I began my journey as an Austenesque writer in 2006 when my eldest child left for college. No more swim meets, no more tennis tournaments, no more musicals, no more plays, no more Debate tournaments…well, you get the idea! I still had one child at home but he is severely autistic and was not in all the extracurricular activities that my eldest was, and he also went to bed very early (still does…). I had been leery about buying Austen sequels and retellings because I did not know which ones to choose- there were so many! I finally decided to buy Pamela Aiden’s Fitzwilliam Darcy Trilogy and promptly sank into the joy of learning more about my favorite Austen hero.
After reading this now classic work a couple of times I realized that I had my own ideas about where the story would go after the end of Pride and Prejudice and they had been release by reading Ms. Aiden’s book. I took my laptop into my elder son’s now unused bedroom and started writing. I didn’t tell anyone that I was doing this- I did not want to talk about it until I was sure that I would be able to hang on writing until the end of the story. My husband is a fanatical tennis player and plays almost every day, and I work part-time, so I would only write when he was at work or tennis and I would stop when I heard the garage door open. Yes, it is rather like the behavior of an addict hiding her needles!
I finally neared the end of the manuscript and had discussed publishing options with my friend Lauren Small (author of Choke Creek) and decided that self-publishing was my best option. I looked at the self-publishing houses and picked iUniverse because it is a subsidiary of Barnes and Noble so I thought that it would probably not go into bankruptcy while I was working with them. At this point I was going to commit to paying some significant money for publication, so I thought I should tell my husband.
We have a regular “date” on Tuesday evenings, so after we finished eating dinner I cleared my throat and said, “There is something I need to tell you.” His eyebrows rose at this (I don’t even want to know what his first thoughts might have been at this statement!). I told him that I had written a sequel to Pride and Prejudice and was going to publish it. For about 30 seconds he stared at me with his mouth slightly agape, then he said, “You know, you just might be able to sell that.” He has had more reminders than he would ever choose to have about the popularity of Jane Austen, so the topic was not a surprise to him, but I was pleased to see that I had succeeded in taking him aback- not an easy thing to do with an eye surgeon who has seen pretty much everything.
I went on to publish with iUniverse, buying the editing services that I thought I needed with this first attempt. I titled it And This Our Life: Chronicles of the Darcy Family from one of my favorite Shakespeare quotations and had a photographer friend take the cover photo. The cover model is the daughter of my minister, who I saw in church one day (when I should have been listening to the sermon…) with her hair up, and I realized that she was the epitome of Georgiana Darcy in my mind. I called her to see if she would model for the cover and, at the end of the call, said, “Don’t worry about the clothes.” Fortunately, she knows me well enough to trust that I was not wanting nude or porn pictures…I sewed a Regency gown and the photographer and I did her hair and accessories and took about 300 pictures with a black background. We picked one with her looking down and holding a fan I brought back from a trip to China and iUniverse used it for the cover. Apparently they liked the black background because they kept it and I loved the look, however, I later noticed that just about every new book I saw had a black cover…oh, well.
Several months later I was contacted by an agent who was looking for Jane Austen-related titles and I signed with him and sold the book to Sourcebooks. They wanted a rewrite to change the point-of-view to Georgiana’s and I liked the idea, so spent 3 weeks completely rewriting the book, recycling some scenes and creating new ones for the rest, while I waited for them to decide if they wanted to buy it. They took the rewrite without significant further changes, and Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister was born.
The future? Well, I have several more Austen related stories I would like to tell, as well as some other historical fiction and a modern suspense series. I confess that I still love the Regency Era as it is unique and not well known, in spite of the amazing things that happened during that short period in history. So many books and so little time…