Thursday, August 31, 2006
The release of a new book is always exciting, and today sees the release of Mr Knightley's Diary. I was expecting the US release date to be in October, but Maria noticed it's already listed on Amazon.com, with Amazon offering to send readers an alert when it's released in the US - thanks for spotting this, Maria, and for letting me know!
*I've just noticed (September 1) that Mr Knightley's Diary is now available in the US through Amazon.com
Monday, August 28, 2006
I think it was a good idea to do it in episodes. It's given everybody something to look forward to and the members have seemed to enjoy it.
But I can't do it again, I don't think, it takes a lot of time and effort to write a book, well it does for me, anyway. So when we've finished the serialisation, I'm going to get a pdf copy of the book done and lodge it in the archives for any new members to pick up when they join. It does mean that new members can still get a copy of the book!
Her mother, the dowager
She watched while Lucy lowered black lashes over clear, blue eyes and then lifted them again, looking straight at the gentleman who was presently complimenting her. It had the desired effect, and the gentleman’s smile became considerably warmer.
A movement made
“I think the orchestra is about to strike up.” His voice cut through the babel surrounding her with no difficulty. “My dance, I think?”
You can join my newsletter group by going here:
and clicking the "Join this group" button.
The benefits of being a member include receiving the Historical Novels Review four times a year and this in itself is a good reason to join. I've discovered a lot of very useful research books this way, as well as fiction and non fiction books to read for pleasure. Some I would have come across anyway, but many more would have been missed without the HNS to bring them to my attention. Other benefits include a Solander magazine, with its wide of variety of interesting articles on all aspects of history, and an annual conference.
Members come from all around the world. To find out more, click here.
But back to Austen without Opprobrium. If you want to read the full article, you'll find it on my website, but here's an extract.
Q: How did you keep the tone true to the original?
A: I read Pride and Prejudice several times before starting work, once because I happened to be reading it again for pleasure, once to make detailed notes on names, places, events etc, and once so that I could ask myself, ‘How would Darcy view this scene? What would he be thinking and feeling here?’
"I then started writing. To keep the tone true to the original, I looked at the kind of vocabulary Jane Austen used and I made sure I used her vocabulary in Darcy’s Diary. For example Bingley often says ‘Upon my honour’, and Lydia is fond of saying ‘Lord!’. I didn’t use contractions – it’s, he’s etc - because Austen very rarely uses them, and I often deliberately mimicked her sentence structure in order to provide a similar flow. At the same time, I bore in mind that I was writing Darcy’s Diary, and that Darcy is not as lively as either Lizzy – whose point of view we mainly see in Pride and Prejudice – or Austen herself, so I tried to make the writing a little stiffer than in Pride and Prejudice, particularly on occasions when Darcy was feeling especially proud or arrogant."
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Just to say hello to everyone who reads our blogs. I am sorry it has been a while since I was able to give you another entry from the journal of Anne, my regency lady. Computer problems but I have transferred to my laptop now and hope to be back sooner next time.
I have a new Regency trilogy coming out with Mills and Boon , starting the end of this year. It is called The Hellfire Mysteries and charts the search for a missing girl through the stories of the people looking for her.
The first one is called An Improper Companion
Papa gave me fifty pounds for my pin money and a beautiful set of pearls that had belonged to his own Mama when she was a girl. 'Your grandmother wanted you to have these for your come out, Anne. She would have been proud to see you wear them.'
'Papa! you are so good to me!' I cried. I was overwhelmed when i saw that the box contained not only a string of creamy pearls but also eardrops and a bangle set with pearsl and a tiara for my hair. 'These are wonderful. I do not know how to thank you.'
'You must behave properly as you always do,' he said with a smile 'and then I shall need no thanks.'
I kissed him and he gave me one of his special hugs. When I showed Rosie my treasures later, she was a little envious, but I gave her the seed pearl necklace that Mama had once given me and she kissed me and said I was the best of sister.
Paul told me that he will miss me when I go to London, but some of his friends have started to call and he is able to walk out with them, though he cannot yet ride his horse. I believe Mr Symonds brought his sister Hester to call this morning and Paul seemed to like her. Perhaps she will visit him more often when I am away.
Tomorrow we go to London. Our trunks are packed and we had our friends to dinner yesterday evening, because it may be some weeks before we are home again. I wish Paul and Papa could come with us, but they are quite happy to stay at home, and of course Rosie is too young to come out yet. I have promised to write and tell her everything.
Paul is having visitors all the time. He is so much better and it seems a long time ago when we all thought he might die. He says that he thinks Hester Symonds is a very good sort of girl. I wonder what he means?
What shall I have to tell you, dear journal, next time I am able to write?
Saturday, August 26, 2006
With some trepidation I am writing my first blog and welcome the opportunity to introduce the LOVEDAY series. The Loveday books have been described as sweeping Cornish family dramas in the tradition of Poldark. ‘Rich in drama and passion, with the atmosphere and flavour of eighteenth century Cornwall. ADAM LOVEDAY is a story of family relationships that transcends time, and heralds the emergence of an exciting new storyteller.’ North Cornwall Advertiser.
That review was rather a tall order to live up to. The series first began as a trilogy with the books ADAM LOVEDAY, THE LOVEDAY FORTUNES and THE LOVEDAY TRIALS. They introduced three sets of cousins from diverse backgrounds. The Lovedays are known for their wild blood, swashbuckling adventures and unconventional romances. They are all driven by their passion. Twins Adam and St John were the main characters. They are the sons of Edward Loveday, gentleman shipbuilder. Adam is in the navy and passionate about designing new ships to be built in the family shipyard. St John heir to the yard and estate of Trevowan is a dissolute wastrel. The rivalry between them is intense and on several occasions brings the family close to ruin. The second family of cousins are the children of Edward’s brother Joshua who after a wild youth became a parson. Japhet the eldest of Joshua’s sons is a loveable rakehell adored by women and who walks a fine line to keep the right side of the law; his brother Pious Peter wrestles with the demons of his passionate nature that threaten to destroy him, their sister Hannah needs all her resilience and courage to overcome the tragedy ahead of her. The third cousin is Thomas, the son of a banker in London with the dream of being a playwright.
Once the characters were established they took on a life of their own and with backgrounds of the navy, shipbuilding, privateering, farming, smuggling, the London theatre and underworld, French Revolution, a Virginian tobacco plantation, the war with France and the early years of the penal colony in New South Wales there was plenty of scope for the family to use their passions, courage and talents in a multitude of adventures. They are also not without their enemies who would bring them down and good does not always prevail over evil.
The popularity of the first three books led to the trilogy expanding to a series. Letters and emails from readers showed me that not only did they adore Adam but Japhet was also a great favourite. The next books THE LOVEDAY SCANDALS, THE LOVEDAY HONOUR and THE LOVEDAY PRIDE centred on Japhet’s life where a disastrous liaison leads to his arrest for highway robbery on his wedding day, his trial and time in Newgate and transportation to Australia.
And if the men of the Loveday family are adventurers the women are equally passionate and ready to fight for their place in a man’s world.
It has been a wonderful rites of passage for me to develope all traits of the characters' personalities within the series. My pyschology classes certainly paid off here. Too often the characters dictate their adventures and it often feels that I am an innocent bystander in the writing process as their stories unfold.
The latest book THE LOVEDAY LOYALTY is published in paperback on the 28th August. More about this next time.
All the books are available from Amazon and for more information checkout my website click here which has details of my other books and names I write under.
' No one can now say "breeding" or "with child" or "lying-in" without being thought indelicate. "Colic" and "bowels" are exploded words. "Stomach" signifies everything.'
According to Venitia it was around this time, too, that babies started to be found under gooseberry bushes or dropped by the stork, whilst trousers, if they had to be spoken of at all, were referred to as 'unmentionables', 'inexpressibles' or 'ineffables'.
A few years later Leigh Hunt observed: 'So rapid are the changes that take place in people's notions of what is decorous that not only has the word 'smock' been displaced by the word 'shift' but even that harmless expression has been set aside for the French word 'chemise', and at length not even this word, it seems, is to be mentioned, nor the garment itself alluded to, by any decent writer.'
On the whole I think I preferred the earlier days of the Regency. I suspect that they were a lot more fun!
Friday, August 25, 2006
This week I was told that I had been nominated for a Single Titles Reviewers' Choice Award for 'A SUITABLE HUSBAND' which was good news indeed. I didn't win, but it was exciting waiting for the results to be announced.
Also I received my copies of 'A DISSEMBLER'. It is a special moment opening the box and seeing the book for the first time. I immediately read it to check for printers' errors and other mistakes. It is amazing that after so much checking that two or three still get into the final print. It is also quite different to read the novel as a book instead of in manuscript form. I can finally read the book as a reader and not as the author and I'm delighted to say that, so far, I've enjoyed all three, although there are always bits that I think I could have improved upon.
Next week, Saturday 2nd September, is my 'Meet the Author' event in Evans, on Great Bentley Green, where the book is set. If anyone is in the area please call in and introduce yourself.
It's also 'Village Show' day on the Green and there is a dog show and various other stalls as well as the fruit and vegetables in the marquee.
"Dangerous Waters is a compelling and beguiling historical romance which will hold you in a thrall!
Dangerous Waters is a stunning work of fiction. Jane Jackson has written an engaging story which readers will find impossible to put down. She draws you into the story from the very beginning due to meticulous research which will simply take your breath way, but which is interwoven into the story so well that it never seems didactic, just extremely fascinating. Her readers will admire Phoebe, a strong, courageous and independent heroine and fall in love with the valiant Jowan.
Gripping, enthralling and unputdownable, Dangerous Waters is historical romance at its absolute best!"
Dangerous Waters is available from Amazon or you can find it in your local library.
As if that wasn't enough good news, my new novel, Chain Garden, is out this month. It's not a Regency / Georgian novel, so I won't be blogging about it here, but you can find details on the What's New in Women's Fiction blog.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
If you are interested in Jane Austen's books and the many lessons we can learn from her fabulous writing, it's not too late to join in the online course I'm running at www.learningfromjane.blogspot.com As well as discussions on such topics as whether Henry Crawford is the archetypal rake, we also have some rather luscious pictures to share! I'll hope to see you there!
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
One of the locations for Mansfield Park will be Newby Hall
in Yorkshire. So if you're in the area, why not pay it a visit? But you'll have to go soon, because the house will be closed to the public from September 5 until October 1, so that filming can take place.
Newby House is the home of Mr and Mrs Richard Compton. It's a late 17th century house, built under the guidance of Sir Christopher Wren with much of its interior being designed by Robert Adam.
Its administrator, Stuart Gill, said: "Newby Hall is proud to be associated with the this prestigious production. The Robert Adam interiors and decoration are exactly right for the period and will make a stunning backdrop to the Jane Austen novel."
To read more about it in the Yorkshire Post, click here
Saturday, August 19, 2006
We last saw our intrepid heroine feigning a toothache so that she would have an excuse to go to London for her interview as a companion.
‘I’ve been thinking,’ said Mama. ‘When you go down to London you had better stay with your Aunt Jane. It’s too far for you to go there and back in a day, and I don’t want you staying in any disreputable hostels.’
‘Very well, Mama,’ I said dutifully.
Do not like the idea of staying in a disreputable hostel myself, especially not when I have to meet Lord Winters the morning afterwards.
Do not want to give him fleas.
Went round to Melissa’s house.
‘You have to come to London with me the day after tomorrow,’ I said. ‘I’m going to Lord Winters’s London house.’
Melissa was suitably impressed and has promised to go with me. Have primed her with the story about the toothache.
Ten past 3
Melissa is a true friend. She went down to the kitchen and told Mrs Crumble, the cook, that she’d dreamt about her chocolate cake. Mrs Crumble rewarded her with a large piece of said chocolate cake. We took it into the garden and ate it together.
Looked sorrowful as Mama and Susan tucked into dinner. Toyed with a potato and refused a piece of cake.
Went round to Melissa’s house and had a pile of roast beef sandwiches in her room, followed by syllabub.
Melissa and I travelled to London on the stage coach, accompanied by Ruby. A couple of dashing soldiers sat inside the coach with us and pinched our bottoms when we left.
Am not an old maid, am a spring chicken. Have the bruised bottom to prove it.
Arrived at Aunt Jane’s. She looked at me blankly as the butler showed me in.
‘You did get my letter?’ I asked.
‘Letter? What letter?’ asked Aunt Jane.
Noticed the unopened letter on the mantelpiece behind her and nodded towards it.
Aunt Jane looked at it as though it was a pink and white striped albatross which had flown in unexpectedly through the window.
‘It’s from me,’ I explained helpfully. ‘I’ve come to visit the dentist. I have toothache. Mama said I should stay with you.’
‘Oh, yes of course, Charlotte, I’m sure you’re very welcome,’ said Aunt Jane, recovering herself. ‘You’ll have to excuse me, I’m all to pieces at the moment. Your cousin Eliza has been giving me problems.’
My cousin Eliza, Aunt Jane’s only daughter, is the Black Sheep of the family.
‘She’s always been wild, but she’s fallen into very bad company recently and things have gone from bad to worse. I’ve had to send her into the country to stay with your grandmother.’
Tried to look sorrowful whilst wondering what Eliza had done this time. Felt this was not the moment to ask.
‘Well, well, we’d better find you and Melissa a room.’
She rang the bell and the housekeeper, grumbling about never knowing what was going on, and how was she to run a household when no one gave her any warning of guests, took us upstairs.
Washed hair in lavender scented water then sat in front of fire whilst it dried. Put it in rags so it will be full of ringlets in the morning.
12 o’clock midnight
Am too excited to sleep.
Am too excited to sleep.
Am too excited to . . . oh, I did.
5 past 7
Rang the bell for Ruby and instructed her to fill the bath.
‘Why do you want a bath for, just to visit the dentist?’ asked Ruby suspiciously.
‘I’m not going to visit the dentist,’ I said, taking Ruby into my confidence. ‘I’m going to have an interview for a job as a companion.’
‘So that’s it. I can’t say as I blame you, but you won’t like it. It’s not all handsome earls, you know. It’s crotchety old ladies and hard work.’
Ruby does not know any better, poor thing. She has never read The Earl’s Secret.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
This time, it isn't a letter from one of Austen's novels, but a letter written to Jane Austen by Andrew Lang, from Letters to Dead Authors. London & New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1892: 64-72.
The full etext of this letter can be found at Molland's
a brilliant site for Jane Austen fans.
"You are not a very popular author: your volumes are not found in gaudy covers on every bookstall; or, if found, are not perused with avidity by the Emmas and Catherines of our generation"
Ah, how things change!
But then Lang goes on to say, "I scarce remember more than one lady of title, and but very few lords (and these unessential) in all your tales. Now, when we all wish to be in society, we demand plenty of titles in our novels"
Ah, how they stay the same!
He goes on to give some tongue in cheek advice:
"With Lydia for a heroine you might have gone far; and, had you devoted three volumes, and the chief of your time, to the passions of Kitty, you might have held your own, even now, in the circulating library. How Lyddy, perched on a corner of the roof, first beheld her Wickham ; how, on her challenge, he climbed up by a ladder to her side; how they kissed, caressed, swung on gates together, met at odd seasons, in strange places, and finally eloped: all this might have been put in the mouth of a jealous elder sister, say Elizabeth, and you would not have been less popular than several favourites of our time. Had you cast the whole narrative into the present tense, and lingered lovingly over the thickness of Mary's legs and the softness of Kitty's cheeks, and the blonde fluffiness of Wickham's whiskers, you would have left a romance still dear to young ladies."
Ah, yes, the blonde fluffiness of Wickham's whiskers! What a pity Lang never wrote the book!
Monday, August 14, 2006
I imagine we all know that moment when our precious (or indeed precocious) creation leaves the protective cocoon of anonymity to be launched into publication.
The first of my four set against a backdrop of World War Two, Annie Groves, sagas, Goodnight Sweetheart (ISBN 0-00-720963-0 Harpercollins) made its own mad dash for the shelves of the nation's booksellers on 7th August. What will happen to it now that it's there is already causing me sleepless nights. Will it languish - virginal and untouched? Will it catch the eye of some passing bold purchaser and be whisked off for hopefully mutual pleasure? Will it suffer the ignominy of rejection, not pretty enough or clever enough to be invited to join the ranks of the 'sold'?
Just thinking about the above makes me want to clutch my book to my bosom like any anxious parent asking those heartfelt questions. Did I do enough for my characters? Did I instil them with confidence and charm? Did I give their story that all imortant page turning quality? Will my research stand up to close inspection?
In other words will my 'baby'sell? Will it earn out? And probably most important of all, will I get another contract? (vbg)
Read one of my earlier sagas by buying the new book on a bogof* at Asda which includes 'Connie's Courage' the middle book of the trio of Pride Family books.
Annie Groves/Penny Jordan
*bogof - buy one, get one free
To buy Goodnight Sweetheart from Amazon, click here
Friday, August 11, 2006
ESTIMATES OF PERSONS WHO ARE SUPPOSED TO SUPPORT THEMSELVES IN AND NEAR THE METROLOLIS BY PURSUITS EITHER CRIMINAL - ILLEGAL - OR IMMORAL.
Who could resist such a tantalizing title? Naturally I read on. In about 1797 there were 115,000 persons engaged in criminal pursuits within the vicinity of London. These were broken down into various categories, and I list below the ones that most captured my imagination.
Thieves, Pilferers, and Embezzlers who live partly by depredation, and partly by their own occasional labour. 8,000
Then there were - A class of suspicious Characters, who live partly by pilfering and passing Base Money - ostensibly Costard Mongers, Ass Drivers, Dustmen, Chimney Sweepers, Rabbit Sellers, Fish and Fruit Sellers, Flash Coachmen, Bear Baiters, Dog Keepers (but in fact Dog Stealers). 1,000
Or my personal favourite - Spendthrifts - Rakes - Giddy Young Men inexperienced and in the pursuit of criminal pleasures - Profligate, Loose and dissolute Characters, vitiated themselves, and in the daily practice of seducing others to intemperance, lewdness, debauchery, gambling, and excess; estimated at: 3,000
But by far the largest entry, 50,000 of them, representing almst half of the total, was: Unfortunate Females of all descriptions, who support themselves chiefly or wholly by prostitution.
Could it be that the fairer sex possessed less talent when it came to living by deception, or was it the lack of opportunity to hone their neferacious skills which caused them to turn in such numbers to the 'oldest profession'?
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Those interested in the Regency period are invited to the book launch party of Regency Recollections: Captain Gronow's Guide to Life in London and Paris by Captain Gronow, edited by Christopher Summerville.
The launch takes place at the Pan Bookshop, Fulham Road, London at 7.00 pm on Thursday 17th August. All fans of the Regency period are welcome.
Captain Rees Howell Gronow was a dandy, a debtor, a duellist and a raconteur who lived the high life in Regency London and Paris. He was also a talented writer and his memoirs form the liveliest picture of Regency society ever produced.
A contemporary noted that Gronow 'committed the greatest follies, without in the slightest disturbing the points of his shirt collar.' An epitome of style, the personification of the man about town, he devoted his life to fashionable and exciting pursuits. And he lived in exciting times. He was a Waterloo veteran, knew the obnoxious Prince Regent, mixed with the imperious Beau Brummell, was a friend to both Byron and Shelley, and, generally, was at the very heart of high society. Inevitably, Gronow's lively memoir is inhabited by a cast of belles, beau sabreurs, courtesans, dandies, duellists, eccentrics, gamblers, heroes, millionaires, mistresses, matriarchs, and more.
As a debtor seeking refuge in Paris, Gronow would produce these astonishing anecdotes which remain an outstanding source for historians. This edition presents Gronow's Regency recollections in an accessible form, aimed at the general reader as much as the aficionado. Here, all the fascinating details of Regency life put on their gaudy show: how to get invited to a ball, how to fight a duel, how to make a successful elopement, how to win (and just as importantly, how to lose) at the gambling table, how to wear the right trousers. It is more than a manual to Regency style, it is a record of a life well lived and a life brilliantly remembered.
Christopher Summerville is a historian and writer specialising in the early nineteenth century. He lives in York.
ISBN 1 905043 07 4 240
More details from the publisher, Ravenhall Books.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
At last! After waiting so long the finished cover for my new book 'A DISSEMBLER' - out at the end of the month - has arrived. I love it- it's by the same artist as my first book- 'THE UNCONVENTIONAL MISS WALTERS'- and Mr Hale has said that, in future, I can keep this artist, David Young. I sent Victorian photographs of the actual places where the book is set and he worked from these.
I have already sent photographs of St Osyth Priory, where the second in the Great Bentley trilogy is set. 'THE MESALLIANCE' was sold to Hale in May and is not due out until February 2007. I have not seen any roughs for this cover yet- in fact I've not even had the copy edits. I shall post the cover as soon as it comes.
Monday, August 07, 2006
The RWA Conference kicks off with a book signing to raise money for charity. This year five hundred authors were signing their books in the huge hotel ballroom and we raised a record sixty thousand dollars plus for literacy charities.
The following day the seminars started, ranging from Jo Beverley’s amusing and informative talk on how to choose appropriate names for your characters and the way these can influence the story, to what editors of the various publishing houses are looking for. The word on historicals was that they were looking for outstanding stories that are dark and sexy.
There was a huge buzz about the conference as so many aspiring and published authors got together to exchange creative ideas. The keynote speaker, New York Times Bestselling author Christina Dodd, encouraged all authors to believe in themselves in their search for publishing success.
The evenings were taken up with parties and social events, culminating on the final evening in the black tie event, the RITA Award Ceremony. One author described this as the romance world’s equivalent of the Academy Awards. It was a fun, glamorous and glitzy occasion. The RITA for best Regency romance was won by Diane Gaston for her book A Reputable Rake and she looked absolutely thrilled as she held the gold RITA statuette and sipped her celebratory champagne.
Between conference sessions I was able to play truant a little and slip out to see something of Atlanta, as I didn’t want to travel all that way and not see anything of the city. We visited the house where Margaret Mitchell had written Gone with the Wind and sat on her veranda absorbing some inspiration! We also went to Atlanta’s glorious botanical gardens. It was an exhausting but thoroughly enjoyable trip. I wanted to upload some pictures of the trip but at the moment the system won't let me. Maybe later!
DECEIVED - HQN Books - July 2006
Sunday, August 06, 2006
As promised, here is an extract from Mr Knightley's Diary.
In it, Mr Knightley finds himself dissatisfied with Frank Churchill without realizing why he has taken such a dislike to him.
Monday March 8th
After a day’s work I was ready to enjoy the evening. I arranged for the carriage to be brought round in good time. I would not have taken it for myself, as I prefer to walk or ride, but I was glad to be able to show Miss Bates some attention, and to safeguard the health of her niece.
‘Well, this is travelling in style, is it not, Jane?’ asked Miss Bates as we drove to the Coles’s house.
Miss Fairfax, thus appealed to, said it was, but she continued to be in low spirits. It is perhaps not to be expected that the Highbury air could do her any good in March, but when the weather improves, then I hope to see an improvement in her health.
We arrived. I helped the Bateses out but I did not immediately follow them inside, as Emma arrived just behind me.
As she stepped out of the carriage, I thought I had never seen her look better. Her gown could be glimpsed beneath her pelisse, and I could see that it was new. I noticed that her hair was done in a different style, and I was disappointed to think that it was all in compliment to Frank Churchill.
‘This is coming as you should,’ she said in her nonsensical way, as she looked at my carriage appreciatively, ‘like a gentleman. I am quite glad to see you.’
I shook my head and laughed, saying: ‘How lucky that we should arrive at the same moment; for, if we had first met in the drawing-room, I doubt whether you would have discerned me to be more of a gentleman than usual. You might not have distinguished how I came by my look or manner.’
‘Yes I should; I am sure I should,’ she said serenely.
I could not help my eyes following her as we went in, and I saw that the Coles had gone out of their way to please her. She was received with a cordial respect which could not but gratify her, and she was given all the consequence she could wish for. When the Westons arrived, their brightest smiles were for her, and Mr Weston’s son went straight to her side.
I wanted to like him, but I could not. Insufferable puppy! To go to London for a haircut! And then to go straight away to Emma, and ignore the rest of the party!
I did not want to watch the two of them, but I found I could not help myeself. He is of an age with her, he is handsome and charming, and what is more, the Westons wish the match. I have long suspected it, and now I am sure of it. They look upon her already as a daughter-in-law. But I cannot abide the thought of Emma being married to Frank Churchill!
To a good man, yes, one who knows her in all her moods, who can laugh at her follies and rejoice in her virtues; who will not allow her to give in to her worst instincts; one who knows her, and who, knowing her, would still love her, and would love her as she should be loved.
And that man is not Frank Churchill.
I spent the rest of the evening in an unhappy state and paid little attention to the conversation over dinner. Elton and his interesting situation were talked over; Miss Fairfax’s new pianoforte was discussed; and Emma talked all the time to Frank Churchill.
What could he have to say to her that was so amusing? She seemed to value his every word. I heard some mention of Weymouth, but nothing that seemed to warrant such close attention.
I was glad when dinner came to an end. The ladies left us, and the talk turned to politics. Frank Churchill took no part in the discussion. As I watched him, I could not help thinking that there was something unsettled about him, something that did not ring true.
He was very taken with Emma, but I thought his feelings were shallow and immature.
The talk moved on to parish business.
‘I can have nothing of interest to add,’ he said, standing up, ‘and so I will go and join the ladies. Perhaps I might be able to entertain them.’
Weston looked pleased at this gallantry, and Cole remarked, when he had left the room: ‘An agreeable young man.’
That was not my view of him, but I did not say so.
When we had finished with parish business, we moved through to the drawing-room, and I saw that he was sitting next to Emma. On her being spoken to by Mr Cole, however, his eyes wandered to Miss Fairfax. I hoped he might be switching his affections, but no such thing. As soon as Emma spoke to him, he was all attention again.
To turn my thoughts from this gloomy scene, I engaged Harriet in conversation, for she was sitting by herself. I asked her what she had been reading, and she told me she had been reading a romance. She looked nervously at Emma as she said so, and a further question elicited the information that she had been reading it at Mrs Goddard’s and not at Hartfield.
She talked about the book intelligently, however, and it was clear she had given it much thought.
I saw Emma glance at me several times, and look concerned. She supposed I was finding her little friend wanting. But Harriet is much improved, and there is a sweetness to her nature that will always recommend her to people of sense. She does not fly off to London for a hair cut on a whim.
Mr Knightley's Diary can be preordered from Amazon by clicking here. It will be out at the end of August in the UK, and October in the US.
Friday, August 04, 2006
My work in progress has a stage coach theme with the heroine running a coaching company and virtually every male character either driving stages or their own private drags - the big carriages that the famous Four Horse Club used.
I can ride a horse, but I've never tried to drive one, so I thought this was an essential piece of research. I persuaded my long-suffering husand - who has never been near a horse - to have a go too, and off we went to deepest Suffolk.
The stables we went to had not one, but two, real mail coaches, a genuine private drag (shown in the picture) and lots of other gigs and goodies. This was great - there is absolutely no better way to work out if your hero can seduce your heroine in his drag than climbing in and trying the seats out. Along the way I discovered the cords in the ceiling of the drag that allowed gentlemen to hang up their top hats by the brims and explored the pockets in the doors, measured the headroom and found out how to climb up onto the box.
All this was theoretical research. Then we were introduced to our far more modest carriages and had to harness up without strangling either ourselves or our horses with yards of incomprehensible leather.
I had innocently expected to be driving round a field, but off we went straight onto the road. I discovered that my horse was fearless with tractors, cars and barking dogs but considered sheep rather more dangerous than tigers.
But what was far more worrying to someone used to riding, was that all the contact you have with a horse is the reins. It's a long way in front if you want to talk to it, you can't shift your weight in the saddle or use your legs or seat. Managing the reins one handed was a strain until I learned how not to get them into a knot and I could relax a bit and work out what to do with the whip (nothing if possible!) and how to loop a rein, just as Heyer's heroes do so dashingly.
Back in the stables after two hours I was so stiff I could hardly get down - and discovered to my shame that my motorcycle-riding husband was in far less pain and had found it much easier without all the riding reflexes to suppress.
So, if you get the chance, give it a try, but watch out for sheep!
If any Jane Austen fans would like a day out this weekend, then why not go to Stoneleigh Abbey? Stoneleigh Abbey is in Kenilworth, Warwickshire. For details of how to get there, click here
Jane Austen Weekend at Stoneleigh Abbey
5th & 6th August
A special celebratory weekend. Guides will be in Georgian costume and Jane Austen tours will take place at 11:00am, 12:30pm, 2:30pm and 3:30pm. On each day Gaye King* will give a talk on Jane Austen’s connection with Stoneleigh in the Gilt Hall at 1:00pm lasting approximately one hour, spaces will be limited to 80 people per day.
The Abbey’s tea room will be open throughout the weekend selling cream teas.
*Gaye King has published several articles based on her extensive research into the relationship between the Austen family and the Leighs of Adlestrop, including her discovery of documentary evidence in the Leigh family archives confirming Jane Austen’s visit to Stoneleigh.
Standard tour ticket £6.50
Inclusive ticket £12.50 (tour, talk & cream tea).
It looks like a wonderful event.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
I spent last weekend in London with a group of Georgette Heyer fans, following up Heyer and Regency connections in the capital. I met some wonderful, interesting people with a wealth of knowledge on history and Heyer. Members of the group came from Canada, USA and Australia as well as England. We had a super time living the high life during London's heatwave, the only small cloud being the lack of air-conditioning in our hotel (however, since we were there to experience Regency life, we shouldn't complain about the lack of one modern convenience)
We visited the Regency exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, looked at the magnificent paintings and interiors at the Wallace Collection (including a superb display of snuff boxes) and enjoyed a wonderful tour of Spencer House. We dined well, with dinner at Rule's (which was an oyster eating house in Regency times), high tea at Durrants hotel and lunch in a swish restaurant in Piccadilly.
On the Sunday we paid homage to Beau Brummell at his statue on Jermyn Street and even walked up and down St James's Street, a thing no self-respecting Regency lady would dream of doing. It was a weekend of sheer indulgence, and gave me lots more ideas for novels!
Gentlemen in Question – pub. July 2006 by Robert Hale Ltd
In a previous blog I promised to post more information about Robert Southey, whose portrait is used on the cover of Mr Knightley's Diary.
Robert Southey was born in 1774. He was one of the 'Lake Poets', marrying Edith, the sister of Coleridge's wife, and becoming Poet Laureate in 1813.
The following extract is taken from Reminisces of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey by Joseph Cottle
"One morning shortly after, Robert Lovell called on me, and introduced Robert Southey. Never will the impression be effaced, produced on me by this young man. Tall, dignified, possessing great suavity of manners; an eye piercing, with a countenance full of genius, kindliness, and intelligence, I gave him at once the right hand of fellowship, and to the moment of his decease, that cordiality was never withdrawn."
He wrote a wide range of poems. Perhaps the one which will most readily be recognised by today's readers is The Old Man's Comforts, because part of the poem was parodied by Lewis Carroll in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland:
You are old, Father William, the young man cried,
The few locks which are left you are grey;
You are hale, Father William, a hearty old man,
Now tell me the reason, I pray.
'You are old, Father William,' the young man said,
'And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head -
Do you think, at your age, it is right?'
I'll be posting an exclusive extract from Mr Knightley's Diary - a retelling of Emma from Mr Knightley's point of view - here in the next few days.
Mr Knightley's Diary can be preordered from Amazon by clicking here. The release date is 31 August.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
And how we worked. Many would say that writing cannot be taught. I agree. I think writers are born with a need to express themselves in words. But what can be taught are the techniques that help shape and polish that first outpouring of words into an up-put-downable novel. Techniques that help bring characters to life as complex multi-layered people dealing with the demands of a plot whose events will change them forever.
I've been a professional writer for 30 years and my 24th book was published last week. I first started teaching fifteen years ago. It was at a Writers' weekend at a hotel in Torquay. I was utterly petrified and barely glanced up from my notes which shook so much I could hardly read them. But something of my passion for my craft must have shown because by the end of the two days people were telling me how much they had enjoyed it, and how much they had learned. And I had met my agent. I've learned a lot since then. I'm still learning.
For me, one of the joys of teaching is to meet a bunch of strangers on a Monday morning and, during a five day course of seminars, exercises and homework watch them metamorphose into a weary, tightly-knit, supportive group who have not only deepened their understanding of themselves and the craft of writing, but produced work of a quality that amazes them. To be part of that is a huge privilege. But I get even more out of it. Showing them how the techniques work makes me aware of instances where my current book-in-progress needs tightening or further development. By the end of the course we're all exhausted, on a high and can't wait to get on with our stories. Life doesn't get much better.
Dangerous Waters, pub. Robert Hale Mar 2006 Available on Amazon.co.uk
The Chain Garden, pub. Robert Hale July 2006 Available on Amazon.co.uk
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
"Among the Morris dancers and Bronte tea towels, there is little today in the Yorkshire village of Haworth to dispel romantic images of Charlotte, Emily and Anne strolling on sunlit moors, gaining inspiration for tales that would one day busy the costume drama industry.
It is harder to imagine dungheaps and foul drains, the open sewer in the street and the cholera and typhoid that killed most children before their sixth birthday. It is this dark vision of Bronte country that will be evoked in the first major British biopic of the literary household.
Bronte, likely to be filmed from October in a Yorkshire village that has yet to be chosen, will not replace chocolate-box images with black clouds and tragedy. The £6 million movie will argue that what the sisters achieved in spite of the death and disease was a miracle of imagination and nothing short of heroic."
Delectable Jonathan Rhys Meyers will play Branwell Bronte.
'There's a fear of telling this story because there's a fear it will be too depressing,' says Angela Workman, the film's writer and director. 'There was great tragedy in their lives and they died young, but the lifespan for women in that region at that time was 25, and it occurred to me that the Brontes lived beyond that. For me, the story is about the way they defied death and created.'
It looks very promising. What do you think? Would you rather see a chocolate box version of the Bronte's life, or are you looking forward to something realistic?