I’m delighted to be welcoming Monica Fairview to Jera’s Jamboree today.
Monica Fairview is an ex-literature professor who abandoned teaching criticism about long gone authors who can’t defend themselves in order to write novels of her own. Monica can be described as a wanderer, opening her eyes to life in London and travelling ever since. She spent many years in the USA before coming back full circle to London, thus proving that the world is undeniably round.
Monica’s first novel, An Improper Suitor, a humorous Regency, was short-listed for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Joan Hassayan prize. Since then, she has written two traditional Jane Austen sequels: The Other Mr. Darcy and The Darcy Cousins (both published by Sourcebooks) and contributed a sequel to Emma in Laurel Ann Nattress’s anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It (Ballantine).
Originally a lover of everything Regency, Monica has since discovered that the Victorian period can be jolly good fun, too, if seen with retro-vision and rose-colored goggles. She adores Jane Austen, Steampunk, cats, her husband and her impossible child. If you’d like to find out more about Monica, you can find her at http://www.monicafairview.com, austenauthors.net, www.monicafairview.blogspot.com on Facebook and on Twitter @Monica_Fairview
Thank you so much Shaz for inviting me to chat to you about my writing life and my novel Steampunk Darcy here on Jera’s Jamboree. One of the pleasures of being an author is having the chance to link up with readers. In addition to Shaz’s questions, I hope you, too, will have some questions for me. I promise I’ll try to answer them.
What inspired you to write?
I’ve always loved reading. I particularly used to like seeing the same story told from different perspectives. I particularly remember loving a book of fairy tales that were retold by different cultures, which is why I suppose I love retellings of Jane Austen’s novels. I grew up in a house where reading was the common past-time. My mother used to consume books at an alarming rate. We used to call her the Cat because she used to love curling up on the sofa and getting immersed in a book.
I always wanted to be a writer. Even when I was very young, I would hear snippets of dialogue in my head (okay, I know what you’re thinking, but I’m not a basket case. At least, not all the time). I wrote a very sad play when I was eight years old that made me cry for hours. Fortunately now I’m more interested in laughing than in crying, and I like a little bit of mischief in my novels, which is why Steampunk Darcy is a comedy rather than a tragedy.
Do you think movie adaptations do books justice? Do you have a favourite?
Some movie adaptations stink (and consequently sink into oblivion), some are okay but not really faithful to the book and some are an improvement on the book – I don’t think I could generalize. It depends on so many factors: the type of novel, the director, how well cast the actors are and of course the reader’s interpretation of the novel. A good recent adaptation of a book on screen was The Hunger Games. I read the trilogy and loved it (especially the first book in the series), but watching the film I had a better sense of the setting and I really appreciated the visual depiction of fashion in the Capitol. This made me understand aspects of the novel better.
Close to home, I’d have to say one of the most successful adaptations of a film has been Colin Firth’s depiction of Mr. Darcy, followed by Macfadyen ten years later (2005). While Jane Austen’s books have been classics for a while, they didn’t fire the popular imagination until those films came out. They elevated (or brought down, as some would argue) Mr. Darcy into a sex symbol (Darcy, of all people?). It’s wonderful how Jane Austen has now become accessible to a whole generation as a consequence. Not only has Mr. Darcy become an iconic figure, the films led to an explosion of Austen-related fiction and the fireworks are still going. My Steampunk Darcy wouldn’t have had an audience if it weren’t for the film adaptations. So I’m all for movie adaptations ; ) Bring them on! Anyone would like to take on Steampunk Darcy? No? No takers?
Being a writer can be lonely. Do you have a support network?
Gosh, yes. You spend hours in a space no one else inhabits. That has to be pretty isolating. Fortunately the internet provides a superb opportunity to connect (guess what I’m doing now?). Not only have I met some wonderful people across the world that I would never have met if I wasn’t a writer, but I’m able to interact with my readers and get a sense of how they respond to my writing. I’m also a member of the Romantic Novelists Association which has local chapters. As a result I know writers writing bestsellers who are kind enough to share their experiences. At the same time, I’m a member of the online blog Austen Authors (http://austenauthors.net), and through them I’ve connected with several British authors who have similar interests such as Amanda Grange, Jane Odiwe, Juliet Archer, Lynn Shepherd and Victoria Connelly and we meet up from time to time in real space (i.e. London). Isn’t that wonderful? It’s the best of all worlds: the imaginary, the virtual, and the real!
Have you done any creative writing/writing courses that you would recommend to others?
I physically attended a poetry workshop at one point and also one for writing short stories. I’ve also taken online workshops about particular aspects of writing like point of view. I think learning about the craft of writing is crucial. I won’t recommend specific classes because it depends on the individual writer. You have to find something that resonates with you because writing is such a personal activity, but the internet is full of online courses. There are even courses on writing Steampunk (though I think that’s a hard course to do since Steampunk is so individualistic).
What tips do you have for other aspiring writers?
Writing is a skill. It takes a lot of practice to perfect. So write and rewrite and then rewrite some more. Also, make sure you join a *constructive* critique group because it’s very difficult to see the flaws in your own writing and it really helps to have like-minded people suggesting ways to improve.
The other thing I would suggest is to learn not to be sensitive. Seriously. Slather on the skin- thickening cream because you’re going to need it. There are going to be people who love your writing but there are also going to be others who don’t appreciate your extraordinary talent. That’s not a reflection on you or the quality of what you do. People have different tastes, that’s all there is to it. One woman’s meat is another woman’s vegetables (mind you, I’m not trying to imply vegetables are poison. Nor that meat is. Though if you have mad cow disease you might think so).
What are you reading now? Opinion?
At the moment I’m reading a YA novel called Eona (Book 2) by Alison Goodman to my twelve-year-old daughter. The novel is set in a world where only men can control dragons but the main character is a girl disguised as a boy, hoping to become a dragoneye. Goodman raises a lot of questions about gender stereotyping especially since several of her characters defy gender roles. A whole thread of the plotline is about how the boy Eon comes to recognize women’s power and is able to accept herself as a girl, Eona. My daughter loves the positive role model this sets up. Another reason I’m enjoying this novel is because the world Goodman draws on Chinese and Japanese cultures. The cultural tapestry she depicts is very rich.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a YA prequel to Steampunk Darcy called Uprising. Uprising is a dystopian novel set during a time when all those environmental warnings come true and the oceans rise up and flood the coastlines. Seraphene, the heroine of Steampunk Darcy, who is fifteen when the novel begins, has to deal with a world that is quite literally collapsing around her. I got to know Seraphene very well when I was writing Steampunk Darcy. I felt the story of her survival needed to be told and who better to tell it than me (since I also happened to invent her)?
Monica, thank you for a very interesting and entertaining interview.
You’ve been fabulous in the hot seat 🙂
A Pride and Prejudice-Inspired Comedy Adventure
William Darcy is obsessed with his ancestors. So much so that he intends to rebuild Pemberley (destroyed during the Uprising) stone by stone, and he wants to employ reconstruction expert Seraphene Grant to help him.
Or does he? Seraphene wasn’t born yesterday. She can smell a rat, particularly when it stinks all the way up to her airship. She knows Darcy is hiding something. But with the Authorities after her and her other options dwindling by the moment, the temptation of genuine English tea and a gorgeous Steampunk gentleman are very difficult to resist.
But what if Darcy’s mystery job courts nothing but trouble? What if Darcy is harboring a secret to kill for? When kiss comes to shove, will Darcy’s secret destroy Seraphene, or will it be her salvation?
Join us on a romantic adventure like no other in this whimsical Pride and Prejudice-inspired tribute, featuring Darcy (of course) Wickham, dirigibles, swash-buckling pirates and a heroine with fine eyes and an attitude.
Praise for Monica Fairview
“Unique… cleverly crafted and humorously engaging” Austenprose
“heart-warming and charming” Historical Novel Review