Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Dashwod. Ms. Dashwood published her first novel “Only a Novel” in June 2012. Here is a description:
Elizabeth Markette has always led a quiet and privileged life under the guardianship of her wealthy grandmother. But when her grandmother dies and leaves twenty-one-year-old Elizabeth alone in the world and nearly penniless, she’s forced to earn her own living for the first time in her life. Taking inspiration from her favorite British novels, she sets sail for England to seek a position as a governess. Before she can do that, however, she is rather abruptly and overwhelmingly befriended by a lonely and slightly eccentric young socialite, Lavinia Bancroft, who introduces her to the sparkling world of London society. Yet Elizabeth still feels the need to make her own way, though once she actually acquires a position, she begins to have doubts as to whether she’s actually qualified. The children she’s teaching don’t seem to like her, the housemaid seems far too eager to be friends—who wants to be friends with a housemaid?—and the stable hand keeps interfering with the children. Elizabeth’s one hope and consolation is that somehow, some way, Mr. Darcy will come riding out of the mists very soon indeed to save her from a life of respectable servitude. There’s just one problem—where is he?
Show LePaula Tansey: How long did it take you to write “Only a Novel?
Amy Dashwood: I started it in November 2011 as part of the NaNoWriMo Challenge and finished it in June 2012.
PT: What's a typical writing day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?AD: In November for the challenge my goal was 2000 words per day. That leaves just enough time for sleeping, eating and school. After the challenge was complete, I wrote whenever I could and whatever I could finish each session.
PT: What does your family think of your writing?AD: Carolyn (sister) likes it. And Mom, too. It's not really Dad's type of book. He started it, but I think he got bored with it. Robbie (who is 7) didn't like it because it's not about Legos.
PT: What do you like to do when you're not writing?AD: I read, sew, blog. And I like to decorate cakes.
PT: How would you describe “Only a Novel” to those who have not read it?AD: It's historical fiction inspired by Jane Austen but it's not fan fiction....although it's written by a Jane Austen fan.
PT: Would you tell my readers how old you are?
PT: So how did you research for a story that takes place in the late 1800’s? And why did you choose that time period?AD: I wanted it to take place after Jane Austen's novels were written and I wanted a time period when nothing dramatic was going on - no wars or economic disasters. I read a lot, mostly websites, to see what daily life would be like. I chose a more or less peaceful time so I didn't have to worry about too many dates or names of things that actually happened.
PT: Is there any significance to the naming of your characters?AD:Elizabeth Bennet is the name of a Jane Austen character but beyond that they were just names I liked.
PT: Who is your favorite character in “Only a Novel”?AD: (no hesitation) Rodney.
PT: If it’s possible without giving away anything important, can you tell us your favorite part of the book?AD: When Elizabeth runs into Lavinia at Kensington Gardens. It was my favorite part to write. (laughs) Maybe I'm sadistic, because I enjoyed writing an embarrassing moment?
PT: The story is told from Elizabeth’s perspective. Is Elizabeth you?AD: No. She's a little like me, but she's not me.
PT: Will there be a sequel to “Only a Novel”?AD: Not planned.
PT: Will there be another book authored by Amy Dashwood?AD: I hope so.
PT: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?AD: I think I always wanted to be a writer but got serious about it a few years ago. When I was 7, I was reading a lot. I started to wonder what would happen if I read all the books in the world and I ran out of good stuff to read? I started writing stories back then and stapling the pages together as "books".
PT: What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?AD: Hmmm that's a good question. (Thinks about this for a few minutes) I guess " What would you change if you could edit the book now?" The answer is I would have done more character development especially near the end. I wrapped it up too quickly especially between Lavinia and Wilfred Pickering.
PT: Who?AD: See.... He married Lavinia. I should have developed him better and you would have remembered him.
PT: If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?AD: Probably something along the lines of “I Cannot Live Without Books.” That’s a quote from Thomas Jefferson and one of my favorites.
** End of Interview.
I read "Only a Novel before the interview. I have never read nor seen any of the movies of Jane Austen's novels. I had some concerns that perhaps I would have trouble following. I did not. I enjoyed the book a lot. Perhaps my enjoyment would have been greater had I read more Austen ahead of this but I do not feel like I failed to understand the story because of that.
I tend to read more than one book at a time and this one became my 'on the nightstand read before going to sleep' book. Several nights I stayed up too late reading :)
I admit to figuring out some of the ending before I got there but that happens a lot with me. Even so, it was fun to see how exactly the characters got to what I thought I already knew.