After my review of Longbourn's Unexpected Matchmaker, I received a comment from the author, Emma Hox (I had misspelled the title of the book - how embarrassing!), and she and I began emailing each other. The following "conversation" is a conglomeration pieced together from those emails, sent over the past several months, supplement by some more traditional interview question. Ms. Hox is currently on a book tour for Longbourn's Unexpected Matchmaker, for which she has planned a variety of blog appearances. In honor of her visit to First Impressions, she kindly offered to giveaway a signed copy of her book to one of my lucky readers, the details for which are at the end of this post. Keep updated on her schedule at her blog, LovePridePrejudice.com. I hope you enjoy our talk of Austen, publishing, and life, as much as we enjoyed having it.
Congratulations of the rerelease of Longbourn's Unexpected Matchmaker! I originally read the first version, which was also published through Rhemalda. This is my first knowledge of the publisher, and I have never before known one to do a second edition with additional edits so soon. They seem a rather remarkable publisher.
Rhemalda... a rather remarkable publisher indeed... it is my husband. In October of 2009, Rhett, my husband, opened Rhemalda Publishing, a full fledged traditional publishing company as a corporation and obtained a printing and distribution contract. We published my book as the test book to work out all of the kinks until we opened doors for other authors and hired the editor and designer. I thought I would be lucky if my mom and sister purchased the book and never expected it would sell like it did. When it began selling hundreds of copies and I started getting e-mails from my blog, comments at Amazon and website book reviews bringing up the mistakes (back the middle of December) I hired a professional editor to edit the book. I then suspended sales in the beginning of January and sent the printer the new version. So any purchases after January 17th were of the revised draft.
I really enjoy meeting and speaking with other writers, particularly those with an Austen penchant, as I am totally and completely obsessed with her work myself. Congratulations on the success of your book and on starting your own company! Are you willing to share your experience creating the publishing company? If so, I'd really like to hear more about how you came to the decision to follow that path.
Rhett started the publishing company because, honestly, the self-publishing venues cannot get you the distribution channels needed to successfully distribute your book worldwide. You usually get one or two distribution channels including Amazon. We now have a contract for 14 wholesale distribution channels worldwide including Ingram and Baker & Taylor. Rhett can publish not only my books, but everyone else's as well. We are a tried and true publishing company complete with royalties and the whole works. We currently have two authors that we have contracts with, and their books will come out this fall. One of them is a Jane Austen Adaptation. We kind of want to stick to Jane Austen books since there is such a readership for them, and it is what I love, but we have been receiving so many submissions that we are not limiting ourselves. One of our authors writes fantasy fiction. Current staff for Rhemalda Publishing includes President and Publisher, Storyline Editor, Grammar Editor, Graphic Designer and Accountant.
It sounds like you are well on your way. Good luck! Now let's talk Austen. How did you first fall in love with novels and what inspired you to write a Pride and Prejudice "What if?" story?
I have been a Pride and Prejudice fan since before I can remember and have spent hundreds of hours on various websites reading others fan fiction stories. I have "tough" pregnancies, where I am hospitalized for much of them. With the pregnancy of my last child I was restless and I suppose a little complantive that I was running out of stories to read, and the one I was reading frustrated me, making Mr. Bennet almost a villain. My dear husband was so sweet. He calmly stated "If you are so worried about him write your own story."
And so you did! Have you always been a writer?
I have always loved writing, when I was younger I wrote short little stories between my friends and I. In college I wrote some poetry for my roommates birthdays and special events or wrote altered song lyrics to popular tunes that we would perform either in our apartment or at social gatherings, but writing a novel did not cross my mind until 2007. I discovered the Derbyshire Writers Guild in 2004 I think it was. I was considered a lurker, a person who went and read every story, devoured every comment written by everyone else, but never commented to anyone or wrote anything. I frequently though about writing, but wondered whether I could. In 2007 I had to spend some time down and taking it easy and decided to try my hand at writing. I first wrote two very short stories. Elizabeth Bennet's Easter and Elizabeth Bennet's Birthday. I received a few polite comments that encouraged me. I enjoyed it so much that I started researching the art of writing. That is to say beyond a few English classes in college.
So you followed through on your husband's suggestion, sat down and wrote a novel. So many people start the process and give up - how did you approach such a daunting project?
I read every story I could get my hands on taking note of those that I enjoyed and those that I did not. I documented different writing styles and then filtered through everything to choose my own style. Once I determined that I began to think of a storyline.
I at first had a little trouble coming up with a storyline, I wanted Colonel Fitzwilliam to be the Matchmaker, many of you can see in the beginning of the story how it was leading that way. In fact some people say the story would be more believable had I left it because Mr. Darcy would never open up as he did to a stranger. But my concern was that as a new writer I did not want to write an angst riddled story and every which way I wrote about the Colonel it seemed he was getting more in the way instead of helping things along. So wha-la we get to Mr. Bennet.
Wha-la, indeed! What was your favorite part of writing (and publishing) your first novel, and do you have plans for more?
Writing Longbourn's Unexpected Matchmaker has been such a wonderful learning experience for me, as any first book is for any writer, that I can honestly say that my writing has improved. I am currently writing three more stories. The one of most interest to the Jane Austen community being Mrs. Bennet, Mother of Five Daughters. The story begins at the birth of Mary and proceeds until the announcement that Mr. Bingley has let Netherfield Park at the beginning of Pride and Prejudice. My story begins when Mary is born, she is folding a little dress and personally packing Lizzy and Jane's bags for a visit to the newly married Gardiners. She is not recovering as quickly from her pregnancy and the disappointment of not having a son and heir for the third time. She does not want them to go, but must for her health, and this is where her silliness begins. The story continues over the years of the other girls births and the years of the girls growing to maturity. We learn alot about Mrs. Bennet and all of her daughters. Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley and so many other characters are not even in the story, so it is quite an undertaking. I get to write the story of Jane with her admirer that read poetry and scared away love. In fact that is becoming one of my favorite parts. I am also giving Lizzy her fair share of admirers, though some of them are from a distance.
I love the notion of a prequel to Pride and Prejudice - especially one without zombies! The Janeite community at large seems to be in agreement that we need more tales of Jane Bennet, but Mrs. Bennet's story is a totally fresh idea, as far as I know. How did you come up with it?
As I imagine that Lizzy Bennet could not have such an indolent father, I also have a vision for Mrs. Bennet that underneath all her silliness and nerves, there used to be a mama bear that was a force to be reckoned with. It is only after subsequent years of heartache over not having a son, an heir, and her shattered hopes of Jane finding a match in all the young men she has brought around that has made her desperate. I like to give our heroine a little quirk... last time it was climbing trees, this time our Mrs. Bennet will talk to the stars. Speaking to the heavens is her solace, perhaps speaking to a certain person their brings her comfort. That is all I will say for now, but is should be great.
I love the idea of Mrs. Bennet speaking to the heavens! There is something so believably whimsical about it, as with Lizzy climbing trees. Do you find it easy to relate to Mrs. Bennet?
When I am teasing my husband I love to say "I do not see that, why should I see that, why should that be." Of course wickedly grinning and impersonating the voice of Mrs. Bennet.
That's fabulous! Having just published my first book myself, I am coming to appreciate the true joys of seeing yourself in print. How did it feel to hold your book in your hands the first time, especially considering it was also your own publishing company's first release?
Words can not even express the excitement that I felt the moment my proof copy arrived and I held the book in my hands. Because it was the first book of Rhemalda Publishing, my husband could share every bit of the joy that I felt. It was a great day, we quickly called a babysitter and went out to dinner to celebrate. It has been a whirlwind of excitement ever since. It has not stopped though. Each book review done I quickly go read them and then whenever my Amazon rank goes below 10,000 there is more excitement. Then when I was asked for the Radio spot I was very excited and about blew my top when Regency World Magazine agreed to do a book review and story on my book for their June issue. Each moment this gets better and better.
You have so many exciting things happening in your life right now, between the success of Longbourn's Unexpected Matchmaker, establishing Rhemalda, and raising your two sons; is it difficult to find time to write, work, and balance both the pleasures and demands of family?
Not only all that, but I am a working mother also. Not just with Rhemalda, but outside of the home as a government auditor. When we decided to take the plunge and begin Rhemalda Publishing it was taking too much of Rhett's time and energy. When it started to take off we decided that Rhett would quit his job and devote all of his time to Rhemalda, reinvesting all of the profits for the first couple of years.So when do you manage to fit it in to your busy schedule?
So is it hard for me to find time to write? It sure is, especially now that I am getting ready to begin a small book tour. I currently have 5 in store signings in Washington State, one radio interview and about 20 blog interviews/reviews lined up. It it also a possibility that I will be speaking at a Trade Show this fall. My biggest comfort is how supportive my husband and kids are, not to mention my parents and in-laws.
My favorite time to write is in the middle of the night or when I travel for work. My kids go to bed at 8pm and from then on writing is fair game. I often stay up until the wee hours of the morning writing. If I am traveling for work then I write from the moment I reach my hotel room door until midnight or one o'clock. It is kind of a joke with my friends that I never sleep.
I'm jealous you and your husband get to work side by side. Is it as wonderful as it sounds, or are there sometimes drawbacks?
No drawbacks what so ever, it is every bit as perfect as it sounds. We have always dreamed of having some sort of business that we could do together and have spent the past 11 years of our marriage thinking of one. It was 3 years ago when I started writing that Rhemalda Publishing became a dream. It took a lot of researching and work to get all of the corporation documents in order and printing and distribution contracts lined up but now years later it has been well worth it. We did not establish it as a family business because our dream is that it will grow beyond us. We established it as a corporation that way we can watch it flourish and expand beyond our wildest dreams.
Is there anything else you would like to share with my readers, before we wrap up?
I am going to put in a shameless plug and call for authors. We have determined that one of the primary genres that we will publish is going to be Jane Austen adaptations. We have been receiving some fabulous submissions and the manuscript review board has accepted and offered contracts to a few of them. Everyone should see some more books announced very soon. My shameless plug is this, we need more authors! Our goal is to have 20 authors signed in the next year. To do this we need WAY more submissions. As a new publisher the hardest part is locating quality authors with great submissions. We have received our fair share of submissions and like all publishers we have turned down many, but we have also accepted a few, though no where near our 20 that we desire. If you are an author please visit Rhemalda Publishing at www.rhemalda.com and click on the orange author button to find out how to submit your manuscript to us.
Thank you so much, Emma, for giving me this opportunity to get to know you better. Since those first emails that began this conversation, you have proved yourself my friend. I wish you the best of luck with Longbourn's Unexpected Matchmaker, Rhemalda, and your current projects. Before we close let's get back to the basics. Do you have a favorite quote from Austen, or one that is particularly meaningful to you?
My favorite quote would have to be "It is particularly incumbent on those who never change their opinion, to be secure of judging properly at first" (chapter 18) or "Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure." (chapter 58).
From Pride and Prejudice, of course!
Win a signed copy of Longbourn's Unexpected Matchmaker! Leave a question or comment including your email address before 12:00 AM EST, April 26th, for a chance to win this charming "What if?" story!