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Hello, friends! I’m thrilled to welcome Kara Pleasants to the blog today to celebrate the release of her new Pride and Prejudice variation, The Unread Letter. Kara is here to talk about the setting for the novella: Brighton. Please give her a warm welcome!


Thank you so much, Anna, for welcoming me to your blog to share more about my novella “The Unread Letter.”

The premise of the novella is that Elizabeth never reads Mr. Darcy’s letter, which leads her to make different decisions than in our beloved Pride and Prejudice. In this “what if” path, the Bennets travel together to Brighton. Elizabeth, being the lover of nature that she is, of course explores the seaside and surrounding area.

As a child, I had visited Brighton while on a family trip and held what I thought were accurate memories about the trip to that beach. I remembered a beach and the waves, tall white cliffs off in the distance, a long pier with a mini-roller coaster, and a grand and ornate building that I now know to be the Royal Pavilion.

In the first drafts of The Unread Letter, I included some of these fuzzy memories in my descriptions of the place—Brighton had a sandy beach and when Elizabeth stood on it, she could see the white cliffs. My first clue that my memories were not accurate came during a first read-through by my publisher, who noted: the beach at Brighton is rocky, not sandy.

Feeling rather dismayed that my memory had so betrayed me, that correction led to a flurry of online research. Now an adult, stuck at home in Maryland during the pandemic lockdown, I explored the city of Brighton through blogs, official websites, pictures, and Youtube videos over the course of several days (perhaps even weeks). But, I still found that this wasn’t sufficient. I texted my mother, peppering her with questions about our trip. Did we actually see the Seven Sisters? Could you see any cliffs from Brighton beach? Did I even ride a roller coaster?

My mother’s clever response was to point me in the direction of my Uncle Bob: the Brit who became a member of our family when he married my Aunt Sue. In fact, the whole reason I had visited Brighton in the first place was because we travelled there for his son Robert’s christening (my cousin, Robert). This trip was an incredible experience, where we traveled to London and Buckingham Palace, and all the way as far north as York, where we saw a beautiful cathedral. A highlight of the trip was visiting Jane Austen’s house in Chawton (an incredible thrill for a 12-year-old Austen nerd!).

Realizing that I needed information from the source, I called Uncle Bob to interview him about Brighton. I discovered that he had, in fact, lived in Brighton for several years as a young man and attended university there. Not only that, but his mother lived in Seaford (a village I had been researching for the novella), and that was where we had stayed with some of his family friends for the christening.

In just an hour, Uncle Bob was able to clarify key concepts about the English landscape for me in a way that reading and pictures and videos just couldn’t. He explained, for example, that English place names are descriptive. The ending -combe indicated that the location was at the top of a hill. This lined up exactly with a place Elizabeth visits in the novella called Saddlescombe, where they also picnic at the top of Newtimber Hill. Whereas the ending -dean indicated a dip between hills, with towns like Saltdean and Rottingdean surrounding Brighton because of the way the hills go up and down along the coast.

He clarified that the Weald means the woods, whereas the Downs mean hills. He described the way the pebbles along Brighton beach went from larger rocks to finer pebbles, an element I worked into my descriptions. He also told me an old family legend about the origins of largest dry valley in England, the Devil’s Dyke—which I received permission to use in The Unread Letter.

When I asked him about the Seven Sisters, he confirmed that we had, indeed, visited the white cliffs—just not on the same day as the time we went to Brighton beach. Still, he told me that if you walked up the beach towards the Brighton Marina, at the east end of Bright Beach there you could discern some low white cliffs. And, to my delight, he also confirmed that I hadn’t imagined the roller coaster: we really had taken a ride on the Brighton Pier!

The experience not only allowed me to connect again with my uncle, whom I have not been able to see much since the pandemic, but to reexamine my own conceptions of memory and time to discover how much of memory is constructed. I also learned, again, the value and beauty of a human conversation. I am so grateful for our conversation, and hope that it makes the book feel real and present–so that we can all travel, for a moment, to the Brighton sea.


About The Unread Letter

For every one of his smiles, she thought of his letter and blushed with shame of what she had done. Oh, that she might have just looked at it!

After rejecting Mr Darcy’s proposal at Hunsford, Elizabeth Bennet is surprised when he finds her walking the next day and hands her a letter. Without any expectation of pleasure—but with the strongest curiosity—she begins to open the letter, fully intending to read it.

It really was an accident—at first. Her shaking hands broke the seal and somehow tore the pages in two. Oh, what pleasure she then felt in tearing the pages again and again! A glorious release of anger and indignation directed towards the man who had insulted her and courted her in the same breath. She did feel remorse, but what could she do? The letter was destroyed, and Elizabeth expected that she would never see Mr Darcy again.

Home at Longbourn, she discovers that her youngest sisters are consumed by a scheme to go to Brighton—and Elizabeth finds herself drawn to the idea of a visit to the sea. But the surprises of Brighton are many, beginning with a chance meeting on the beach and ending in unexpected romance all around.

Buy on Amazon


About the Author

Kara Pleasants lives in a lovely hamlet called Darlington in Maryland, where she and her husband are restoring an 18th century farm in Susquehanna State Park. They have two beautiful and vivacious daughters, Nora and Lina. A Maryland native, Kara spent a great deal of her childhood travelling with her family, including six years living in Siberia, as well as five years in Montana, before finally making her way back home to attend the University of Maryland.

Kara is an English teacher and Department Chair at West Nottingham Academy. She has taught at the secondary and collegiate level at several different schools in Maryland. Her hobbies include: making scones for the farmer’s market, writing poetry, watching fantasy shows, making quilts, directing choir, and dreaming about writing an epic three-party fantasy series for her daughters.


Giveaway

Quills & Quartos is offering an ebook of The Unread Letter to one of my readers. To enter, simply leave a comment with your email address. Q&Q will choose the winners a week after the blog tour ends. The winners will be announced on the Q&Q Facebook and Instagram pages. Good luck!

Thank you, Kara, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new release!

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