Book Launch! ~ Persuade Me by Juliet Archer

Juliet Archer’s new book in her series “Darcy & Friends” will be released in the UK on September 15th.  Persuade Me is the second in this series that takes us into the world of Jane Austen’s novels,  fast-forwarded into the 21st century and much into the minds of her male heroes.  As in her first book, The Importance of Being Emma,  where Ms. Archer gave us an engaging the tale of a modern-day Emma and her Mr. Knightley [you can read my review here], her new book tells of Anna Elliot and Rick Wentworth:

When do you let your heart rule your head? 

As far as men are concerned, Anna Elliot is stuck in the past.
No one can compare to Rick Wentworth,
the man she was persuaded to give up eight years ago.

 Meanwhile, Rick’s moved on – and up.
He’s got a successful career and a carefully controlled love life
where his heart doesn’t get a look in. 

The words ‘forgive and forget’ aren’t in Rick’s vocabulary.
The word ‘regret’ is definitely in Anna’s.
When they meet again, can she persuade him
that their lost love is worth a second chance?

[from Juliet Archer’s website]

Can’t wait to read this and see what she makes of Captain Wentworth!  Stay tuned for my review…

Available at The Book Depository and

For more information:

For those of you lucky enough to be in Bath for the Jane Austen Festival, note that Ms. Archer will be conducting walking tours of Jane Austen’s Bath – Friday 16th September and Sunday 18th September. Tickets from Waterstone’s in Bath.

Copyright @2011 by Deb Barnum of Jane Austen in Vermont

Last Chance! ‘The Importance of Being Emma’ ~ Book Giveaway

Reminder to all:  the deadline for posting comments and / or queries to author Juliet Archer to win a free copy of The Importance of Being Emma is midnight Friday September 25! 

book cover importance of being emma

Posts to comment on:

Just a comment or a query and you will be entered in the drawing.  The book will be sent to you directly from the publisher Choc-Lit.

Thanks to all who have participated, and a hearty thank you to Juliet Archer for her very thoughtful responses!

[Posted by Deb]

Juliet Archer’s “Emma”, Part 2 ~ Book Giveaway!

Life certainly gets in the way of blogging! – here is the promised Part 2 of my interview with Juliet Archer, author of The Importance of Being Emma, and a confessed “19th-century mind in a 21st-century body.”  [see Part 1 of this interview here].  Please see below for the book giveaway info… we welcome your queries and comments!

book cover importance of being emma


Deb:  Welcome back Juliet!  You mention in your last answer that the next novel in your series  “Jane Austen in the 21st Century Series”  is “Persuade Me”, after Austen’s “Persuasion”–  why did you start with “Emma”?

 JA:  Although Emma’s the first Austen modernisation I’ve had published, it’s actually my third attempt. I’ve done very early drafts of both Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. When I realised how wide a gulf there was between writing something and getting it published, I focused on Emma because it was my most recent work and I thought it would need less doing to it. I was wrong! 

I think Emma is Austen’s most comic novel, so I was thrilled when The Importance of Being Emma was shortlisted for the 2009 Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance.  

Deb:  [Congratulations on that! ] ~ What do you think Austen would say to your “meddling” with her story?  What would she say about all the sexual content? 

JA:  There’s been so much ‘meddling’ with Austen already that she’d probably be bored rigid by the time she got to The Importance of Being Emma! I hope she’d be proud to see her story adapt so well to a different time period and social setting, and that she’d be sympathetic to the changes I’ve made. Most of all, I hope she’d have a good laugh!

 As for the sexual content, for my hero and heroine it sits firmly within a framework of love, commitment and ultimately marriage – a scenario which comes across very strongly in the original novels. Given the world we live in, I felt I couldn’t modernise Austen without including some sexual content and, fortunately, readers seem to think I’ve struck the right balance.

 Deb:  I do agree with your readers here!  I think your characterization and plot devices are spot-on and the sexual scenes are so very well done, and of course we know how it ends – marriage IS the goal after all!  Which leads me to my next question:  We all do know this story and how it ends, so there are no surprises here – how did you go about creating enough interest and tension to make your reader want to keep turning those pages?  [I know that I did!] 

JA:  [Thank you!] First, with most mainstream romantic fiction, Austen-based or not, we can guess instantly who’s destined for whom – the interest is in how they get together. So in that respect my story’s no different from many others. Second, as you’ve already indicated, the alternating 1st person point of view helps to create interest and tension. And finally, in my opinion Austen does two things – effortlessly – that make the reader want to keep turning the pages: characterisation and dialogue, often laced with humour. By imitating her work, I hope I’ve written what many readers see as a ‘page turner’.

Deb:  Yes, indeed you have!   And now for a few personal questions if you don’t mind…  What else have you written? 

JA:  What started me writing novels was the BBC’s dramatisation of Gaskell’s North and South, starring Richard Armitage. So I’ve got a few modern ‘fanfics’ lying around and still hope to have a 21st-century version of North and South published – although not until I’ve got Austen modernisations out of my system. 

Before that, I wrote very bad, unpublishable poetry – rather like my version of Giles Benwick in Persuade Me.

 Deb:  The Armitage “North & South” adaptation seems to have set off a number of fan-fic writers – there are whole blogs devoted to it!  I would eagerly await your updated version – [and hopefully Mr. Armitage could be persuaded to play the part yet again…?] – but I digress! – What is your writing habit?

JA:  I work full-time in London Monday through Friday, so I fit my writing into my spare time and also get up early most mornings. In the evenings, a glass of wine is known to get me in the mood! My family keep me grounded and occasionally remember to feed me. 

Most of my first draft goes straight onto the computer – PC in the study, laptop in the garden or bed! But I’m always printing pages off so that I can read and edit on the train going to and from work. For me, there’s no substitute for the printed word – yet. 

Deb:  Oh, I like hearing about your love of the PRINTED word! Anything else you would like to share? 

JA:  I’m married with two teenage children and live in Hertfordshire, Pride and Prejudice country. Unlike Anne Elliot in Persuasion, I resisted well-meant advice and married young, before graduating from university with a First in French and Russian. Initially I worked in IT and company acquisitions, then ran my own consultancy business, and now I work for a national healthcare organisation. 

Finally, I love hearing from Jane Austen fans, so please visit my website – and I welcome readers to contact me directly.

Deb:  Thanks so much Juliet for visiting us and sharing your thoughts on the writing of YOUR “Emma”!   I wish you much success – and am looking forward to “Persuade Me ” and making the acquaintance of your Captain Wentworth! ~ Now Gentle Readers, please send in your queries and comments to participate in the book giveaway…


Book Giveaway:  Juliet has most graciously offered to answer any questions you might have for her – all queries and comments posted between today and midnight September 25, 2009 will be entered into a drawing for the free book giveaway, courtesy of Choc-Lit.  All are eligible to enter.

The Importance of Being Emma
by Juliet Archer
Harpenden, UK:  Choc-Lit, 2008   £7.99 / $13.07 [paperback]; also available in an ebook version direct from the publisher for £3.99 / $5.99
ISBN:  978-1-906931-20-9

[Posted by Deb]

Interview with Juliet Archer ~ Author of ‘The Importance of Being Emma’

Today we welcome author Juliet Archer, author of The Importance of Being Emma, [Choc-Lit, 2008].  Ms. Archer, who says she is a 19th-century mind in a 21st-century body [though she adds that some days it is the other way around!] joins us today from London to talk about her very humorous modernization of Jane Austen’s Emma.  [Click here for my review of the book].  We are also offering a free book giveaway direct from the publisher, the winner drawn from all comments posted by September 25th [see below for full details]

book cover importance of being emma



Hello Juliet ~ thank you for joining us here at Jane Austen in Vermont!  I enjoyed your spin on Austen’s ‘Emma’ very much, and look forward to others in this series of “Jane Austen in the 21st Century.”

JA [note the initials!]:  Hi Deb, thank you for the opportunity to ‘talk’ to you and your blog readers.

Deb:  To start, just tell us briefly what YOUR Emma is about. 

JA:  I’ve lifted the plot and characters of Austen’s original and plonked (a technical term!) them very much into the 21st century. Cue mobile phones, emails, jobs and liberated attitudes to social and sexual interaction! 

Deb:  So many Austen “fans” are drawn to the historical period of the Regency, and like their sequels, etc. to be so set as well.  What inspired you to do a re-telling of ‘Emma’ in our modern-day world?  And why do you think lovers of Austen will enjoy reading your book?

JA:  Modernising Jane Austen is not an original idea – for example, Melissa Nathan wrote versions of Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion almost ten years ago. Then we have Helen Fielding imagining Bridget Jones as a modern-day Lizzy Bennet; and even Stephenie Meyer has admitted that Bella and Edward’s early relationship in Twilight was influenced by Pride and Prejudice.  In effect, Austen’s novels seem to provide an elegant template for most romantic fiction and chick lit, whether consciously or unconsciously. So, if you like, there are lots of ‘unofficial’ as well as ‘official’ modern versions out there already. I’ve just kept more closely to the originals!

I have several reasons for retelling these novels through 21st-century eyes. First, I’m learning from the master of my chosen genre. As Claire Harman notes in Jane’s Fame, a wonderful account of the Austen phenomenon, ‘It seems almost redundant to itemize aspects of Austen’s appeal; there are the brilliantly constructed plots, the romance, the comedy.’  Second, what started as a bit of an experiment has become compulsive fun: who will I tamper with next – delectable Darcy or calculating Crawford?  Third, a 21st-century context gives me an opportunity to explore some aspects of the originals that Austen couldn’t, or wouldn’t, develop – particularly the male point of view. And finally I hope to appeal to those – like my own daughter – who adore the dramatisations of Austen’s work yet can’t get into the books themselves. 

If you’re an Austen lover, then my versions have an extra dimension – looking for the parallels with the originals and, I hope, appreciating the differences. For example, the Box Hill incident in Emma: I couldn’t see this working as a picnic these days, so I’ve changed the setting – but, I hope, kept to the spirit of the original. And I wanted to give Emma’s outburst to Miss Bates the context of a rare moment of self-awareness, so I added something to the original. 

Interestingly, I’ve met with far more support than resistance from Austen lovers. When one of my publisher’s reps gave a copy of The Importance of Being Emma to the manager of a local Waterstone’s store (a leading UK book chain), she threw up her hands in horror and exclaimed, ‘Who would want to tamper with Jane Austen?’  After reading the book, however, she became a staunch fan, gave it a glowing staff recommendation and arranged for me to do a talk at the local literary festival.

 Deb: Comparisons will be made with the movie “Clueless” – how is your story different? 

JA:  I love that movie! But the high school setting and teenage culture are a step too far for a middle-aged author like me, and I wanted to stick as closely to Austen’s settings as possible. 

So my story takes place mainly in the village of Highbury, Surrey, England, and my characters are nearer in age to the originals. Donwell Abbey with its farming interests has evolved into Donwell Organics, while the Woodhouses also have a family business, Highbury Foods. As Knightley observes, however, in spite of various precautions Henry ‘never ate anything labelled “Highbury Foods”; he said his digestion was far too delicate.’ 

Deb:  You make Knightley quite “hot” and obviously very interested in sex!– what in Austen’s ‘Emma’ made you want to expand on this aspect of Knightley’s character?

JA:  If we turn this question round, it becomes ‘How do I make Austen’s Knightley fit into a modern world?’ Don’t get me wrong, I love the original Knightley just the way he is. But ‘a 37-year-old farmer leading a solitary existence, until he realises he loves the nubile 21-year-old next door’ just didn’t translate convincingly to the 21st century! And what appeal would there be in the modern equivalent of Knightley’s immortal line ‘God knows, I have been a very indifferent lover’?! 

So my Knightley had to have a makeover. I cut the age difference, to make sure he wasn’t old enough (technically) to be Emma’s father. Gave him a stunning girlfriend who’s looking to settle down. And kept him well away from Highbury while Emma was growing up. But the most enjoyable part was filling in the gaps that Austen left in our understanding of Knightley. Austen provided a starting point, an end point and a few little clues along the way – the rest was up to me! 

And, remember, in my version we meet Knightley when he’s thousands of miles away from his girlfriend and confronted by this gorgeous young girl he used to call ‘Mouse’! Is it surprising that his mind, er, wanders? 

Deb:  I mention this in my review, but just again explain why you changed the names of some of the main characters? 

JA:  As I modernise Austen’s novels, I change characters’ names only with good reason. The most obvious change in The Importance of Being Emma is Knightley. I don’t know any men in their mid-30s called George – they are either much older or much younger. I certainly like the name, especially when it is attached to a certain Mr Clooney! 

So I reserved ‘George’ for Mr Knightley Senior; in my version I felt he had to be alive, since enough parents in the original Emmahave expired as it is – and I include Henry Woodhouse in this! Then I looked round for a similar, solid-sounding name of one syllable for his son and – for personal reasons – chose ‘Mark’. Same with Frank – in the UK, at least, it no longer has a contemporary feel, so I went for ‘Flynn’ Churchill, with its shades of Irish blarney! 

In Persuade Me (my version of Persuasion), I’ve changed Anne and Frederick to Anna and Rick, again for a more contemporary feel. Similarly, Anne’s sister Mary (an unusual name these days in the UK) has become Mona – for obvious reasons. 

Deb:  You tell the story in alternating chapters from Emma’s and then Mark Knightley’s point of view – it certainly helps us to know exactly what is going on in Knightley’s mind as well as the she says / he says that can be quite funny with all the gender miss-readings of any given encounter! – why this format?  Advantages and disadvantages? 

JA:  Not all of Austen’s novels lend themselves to this format, but in my version of Emma I wanted to heighten the sense of misunderstanding and conflict between the two main characters. The alternating 1st person points of view are intended to assist this and, as you say, to provide a comic touch. It also means that we see the secondary characters through the eyes of Emma and Mark and, of course, their views are usually diametrically opposed. 

Advantages? I can explore the main characters’ innermost thoughts in a much more intense and, at times, humorous way. Disadvantages? It’s limited to what two characters are experiencing. Interestingly, Stephenie Meyer chose the 1st person for her Twilight series; it’s told from Bella’s point of view, although I understand she’s now written a version of the first book from Edward’s point of view. At least I’m giving the reader two for the price of one!

I’ve also written my second novel, Persuade Me, through the eyes of the main characters Anna and Rick, but here I’ve chosen the 3rd person throughout. This has enabled me to introduce other perspectives occasionally – to create humour, such as the musings of Sir Walter Elliot, 8th baronet, or a different slant on one of the main characters, such as Sophie Croft puzzling over her brother’s behaviour.

Deb: Thank you Juliet for joining us today and sharing your insights ~  stay-tuned for Part 2!


Join us for Part 2 of this interview with Juliet Archer tomorrow ~ she will talk more on the backstory of writing her Emma and her thoughts on what Austen might say about her book.

Book Giveaway:  Juliet has most graciously offered to answer any questions you might have for her – all queries and comments posted between today and midnight September 25, 2009 will be entered into a drawing for the free book giveaway, courtesy of Choc-Lit.  All are eligible to enter.

[Posted by Deb] 

Stay Tuned! ~ An Interview with Author Juliet Archer

book cover the-importance-of-being-emma


Last week I posted a review of Juliet Archer’s The Importance of Being Emma  [you can read my review here] ~  tomorrow I will post the first part of a two-part interview with Ms. Archer where she will share with us her thoughts on writing this modernization of Jane Austen for the 21st Century, the first in a series. 

Book Giveaway Contest:  We will be offering a copy of the book direct from the publisher Choc-Lit, the winner chosen from the comments submitted ~  please post either a query for Ms. Archer or a comment about your thoughts on updating Austen by midnight Thursday September 24th; winner will be announced on Friday September 25th [worldwide eligibility]

[Posted by Deb]

Book Review ~ ‘The Importance of Being Emma’

book cover the-importance-of-being-emma



“You have shown that you can dance, and you know we are not really so much brother and sister as to make it at all improper.”

“Brother and sister!  no, indeed.”

[Emma, vol. III, ch. II, Chapman, p.331  ]







Juliet Archer in her Author’s  Note to The Importance of Being Emma, quotes this passage as the inspiration for her rollicking take on Jane Austen’s Emma.  If you like imagining your Knightley as a to-die-for, sex-obsessed hero, or in the words of Emma at fourteen, “Mark Knightley:  twenty-five, tall, dark, and handsome, and known among my older sister’s crowd as the Sex God” [p. 1] – then this book is a must-read, a perfect end of summer “choc-lit”* confection.

Emma Woodhouse, rich, lovely and clever, is back home at twenty-three, fully armed with an MBA from Harvard, to take on the role of Marketing Director at Highbury Foods, the family business, a “supplier of non-perishable delicacies to upmarket homes and hotels.”  She is young and naive, and who should appear but Mark Knightley,** home from India temporarily to help with HIS family business, Donwell Organics, and the perfect “mentor” to guide Emma in the realities of the business world.  They have not seen each other for years, and Emma is still smarting at Knightley’s discovery of her teenage crush – she is determined to keep her distance and not fall prey to the Knightley charm.

Knightley on the other hand is stunned to find his “Mouse” as he calls her with “long legs silhouetted against the window, lines and curves in perfect proportion.  Short beige skirt stretched taut across more curves – nicely rounded, a pert promise of pleasure.  Matching jacket with side vents, no doubt designed to draw the male eye to the symmetry below” [p. 10] – then promptly criticizes her for overuse of make-up and the plot is set for 398 pages of misunderstandings, concealed emotions, and an inordinate amount of sexual tension.  This is Emma in the 21st century, as the series is aptly named, and for those of you eternally frustrated by Austen’s not giving her readers nearly enough of the inner-musings of her heroes – indeed the Darcy in the 1995 P&P is so gripping because for the first time we are privy to his emotional state – and who of you has not yearned for much more to YOUR imagined Knightley – a more ardent lover, a fully-expressed proposal scene…?  Well, it’s ALL here folks! – Knightley it seems is wholly driven by sex, and everyone is happy to oblige – except of course Emma, who really has her heart set on the yet-to-be-met Flynn Churchill.

Told in a first-person narrative, with alternating Emma / Mark chapters, we see the same events from their individual perspectives.  This approach increases the intensity of the action, allows for much humor, and of course puts the mind of the hero front and center.  Knightley, as I’ve always believed Austen portrays him, subtle though it be, is really an emotional mess – here he is confused by his feelings for Emma, no longer brotherly, his every sighting of her expressed in such strong sexual terms – all making for one awkward encounter after another.  No spoilers here, just suffice it to say that Ms. Archer creates a few fairly explicit sex scenes…nicely done I might add…

And thankfully, all the usual suspects are present – Henry Woodhouse, head of the business and a chronic hypochondriac; Philip Elton, CFO [yikes!] with his “Gusty” ever obnoxious; Harriet, a bit of a dim but lovely bulb with a bizarre fashion sense as a personal assistant; Rob Martin in trade of course; John and Izzy Knightley; George Knightley, the father, still alive and running Donwell Organics, but off traveling the world with his young and demanding selfish wife; The Westons; Jane Fairfax, beautiful and aloof and the source of much of Emma’s jealousy; Mary “Batty” Bates endlessly chatting away; Flynn Churchill, a chef of all things! but still two-faced and a tad sleazy; a few other characters thrown in to round out the modern picture [hint:  Knightley has a girlfriend]; and Emma, still “clueless” to all the relationship mix-ups around her and still thinking SHE is pulling all the strings. 

One knows of course how the book ends – it was after all written nearly 200 years ago! – so it must be Archer’s endearing re-creation of the story and characters with a super-modern spin that keeps one turning the pages – Austen purists may blanch at seeing their Knightley sex-crazed and at times cruel [“it was badly done indeed!” turns into two pages of a blistering, swear-filled argument], but the heart of the story is still here, and it is an enjoyable romp to search for Archer’s re-imagining the many side stories into a modern-day England – seeing the hero and heroine come to terms with their conflicting emotions, their many tense and often humorous misreads of each other, [and do I dare mention quite a hot Knightley!] to make this indeed a great fun read – you just need to suspend your Regency sensibilities before entering!


 * Choc-Lit – “Where heroes are like chocolate – irresistible!”  The Importance of Being Emma is the first in the series by Juliet Archer, “Jane Austen in the 21st Century”.  Her take on Persuasion is up next [click here for an excerpt of Persuade Me].  See the Choc-Lit website and the author’s website at for more information and other related links.

**Ms. Archer has changed several names: Mr. Knightley is now “Mark”, as father George is still in the picture; Flynn Churchill sounds a bit more modern, etc.  She discusses this in a posted comment on Austenblog [see comment #12].  For this reader, the name “Mark” brought to mind the actor Mark Strong who played Knightley in the Kate Beckinsdale “Emma”… [Strong does indeed get better with age, and this film adaptation of “Emma” has grown on me more and more after a number of re-viewings…]

4 out of 5 Full Inkwells

The Importance of Being Emma
by Juliet Archer
Harpenden, UK:  Choc-Lit, 2008
ISBN:  978-1-906931-20-9

Posted By Deb