Dorian Dawes and the Foreboding Universe of Harbinger Island

There’s a stunning in-depth interview between Dorian Dawes and reporter Josh Valley over at Fourculture; if there’s anything you’d like to know about the inspirations for the characters in HARBINGER ISLAND or about Dorian’s future plans, you should head on over there as quickly as possible – highly recommended!

Elin Gregory offers the comfy chair to Dorian Dawes

The unutterably charming Elin Gregory (author of the selling-like-hot-cakes ELEVENTH HOUR) has kindly let Dorian Dawes sit in the comfy chair. You can read the resulting conversation on her blog via the following link:

Thank you so much, Elin, for your support and all your insights!

Charlie Cochrane interviews Dorian Dawes, Jay Lewis Taylor and Heloise West

The inimitable Charlie Cochrane is a great friend of Manifold Press, and unstintingly supportive of our team members. She has interviewed the authors of the three recent new titles, and you can find the interviews on Dreamwidth via the following links:

Thank you so much, Charlie, for offering us space on your blog and asking such fascinating questions!

Elin Gregory interviews our A CERTAIN PERSUASION authors!

A CERTAIN PERSUASIONIt’s a real honour to be hosted on the blog of Elin Gregory, a deservedly well-loved and highly respected author of historical fiction and romance. Recently she has been interviewing the authors involved in our Austen-inspired anthology, A CERTAIN PERSUASION.

If you’d like to know what the authors appreciate about Jane Austen’s use of language, what inspired their story in the anthology, and more – please follow these links!

  • Sandra Lindsey, who wrote an Age of Sail story featuring a character from Mansfield Park.
  • Adam Fitzroy, who wrote a story that took Emma in a rather different direction.
  • Julie Bozza, who retold Sense and Sensibility with one crucial difference.
  • Fae Mcloughlin, who wrote two stories with modern-day characters who are influenced by Austen’s works.
  • Sam Evans, who plagued a modern-day Darcy with participation in a ‘reality TV’ celebrity dance show.
  • Eleanor Musgrove, who wrote stories set in the future of Sense and Sensibility (beautiful!) and the past of Pride and Prejudice (intriguing!).
  • Lou Faulkner, who did exquisite work with two minor characters from Persuasion.
  • Narrelle M Harris, who retold Persuasion in modern-day Melbourne.
  • Atlin Merrick, who wrote about two original characters in a Regency-era setting.
  • JL Merrow, who looked into the future of two characters from Mansfield Park.

I hope you enjoy the interviews! And please do share the love with Elin, who has been such a welcoming host.

Proof-reader interview: F.M. Parkinson

A CERTAIN PERSUASIONThis series of mini-interviews features the authors – and others! – who contributed to our Austen anthology A CERTAIN PERSUASION.

Last and certainly not the least of our interviewees is F.M. Parkinson, our diligent proof-reader for the anthology, who has gone above and beyond the call of duty, and thereby helped spare the editor and authors some blushes.

F.M. Parkinson also worked as proof-reader for our acclaimed anthology A PRIDE OF POPPIES, among other Manifold Press titles, and is a historical novelist as well, with THE WALLED GARDEN.

Q: How did you discover Jane Austen and her works? What was the initial appeal? Has she surprised you since then?

Ever since I can remember, we’ve had a five-volume set of Jane Austen’s six main novels, as they were part of my grandfather’s library. They are a Clarendon Press edition, with ‘notes, indexes, and illustrations from contemporary sources’, and printed on thick paper in a decent-sized font. I didn’t start reading them till I was well into my twenties and had seen various adaptations of the novels on television.

I suppose the initial attraction was a clever story with a romantic element, and set in a time that interested me. Since then I’ve come to see that the books are great romances and should be enjoyed as such, but the reality for many of the women portrayed in the stories was not a pleasant one if they didn’t marry or had little or no money, and so they had little option but to try and secure a husband. I now grind my teeth over the attitudes displayed by some of the characters, while realising that’s just how Jane Austen probably wanted me to feel.

Q: Which Austen character do you like best? Which do you identify with most?

The character I really like is Anne Elliot in Persuasion. I’ve always had great sympathy for her and her situation. The first time I read the book I can remember being in a state of anxiety as to whether Captain Wentworth and she would find happiness the second time round, after she had spurned his offer eight years previously because of her father’s views and the advice of Lady Russell. Thinking about the story today, I’m aware that she was incredibly fortunate that Wentworth was still interested in her, but that also her family was going to view in a very different light someone who was now a rich man and not a penniless naval officer.

I don’t identify with any of the characters; I just enjoy (for the most part) what they say and do and I enjoy reading about the Regency period. The clothes, the houses, the furnishings are all fascinating. But of course that was for a tiny proportion of the population. For many, life was terrible, and while I can enjoy Jane Austen’s world, I have no illusions about the dreadful conditions in which most people lived, the lack of sanitation, the illnesses that killed people, and how women were regarded in society. I think about what faced Jane Austen’s heroines once they were married: the very real dangers associated with pregnancy and childbirth, and the fact that infant mortality was so prevalent. My escapism is just that. The reality of that world is not something I hanker after.

THE WALLED GARDENAuthor bio: F.M. Parkinson lives in the West Country of England and has had a career in Cataloguing, dealing with many different types of items including archaeological aerial photographs, books and journals, archival documents and museum artefacts.

Writing for pleasure and sharing stories with friends has been a fascinating pastime for some thirty years. Other interests vary from a lifelong passion for philately, to on-going genealogical research, and attempts to keep one – and latterly two – large gardens looking interesting.

Favourite reads include the detective novels of Margery Allingham and D.L. Sayers, the mediaeval whodunnits of Ellis Peters and the Cold War espionage thrillers of Anthony Price.

A CERTAIN PERSUASION buy links: AllRomance; Amazon US; Amazon UK; Smashwords

Author interview: JL Merrow

A CERTAIN PERSUASIONThis series of mini-interviews features the authors who contributed to our Austen anthology A CERTAIN PERSUASION.

Our next interviewee is JL Merrow, who wrote the story A Particular Friend, which takes a glimpse into the future of the characters of Mansfield Park.

Blurb: When Susan Price leaves Mansfield Park to accompany her aunt, Lady Bertram, to take the waters in Bath, she little expects to meet an old ‘friend’ of the family. Initially scandalised, Susan finds herself drawn to the former Mary Crawford, now a widow, Mrs Lynd.

But Lady Bertram will surely never countenance Susan’s intimacy with a woman whose brother caused her daughter’s disgrace – and Mrs Lynd’s true identity cannot be kept a secret forever.

Q: How did you discover Jane Austen and her works? What was the initial appeal? Has she surprised you since then?

I clearly remember my first encounter with Jane Austen: it was in Heffers bookshop in Cambridge. I’d just started my Natural Sciences degree, and was in there buying textbooks, but I paused when I came across a copy of Pride and Prejudice. That’s a classic book that everyone talks about, I said to myself. Maybe I should read it? So I picked it up and read the first page, with its famous opening: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

And this is where it all went wrong, because on reading that, my reaction was (and please bear in mind that I’d been raised on a steady diet of hard science fiction and old-fashioned crime thrillers): It’s all about love and marriage. Ew! And I put the book down again with a shudder and hied me hence to the chemistry section, just in case romance was catching.

Fast forward three years, and an older and dare I say, wiser me practically lived in the college literature library, sneakily reading Hardy and Forster while I was supposed to be studying quantum mechanics. By then I’d devoured all of Jane Austen’s works, including the juvenilia and the unfinished stories, and checked out as many of the books lampooned in Northanger Abbey as I could find in those pre-internet days. It’s left me with a lasting fondness for the gothic novels of Ann Radcliffe.

The writing may not have been on the wall quite yet, but the moving finger was definitely hovering in readiness. 😉

Q: Which Austen character do you like best? Which do you identify with most?

Oh, Lord. It always comes back to Fanny Price of Mansfield Park, for me, and yet she really isn’t very likeable in many ways. Such a prig, and the original party-pooper. But she does stand up for what she believes to be right, in her quiet way—and she’s the only one of Austen’s characters who ever spared a thought for the plight of slaves. Perhaps her own position as a poor relation who was continually reminded of her lower status gave her some empathy for those suffering far worse.

I think her story appeals to me because she is so ill-suited by nature to make the best of what fortune sends her way—her more confident younger sister Susan does far better in a similar situation—and would have had a much easier life if she’d had a more outgoing, less sensitive personality. I guess if I’m really honest that’s the part of her I identify with most.

But she should never have married Cousin Edmund, whose dull morality would feed off her own. I’m sure Fanny would have had far more fun if she’d ended up with a Crawford! 😉

Q: Why do you think the Regency is such an appealing period to write and read about?

Well, as Saul David, biographer of Prinny himself, put it: “The Regency in its widest sense (1800-1830) is remembered today as a devil-may-care period of low morals and high fashion.” – Prince of Pleasure, Saul David, 1998.

What’s not to like? 😉

And I think for me it comes down to being able to relate to the people of the times. The Victorians, for example, with their stiff corsets, stiff collars and stiff sense of propriety just don’t appeal to me all that much, whereas I’ve always had a particular weakness for the 1920s, the age of jazz and flappers, as well as the Regency Period. Basically, and in spite of my fondness for Miss Price, I like to read and write about people I can imagine having fun. 🙂

Jamie MerrowAuthor bio: JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy, and her novella Muscling Through and novel Relief Valve were both EPIC Awards finalists.

JL Merrow is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, International Thriller Writers, Verulam Writers’ Circle and the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.

Links: website; Twitter; Facebook

A CERTAIN PERSUASION buy links: AllRomance; Amazon US; Amazon UK; Smashwords

Author interview: Julie Bozza

A CERTAIN PERSUASIONThis series of mini-interviews features the authors who contributed to our Austen anthology A CERTAIN PERSUASION.

And then there’s (me! ahem) Julie Bozza, who wrote the story Elinor and Ada, which retells Sense and Sensibility with one crucial difference. Julie was also proud to act as editor for the volume.

Blurb: Elinor Dashwood has fallen in love with her sister-in-law’s cousin, Ada Ferrars, and dares to hope that Ada returns her feelings. But soon Elinor must move to Devonshire with her mother and sisters, in much reduced circumstances – and while there, she learns a devastating secret. How can Elinor pursue this rare chance of happiness, when even duty and honour are against her?

Q: How did you discover Jane Austen and her works? What was the initial appeal?

I was about 18 or 19 when the BBC’s 1980 mini-series of Pride and Prejudice was being screened in Australia, with Elizabeth Garvie as Elizabeth Bennet and David Rintoul as Mr Darcy. My Mum had it on of a Sunday (?) evening, and almost despite myself I was soon hooked. Once the series was over, I read the book – and that was it, I was in love. I remember that I once read it three times in row, just immersing myself in it for hours at a time.

We had never studied Austen at school, so now I had her work to discover for myself. To be honest, there were times when I found it daunting, as I’d never been the most self-directed intellectual as a student – but mostly the experience was intensely rewarding. The more I knew of her work, the more I loved and appreciated Austen.

Though the first time I read Emma, I really couldn’t stand the character – just as Austen intended! – and I put the book aside thinking I’d never bother with that one again. Eventually I did, though, and after a second and a third reading Emma started to grow on me. Now I love her as much as any of the main characters, and there’s really only one passage for which I find it hard to forgive her. And the ‘Badly done!’ scene always makes me weep with pain and remorse.

Q: Has she surprised you since then?

The big surprise for me was how perfectly crafted some (not all!) of her books are. It first struck me with Pride and Prejudice that it is utterly complete unto itself, without anything that doesn’t belong there and with no question that remains unanswered (if you can figure out where to look). And yet the story unfolds in what feels like a completely natural and organic way. How did she do that?

Emma is likewise perfectly crafted – and reading it with an eye to the three volumes in which it was originally published only reinforces the notion. In this story, Austen sets up mysteries around Jane Fairfax and around Frank Churchill that the point-of-view character remains oblivious to until the solution is finally broken to her. Yet when you go back and re-read the story, there are all the clues and facts, presented as plain as day – though I suspect that few first-time readers will have picked up on them any better than Emma herself.

And this was all done two centuries ago, when all Austen had to work with were pen and ink, paper and pins. I mean, I couldn’t perfectly craft a novel like that even with the benefits of word-processing. I can hardly even imagine doing so, without seeing the whole thing neat and tidy until the printer’s proofs are sent to you. The woman amazes me.

Q: Which Austen character do you like best? Which do you identify with most?

As with many of us, this all began with Pride and Prejudice, and identifying with Elizabeth and falling in love with Darcy. Not the David Rintoul incarnation of Darcy, though I remember him being very effective in the role, but my head-canon Darcy. My three main passions in my teens and early twenties were Darcy, King Arthur, and Aragorn – specifically, book-related head-canon versions of all three. Various TV and film versions came close, but none have yet matched the ones in my head.

Over the decades since then, each of the main novels has had its turn at being loved best. But working so thoroughly with Sense and Sensibility for this story brought home to me how very much I love and identify with Elinor Dashwood. So right now, and probably for a good while to come, she is my answer to both questions!

Q: Why do you think the Regency is such an appealing period to write and read about?

I love Austen’s work, but never bothered looking beyond it to the historical era, or to other ‘Regency’ fiction. It was only when I discovered the poet John Keats that I began exploring the ‘life and times’, and that led me into a love for the Enlightenment and Romantic eras. Which is a long way of saying that I never considered myself a fan of Regency per se, but instead a lover of Keats and the other Romantic poets, and of all the best and worst things of the world they lived in. Austen’s work, especially if you include the ‘Juvenilia’ and the unfinished work, draws on the ideas and values of both the Enlightenment and the Romantics, often searching for a liveable balance between the two (sense and sensibility!) – and I think that’s one of many reasons why her work has a depth to it that many don’t look to find there.

It was an exciting, dangerous and very creative time in which to live, which makes it appealing. And so many Romantic notions about creativity and creators are still considered as ‘self-evident truths’ today. I think we’ll be drawn to that era for a long long time yet.

Julie BozzaAuthor bio: Julie Bozza is an English-Australian hybrid who is fuelled by espresso, calmed by knitting, unreasonably excited by photography, and madly in love with John Keats.

Links: blog; Twitter; Goodreads

A CERTAIN PERSUASION buy links: AllRomance; Amazon US; Amazon UK; Smashwords

Author interview: Sandra Lindsey

A CERTAIN PERSUASIONThis series of mini-interviews features the authors who contributed to our Austen anthology A CERTAIN PERSUASION.

Next up in our series is Sandra Lindsey, who wrote the story Man of War, inspired by one of Austen’s naval characters.

Blurb: Intent on making his mark as the newest lieutenant aboard HMS Thrush, William Price takes on the task of tutoring an ordinary seaman, Robert Oakes, so that the young sailor may improve his chances of advancement.

Oakes, however, hides something which could see him unceremoniously dropped from the ship’s muster list and left in the closest port with just a few coins to his name. When William learns Oakes’s secret in the aftermath of a skirmish with a French frigate, he must choose between proving himself a worthy friend or a dutiful officer.

Q: How did you discover Jane Austen and her works? What was the initial appeal? Has she surprised you since then?

I guess I first became properly aware of Austen’s work through the BBC adaptations in the mid-1990s. Not that I watched them – I was far too busy with after-school music groups, helping with the local Brownie pack, and other such adventurous things! A few years later, post-University, and married, I was a little more interested in stories about relationships than I had been as a teenager, so when my Age of Sail fandom friends started discussing Austen, I swallowed my pride, admitted to never having read any of her work, and asked for recommendations of which to read first…

Initially, I started reading just to be able to understand my friends’ discussions, but I swiftly fell in love with Austen’s wit and skill with words – there is an awful lot conveyed through sub-text and understanding the context of the characters’ words and actions.

I’m glad I didn’t force myself (or be forced by school) to read them as a teenager, but I’m even more glad I made the effort to read them as an adult.

As far as surprise goes, I think it’s more a case of every re-read leads me to new discoveries of her skills and deftness in both storytelling craft and understanding of people.

Q: Which of Austen’s books do you like best?

As the first of Austen’s works I read, Sense and Sensibility has a special place in my list of favourite books, and is a prime example of her style. I also love Mansfield Park – not just for the sailors! – but for its complexity and pacing of the story over a long period of time. There’s a lot to love and admire about Austen’s work, and each book reveals details about Regency life which might otherwise have been lost.

Q: Why do you think the Regency is such an appealing period to write and read about?

For me, it is that it is on the cusp of the industrial era – the agricultural revolution is well and truly underway (there are mentions in Austen’s works of trying out new cultivation techniques and suchlike, and I learned about session houses from Northanger Abbey before I ever read about them in gardening books), and the industrial revolution has started, but not quite taken over and revolutionised society to the extent it did once rail transport – for goods and passengers – became available. It’s similar, in a way, to the appeal of the early 20th century, before WW1: we know, with the hindsight of history, that no matter how secure things appear to be, within a few years everything will have irrecoverably changed. Of course, in both eras – as in many historical periods – there is a tendency to focus on the monied classes… but that’s a discussion for another time 😉

sandra-lindseyAuthor bio: Sandra lives in the mountains of Mid-Wales with her husband. Their garden is full of fruit and veg plants as well as home to a small flock of rare breed chickens, and she is a servant to two cats.

Sandra loves indulging in stories because she gets to spend her time with imaginary friends, and the research and observation required to write fiction open her eyes to a myriad different ways of seeing the world. Find her on Twitter – or curled up out of the way reading a good book!

Links: website; Twitter

A CERTAIN PERSUASION buy links: AllRomance; Amazon US; Amazon UK; Smashwords

Author interview: Narrelle M. Harris

A CERTAIN PERSUASIONThis series of mini-interviews features the authors who contributed to our Austen anthology A CERTAIN PERSUASION.

Now we hear from Narrelle Harris, who wrote the story Know Your Own Happiness, a modern-day twist on another of Austen’s most beloved novels.

Blurb: Four years ago, Cooper West allowed his brother to persuade him that it was easier to pretend to be straight than admit to being bi. It was a stupid decision that cost him the love of his life, Archer Flynn. Now out, recently dumped and still harbouring regret for his lost love, Fate and Cooper’s cousin Kate are about to intervene, via a book club meeting where the book under discussion is … Persuasion.

Q: How did you discover Jane Austen and her works? What was the initial appeal? Has she surprised you since then?

I first read Austen at school – Pride and Prejudice – and loved her wit and characters. I hadn’t expected her to be so funny, and it’s still my favourite thing about her work – the surprising amount of hilarious snark.

Q: Which Austen character do you like best? Which do you identify with most?

I’ve always identified with the bookish Elizabeth Bennet – partly because Mr and Mrs Bennet were also so much like my own parents (for good or ill). I once saw a stage production of Pride and Prejudice and spent the two hours face-palming when everyone else was laughing and laughing when everyone else was just paying close attention, because those two were so like my own family. Awkward.

Q: Why do you think the Regency is such an appealing period to write and read about?

I think people tend to think of people in the past as being more serious or less free than people of today. That is of course true to a degree, but I think there’s endless delight in seeing human beings just being so very human, and full of life and wit, passion and misunderstanding, longing and learning, in what we perceive as a more constrained era. The frocks, the balls and the manners appeal to me, but it’s seeing people being reliably people, even in this more formal setting, which really sells Austen and the Regency period to me.

narrelle-m-harris-200pxAuthor bio: Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer of crime, horror, fantasy, romance, erotica and non-fiction. Her books include Fly By Night (nominated for a Ned Kelly Award for First Crime Novel), fantasies Witch Honour and Witch Faith (both short-listed for the George Turner Prize) and vampire book, The Opposite of Life, set in Melbourne.

In March 2012, her short story collection, Showtime, became the fifth of the 12 Planets series (released by World Fantasy Award winning Twelfth Planet Press). Walking Shadows, the sequel to The Opposite of Life, was released by Clan Destine Press in June 2012, and was nominated for the Chronos Awards for SF and fantasy, and shortlisted for the Davitt Awards for crime writing.

In 2013, Narrelle also began writing erotic romance with Encounters (Clan Destine Press) and Escape Publishing. Six short stories have been published to date. Her first full-length romance, The Adventure of the Colonial Boy – a Holmes/Watson crime/romance set in Australia in 1893 – was published by Improbable Press in 2016. A queer paranormal romance and more short stories are in the pipelines with Clan Destine and Improbable Press.

Links: website; blog; Twitter

A CERTAIN PERSUASION buy links: AllRomance; Amazon US; Amazon UK; Smashwords