No on suspects the grandmotherly type as a superhero…right? Read on and find out more…
All good superhero stories have a sequel–something else happens after the first foe is vanquished. How does your sequel begin (after the publication of your most recent book….)?
Oh, dear! I guess the biggest difficulty I face, now that my most recent novel (The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen) is published, is forcing myself to move on. After investing over a year of my life bringing this challenging project to a happy conclusion, I naturally want to stay and celebrate with the friends who have been through the battle with me – In this case, Jane Austen herself, the cast of Persuasion, and their alter-ego counterparts in Jane’s own life. These people and their story are very dear to me! How can I just walk away? Yet a superhero is not allowed to linger long in one place. Once the campaign has been won, s/he must be prepared to answer the next call to action.
All super heroes have their mild-mannered secret identity. How has yours grown and changed since you started life as a superhero?
Well, I’ve since cut ties with my “day job” profession, so I can no longer hide behind my mild-mannered-dental-hygienist mask. I am a grandma now, though, so that’s a pretty good cover for a superhero. No one would suspect a grandmotherly type, would they?
Do you have any sidekicks or a new superhero team members? What are their superpowers?
In light of the previous answer, I’m going to have to go with my two totally precious granddaughters here. Each one, I’ve discovered, has the superpower to effortlessly wrap a person around her little finger with a hug, smile, or an “I love you, Nana.” I’m sure they could positively melt the resistance of any bad guy I happen to run up against too.
What new supervillian have you faced on your latest project and how did you vanquish him?
Surprisingly enough, I’d have to say it’s Mr. Darcy, because he’s proven a pretty formidable obstacle to overcome. Don’t get me wrong; I’m crazy about the guy, and I absolutely adored every minute I spent with him in my two P&P sequels. The problem is that some fans are so devoted to him that they hesitate to try any book in which he is not the star, including my latest. My job (a work still in progress) is to convince these readers that it’s not a disloyalty to our beloved Mr. Darcy to enjoy a novel that features instead Jane Austen and the man who has some credit for inspiring her to create the iconic hero in the first place. After all, if it wasn’t for this equally intriguing pair (Jane and Captain Devereaux), Mr. Darcy wouldn’t exist and nor would any of the books about him that have given us so much pleasure. Here’s a short excerpt from The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen where Jane acknowledges this fact in her own words:
…I added a phrase here and there, a bit of dialogue or a description of feeling as it had not been in my power before to envision. The same is true of the other novels. All of them were either written or revised to convey the more mature understanding I afterward possessed because of knowing Captain Devereaux. His influence is everywhere apparent… to me, at least. His fingerprints and mine mingle on each page. The books are become our true offspring – his and mine together – for I could not have produced them without his help.
What new lessons have you learned during this new adventure? What have been the best/most memorable experiences along the way?
Each book presents different challenges and fresh delights! With my first novel (The Darcys of Pemberley), everything was new and wonderfully exciting, with so much to learn. In my second (For Myself Alone), I wanted to see if I could write a novel in a Jane Austen style, but this time starting from scratch with all new characters and story line. In the third (Return to Longbourn), I wrote a sequel to my own first book, which completed a P&P trilogy when my two are added to the original. Now, with this latest book, I needed to get into Jane Austen’s head as never before, since the book is written about her and from her perspective. Even though I live in a different time and place, we have much in common, including the experience of what it feels like to start a new novel! Here’s how Jane puts that into words in chapter 1:
My breath catches in my throat as I hold the pen, suspended over the sheet of pristine paper. This is the moment that both thrills and terrifies me, the moment before commencing a new novel when all things are possible but nothing has yet been achieved. To begin is to risk everything – crushing defeat, utter failure or, worse still, mediocrity. However, not taking the risk is unthinkable. I have come through successfully before, but that hardly signifies. With each new work the familiar doubts and niggling questions resurface, chiefly these. Do I really possess whatever genius it takes to do it again? And if so, what is the best way to go about it?
If you could do it over (this book or your writing career in general) what would you do differently and what would you not change?
I’m sure I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but I can’t think of anything essential I would change. I’m not after big fame and fortune. I just feel like I’ve been given a real gift with this second career, to have something new and interesting to do at this stage in my life. It turns out that writing a novel, at least the way I go about it, is a real adventure. That’s because I don’t have it all plotted and planned out before I begin. I start with an idea and a bunch of unanswered questions, and I have to actually write the book to find out what happens! So, once I have the concept for a new book nagging at my mind, I have no choice. I can’t rest until I’ve solved the mystery of how it all works out, and I have a lot of fun along the way! When I hear back from readers that my stories have added some joy or meaning to their live too, that’s the icing on the cake.
Tell us about your new book and why we need to drop everything and get it now.
Well, for one thing, I believe The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen is my best so far, and the 5-star reviews seem to support that. “Utterly brilliant – this story is utterly brilliant!” – says Austenesque Reviews. (*blushing profusely*) But also, if you’re a Jane Austen fan, I suspect you have some of the same unanswered questions and aspirations about her that compelled me to write this book.
Haven’t you always wondered how a woman with, apparently, so little romantic experience could write six of the greatest love stories of all time? Don’t you wish that Jane Austen had enjoyed the same kind of passionate romance and happy ending she lovingly crafted for all her heroines? Perhaps she did after all.
The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen tells the story behind the story of Persuasion – how Jane Austen actually wrote her last, most poignant novel in homage to her one true love, a certain Captain Devereaux. Like Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth, they met and fell in love young, parted under painful circumstances, and then crossed paths again years later. But Jane couldn’t write the perfect reconciliation for herself and her captain, as she did for the other pair. That possibility was in the hands of fate.
You know what the official record says; Jane Austen never married, and she died at 41. But what if that’s only what she wanted – or needed – people to believe? Is it possible her true story had an entirely different and happier ending? I think so, and that’s what I’ve written.
What’s in store for you in the future? Do you have any other big projects on the horizon?
As I said at the beginning, my heart is still with the cast and story of TPMJA and I’m having a little difficulty letting go enough to move on. I have plenty of ideas. Just waiting for one of them to pop into a full-blown inspiration. At the moment, the leading contender would take me back into the world of Pride and Prejudice (where Mr. Darcy is my very dear friend again, *wink*). That was my first love. And, after spending a year away, I expect it will feel like coming home.
You can find Shannon at: