Welcome to my blog! Why did you choose to set Searching for Pemberley in post WWII England?
I was born a few years after the end of World War II, and it seemed that everyone from my parents’ generation had been involved in the war or its aftermath in some capacity. My mom worked for Bendix Radio in Baltimore, which made radios for bombers, and my father was one of Roosevelt’s Whiz Kids. Every one of my uncles served in some branch of the Armed Services, and my father’s sister worked for the State Department in a bombed-out Berlin immediately after the German surrender.
My curiosity about the war led to my interest in the Europe that emerged from the ashes, and so I decided to set my story during that time period. When I started doing my research, I had no idea how long Britain’s post-war austerity program had lasted. My main character, Maggie Joyce, is an American who works for the U.S. government and who has access to the commissary. I thought Maggie’s ability to buy scarce commodities would make for a good contrast with the British, who were still carrying their ration books and queuing up for food in short supply when Maggie arrived in England in 1947.
What inspired you to write about Pride and Prejudice?
I am a romantic, and one of the great romances in literature is that of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. I was captivated by a story where a handsome, rich, highly connected man was so in love with a daughter of a gentleman farmer that he was willing to risk censure and ridicule to be with her. What a great story to build on.
What do you think about the scores of Jane Austen sequels and re-imaginings being published, and what do you think makes Searching for Pemberley stand out?
I do not approve of sequels or re-imaginings written by others. I only approve of my own efforts. Seriously, Jane Austen is still a bestselling author nearly 200 years after her death, the reason being, she wrote wonderful stories that people can relate to even in 2009, and it is a lot of fun working with Austen’s characters.
Searching for Pemberley is different because it poses the question: Were Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pride and Prejudice based on the lives of real people? When Maggie arrives in England and learns of that possibility, she travels to Montclair, an estate in Derbyshire, to see if it can be Austen’s Pemberley. By reading through letters and diary entries shared with her by a couple associated with the estate, she comes to know Elizabeth Garrison and William Lacey, the real Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. Searching for Pemberley is actually three love stories in one novel. In addition to Austen’s love story, Maggie has a romance with two men, an American bomber pilot, who saw too much combat, and Michael, a descendant of the Lacey/Darcy line, and she learns of another love story set against the background of World War I. Three stories for the price of one -- now that’s a bargain.
Are you working on another book?
Thanks for asking. I have another book coming out in December 2010 with a working title of From Longbourn to Pemberley. This novel parallels the story of Pride and Prejudice, but I wanted to bring some of the minor characters to the forefront. It is Georgiana Darcy and Anne De Bourgh who move the two lovers to their romantic destiny at Pemberley. I’m currently writing a story for a fan fiction site, meryton.com, in which Darcy is a werewolf. This is a major departure for me because I’ve never written anything like it, but it’s been well received because Darcy remains a gentleman faithful to Lizzy. It may become my next novel.
Who is your favorite Austen heroine and why?
Definitely Elizabeth Darcy. I was very shy as a child/teenager. I really didn’t come into my own until my late 20s. Reading about someone like Lizzy, who had such spunk, was wonderful. And she ends up marrying the perfect man. That’s my kind of story.
What five books do you find yourself recommending over and over?
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry – Storytelling at its best. It involves all of your senses and emotions and epic events in American history.
Walking Across Egypt by Clyde Edgerton -- This is the book I give to all my friends when they’re feeling blue or not feeling well. It always cheers them up.
The Edge of the Crazies by Jamie Harrison -- A murder mystery set in a Montana town where all the characters are deliciously quirky.
Gorky Park and all the Arkady Renko mysteries by Martin Cruz Smith -- Life has not been kind to Arkady, and you just want to give him a hug. The mysteries are well plotted and riveting.
May I mention my own modern novel, The Second Date, Love Italian-American Style? It is a heart-warming, humorous romance set in the Italian-American community of North Jersey. I recommend it to everyone who will stand still long enough for me to get my sales pitch out.
Thank you for having me!
Thank you, Mary! I wish you much success and look forward to reading more of your work in the future.
SEARCHING FOR PEMBERLEY—IN STORES DECEMBER 2009Set against Regency England, World Wars I and II, and postwar England, three love stories intertwine in surprising and fateful ways
American Maggie Joyce, touring Derbyshire in 1947, visits Montclair, an 18th century Georgian country house, that she is told was the model for Jane Austen's Pemberley. More amazingly, the former residents of the mansion, William Lacey and Elizabeth Garrison, were the inspiration for the characters of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.
Through letters, diary entries, and oral history, Beth and Jack Crowell, a couple who lives in the nearby village of Crofton, share stories of the people they say inspired Jane Austen. They also tell their own love story, made difficult by their vastly different backgrounds -- she was one of the social elite while he was the son of a servant. When their son, Michael, travels home from his RAF station in Malta, Maggie may have just found her very own Mr. Darcy.
About the AuthorMary Simonsen grew up in North Jersey with the exciting venues of New York City easily accessible. She is especially interested in American and European history and 19th Century novels. In Searching for Pemberley, she was able to combine her love of history (World War II and postwar England) with Austen's characters, Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, and being a romantic, the novel includes three love stories from three different time periods, all thanks to Jane Austen. She lives in Peoria, Arizona. For more information, please visit http://searchingforpemberley.weebly.com/
Courtesy of Sourcebooks, I have 2 copies of Searching for Pemberley up for grabs. Just leave a comment with your e-mail address.
For an extra entry: Tell me your favorite Jane Austen sequel or "re-imagining," or tell me what you think about all the Jane Austen sequels being published these days.