Dear readers, you are in for a special treat this April Fool's. Emerging author, Tess Quinn, is my guest today. She tells a lively and fascinating story of her path to writing and publishing. She is the author of Pride Revisited, an anthology of short stories released on January 28, 2013!
Tess Quinn is graciously giving away two ebooks to two lucky winners so be sure and leave a comment. Winners may choose either Pride Revisited or Caroline's ComeUppance. This giveaway is open internationally. Thank you, Ms. Quinn.
Now, please get to know Tess Quinn. You will find her quite lovely!
Thanks so much, Janet, for inviting me to guest post today. It truly is a pleasure to introduce my stories on your lovely site with the warm welcome you extended. I’ve been writing Austen-based fiction for eight years, but it has been low-key – posting on websites with a relatively intimate membership – and I’m ready to ‘emerge’ and reach out for wider readership. Now that I have a few pieces released or in the works, this world of promoting via electronic media is alien to me. Exciting!—Yes; but daunting for a dyed-in-the-wool introvert.
This post can easily grow to a long ramble; I’ve never been celebrated for brevity. So I’m benchmarking from other author posts I’ve read with interview questions to try to rein myself in a little with structure. I hope your followers will enjoy this introduction to me and my recent publication, Pride Revisited – a collection of original short stories based on Pride and Prejudice.
So, Tess, what drew you to Jane Austen and her writing?
Gertrude Stein once said, “America is my country but Paris is my home town.” And—
Wait! – Gertrude Stein? Paris? I thought you were introducing yourself as a Jane Austen-based author! Where does Gertrude Stein come in?
She doesn’t. But when I first read that quotation some years ago, it resonated with me beyond its pedigree or context – positing the notion that no matter where you originated or live, there is a place or an experience that naturally speaks to your soul; that is ‘home’. For Gertrude Stein, that was Paris. For me, it is Britain.
I have no British family heritage, never lived there. Yet even as a child, I was fascinated by England, Wales and Scotland. The first time I was fortunate to travel to London at four and twenty, it felt like returning to ‘my hometown;’ and in successive years of travel to the UK that sensation hasn’t changed. Whether I visit town or countryside, from the moment I land to the moment I tearfully fly off again, I experience home in its most intrinsic, cherished sense. I am mindful that I’m not native to it – one friend’s daughters remind me of this truth whenever they try to teach me to speak “proper English” – but this country resides in my soul.
Coupled with that, my mother— always encouraging reading— introduced me early to international folklore. This led me to the Arthurian tales – and that was that; a lifelong love affair with British history and literature was launched. King Arthur became my first “romantic” crush. Nothing like setting the bar high at age eleven for all future comers! From T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, I read voraciously, drawn so often to British authors. Over the years, I came to love Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, Wilkie Collins, George Eliot, Kenneth Grahame – I could go on right up through Jerome K. Jerome and P.G. Wodehouse to J. K. Rowling.
Hold on – there’s at least one relevant name missing from that list—
At thirteen, I had an awesome English teacher who recommended Pride and Prejudice to me (thanks, Mrs S!) I adored it. I didn’t have the maturity then fully to grasp all its irony and humour, or incredible psychological insights to human behaviour. I read it as a straight story. But I loved the flow of language. I sensed it was brilliant. I was hooked. Northanger Abbey followed, and I never looked back. Fortysomething years later, I’ve reread the novels too many times to count, and seen most of the adaptations and several stage productions. And every time I read one again, I take something new from it. Sometimes it’s a profound revelation. More often it’s some small titbit to savour. For example, a few years ago this line jumped out at me, where Lizzy wants to go to Netherfield to visit Jane: “...and as she was no horse-woman, walking was her only alternative.” I’ve pondered those seemingly insignificant lead-in words a lot given how deliberate Austen was in her writing . Eventually, they inspired the story “Lizzy Gets a Lesson” in Pride Revisited.
If this was a traditional interview, the next question likely would be – which novel is your favourite?
Each of them has been, at given points in my life. But Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion have held the honour more often than not. If truly pressed to pick, I have to say Pride and Prejudice – (Persuasion and Captain Wentworth do make it hard to admit that) – for two reasons: it was my first, at a very impressionable age, and introduced me to Jane Austen. And then, of course, there’s Mr Darcy. He became my King Arthur for the Regency period – another bar set high. But he was more than just a romantic figure to me. Intuitively, I felt a connection with Fitzwilliam Darcy which later only intensified when I considered why. I identified with him. Well, except that he was a man and I was not; and he was wealthy and privileged and I was not (more’s the pity); and his taciturn behaviour was more often than not excused because of his privilege, and mine was not; and he was flawed and I was... okay, so that we had in common.
What else did you have in common?
I had experienced accusations of being ‘stuck up’ when in truth I was highly introverted and shy; felt awkward in new situations with new people; sometimes judged people a little too readily as a defence mechanism; perhaps felt superior or condescended to others when I shouldn’t have done. Darcy felt like a real person to me. I loved Elizabeth Bennet, wished I could be her. (OK, if it’s true confession time, I have to admit that in that first adolescent reading, I kind of thought Lizzy was mean in the beginning; but that wore off quickly and by the middle of the book I adored her.) I related to Darcy - my sensibilities belonged to the gentleman right from the start, despite narrative teasers of ‘such different accounts’ designed to puzzle us exceedingly as to his character.
How did this evolve into writing Austen-based fiction?
I always wanted to be a writer. But shyness and abject fear hitherto held me back. I thought that I wrote pretty well, and others had said as much for years in different context. My most immediate and specific fear wasn’t so much whether I could write – but that I’d have nothing to say. Content, not style, had been my folly.
So I quietly went about life for half a century, appreciated Jane Austen, rejoiced in the 1995 miniseries – on my own, since my family doesn’t share this peculiar passion. I’m sure I only have to mention the words “eye rolling” and some of you can relate. Then the 2005 film adaptation came out. And in looking up some details about the production, I had the fortune to discover an online community devoted to the film, and the book, and the author. I’d found utopia! and people with a common interest, some of whom over the years have become very dear friends. At last, I’d found a place to get my Austen “fix” on a regular basis! It wasn’t just tolerated – it was shared! Encouraged! I got fulfilment – and my family got headaches from increased eye activity.
At that point I had not experienced fan fiction, but within this small community people started posting scenes, full-fledged stories, poetry. Members were supportive, encouraged more, added more. It was wonderful. So I tried my hand at a short descriptive piece; I swallowed hard and hit the ‘post’ button the first time. And then sat in trepidation watching the display for some indication a comment had been added, whereupon my hand hovered over the enter key until I could summon the fortitude to accept whatever verdict the comment offered. And it was good, that first comment. And so was the next one, and the one after that.
I’ve realized since that commenters mostly were just caught up, as was I, in the spirit of it all. Especially now when I look back at those earliest efforts, I know they were being kind. I immediately recognize deficiencies from lack of sufficient research in Regency social customs and history. I violated the “show, don’t tell” mantra of good writing practice, and probably others too. (But then, I still do that.) I just got so jazzed that people liked my snippets and even requested more. I can’t imitate Jane Austen’s writing, “I have not the talent...”– but my natural writing style (refined since those early efforts) and my narrative cadence seemed a good fit with Regency fiction.
For me, the blessing of Jane Austen fan fiction was that it gave me content, a cast of characters, a plot within which to insert my little offerings. It resolved my “nothing to say” dilemma with a jumping off point. It gave me so much more, too – confidence! Not only to write longer pieces, complete short stories and even novel-length pieces – but through introducing within these some original characters, it led to several ideas for wholly original works, my own ‘content,’ which I look forward to writing as soon as the Austen projects I committed to are complete. Yet another blessing for which I am indebted to Jane Austen!
Is Pride Revisited a collection of stories compiled from those early posts?
To an extent, yes. I am writing a novel now that originally I planned to be my ‘public debut.’ But in 2010 and again in 2011 I entered the Chawton House Library Short Story Contest. The first year, my entry survived the first screening cut – encouraging – but got no further. The next year, “Worst Impressions” (in a shorter version of the one included in Pride Revisited) progressed through several rounds to make the final list of 25 for jurying. It didn’t pass that final hurdle of being selected in the top 20 that were subsequently published. (I couldn’t help but wonder if an uncomplimentary reference within the story to Jane Eyre contributed to its demise, as the final judge happened to be an expert on the Brontes, worst luck.) But still I was proud of it getting as far as it did.
Then I was approached to include my short story, “A Good Vintage Whine,” in an anthology representing multiple contributors (edited by Marsha Altman, publisher, Ulysses Press.) That book, The Road to Pemberley, was released in July 2011. I was thrilled to see my first story “in print” alongside several authors already known in this genre!!! So I thought, why not dust off some early stories and put together my own collection. I took a break from novel writing, did major edits on existing pieces and wrote a few new ones, and the result is Pride Revisited. I intentionally released it on 28 January of this year in order to honour the 200th anniversary date of the novel that served as inspiration. And as of this week, it is available through Amazon in ebook and now print form, too.
Speaking of dates, is there anything significant about the fact that you’re guest posting today?
There is, though the scheduling part was pure chance. Pride Revisited contains sixteen stories in all and fully two of them take place at Rosings in Kent... on April First! “April’s Fool: A Confluence of Coincidences” is humorous in intent with an interesting prank. The other, “April Fools: A Romance,” is a what-if fantasy that re-imagines the two proposals Elizabeth receives from Darcy.
Care to offer a teaser on the novel in the works?
I admitted earlier that I always felt a connection with Fitzwilliam Darcy. So from the start, I wanted to tell stories acknowledging his perspective. Several of my short stories grew from background character exercises. When I considered Darcy’s history and its chronology, it occurred to me that even while he was becoming bewitched by Elizabeth Bennet’s fine eyes, Darcy and his sister Georgiana would also be just forming a mature sibling relationship. Given their significant age difference and circumstances, they would not have had opportunity to bond as adults until she was established out of school. At the opening of Pride and Prejudice, that transition had only recently occurred. The nearly disastrous episode with Wickham in Ramsgate, especially, would have offered the impetus and opening for them to begin to relate on a different level.
So this novel will interweave two relationship stories, one familiar and one new: that of Elizabeth and Darcy, and the other the growing understanding between brother and sister – all of it as recalled years later by Georgiana Darcy herself.
When will it be available?
(Laughs) Well, I’ve been writing for five years!— with a lot of interruptions during that time. But I will complete it this year. In the meantime, as a bonus in Pride Revisited, I added a teaser chapter that describes Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam travelling to Kent for Easter. I have a completed novel featuring the Colonel, too, (A Fitzwilliam Legacy) that will be published in 2013 when I’ve completed edits. And I’d previously released in hardback an early novel, Caroline’s Comeuppance, that is a fun read and has been re-released as an ebook.
Anything else you’d care to tell us?
Ha! I’ve already long passed where this became a ramble despite the ersatz structure! I’ll just reiterate my gratitude for this opportunity to introduce myself. It has been a delight, and “I will only add, God bless you.”
Visit Tess Quinn at:
Thanks again to Tess Quinn for generously offering two ebooks, winner's choice of Pride Revisited or Caroline's ComeUppance. This giveaway is open internationally. To be entered please leave a comment below. Be sure to include your email address in the comment. To prevent unwanted spam, put your email address with an (at) instead of @. Winner will be chosen in a random drawing. Giveaway ends at midnight, April 8. Good luck.