Friday, July 31, 2015

Getting to know you - Amanda Grange

I expect most people reading this blog already know quite a bit about me but I thought it would be fun to add some new information and images. I'm probably best known for my series of Jane Austen retellings - Mr Darcy's Diary, Mr Knightley's Diary, Captain Wentworth's Diary, Colonel Brandon's Diary, Edmund Bertram's Diary, Henry Tilney's Diary and Dear Mr Darcy, as well as my paranormal sequel to Pride and Prejudice, Mr Darcy, Vampyre. I've also written a lot of Regency romances, a Regency whodunnit called Murder at Whitegates Manor, and an additional Regency romance which is lighter than my other, more adventurous Regencies, called The Rake, published under the name of Amy Watson.

So where did it all begin? Well, I was born and bred in Yorkshire, a beautiful county in the north of England. Yorkshire is famous for its moors, which look particularly lovely when the heather is out. You can see for miles when you're actually on the moors, but the towns and cities are often in bowls, with the moors rising up around them. We often went for family walks on the wild and windy moors. Yes, that's a link to Yorkshire's most famous authors - no, not me, but the Bronte sisters, famous for the brilliant novels Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

Yorkshire is also famous for its food. Yorkshire puddings  are a must at Sunday lunch time. Despite their name, they're not sweet. They're traditionally eaten with roast beef, but they taste so good they're often served with other roast meats or stews as well. Another famous Yorkshire food is the Yorkshire fat rascal, which is a special kind of fruit scone with cherries and almonds making a face. These are best eaten at Bettys tea rooms , famous for their afternoon teas and their traditional English ambience. (The absence of an apostrophe is deliberate - Bettys no longer use one.)

One of my favourite occupations as a child was visiting my local library, which was housed in this beautiful Victorian building. It's easy to see where my love of history came from! The children's library was on the right and the adult library was on the left. I can still remember my excitement when I graduated from one to the other. I quickly discovered some of the authors who were to become my lifelong favourites: Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, the Brontes, Anthony Trollope, Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, Henry James, as well as many others. I loved travelling to the different worlds opened up by the books. I enjoyed reading in the garden on sunny, summer days and curling up by the fire with a good book in winter. We had an open, coal fire at home and I loved dreaming as I looked into the dancing flames.

On leaving school, I went to Nottingham University. I loved both English and music and couldn't decide which subject to pursue, but in the end I chose music. The campus was gorgeous and the buildings were once again beautiful. I could just imagine Mr Bingley living here! I carried on reading, of course, and I wrote my first novel in my spare time. It was a children's book, similar to the C S Lewis Narnia books. I wrote it in the back of an old exercise book but I never thought about approaching a publisher. Sadly, over the years the book was lost but I wrote quite a few more books. A lot of them were unfinished as I tried out different genres and different styles.

I went on to teach, but at the back of my mind was an ambition to become a published novelist. I started writing in earnest, and, because I loved all things historical and the Regency period in particular, I started writing Regency romances. At the time, the only route to publication was through a traditional publisher and, after my fair share of rejections, my first book was accepted by Robert Hale Ltd I will always be grateful to them for taking a chance on an unknown author and putting me into print. Hale are a long-established publishers and it gave me a thrill to know they had published a lot of my favourite authors in the past, including Jean Plaidy. I was in very good company!

In 2003, my career took a turn that was going to prove momentous. I was working on a Gothic romance called Stormcrow Castle - Gothic as in a young woman goes to a lonely house, where she has to unravel secrets - when I became stuck. I didn't know what was going to happen next. I decided to take a break. I went into the garden - it was one of those idyllic spring days we sometimes get in England, when March or April throws out a few hot days as though it's midsummer - and for a treat I took Pride and Prejudice with me to read. As soon as I started reading it, I was struck by how modern it seemed. I'd read it many times, but I hadn't read it since becoming a published author. It had a lot of dialogue, a fast pace and a brilliant opening sentence.

I thought, 'The only thing it doesn't have, that an editor would be looking for today, is any scenes from the hero's point of view'. There were occasional glimpses into Mr Darcy's mind, but no whole sections entirely from his viewpoint.

I started wondering about the things that happened to Mr Darcy when he wasn't with Elizabeth and I found myself inspired to go inside and write the "missing scene". I wrote the scene when he visited London, to find Wickham and Lydia, and then I went back and wrote the scene where he went to Ramsgate. Once I'd brought him safely back to London with Georgiana, I couldn't stop writing. I wanted to know what he thought of Netherfield Park, what was going through his mind when he was so rude to Elizabeth at the Meryton Assembly . . .

Before I knew it, I had written Darcy's Diary (the hardback title; the paperback is called Mr Darcy's Diary). I hadn't intended it for publication, but once I was about half way through I knew that, if I hadn't written it, I would love to read it. I wasn't sure what my publishers would make of it. Jane Austen inspired novels were few and far between at the time, especially in England, where the genre is still not as popular as it is in the US. Luckily my publishers loved it and the rest is history. The diaries are now travelling around the world in French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and a variety of other languages. But it all began in Yorkshire, when I sat dreaming by the fire and reading Pride and Prejudice.

Amanda Grange

You can find Amanda's books in all good bookshops and online from all Amazons including UK and US , or from your favourite seller.

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