1. Congratulations on your recent marriage! As a romance writer, I hope you are willing to share a little of your own story. I am always comparing my husband to Mr. Darcy (poor man - it’s way too much to live up to!). Do you relate your relationship to any of those in Austen?
Certainly. It is difficult to avoid it! Austen sets her heroes up to be just so! Obviously, it is especially difficult not to compare David to Mr Darcy, because in essentials, he is my Darcy--or more specifically--he is my great Austen hero. If I could liken him more specifically to a character, I would probably have to say it is Henry Tilney. Although he doesn't exactly know muslin, he has easy manners and loves to tease me as Henry loved to do to Catherine. David and I met nearly two years ago and had our first date on November 2nd. One year later, on November 7th, he proposed with a box full of Taco Bell hot sauce packets that said "Will You Marry Me?" I looked up in surprise, and he said, "Well, will you?" It was all very sweet. If you've never noticed that Taco Bell has those packets that say "Will You Marry Me?" now you will. We were married six months later on June 5th (we're very big on the first weekend of the month). From our first date, I knew he was someone special. He made me laugh, had a good heart, and actually watched all five hours of Pride and Prejudice with me! David and I are most happy doing our best to make one another happy. He indulges my writing hobby and swears one day I'll make him a million dollars, and I indulge his gross exaggerations of my abilities, haha. In all seriousness, though we had it much easier than Darcy or Elizabeth usually have it in any version of their story, I think we'll be very happy for a long time to come.
2. Your wedding was entirely Austen themed (pictures can be viewed at Ms. Childers’ blog), which begs a variety of questions: how did you come up with the idea, what was your favorite themed item (I loved the programs folded like old letters and sealed with wax!), and how did you convince your husband to go along with it?
You know, I love the Regency period and the simplicity of things that comes from a simpler time in life. I decided to plan my wedding around that theme, because I already collect and decorate with little trinkets and designs that remind me of that time and of props I might see in a period movie. It sounds silly, but I will watch period movies for ideas on how to decorate my house! I think it goes along with the Southerner in me. I grew up in a simple place, raised by grandparents who come from a different time. I'm really attracted to maintaining that simplicity in my own life, and thus, the combination of a small Austen themed wedding in the country seemed like the most obvious option. At any rate, it gave me an opportunity to indulge something that I had only toyed with in moderation prior. I had so much fun!
I think the love letter programs with wax were my favorite also--namely because they were completely my own idea. On the inside, I wrote the programs just like a love letter, beginning with "My dearest loves," and it was in Jane Austen's handwriting font. I used that same font for my invitations.
My second favorite was just a coincidence. A day before the wedding, I finally went to get the book boxes. I was sure they wouldn't have enough "Pride and Prejudice" boxes at Garden ridge and so resigned myself to having to buy a few different kinds. However, I got in there and they must have had a shipment or something, because they had something like fifteen "Pride and Prejudice" boxes. It was awesome because I only needed seven. I got so lucky, and I was delighted to be able to put Austen on every table.
As I mentioned before, David is very indulgent when it comes to my Austen fetish, and was happy to sit back and let me have at it if it meant he didn't have to do much of anything. I did run everything by him as I did it though, and he helped as much as I would allow. Thank goodness he didn't mind!
3. How did you first fall in love with Austen?
It is kind of a funny story, really, because the first time I tried to read Jane Austen, I hated it. Granted, I was about thirteen years old, in a car with my family driving to Myrtle Beach for a week. The novel was Sense and Sensibility, which is ironically now my favorite. I couldn't understand how everyone was named Mrs/Miss/Mr Dashwood. I still have that copy of S&S, it's pretty ratty now, but it has since been read and enjoyed thoroughly.
In my senior year of high school, my teacher offered me Pride and Prejudice as an alternative to what the class was reading (I am notoriously scared of the dark, and was worried about how I would sleep after reading Dracula). I don't know what she expected, but I think she was pleasantly surprised with how much I loved it! I ended up making her an obnoxious 45 page PowerPoint presentation about the entire book. I later found out that she had actually never read the book herself, and my enthusiasm motivated her to read P&P and subsequently all of Austen's novels. A peek at her online teaching information reveals that she has now added Austen to the curriculum! As for me, I have been a huge Austen fan ever since.
4. In Twilight of the Abyss, Elizabeth Bennet suffers terribly when Mr. Darcy withdraws from her life due to a family scandal. What was your motivation/inspiration for putting Elizabeth through such acute torment (I couldn’t stop crying)?
I had several elements of inspiration for that story. I wanted to combine the idea of Darcy and Elizabeth falling in love, and put Elizabeth in the shoes of canon Jane in London after Darcy leaves instead of Bingley. I had this emotional scene in my head, inspired by Marianne Dashwood's seaside heartbreak, of Elizabeth looking out at a gloomy beach sunset with her heart just aching with longing. It moved me to think of her like that. I wanted her to experience something like what Darcy might have gone through after she declined his proposal in the original. Of course, I couldn't leave Darcy out of the mix, I wanted him to feel as deeply as she did.
Firstly, everything I write relies on where my heart is at the time. I can't write happy and be sad, and I can't write sad and be happy. I have to draw from something emotionally to have a sincere product that is worth reading. While I was writing Twilight of the Abyss, I was going through some personal sadness, as my father's marriage was crumbling, and dealing with my young sister's pain at being caught in the middle of the crossfire. I needed an outlet for such melancholy. I turned down the lights, I lit candles, put actual pen to paper and even made myself cry. I thought of what that is like, to love someone and them not love you back, to feel so hopeless when things happen that you can't control or change, and I focused on how that changes people. I didn't want them to suffer for nothing. I wanted them both to learn things about themselves, and even change for the better. Darcy ultimately learns something valuable from the cousin he was so determined to disdain and censure for choosing to have what Darcy gave up. Elizabeth learns that she can't internalize everything, that it only festers that way. She learns to trust people more with her feelings and that, ultimately, you have administer to your own happiness. My characters overcome a lot, but they ultimately come out on the other side. As sad as the bulk was, I really wanted the story to also be one of hope. That it doesn't have to be so hard forever. I didn't just want them to suffer in vain.
5. One of my favorite parts of your book is your development of Jane Bingley, who is much more feisty and outspoken in your hands than she is typically portrayed. Please tell us a bit about your decision to highlight this aspect of her character?
I have given a lot of thought to and even struggled with what type of person Jane Bennet is, because I have a hard time understanding how such serene sweetness can perpetuate through all situations. I cannot discount that such goodness exists, and yet I felt she could be developed a little bit. Of course, she is going to be protective of Elizabeth. Think back to how protective Elizabeth was of her. Elizabeth's behavior in Twilight of the Abyss could test the patience of a saint, hence when Jane finally loses her temper with her sister, I think it's really important. Who else is Elizabeth going to listen to a sit down from above Jane? Who else is there to do the job once they've reached this point?
And then, naturally, Jane is going to have a hard time forgiving Darcy for what he's done. I believe offenses against the people we love are much more difficult to forgive than the one's committed against ourselves. Besides, someone needed to provide relief from all immediate happiness at D&E's engagement. Jane doesn't allow Darcy to instantly forget all the pain he's caused, especially since Elizabeth does not ask him to atone for it. She is a very important link to this story, and thus I allowed her affection for Elizabeth to give her a more substantial and emotional character.
6. What are you currently writing? More Austen variations?
The next story that will be available in hard copy is called "Single Until...". The story is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice through the eyes of relationship columnist Elizabeth Bennet. It is a lighthearted comedy, and I had a lot of fun writing it.
I am currently writing another modern that pays particular attention to the differences of Southern culture: between those of us who live in the country, and the old money families that live in the city and metro-area of Atlanta. Like I did with my wedding, I've combined the Southerner and Austen and I'm seeing what I can come up with. I've also got some more Regencies up my sleeve, including one with a mentally unstable Georgiana that I'm excited about finishing.
7. What other authors are amongst your favorites?
This is such a difficult question for me to answer concisely. The list is huge! In particular, I love Harper Lee, Helen Fielding, Rebecca Wells, Virginia Woolf, J.K. Rowling, and James Dickey. To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite non-Austen novel.
8. You just launched a blog, The Newlywed Austenite. How are you enjoying it so far? When I first started blogging, I had no idea what a prominent and fulfilling part of my life it would become. Any surprises thus far?
I have dabbled in blogging before, but I've never been that great with having a theme or direction. I decided that I wanted some sort of sounding board that wasn't necessarily linked to Austen Underground, of which I am a co-founder/owner, and I could still chat about Austen and my own writing. I'm surprised about how much I love sitting down and chatting about my ideas and what I'm writing about. I have decided not to review books for the sake of reviewing them, rather I'm just going to point out what it is that I am reading and what I like about it. I want it to be conversational and honest. I want to talk about Austen, writing, and trying to live up to the expectations associated with being a good Southern wife, and chronicle my successes and failures with it all. I basically want a chance for people to get to know me outside of just my writing or just being an administrator at Austen Underground. I have an intense appreciation for Jane Austen that goes further than just Pride and Prejudice, I have an appreciation of books and words in general, I'm a burgeoning educator, and I'm struggling to find the most fitting niche from which I can build my writing. It at least gives me something to talk about, so I decided that it might be nice to put myself out there.
What's surprising is I've been having to pace myself. I have so many ideas about what I want to write about and discuss that I had to tell myself to stop posting all at once. I've instead been writing blog ideas on post-its and leaving them on my desk for later. I have to remind myself to have just one post a day right now.
9. Please tell us about some of your non-Austen interests and hobbies.
The easiest answer is loving to read in general. I love books, and I have so many that my husband begs me to avoid bookstores! Writing is my hobby. When David goes into his office to play his computer game, I go into mine, close the door and write. As I mentioned in passing, I am also finishing up my degree in English Education, so I spend a lot of time reading young adult novels (some of them are absolutely wonderful) and doing "teacher stuff." I'd like to take up some gardening in the future. I love fresh vegetables and flowers.
10. According to your “What Austen Heroine are You?” Quiz badge, you are Elinor Dashwood. I am Emma Woodhouse, but I’d like to be Anne Elliot. Are you a happy Elinor or do you wish, like me, that you were more like one of the other heroines. If so, why?
I'm a big fan of Elinor Dashwood, though, like you, I think Anne is definitely a character to admire. If I could only have the patience of Anne Elliot, the sense of Elinor Dashwood, the goodness of Fanny Price, Emma Woodhouse's beauty, and Elizabeth Bennet's sense of humor and wit, I think I would be just perfect! As for Catherine Morland, I've been feeling quite a bit like her lately whilst reading Vampire Darcy's Desire. I've had my nose tucked in that book then something in my house will make a noise, and I'll nearly fly out of my chair!
Thank you, my dear Ms. Childers, for sharing so much of yourself with us! It's a been a pleasure!
Casey Childers is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, and was a student of both Young Harris College and Kennesaw State University where she has studied literature and education. She became a lover of all things Austen in her teens and has never looked back. She now lives peacefully in north Georgia with her husband, two cats, an ever-growing book collection, and writes Austen-fiction in her free time.