Gentle Readers: I welcome today one of our very own JASNA-Vermont members, Heather Brothers, to talk to us about her very own, just published, novel! – The Introduction of a Gentleman. A long-time Jane Austen fan, Heather has been coming to our meetings for the past several years – she loves the Regency period and this is her first go at a Regency historical romance – it is a great read, full of all the things you expect from the genre – good guys, bad guys, a naïve heroine, an estate in jeopardy, a bit of a mystery, and a fine Scottish setting both in the country and in Glasgow. Heather has graciously offered to tell us a little bit about herself and how she came to write this first book, and she will provide a free copy for a giveaway – see below for the giveaway details.
Deb: Welcome Heather! All of us in Vermont are very excited for you, about this, your first published book! Tell us something about The Introduction of a Gentleman and what set you on the path to writing it…
Heather: The seed that grew into my love of the Regency Era was planted – as many others may have experienced themselves – when I saw the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. I lived in Australia at the time and was visiting my best friend’s family. Being proper members of the Commonwealth, they were shocked that I had not seen P&P. The first day at their house we sat and watched it from beginning to end – I was so enraptured by it, I didn’t want to leave my seat for anything!
Being your typical enthusiast, I proceeded to throw a Pride and Prejudice New Year’s Eve party the following year – complete with country dance jammed into a most decidedly un-Pemberleyan dance hall (i.e. the living room of a cape house.) I had movie-viewing parties, read through each novel, connected with other Janeites, and after a trip to Scotland in 2008 for a friend’s wedding, I began the story that is The Introduction of a Gentleman.
Inspired by names such as Carrick and Strathclyde (both of which my husband has refused to name any future children), I began thinking and working on who these characters would be. And being fairly recently graduated from that tumultuous match-making time of life myself, I wanted to create that time and those feelings in Laura’s life.
After two years, I had created a rough draft and then fell victim to the precursor to the most glorious blessing one can possibly experience in life. Morning sickness led to hospitalization. Thank heaven for anti-nausea medication. And incidentally, if you throw up in the waiting room, you’ll get a hospital bed really fast. Keep that in mind.
My daughter being born was so amazing and during the nursing phase I was able to read a ton of books – the first being re-reading Emma. I learned so much about writing from that intense reading-filled timeframe.
I found that self-publishing really relies on your network of friends and family members. I got three critical reviews from friends – one who is a published writer, one who is an award-winning writer and Regency Era subject matter expert, and one who has a PhD in the Classics and is qualified to teach writing at the college level. My husband was also an invaluable help since, in self-publishing, you have to do all the formatting yourself (i.e. become a software expert.) I would really recommend Createspace, though. They have a lot of tools and all the channels set up for you.
And this is how I come to be where I am now. I really hope you enjoy The Introduction of a Gentleman. It doesn’t compare to the works of Jane Austen, but I think it’s a good read if you like that era.
Deb: What sort of reading have you done to prepare you to write a Regency historical novel?
Heather: Reading Jane Austen’s novels are in themselves a tutorial on many levels. I have also read some great books about the era – most recently The Jane Austen Handbook by Margaret Sullivan. I have done online research as well as learned a lot from the JASNA-Vermont meetings.
Deb: How long have you been reading Jane Austen? And what is your favorite book? Your favorite thing about her?
Heather: Interestingly, I ordered Sense and Sensibility from the Scholastic Book Club when I was in 9th grade. I tried to read it but couldn’t understand who everyone was, so gave up. Fortunately, through increased brain development and a more keen interest, since that time, I have been able to enjoy each novel.
My favorite book is Persuasion. What I love about Jane Austen is how funny she is and how brilliant she was in weaving everything together in these books. I’ve written an essay on the book Persuasion called “Might I Persuade You?” which I hope to record in an audio format. After listening to the audio version so wonderfully performed by Juliet Stevenson, I was struck by just how hilariously and wonderfully Jane Austen wrote. The other aspect of Persuasion that is so great is the theme of redeemed love and second chances – which is just irresistible.
Deb: Are you working on another novel? And if so will it be set in the same time period as The Introduction of a Gentleman? Will you continue with any of the characters?
Heather: I am working on another novel – but it is a present-day story set in Vermont about a 10-year old girl who wants to figure out a family mystery amidst her quirky aunts, uncles and grandparents: Your typical Vermont family.
Deb: Sounds like Cold Comfort Farm in Vermont! Can’t wait! What other kinds of books do you enjoy reading?
Heather: My favorite books right now are Alexander McCall Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie series and the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series.
Deb: You mention a trip to Scotland and the reason why it is the setting for your book, but have you travelled to other places in the UK as well, specifically to Jane Austen country in England?
Chatsworth House and Bridge [Wikimedia Commons ]
Heather: My travels in Scotland helped me decide the general areas that I wanted things to take place. Sir William Blair’s country home, for instance, is based on a castle that my husband and I visited. Other scenes were inspired by a prior trip to England. One of my aunts used to live in Nottingham. When visiting her, she took me to some amazing sites like Chatsworth, but this was before I became an Austen fan – so I didn’t realize what I missing out on! I actually had no idea what Chatsworth was prior to her taking me there. I was 18 at the time – with so much to learn! So another trip to England is definitely a hope.
Deb: You dedicate the book to your sister, and also “To my husband, who came with me to my first Jane Austen Society meeting…on fashion.” Was that at a JASNA-Vermont meeting, or another meeting somewhere else?
Heather: Yes – the dedication refers to my first JASNA meeting – the one where Hope Greenberg spoke in Montpelier at the Vermont College of Fine Arts! I loved it and actually mentioned it to Hope at the Christmas tea when she wore her wonderful dress and hat to that meeting. I have been coming to JASNA meetings – when I could (i.e. not when Claire was tiny…) – since that meeting. [Ed. This meeting was on June 7, 2009 – with our very own regency fashionista Hope Greenberg on “Fashion in Jane Austen’s World” and a great intro to JASNA-Vermont for Heather! (and her husband!)]
Thanks so much for having me here Deb!
Deb: Thank you Heather! – and wishing you a great deal of luck with your first publishing endeavor.
Plot synopsis: In 1797 Laura McCay searches for her path and a husband in the Scottish gentry. When the intriguing Mr. Strathclyde arrives at the May Ball, Laura is captivated by both his stature and his status. Her close friend, Carrick, deplores both the change he sees in Laura and Mr. Strathclyde’s growing influence over her. Heedless of the ramifications, Laura follows after Mr. Strathclyde, leaving family responsibilities and friends behind in the country. Laura disregards Carrick’s admonitions and throws herself into the city life of concerts, dresses and fashionable balls, only to find that not everything is as it seems….
The Introduction of a Gentleman at Amazon
[there is one online on Amazon for $999.11 – don’t buy that one… :)]
About the Author:
What Amazon says: Heather Brothers is an avid Jane Austen fan and has had the pleasure of visiting Scotland several times. She lives in Vermont with her family.
More detail from Heather: I was born and raised mostly in Vermont, with three years of my childhood spent in Germany. I went to McGill University in Montreal, and spent one year in Australia. I studied Political Science, German and French, and like many with a liberal arts degree, my job doesn’t reflect my studies. I work as a loan analyst at the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, where I have worked for eight and a half years.
I love going to Shelburne Farms in the summer with my daughter and husband. My favorite restaurant is Mirabelle’s downtown – which has the best hot chocolate. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s become an addiction, seeing as I stop there every Sunday before church and am on a first name basis with the staff…
Please leave a comment or a question for Heather at the end of this post and you will be entered into a random drawing for a copy of The Introduction of a Gentleman. Deadline is Tuesday January 21, 2014, 11:59 pm. I will announce the winner on Wednesday January 22nd. US entries only please. [sorry about that – postage rates are sky-high to everywhere else…]
I’m looking forward to reading it! Congrats!
Thank you – I hope you enjoy it:-)
Hi Heather. I read, with great interest, your interview with, Deb.
Scotland is lovely isn’t it? I know Edinburgh, better than Glasgow. however, just as a point of interest, it was a brave thing for you to set your story in Scotland during the Georgian period rather than in England. The history of Scotland is so different although connected inextricably with English history.
In Scotland of course you would have had all the rivalry between the clans, the aftermath of the Jacobite Rebellion still simmering beneath the surface. the non conformists and the eating of haggis and tatties ha! ha! Haggis is lovely. Have you ever tried it?
Also the naming of characters after places such as Carrick and Strathclyde is unusual. The aristocracy often had and do have an official name which is the place they are Lord or Duke of for instance the Duke of Strathclyde, but they would have an ordinary name such as William or Robert to be used for family associations. Is naming somebody after a place a particularly American thing?
Your novel sounds very interesting.
All the best and good luck, Tony.
Thank you for your questions and feedback. Firstly – no, I have not tried Haggis. I am somewhat unadventurous and vegetarian in diet. I did have some excellent scones with jam and cream – which is a favorite, though not uniquely Scottish.
Secondly – you are absolutely right about questioning this book being set in Scotland rather than England. One of my reviewers on goodreads.com makes the valid point that it’s not very Scottish for being set in Scotland. I have categorized this book as “fiction” not “historical fiction” on Createspace as well to somewhat address this issue.
I will be frank and let you know that I do not address any historical issues going on in Scotland at that time in my book. I do not use any expected Scottish words, like kirk for church, either. And I chose to use phrases such as ‘vicar of the parish’ to sound more like Austen instead of something more correct like ‘minister of the local kirk’. The focus of the book is a girl’s personal story. So for readers looking for something very Scottish or very historically focused, this book will be a disappointment.
I also, as you noted, do a very American thing, of using place names as names. My sister considered naming her daughter Boston, and I have named my characters Carrick Smith and Mr. John Strathclyde. I also have a Mrs. Argyle and a Mrs. Invary (derived from Inveraray) in the book. (They’re just such lovely names…)
I hope I have clarified what one can expect from this book. I also would like to add that I love Edinburgh, as well. This is one of the reasons I love Alexander McCall Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie series which is set there.
Hi Heather. I haven’t read your novel yet. My comments are speculations based on questions that arose from the interview with Deb.
I like the sound of your concept, “a girl’s personal story.” I think all good writing should make us think about and explore life’s human condition. As I said before. I wish you the best of luck with your novel.
Always happy to see a new author entering the field. Best of luck to you and best regards.
Thank you so much.
I am impressed that a fellow Vermonter has taken on the (daunting to me) challenge of writing in the Regency era! So much to absorb! Congratulations.
Thank you. Yes, this may be the only Regency era book that I write. Seeing that it took me 5 & 1/2 years for this one – and life only gets busier and busier, I doubt I’ll be able to do another one:-)
Congratulation on publishing your first novel – The Introduction of a Gentleman. I am so proud of you. I can’t wait to read it.
Thank you, Aunt Debbie! And thank you so much for taking me to Chatsworth, Stratford-Upon-Avon and Sherwood Forest. Those were great experiences – I understand their value more now that I’m older – and have more financial responsibilities:-) Also – thank you for Claire’s Alabama t-shirt – I’m glad you noticed it in the photo above. She loves it.
Hi, Heather. I’m looking forward to reading your novel. BTW: Roll Tide!
Your book sounds lovely, Heather — best of fortune with it. I’ll definitely add it to my (ever-growing) TBR list!
And keep working on your husband re those future baby names — they’re great! (Well, at least Carrick… I might have a little reticence on Strathclyde myself)
Congrats Heather! Publication of a new book is such a heady experience. I wish you great success.
Pingback: Winner of Book Giveaway of “The Introduction of a Gentleman” | Jane Austen in Vermont
You are fortunate to reside in Vermont. It is such a lovely place. I reside in Sterling, MA and surrounding towns like West Boylston with its reservoir when frozen makes me grateful to be alive as it is a lovely site to behold. I majored in English, ending with a Bachelor in the arts. I have never worked in any field long enough to merit a good future, I am sorry to say.
What I knew of Jane Austen stems from High School, I have only just been reintroduced to it. I was given a set of CDs for pride and prejudice…from folks involve with Edith Wharton’s The Mount, her home in Lenox MA. I hope to become a member of their society someday. I am rambling, forgive me.
I am not employed, no children. One and only husband and our future is bleak because we reside with his parents. I am one of those lilies and not quite a breakfast at Tiffany. One of my husband’s nephews’ is name Lucas so there is that George aspect always depicted when I am around…he is favored to do great things as he is born in 2001. time tells all they say but some of us are not around to finding this out.
I am sorry for taking up so much of your time. I like all things Vermont. I used to frequent yearly ; Woodstock, Queechee Gorge, Barry and Burlington, yes Montpelier as well. I am somewhat familiar with the McGill area on St Catherine Street in Montreal. They say familiarity is good. I am a loner by nature but taught to prefer being alone since the world is unkind.
Be well and congrats!
seule771, it would be nice to know your name.
I hope you are able to get access to all of Jane Austen’s novels. I think you might enjoy reading them. Like all great literature they help you experience aspects of the human condition you might not otherwise.They, at the very least, enable you to consider and explore life in ways you would not otherwise.
I am sorry to hear that you are unemployed after getting your degree..Life is tough here in England too for graduates..
I have three daughters and one son. They are all graduates or soon will be. Emily will graduate this Summer from Cardiff University.. However, although they can get employment, Alice and Sam have not got what they would like so far. My children are all still living at home, here in Wimbledon. and probably will for some time.
I think the world has changed because of the world financial crisis. We are living in austere times..We, here in Britain, are beginning to overcome those problems now. Our industry is once again growing and the economy is recovering but it is a slow process and times are tough. I think it is the same the world over.
I hope you keep thinking positively and don’t give up. You will have a bright and fruitful future I am sure.
All the very best,
Pingback: Guest Review: “Madison McTavish and Grandma’s Missing Ring” by Heather Brothers – Jane Austen in Vermont