Thank you so much, Maria, for inviting me to your blog! I am very happy to be here!
If you were to write the ‘origin’s episode’ of your writing what would be the most important scenes? What did your early efforts look like? Are they still around to be used as bribes and blackmail material?
I have loved to scribble stories since I was very small. My defining moment was when I was ten years old, and my grandparents gave me an old typewriter they didn’t need any more. I immediately sat down and starting writing a novel. I remember I made a hand-drawn cover on construction paper, and the story had a great premise, but I got about halfway into it and couldn’t figure out what should happen next. I was hooked on writing, and knew it was my calling—but that experience taught me the importance of an outline! I kept that aborted manuscript with me everywhere I’ve moved over the years, but have never looked at it since its creation— I probably still have it somewhere in the attic!
All super heroes have their mild-mannered secret identity, what is yours? I promise we won’t tell.
I know my secret is safe with you: in my non-writing alter ego, I wear many hats. I am first and foremost a happily married wife (39 years in January) and mother (my two sons are grown and married to lovely young women, and luckily they all live just around the corner, but motherhood is a job that lasts for life!) I am a graphic artist, HTML coder, designer and seamstress of Regency period attire (and other costumes), avid photographer, obsessed movie and theater goer, and one-time house designer (we recently remodeled 80% of our home; I designed it and oversaw every detail from the architectural floor plan to the cabinet pulls, and thankfully it turned out great!)
Who are your partners in crime? What are their superpowers?
My biggest partner in crime is definitely my husband Bill, who showers me every day with his love and support not only for my writing, but in every other aspect of our lives. He’s wise and caring and devoted and has a great sense of humor. He listens if and when I encounter a plot problem and gives great advice. And he handles all the finances so I can just write—yay! Our son Ryan (with whom I co-wrote Forbidden) is literally another partner in crime. He reads all my first drafts and gives excellent notes, and it’s a pleasure to write with him.
I have one more very dear partner in crime: my friend Laurel Ann Nattress. She’s smart, sweet, sympathetic, sensible, fun-loving, and the most loyal and giving friend on the planet. She’s an expert in all things Austen, and has fabulous taste and an excellent design sense. She’s always there for me on the other end of the phone at any hour of day or night, and is razor sharp when it comes to brainstorming a story or fixing what’s wrong with a draft of a novel. She also runs amazing blog tours!!! I don’t know how I ever lived without her.
Where do you get your superpowers from?
The overwhelming, unstoppable urge/need to write, regardless of the outcome. It’s a powerful force that cannot be ignored.
Where is your secret lair and what does it look like?
I have a beautiful office on the second floor of our house, and it’s my personal writing hideaway. The room has vivid blue walls, white window casings and crown molding, four windows overlooking my back garden and the neighborhood palm trees, three oak desks (with a height-adjustable writing desk), a comfy white couch for lounging and thinking, and wall-to-wall bookcases stuffed with books. I love it.
What kind of training do you do to keep your superpowers in world saving form?
To keep my writing powers fresh and in top form, I read obsessively in a wide variety of genres. There’s no better training ground. When I’m writing a novel from Jane Austen’s point of view (as in my newest, Jane Austen’s First Love) I read Austen’s novels over and over to keep her voice in my head. I do an immense amount of research for every book, which usually requires travel to the location and personal interviews. If it’s a novel about a real historical figure (such as Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë) I peruse dozens of biographies, read everything they’ve ever written, and visit their homes and placed they visited. I try to work every single day, whether it’s writing my work in progress, outlining my next book, or doing social media and promotion. In between, I try to make time to enjoy life with my husband and family, which is the most important thing of all!
Granted, you probably don’t get to wear your superhero costume a lot, but if you did, what would it look like?
Actually I wear my writing superhero costume every day: yoga pants and a T-shirt or my PJs! But I do have far more elegant superhero attire which I love to don for festive Austensque events and JASNA balls: any one of my six Regency gowns will do, with a matching reticule and either a bonnet or feather adornment for my hair.
What is your kryptonite? What are the biggest challenges faced with in your writing?
My kryptonite is stress and worry. When I have looming deadlines and/or too much to do in too short a span of time, my body goes into overload. I can’t sleep at night because I’m worried that I won’t get everything done. It’s so important to breathe and take things one day at a time, knowing that they’ll get done eventually–I’m constantly trying to remind myself of that. My biggest challenge in writing is figuring out what to write next—there are so many endless, fascinating possibilities to choose from.
What was the supervillian that threatened to stop your latest project and how did you vanquish it?
While writing Jane Austen’s First Love, I was also building a new house and promoting my previous book, The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen. Every single minute of every single day (and night) was devoted to balancing these three all-consuming occupations. It was touch and go as to whether I’d finish the novel on deadline but somehow I managed it—basically by working around the clock and forgoing exercise, food, and sleep! (Not recommended, by the way!) Thankfully the house turned out great and I’m proud of both novels!
What important lessons have you learned along the way?
The keys to achieving success are The Three P’s: patience, passion, and perseverance. Discover what you love to do and are good at. Learn everything you can about it. Put in the hard work required to get there. Know that it will take time. Don’t be discouraged by failure; it’s part of the learning process. Never give up. And don’t forget to make time for yourself and your family, to smell the roses, and to keep your body in shape—it’s your temple!
What have been the best/most memorable experiences along the way?
Oh, there are too many to count! The moment I held my first published novel in my hands. The joy of hearing from readers how much they love my work. The pleasure of all the new friends I’ve made in the writing, reading, and Austenesque communities. The excitement of discovering something new and groundbreaking while researching—as in when I uncovered the truth about Jane Austen’s first love, who was not Tom LeFroy, but Edward Taylor!
If you did this again what would you do differently and what would you not change?
My husband is always telling me to never look back or regret anything; to only look forward. But I do kind of wish I hadn’t spent so many years as a screenwriter, and that I’d started writing novels sooner!
What is the best (writing or otherwise) advice you have ever gotten and why.
My mother, and one of my screenwriting agents (an astute, older gentleman) told me to put my marriage and family first, and work second. That advice has guided me through a very fulfilling and happy life.
Tell us about your new book and why we need to drop everything and get it now.
I’m delighted to share Jane Auten’s First Love, the story of the summer of 1791 when fifteen-year-old Jane met and fell in love with the remarkable Edward Taylor. The exciting thing is, almost every single character in the novel was a real person who Jane Austen knew, and the novel is inspired by actual events. From Jane Austen’s correspondence, we know that she doted fondly on Edward Taylor, but until now not much was known about him—and the little which Austen biographers mentioned was often wrong.
My research uncovered a trove of new information, revealing Edward Taylor to be an extremely accomplished and well-traveled young man who was very worthy of Jane’s affections. What a thrill it was to draw on this research and bring Edward Taylor and a teenaged Jane Austen to life in my novel, and to showcase their deeply meaningful romance!
What’s in store for you in the future? Do you have any other big projects on the horizon?
I’ve written a proposal for a new novel, and am working with my son Ryan on the sequel to Forbidden. My biggest project at the moment, though, is getting the word out about Jane Austen’s First Love, which I hope readers will enjoy! Happy holidays to all, and happy reading!
Readers, what is your mild-mannered secret identity? If you could have one super power, what would it be and why?
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