Please join me in welcoming Maria Hamilton to Debbie's Book Bag today! Maria is here to talk about her Jane Austen inspired book, Mr Darcy and the Secret Becoming a Gentleman.
DEB: Maria, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
MARIA: I have loved Jane Austen and Pride & Prejudice for years. Her stories are such a part of me that it seemed very natural to write a book based on her characters; as if it were a reunion of old friends. I live in southern New Hampshire with my husband, son, and daughter, and my neurotic (half black lab/half greyhound) dog, Poseidon. I attended Boston College where I earned a B.A. and then a M.A. in history. I then went to Harvard Law School where I received my J.D. I presently work as an attorney in Boston. I am an avid bicyclist. I love movies, the Red Sox, and travel.
DEB: Tell us a little about your Austen inspired book, Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman?
MARIA: In my novel, Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman, I introduce the reader to Mr. Darcy immediately after Hunsford when he is attempting to overcome Elizabeth’s rejection and struggling with the knowledge that he has unfairly separated Mr. Bingley from Jane. He determines to correct his mistake much earlier and in the process of doing so has to return to Hertfordshire. He asks Jane for a private interview in order to determine if she still has feeling for Mr. Bingley and Mrs. Bennett assumes that Darcy has come to court Jane. Once Darcy is thrown into Elizabeth's company again, he vows to show her, by every civility in his power, that he can be a gentleman worthy of her esteem. As Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy become reacquainted, he pursues her and a slow courtship evolves as they attempt to see each other without their prior misunderstandings. My story focuses on the dialog between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth and tries to explore their developing intimacy.
DEB: What was your inspiration for this book? Is it a sequel, prequel, variation? How does it compare or differ from Austen’s version of Mr. Darcy?
MARIA: I started to envision how Mr. Darcy would have courted Elizabeth Bennett had he done it in a straightforward manner without hiding his feelings until it was almost too late. In doing so, I saw them at a dinner party deep in conversation getting to know each other without the barrier of prior mis-communications. That inspired me to write a Pride & Prejudice variation where they are in company in Hertfordshire. Austen often summaries their conversations and I wanted to make them explicit and allow the reader to see how their relationship would grow to intimacy.
DEB: What type of research did you do for your book?
MARIA: Before I begin writing, I often envision full scenes and plot developments of the story. I don’t second guess them. Instead, they become part of the working version of the story even though they may not be historically accurate. After the story is complete, I need to go back and remove any anachronisms to the Regency period. For instance, when I first wrote the story that became Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman it contained referencing to seating arrangement place cards and an engagement ring. After research, those were transformed to the order of precedence in formal dining and a poesy ring.
DEB: What is your normal writing day like? Do you have things that have to be in place to write comfortably?
MARIA: I usually write on weekends. I wake up by 6:30 which is earlier than everyone else in my family. I like to sit with my laptop on the sofa with my dog at my feet. I reread what I wrote the day before and begin to edit it. That puts me in the mood to begin writing fresh scenes and dialogue. To continue, I must have a bottle of Fresca by my side. Once everyone is up, I move back to my bed and write there for several more hours. If someone brings me fresh cut fruit then my writing process is complete.
DEB: What was it like when you got the word that your first novel would be published?
MARIA: I was recommended to the publisher so once I was contacted, it happen very fast and my main emotion was wary disbelief. Once it was certain, I was thrilled.
DEB: Do have any advice for new writers?
MARIA: Write for yourself and don’t worry about how you get published. Sit down and write every day. Nice people can be oddly discouraging by accident or with misguided intentions, ignore them all. Believe in yourself.
DEB: When you’re not writing, what kinds of books do you like to read? Do you have a favorite author?
MARIA: I love Austen variations and read them whenever I can. I have a long daily commute where I often listen to audiobooks in the car. When I do, I enjoy Margaret Atwood and Nick Hornby’s books and have recently been reading Diana Gabaldon.
DEB: What are you working on right now?
MARIA: I am working on two new variations. One explores a darker version of Pride & Prejudice where Mr. Darcy is not able to find Wickham or force him to marry Lydia. It is much more untraditional and focuses on how harsh it was for a woman to live in regency England. The other is a more traditional variation based on a short story I published on the internet. I alternately work on them depending on whether I am in a dark or light mood.
DEB: Tell us one thing that people may not know about you?
MARIA: I know how to upholster furniture, do simple electrical wiring task, and have plumbed several toilets and sinks. It is not so such that I am particularly handy. It is more that I am too impatient to wait for my husband or contractors to do what they promise “to get to next.” In the void of inaction, I go to a hardware store, read some books about the topic, and then ask an unsuspecting salesperson a hundred questions about the project (its best to go on a Tuesday night: no one has time for you on a weekend) . I then try it myself and have had a reasonable level of success.