Thursday, November 7, 2013

Interview with J. Marie Croft, Author of Love at First Slight

Today it is my great pleasure to have J. Marie Croft, comedic romance author extraordinaire, over for tea and an interrogation, *coughs*, I mean, interview. Please join us for a cup of tea and feel free to ask your own questions in the comments. Also, check out my review of Love at First Slight.

Good morning, Ms. Croft! Thank you for coming, would you care for some tea?

I’m grateful for the invitation.  Unaccustomed to interviews, I’m a tad nervous and wonder if you have anything stronger than ... Tea would be lovely, thanks.

I'm afraid that if I attempted to serve anything stronger trouble would ensue, the constabulary would get involved and this would turn into an entirely different sort of interview...Cream and sugar?

A few sugar cubes, please.  I may have to take my lumps once this interview is over.

How did you come up with the fascinating idea of reversing all the characters’ genders from Pride and Prejudice?

Interested in all things Austen but disgruntled by the status of women during the Regency, I thought, ‘Humph!  Pride and Prejudice would have been a completely different story if the Bennets had five sons.  Hmm.  What if they did have boys? What if I tried to write such a variation with the protagonist being – not Elizabeth but – William Bennet?’  The rest, as they say, is his story.   

Are there any characters that were particularly difficult for you to write in their new roles? Which ones did you have the most fun with?

The gender reversals were more diverting than challenging, but Mrs. Bennet’s role in Love at First Slight was probably the most difficult to write.  For some reason, I find it easier to work with male characters than female ones.  Having so many men in the story was, therefore, to my advantage.  Creating dialogue for the five Bennet brothers (moralizing Martin, charming Charles, willful William, and the temerarious twins) was particularly satisfying; and I had great fun with the two youngest, Christopher (Kit) and Laurence (Laurie).

What is your writing process like? Do you listen to music, have a particular place you like to work, etc.?

Starting with a ‘what-if’ premise, I make mountains of notes.  Ideas pop into my head at the oddest times and places – middle of the night, middle of a meeting, or middle of the forest.  Written in the dark, under the table, or while swatting mosquitoes, hen-scratched jottings might simply contain a keyword, a line of dialogue, a topic to be researched, the naming of a character, wordplay, a setting, or a twist in the plot.  

Then the sewing begins, and all those paper scraps become patchwork pieces of the quilt I want to create.  Fragments are stitched together (seamlessly, I hope), and quotes from Pride and Prejudice are woven into the tapestry.  During revisions, some threads are completely yanked out and other sections embroidered upon.


Drafting and editing processes take place, in solitude, at my desk, free from distraction and noise.  My ‘real’ job is at a music school; and, although I love almost all genres, I can’t have tunes playing while writing.  When I listen to music – be it Yo-Yo Ma’s performance of Bach’s ‘Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major’ or Satriani’s ‘Always With Me, Always With You’ (Live in Paris) – I like to give the artist my undivided attention.           

Are you a teacher at the school? What instrument/s do you play?

I’m one of the coordinators there; but, sadly, I am not musically octave.

Do you ever get writer’s block? What do you do when you need inspiration?

I try to write every day, but there are times I’m unable to string together two sentences.  So, I pick up a book and take pleasure in someone else’s words for a spell.  Reading usually motivates my need to be creative.  

What is the last book you read?

The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett.  Next on my list is Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair and then an umpteenth reading of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander in preparation for the 2014 television series.

I don't know The Bookman's Tale, I shall have to look it up...I'm really hoping they do a good job on the Outlander show; the books are great.

I love Jamie and Claire!  On my Pinterest board, I've repinned a Someecard: 

So then they handcuffed me and said, “Anything you say can and will be held against you.”  So I said, “James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser.” 

Now, let me ask you a question.  Mr. Darcy or Jamie Fraser?

Mr. Darcy has my heart, of course, but Mr. Fraser certainly draws the eye...Ahem. What is your favorite Jane Austen novel, not counting Pride and Prejudice?

Persuasion.  I consider that novel to be Austen’s finest work; but there’s just something about Darcy and Elizabeth that compels me to repeatedly revisit their story rather than Wentworth and Anne’s.

Oh, I do hope you do decide to visit Persuasion one day! It and Pride and Prejudice take turns being my favorite, depending on which one I read last.

I know what you mean, but please don’t hold your breath waiting for me to write a Persuasion-inspired story.  You’d end up half agony, half hope.
You pierce my soul! *makes theatrical gesture*

Fanciful Questions:

Trousers or knee breeches?

Trousers … unless the gentleman is wearing tall leather boots with those snug knee breeches (plus white shirt and cravat, waistcoat, tight tailcoat, gloves, and top hat).  Sharp-dressed Regency men must have been rather hot in those getups, don’t you think?

Oh, dear, I was firmly in the trouser category until you went and said that. Now I'm not so sure.

After speaking of Jamie Fraser, perhaps you should rephrase your question. Trousers, knee breeches, or kilt?

Oh, you are a wicked, wicked woman. How's a girl to choose?

Spencers or shawls?

Hmm … a spencer ... or an elegant, embroidered shawl of gossamer muslin – or delicate, patterned silk or fringed cashmere – gracefully draped around my shoulders.  Oops!  Unbeknownst to me, the shawl slides down an arm and trails along the floor.  A Regency gentleman in snug breeches, tall boots, etc., notices and comes to my rescue.  As he assists in the shawl’s recovery and replacement, his fingers ‘accidentally’ caress my skin and … What was the question?

Do you require a fan? It seems to be getting a little warm in here...

Indeed. ‘Tis almost hot enough to make a lady melt.  Let’s change the subject.  

That's probably a good idea. *fans furiously* Let's look at chocolate: white, milk, or dark?

I prefer a mélange à trois – a decadent mixture of all three.  Speaking of chocolate, Miss Elizabeth Darcy enjoys it as a drink in this snippet from Love at First Slight.

She sat and asked the footman to pour her favourite hot beverage of sweetened chocolate, flavoured with milk, vanilla, and spices. She sipped and closed her eyes in contentment. “Mmm, warm, rich, creamy, fragrant, full-bodied, and sweet, with just the right amount of zest. Perfection.” The footman took a position against the wall, stared into space, and pondered how thoroughly the young miss had just described herself.

Thank you, Lieder Madchen, for the tea and interview.  If anyone else has questions, please leave a comment, for I am quite at leisure.

The pleasure was all mine, Ms. Croft. I do hope you call again one day.

I'll leave you my calling card.  

About the Author:

J. Marie Croft lives in Nova Scotia and divides her time among working at a music lesson centre, geocaching (a high-tech treasure hunt) with her husband, and writing. Her stories are lighthearted; and her tag line is Jane Austen’s quote, “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” A member of the Jane Austen Society of North America (Canada), she admits to being excessively attentive to the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. Adult twin daughters are the light of her life even though they don’t appreciate Mr. Darcy the way ‘Momzie” does.

About the Book:
In this humorous, topsy-turvy Pride & Prejudice variation, the gender roles are reversed. It is Mr. Bennet’s greatest wish to see his five sons advantageously married.

When the haughty Miss Elizabeth Darcy comes to Netherfield with the Widow Devonport (nee Bingley), speculation—and prejudice—runs rampant.

William Bennet, a reluctant and irreverent reverend, catches Miss Darcy’s eye, even though he is beneath her station. His opinion of her is fixed when she slights him at the Meryton Assembly.

As her ardour grows, so does his disdain; and when she fully expects to receive an offer of marriage, he gives her something else entirely ….

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