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Nicole Clarkston recently introduced me to Leena Emsley, who narrated These Dreams for her, and I had the pleasure of interviewing Leena about all things audiobook-related. Please give her a warm welcome!

Hi, Leena! Can you tell us a little about yourself? How did you become an audiobook narrator?

I live in the UK, in the beautiful county of Northumberland. I come from a family of actors. My grandparents performed, my parents met on the stage and I was running around theatres from a young age. I went to drama school, but decided it was more fun as a hobby so devoted all my spare time to it and performed for many years on stages from Edinburgh to Berlin.

I gave up the stage when I had my children and have home schooled for almost 10 years. They are now teenagers and need me less, so I started to look for something I could do from home, and was drawn to find something that allowed me to indulge my old passion. I began doing voluntary audio work, took a training course for voice narrators, and signed up to ACX.

Can you describe the process of narrating a book? I know nothing about how it’s actually done, so any or all details would be fascinating to me. How do you go about differentiating between all the different characters/voices? What preparation is involved? Where do you record the book, etc.?

The first step is to read the book, know the story and get a feel for the characters. If there are particular accents required, I research the accent. In These Dreams there are several Portuguese characters. I was fortunate to have the help of Nicole’s Portuguese friend, Rita, who very kindly recorded phrases for me. She has also very kindly refrained from throwing her hands up in horror at how badly I managed to reproduce them! There is a balance between accuracy and performance. In the end, performance takes precedence, so long as I manage a flavour of the accent.

For characters with similar accents, I rely on their character differences to clue me in to their voices. Well drawn characters jump out the page. Mostly it comes down to intonation. For instance the snake Reginald (spoiler!) just has to have a languid tone, as opposed to his pompous staccato father. I do my best to differentiate between characters, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

Leena Emsley

I record in a small booth my husband made for me. It does a good job of screening me from most outside noises, though I have to stop for planes, high wind and lawn mowers! I love my little booth. It feels like I enter a new world and I get totally wrapped up in the story.

What did you like best about narrating Nicole’s books?

I love Nicole’s writing! Not a word is wasted, there is pace and drama, her characters are well drawn and you feel their emotions. I am always moved by human compassion, and my favourite moment was when Elizabeth meets Amália. It reduced me to tears and required a pause in recording!

The Earl of Matlock and Lady Catherine were the most fun to narrate. It was great to let rip with the stiff upper lip, starchy accents, and so wonderful that their vulnerabilities were brought out, too.

What are some other books you’ve narrated?

My first book with ACX was Leslie Diamond’s Particular Intentions. It was my introduction to JAFF, and as a Jane Austen fan, I was immediately attracted. I am currently working on her sequel Particular Attachments. They are both Pride and Prejudice variations, with the sequel following Georgiana’s story. I have done several books books by Regina Puckett, as well as a detective story and steam punk adventure.

Thank you so much, Leena! I really enjoyed learning more about audiobook narration, so much so that I think this year might be time for me to give them another try!

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Giveaway

Nicole is generously offering two codes for each of her audiobooks, These Dreams and London Holiday. The codes are for the U.S. and U.K. only. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address, and let us know which book you’d prefer (you can enter for both, but can only win one) and whether you’d like a U.S. or U.K. code. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, January 13, 2019. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck! And a big thanks to Nicole for setting up the interview with Leena and for the very generous giveaway!

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I’m delighted to welcome Nicole Clarkston back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the release of London Holiday. Nicole has quickly become one of my favorite authors of Austen-inspired fiction, so I downloaded London Holiday as soon as I saw it was released. It looks and sounds fantastic, so I hope I will be able to find time to read it soon. Nicole is here today to talk about how she combined Pride and Prejudice with a classic movie to create London Holiday. Please give her a warm welcome!

London Holiday was a book that I hesitated to write, for almost two years. The idea was nipping away at me, but I could not quite convince myself that the time was right for me to tackle a comedy. I was afraid it would become farcical, which was not the intent. Moreover, I had convinced myself that a Darcy and Elizabeth story that wasn’t thick with angst or largely took place in one day just wouldn’t fly. Still, I kept thinking about it, and I was itching to see what our dear couple would do in a situation like this.

The idea of creating a mashup of Pride and Prejudice with another timeless story is not new, but at least to my knowledge, no one had attempted this particular combination. I know I am not alone in my admiration for Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck’s chemistry, and I couldn’t help snickering when I imagined Darcy in Princess Ann’s shoes for a day. Roman Holiday is such a touching, funny, heart-warming romance that breaks all the conventions, and it has long been a favorite.

I think one of the things that sets it apart is the fact that it’s a reverse Cinderella story. Roman Holiday was filmed in 1953, in an age when women were growing restless with the typical formula. I truly believe that most people, at their core, want to believe in a Pygmalion or a Prince Charming who values his chosen lady for her own worth rather than her social station. However, the same old story was growing tired and flat. Why shouldn’t it be the girl and not the guy who is at the highest rung of the social ladder? Why can’t an intelligent young woman be the one to identify something special in a man most would consider to be beneath her? It was a gentle question the movie asked, but the answer was resounding: There is no reason at all why she can’t be and do those things.

What I love about Princess Ann is that she doesn’t set out to topple kingdoms. She has no agenda at all, and nothing to prove to anyone. She is simply a girl who wishes to be herself, and to experience just a taste of the life she might have lived if she were anyone but a daughter of royalty. Kind and gracious to everyone she meets, the minor gaffes that betray her privileged upbringing only make her the more irresistible. She is sweet when princesses are supposed to be haughty, and humble when she might have been prideful. She is vulnerable yet unafraid, thrilling to new experiences but poised and graceful even on a motor scooter. She places herself willingly in the care of a complete stranger, because even though she did not precisely need him, she enjoyed being with him. How could we not love someone like that?

In London Holiday, both Darcy and Elizabeth take turns with some of Princess Ann’s qualities. It is our wealthy and influential gentleman who flees his house by night, and eventually decides that a day away from his usual obligations might not kill him. However, it is Elizabeth who possesses the wide-eyed wonder, the charming innocence, and the pure determination to act according to her own happiness. Darcy’s peculiar behavior doesn’t fool our clever girl for long, and like Princess Ann, she discovers almost at once that there is more to her escort than meets the eye.

Opposite the endearing Princess Ann was our stalwart hero, the down-on-his-luck Joe Bradley. We get a glimpse of his character early in the movie when he (though unwillingly) shelters a helpless young lady without taking advantage of her. In fact, he seems highly uncomfortable with anything that might be considered unseemly. He doesn’t precisely roll out the red carpet for her—in fact, even if he had known who she was at their first meeting, I’m not sure he would have bent over backward. He doesn’t seem impressed by royal trappings, but he instantly connects with “Anya,” the girl in his apartment. His is a unique position—he needs something, desperately, and by the next morning he learns that she is the means to it. However, the longer he spends in her company, the more he views her as a person and not a crown.

Again, we see elements of Joe Bradley in both Darcy and Elizabeth. It is Darcy who needs something from Elizabeth, but it is she who discovers that she could use his position to solve her own problems. And while it is ultimately Darcy who plays the very Joe Bradley-esque role of tour guide and protector, it is Elizabeth who encourages her companion to try new adventures and teaches him how average people live. By the end of the day, both determine that their regard for the other has surpassed their own personal needs, and they seek the best interests of the other person.

London Holiday took on a life of its own, but a few other homages remain. Unfortunately, I couldn’t put Elizabeth on a Vespa, but I did find a Regency equivalent, and both Darcy and Elizabeth got in on the fun (it was her idea, by the way). Sadly, Vauxhall Gardens didn’t have a “Mouth of Truth,” but they did have a “hermit” who told fortunes.

And, like in the original, our hero has a slightly pesky “side kick” who manages to help things along. Colonel Fitzwilliam filled in nicely for Irving, and I had quite a bit of fun with the way he would inaccurately quote Darcy’s words back to him, provoking him to finally confess what he really wanted to do all along. Incidentally, see if you can find Bradley and Irving’s names in the book!

The usual lament about the classic film is that the ending is not your typical Happily Ever After. They certainly fall in love and their misunderstandings are cleared away at the end, but they do not walk off set hand in hand. However, perhaps that ending was enough, after all. Both parties come away from their adventures richer and a little more human. We still have the fairy tale, but with a twist: getting married and raising a pack of little princesses will not, in the end, make this couple happy.

It was enough for them that they touched each other’s lives, that they saw another aspect of themselves, and that they found a friend where they would have least expected it. Princess Ann and Joe Bradley would have probably had a miserable marriage due to their disparate circumstances, but they need not have an unhappy friendship. It was a fresh idea, that marriage is not the ultimate goal of life and certainly not for every relationship. The movie seems to make the point that relating to people and caring for them in the moment, even if we never see them again, is just as valuable.

This is where Darcy and Elizabeth deviate. Unlike Princess Ann and Joe Bradley, they are highly compatible, and only need a little humility and wisdom to build a dynamic, thriving marriage that will bring blessings and happiness to them both. I believe the earth would tip off its axis and bounce into Saturn if Darcy and Elizabeth did not end their story happily married, in a loving partnership that could instruct all around them in the ways of connubial harmony. So, this is your official spoiler: Darcy and Elizabeth have their happy ending, but the journey is what gave them their solid foundation.

~NC

All photos courtesy of Paramount Pictures

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Excerpt from Chapter 18 of London Holiday

Elizabeth could not remain sedately in her seat. She leaned forward, touching eager fingers to the window as each famous sight rolled by; The Strand once again, with that hotel which had refused them service; Charing Cross with its awe-inspiring statue of the troubled King Charles I; the humble Scotland Yard, followed by the pristine buildings of White Hall. This was a part of Town she rarely saw… and might seldom, if ever, see again. She blinked away an unwelcome bit of emotion from her eyes, determined to wring every bit of enjoyment from this day that it had to offer.

There was a thumping from the back wall of her coach, and she leaned back to press her ear to the panel. “Look to your right,” came a muffled voice.

Chuckling, Elizabeth did.

“Behind the Horse Guards buildings,” he urged when she did not respond at once. “Do you see it?”

Elizabeth craned her neck, trying to see better from the moving carriage. She knew well that St James’ Park, in all its dashing splendour, lay just there to delight the eyes and stir her deepest yearnings. There, beautifully dressed ladies walked on the arms of their sensible-looking husbands, military fanfare dazzled the young and swelled the hearts of the aged, and classical architecture and verdant bowers melded into one gracious Walk. She sighed, her chest squeezing just a little. What she would give to admire it at leisure, knowing that at any time she could return to indulge her senses just a little more. But it was no good to long for that which could only make the choices before her seem more miserable than they already were.

“Would you like to stop?” she heard through the carriage wall.

The smile returned to Elizabeth’s face. Her escort was attentive, whatever else might be said of him. And this time, he had not permitted so much as a facial twitch or a cough of ill humour when one of the oldest carriages in all London had answered his hail. It was clean and safe, that much he had assured them both, but his voice from without could hardly be heard over the squeaking of worn leather and wood.

“No, thank you,” she called back to him, pressing her cheek to the panel so that he would be certain to hear her. “I would prefer to go on.”

He did not answer directly, so she rapped her knuckles against the wall, just as he had done to attract her attention. He replied in a quick, staccato beat just behind her ear.

The carriage slowed briefly, and Elizabeth tried speech once again. “Are you quite safe back there?”

“I have made a bargain with Fate,” his muted words filtered through the panel.

“And that is?”

“If this foot peg breaks under my weight and I am trampled by that fine pair of chestnuts behind us, I shall never again have to wear such uncomfortable shoes.”
Elizabeth giggled, and could nearly see that faint twitching round his mouth, the mock gravity crinkling his eyes as he spoke. “Let us only hope the carriage behind us belongs to no one you know.”

“It does. I do not think they would drive to the curb simply to avoid my body.”

“Then I dearly hope your hands are strong!” she laughed, then playfully knocked again near the place she had heard his last thumps. To her childish delight, he replied in kind.

The carriage rocked forward again, and for several minutes the traffic moved ahead at a moderate pace. She could not have heard him then if he had tried to speak, but there sounded another knock on the left side of her head as they approached Westminster Abbey. Elizabeth looked on, breathless in admiration for yet another building she would dearly love to explore.

Their driver chose a meandering route through the back streets—or perhaps he had received the direction from her escort—and Elizabeth was treated to several more quaint views. Then, as if by magic, London fell away, and they began to pass fields of wheat and fruit orchards. The cobblestones still rang loudly beneath the horse’s feet, but there were fewer of them, and the carriage seemed to roll more freely. A lad of perhaps eight or nine, standing amid a golden wheat field with a sickle in his hand, waved energetically as they passed. Elizabeth waved back but realised belatedly that the boy had not been offering his civility to her, but to the tall man clinging to the back of the carriage. Elizabeth leaned a little farther to the right, searching the ground, and could see the shadow of his hand lifted in greeting to the young farmer.

She drew back again to the seat, her cheeks almost weary from the constant smile they bore. Such a peculiar man, this William! When he had uttered those first, disdainful slurs in her presence that very morning, she would have sworn that he was conceited, arrogant, and cared nothing for the feelings of others. How wrong had been that first impression! She could not help but wonder what his usual manner was when among his equals in society. She would have wagered the last of her pin money that he did not mingle and cavort freely, as did those gentlemen who were usually deemed “amiable.” Yet, there was a gentleness in him, and a deep feeling akin to sincerity and kindness, if one took the time for a second look. Was that not, to her tastes, more amiable than the sort of man her mother had taught her to admire?
She felt herself sighing again and shook her head. “You must stop,” she muttered aloud. There, she had spoken it, and must now heed. She could not afford to think of him, even if he would ever look at her. She had been given one day to peer beyond the veil of her own destiny, one day in the presence of the very sort of man who could teach her that they were not all fools. She must content herself with that. She must continue to treat him as a kind stranger, one whom she would never see again after this day had ended.

Within minutes of this resolution forming, it was tried. The carriage drew up to a queue, and she felt the ageing springs give way as William bounced down from the back. His steps crunched on the gravelled earth, and she heard him paying the driver. He opened her door and greeted her with an expression that threatened to rob her of breath. There was a boyish delight there, a flickering of the youth he must have suppressed long ago, but kindling beneath it was something fuller, richer, and simmering with flavours of the forbidden.

Elizabeth paused, her lips parted as she surveyed him with eyes opened to a new depth of awareness, and the back of her neck prickled. His chest swelled proudly, and with one hand he gestured toward the Thames River, while the other crossed over his abdomen in a stately bow. “Miss Elizabeth, Vauxhall Gardens await.”

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About London Holiday

When the truth is harder to believe than disguise.

Drugged and betrayed in his own household, Fitzwilliam Darcy makes his escape from a forged compromise that would see him unhappily wed. Dressed as a footman, he is welcomed into one of London’s unknown neighbourhoods by a young lady who is running out of time and running for her life.

Deciding to hide in plain sight, Miss Elizabeth Bennet dodges the expectation to marry the man of her mother’s dreams. When the insolent footman she “found” refuses to leave her side until they can uncover a solution to their respective dilemmas, the two new acquaintances treat themselves to a holiday, experiencing the best of what Regency England has to offer.

Based on Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, can two hard-headed characters with kind hearts discover the truth behind the disguise? Enjoy the banter, humour, and growing affection as Mr Darcy and Miss Elizabeth have the best day of their lives, and discover that they just might find love and romance while on a London Holiday. This book is appropriate for all ages.

Buy: Amazon U.S. (paperback) | Amazon U.S. (ebook) | Amazon U.K. (paperback) | Amazon U.K. (ebook)

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About the Author

Nicole Clarkston

Nicole Clarkston is a book lover and a happily married mom of three. Originally from Idaho, she now lives in Oregon with her own romantic hero, several horses, and one very fat dog. She has loved crafting alternate stories and sequels since she was a child watching Disney’s Robin Hood, and she is never found sitting quietly without a book of some sort.

Nicole discovered Jane Austen rather by guilt in her early thirties―how does any book worm really live that long without a little P&P? She has never looked back. A year or so later, during a major house renovation project, she discovered Elizabeth Gaskell and fell completely in love. Her need for more time with these characters led her to simultaneously write Rumours & Recklessness, a P&P inspired novel, and No Such Thing as Luck, a N&S inspired novel. Both immediately became best selling books. The success she had with her first attempt at writing led her to write three other novels that are her pitiful homage to two authors who have so deeply inspired her.

Nicole was recently invited to join Austenvariations.com, a group of talented authors in the Jane Austen Fiction genre. In addition to her work with the Austen Variations blog, Nicole can be reached through Facebook at http://fb.me/NicoleClarkstonAuthor, Twitter @N_Clarkston, her blog at Goodreads.com, or her personal blog and website, NicoleClarkson.com.

Connect with Nicole: Website | Goodreads Author Page | Goodreads Blog | Facebook | Amazon Author Page | Twitter

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Giveaway

As part of the blog tour, Nicole is generously offering 8 ebook copies of London Holiday. You must use this Rafflecopter link to enter. Good luck!

Terms and Conditions: Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented. Remember: Tweet and comment once daily to earn extra entries.

A winner may win ONLY 1 (ONE) eBook of London Holiday by Nicole Clarkston. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter, and the giveaway is international.

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June 7 So little time…; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

June 8 Diary of an Eccentric; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

June 9 Just Jane 1813; Review, Giveaway

June 10 My life journey; Review, Giveaway

June 11 From Pemberley to Milton; Vignette, Giveaway

June 12 My Jane Austen Book Club; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

June 13 Half Agony, Half Hope; Review, Excerpt, Giveaway

June 15 Austenesque Reviews; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

June 16 My Love for Jane Austen; Vignette, Giveaway

June 18 Obsessed with Mr. Darcy; Review, Giveaway

June 19 My Vices and Weaknesses; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

June 20 A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life; Guest Post

Thanks for being my guest today, Nicole, and congratulations on your new release!

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