I reviewed her book Mr. & Mrs. Darcy: Two Shall Become One a week or so ago and really, really liked it. I emailed her, told her how much I loved it and asked her if I could interview her. Her answer? A resounding yes! So, without further ado, my interview w/ Sharon.
1. I know you've answered this on your blog and site, but I'd really like to delve more into why you decided to focus so much on the 2005 movie version of Pride and Prejudice. I love that version myself, but why that one? Why not any of the others or even the book?
You ask me on down the page if I am a visual person. The answer is yes. I am also an emotive person. Passionate and full of life. I love the art of cinema. I adore reading, obviously, but as I read I automatically create the scene in my head. The film rolls as I read with as much vivid detail as the writer conveys. I enjoy all types of movies, but those special ones that transport me in some way, that capture my heart, that lift my soul, that make me feel something amazing are the ones that stick with me. I watch them over and over, just as I will read a favorite book over and over, with the effect not diminishing but instead growing.
Joe Wright’s masterpiece struck me in that way. I can’t completely explain it and I know some folks disagree, but I would be lying if I claimed otherwise. The 1995 miniseries was lacking, to me. Doesn’t mean I hated it, doesn’t mean I ignored the novel, and it doesn’t mean I disdain Jane Austen’s brilliance. But it was the movie adaptation that birthed this gift for writing that I know has been lurking within all my life. Should I just ignore that? Should I have turned away and never given my artistic vision to the huge number of my fans just because some people hated the movie?
You are correct that I have answered this question hundreds of times, but I do not mind clarifying. Of course, I know that there is the camp who will never agree with me as I will never comprehend their negativity. I just do not see it as a ‘one or the other’ proposition. I can’t wrap my head around why changing the proposal from the afternoon to sunrise is a heinous breach of sacred ground. If such slavish devotion to literary works were the law declared from on high, then we would have no stage plays and less than half the movies ever made. Thank God there are Joe Wrights, and even Andrew Davieses (Is wet shirt Mr. Darcy in the novel?), who are unafraid to face the ridicule for their art.
2. When you started writing, I know it was on a fan site. How did you even find the site to get started? I'd love to do fan fiction for a lot of different things but wouldn't even know where to get started.
A simple Google search! For quite a few years I was part of an interactive forum called The One Ring that was for discussions regarding JRR Tolkien and Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings.” It was marvelous fun, but also opened my eyes to the fun world of internet chatrooms.
Immediately after seeing P&P I just wanted to talk to people about it! I wasn’t looking for Jane Austen fan fiction (JAFF) as I did not know that existed. I typed in ‘Pride & Prejudice movie’ and the only website I found that was specifically created as a fan site for the new movie was the now defunct Longbourn Loungers. For well over a month I merely shared my feelings about the movie with other fans while also delving into the world of Jane Austen. I completely ignored the fan fiction pages as that was not primarily my interest at the time. I knew based on comments made on LL as well as other sites (like The Derbyshire Writer’s Guild at Pemberley.com) that most JAFF was of the What if? or modern or behind-the-scenes variety, and that held no appeal for me. I was already spinning sequel visions in my head as I have done all my life, but with the typical happily-ever-after tone that did not seem to mesh with the prevalent need to rehash the trauma of the book. Eventually I did start reading the stories on LL and other websites, becoming addicted to how folks approached and altered the P&P basics, but never finding what was in my head. The rest is history, as they say.
3. It's pretty obvious throughout the book that you personally have a strong faith in God. What made you decide to focus on some of the religious aspects, especially in regards to Mr. Darcy?
In one respect it came naturally out of my faith and convictions. I desired a content life for Darcy and Lizzy; a marriage of bliss, passion, understanding, and so on – attributes and goals that I personally believe are attainable within marriage. A marriage can have those things apart from the couple being Christian, but I know that marriage was initiated by God and thus if the Bible says it is possible then I believe it!
Nevertheless, I did not set out to write a ‘Christian novel’ and I do not think it fits that category. My decision to write Darcy as a man with a strong faith was more logical than out of a desire to preach. Religion, as helmed by The Church of England, was a serious part of life in the past. The movements of men like the Wesley Brothers, the convictions of men like William Wilberforce, and the influence of the Church on government are all a part of history that cannot be denied. Why not have the Darcy family be serious about religion and supporters of the Church? It was far more the norm than not and you see those moral believes all through Miss Austen’s books, her own faith and upbringing an influence on her writing.
4. Outside of writing, what are some of your hobbies?
I don’t have too much time for hobbies these days! Even my reading has drastically declined. I still do manage to read for pleasure, goof off on Facebook and a couple other websites I enjoy, catch the occasional movie with my family, and keep up on my favorite TV shows. The DVR is on overdrive these days and I am WAY behind! My husband and I have to spend our alone times together – that is essential even after 23 years of marriage. My daughter is one of my best friends so we have our “girl’s days” when lunch and catching a sappy chick flick is the norm. And as a family we love to take our trailer out for our form of camping. Not too exciting, but it keeps me balanced.
5. Favorite authors?
So many! JRR Tolkien, Raymond Feist, David Eddings, JK Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Robert Ludlum, Stephen King, Anne McCaffrey, Terry Brooks, Terry Pratchett, Terry Goodkind, CS Lewis, John Jakes, Orson Scott Card, James Michener, Diana Gabaldon, Philippa Gregory, Barbara Hambly. See a pattern here? Mostly fantasy/sci-fi and historical fiction with few romance novels! I am learning to appreciate the pure romance genre with my Casablanca sister authors getting me initiated.
6. Favorite food?
Can I just say all? We live in the Central Valley of California where Mexican food is the BEST! Sushi, Indian cuisine, good old-fashioned steak and baked potato (Angus beef country), chocolate anything, espressos (homemade by my DH), Chinese, and the list goes on……
7. Favorite vacation spot?
I love the mountains. I grew up in the Las Padres forest and although I never want to live in snow again – EVER – I do love the fresh air and beauty of rugged terrains. Our best family vacations were to Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho.
8. If you knew you only had 24 hours to live, what would you do and why?
Spend at least half that time talking to all my dearest friends and family. I would tell them how much they have meant to me and take the opportunity to share the Gospel one last time with great authority. Then I would quietly hang with my husband and two kids, comforting them because to me it will only be a second of glory staring at my Lord before they are right beside me once again.
9. If you had a million dollars and had 24 hours to spend it (and you had to spend it all), what would you do? Why?
Set up massive trust funds for my kids and husband, give a major chunk to my church, buy that spread in Montana that my husband dreams of and I refuse to even consider (see above comment re: snow), buy the Queen Anne that I want somewhere warm for when the Montana snow is killing me, give portions to my extended family, probably new cars all around with my dream Porsche Carrera topping the list, book several trips and cruises with an extended survey of England a priority, gather up all the incredible friends I have made via my writing for a long girlie bash somewhere tropical, buy a mega-plush fifth-wheel to travel around the country in leisure, and if that doesn’t deplete it I would donate the remainder to charity.
10. What is your writing style like? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you find yourself having conversations with your characters in your head? :)
Totally a panster, although I just learned the meaning of that word in recent months. From the beginning I was taking it one day at a time, literally, traveling with the Darcys through life and allowing my instinct and research to guide me. When I do have an ultimate plan or result in mind (and I frequently do) I keep it loose, letting inspiration lead me along to how I want it to end. I mostly write very chronologically, although that has altered somewhat now that I am no longer writing web-based chapters.
The characters never talk TO me, but they do talk amongst themselves in my head! Whole conversations and scenes have played out in my dreams or while I am doing something mundane like vacuuming.
11. One of the things I really liked about the book was the "visual" aspect to it. Do you find yourself to be a visual person? Or are you a verbal or tactile kind of person?
As I said above, I am very visual. Even in my nursing career I learn and remember if I can get my hands on it and do it. I love reading a novel where the descriptions are clear. I want to know what they are seeing, what the air feels like, what smells there are, etc. Anything that adds to the impression of the scene. Of course, one can get carried away with detailed descriptiveness, so I have to rein it in at times. But I very much wanted the reader to experience what Lizzy and Darcy are experiencing, and to fully do that one has to ‘see’ the surroundings as clearly as possible.
12. What can we look forward to in the next book?
“Loving Mr. Darcy ~ Journeys Beyond Pemberley” begins immediately where “Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy” ends. Journeys and history are the theme as first the Darcys travel to Hertfordshire with the Bennets and Bingleys interacting. The Season in London is the next stop with additional characters being introduced, both familiar from Austen’s novel and uniquely my own creation. Then it is back to Pemberley for several summertime events. Lastly the Darcys embark on a solitary vacation through the Midlands of Derbyshire, coming full circle for a return to their estate.
13. How many books are you planning on when it comes to this series?
Hey, I’m a panster remember? I have no plans! LOL! I can tell you what I have so far. In January of 2010 “The Darcys at Year’s End” will be released, culminating as the name implies with the completion of one year of marital bliss – and a new addition to the family. The material I have already written, plus what is in my head waiting to emerge, will make for 2 more books after the third. Additionally I have completed over half of a companion novel that focuses on the adventures and romances of Georgiana Darcy set against the backdrop of post-Napoleonic France. Further thoughts yet to be written but enthusiastically endorsed by my publisher are two novels, one centering on Kitty Bennet and another on a character who is introduced in “Loving Mr. Darcy.” Time and book sales will tell!
14. Who is/are your favorite actor(s)?
I am a huge fan of Matthew Macfadyen as a result of seeing him in P&P. He is a remarkable actor who sadly prefers to stay across the pond! Kevin Spacey, Mel Gibson, Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Johnny Depp, Gerard Butler, Anthony Hopkins, Viggo Mortensen, and just about a hundred others.
Meryl Streep, Judi Dench, Anne Hathaway, Amy Adams, Keira Knightley….I just can’t think! Too many names!
16. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go & why?
There are so many places, but first on the agenda would be England. I have to see all the places I have written about and make sure I got it right!
17. I know you work as a neonatal nurse. What is your favorite part of your job?
The babies, without a doubt. I love working with kids. My first job as an RN was in pediatrics, but when I transferred ‘temporarily’ into the NICU I never looked back. It is incredibly rewarding and challenging. Next I love the high adrenaline of the ICU setting. I am one of those people who flourish under pressure, love being a decision maker, and have the gift of rapid response.
18. If you could meet anyone famous, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
JRR Tolkien. I have no idea what I would say other than to thank him for the amazing world he created that has brought me decades of pleasure. And I would like to meet Jane Austen to clear up the who-is-the-best Darcy debate once and for all!
19. What are your thoughts when it comes to fans? Do you prefer to keep some distance between them and you or do you find yourself being pretty open? I'm asking because I'm curious. :)
I love my fans! The best part of this whole writing experience has been the incredible people I have ‘met,’ many of whom are now dear friends that I know I shall have for life. I never tire of hearing how my story has pleased someone. That is partially why I write, to bring entertainment and some degree of joy to others. Connecting with folks from all over the world is phenomenal.
But of course that openness can come with a price. I have been hurt and disappointed a few times due to my expectations of returned sentiments. Luckily that has been rare and I do hope I never have to change my approach to fans.
20. What is your advice to aspiring writers? What is one thing you learned that you wish you could've done differently?
I sincerely do not think I would do anything differently. I have made a few errors in judgment that were not pleasant, but the learning experience is worth it in the end. My biggest advice is to stay true to yourself. Know your vision and do not let anyone tell you it must be otherwise. Honest, well meaning critique and assistance is valuable and not what I am referring to. But it is your heart on the line, your dream, your talent. Too many people resent that and will do their best to break you. Stay focused and be tenacious. This business is very tough, but the rewards are priceless.
These two aren't questions, but I ask them of every author I interview. I'm a member of the DIK Island and we had to choose the six books and six heroes of books we couldn't survive on a Desert Island without. Guess who one of mine is? Since you wrote about him, I don't have to say anything else. LOL!
Gee, who? Yeah, I would take him along too, as long as he looked like Matthew Macfadyen and not that other British guy. Can I play? Mr. Darcy is just for fun; for survival I would add Aragorn from Lord of the Rings, Edward from the Twilight books, Belgarath the Sorcerer from David Eddings’ Belgariad and Mallorean series, and my own Dr. Darcy for medical expertise and comic relief.
Thanks so much, Bridget, for this opportunity to share of myself and talk about my series! It has been great. Remember to pop over to my wonderful website at http://www.darcysaga.net/ for load of fun, education, and information on the Darcy Saga.
Sharon's publisher is putting up one copy of the book for grabs. Just comment & I will choose a winner on Weds. Go forth & comment!!!!
PS. Thank you, Sharon! And to clarify, I can only send the book to anyone in the US or Canada. I'm sorry!!!! :(