Before we get started today, I first wanted to thank everyone who took part in Monday's AustenFest kickoff with Syrie James and remind you that we'll be drawing the name of the winner of her novel on July 7th, along with all of the other books we're giving away during the festivities--about 10 of them at last count. So, visitors, please feel free to keep commenting on all the guest-author posts until the close of the contest. Everyone is still eligible to win books until then.
However, there was a much shorter window of opportunity for the winner of the first $10 B&N giftcard! I just drew that person's name from the list of people who have commented so far, and it's: LaShaunda!! (Congrats! Please email me at marilynbrant AT gmail DOT com and let me know your mailing address so I can send it to you!)
Also, simply because there were so many nice people stopping by who've embraced the party atmosphere and are enthusiastically celebrating Jane with us, I wanted to toss in another prize just for fun: a 4-pack Mount of Olives "Treasures Tea" collection (5 teabags each of flavors: Sweet Apple Spice, Soothing Chamomile, Jasmine Green and English Breakfast) along with 12 Ferrero Rondnoir dark chocolates...because, in my book, the two go together. And the winner of that prize is: Natalie (Congratulations to you, too! Please email me privately as well. :)
Today, I'm honored to have Kim Wilson visiting Brant Flakes. She's the author of two gorgeous nonfiction books, Tea with Jane Austen (Jones Books, 2004) and In the Garden with Jane Austen (Jones Books, 2008), the latter of which is up for a prestigious Regency World Award this year. (Voting goes until 6/30, btw, so visit the site to see all the nominees and to cast your votes...) The ceremony is to be held in Bath, England on Wednesday, July 8th. Good luck, Kim!
Both of Kim's books have gotten some fantabulous reviews, but the one that made my jaw drop was from Andrew Davies, screenwriter for our beloved 1995 version of Pride & Prejudice, which featured the handsome and unforgettable Colin Firth. Of In the Garden with Jane Austen, Davies wrote: "Wonderfully informative, full of detail, illustrated with ravishing photographs--a must for any Austen fan." Wow...
Delighted to have you here, Kim!
Can you tell us about your books? My most recent book, In the Garden with Jane Austen, is a tour through the sorts of gardens Jane Austen knew and loved, from the small cottage gardens of the poor to the gardens of the great estates such as Pemberley. It answers those questions we all have about the gardens in her books: What did the grounds at Pemberley really look like? What, exactly, was grown in the shrubbery where Mr. Knightley proposes to Emma? Why did Mrs. Norris have Fanny cut the roses? And why did the Bennet family have “a prettyish kind of a little wilderness” on their estate? I’ve included has touring information for the garden sites associated with the Austen family, as well as for those in the screen adaptations of the novels, and instructions for re-creating your own Austen garden. Tea with Jane Austen, my first book, tells how tea was taken in Austen’s time, using fun excerpts from her novels and letters. I also included some tasty teatime recipes from her era.
What's one chapter you especially loved writing/researching and why? The chapter on the gardens of the great estates in my garden book. Finding out what Pemberley would have looked like was so much fun. And once you realize what garden features were in the gardens of the rich, you see what everyone else was trying to imitate. It puts Mrs. Bennet’s hermitage in perspective.
Do you have a Writer's Fantasy--i.e., to be on the New York Times bestseller list in Nonfiction for 40 consecutive weeks, etc.? Well, that’s a lovely fantasy! More important to me, though, is to be respected in the Austen community. I put such effort into research and making sure the information I use is accurate, and I hope that’s appreciated by my readers.
Would your high school friends be surprised to discover you'd become an author? Probably not. I was pretty bookish in high school, a bluestocking in fact, to use a phrase from Austen’s time.
Do your neighbors/hometown acquaintances know you're a published author or did you just choose to tell those closest to you? I’ve only told my friends. My daughters tend to tell their friends, though, so people are starting to become aware. I don’t think they know what to make of it, though, because they’re used to seeing me at school meetings and the grocery store.
What's one piece of writing advice you've found valuable on your journey to publication? Strunk and White’s “Omit needless words.” I read so much from the 18th and early 19th centuries, and if I’m not careful I start to write in that manner. Jane Austen’s style is so refreshingly different from that of most of her contemporaries, though, that it provides a useful corrective.
Did you go on any special trips to research your books? For In the Garden with Jane Austen, I was in the happy position of having to travel to England to see the gardens for myself and take photos for the book. It was wonderful to have a really good excuse to tour all the Austen sites again at Chawton, Steventon, Godmersham, London, and Bath, as well as some new sites for me, such as Stoneleigh Abbey.
What might readers might be surprised to know about you? Probably that, although I mentally live in the Georgian and Regency periods, I’m really fond of science fiction.
Do you pay attention to book reviews? If so, has there been any particular review that made your heart do a little dance? I write my books for myself first, to answer the questions I’ve always had about life in Jane Austen’s time, but I find it reassuring to know that other people appreciate the answers I’ve found. I think my favorite review so far is by Andrew Davies. (*see wonderful quote above*) How could that not make me happy?
Writers are usually big readers too. How do you make time for reading and what are you reading at the moment? No matter what, I read in the evenings before bed. It’s a nice transition from the busy day. Right now I’m reading An Inebriated History of Britain, by Peter Haydon. It’s a fun look at the history of drinks and drinking in Great Britain.
What’s next for you? Is there a new nonfiction book in the pipeline? I’m working on several projects right now, but the first will probably be a children’s biography of Jane Austen.
Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale? I do freelance editing and ghostwriting, mostly on rather boring topics! I met the publisher of Jones Books at a JASNA luncheon and pitched my idea for Tea with Jane Austen to her, networking at its finest.
Any favorite movies you've seen? Ones you've watched over and over again? I love the Austen adaptations, of course, though each one has its flaws. I love old movies, especially Grant and Hepburn movies. "Arsenic and Old Lace" and "The Philadelphia Story" are probably my favorites. (Marilyn jumps in to say, Oh, I love "The Philadelphia Story," too...)
Did you have a writing mentor? If so, in what ways did he/she provide guidance? My favorite writing professor in college drilled us in writing in different voices and styles. It’s been really useful to be able to call on that.
What drew you to the subjects of your books? I wanted to know the answers to the questions I had about life in Jane Austen’s time, and the first subjects that drew my attention were two loves of mine: tea and gardens.
What was it about Jane Austen that first caught your interest? Her wicked wit.
We're fortunate because Kim is giving away a copy of In the Garden with Jane Austen to some lucky person who leaves a message on this post, so please take a moment to comment and, possibly, win. (Anybody living anywhere in the world is eligible. :) Again, the book drawings will be on July 7th, but if you leave a comment for Kim before the next guest-author interview is posted on Friday, you'll be entered to win the second of the four $10 B&N giftcards. I'll post that winner's name on 6/26...
Up Friday: Abigail Reynolds!