Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Through a Different Lens...Riana Everly

It is a pleasure to have Riana Everly visiting this evening. Thank you for including More Agreeably Engaged in your blog tour for Through a Different Lens. I admire you for taking the chance of writing Darcy the way you chose to do for the novel. I've been reading your book and am finding the leap not so hard to imagine. You have done a good job incorporating your research into a believable and interesting story.

Please welcome, Riana Everly.
*****
I’m thrilled to be here at More Agreeably Engaged today as part of my blog tour for Through a Different Lens. Thanks, Janet, for hosting me!
As part of my reading and research for Through a Different Lens, I spoke to several people I know about their experience with autism and mental health issues, to expand upon what I knew from my own experience with family members and people I’ve known through the years. One topic that came up a bit, mostly in conversation, was the value of having a pet to help calm and comfort the person during times of stress. I had heard about this before, and I was intrigued. So I started reading up on therapy animals, and was astounded by what I found!

My biggest surprise was how old the recorded use of pets in healthcare was. Call them therapy pets, emotional support pets, companion animals, or something else, the use of animals to help people goes back millennia.
The first recognition of the emotional benefits of pets was in ancient Greece, where animals—specifically horses—were used to raise the spirits of very ill people. In the ninth century, pets and farm animals were used in Belgium to help disabled people in their treatment. There are records of physicians in the 1600s using horses to improve the physical and mental health of their patients, and by the late 1700s an asylum in England, the York Retreat, documented the use of animals with the mentally ill. At the York Retreat, the animals were used to encourage residents to work on the farm on the property as part of their treatment.
Nearly a century later, in 1859, Florence Nightingale recommended small animals as companions for her patients, writing that a small pet “is often an excellent companion for the sick....” (As an aside, Florence Nightingale had a pet owl named Athena, which she rescued from the Acropolis in Athens in 1850.) At about the same time, farm animals were being used in the treatment of epilepsy in Germany, and the use of pets in mental institutions in Britain was becoming common.
What all these practitioners and physicians were seeing was the calming effect these animals had on patients who suffered stress and anxiety. Modern research from the University of Missouri suggests that the calm interaction of humans with cats or dogs or other pets—such as petting them or talking to them—prompts a release of “feel-good” hormones, including serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin. But one does not need to study the science and biochemistry of it to see the value these animals have.
Of course, autism is not a mental illness, but rather a neurological difference. However the same benefits seen in treating conditions like depression or anxiety can help people with autism. 
For people on the autism spectrum, pets can provide companionship and friendship, and reduce loneliness and anxiety, for it is sometime easier to interact with a nonverbal and non-judgemental pet than with people. Pets can help children learn about responsibility and their own emotions, and can help them learn to bond. Children with autism often also find that pets are a sort of social lubricant, easing interactions with their peers because other children are drawn to the animal and therefore come over to engage with the owner.
In Through a Different Lens, Mr. Darcy has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of “high-functioning” autism, and is very uncomfortable in society. His stony fa├žade is one way he responds to the stress and overwhelming sensations brought about by events such as the Meryton assembly. He finds great comfort in his hound, Cabal, however, who instinctively knows what his owner needs, and who helps calm the stress his master experiences.
Here is an excerpt from the novel, where Mr. Darcy first invites Lizzy and her London relations to his house. One of the party is Elizabeth’s young cousin Sammy Gardiner, also on the autism spectrum, and who takes immediately to the large dog.
***

The party now filed into a well-appointed and comfortable parlour where they would be served with a selection of sweetmeats and tea and where they might converse in comfort for a time before the meal was served. A large dog, similar to the one Colonel Fitzwilliam had brought along to Rosings, lounged at the foot of what must be his master’s chair. As the guests entered, the hound raised its sleek head and cast intelligent eyes on the newcomers, then shifted to its feet and trotted over to Mr. Darcy. The man absently reached down and scratched the large grey head, evoking a gentle whimper from the animal. 
“Cabal,” he intoned to the animal in a voice Elizabeth had never before heard, “Sit.” He pointed to the small rug by the fireplace near the chair, and the animal obediently returned to its former position, where it might protect its master from all harm. 
“My dog,” he needlessly informed his guests. “I ought not to make a habit of allowing him to remain when I have company, but most of my guests are known to him, and he to them, and they make little objection. Indeed, you are the first dinner guests outside of my immediate circle whom I have entertained here since my father passed on five years ago.” He patted his thigh and the dog was almost immediately by his side again. Darcy knelt and more deliberately scratched the furred head once more. Then he rose, saying, “I find myself somewhat uncomfortable being a host, and Cabal, as always, helps me find the calm I often so desperately need.” 
“Am I of so little importance, then Cousin,” Lady Philippa laughed, “that you value your hound above me?” 
“No indeed,” his response was serious, “but whilst I rely upon you in your role, I am nevertheless the master of this house and the host, which entails its own responsibilities, and Cabal’s presence settles my mind.” He gazed down at the placid hound, then returned his eyes to his company. “But you are here now,” his voice brightened somewhat, “and I am less anxious than I had expected. I can have Cabal returned to the upper floors if you prefer it.” 
Having grown up on a country estate, Elizabeth was comfortable with personal pets, and Mrs. Gardiner began to speak of her own dog growing up. “It is difficult in the city,” she explained, “for us to have a large hound, but I do miss the animals we had around the house. Miss Pierce has suggested a small lapdog for Samuel, saying that having such a companion can be an effective means of helping him concentrate on appropriate behaviour and of settling him when events become difficult for him to manage. We have been considering her suggestion…” She allowed her thought to fade.
“Indeed, I find Cabal to be thus for me,” Mr. Darcy’s voice grew more animated. “He is comforting and ever-present, and I know he does not judge me poorly when I am troubled. When he is near, I have an easier time in company, although I know not why. I must admit I had him with me in my carriage on that first day I came to call on you, Mrs. Gardiner. Without his solid and reassuring p
“Then, for certain, sir, let him stay!” cried Elizabeth. 
“May I meet him?” Samuel asked. “I should like to know him, if he won’t bite me.” 
Darcy led the lad to where Cabal had returned to his carpet by the hearth and showed him how to speak calmly to the beast and stroke its soft head. Before long, the lad was settled most happily at the animal’s side. Cabal withstood the boy’s tentative ministrations with the utmost of canine patience, and Samuel’s eyes grew bright and his smile open. When he raised his head to look at his mother, Elizabeth could see her aunt’s decision written upon her face to give much serious consideration to Miss Pierce’s suggestion. 

*****

I truly enjoyed reading this scene when reading the book. It was touching and special. Your research information was extremely interesting to read. As a lover of dogs, it is easy to see how they can give much support and comfort to patients or anyone in need. Thank you for such an informative and fascinating post.

Official Blurb
A tale of second glances and second chances
Elizabeth Bennet has disliked the aloof and arrogant Mr. Darcy since he insulted her at a village dance several months before. But an unexpected conversation with a startling turn of phrase suddenly causes her to reassess everything she thought she knew about the infuriating and humourless gentleman.
Elizabeth knows something of people who think differently. Her young cousin in London has always been different from his siblings and peers, and Lizzy sees something of this boy’s unusual traits in the stern gentleman from Derbyshire whose presence has plagued her for so long. She approaches him in friendship and the two begin a tentative association. But is Lizzy’s new understanding of Mr. Darcy accurate? Or was she right the first time? And will the unwelcome appearance of a nemesis from the past destroy any hopes they might have of happiness?
Warning: This variation of Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice depicts our hero as having a neurological difference. If you need your hero to be perfect, this might not be the book for you. But if you like adorable children, annoying birds, and wonderful dogs, and are open to a character who struggles to make his way in a world he does not quite comprehend, with a heroine who can see the man behind his challenges, and who celebrates his strengths while supporting his weaknesses, then read on! You, too, can learn what wonders can be found when we see the familiar through a different lens.
This is a full-length novel of about 100,000 words.
Purchase Link

Author Bio
Riana Everly was born in South Africa, but has called Canada home since she was eight years old. She has a Master’s degree in Medieval Studies and is trained as a classical musician, specialising in Baroque and early Classical music. She first encountered Jane Austen when her father handed her a copy of Emma at age 11, and has never looked back.

Riana now lives in Toronto with her family. When she is not writing, she can often be found playing string quartets with friends, biking around the beautiful province of Ontario with her husband, trying to improve her photography, thinking about what to make for dinner, and, of course, reading!

Riana's second novel, The Assistant, was awarded the Jane Austen Award by Jane Austen Readers' Awards, and her debut novel, Teaching Eliza, was listed on a list of 2017 Favourite Books on the blog Savvy Verse & Wit. For both of these honours, she is delighted and very proud!

You can follow Riana's blog at
https://rianaeverly.com/blog/, and join her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/RianaEverly/) and Twitter (@RianaEverly). She loves meeting readers!


Blog Tour:

Contact:


Giveaway
Riana is giving away five copies of Through a Different Lens to readers world-wide! Just sign up through the Rafflecopter widget to enter.

If you prefer not to use Rafflecopter, send an email message to (
riana.everly@gmail.com) or leave a note on her Facebook page, and she will add you to the list for the draw.

Entries close at midnight Eastern time (GMT-5) on February 10, 2019, so the winners have something to read on Valentine’s Day.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

25 comments:

  1. But there are disadvantages to having a dog, though it would be Darcy's staff that would deal with those aspects

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    1. Almost certainly his staff would take care of them! He just gets ear-scratching time. :-) Definitely one of the advantages of such wealth. Still, there's no mechanization that makes pet-ownership today much easier than it would have been then, and a lot of people are more than happy to tend to their pets.
      (Not me, alas. I'm allergic to anything with fur! I rely on my emotional-support chocolate instead.)

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    2. Yes, I agree there are disadvantages to having a dog or any pet, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. If you truly think on, anything worthwhile is trouble to a certain extent. Our families are trouble in a way, but we don't think of it like that. They are worth the trouble. I feel the same about my pets too.

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  2. I love having pets. I find they also give focus and comfort to those with ADD. I really cannot imagine my life without a creature running it flying around my house. Interesting that therapy animals were used as far back as ancient Greece. Fascinating information. Thank you for sharing these informative posts and for the generous give away.

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    1. I was amazed at how far back the practice goes. I wonder if its somehow innate within us to turn to animals for comfort when human affairs get too much. Good luck in the draw!

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    2. I can't imagine not having pets either. I know how much pleasure I derive from stroking my fur babies' silky coats. It is extremely calming. I can definitely see how they can help people with special needs. When I fell in August and broke a bone, my fur babies were hovering around me. I could not get up from the floor, and they knew I was in trouble. They would not leave my side. Even though it didn't help in one respect, it did in another. I was comforted by their presence.

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  3. I really enjoy stories with "less-than-perfect" characters! I will definitely enter at rafflecopter.

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    1. Thanks. I hope you love this one. Mr. Darcy might not be perfect, but he's perfect for Elizabeth! Good luck in the draw.

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    2. Thanks for stopping by Jennie Coleen. Glad you will enter the Rafflecopter!

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  4. I loved the excerpt and I love the premise of the book. I've thought the way Darcy was depicted reminded me in so many ways of someone with Aspberger's, at least whenever I was reading about people with Aspberger's. Or after reading a particularly good JAFF and thinking about Darcy's actions and appearances throughout. I'm really looking forward to reading this and wish you the best with it's launch.

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    1. Good points, Michelle. I'm so glad you stopped by and shared your thoughts. The way Jane Austen depicted Mr. Darcy, this is not too far of a stretch. I can easily see it as well. Good luck in the giveaway.

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    2. Thank you! Reading Pride and Prejudice, I have to think that Jane Austen knew someone with Asperger's, and used at least some of those traits in creating Darcy.
      I hope you enjoy this book, and good luck in the draw!

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  5. Fascinating. As I know so many folks and have students on the spectrum I can't wait to read how Riana treats this subject in her story. Thanks Janet for hosting.

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    1. It was my pleasure, Jen. Thank you for stopping by. I found this a fascinating post, as well.

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    2. When I was posting this chapter-by-chapter, was was struck by how many people commented that they had family members or friends on the spectrum. I certainly have a lot of people in my life with autism, ranging from the very edges to fairly profound.

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  6. Oh-my-goodness. What a touching excerpt and the research was amazing. I didn't realize that the use of animals in therapy went back so far in history. That was amazing. Thanks Janet for hosting and thanks to Riana and the publisher for the generous giveaway. Good luck to everyone in the drawing. Blessings on the success of this book.

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    1. This was one bit of research that really blew me away. I also had no idea the practice of using animals for therapy was that old. This is one of the things I love so much about writing historical fiction. Good luck in the draw!

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    2. Wasn't it a touching excerpt! I was intrigued by the research as well. Good luck in the giveaway.

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  7. I had no idea that the use of animals for therapy went back that far. Makes sense that a society closer in tune with animals would figure that out. Great post, Riana.

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    1. Thank you. Yes, this was an eye-opener for me as well. I think I was more amazed at the therapy farm in Medieval Belgium than I was at the horses in Ancient Greece. I love these tidbits of history.

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    2. I agree, Sophia Rose. Thanks for stopping by.

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  8. Fascinating research material and a fabulous book by Riana Everly. This is great stuff!

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    1. Thank you! This was some of the most interesting information I've come across in my research. It was a lot of fun to read about.

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    2. It is great stuff and a fabulous book! Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

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  9. And the winners are...
    Susanne Barrett
    Alisha Merrill
    Heather y
    KateB
    Patricia Lima
    Congratulations and thank you, Riana Everly

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