Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘diana birchall’

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Diana Birchall as part of the blog tour for her latest novel, The Bride of Northanger. Although I adore Pride and Prejudice, I get really excited when authors show Austen’s other novels some love. I read Northanger Abbey for the first time several years ago, and I really enjoyed it. I’ve read some variations since then, but they are few and far between. Life has been extremely busy recently, but as I catch up on my review backlog and squeeze in a few new ones here and there, keep your eye out for my thoughts on The Bride of Northanger. In the meantime, please give Diana a warm welcome!

Congratulations on the publication of The Bride of Northanger. What was your inspiration to write a continuation of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey?

Thank you! Northanger Abbey seems to get overlooked, compared to the universal popularity of Pride and Prejudice, and the meaty genius of Austen’s more mature works. But what a delectably enchanting novel it is! The reader experiences, along with young, sheltered Catherine, the delights of entering the wide, adult world of Bath society with “such fresh feelings of every sort,” as Henry Tilney says. This leads to a developing love story that is in my view as compelling as any Austen ever wrote. It initially seemed unlikely to me that a clever, sophisticated man like Henry would fall in love with someone so young and ignorant as Catherine, and Jane Austen’s explanatory remark that Henry’s “persuasion of her partiality for him had been the only cause of giving her a serious thought,” does not quite satisfy. So, I wanted to examine his life, his feelings, and his psychology, to try to come to a better understanding of the dynamic here. Working towards that, I wrote an essay about his father General Tilney (entitled The Ogre of Northanger!), that helped me arrive at an answer that satisfied me. The General was a horrendous bully and his brutal treatment left marks upon his son, a clergyman with a strong wit and a respect for the life of the mind rather than one dedicated to worldly greed. No wonder Henry was drawn to a girl who was not scheming, manipulative, and grasping, but simple and sincere, with a thirsty mind for learning. I set out in my fiction to explore how the young man educated the young woman, and they became equal and happy partners together.

Northanger Abbey has been considered a parody of the Gothic fiction popular during Austen’s time. How did Austen’s story and style influence your writing of The Bride of Northanger?

Completely. I have been steeped in Austen’s writing – not dramatizations nor adaptations, charming as many of them are, but in her actual texts – for decades, to the point where I’ve read them literally thousands of times and have them almost completely mentally to hand, so to speak. I was driven by a longing to discover Austen’s secrets, to learn as much as possible about the genius that made her characters so real, her commentary on life so compelling yet enigmatic. Such study could only improve my own writing – it couldn’t possibly hurt! – and trying to enter her universe and style, proved to be a most enlightening way to learn a great deal both about these novels and their originator.

Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland are one of Jane Austen’s most charming couples. Was it a challenge to continue their story? How did you recapture their voices?

I don’t know if it was a challenge exactly, because I’ve been accustomed to imitating Austen for so many years; my first attempt was in 1984 when I won a contest in the JASNA journal Persuasions, and I eventually became very comfortable switching on my “Austenesque” dialogue voice. Once I started work on my “Bride,” Catherine and Henry began talking in my head and telling me about their Gothic trials and adventures. All this was very exciting, though I was really more excited about how Catherine was becoming a very sensible and sane woman, and how strong their marriage was growing.

When/how did you discover Jane Austen, and why do you think she and her novels remain so popular today?

I was about 20 when I first read Pride and Prejudice. In those days Jane Austen wasn’t anywhere near as widely popular as today, not to be encountered either in school or a movie theater. A literary aunt of mine recommended P & P, but the title wasn’t prepossessing, and it took me awhile to get around to reading it. Then, what an explosive revelation of enjoyment! It’s all still there for readers to take as much from as they choose: reading one or two of the books; giving your life to a study of Jane Austen and her genius; or simply enjoying her works and the books and movies they inspire, in your own way. Austen appeals on every possible level, from the great love story to the wit of one of the world’s best humorists. She provides a window into the 18th century, plus shrewd observations on human nature (which has not changed!), all with a display of perfect style and her own philosophy. As I say: something for everyone, and the more you read, the more you find.

When/how did you discover JAFF, and what prompted you to take the leap and write your own Austen-inspired novels?

I didn’t exactly “discover JAFF,” I was writing it long before the term was invented. Since the 1980s I’ve written hundreds of stories in the genre, and my first full length novel, Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, was written in the early 1990s. Of course, I was far from the first person to start writing Austen sequels – Austen’s own nieces were – but when I started my work there had not been a sequel since Pemberley Shades in 1949, so I was among the very first “modern” writers doing this. The adaptations, the Austenesque writing boom, and JAFF, all came years after I’d started writing Austenesque fiction, though to be sure that was another word that had not yet been invented!

As a writer myself, I’m always curious about where people write their books. Could you describe your writing space?

A dusty little study crammed with books and English china teapots in the rambling apartment my husband and I share with our three cats a couple of blocks from the beach in Santa Monica, California. Our son is the librarian on Catalina Island. We grew up in New York City and are transplants of a bookish bohemian variety!

What book(s) are you reading right now?

Just finished reading the memoirs of artist Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun, who was a French contemporary of Jane Austen. She’s the portraitist whose painting I chose for the cover of my novel. It looked exactly as I imagined Catherine, though in fact it is a portrait of a young French aristocrat, Corisande de Gramont, painted in 1800 when she was 18 years old (the same age and era as the fictional Catherine). Corisande was a granddaughter of the Duchesse de Polignac, the favorite of Marie Antoinette, and she married an English Member of Parliament, Charles Augustus Bennet (shades of Austen!), Earl of Tankerville, and settled in England. I also chose John Constable’s painting of Netley Abbey to represent Northanger, as Jane Austen actually visited and was inspired by Netley. My talented book designer Rebecca Young deftly transformed the two works of art into a beautiful book design. And now I’m reading books about Louisa May Alcott.

Are you working on another novel now? If so, any hints as to what it’s about?

As you can perhaps guess from my last hint, I’m writing a sequel to Alcott’s Little Women.

Thank you for asking me these questions, it’s been a pleasure to answer them!

You’re welcome! Thank you for being my guest today, and once again, congratulations on your new release. I look forward to reading it!

****

About The Bride of Northanger

A happier heroine than Catherine Morland does not exist in England, for she is about to marry her beloved, the handsome, witty Henry Tilney. The night before the wedding, Henry reluctantly tells Catherine and her horrified parents a secret he has dreaded to share – that there is a terrible curse on his family and their home, Northanger Abbey. Henry is a clergyman, educated and rational, and after her year’s engagement Catherine is no longer the silly young girl who delighted in reading “horrid novels”; she has improved in both reading and rationality. This sensible young couple cannot believe curses are real…until a murder at the Abbey triggers events as horrid and Gothic as Jane Austen ever parodied – events that shake the young Tilneys’ certainties, but never their love for each other…

Amazon (paperback) (ebook) | Barnes & Noble (ebook) | Goodreads | Publisher Page

****

About the Author

Diana Birchall worked for many years at Warner Bros studios as a story analyst, reading novels to see if they would make movies. Reading manuscripts went side by side with a restorative and sanity-preserving life in Jane Austen studies and resulted in her writing Austenesque fiction both as homage and attempted investigation of the secrets of Jane Austen’s style. She is the author of In Defense of Mrs. Elton, Mrs. Elton in America, Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, and the new The Bride of Northanger. She has written hundreds of Austenesque short stories and plays, as well as a biography of her novelist grandmother, and has lectured on her books and staged play readings at places as diverse as Hollywood, Brooklyn, Montreal, Chawton House Library, Alaska, and Yale.

Visit Diana at her Austen Variations author page, and follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.

****

The Doyenne of Austenesque fiction, Diana Birchall, tours the blogosphere October 28 through November 15 to share her latest release, The Bride of Northanger. Thirty popular bloggers specializing in historical and Austenesque fiction will feature guest blogs, interviews, excerpts, and book reviews of this acclaimed continuation of Jane Austen’s Gothic parody, Northanger Abbey. 

THE BRIDE OF NORTHANGER BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE: 

October 28                My Jane Austen Book Club (Interview)

October 28                Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog (Review)

October 28                vvb32 Reads (Spotlight)

October 29                A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide of Life (Guest Blog)

October 29                From Pemberley to Milton (Excerpt)

October 30                Drunk Austen (Interview)

October 30                Silver Petticoat Review (Excerpt)

October 31                Jane Austen’s World (Review)

November 01            So Little Time… (Interview)

November 01            Laura’s Reviews (Review)

November 04            English Historical Fiction Authors (Guest Blog)

November 04            Confessions of a Book Addict (Spotlight)

November 05            More Agreeably Engaged (Review)

November 05            Vesper’s Place (Review)

November 06            Jane Austen in Vermont (Interview)

November 06            Diary of an Eccentric (Interview)

November 07            All Things Austen (Spotlight)

November 07            A Bookish Way of Life (Review)

November 07            Let Them Read Books (Excerpt)

November 08            Babblings of a Bookworm (Review)

November 08            vvb32 Reads (Review)

November 11            My Jane Austen Book Club (Review)

November 11            Reading the Past (Spotlight)

November 12            Jane Austen’s World (Interview)

November 12            The Calico Critic (Excerpt)

November 13            The Book Rat (Review)

November 13            Austenesque Reviews (Review)

November 14            Fangs, Wands, & Fairy Dust (Review)

November 14            The Fiction Addiction (Review)

November 15            My Love for Jane Austen (Spotlight)

November 15            Scuffed Slippers and Wormy Books (Review)

Read Full Post »