Today is a special day at More Agreeably Engaged. Author Jennifer Altman is celebrating the release of her debut novel, To Conquer Pride and today is the day! This is also Jennifer's "debut" visit here. It is great to have her visit with us.
I am so thrilled to be participating in your blog tour, Jennifer. I also hear that you have a special treat for us today. I know my readers are going to be as excited about it as I have been. I will wait until after the excerpt to share the rest of the news!
Thanks again for letting me be part of your tour and congratulations on your new novel.
Jennifer: Hi Janet! Thanks so much for hosting me today to celebrate the release of my debut novel, To Conquer Pride—and a HUGE thank you to author Joana Starnes who has agreed to participate in today’s interview.
I thought I’d start with a brief excerpt from the book, and then we’ll get right down to business. :)
Some of you may have read the opening of To Conquer Pride over at Austenesque Reviews (if not, you can check it out here, but to catch you up, the story begins seven months after Darcy’s failed proposal at Hunsford. Darcy and Elizabeth have met by chance at a coaching inn in Kent and certain unforeseen circumstances have led to them being stranded together in an abandoned cottage during a snowstorm. I hope you enjoy!
To Conquer Pride – Excerpt
The fire had long since burned down and the room was becoming cold. Darcy glanced over at Elizabeth, asleep in her chair. Several chestnut curls had escaped their pins and now rested against one rosy cheek. Even in repose, she was the most beautiful creature he had ever beheld. His eyes roamed her body, and warmth ignited in his chest. He would have liked to say that what he felt was a chaste sort of tenderness but strictly speaking, that would be untrue. He could not look at her—long lashes impossibly dark against her fair skin, the neckline of her gown slipping from one shoulder—and not feel a certain degree of carnal longing. But to his surprise, there was a stronger feeling holding the physical desire at bay. Watching Elizabeth, a fierce sense of protectiveness surged within him, and he knew in that moment that he would stop at nothing to keep her safe.
He turned his attention to the mantelpiece. The pistol from the carriage still rested atop the roughhewn surface. He had attempted to press it upon his footman, but Thomas had refused the weapon. Now, Darcy was glad to have it. Elizabeth was under his care, and although he would gladly inflict bodily harm with his bare hands if it came to that, the pistol would make things easier.
His gaze returned to Elizabeth’s sleeping form. As he watched, the shadow of a smile hovered at the corners of her lips and a feeling of guilt stirred in Darcy’s chest. He should not be staring at her as she slept. Observing her in such a vulnerable state was clearly an invasion of her privacy. Such intimacies were the privilege of a husband—or a lover—and heaven knew he was neither of those. Nor would he ever be.
The muscles in his throat constricted and he forced himself to look away. No, that honor would belong to some other man.
Closing his eyes, Darcy drew a ragged breath. The scent of wood-smoke filled his lungs, mingling with the lingering aroma from their dinner. Ignoring the burning in his ribcage, he inhaled again, this time picking up the subtle hint of wildflowers and lemon. God, he needed to remember that smell!
A log popped against the grate and he opened his eyes. Across the room a fly buzzed, futilely thumping against the sealed windowpane. Fingering the armrests of his chair, Darcy stared at the once-bright colors of the hearth rug, long since faded to a single muted hue. Slowly he adjusted his position, turning to survey the modest parlor. An old rocking chair sat beside a scarred wooden table and a small writing desk was tucked in a corner beneath the eaves.
It wasn’t much, but he felt a sudden uncontrollable urge to memorize every detail. To imprint this place upon his consciousness, to hold it tight within his heart, so that someday, in ten or twenty or thirty years, when he was feeling sentimental, he could call up every sight and sound and smell and touch. Every precious moment of the one night he had been exactly where he longed to be—alone with the woman he loved.
~ * ~
What a lovely excerpt. Doesn't it make you want to read more? Thank you, Jennifer for sharing it with us.
Now for the added treat...welcome author Joana Starnes! She is joining us today. Joana and Jennifer delight us with a question and answer session. Welcome, ladies!
Joana: Many thanks, Janet, you’re ever so kind to welcome us here today to celebrate the launch of Jennifer’s debut novel together!
What a soulful excerpt, Jennifer, and what a poignant beginning to the launch post! How can we not love a deeply vulnerable Mr Darcy in silent and heartrending contemplation of what he had lost? Your Mr Darcy is an absolute delight, and one of the reasons I loved this story from the moment you shared the WIP with me.
To Conquer Pride is an ever so moving portrayal of our favourite characters learning to overcome their errors and misconceptions and finally finding their way to each other and to their happily ever after.
I’ve been looking forward to seeing it published for quite some time, and it was my absolute pleasure to share what I knew about indie publishing, introduce you and your beautiful story to Meredith, Janet, Rita and Ceri and put you in touch with Susan Adriani, whose covers are such exquisite works of art! Huge thanks, lovely ladies, for kindly hosting the blog tour, and Susan – oh my, what a gem! By the way, Jennifer, I hope your debut novel will come out in paperback soon. I’d love to get a better look at that gorgeous cover.
But now let’s hear a little more about how this story came to be:
JS: What was your inspiration for To Conquer Pride?
JA: As I touched on in my previous blog post at Austenesque Reviews, I’d been reading JAFF for years before I ever had an inkling that I’d take a stab at writing an Austen-inspired novel. But during the time when I was first discovering the genre, I read a short piece by Jack Caldwell called Snowbound that I absolutely adored. The story had Darcy and Elizabeth trapped in an abandoned cabin during a freak snowstorm, and the premise stayed with me long after I finished reading. Honestly, the only thing I didn’t like about that story was that it ended. I wanted MORE and I kept wishing that it had been the jumping-off point for a full-length novel. So, when I decided to try writing a P&P variation of my own, that premise was immediately what came to mind. I should probably add that the idea of having Darcy and Elizabeth stranded together (in a snowstorm, rainstorm, locked in a library, etc.) is not new. I think the thing that appeals to so many of us about this trope is that it gives us the opportunity to see how these two characters interact when they’re alone together… and in an era when it was not socially acceptable for unmarried men and women to really ever be alone together, it also adds an element of the forbidden. And what could be more awkward and uncomfortable than running into the person you’ve humiliated yourself in front of, and then ending up trapped in a cottage with them. The premise was just brimming with possibilities! (Note: If you’re interested in checking out Snowbound, you can find it here.)
JS: Oh, I love Snowbound and I love your reasons for having Darcy and Elizabeth stranded together – the delicious element of the forbidden, the awkwardness and above all, the possibilities!
JS: Plotter or pantser? Do you outline or go wherever the story idea takes you?
JA: LOL! Pantser, unfortunately. To Conquer Pride is only my second attempt at writing a novel (the first was a middle grade contemporary fantasy which may never see the light of day), so I don’t have a vast amount of experience in this, but I didn’t outline either of my books. With both of the novels I’ve written, I knew the beginning and the end…and I had a few key plot points I wanted to hit in the middle…but it was pretty much winging it after that. :) And with To Conquer Pride, I went one step further and wrote many of the scenes out of order, which made revising, er…a most unpleasant experience. So, I’m thinking with the next book, I may force myself to do at least some form of an outline. I don’t want to stifle creativity too much, but I think it will make revisions a heck of a lot easier.
JS: Goodness, yes, I know, that’s a bit of a nightmare, writing the scenes out of order and then fitting them together. The revision stage must have been tricky, but all that hard work was more than worth it. You made the story flow seamlessly and so beautifully!
JS: Which section or aspect of your debut novel dragged you to your desk, begging to be written?
JA: As I mentioned above, I wrote a lot of TCP out of order, so if a scene popped into my head, I usually tried to get it down immediately (even if I knew it was going to come later in the book) because otherwise I was afraid I wouldn’t remember it with the same clarity I had when I first imagined it. I did write the first five chapters sequentially, but after that, I actually skipped to a pivotal scene that occurs in a garden at Pemberley towards the end of the book. I don’t want to give too much away, but when I decided to write a P&P variation, the one thing I knew was that I wanted to give Darcy the opportunity to redeem himself from that disastrous first proposal, and I wanted to give Elizabeth the chance to hear Darcy express his true feelings in the way (I felt) he should have from the beginning. So, that was the scene that was really begging to be written. And since I wasn’t sure what was going to happen after the first few chapters, that’s the scene I jumped to. The interesting thing is that with all the revisions I’ve done on this novel, that scene remains almost exactly as I first wrote it, and it is also one of my favorites in the book.
JS: Mine too! It was so wonderful to see Mr Darcy redeeming himself (and then some) with a very gentlemanly and heartfelt second proposal.
JS: I couldn’t help noticing that you love to torture Mr. Darcy (and Elizabeth a bit, too ;)). Would you tell us why?
JA: Hmm… Torture is a strong word. :) I guess I’d prefer to say that I like to see Mr. Darcy made vulnerable. I tend to enjoy writing injuries and illnesses into my books… I think because they are the ultimate equalizers. When someone is debilitated in some way and forced to rely upon another person, it tends to humble them—something that I think certainly works well with the Pride and Prejudice storyline. Also, one thing that really resonates with me when it comes to Darcy and Elizabeth is that they both realize they have brought their misery upon themselves. So, in a way, I think a lot of that “torture” is self-inflicted. (And let’s face it, who doesn’t love a tortured Darcy?)
JS: Who, indeed ;)? You make a great point about the ultimate equalizers, and I absolutely loved the scenes where you portrayed Mr Darcy’s difficulty in relinquishing control and relying on others – especially Elizabeth. And I’m not talking just about the cottage scenes, but also about a deeply moving one towards the end. I won’t dream of spoiling your readers’ enjoyment, so my lips are sealed!
JS: I hope you’re already writing or planning to write another JAFF book. If so, which novel will it be inspired by, and can we have a peek?
JA: Well, I haven’t put anything down on paper yet (mostly because all my time and energy has been spent trying to get TCP revised and out into the world) but, yes, I do plan to write another Pride and Prejudice variation. Again, in my usual pantser fashion, I don’t have an outline in place (yet!) but I do have a general idea of where I want the story to go and I can tell you that this one will involve Darcy and Elizabeth marrying early in the book, and falling in love afterwards. I don’t want to call it a forced marriage scenario, because they will marry of their own free will (for their own separate reasons) but as in canon, their mutual pride and prejudice make it difficult for them to initially see how well suited they are. So, that’s the plan. But I have lots of ideas floating around inside my head, so I reserve the right to change my mind!
JS: Let’s call it an ‘early marriage scenario’, then. You’re right, ‘forced’ doesn’t quite suit when they both agree to it of their own free will. Oh, I love early marriage scenarios, when they have to live together before they know how, and before they discover they are each other’s perfect match and realise they’re head over heels in love. It gives them plenty of opportunities to ‘hurt each other’s feelings in a rich variety of ways,’ to quote Jami Dragan again (as I warned her I would :). I LOVE that phrase!!!).
Jennifer: And now I’m turning the tables! Joana has graciously agreed to answer a few questions of her own. :)
JA: Describe your writing process: How often do you write? Time of day? Special location? Music or silence? Longhand or on the computer?
JS: I write as often as I can. Mostly in the mornings, when everyone’s gone to work or school, the house is quiet and I can hear the voices in my head. No music, it distracts me from the voices :). I’m not too fussy about the location. What works best is sitting in the back garden with my coffee (and a couple of foraging pigeons) and ‘watching’ the scenes unfold, then rushing to my PC to type them in, but I also tend to walk around with a big notebook and lots of pens in my bag, just in case, or hide away in a couple of favourite coffee shops to write.
JA: LOL! Maybe best not to tell people about the “voices!” :) And I agree about the music, I can’t do it either. I know writers who come up with actual playlists for their books that they put on when they write… but that would be way too distracting for me! I can’t even do the coffee shop. I like total peace and quiet.
JA: Plotter or pantser? Do you outline your books before you write them, or go wherever the idea takes you?
JS: I love that, ‘plotter or pantser’! (I loved it so much that I had to ask you the same question). I think I’m a bit of both. I write down the pivotal moments and the direction I’m expecting the story to take, but then I tend to go freestyle from one main point to the next, follow a general idea and see where it takes me. It’s great fun, especially when I don’t find myself where I imagined I would be. Only two things are set in stone: there has to be a HEA, and it must be Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s.
JA: Sounds similar to my method. And, yes! Always a HEA. Otherwise the readers would string us up. :)
JA: Who is your favorite Austen character (NOT from Pride and Prejudice) and why?
JS: Oh dear, not from P&P? Then it’s got to be Mr Knightley. He is dependable, resilient, loyal, tolerant of many foibles (Emma’s and many other people’s), he shows more maturity and consistent goodness than Mr Darcy (I can’t believe I said that, but I have to, because I think it’s true) and puts love before self from the very beginning, without the need of some great epiphany.
JA: Yes! I knew I liked you! I LOVE Mr. Knightley. I love how he sees the best in Emma and really pushes her to be the finest version of herself. *swoon!*
JA: Which of your books took you the most time to write?
JS: Probably my first. It took me years from the start to the final version. But I don’t think that counts. I wasn’t really trying to write a book then. It was more like trying to keep the P&P magic going in my head for as long as possible. If I discount the amount of time I spent daydreaming on my first, the one that took me most to write was my latest. It’s in a different style than my other books, and with a more complex (and wilder) plot.
JA: Honestly, I think that’s how all of us start: Just trying to keep the P&P magic going as long as possible. Also, now I don’t feel so badly about the three years I spent on TCP!
JA: What are you working on now? Can you give us a brief teaser?
JS: I’m working on an idea I had several years ago, in the winter of 2013, when I came across some stunning scenery: dark clouds hanging very low over the countryside, just before a raging storm. This variation starts a few months after the Hunsford proposal, with Darcy and Elizabeth crossing paths a little sooner than in P&P. The other main difference is that Elizabeth is much quicker to recognise her feelings and admit to herself there was attraction from the start, before Darcy went and ruined everything with ‘She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me…’.
Sounds like plain-sailing from here, right? Well, it would be, if I weren’t so tempted to go back to the old habit of torturing them, especially Darcy. In my opinion, yearning for Elizabeth is what he does best, so I can’t help it, I have to imagine him simmering, with his legendary self-control hanging by a thread. It’s not fair on him, I know, but where’s the fun in jumping straight to the ‘happily ever after’? ;)
JA: Ah! Thank you for sharing that little tidbit. And I think I speak for many, many people when I say: Write faster! :)
Lightening Round – Jennifer’s Answers
· Coffee or tea? Coffee (or iced tea).
· Cats or dogs? Dogs. (Sorry, cat lovers!)
· Early riser or night owl? Night owl.
· Wine or beer? Wine.
· Text or talk? Text.
· Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate.
· Paper books or e-books? I hate to say it, but e-books.
· Ice cream or cake? Ice cream!
· Reading or writing? Reading. Writing is work!
· Gold or silver? Silver.
· City or country? Both. :)
· Fruits or vegetables? Veggies.
· TV or film? Film… unless it’s a British period drama, then TV.
· Ketchup or mustard? Mustard.
· Pool or sea? To relax beside: sea. To swim in: pool.
· Fall or spring? Spring.
Lightening Round – Joana’s Answers
· Coffee or tea? Coffee.
· Cats or dogs? Dogs in theory, but I wouldn’t have to take a cat out for daily walks, so the jury’s still out on that one.
· Early riser or night owl? Early riser, mostly.
· Wine or beer? Wine.
· Text or talk? Talk.
· Chocolate or vanilla? Oh, chocolate, always.
· Paper books or e-books? Both.
· Ice cream or cake? Ice cream.
· Reading or writing? Depends if inspiration strikes.
· Gold or silver? Gold.
· City or country? Country.
· Fruits or vegetables? Fruits.
· TV or film? TV.
· Ketchup or mustard? Mustard.
· Pool or sea? Sea.
· Fall or spring? Both, but I love spring more.
~ * ~
Thanks for having us, Janet! To Conquer Pride released today in eBook form with a print version to follow. You can order by clicking here.
About the Author:
Jennifer Altman is a novelist, an anglophile, and a love of all thinks Regency. After a long career in the television industry, Jennifer shifted to book publishing in 2016. She currently works in the corporate division of a large publishing company. Jennifer makes her home in New York City where she lives in a small apartment with a considerable collection of books. When she's not writing, Jennifer can be found reading, watching British period dramas, and not cleaning her house. To Conquer Pride is her debut novel.
It's giveaway time! Today we have a double giveaway going to one lucky winner! Jennifer is giving away one copy of the eBook version of To Conquer Pride, and Joana will be giving a way a Kindle copy of one of her books (winner's choice) or an audio-code for the download of one of the six books she has available in Audible. (all narrated by the wonderful Stevie Zimmerman) The giveaway is international. IN order to be entered to win, please post a comment below.
What a special giveaway, ladies! Readers, good luck to each of you. The giveaway will end at 11:59 P.M. Central Time on the 2nd of December!
Jennifer, thank you for visiting today. Joana, thank you for your part in today's post. It was lovely to share the experience with both of you. The questions and answers were awesome! I learned more about you both and that was such fun. The excerpt was quite heartrending. Poor Darcy. Jennifer, are you going to be as adept at "torturing" Darcy as dear Joana? :) How she does love to make him suffer!
Best wishes to you, Jennifer, on today's release of your debut novel, To Conquer Pride. I hope we will be seeing more of you in the future. Please come back for a visit anytime.
Thanks again, ladies, for such a delightful post.