Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Mystery Is Lurking at Longbourn & Suzan Lauder Wrote It!



It is with great pleasure that I introduce debut author, Suzan Lauder, to you today, dear readers. Ms. Lauder has a novel of twists and intrigue that involve my favorite couple and the Bennets. Suzan shares with us how this new novel came to be a reality. For two lucky winners, there is also a giveaway! 

Now, please join me in welcoming Suzan Lauder to More Agreeably Engaged. 

I’m trying to guess how many Jane Austen fan fiction stories I read before I actually opened a Word document and “scribbled” down some notes about the story ideas that had been in my head for a while. Probably hundreds. It was then that I realized that one of the ideas was simple enough that I got up the nerve to post my own very short story. And after that, I probably read a hundred more while the notes turned into separate files for separate story ideas, then drafts of scenes, then something coherent enough to show to another person for feedback. And probably another hundred in the time since the first story was posted until I decided to submit Alias Thomas Bennet for publishing this year.

This love of Austen and fan fiction related to her novels is very recent for me. A few years ago my health started deteriorating to the point where I was unable to work. Prior to that, I’d been a very driven professional, always looking to the top of the job hierarchy, having little time for self, including virtually no reading of fiction past high school. One or two bestsellers a summer was it. So while I was off work, I decided to get back to the enjoyment of reading, with my attention on nothing special, just crime-type bestsellers. After a couple of months of reading those, I decided that it really was time to try reading some more classic novels, and turned to my Public Library for those.

But I also had a copy of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. It was a cheap, worn, little paperback and I had no idea where it came from. I knew people who liked Austen, in fact, an old friend, Pulitzer Prize winning author Carol Shields, was a die-hard fan and wrote and excellent biography. But I am no literati, and had no idea what I was getting into. Weren’t these types of books dead boring?


Then Catherine Morland came into my life, surrounded by words strung together in the most darling ways, making me smile at a time when I really felt like crap. I read sentences and paragraphs over several times because they just blossomed, popped, grabbed me. Of course I wanted more! And the public library was just the thing! Heck, this could be my go-to novelist whenever I wanted to read a book. No more best-sellers, I was a Jane Austen girl. I’d read every Jane Austen novel that was ever printed… in two weeks.

What? Only six novels? Okay, the Juvenilia, the Letters, then a couple of biographies. I re-read Pride and Prejudice twice. There were movies and TV series available at the library, too.

Then luckily for me, when I was using the library’s search tools to find more, books by Linda Berdoll and Pamela Aiden and a couple of other authors came up. (If you haven’t read these two authors’ books, I highly recommend them!) But that was pretty much it for my library, so I went out and purchased Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. (I’m making a face here thinking about it!) Thinking there may be titles my library and book store didn’t carry, I turned to the Internet to find more books.

Eventually I found some lovely short stories at a web site called Bits of Ivory, which is no longer around. Then I found another now-defunct small site with a handful of authors, Firthness, where the stories were longer and more mature. After reading one or two excellent stories there, I began to resent its policy of stories by a list of preapproved authors. It wasn’t fair. What if I wanted to write, too? How did one get on this list? Well, soon after I found the Derbyshire Writer’s Guild, which does allow new writers. Not that I was writing yet.

At some point I found the phrase “fan fiction” and found out what it meant, and it gave me new power in my search for stories. It wasn’t long before I was reading on a dozen different sites, some large, some hosted by the individual author.

I learned a lot of things during that time, some about my own preferences, and some about the community of Jane Austen Fan Fiction. But one that is in the forefront is that I like spicy what-if story variations as opposed to sequels. So when I started to write, my stories were set during the course of the original plot of Pride and Prejudice, asking a question about a key aspect of the story that, if changed, could have affected a great deal in the original plot.

Alias Thomas Bennet is the first novel-length story I wrote, and it is definitely a “what-if.” It asks the question, “What if Mr. Bennet was a better man?” The answer takes us to a new-and-improved Bennet family, very different interactions with other characters such as Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham, and the absence of several issues that put Darcy and Elizabeth at odds during the Hunsford proposal in canon. However, we can’t have the book end at a saccharine Hunsford. Fortunately we always have characters like Mr. Wickham and Lady Catherine to throw a wrench into things and threaten the happiness of our dear couple.

But in order to facilitate the change in Mr. Bennet, I came up with a plot twist that affects people in more ways than just Bennet’s influence can manage. How’s that for a sneaky way to interest you in reading my book? I can’t tell the secret, though the cover art does give away a few hints!

Yes, that is a very young Jane and Elizabeth Bennet with their father on the front cover of my book. I have to comment here that I adore the details in the artwork done by More Agreeably Engaged’s Janet Taylor, such as how Jane has her little fist tightly around her father’s finger as she looks timidly at something we can’t see, and how her father tenderly looks on her while he carefully holds a wiggling infant Elizabeth. The love of this father for his family, and the extra lengths he goes to for their benefit, is key in the novel.

The differences in Mr. Bennet mark only the start of the changes I’ve employed in Alias Thomas Bennet. Once the butterfly has flapped its wings, all sorts of things have potential to result. I’m fairly confident that you’ll enjoy the roller coaster ride that follows.

Alias Thomas Bennet will be available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble upon its release later this month.

Connect with Suzan Lauder at Roadtrips with the redhead
(By the way, I love the picture on your blog!)

Suzan, what a thought-provoking story you tell about your journey to Jane Austen and writing. Isn't it amazing how many of us have similar paths to our love for all things Austen and...dare I say it, in my case, obsession for them. Thank you for taking the time to share yours with us. Thank you also for the nod to the artwork for your cover. I'm thrilled that you like the details. Hopefully, the hints there will intrigue the reader, as your plot twists and story are very enticing.

Michele Reed at Meryton Press is generously offering two books for the giveaway. One is a trade paperback and the other is an eBook for your eReader. Both are international. Good luck to all. Be sure and leave a comment to be entered. We want to hear your say in the conversation. 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, November 18. 
NOTE:  This book has not been released yet so winners will not receive their copies until later in November...after the book's release!

40 comments:

  1. Hi, Suzan -

    Apart from the regrettable health issues that triggered it, I really enjoyed reading about your journey to Jane Austen, and to Austen-based fan fiction. There were some similarities with my own experience. You certainly know how to entice readers for your upcoming book with your enigmatic hints! (including me) And I love the title of your blog!

    (Also, Janet, the cover art is wonderful... makes me even more excited about a collaboration between us in the future!)

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    1. Tess, I have to admit I love coming up with those enigmatic hints. It keeps the reader interested, right! Thanks!

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    2. Thanks, Tess. I'm looking forward to a collaboration too!

      I appreciate you stopping by and commenting.

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  2. I am intrigued on what the plot twist is that changes the dynamics of the story. I wonder what it can be. Did some tragic incident happened on a voyage when Jane and Lizzy were young? I'm guessing Jane and Lizzy's biological mother is dead so their father married another woman but I could be wrong.

    Anyway, congrats Suzan.The book cover is really beautiful. Can't wait for the official release date.

    evangelineace2020(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. Ah, trying to consolidate all those hints! I hope you have fun, Luthien!

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    2. Glad you like the cover and I feel confident you will love the book.

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  3. Congratulations on your new book, Suzan! I confess I've already heard an outline of your plot from someone we both know, and it sounds truly exciting with lots of twists and turns! The cover, besides being beautiful, intrigues me. Why would a father possibly be about to take a sea voyage with two tiny children? Where's their mother? That's enough to make me want to read it. Here's wishing you much success!

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    1. Jan, it's so nice to get a comment from someone whose words were among the first stories I read, over at Firthness. You're one of my favourite writers. Lots of questions! Lots of potential plot directions!

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    2. Hi Jan. Thanks for visiting today and a special thanks for your lovely comments about the cover. I'm so glad it adds to the intrigue in your eyes. I hope you will get to read the book.

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  4. I am so looking forward to holding this book in my hot little hands and enjoying it cover to cover! Congratulations, Suzan. May this be the first of many!

    lindab (at) oregonclematis (dot) com

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    1. Just as I'm currently enjoying reading your new release, Linda, I hope you enjoy mine! Thanks!

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  5. Congratulations on your book, and well done to Janet on the gorgeous cover! I love the children especially, they look so cute in those outfits. Question is, where are they going? I shouldn't imagine sea journey would be undertaken lightly in those times, particularly with such small children in tow. Also interesting that he's holding them rather than a nursemaid, seems very hands-on behaviour for a man of his class. Hmmmm.

    Thanks for the giveaway chance. I'm at frawli1978(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. HI, Ceri! Great observations! I hope you read the book to find out!

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    2. Thank you, Ceri! I'm thrilled you like the cover. There are many questions raised aren't there? I hope you get a chance to read the book and answer those questions for yourself.

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  6. This book sounds wonderful. I have often wondered how things would have been different if Mr. Bennet had handled things properly. I also know the feeling of disappointment that comes on finding out that
    there are only six of Jane Austens novels. I have sought out hundreds of other stories based on her work. I look forward to reading yours.
    saganchilds at gmail dot com

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    1. Alias Thomas Bennet is certainly going to tell a story with a different Mr. Bennet, that's for sure! I think we've probably read the same hundreds of stories, and can't wait for more, schilds.

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  7. So if Mr. Bennet is a better man does he still marry the future Mrs Bennet?r or is she a better woman. Will need to add this to my list to find out I expect

    meikleblog at gmail dot com

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    1. Hi, Vesper! That's a good question! The simple answer is yes, but the thing is, there is much more to it than that. You may want to read to meet Mrs. Bennet, too!

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  8. I am definitely intrigued. I love 'what if's. The idea that a better Mr. Bennet makes the difference in a story is very interesting. So glad to come across this one. It will be on my TBR for sure. Thank you for the giveaway.
    cherringtonmb at sbcglobal dot net

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    1. That sounds great, Becky! I hope your TBR list isn't too long, and you can find out about the Bennets soon.

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  9. I definitely can't wait to break open this book......love the cover of the book. Can't wait to meet a proper papa for Jane and Lizzy...

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    1. Aw, that's really sweet, Maria!

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    2. Thanks, Maria. Glad you stopped by. I think you will enjoy Suzan's book.

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  10. I'm sorry to read that the reason you found Jane Austen was your health, but I'm not sorry that you were able to find her, then fan fiction and now your writing. I love 'what if' stories too. Your take on Mr. Bennett is a new one for me so I look forward to the story. Thanks for sharing, Suzan! Congrats on your new book.

    sophiarose1816 at gmail dot com

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    1. Thanks, Sophia! Alias Thomas Bennet was good therapy for me. I hope you enjoy it.

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  11. This sounds very interesting! I am really looking forward to reading it!
    I would love to win a paperback (don't have an e-reader). Thanks for the giveaway!

    arjanne.boneschanscher (at) gmail (dot) com

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  12. Congratulations on your new book. I love mysteries as well as the Jane Austen genre, so I am looking forward to read your new novel. Good luck in future endeavors.

    martitaylor1949(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. Thanks! I hope this book stands up to the standard of mystery readers, as it was never written as a mystery, it just sort of turned out that way!

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  13. Love the premis of this book, cannot wait to get my hands on it!! I love "what ifs" and this one with a different type of Mr Bennet sounds great.

    Thanks the lovely giveaway!!

    Liz
    Csuexc(at)aol(dot)com

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    1. Thanks, Liz! It's truly a unique premise, so I hope it's enjoyable for you!

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  14. It is curious about the premise throughout this book, and I am intrigued, and I like to read it.
    Thank you for the opportunity!!

    Warmisunqu's Austen
    warmisunquc(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Warmisunqu, I think you'll like it as much as you like Janet's cover.

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  15. Oh, this variation sounds fascinating, and I look forward to reading it. Changing Mr. Bennett's attitude towards the behavior and future of his wife and family would be a good departure for this P&P variation. Yes, the artwork is lovely. Thank you for the giveaway. emedmonds(at)myactv(dot)net

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    1. Mr. Bennet's attitude is definitely different in this book, and because of that, there are implications for everyone he meets. You're welcome!

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    2. Thanks, Eva! I'm glad you stopped by.

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  16. An update: Meryton Press tells me Alias Thomas Bennet will be available November 22.

    Suzan

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  17. so excited...can't wait to read this story....I too found Jane Austen when I was laid up for a month after having surgery to my neck. Couldn't get out of bed and hated watching daytime TV.....my son bought me a book that had all of Jane's Stories in there and I started reading..that was it I was hooked!!!! Looking forward to reading your book and happy you are doing well.....

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    1. Thanks for telling us your story, Maria. I know you will enjoy this book! Congratulations on winning it and thanks for visiting.

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