Happy New Year everyone! For this New Year's Eve I have a special treat in store for you. Author Maria Grace is visiting my blog as part of her tour for the release of her new book, Twelfth Night at Longbourn. Perfect timing for this release, wouldn't you say? It was my privilege to ask Maria some questions about her writing and her new book. She graciously answered all of them and in doing so, has given us a glimpse of her writing style and what led her there. She is also having a giveaway! Yay, for the readers! Please welcome Maria Grace.
I got introduced to Jane Austen with Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility adaptation after the birth of my third son. I quickly made up for lost time, devouring everything of Jane Austen’s I could get my hands on.
I love your choice of words...devouring everything of Jane Austen's...that's how I felt too. I think many Janeites experience that same obsession. What drove you to start writing your own books? Did you write other things before writing PnP variations?
I have been a writer since the third grade. I wrote several fan fiction novels and an original trilogy in high school. But real life and parental dictates that I should be an engineer got in the way. I stopped writing fiction in college, trading it for research papers and scholarly work. I discovered engineering was not for me, but I married an engineer—that should count right? After that, I ended up doing a sixteen year stint as a college professor.
In the midst of all that, I finished reading everything Jane Austen wrote and discovered fan fiction. This new territory jumpstarted my writing again, but not in the expected way. I began an original science fiction series, which is still in the works.
My first Austenesque piece did not come along until several years later. What started out as a way of coping with some difficult events in my life ended with me finally fulfilling my dream of becoming a published author with the four-book Given Good Principles series.
Isn't it interesting how your dream of publishing came about. I'm sorry that it was because of a difficult time in your life but so glad that if eventually fulfilled your dream. It has made us, the readers, richer for it. Do you have a muse that causes your story to lead you at times or do you use an outline and follow it religiously? What is your writing routine?
I am most definitely in the muse-led camp, not the outlining one. I tried outlining my most recent book, Twelfth Night at Longbourn and it was an unmitigated disaster.
My muse took off and the first chapter essentially wrote itself, so I was lulled into believing that the story would proceed relatively easily. I started outlining at that point. I got a chapter sort of written, but it didn’t work, so I tried again and that didn’t work. So I redid the outline. I went through a total of four rounds of that, all failing spectacularly. Finally I tossed the outline and just wrote.
My muse returned and the story took shape, including an ending I did not see coming until I actually wrote it. This shouldn’t have been a surprise though. Every time I try to write to an outline I end up in the same place.
I have learned to get a sense of the story early on though, and jot notes along the way about the major plot points and how the story is going to get to there. Those look a little like outlines, (shh—don’t’ let me muse hear me say that!) but they are much less structured and intimidating to my fragile muse.
My ideal writing routine is pretty old fashioned. I spend the first hour or so of the day dealing with email and the like. Then I leave the desk, pass through the kitchen to pick up my breakfast and morning caffeine on the way to my comfy writing chair in the living room. I settle into my chair with my blanket and watch to see who the designated ‘foot-rest cat’ will be. He jumps up, gets comfy and starts purring. I grab my notebook and pen and start where I left off the day before.
I generally get down at least one thousand words as well as plot points and research notes before I leave. Some days are easier than others, but that hour or two of undisturbed time is golden for me. I kind of hate to leave it. But foot-rest cat ends up losing his spot and I return to the office for editing and blog work and other such tasks.
I wonder if your cats realize what an important role they play? I could believe that their purring would create a nice atmosphere too! Is there any setting that is more inspirational to you when writing?
When the weather permits, I like to strap on running shoes in the early afternoon, hit the running trails and crawl into my head to listen to where the muse goes. That is often where I get my best ideas. It is the time where there is no computer, phone or family to listen for and I can really settle into my creative space.
It seems you have the same pleasure of being outdoors as Lizzy and Jane Austen. What about their world, the Regency era is appealing to you?
My academic background is neither history nor English, but sociology and economics. The Regency appeals to me because it was a period of profound change in these areas, but still not so far removed from the modern era that the people and situations are unreachable.
Tell us something about your newest book that you love most. (if you can without giving anything away)
My newest book, Twelfth Night at Longbourn takes place during the Regency Christmastide form December to the first week in January. I ended up doing far more research than I expected on the holiday traditions and customs of the era and ended up writing over a dozen blog posts on those alone. My favorite things to research were the historical recipes and parlor games that were played. I really loved incorporating all those details into the book.
Those were very interesting details in the book too. I was fascinated by some of the foods and receipts you mentioned. What have you learned from writing that has helped you in your daily life?
My writing has taught me that I am capable of more than I thought and that I can still learn. Today, it isn’t enough for an author to merely write and research. Though I focus on that, there is a lot more that is needed: book design, graphic arts, expertise at photoshop—all for just building the books themselves; web design and html code, and copy writing to manage the website; social medial, marketing and publicity and issues in the publishing industry to stay abreast off to enable me to sell books so that I can keep writing books. All this is on top of trying to advance my writing and editing skills. In all, I subscribe to nearly 100 websites though Feedly Reader to learn as much as I can as fast as I can. A lot of things I thought were beyond me aren’t. I am learning and doing new things daily and loving it. ‘Can’t’ is slowly being erased from my vocabulary.
Sounds like you stay very busy with all aspects of a writing career. Loving it is the icing on the cake. Speaking of loving...I have a very important question for you! We all have our special reasons for loving Mr. Darcy, what are your reasons?
Why do I love Darcy? Elizabeth Bennet, when you really look at the story, is a very imperfect heroine. It had always been wonderfully hopeful for me to see an imperfect heroine get to happily ever after. How could I not love the hero who did that?
Thanks so much for having me Janet. It was lovely to visit with you.
You can fine me on line: author.MariaGrace@gmail.com.
On Amazon.com: amazon.com/author/mariagrace
Visit her website Random Bits of Fascination (RandomBitsofFascination.com)
On Twitter @WriteMariaGrace
You can find Twelfth Night at Longbourn:
Amazon kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H9YDXTU
Gumroads (pdf) https://gum.co/SbVX
Paper back to be released this week.
That is wonderful news to have your paperback released this week! I know you are happy about that and those readers that still love to hold a book in their hands when they read (myself included) will be thrilled to hear it! Congratulations.
Thank you again, for being my guest and allowing my blog to be part of your tour. By the way, I like your reason for 'loving Mr. Darcy'. Thank you also for your generous giveaway. Maria Grace will be giving away one paperback to a lucky winner, US address only. She will also be giving away a digital copy for an eReader to another lucky winner, and this one is international. We want to hear your share in the conversation so please leave a comment. Including your email address with the comment will enter you in the giveaway. Good luck to all. Giveaway will end at midnight, January 6, 2014.
I wish you all a very Happy New Year blessed with good health and happiness.
I wish you all a very Happy New Year blessed with good health and happiness.