Sophie, can you share with us some of your background and tell us about the person behind the writer?
Sure! I began my working life intending to be in journalism, and worked as an online editor for a while before I decided to jump completely into the tech world, where I work in web design. Since then I’ve been off-and-on working on writing in a more fictional style, and then I found the JAFF world and decided to give that a try.
I love reading and writing, of course, and also really enjoy hiking and travel. I try to go to Britain once every year and really immerse and enjoy myself there. I’m very interested in history, and I find Britain has some of the most interesting history and some of the best storytellers, so it’s a wonderful place to travel, for me. Lately, of course, it’s also been very inspiring!
I know you’ve been writing JAFF for a few years now, but can you tell us why this new book, Mistress: A Pride and Prejudice Variation with Parts Not Suitable for Those Who Have Not Reached Their Majority, is such a departure from your other JAFF stories?
Aside from my little novella, Less Proud and More Persuasive, everything I’ve done has been continuations. That’s what I really wanted to read more of when I found JAFF, so that’s what I found myself writing. So it’s different in that it’s the first novel-length variation that I’ve done. It also features Elizabeth as a widow, which is something that’s a departure for me, and not something featured as often in JAFF generally.
The more striking difference, of course, are those “parts not suitable for those who have not reached their majority.” I have kept the Constant Love series as close to canon as I could, and so while that series does veer into the bedchamber more than the original, by virtue of having so many married couples, it’s very much been fade to black. That is definitely not the case with Mistress! It was a really interesting challenge to try to write sensual scenes but still keep them in a more Austenesque tone. I wanted to try to do something that was steamy, but still classy.
What led you to write a JAFF story that's so different from anything else you’ve published so far?
This was another case where I felt like there was a gap in the genre that I could help fill: a story with sensual elements that were relevant to the greater story being told, and the characters act appropriately for themselves and people of their standing during that time. That meant if there was pre-marital sex, Elizabeth had to be a widow, which ended up creating all sorts of interesting possibilities for the greater story.
I was also really interested in trying to depart from what’s such a common scenario, in JAFF and in romance in general when it comes to sex, where you have this experienced guy and an inexperienced lady. I wanted to try telling a story where it’s a lot more complicated than that. Darcy is a guy whom Elizabeth thought had “selfish disdain of the feelings of others” in the original book (they don’t get that far in canon, in Mistress), and I thought it would be very interesting for him to have to disprove that in every possible way, including in the bedchamber. What he didn’t have in experience, he could make up for in, errrm, research, and in empathy.
And, just generally, I like a challenge and an opportunity to grow myself as a writer. With the Constant Love series generally planned out through all seven books, and needing to retain some degree of consistency through the remaining books, this was a chance for me to do something different.
I understand this story was posted on FanFiction.net as a work-in-progress. Can you tell us about this process and how it helped you shape the published version of this story?
Yes, it was posted both on FanFiction.net and Archive of our Own, and the whole process was tremendously helpful! I knew this story was going to be a departure from the JAFF norm, and I was really interested in getting a lot of upfront feedback on it, just to see how readers were going to react to a story like this. Was there really a niche that needed filled? Or did people want nothing to do with a widowed Elizabeth and all those steamy bits?
The online postings helped me validate that yes, there were readers out there interested in a story like this. But what they did even more was help me shape the final story. I let readers know when I first posted that I really wanted constructive criticism, and those who provided the most helpful feedback would receive a free copy of the final story, and I got such a range of useful feedback.
When I first wrote this story, it basically ate my brain in November of 2015, when all of these various things I’d been wanting to do sort of coalesced in my head, and then I just had to write it. This isn’t my usual way of doing things – usually I have an outline planned out before I begin writing, and while I may deviate from it as needed, it generally holds me to writing all of the scenes I think will be necessary.
The most critical feedback that I got during the online posting were that there were areas where I had been rushing, which I think was due to the lack of my usual discipline. What are now chapters 9 and 10 were originally one chapter, and after I posted it, I think about half of the readers liked it, and half felt that it was too rushed, and pointed out all sorts of issues that I hadn’t realized. I actually halted posting for a while, rewrote it into two chapters, and really saw how much better it was because of the feedback I’d incorporated. That’s not the only instance of this – there are two other chapters that have been added to the final published story to help with pacing issues that the online readers helped me understand.
There was more micro-level feedback, too – in order for this story to work, there are certain things that streeetch pretty far from canon. One example is that Charles Bingley is the one to give Darcy his Hunsford moment. As a result of the feedback I received, I saw where I needed to refine these things to make them more believable. In the original draft, it’s merely learning of Darcy’s (and Caroline’s) attempts to separate Bingley from Jane that cause him to react in the way that he does. After the feedback, it was both that and remarks Darcy makes that Bingley takes as an insult related to his fortune from trade. You can read more about this particular edit in my post on Austen Authors. That’s just one example, but there were so many comments that encouraged me to make refinements that made the story more believable, or improved the flow.
What did the research process look like for you when you were writing this story?
Let’s just say that I often had a blush upon my countenance! I actually think there is a Google engineer in some basement somewhere doing analysis and wondering why on earth the same person was alternating between googling sex positions and Regency dress.
I’m pretty staunch on doing research about anything that I’m writing about, particularly since I’m writing about a period of time in which I haven’t actually lived. Well, except that one day when I attempted it. So that meant I had to read about sex and pornography in the Georgian era. That research Darcy does is key, and I wanted to have some sense of what would actually have been available to him.
I also read a biography of Beau Brummell – there’s a thread that runs through this story related to men’s fashion and hygiene during that time, and Brummell was undoubtedly the arbiter of both.
Some JAFF readers struggle with a story where Elizabeth has been married to someone else other than Mr. Darcy. What would you like these readers to know to encourage them to give your story a try?
I think the first and most critical is that what choice Elizabeth did have, in accepting her first marriage, was whether she would leave what remained of her family homeless, and in genteel destitution. Which is not really much of a choice. It’s certainly not a marriage for love, and so she’s still free to fall in love for the first time with Darcy, albeit in a different manner than the unmarried Elizabeth did.
Then I think the second thing I would say is that the story doesn’t delve deep into her first marriage. The prologue establishes how everything came about, and when we begin with the first chapter, she’s already a widow, about to meet Darcy again at a dinner party.
That’s not to say that her first marriage doesn’t haunt her – it does, and causes most of the obstacles in the story. But the relevance of her first marriage is in how it affects her relationship with Darcy. And I think that’s the most important thing that I’d say for readers hesitant to read a story where Elizabeth has been married before: the scenario opens up a lot of new possibilities for the Elizabeth/Darcy relationship, particularly in how he helps her heal.
Sophie, here’s the short-answer portion of this interview. Can you answer the following questions for my readers?
Favorite book of all-time? Persuasion
Favorite Austen badboy? Willoughby
What’s your favorite piece of inspiration when you sit down to write a JAFF story? Argh, I was doing so good with keeping to short answers, but here I have to say my biggest inspiration is hiking, which is not at all sitting down! Something about walking in beautiful places and letting my mind wander truly inspires me and helps me decide where I want to go with my stories. More’s the better if the hiking is in Britain!
Is there a song that resonates with this story for you?
Yes, “Hello,” by Adele.
Ereader or reader of paper-based books?
Ereader. I have limited shelf space!
Anything to share about your work on your A Constant Love series?
Yes, that I’m still working on it! Book three will be titled A Season Lost.
What can readers do to support your work?
Give it a try, of course! Beyond that, leave their reviews, and follow me on my social media channels to see when my next online posting on Fanfiction.net and Archive of our Own will be, to give feedback on work in progress:
One night, to decide his entire life's happiness.
Chastened by Charles Bingley following Mr. Bennet’s untimely death, Fitzwilliam Darcy determines he will offer marriage to Elizabeth Bennet, but she marries another.
Years later, a widowed Elizabeth is mistress of Longbourn, and has vowed she will never marry again. A house party at Netherfield brings them back together, but Darcy will have to win more than her heart if he is to have any chance at making her mistress of Pemberley.
Readers of Sophie Turner's more chaste Constant Love series should be aware that this novel contains decidedly adult content at certain parts of the story.
Sophie Turner worked as an online editor before delving even more fully into the tech world. Writing, researching the Regency era, and occasionally dreaming about living in Britain are her escapes from her day job.
She was afraid of long series until she ventured upon Patrick O’Brian’s 20-book Aubrey-Maturin masterpiece, something she might have repeated five times through.
Alas, her Constant Love series is only planned to be seven books right now, and consists of A Constant Love, A Change of Legacies, and the in-progress A Season Lost.
She blogs about her writing endeavours at sophie-turner-acl.blogspot.com, where readers can find direction for the various social drawing-rooms across the Internet where she may be called upon.
Blog Tour Schedule
March 18 / My Jane Austen Book Club/Launch Post & Giveaway
March 19 / Of Pens & Pages/Book Review, Excerpt & Giveaway
March 20 / Margie’s Must Reads /Book Review & Giveaway
March 21 / More Agreeably Engaged/Author Spotlight & Giveaway
March 22 / A Lady’s Imagination / Guest Post & Giveaway
March 23 / Just Jane 1813/Guest Post & Giveaway
March 24 / Diary of an Eccentric/Book Review & Giveaway
March 25 / My Love for Jane Austen/Excerpt Post & Giveaway
March 26 / My Vices and Weaknesses/Book Review & Giveaway
March 27 / So Little Time…/Excerpt Post & Giveaway
March 28 / Babblings of a Bookworm/ Guest Post & Giveaway
March 29 / From Pemberley to Milton / Vignette Post & Giveaway
Thanks, Sophie, for stopping by and allowing us to get to know you and learn more about your latest book. It has been a pleasure having you. I hope you do well and have a fun blog tour. Please come back anytime!