Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Brave New World...Karen Cox

It is my pleasure to have award winning author, Karen Cox, as my guest today. Karen has stepped out into a brave new world and is sharing that experience with us. I know you will find it as fascinating as I did. Meryton Press is also having a giveaway so please check for details. Now please welcome, Karen Cox.

Thank you for the opportunity to guest post on Most Agreeably Engaged, Janet! I always feel right at home on an Austen-inspired site, because I’m in the company of ‘clever, well informed people who have a great deal of conversation.’

I love Jane Austen. No surprise there, as that’s how I found this little corner of cyberspace.  I love her novels. I love her unfinished works. I love that she was kind of a ‘nobody’ from ‘nowhere’—mostly because I can relate to that very well. I love her gift for dialogue, her effortless depth expressed through shallow words (read Miss Bates for an example,) and her moral compass. Most of all, I love her sharp and spot-on wit, and think I would love it even if I had known her personally and was sometimes the brunt of it.

I also love her because she, without knowing it and possibly rolling her eyes from the other side, became for me a catalyst to a wider world.

Off and on, I have written stories almost my whole life. The first evidence of that was the elephant picture book I ‘wrote’ when I was nine. I wrote some short stories, some of which are long gone now. I wrote a skeleton of a novel. But it wasn’t until I found Jane that I discovered how much joy it would bring me to share what I’d written.

I started writing Austenesque stories because I wanted to interpret the themes I saw in her works into modern time periods, ones that might be more accessible to a 21st Century reader. To those who say, “If you want Austen, go read Austen,” I say, “I agree; everyone should eventually go to the source.” But not everyone wants to start with 18th Century prose, and Austenesque paraliterature can pave the way to a deeper enjoyment of Austen’s work. Plus, it’s fun! And I’m all about fun.

That fun (along with a lot of editing) is how I ended up publishing my first two novels: 1932, which is a variation of Pride and Prejudice set in the rural South during the Great Depression; and Find Wonder in All Things, a modern adaptation of Persuasion. Jane Austen beckoned me into another world—the world of a writer. It was a strange and exotic place where I had everything to learn and very little experience to fall back on. It was WONDERFUL!

In the summer of 2011, I started writing an Austenesque story that sprang from a conversation with some other ‘fans of Jane’ regarding Elizabeth Bennet. People tend to be territorial about this beloved character, maybe more than any other character in Austen’s work. In this conversation, we all batted around our ideas of a ‘dark Lizzy’ (and some of them were pretty dark.) How far could you push her to the ‘dark side’ and have her retain the heart and soul—the character—of Elizabeth Bennet? I joked that no class difference could be as striking as a Darcy who was an evangelist’s son, and a Lizzy who was the town’s ‘bad girl.’ And that joke grew into an idea. As I worked through what the characters would go through to reach a real understanding with each other, however, it ceased to be a joke for me. There were real problems to be solved in that scenario, some unforeseen obstacles to overcome.

I posted that story on A Happy Assembly as an Austenesque piece entitled ‘Son of a Preacher Man,’ but even while I was writing it, I began to realize it was going off on a path away from Austen. Oh, sure, there were similarities: erroneous first impressions, how pride and prejudice could lead people to make mistakes, class differences based on reputation, education and socio-economic status. But there were also differences: some gender reversals in the actions of the characters, original characters who boldly introduced themselves, and 20th Century issues that arose from setting the story poised on the edge of the Sexual Revolution. Also, I was telling the story from the hero’s point of view, and that changed a lot of things, because P&P is most definitely Elizabeth’s story.

When I started preparing that story for publication, I had some conversation with Gail McEwen, my editor, about whether the story should become an original work. She said from the beginning that she was going to push me in that direction, but honestly, she didn’t have to push very hard. It became obvious to me as I went back through that I wasn’t reinterpreting Jane anymore. I was in some other place, telling some other story.

And that’s how At the Edge of the Sea was born. I’m not sure I ever would have dared to try it, if Jane hadn’t held my hand at the beginning. It’s been a wonderful, exciting adventure, a journey made possible by the incredible life and work of Miss Jane Austen.


Karen Cox is the author of two Austen-inspired novels. 1932 won a Bronze medal in Romance at the 2011 Independent Publisher Book Awards. Her second novel, Find Wonder in All Things, won a Gold medal in Romance at the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards, and was a Finalist in the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. At the Edge of the Sea is her third novel from Meryton Press, and will be released in October, 2013.

She was born in Everett, Washington, a circumstance that resulted from arriving in the world as a United States Air Force officer’s daughter. After a somewhat nomadic childhood that included stints in North Dakota, Tennessee, and New York State, her family landed in their home state of Kentucky. She still lives there in a quiet little town with her husband, son and daughter.

From the back cover of At the Edge of the Sea:

Lizzy Quinlan lives in the shadow of her past...

Everyone in Orchard Hill knows Lizzy’s bad reputation and won’t let her forget it. But in the summer of 1959, Billy Ray Davenport, an itinerant minister’s son, arrives in town. He discovers an indomitable spirit behind the allure his father says is ‘designed to lead men astray.’ Lizzy spouts quirky bursts of wisdom and exudes an effortless sensuality that calls to him like a siren’s song.  Billy Ray thinks he could be the one who helps her swim against the tide of disapproval—he could free her once and for all.

But a stormy path awaits the unlikely pair. Lizzy’s past cannot help but shape her future, and ready or not, this beautiful and complex mystery girl is about to change Billy Ray’s life—and his heart—forever.

A new novel from award-winning author Karen M Cox, At the Edge of the Sea is a realistic love story—told by an idealist. As society’s sands shift under his feet, Billy Ray navigates the ocean of approaching adulthood—a journey as ever-changing and ancient as the sea itself.

Buy At the Edge of the Sea:

Thank you again, Ms.Cox, for being my guest and telling us about your new adventure. It has been my honor to host you. I wish you as much success with this new book as you have had with your other two books. 

I want to thank Michele Reed and Meryton Press for the giveaway. Ms. Reed is kindly giving away a trade paperback to one lucky winner AND  an eBook for your eReader to a second lucky winner.The giveaway is international . To be entered leave a comment below. I always love reading your 'say in the conversation'Good luck to all. 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, October 7.


  1. Interesting! When I first saw the blurb for this book, a few days ago, I wasn't really sure whether it was a P&P variation or original fiction but thought either way it looked like a great story. I look forward to reading about Lizzy and Billy Ray :)

    monicaperry00 at gmail dot com

    1. Thanks for your interest Monica! Lizzy and Billy Ray stole my heart, and I loved telling their story.

  2. I was so excited when I saw you had a new book! I absolutely loved your other two books and can't wait to get my hands on this one! Thanks for the giveaway!!

  3. You're welcome, Kelli! I really appreciate you letting me know you enjoyed the other books and hope you like At the Edge of the Sea as well!

  4. I absolutely love 1932, so a new P&P variation is really nice!
    I would love to win a paperback (I don't have an e-reader), thanks for the giveaway!
    arjanne.boneschanscher (at) gmail (dot) com

    1. Wow, must've been very sleepy when I was typing this. It was supposed to say a new book is really nice, not a new P&P variation. Sorry!

    2. lol, arjanne! I've had some nights like that lately! Thanks for your interest :)

  5. Shows that you can start writing a variation but the writing leads you elsewhere - my husband writes and he sometimes surprises himself in the way the story goes

    meikleblog at gmail dot com

    1. I never fail to be surprised at some place a story takes me - even if I end up being generally where I'd planned at the beginning. Something ends up going off in another direction. Thanks for your comment, Vesper!

  6. I remember discussing how far is too far when participating in a virtual Austen event with you asking the question. Glad to know that you were able to bring your ideas together and write your story, Karen. I'd love to read the resulting book.

    Thanks for the giveaway opportunity.
    sophiarose1816 at gmail dot com

    1. Was it the Austenesque Extravaganza chat? That was so much fun! Take care Sophia :)

  7. When I saw the cover of your new book on your blog, I wasn't sure it was an Austen-inspired title or not. Now that I have read this post, it was very little in the way of Jane Austen's plot. But I'm still interested to read At the Edge of the Sea if I do get the chance.

    Thanks for the giveaway, Meryton Press.


  8. Thanks for your comment, Luthien :) There are definitely parallels between P&P and At the Edge of the Sea, but some interesting departures as well. I hope you enjoy it.

  9. Great post. Sounds interesting! Thank you for the giveaway.
    cherringtonmb at sbcglobal dot net