Friday, June 26, 2009

AustenFest: Abigail Reynolds

Happy Friday! Thanks to Kim Wilson for her Wednesday visit, and a reminder to all that Kim's book (and all of the other books) will be drawn after 7pm on July 7th.

As we begin today, I just want to thank you all for being such fabulous visitors, and I'd like to announce the winner of the second $10 B&N giftcard. Anyone who left a comment on Kim's interview before today's Q&A was posted is eligible... So, the lucky winner of the day is: Marlyn. (Yay for you! Please email me with your address so I can get that out to you. I'm at: marilynbrant AT gmail DOT com.)

And, because this is the time in the Festing where we're all famished and in need of a few good hors d'oeuvres--right?!--I decided to give out The Book of Appetizers by June Budgen to one of this week's commenters. And that prize goes to: Tiffany. (Congrats! Please email me privately as well.) Um, one question, Tiffany. If we ask nicely, will you order up some Ricotta-Cheese Puffs and a few Cucumber Sandwiches for us? (Check out p.81 and p.111 respectively--or ask the chef to substitute with the Deviled Mixed Nuts on p.101--we're not picky. :-)

While we wait for the food to arrive...
I have a wonderful little story to tell about my guest today, Abigail Reynolds. I'd first heard about her last summer from my Chicago-North RWA chaptermate and friend Pamala Knight. Pamala told me Abigail was "nice"--but then, Pamala is the Reigning Queen of Understatement. (Pamala also told me a few weeks ago that she was going on a "trip" this month. Um, yeah. I was thinking, Wisconsin? Minnesota? Indiana? She was thinking...Ireland. Hope you're having fun, my dear!)

Well, I had the pleasure of meeting Abigail and their mutual friend Elaine at the Chicago AGM this past fall, and they were so warm, welcoming and inclusive, I wanted to hug the lot of them. (I did, in fact. :) After little more than a few snatches of afternoon conversation, Pamala, Elaine and Abigail all changed their reserved seating arrangements for the big Regency Ball dinner--from a more advantageous location to one much farther back, I hasten to add--just because they discovered there wasn't room for me at their table. I tell you, Jane herself would have considered their behavior MOST amiable and kind. That was certainly my opinion.

Abigail has a great blog and a number of books out as part of her Pemberley Variations series, plus she's written a few other Austen-related projects. Publishers Weekly called one of her latest releases, Pemberley by the Sea (Sourcebooks, 2008), an "engaging love story" and Booklist says, "Reynolds convincingly updates Austen’s classic, and romance fans will be carried along by the smoldering heat between Cassie and Calder."

Abigail, I'm so glad to have you here!

New readers want to know about your books. Can you tell us about the most recent? I had two books released this year. The first is Pemberley by the Sea, a modern novel that reflects the plot of Pride & Prejudice. It’s the love story between Cassie, a marine biologist who pulled herself out of poverty by her bootstraps, and Calder Westing, a scion of a wealthy political family, who sees Cassie as a modern-day Elizabeth Bennet.

The second book is Impulse & Initiative, which is part of my Pemberley Variations series. These are Regency novels that look at roads not taken in Pride & Prejudice. Impulse & Initiative is a romantic look at what might have happened if Darcy had decided to try to win Elizabeth’s love after she refused his first proposal of marriage, rather than waiting for chance to bring them together.

Do you have a favorite kind of food? Anything you really won't eat? I love chocolate, ice cream, fruit, and ethnic foods. About the only thing I won’t eat is sushi, which is the result of a parasitology course I took years ago. I think sushi is really pretty safe; I just have too vivid a picture in my mind of what could be wrong with it.

Do you have any favorite books on the craft of writing that you often use? Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird has been the most helpful to me, both on the craft of writing and living the writer’s life. She has a lot of great insights. (Oh, I love that book, too!)

What's your Writer Fantasy--i.e., to see your book make into a feature film, to be on the New York Times bestseller list for 40 consecutive weeks, etc.? Actually, my fantasy isn’t about sales, but about the place my books have in my readers’ lives. I see them as comfort food for the mind, and I love hearing from readers who say that my books helped them keep going through difficult times. I’ve had a number of readers tell me that they’ve re-read my books several times, which makes me very happy.

Did you go on any special trips to research the setting? I used settings I already knew well. I spent one summer after college taking a course in marine ecology at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, and I’ve visited there frequently since. Cassie’s salt marsh is one I used to hike through. I’m always happy to have an excuse to go back to do more research or soak in the setting, though--right now I’m about a mile from the house Calder bought in West Falmouth. I keep expecting to run into my characters on the street!

What do you think readers might be surprised to know about you? It’s hard to say who is most surprised about my two professions--my readers who find out I’m a doctor or my patients and colleagues who find out I write romantic novels! It’s amusing to see some of the shocked reactions. It seems like nobody expects those two to go together.

What’s next for you? Is there a new book in the pipeline? There’s a new Pemberley Variation coming out in Fall 2010, and my publisher taking a look at Morning Light, the sequel to Pemberley by the Sea. I’ve started work on the next book in the Woods Hole Quartet as well. People keep asking for more Pemberley Variations, but I’m wondering how many more variations I can do without repeating myself.

Writers are usually big readers too. How do you make time for reading and what are you reading at the moment? It’s a struggle to find reading time, but somehow I manage to slip it in. It’s harder to lose myself in a book these days, though, because part of my brain is always looking at how the book is written and noticing what works and doesn’t work. Right now I’m reading the reissue of Cotillion by Georgette Heyer, soaking in some Regency atmosphere from the woman who inspired the Regency romance industry.

Thank you, Abigail. As a wonderful treat to visitors, Abigail is giving away signed copies of three of her novels to three lucky commenters!! So, to be in the running to win a copy of Pemberley by the Sea, Without Reserve or Impulse & Initiative, just leave a little note for Abigail in the comment section of this post before our drawing on July 7th. Also, from me...the third $10 B&N giftcard will go out to someone who comments on Abigail's post before the final Q&A (featuring the kind and talented Laurie Viera Rigler!) goes up on Monday, June 29th.

Have a great weekend, everyone! Until Monday...


Maria Geraci said...

Abigail, your books sound fabulous! Best of luck:)

barbiewppoods said...

Hi Abigail, Your Pemberley by the Sea is truly comfort food for me. I grew up in Woods Hole and really miss it. Can't wait for the next book in the series. Good luck with sales. I'm doing my bit buying all your books and talking them up any chance I get! Have a drink at Shuckers for me!! barbiewp

Aimee said...

Wow - a doctor and a published author... how do you do it all (and PS I feel awful lazy right now!). A great interview, can't wait to read the books!

Marilyn Brant said...

Abigail, I'm so glad you're here today! How many books are there in your Pemberley Variations so far?

Anonymous said...

Abigail, I truly enjoyed the setting of your book. I had to buy a copy for my sister who lives on Cape Cod year round that lucky duck.

Your book brought back memories of waiting for the boat at Woods Hole and the smell of the salt air. I hope to make a visit out to Cape Cod this summer and I too will look for your characters on the street. If only I could visit that restaurant with the good pies.

I will look forward to reading the rest of the Woods Hole series and your new writings.

Judy K

Caroline said...

Hi Abigail,
Your interview was very interesting. I love the sound of your books and think I will start with Impulse & Initiative, because I love Historicals!

Thanks for all the fun stuff. I agree with you on the sushi thing. I've never been able to bring myself to eat for the exact same reasons.

Have a great day!

Hi—waving to Marilyn

Pat said...

I read Cotillion years ago and fell in love with the Regency. Of course, Heyer's writing is so much more opulent than would be accepted today.

Great interview. I look forward to reading Impulse & Initiative.

Robin said...

Hi, Abigail! It's nice to meet you! This was a great interview - best wishes with your new book!

Marilyn, this week's Austenfest has been terrific! Thanks for the author introductions. All of your interviewees have been so nice and I've enjoyed getting to know them.

Have a great weekend!

Sandy said...

Hi Abigail, I think I have read just about all of your regency stories in some form or another.

You have such a way of telling the P&P story but from such a new perspective that it always keeps me wanting more.

I am one of those people who has read and re-read your stories many times. Thank you for giving me such enjoyment.

During a recent recovery from surgery, I went back to some of my favorites and decided to re-read them again. As a doctor, I'm sure that you want to know that JA fiction reading for me is the best medicine.

Thanks again.

Bloggin BB said...

WOW! You are quite the busy woman--a doctor and a romance writer?! I'm truly impressed! Loved your books!

Leslie said...

Hi Abigail,
Saw your blog and followed you here. I love knowing more about what frames your stories. Since you're a physician and laudanum played a pivotal role in Last Man in the World, I learned on a historical tour of Seattle that it was made up of whisky and opium, would you concur? That would really explain Darcy's strange behavoir.

Marlyn said...

Wow! Thanks for the gift cert. I'll be emailing you right away with my info.

Pemberly-by-the-Sea sounds delightful. I can hardly wait.

Abigail said...

Thanks for the welcome! I'm glad to hear my books are working as "comfort food."

There are currently five Pemberley Variations, with a sixth that will be coming out next year. The new one, Bounds of Decorum, has a scene that's a medical in-joke. One of the characters has gangrene and is septic, and he's treated using a variety of barbaric modalities (laudanum, maggots, bleeding, etc.) that are actually all still in active use in medicine today, even the maggots! Leslie, laudanum is indeed a tincture of powdered opium in alcohol. It's a very powerful narcotic, and as little as 3 tsps can be lethal.

Judy, you're out of luck on the pies. The restaurant in PbtS was based on the Fishmonger's Cafe in Woods Hole, which indeed had marvellous pies, but now has new pie-free ownership. I still haven't forgiven them for that! I hope you enjoy your visit to Woods Hole.

Actually, being a doctor and a writer just means having to give up a few other things. I decided to give up housework. :) So I live in total chaos, but I have great jobs!

Thanks for having me, Marilyn!


Dina said...

I am enjoying all the great interviews going on.

Eliza said...

Marilyn, this interview series has been fabulous to read. I really had no idea how many Austen-related books there were, in all different flavors. Dr. Reynolds books sound fascinating, as well.

Ann Victor said...

Marilyn, what a heartwarming anecdote about your friends and the Regency Ball dinner at the Chicago AGM - YAY for lovely friends!

Another great interview with Abigail - I was interested to read that Abigail also has difficulty losing herself in books these days. I've learnt so much from my writing, but at the same time, seem to have lost the ability to just enjoy a good "fun" read! I'm hoping it's a passing phase!

alison said...

I can't wait to read some of your books. They sound very intriguing!

Thanks for the awesome AustenFest! :)

Erica said...

Aw, now I'm all worried about my love of sushi! Nevertheless, both of these boooks sound wonderful -- I love the original so much, and find I miss the characters after I close the book. These sound like fresh ways to spend time with them again.

Melanie said...

I read Impulse and Initiative just a couple months ago, and I really enjoyed it! It was so different. You're a great author!

Lois said...

Loved the interview, but also loved the sound of the books, so I really need to get looking at the bookstore for them! :)


Maureen McGowan said...

Loved the interview, ladies! I really like Bird by Bird, too. In fact... I think I need to reread it about now. Thanks for the reminder. :-)

Morgan Mandel said...

Love that book cover for Impulse & Initiative!

Chocolate and ice cream are right up there with my faves as well.

Morgan Mandel

Luthien84 said...

I am reading Impulse & Initiative currently and really enjoy it. I hope to be able to buy and read the other books in the Pemberley Variation series.

TMJones said...

Hi Abigail,
I bought "From Lambton to Longbourn" and read it straight through as soon as I got it. Loved it! So, immediately I had to order all of your other published work. Loved all of them! I have read each of them 4 times each. Looking forward to "Bounds of Decorum" and "Morning Light"! Can't wait for Fall 2010!

Marilyn Brant said...

Good morning, everyone! I'm returning from a weekend wedding exhausted (but excited for the newly married couple :), and I just wanted to say an enthusiastic welcome (!!) to those new to Brant Flakes, send a happy wave back to Caroline and my returning friends (you're are all just wonderful...) and thank Abigail once again for her fascinating interview.

SO glad to hear you're enjoying the AustenFest!

Tiffany said...

Wow, I won something. This has not happened before. I shall have to try some of these out at the dinner party that I am holding in a few weeks for my birthday.

I would also be willing to make the ricotta cheese puffs. Since you asked nicely.

I did have a question for Abigail, and also perhaps Marilyn. As an author you have control over your story. Sort of.

Are you the kind of writer who has a character with a story to tell, or an idea and the characters kind of well up from the idea.

Also, do you have any non canon pairings, so to say. Do you ever realize that you would like 2 characters together better than the 2 that you already have. And do you change your story to fit that pairing.

Tina M. Russo said...

I am delighted to find this blog and all this great Austen info!!

I have some catching up to do.

Marilyn Brant said...

Oooh, Tiffany, you've asked a couple of excellent questions. I'm going to look forward to reading Abigail's responses to these, if she's able to pop back over here and answer...

But, for me, the character and the story concept are usually SO linked that they have to be developed together. In "According to Jane," for instance, my main character (Ellie) is a someone who's a little like Eliza Bennet, a little like Jane Austen and a little like me and my best friends :). When I came up with the premise--What would it be like for a young woman to get dating advice from Jane herself?--I imagined the recipient would have to be a character Jane could relate to, but she'd also have to be someone Jane would feel really *needs* guidance...

So, I thought of all the kinds of guys I'd dated (and all the relationship mistakes I made when I was in high school and college), and all the dating horror stories I'd heard from my friends, etc., and how all of us could've used some Austen wisdom...and I drew the major turning points of the book from some of these events. Then, I *highly* fictionalized them (!!) and folded them into what I felt were some of the key themes of "Pride & Prejudice" with a dash of "Persuasion"... All of this to say, I may have thought of the story idea first, but it was followed a split second later by the kind of character needed to fulfill that lead role and, until I developed her, I couldn't go too far into the story plotwise.

As for your second question, the short answer is yes!! In my first (never sold) novel, I have the heroine trying to decide between 2 men, and she didn't seem to like the one I'd plotted for her to end up with--big problem! If I were ever to revise that book (well, really, it would have to be rewritten from page one), I *would* have to change the story to fit that new pairing.

Whew! Can't believe I wrote all of that! Thanks for asking :).

AlisonB said...

Just finished "By Force of Instinct" on my Kindle and loved it! So happy to hear more Woods Hole stories on the way, I read Pemberly by the Sea and loved all the Cape detail. I am 2/3 way through Laurie Viera Rigler's "Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict" on my Kindle and am enjoying it as well. Love the AustenFest Marilyn!

Abigail said...

Those are great questions, Tiffany. I usually start out with a very general story idea. Pemberley by the Sea started out with two ideas: Elizabeth as a marine biologist in Woods Hole and Darcy as a writer who writes her "the letter" in a published book. Then the characters took over. Sometimes I feel like I'm taking dictation. The fastest way to writer's block for me is if I try to make a character do what I want instead of what he or she wants.

I've never had characters end up with different people. They've broken the rules - in Impulse & Initiative, Darcy and Elizabeth weren't supposed to have premarital sex, but when I got to that point in the book, I discovered that the characters as I'd written them wouldn't stop. In writing Pride & Prejudice variations, I can't imagine writing a story where Elizabeth and Darcy end up with someone else. That's a sacred pairing to me. Anybody else is fair game. :)

Barbie, I just got back from Woods Hole, but Shuckers was closed the night we tried to eat there because it was cold and rainy. But it's one of the places I always do have a drink, solely because I can't resist a microbrew called Nobska Light (and yes, it's a lite beer).

Brooke H said...

Abigail's books have been my favourites for some years now and I have read them all over and over again. I truely enjoy getting lost in her stories.
Abigail you truely know how to capture the romance between Darcy and Elizabeth. SIGH!!!
I have recently puchased a beautiful antique bookcase with a glase panel door that has a lock and key so I can safe keep my treasured books from little chocolate fingers. There is one whole shelf dedicated to your books alone. As patient as I try to be I always look forward to new post on 50 miles and your blog page and devour the stories too quickly. Thank you Abigail for creating such supremely wonderful stories you truely are an artist.


hthideman said...

I adore you Abigail. I actually won a bidding war on eBay to get a signed copy of Without Reserve. I couldn't find a copy anywhere and had to read it (it was the only one in the series I hadn't read), so I was determined to get a copy. I love the stories. I always wonder with Austen's books what would have happened if something else had occured. I can't wait for 2010 for the next one! I was wonder, have you ever thought of branching out to other Austen novels? Finding out what would have happened if Fanny Price had said yes to Crawford? What if Edward Ferrars asked Elinor to marry him depsite Lucy Steele? They're just things I wonder about sometimes. Thank you for being such a fabulous author!

Marilyn Brant said...

hthideman~thank you for visiting and commenting! I had such fun talking with you at B&N yesterday :), and I agree with you--I adore Abigail, too!!

BacktoCali said...

I love all your stories and enjoy re-reading them over and over again.