Me, Myself, and I

20150427_155238Yay! I just finished my most recent book, which will probably be titled Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley – a companion novel to The Darcys of Pemberley, this time written from Georgiana’s perspective. (Learn more about it in Work-in-Progress). There will of course be rewrites, editing, proofreading, cover design, and formatting before it’s published, but it feels good to have the story itself completed.

Since the whole point of this book was to give Georgiana’s view of events, I decided to write the book in first person, as if she were telling you the story herself. So there’s a whole lot of “me, myself, and I” in it.

Writing novels in first person seems to come into and go out of fashion periodically. It was pretty much unheard of in Jane Austen’s day as far as I know, and her six novels are all written in third person omniscient point-of-view. So that’s what I used for my two P&P sequels (The Darcys of Pemberley, Return to Longbourn). But I tried the first person approach in For Myself Alone and I discovered I enjoyed it. Since then, I used it in The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen as well as this latest book.

So what’s the advantage of writing/reading in first person? I think it allows you to feel closer to the hero/heroine because you’re basically living inside that character’s head throughout the entire story. You see what s/he sees, hear what s/he hears. You are privy to all his/her thoughts, internal debates, and emotions. Whatever s/he knows, you know.

The disadvantages are the flip side of the advantages I just mentioned. Because you are inside the heroine’s head, you can ONLY see what she sees, hear what she hears, experience what she experience, and nothing else. If something important happens elsewhere, you (the reader) don’t get to know about it unless/until the heroine of the book finds out. (Some writers get around this limitation by switching back and forth between two or more point-of-view characters, but that can be tricky too.)

It seems to me, though, that this is the most realistic way to present a story. Think about it. Every one of us experiences life in “first person.” We have no choice. We know only what we know. We’re clueless about what’s going on in somebody else’s head unless they choose to tell us, and even then the chance for miscommunication (or deliberate deception) is high. We have to stumble through life with incomplete information, often basing our actions on the way our minds fill in the blanks – what we’re guessing motivated another’s actions, what we assume someone meant by what they said, etc.

No wonder there are so many misunderstandings! Makes things tough in real life, but of such is good conflict in fiction made. Look at Darcy and Elizabeth:

D & E, back turned“There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil – a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome.”

“And your defect is to hate everybody.”

“And yours,” he replied with a smile, “is willfully to misunderstand them.” (Pride and Prejudice)

Their misunderstandings keep us going for nearly the full length of the novel. Why? Because Elizabeth can’t see inside Darcy’s head to know why he behaves as he does, says what he says. Good thing she’s kept in the dark too, or there would be no story.

As a reader, do you have a preference – first-person versus third-person stories? Why?

Posted in Jane Austen, Jane Austen Quotes, my books, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

My Movie Picks

High SocietyA week or two ago I put up a post on Facebook asking my 455 friends to recommend movies they thought I might like:

I really want to add to my movie collection, but it seems like there aren’t that many made for my taste. I’m betting there are a few great ones out there I haven’t discovered yet, and maybe you have. I’ve probably already got the obvious ones, so suggest a less obvious favorite to me, please! (skip the horror/action/sci-fi stuff, and there MUST be romance or why bother)

Enchanted April 2I received a wonderful response. There had to have been at least 150 movies mentioned, some multiple times, and they’re still coming in. Many of these I had already seen and some have already earned a place in my personal library. But after eliminating these, I was still left with around 40 new leads – movies I haven’t seen before and, in many cases, had never heard of. I’ll spend the next few months happily working my way through the list, one by one. A big thank-you to everybody who contributed!

Now it’s my turn. I want to share my “favorites” list with you.

How does any of this relate to my blog’s stated twin themes: Jane Austen and writing? It’s all storytelling; only the form is different. But I did have difficulty finding a JA quote related to movies, as you might imagine. Instead, I’ve chosen a quote from one of her nieces about Jane and her way of entertaining children:

Her first charm to children was great sweetness of manner… This is what I felt in my early days, before I was old enough to be amused by her cleverness. But soon came the delight of her playful talk. She could make everything amusing to a child. Then, as I got older, when cousins came to share the entertainment, she would tell us the most delightful stories, chiefly of Fairyland, and her fairies had all characters of their own. The tale was invented, I am sure, at the moment, and was continued for two or three days, if occasion served.

Becoming Jane 2I enjoy this endearing picture of Jane Austen – very real, very human – and it’s also evidence of her genius, that she was able to make up complex and entertaining stories on the fly.

Anyway, the point is that Jane loved stories and storytelling. So I’m pretty confident she would have shared the fondness most of us feel for the filmed versions as well, given the chance.

Just a couple of comments, then, before I unveil my list. 1) When I recommend a movie to someone, I often feel like I need to offer a disclaimer along with it. I like my movies pretty “clean,” and yet there are certain aspects of some of these that don’t completely qualify. Use your own judgement, of course, but I hope the value of the movie as a whole outweighs the bits that some of us might have preferred edited out.  2) It goes without saying that the many wonderful adaptations of Jane Austen’s books top my chart of favorite films to watch over and over, so I haven’t bothered to include them here.

Daniel Deronda 2Favorite Period Movies/Series: Anne of Green Gables, Amazing Grace, Becoming Jane, Casanova, Daniel Deronda, Gosford Park, An Ideal Husband, The Importance of Being Earnest, Little Women, Miss Potter, Miss Pettigrew, Much Ado About Nothing, North and South, Phantom of the Opera, Possession, A Room with a View, Shakespeare in Love, Somewhere in Time, The Winslow Boy, Wives and Daughters.

Other Favorites: An Affair to Remember, August Rush, Circle of Friends, Dan in Real Life, Enchanted, Enchanted April, The Family Man, Father Goose, The Jane Austen Book Club, High Society, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Lake House, Letters to Juliet, Mama Mia, Meet Joe Black, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Nine to Five, No Reservations, Return to Me, Roman Holiday, Shall We Dance, Sleepless in Seattle, Sliding Doors, Something New, Sound of Music, Strictly Ballroom, When Harry Met Sally, While You Were Sleeping, You’ve Got Mail.

No Reservations 2It was difficult to narrow down the field, but these are the ones (along with my Jane Austen collection, of course) that I return to again and again – some for the romance, some for the music, and some for the laughs. Usually it’s a combination of things.

I hope you find we have a few favorites in common and a few new movies for you to try as well.

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The Enigmatic Miss Darcy

Georgiana1Who is Georgiana Darcy, anyway? I’m halfway through a book I’m writing about her, and I’m still not sure I’ve got all the answers.

I think most of us have this vague idea about Miss Darcy from Pride and Prejudice – that she’s a sweet, soft-spoken girl – but that’s hardly a well-rounded, fleshed-out character sketch. The trouble (or maybe it’s an opportunity) is that we’re actually told very little about her in the book. We know she has lost both her parents and she has a devoted brother more than ten years her senior. When Elizabeth meets her (chapter 44), she finds Georgiana exceedingly shy, tall with a womanly gracefulness, not as handsome as her brother, but with sense and good humour in her face, and her manners are unassuming and gentle. That’s about it.

This scene in Lambton and the subsequent interactions at Pemberley are described by narration, not shown in conversation. In fact, poor neglected Georgiana is not given a single line to speak in the entire book, if you can imagine. (I plan to correct that!)

Oh, yes. We know one more thing about her – something that also happened off camera. According to her brother’s letter to Elizabeth (chapter 35), Georgiana nearly eloped with the nefarious Mr. Wickham.

Last summer she went with the lady who presided over [her school] to Ramsgate; and thither also went Mr. Wickham, undoubtedly by design; for there proved to have been a prior acquaintance between him and Mrs. Younge, in whose character we were most unhappily deceived; and by her connivance and aid, he so far recommended himself to Georgiana, whose affectionate heart retained a strong impression of his kindness to her as a child, that she was persuaded to believe herself in love, and to consent to an elopement. She was then but fifteen, which must be her excuse…

Georgiana and Wickham at RamsgateBasically, this one event establishes the sole reason for Georgiana’s inclusion in the book. Think about it. There is no other logical need for Mr. Darcy to have a sister or for her to be introduced to the reader at all, even in this limited way. It’s her scandalous history with Mr. Wickham that is crucial to the story line. It provides the rational as to why Mr. Darcy secretly (for he naturally wishes to conceal the unsavory truth from the world) despises Mr. Wickham, which in turn causes Elizabeth to misjudge both men and persist in her bad opinion of Mr. Darcy so long. Were it not for this fact, she might have fallen in love with him more quickly and accepted his first proposal = story over.

So now we know why Jane Austen needed to invent Georgiana in the first place. And such a juicy detail should give us some additional insight into her character. But instead, it raises more questions in my mind. Was Mr. Wickham able to convince Georgiana to do something she clearly knew was wrong because she was too young and unsure of herself to resist his persuasion? Or had she been passionate and bold at fifteen, only becoming unsure of herself (quiet and exceedingly shy, as Elizabeth later observed) as a result of her close call with Wickham and her shame over her own foolish behavior in the affair? Interesting possibilities, but maybe the truth lies somewhere between the two.

I’m not the only one struggling to figure her out, though. Her own brother, Mr. Darcy, hasn’t a clue. Here’s what I’ve written in the prologue of the book I’m working on:

When it comes to romance, it seems [Georgiana’s] good sense, considerable charm, celebrated accomplishments, and known sweet temper cannot prevent her tumbling headlong into one scrape or another. Unfortunately, neither can her illustrious brother, try though he might.

Still waters run deep, it is said.

Past events have forced Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy to accept that this disquieting idea is just as true in the case of his young sister and ward as it is in his own. Once Georgiana entered the uncharted territory beyond adolescence, she stopped confiding in him. Now her ways are entirely inscrutable, her thoughts unreadable. Even a year of marriage, gratifying as it has been for Mr. Darcy, has proved insufficient education to acquaint him with the intricacies of the female mind – not his wife’s, and still less so his sister’s. However, a man’s mind and a man’s motives he has no difficulty developing. And, when it comes to Georgiana’s safety, that is what worries him most of all. *

georgiana at pianoSo what is your opinion? Is Miss Georgiana Darcy just what she appears upon our limited acquaintance with her – sweet, sensible, and introverted. Or is her unassuming manner merely a facade hiding a far more complex and possibly less perfect interior landscape?

*For more information on this book and to read chapter 1, see my Work-in-Progress page.

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Celebration Sale

20150129_083938I just reread my previous post, where I talked about wanting the impossibles of life. Well, January has delivered, at least in a few small ways. For one thing, I have a giant bird-of-paradise plant, which I grew from a single seed, blooming in my living room – not for the first time (see this post), but it seems like a minor miracle seattle seahawkseach time it happens. As for a full-fledged miracle, I will refer you to the Seattle Seahawks’ (my home team) win in the NFC championship game. Late in the 4th quarter, when the situation looked impossibly bleak, I literally said, “It will take a miracle for us to win this game.” And then we got 3 or 4 of them. It was truly amazing!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any Jane Austen quotes on either of these topics. LOL!

AR awardMy other cause for celebration this month relates to my newest novel, The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen, which made a couple of very prestigious “Best-of-2014″ lists! At Austenprose, it was named in the “Best Austenesque Historical Novels” category. Then, at Austenesque Reviews, it won “Favorite Biographical Fiction Novel”. TPMJA was also awarded runner up to the “Top Ten” list at Reflections of a Book Addict. Take a look at these lists – not just to see my name in print, but for recommendations of what you should be adding to your to-be-read list. These reviewers have done all the legwork for you.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00034]So, in celebration of having my book named among the best of 2014, I decided to have a little sale! – 40% off the regular price of The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen in ebook format. For a limited time, it’s only $2.99 in Kindle and Nook. So if you haven’t gotten around to buying your copy yet, your procrastination will now be rewarded. Even if you hadn’t decided this book was for you, what have you got to lose at that price? I truly believe this is my best work to date (and the reviews tend to support that), but the most rewarding part is always sharing it with others. I’ve just made that more affordable. Happy reading!

I found today’s quote in Northanger Abbey, chapter 3. When Henry Tilney speaks of journaling here, I think a modern-day rendition might substitute blogging instead. What do you think?

“My dear madam, I am not so ignorant of young ladies ways as you wish to believe me; it is this delightful habit of journaling which largely contributes to form the easy style of writing for which ladies are so celebrated. Everybody allows that the talent of writing agreeable letters is peculiarly female. Nature may have done something, but I am sure it must be essentially assisted by the practice of keeping a journal.”

Update: I was brought back down to earth a little on February 1st when, sadly, my beloved Seattle Seahawks fell one yard short of winning the Superbowl. But it was, nevertheless another fabulous season! Also, although the sale is now officially over, at last check Amazon was holding the price at $2.99, so you may still be able to take advantage of it. :)

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Christmas Decorations and Waxing Philosophical

If you’re one of those people who takes down your tree on December 26th, you may be wondering why I’m still thinking and writing about Christmas on the 30th. Well, I’m a little different. I trim the tree and hang the stockings only about a week before the big day, and I NEVER un-decorate until after New Year’s. So it’s still Christmas at my house.

This schedule is partly due to family tradition, but also due to time constraints. Other things take precedence. Packages have to be mailed well ahead of time, so that’s top priority. Next, the Christmas letter needs to be written and the cards made and mailed (see previous post and Christmas Cards). Then and only then, can I turn my attention to decorating.

It’s a lot of work, but it all seems worthwhile, especially if we’re going to have some company to come and enjoy it as well.

“This is quite the season indeed for friendly meetings. At Christmas every body invites their friends about them, and people think little of even the worst weather. I was snowed up at a friend’s house once for a week. Nothing could be pleasanter… We are sure of excellent fires and every thing in the greatest comfort.” (Emma, chapter 13)

I don’t usually quote Mr. Elton as an authority on anything, but in this case I think he has the right idea. Whatever our various holiday traditions, for most of us, it’s the “friendly meetings” we look forward to most.

Sure, for the kids, it may be all about the presents. But as we get older, our perspective changes, or at least I think it should. When my husband asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year, I told him, “What I want, you can’t buy for me.” And that was true. I didn’t want the kind of stuff that comes from a store. I wanted the REALLY GOOD stuff, the IMPOSSIBLE stuff! I wanted to be a better person. I wanted enough time and energy to take care of my responsibilities with plenty leftover to do the creative work that feeds my soul. I wanted everyone everywhere to have the basic necessities of life. I wanted a cure for cancer and for the other illnesses that decimate people’s lives. And while I’m thinking big, I might as well throw in world peace too.

None of these things are within my power or control. Maybe that’s why I write fiction! As an author, I DO have the final say in my novels. I can see to it that the “bad guys” don’t get away with their evil schemes, and that the “good guys” get the happy ending they deserve. No one ever need grow old or die either.

Escapism? Sure, but I think it’s more than that.

It depends on your taste in reading material, of course, but I read (and write) fiction to experience other worlds and different lives than the one I inhabit, to be encouraged and uplifted by ordinary people behaving heroically in their ordinary lives, overcoming whatever obstacles threaten to bring them down.

20141222_082913No, as a novelist, I will never discover a cure for cancer. But I’ve had several people tell me that, when they were going through a particularly dark time, their favorite novels “saved their lives” by helping to keep their spirits up. Not necessarily my novels, you understand. Still, perhaps in a small way, what I do can make a positive difference. I’d like to think that’s true.

So please pardon my waxing philosophical here, inspired by the whole peace-on-earth-and-goodwill-to-all Christmas ideal. Here’s wishing you a 2015 with lots of the really good stuff and perhaps a few impossibles too. Let’s treat each other with patience and kindness and see what happens.


PS – I had a couple of other posts published elsewhere this week too. Please visit Random Bits of Fascination for a quirky interview with “Shannon Winslow, Superhero” (complete with my secret identity, sidekicks, and an unlikely villain to vanquish). Then, at Austen Variations, get a sneak peek at my new work-in-progress. Read chapter one of my next novel – a Pride and Prejudice sequel from Georgiana Darcy’s perspective.

Posted in Austen Variations, Jane Austen, Jane Austen Quotes, life, Shannon Winslow, Shannon Winslow's writing, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Oh, What a Difference a Decade Makes

As some of you know, I have been charged with the monumental task of going through my parents’ house and all their stuff. They have both moved on now (one to heaven and the other to assisted living), leaving all their worldly goods behind. As I sort, I’ve been setting aside things of sentimental value – family photos, for example, and also the Christmas letters my mom wrote every December since 1963. Lots of them are missing, unfortunately, but the ones I do have comprise a pretty good slice of my family’s history.

I’m also coming across some Christmas letters I wrote myself in more recent years – saved by my mom along with lots of other stuff.

“Was his letter a long one? Does he give you much account of what he is doing? Is it Christmas gaieties that he is staying for?”  (Mansfield Park, chapter 29)

I’ve been following that tradition for quite awhile now, composing a newsy letter to send out to family and friends at the holidays. More recently, I’ve started making the letter into a card by printing a piece of my own artwork on the front. (See examples here, and read related post: Christmas Cards)

20141130_144442Anyway, when I found my letter from 2004 a couple months ago, I had to take a few minutes for a stroll down memory lane. I enjoyed re-reading what I’d written about my oldest son’s graduation that year, my younger son’s various activities, and what totally un-exotic places my husband had been sent for work. As usual, I had saved my entry for the last paragraph. This is, in part, what I had to say on that subject:

… And, with more time to myself now, I’ve been able to do more reading again. I have been enjoying the challenge of straining my brain and expanding my vocabulary by reading some of the “classics.” I just finished all of Jane Austen’s novels. So, in that vein, let me close by saying that I have not the smallest scruple in wishing you joy this Christmas, the barest minimum of vexations, and considerable felicity in the year five-and-two-thousand.

20141130_144530I was sort of amazed when I read this, thinking to myself, “Wow, what a difference a decade makes!”

Ten years ago, I had only just recently discovered Jane Austen. I still had no idea that, inspired by her, I was about to embark on a second career as a novelist (It was only a month or so later that I sat down at my computer one day and started to write The Darcys of Pemberley). In fact, the bit above is my very first recorded attempt to translate my thoughts into “Jane Austen speak.”

So, I guess I’ve come a long way since then. Just goes to show you that life is full of surprises, and you never know what’s around the next corner. I feel I’ve been very blessed to have been given something new and interesting to do at this stage of my life, and to have experienced more success in it than I could have imagined.

Where were you and what were you doing 10 years ago? How has your life changed in unexpected ways since then? Are you flourishing in some new role you hadn’t foreseen?


Updates: For those of you who read the previous post What Should I Write Next?, I wanted to let you know that I’m actively pursuing both option #4 and #5 at this time! Also, I’m planning on doing a promotion for The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen in December with sale prices and prizes. Stay tuned for details!


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What Should I Write Next?

PMJA-virtual-book-tour-banner-02Well, my blog tour for The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen is officially over. After “traveling” to at least eleven locations and writing just as many new posts for other people’s sites (while neglecting my own), this first big promotional push is done. The early reviews (from readers and professionals) have been fabulous – pretty much 5 stars across the board and some pretty flattering comments! So hopefully word-of-mouth will do most of the job from here. If each satisfied reader tells two friends about the book, and they each tell two friends, and so on, and so on…  That’s the best advertising of all.

Although I will continue getting the word out to readers about TPMJA wherever I can, my mind has already turned to what I’m going to write next.

Other people have been asking that question too, and some have shared their suggestions with me. Several people want to know when I’m going to write a sequel to For Myself Alone or another independent Regency story like it. Am I going to do something with one of Jane Austen’s other books? Or am I going to return to the land of Pride and Prejudice? And at least one reader/friend wants me to try my hand at writing a contemporary novel.

So, what will it be? The short answer is that I haven’t decided yet. It has to be something I’m excited about writing, but also something people are interested in reading! That’s the only viable combination.

The first part is easy. I could get enthusiastic over any one of a half dozen projects I have in mind. The second necessary piece of the puzzle is more difficult to decipher. How can I be sure what readers want? Well, I decided I might as well simply ask! So here’s your chance to register your opinion in a completely non-scientific poll. If it was up to you, would you direct me to write:

  1. a sequel to For Myself Alone
  2. another independent Regency story
  3. a Northanger Abbey tie-in
  4. a Pride and Prejudice short story anthology
  5. a companion novel to The Darcys of Pemberley, featuring Georgiana Darcy
  6. a contemporary crossover novel with a Pride and Prejudice connection and a time-travel element (yes, really!)

If you have an opinion, I’d love to hear it. Leave your comment below, and thank you!

“When you give me your opinion, I always know what is right. Your judgement is my rule of right.” (Mansfield Park, chapter 43)


Posted in Jane Austen, Jane Austen Quotes, my books, Shannon Winslow's writing, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 21 Comments