quickly turns to the Bennets’ story as they mourn the loss of their only brother Samuel and decide to move to Rosings, Texas to run a different cattle ranch and leave their home in Ohio.  Imagine the tensions following the Civil War between former Confederates and the new Yankees who migrate to the rejoined nation of the United States.  Beth Bennet and Darcy meet and sparks fly in more ways than one, and this is coupled with an underhanded attempt by George Whitehead to usurp cattle ranches, land, and power through a complex plan with help from a darker Denny and a gang of former confederate soldiers still bitter from their loss.

“‘I’m sure you did,’ Bingley laughed.  ‘They’re very nice people Will; they’re just a bit . . . boisterous.  There’s not a mean bone in their bodies.  Once you get to know ’em, you’ll see.’

‘And why should I do that?’

Charles frowned.  ‘They’re my family now, Will.  You’ll be in their company in the future if you’re goin’ to be in mine.  I won’t throw off my wife’s family.’

Darcy had the good manners to be abashed.  ‘You’re right, Charles.  I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have said that.’

‘I know Miz Bennet can talk a blue streak, but she don’t mean anything by it.  It’s just her way.  ‘Sides, you can’t say anything bad about Mr Bennet, or Beth.’

‘She’s a bit of a tomboy, isn’t she?’

Bingley shrugged. ‘She grew up on a farm, Will. What did you expect?’ He elbowed his friend with a grin. ‘She sure cleaned up nice, though. Almost as pretty as my Jane.'” (page 41)

Caldwell’s prose is exactly as it should be incorporating southern manners, but spicing it up with more than sexual tension.  Darcy continues to be proud, but softens around Beth, and Beth continues to be prejudiced against confederates, until she meets her intellectual match in Darcy.  What’s unique is that Caldwell changes the characters just enough to reflect the tensions and angst following the Civil War without losing the spunk of Austen’s characters.

Picturing Darcy as a dark, handsome, rugged cowboy should be enough for some readers, but there is mystery, suspense, and romance to satisfy everyone else.  Austen purists may wonder at the modernity in some of the scenes, but they worked for the most part.  Caldwell also uses some of the most famous lines from Austen’s work in new ways, but they flow so well with the story that readers will smile as they recognized the phrases.  Even more intriguing is the inclusion of another Austen character who is the reverend in Rosings, Texas.  Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell is an escapist novel to a time in American history where things were uncertain and volatile even though the U.S. government had re-unionized.  A quick read, with action and intrigue for any Austen lover.

 

This is my 3rd and final book for the U.S. Civil War Reading Challenge 2011.

 

This is my 77th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.