I’d like to welcome back, B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Maria Grace to talk with me about her book, Mistaking her Character. Though Maria has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.
She has one husband, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, six novels in in the works, attended seven period balls, sewn eight Regency era costumes, shared her life with nine cats through the years published her tenth book last year.
Please tell me about your book, Mistaking Her Character.
Mistaking Her Character is a reimaging of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It began with the premise: What if Mr. Bennet was a second son and not the heir to Longbourn? In that case, he would need a profession. In the era, there were only a few options to have a profession and remain a gentleman: military officer, clergyman, barrister, and physician. In this book, I made Mr. Bennet a physician and the personal physician for Lady Catherine de Bourgh and her sickly daughter Anne. Mr. Darcy meets Elizabeth Bennet in this context, at Rosings Park.
For those who are not familiar with the notorious Lady Catherine de Bourgh, could you please tell your audience about her and what you think of her?
Lady Catherine is the widowed daughter of an earl. As Jane Austen wrote her, she is proud, entitled and controlling. Her daughter Anne is weak and sickly and easily managed. Depending on how one images her motives and mental state, Lady Catherine can be a sympathetic character or a really horrible one. In this re-imagining, she became a major antagonist. Most reader love to hate her.
Please tell me a little about the medical research you had to do for this era?
Writing both a physician and a sickly character proved to be interesting. First, I had to do some sleuthing to figure out what Anne’s illness was. It had to be something known in the period, chronic, with symptoms that would fit Jane Austen’s original work. After some time, I settled on Rheumatic Fever as the most appropriate illness for Anne.
At that point I had to take up two lines of research. First, I had to use contemporary sources to understand the disease and how to write it accurately. Then I had to go to period references (which, by the way, did not call it rheumatic fever…) and try to decipher what they would have called it and what they would have done. I also looked for what controversies in treatment might have been prevalent to allow several medical men to come into conflict about the way to progress in treatment.
In the process of the research, I came across a medical journal case study on a laudanum overdose. It was fascinating and dramatic, and it informed a major plot point in the story. It was great fun to dramatize the account and see it come to life with my characters.
What appeals to you the most about writing stories of Jane Austen characters? What have you learned about the development of creating your own interpretations of them?
Jane Austen wrote timeless characters, people who are recognizable even in our contexts today. I love to change the circumstances and see how her story-people react.
In the process I’ve learned that readers have some very decided opinions about Jane Austen’s characters and plot line. If you push those boundaries too much, they can be very vocal in their dislike. In this story, Mr. Bennet is not just a weak father, but a pretty awful one. Some readers were willing to go with it, but others found it a very difficult change to cope with.
What are you working on next?
I have finished a sequel of this story focusing on Lydia. At the end of Mistaking Her Character, Darcy has intervened and Lydia does not marry Wickham. ‘The Trouble to Check Her’ is the story of Lydia’s future. It will be out in April 2016. Elizabeth’s largely forgotten sister Mary is the subject of the next sequel that I am drafting right now.
Can you keep a secret? I’m also working out a science fiction series right now!
Will you continue to write stories that take place in this era?
I will, at least for a while. I have at least three or four more Regency stories bubbling around in my head right now. But I hope to branch out in the next year or so into science fiction and fantasy. I have two series, possibly three in development at the moment.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
Given the prominent place Lady Catherine figures in this plot, I searched Pride and Prejudice for quotes related to her and settled on ‘Mistaking her Character’ as a very fitting picture of what was going on in my story.
Who designed your book cover?
Jane Dixon-Smith. Her work is fantastic!
Be sure to check out my interview with Maria for her book, Remember the Past
A message from indieBRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to Maria Grace who is the author of, Mistaking her Charcater, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Mistaking her Character, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money