Wednesday, June 24, 2009

AustenFest: Kim Wilson

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!


Laurie Viera Rigler said...

Hi, Kim. What a fascinating interview. I love what you said about Austen's style being a "useful corrective." She was truly ahead of her time and an inspiration to all of us who aspire to her brilliant economy of words.

Marilyn Brant said...

Good morning, Kim!
I agree with Laurie. I've often wished I could sketch character with Austen's brevity and accuracy. Love your idea for a children's biography of J.A! How far into writing it are you?

Anonymous said...

OMG, I love gardens. This would be such a cool book to read. Thanks for the great interview!

Samantha A.

Anonymous said...

Kim, Your economy of words is surpassed only by the beauty of the pictures in your book. I could almost smell the roses.
Best of luck on the Regency World awards.

Judy Klug

Bloggin BB said...

How did I not know about your first book (and now the second), Kim? They sound great! I'm adding them to my Jane reading list--which is ever so long! Thanks so much for the interview!

Simone Elkeles said...

Kim, it was great reading your interview! I wasn't a Austen fan until I got to be friends with Marilyn. I love reading books in the Regency era. They're my favorite!

mystwood said...

Hi Kim,

I've always wondered what gardens looked like in Austen's time and what plants grow in England. I can't wait to get a copy of your book to find out!

My writing chapter recently had a presentation on tea in Jane Austen's time. The presenter used your book, Tea with Jane Austen, as a source. I already ordered a copy of the book, because her presentation was fascinating!

Best of luck with your writing,
Laurie Powers

Debra St. John said...

Hi Kim and Marilyn! Another great interview. I love gardens, so "In the Garden with Jane Austen" sounds delightful. Lucky you to have been able to travel to England to do some first-hand research. And, ditto, ladies, on "The Philadelphia Story". I'm a big Jimmy Stewart fan!

Caroline said...

Hi Kim and Marilyn, that was a really great interview.

Kim, your book sounds wonderful. I was lucky in 2002 to travel to England and see what a gorgeous country it is. I loved the thatch-covered cottages surrounded by colorful splashes of flowers. I must have your book!!

I'm also a photographer and my mouth is watering thinking about all the beautiful gardens shot in your prospective. So neat you were able to do such a trip and then turn it into a book.

I'm in awe!


Tiffany said...

Reading period literature, and then writing -- it is odd how ones writing style changes to suit what they one is writing. Good to know that it happens to more people than just me.

Anonymous said...

I just wish I had had a professor who'd required me to write in different voices. But in my own voice, I say, "Tea please...with milk, not lemon, and in the garden!" And so I get two delights at one time. And if Kim Wilson could join me, that would make everything perfect!

Pat said...

I hope you have marvelous success, not only with your current books, but with the biography. I had such a weakness for them in elementary school. They were bound in blue with silhouettes rather than pictures spattered through the pages. I read them all and loved them. Louisa May Alcott, Dolly Madison, Benjamine Franklin, etc., all written for a little gal in the fourth grade. *g*

Marlyn said...

I love Jane Austen, and roses. At last count, I have 27 rose bushes in my garden. I would LOVE this book!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kim,
I just found your blog from a link on Abigail Reynolds' blog, an author I truly love. I'm so happy to have found all this new information, as I have a real interest in what life was like in Regency England. To that end, I enjoyed the time travel in Laurie Viera Rigler's book, and Abigail's writing gives a realistic look into what the practice of medicine was like back then. I've taken this so far as to buy 2 antiques, 2 writing boxes because I want to own something that was in use at that time.
I'm looking forward to reading your book and some of the others recommended.
Leslie Emer

Lois said...

Hi and great blog posting! :) Alas, I missed the first book, but hopefully won't miss this one. :) And love the sound of them, the subjects are different, and would love to know more from them! :)


Marilyn Brant said...

Hello to all! Just wanted to drop in and say thanks to everyone who's read and commented so far (and, also, a thank you to those who visited but prefer lurking :). It's great to have such lovely guests and visitors sharing in the fun!

To Lois and anyone else who might wonder--you did NOT miss the first book! The drawings for ALL of the books will be on July 7th, so you still have time to comment on each guest author's post, if you'd like to!

Eliza said...

Great interview! I didn't think I had much interest in gardens of any strip but Ms. James makes them sound very interesting.

Eliza said...

Ack! I mean Ms. Wilson! I've got summer school brain.

Kim Wilson said...

Hi, everyone! Wow, what kind words--I'm blushing! I'm so pleased to meet so many garden, tea, and (most important) Jane Austen lovers. Marilyn, thanks for including me in your wonderful Austen Fest--you have some great readers. To answer your question, I'm not that far into writing the children's biography of Jane Austen. I'm doing the fun part right now--the research. My other project for the summer is to put my website together (thanks for the help, Marilyn!), so I hope I'll have some fun stuff for people to see there soon.

Robin said...

It's so nice to meet you, Kim! Congratulations on your latest book - the cover is gorgeous!

Thanks for the introduction, Marilyn! Once again this was a great interview that I really enjoyed reading.

natalie said...

I am looking forward to reading both of your books. I love finding new tea houses, especially if they provide the opportunity to also enjoy a beautiful garden! Best wishes for you new release. I will tell all my Austen-fanatic friends.

Dina said...

Wow, this book sound great, maybe while reading it, we'll feel like we're with Jane Austen.

Aimee said...

Wonderful interview. Makes me want to drink tea despite the fact that it's near 100 degrees out. Can't wait to add all these books to my summer reading list.

Lizzy said...

I saw your post at another forum about this. Thank you for alerting us Austen addicts.

I'm sorry to missed Abigail's by one day. I do have some of her books already, but signed copies!!! And I love to win anything.

I am amazed at the multi-talent multi-facet multi-tasking aspects of many writers' lives, and reading Abigail's profession (active still) was fascinating and intimidating in that she does both well.

When I get a chance (and no kids clamoring for attention) I'm going to come back and visit with the other author's interviews. Gardenings? Another creative outlet that goes with JA, of course.

And I am very curious about your own book. Congratulation on publishing it. Will put it on my list. Amazon and I are good buddies.


Luthien84 said...

I enjoy reading your interview here, Kim. Unfortunately, I can't get your books in my country except through special order in bookstores here or buy it online. Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to read your book in future when it's available.

Anonymous said...

Kim, these sound fascinating! I was unfamiliar with your books, but they sound perfect for a friend who is an avid tea and Austen fan.

Stargazer said...

What a wonderful book, and the gardens are just a bonus! I can't wait to read this one!