Life certainly gets in the way of blogging! – here is the promised Part 2 of my interview with Juliet Archer, author of The Importance of Being Emma, and a confessed “19th-century mind in a 21st-century body.” [see Part 1 of this interview here]. Please see below for the book giveaway info… we welcome your queries and comments!
Deb: Welcome back Juliet! You mention in your last answer that the next novel in your series “Jane Austen in the 21st Century Series” is “Persuade Me”, after Austen’s “Persuasion”– why did you start with “Emma”?
JA: Although Emma’s the first Austen modernisation I’ve had published, it’s actually my third attempt. I’ve done very early drafts of both Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. When I realised how wide a gulf there was between writing something and getting it published, I focused on Emma because it was my most recent work and I thought it would need less doing to it. I was wrong!
I think Emma is Austen’s most comic novel, so I was thrilled when The Importance of Being Emma was shortlisted for the 2009 Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance.
Deb: [Congratulations on that! ] ~ What do you think Austen would say to your “meddling” with her story? What would she say about all the sexual content?
JA: There’s been so much ‘meddling’ with Austen already that she’d probably be bored rigid by the time she got to The Importance of Being Emma! I hope she’d be proud to see her story adapt so well to a different time period and social setting, and that she’d be sympathetic to the changes I’ve made. Most of all, I hope she’d have a good laugh!
As for the sexual content, for my hero and heroine it sits firmly within a framework of love, commitment and ultimately marriage – a scenario which comes across very strongly in the original novels. Given the world we live in, I felt I couldn’t modernise Austen without including some sexual content and, fortunately, readers seem to think I’ve struck the right balance.
Deb: I do agree with your readers here! I think your characterization and plot devices are spot-on and the sexual scenes are so very well done, and of course we know how it ends – marriage IS the goal after all! Which leads me to my next question: We all do know this story and how it ends, so there are no surprises here – how did you go about creating enough interest and tension to make your reader want to keep turning those pages? [I know that I did!]
JA: [Thank you!] First, with most mainstream romantic fiction, Austen-based or not, we can guess instantly who’s destined for whom – the interest is in how they get together. So in that respect my story’s no different from many others. Second, as you’ve already indicated, the alternating 1st person point of view helps to create interest and tension. And finally, in my opinion Austen does two things – effortlessly – that make the reader want to keep turning the pages: characterisation and dialogue, often laced with humour. By imitating her work, I hope I’ve written what many readers see as a ‘page turner’.
Deb: Yes, indeed you have! And now for a few personal questions if you don’t mind… What else have you written?
JA: What started me writing novels was the BBC’s dramatisation of Gaskell’s North and South, starring Richard Armitage. So I’ve got a few modern ‘fanfics’ lying around and still hope to have a 21st-century version of North and South published – although not until I’ve got Austen modernisations out of my system.
Before that, I wrote very bad, unpublishable poetry – rather like my version of Giles Benwick in Persuade Me.
Deb: The Armitage “North & South” adaptation seems to have set off a number of fan-fic writers – there are whole blogs devoted to it! I would eagerly await your updated version – [and hopefully Mr. Armitage could be persuaded to play the part yet again…?] – but I digress! – What is your writing habit?
JA: I work full-time in London Monday through Friday, so I fit my writing into my spare time and also get up early most mornings. In the evenings, a glass of wine is known to get me in the mood! My family keep me grounded and occasionally remember to feed me.
Most of my first draft goes straight onto the computer – PC in the study, laptop in the garden or bed! But I’m always printing pages off so that I can read and edit on the train going to and from work. For me, there’s no substitute for the printed word – yet.
Deb: Oh, I like hearing about your love of the PRINTED word! Anything else you would like to share?
JA: I’m married with two teenage children and live in Hertfordshire, Pride and Prejudice country. Unlike Anne Elliot in Persuasion, I resisted well-meant advice and married young, before graduating from university with a First in French and Russian. Initially I worked in IT and company acquisitions, then ran my own consultancy business, and now I work for a national healthcare organisation.
Finally, I love hearing from Jane Austen fans, so please visit my website – and I welcome readers to contact me directly.
Deb: Thanks so much Juliet for visiting us and sharing your thoughts on the writing of YOUR “Emma”! I wish you much success – and am looking forward to “Persuade Me ” and making the acquaintance of your Captain Wentworth! ~ Now Gentle Readers, please send in your queries and comments to participate in the book giveaway…
Book Giveaway: Juliet has most graciously offered to answer any questions you might have for her – all queries and comments posted between today and midnight September 25, 2009 will be entered into a drawing for the free book giveaway, courtesy of Choc-Lit. All are eligible to enter.
The Importance of Being Emma
by Juliet Archer
Harpenden, UK: Choc-Lit, 2008 £7.99 / $13.07 [paperback]; also available in an ebook version direct from the publisher for £3.99 / $5.99
[Posted by Deb]