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Before I start the interview, just look at the cover of Robin's latest book. Isn't it beautiful! Her daughter is a gorgeous young woman and makes the perfect front cover picture of Elizabeth. I love it!
How and when did your interest in Jane Austen and Pride & Prejudice take root?
I was always a bookish person. I read Austen’s books as a teen and young adult, but the 1995 miniseries really revived my love of Pride and Prejudice, as well as the other books. Yes, I’m a huge Firth fan. He brought Darcy to life for me. (Now I’ve aged myself.)
Goodness! If that ages you, then I'm aged, too. The 1995 miniseries started it all for me and sent me back to Pride & Prejudice. I've never looked back. Since you are a 'bookish' person, what drove you to start writing your own books? Did you write other things before writing PnP variations?
My sister Gayle introduced me to JAFF stories online. We bought the books together at bookstores, too. I still have the first Austenesque books I ever bought - Pamela Aiden’s Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series. A little later, I also bought the mystery books written by Carrie Bebris, the Mercy’s Embrace series by Laura Hile, and Susan Kaye’s Frederick Wentworth: Captain books.
Soon after reading those books, I decided to write my own. I published Guardian in 2011 and have since published six more Austen-inspired books.
Before I started writing fiction, I wrote a column for a local newspaper and was published in several poetry anthologies.
I have all the Austenesque books I have bought too. I need a new bookshelf! When you write, 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 definitely depend on my muse. My outlines are extremely short and general. I actually fill them in as I write. Posting my stories on our forum (with Wendi Sotis and other authors), Beyond Austen, helps to keep me motivated, and the reader feedback is vital to me.
That is great that you have the instant feedback of a forum. I can see where that could help. Is there any setting that is more inspirational to you when writing?
I write best in my messy office when I’m home alone, though I keep a small notebook with me everywhere I go. If an idea comes to mind, I write it down.
Let's don't talk about messy offices. I'm sitting in one right now and it's not yours! Let's talk about something more fun! What about the Regency era is appealing to you?
The televised, “moviefied” version of the Regency era is appealing to me, but I doubt the reality of living in that era would be as pleasant as our idealized versions. I explored that idea in my Yours by Design series. Regency Darcy and modern Darcy switch places in time. I had fun with that. (Just think of Regency Darcy waking up from a horrific horse riding accident in a modern hospital in Atlanta. Women are working as nurses! Wearing pants! Touching him!)
I love the idea of courtesy and manners – knowing what is proper and what isn’t. I like the clothing and style.
In reality, however, I would miss modern bathrooms, the freedom of modern clothing and class structure, my role as a twenty-first century woman, and modern conveniences. I depend on labor-saving devices. Sometimes, my house is humming with all of them running at the same time. (Right now, in fact.)
Air conditioning is necessary to a comfortable life in the South. I grew up without heat or air conditioning. Sorry, Darcy, but you take a back seat to my comfort.
It would be hard to do without our modern conveniences but I do love the romantic version of the Regency era. The manners, the proper way of doing things, I think those are worthy and sometimes sorely missed in this era. Tell us something about your newest book that you love most. (if you can without giving anything away)
I love presenting Elizabeth as a strong, intelligent equal to Darcy. They fall in love over chess. I love to thaw the man out just a bit.
Interesting thought...to thaw the man out just a bit! I believe a strong Elizabeth is one thing that attracts Darcy. Moving on to you, what have you learned from writing that has helped you in your daily life?
I’ve learned to be more organized with my time. Jobs, church work, and my family all come before my writing. (Housework is always last on my list.) I’ve had to be careful about wasting my free hours. Because of that, I’ve had to prioritize. I had to decide what was important – what could stay and what I needed to discard in my life. I allow no negativism to stay in my mind. Reviews are great, but I don’t dwell on the bad ones. Those are that person’s opinions. They don’t define me. Writing has strengthened me.
I also learned that I can do things that are important to me if I write and publish. It’s empowering. I’ve put new floors in my house, bought new living room furniture, traveled to Japan, and purchased a car with my royalties. Since I want to remodel my bathrooms and kitchen and put new carpeting in my bedrooms, I am highly motivated to keep writing.
Then there’s that pesky retirement looming large in my future. We’ll need money for Larry’s nursing home. (That’s a running joke between us. When I forget anything, he asks, “Have you chosen your nursing home yet?” He’s a Knightley, not a Darcy.)
Can you teach me to be more organized with my time? I'm trying to prioritize but I'm not doing so good. I do think it's wonderful that writing has allowed you to do things important to you. I'm especially impressed that you allow no negativism to stay in your life. That is truly awesome. Those are some special things...is there anything else special about yourself or your writing that you would be willing to share with us?
I can’t write anything that goes against my religious beliefs. My conscience is very tender, and my books are in the church library. I teach music to children of all ages. They follow me wherever I go, and I won’t write what they can’t read. My books are my legacy. I hope they will remain after I’m gone. In that sense, I suppose I’ll never stop talking.
I admire you for your convictions and find them/you inspiring. Do you have a modern day author that has inspired you? If yes, what was it about their writing that was an inspiration?
Though I don’t write fantasy that contradicts my beliefs, I do read it. I realize that it’s a product of imagination, not an attack on religion. As such, I enjoy the works of believers and non-believers. C.S. Lewis (Chronicles of Narnia, Out of the Silent Planet) and J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings) have inspired me, as well as Stephenie Meyer (The Twilight Saga), Susan Ee (Penryn, End of Days Trilogy), Tahereh Mafi (Shatter Me), Sarah Maas (Throne of Glass books), Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games), Veronica Roth (Divergent series), and others. These books all have fantasy or sci-fi elements. I am amazed at the creativity and outpouring of imagination. Also, they have appealed to younger and older readers alike. I want to do that. I want my books to be loved, I want them to challenge, and I want them to leave my readers thinking in a different way about life. I want to engage the reader’s imagination. That’s why all of my books (so far) have a paranormal element.
I like your thoughts on modern day authors that have inspired you. I feel the same about several of them. Your desire to have your books loved and to challenge is a worthy goal. I have a feeling you most definitely engage your reader's imagination. Now for a very important question, we all have our special reasons for loving Mr. Darcy, what are your reasons?
Mr. Darcy (as portrayed in the original Austen novel) is intelligent, handsome, wealthy, and family oriented, but he isn’t perfect. He’s opinionated, conceited, stubborn, class-conscious, proud, and meddlesome. His self-importance is off the charts. How wonderful that Austen wrote a man who needed to change and did so!
I’m shallow enough to require a handsome hero, but I’m deep enough to want him to have faults. Perfect people really get on my nerves, and in the end, they really aren’t as perfect as we think they are. Something is being hidden from the rest of us, and it always comes out eventually and unpleasantly.
I know that I have faults. I can list them in detail. Therefore, I could never love a perfect hero, because I would never deserve him. He wouldn’t love me.
I love Darcy for his imperfections. And, of course, he’s very handsome, intelligent, and rich. I’m SO shallow. (sigh)
Oh, you have me laughing on that last note, Robin. I'm shallow right along with you! I think most of the Darcy lovers fit right in the same category. Oh, dear. Now am I stereotyping? How dare me! lol Seriously, your answers inspired me and I feel that your wishes on your writing legacy will come true. It was great having you visit again, Robin. I'm so pleased you came by. I invite you to come back anytime.
It's giveaway time! Ms. Helm is generously giving away 1. International; an eBook of her latest, Understanding Elizabeth 2. US only; an eBook or paperback, winner's choice of Understanding Elizabeth. Isn't that great! Readers, that's two of you that will have a new book to read! Thank you, Robin. Leave a comment and your contact info below. We would love to hear your share in the conversation. The giveaway will end at 11:59 PM on the 19th of June. Good luck to all.