Stephanie: Hello, Melanie! I am so delighted to chat today with you about your book, Follies Past, which has been awarded the prestigious B.R.A.G. Medallion. First, I would like to ask you how you discovered indieBRAG and what would you like to say about this company?
Melanie: I have so much to say about this subject that I am sure would test the bounds of this interview. Quality control is the missing link in the self-publishing world, and IndieBRAG is really stepping up to fill that void. They are providing precisely the service that I, as an independent author, need in order to get the attention of readers, booksellers, media, even agents and potential publishers. I can only imagine that they will grow in notoriety and importance in the publishing world as self-publishing becomes larger and it becomes even more important for readers to be able to identify the really good books from among the myriads.
Stephanie: I am completely thrilled about your book. I love anything Jane Austen and when I read your book description, I knew that I need to read this story as soon as I can. Please tell your audience a little about this book and what sets it apart from the other.
Melanie: Follies Past is a book I wanted to read, but hadn’t been written, so I wrote it. It is a story entirely grounded in Pride and Prejudice, and designed after the style of Jane Austen’s novels in general. The essentials of the story are taken from the letter that Darcy gives to Lizzy, setting out his history with Mr. Wickham. I used every bit of information that Austen gave us, about the characters, the facts, the circumstances, etc. and I applied my linguistics training to imitate the language that she wrote in, which is quite different from our own in terms of vocabulary, structure and style. My intention was just to give Austen fans more of what they love, to allow them to linger a bit longer with her characters, her world, as she wrote it. I have also fleshed out the story with characters of my own invention, so that the plot would hang on something that resembled a Jane Austen style love story. And there are a few surprises with respect to some minor P&P characters, which I hope readers will enjoy.
Stephanie: I am so delighted you decided to write a story of Georgiana and Wickham. I have to admit Georgiana is one of my favorite Austen characters and I’ve always wanted to read more about her. Please tell me a little about what her relationship with her best friend Clare is like. How do they complement each other and what is their favorite past times together?
Melanie: The story is about Georgiana, but it is Clare who is the heroine. Georgiana is very shy, very unsure of herself though she has a very tender heart. It is suggested in P&P that she comes off as a snob, but in fact is just reserved. This makes it difficult for her at school. She is rich, to be sure, but she doesn’t make friends easily. Clare is not rich. She is an admiral’s daughter and has no dowry. She has a high moral character and is very caring. She and Georgiana are drawn to each other because they both feel they don’t fit in. Clare takes care of Georgiana in a way, and Georgiana, with her sweet sincerity, gives Clare permission to go easy on herself. I imagine Georgiana showing Clare how pretty she is by doing her hair for her and lending her jewels, and Clare making Georgiana sing in public, and not taking ‘no’ for an answer. They encourage each other, and they really do admire each other and think that the other is everything they wish they could be.
Stephanie: Please tell me about Lord Ashwell. His weaknesses and strengths and what is an example of his part in the story?
Melanie: Lord Ashwell is Georgiana’s cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam’s elder brother and heir to an Earldom. He is refined and charming and sickly and he may or may not be a rogue of the worst kind. It is very easy to fall in love with him, but the reader does not know whether to heed the scandalous stories about his past. He lives very near to where Georgiana lives in London, and they meet quite often. He is instrumental to several points in the plot, but it would be giving away too much to tell you what they are!
Stephanie: I’ve always considered Caroline a bit devious. What is one of the ways she tries to get in Darcy good graces to marry her? Though I must say he probably has never given thought to marry her. Or am I wrong? And in what you have told me about her in the questionnaire I sent you-without giving the main conflict away, do we see her in a false light? Is she really different then she comes across? I think many people will be surprised about her in your book and that is one of the things I look forward to reading about in your story.
Melanie: Caroline is quite awful. Let us make no mistake. I do not pretend otherwise in my book. The first part of the book does really focus on her story though, and for reasons I cannot explain, that propels the rest of the story in a way. I will say that she experiences real love for the first time in my book, and that this softens her a little, as it does with so many people. Her ambition makes her detestable, and when she is distracted and buoyed by her mutual affection for another, she becomes much more likeable. I noticed when I was studying P&P for character descriptions, that Caroline and Lizzy are often described in the same terms. Both are witty, light in their form, confident and playful. When you take away Caroline’s mean-spiritedness, she is surprisingly like our favourite Miss Bennett. Of course, this is only fleeting, and all the more tragic for being so. We see the possibility of her character, which is lost forever by the time P&P opens.
Stephanie: I see that Mrs. Young is in Follies Past. Does she have the same characteristic traits in this story as we all know her to have?
Melanie: She is in cahoots with Mr. Wickham, and in fact is the one behind the scheme to marry him off to Georgiana. She is perhaps the most evil character in the story, but she is also a victim of her circumstances. She reminds me a bit of Becky Sharp, from Vanity Fair. She is intelligent and driven, but as a woman, she is limited in her means of advancement and she does what she must to reach her own aims.
Stephanie: Will you write other stories like this?
Melanie: I hope to. I plan to write a prequel to Sense and Sensibility next. It is all planned in my head. I just have to find the time to sit down and type it out, which is no small task in my life. I work full time and have 2 small boys, so my time with my word processor is limited.
Stephanie: How long did it take to write, Follies Past and what was your process?
Melanie: I worked the whole thing out in my head before I started. I travel a lot for work, so driving is my thinking time, and I figure out how the plot is all going to fit together. It took me just under 2 years to get a final draft.
Stephanie: Who designed your book cover?
Melanie: Alberta artist Angela Rout did the art work. We discussed the design together, and came up with the concept. It is a paper cutting, which is an old art form. I liked that it was both graphic and traditional. I didn’t want something that looked like a romance novel, or the usual floral imagery. I wanted it to stand out from other Fan Fiction.
Stephanie: What advice would you give to a beginner writer?
Melanie: Listen to criticism. It is hard to take, but you have to swallow it. You have to assess objectively whether there is anything you really should change. Sometimes people are wrong, but often they have identified something that could improve your writing, and you should genuinely try and figure out what it is, even if the way they have articulated it doesn’t resonate with you.
Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?
Melanie: eBooks can be downloaded on Amazon. The Paperback is also available from CreateSpace. I would also love it if people would check out and share my book trailers on YouTube. They were a lot of fun to watch and have some great eye candy in the form of Mr. Wickham. My channel is called Follies Past, and the link is on youtube.
Stephanie: Thank you, Melanie! It was a pleasure chatting with you. Please visit with me again soon!
Melanie Kerr studied linguistics, English and theatre at the University of British Columbia and law at the University of Alberta. She is a regular attendee at meetings of her local chapter of JASNA, and has numerous times arranged for large groups of Canadians to join her in attending the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, England. Kerr is a reckless lover of clotted cream, a staunch defender of the semi-colon and a fierce opponent of unpleasant music. She wooed her current and only husband with false promises of skill at word games and eternally good hair. She lives in Edmonton, where she raises her two sons, sews her own Regency costumes, organizes Regency costume events, blogs on all things old and English, endeavours to take over the world and occasionally practices law. Follies Past is her first novel.
A message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Melanie Kerr, who is the author of, Follies Past, our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, 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, Follies Past, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.