I’m excited to have Maria Grace as a guest on Diary of an Eccentric again today, this time to celebrate the release of her novella, Snowbound at Hartfield (click to read my review). Because Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and Emma are my favorites of Austen’s novels, I was curious as to what inspired Maria to merge these stories, and she has been kind enough to talk about that and the challenges of getting the principal characters together. Please give a warm welcome to Maria Grace:
By all accounts, Snowbound at Hartfield is a bit of an odd duck. It is an Austen mash-up of three different books, a romance about second chances and a glimpse at the difficult reality single adults, men and women, faced in the regency era. Kind of a tall order under the best of circumstances.
But no one has ever accused me of doing things the easy way.
The idea for Snowbound came out of a March Mash-up Madness theme we had last year at Austen Variations. (Shameless plug—we’re doing it again next month! Go by the Facebook group and leave us your suggestion! You never know…) One of our readers suggested a scene between some of the Austen fathers. It seemed to me like Mr. Bennet would find Mr. Woodhouse and Sir Walter Elliot particularly good fodder for his sense of humor.
The biggest challenge was figuring out how to get them all in the same place at the same time, given that neither Mr. Woodhouse nor Mr. Bennet was fond of travel. Add in the baronet we’d all like to strangle, and it was quite a pickle to get them all in a room together. Since they would not be likely to socialize together, getting stuck together because of bad weather seemed to be the best excuse available and fitting the time period.
It all took an interesting turn when the characters ended up in the drawing room together. I started out writing a scene about the fathers. But midway through that scene, two secondary characters stepped up and informed me that this was their story and it was not going to be over in a single scene. In fact, I tried to end the story twice before I actually got to the end the characters demanded. They were very insistent that I get them to the end they wanted. The oddest thing about it was that it was a heroine I NEVER expected to write.
In general, I have never liked Miss Elizabeth Elliot, especially since I see myself something of an Anne Elliot. So I definitely didn’t want to write her or set her up for a happy ending.
But, I guess I’m a sucker for characters who want to turn over a new leaf (like Lydia in The Trouble to Check Her). The story begins after Miss Elliot has suffered two very difficult experiences. First, the heir presumptive of the family, William Elliot, has taken her friend, Penelope Clay, ‘under his protections’–which is to say he has made her his mistress. Worse yet, Penelope is living in his house, which was just not done. All this happened while Elizabeth was expecting an offer of marriage from him. Talk about humiliation!
On top of that, her younger sister Anne is married to the very desirable Captain Wentworth, leaving Elizabeth, the eldest sister who should have been the first to marry, the only one left unmarried.
So, Elizabeth is an humiliated spinster, whose financial situation requires her to live with her foolish father. In such a situation, she would be the mistress of the house, handling the management aspect of this home. With little money to work with, it would have been very challenging to live the lifestyle of a baronet, as her father would have required.
Living through all that would tax anyone, maybe even to the breaking point. To me, it seemed the perfect motivation for potential personal change, so that’s the place I wrote her from.
The hero of this tale, believe it or not, is Colonel Fitzwilliam, who in many ways was as broken as Miss Elliot. As a military officer of the era, he would have seen action in the Napoleonic wars. Those wars were brutal and horrific. It is hard to imagine a man who could experience that without some lasting effects. Those experiences impact him greatly, leaving him feeling ‘less’ than the man he used to be.
On top of all that, he is a bachelor in a society that considered unmarried men the ‘scourge of society’. In many instances, bachelors paid substantially more in taxes than married men, while at the same time, they were not regarded as fulfilling their masculine potential. They were not as persecuted at spinsters, but they were definitely looked down upon.
So what happens when these two, worn-around-the-edges characters meet up? Let’s just say it wasn’t what I was expecting! But this is one snowstorm I’m very glad I got caught in.
Thanks, Maria! I am so glad for that snowstorm as well, since I absolutely loved this novella!
About Snowbound at Hartfield
Colonel Fitzwilliam should have been happy facing retirement. No more Napoleon, no more tromping the Continent, and his distant cousin had unexpectedly left him an estate. What was more, two of his favorite people, Darcy and Elizabeth, were travelling with him to visit his new home.
But the colonel wasn’t happy, not when he was forced to watch Darcy exchanging enamored glances with his wife. No, he wanted to pitch his cousin out the window. It didn’t help when Darcy kept lecturing him on the joys of wedded life— as if women like Elizabeth Darcy grew on every tree.
Then the snow started.
Now they were stranded at the home of George and Emma Knightley, another intolerable, blissfully wedded couple who wanted nothing more than to see his bachelor days come to an end. Thank heavens they never thought of matching him with the proud spinster who had also been caught in the storm. That would have been utterly intolerable.
Or would it?
About the Author
Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.
She has one husband and one grandson, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, is starting her sixth year blogging on Random Bits of Fascination, has built seven websites, attended eight English country dance balls, sewn nine Regency era costumes, and shared her life with ten cats.
Maria is generously offering an ebook copy of Snowbound at Hartfield. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will close on Sunday, March 5, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!