This series of mini-interviews features the authors who contributed to our Austen anthology A CERTAIN PERSUASION.
First up is Lou Faulkner, who wrote the story A Charming Marine Prospect which opens our volume.
Blurb: Birds of a feather flock together, they say, and William Elliot and Richard Musgrove strike up an instant rapport when they meet in the vicinity of Lyme, a few years before the events of Persuasion. But is their relationship any more to be trusted than the unstable landscape of the nearby Under-cliff which they explore together?
Q: How did you discover Jane Austen and her works? What was the initial appeal? Has she surprised you since then?
I first encountered Jane Austen at school. I must have been about fourteen, and we were studying Pride and Prejudice. The first night’s homework was to read a few chapters. I just carried on reading. It was the line about Darcy determining not to look at Elizabeth that hooked me; I just had to find out how they ended up together, because obviously they were going to.
After I finished that, my mother oh-so-casually remarked that she liked Jane Austen because she was funny, and I made my way through the rest of the six novels. They are indeed very funny, but the more I read them, and the more I learn about the Georgian period, the more I see in them. For instance, the dark themes that are glossed over, but are definitely there; slavery, prostitution, destitution, the double standards of society, the stain of illegitimacy, the sudden violence of duelling. But it’s only since going into Persuasion in fine detail that I’ve realised just how much social commentary is in there, with the moribund gentry being mercilessly shown up by the meritocracy of the Royal Navy.
Q: Which Austen character do you like best? Which do you identify with most?
My favourite Austen character – well, not so much a character as a couple. Because Admiral and Mrs Croft are the very picture of what a married couple should be – even more so than Mr and Mrs Gardiner! The image of the Admiral, though undoubtedly a lion of the seas, not being quite in charge of his gig while on land, and his wife adroitly saving the day, sums up their marriage for me.
I find it difficult to identify with any of the characters – they’re so fully and vividly themselves that it’s impossible to imagine myself in their shoes. Instead, I’ll consider why Persuasion was my choice for this project. Jane Austen is not usually a great one for descriptions – people, interiors and countryside are barely described in the physical sense. But in Persuasion there’s a wonderful autumnal feeling, and evocations of the landscape of the south-west that put you right there, at the misty ending of the year. I don’t know why this particular novel was different from the others in this respect, but it made me as a writer want to go out into those landscapes and see what happened. I’ve walked the Undercliff at Lyme Regis myself, years ago. It’s a long tough tramp, and it really is memorably strange, so I found it easy to put that weirdness into a story. Plus I felt that Dick Musgrove got very short shrift from his author; and of course there was only one possible pairing for him!
Q: Why do you think the Regency is such an appealing period to write and read about?
As a Brit living in Australia, I’m constantly amazed at the popularity of the Regency over here. Such a short period in the history of a not very popular country – yet Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, to give just the two biggest names, are perennial favourites. More recently I’ve found that other fiercely independent nations such as South Africa and the USA also have healthy Regency readerships. I suppose it’s that so much was going on during those few years – the fight against Napoleon both at sea and on land, the Industrial Revolution getting under way, the wonderful clothes and the full-on gutsy nature of Georgian society. There’s just so much for a writer or reader to choose from!
Author bio: I live in a little house with a big garden in the far south of the world, and most of my life has revolved around books: selling them, lending them out, and more recently, writing them. Apart from bibliophilia, I’ve done a variety of different things, including years spent learning falconry, and I enjoy trying hands-on pursuits that might give me material for my stories: blacksmithing, tall-ship sailing and flying. I will attempt things in my writer’s persona that I would never contemplate as myself: this does not, however, extend to bungy-jumping.
A CERTAIN PERSUASION Buy links: AllRomance; Amazon US; Amazon UK; Smashwords