Pardon delay in announcing the winner of the giveaway of The Introduction of Gentleman by Heather Brothers – I was trying to get in touch with the winner before I announced it on the blog and have now heard back – Fran Politi of our own JASNA-Vermont group wins the honors this time around! – Congratulations Fran! – very happy to have you win. Heather will send off the book to you pronto … I think you will enjoy it very much! And thank you Heather for the interview and offering a copy to us – the best of luck to you in your first publishing venture!
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…]
C2014, Jane Austen in Vermont
Today is the birthday of Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796). One cannot forget those Robert Burns poems we all had to recite in high school, often our first introduction to the “romantic” poets – ‘O, My Luve is Like a Red, Red Rose’ or ‘Tam O’Shanter’ or ‘To a Louse: on seeing one on a Lady’s bonnet at church’ – and of course how often do we sing or hear ‘Sweet Afton’ and ‘Auld Lang Syne’!
I had the fortune a number of years ago to visit Burns’s home in Alloway, Ayr, Scotland, and became sort of enamored with him – who can not? But what of Jane Austen and Burns? – she certainly read his poetry. And we now know that in her music notebooks she had copied out the music notation of two of Burns’s songs: My Love She’s But a Lassie Yet, and My Ain Kind Dearie – and Gillian Dooley has recently noted that Austen had written out in her own hand Their Groves o’ Sweet Myrtle, [see the link below to this full article] where it shows that Austen had transcribed the words “Save Love’s willing fetters – the chains of his Jean” to “the charms of his Jane” – evidence perhaps that Austen secretly admired Burns after all…?! [see full text of this song below]
All we have of her written words as to how she may have felt about Burns appear in Sanditon, with the ridiculous Sir Edward Denham spewing forth the following:
But while we are on the subject of Poetry, what think you, Miss Heywood, of Burns’ Lines to his Mary? — Oh I there is Pathos to madden one! — If ever there was a Man who felt, it was Burns. — Montgomery has all the Fire of Poetry, Wordsworth has the true soul of it — Campbell in his Pleasures of Hope has touched the extreme of our Sensations — “Like Angel’s visits, few & far between.’ Can you conceive any thing more subduing, more melting, more fraught with the deep Sublime than that Line? — But Burns — I confess my sence of his Pre-eminence, Miss Heywood — If Scott has a fault, it is the want of Passion. — Tender, Elegant, Descriptive — but Tame. — The Man who cannot do justice to the attributes of Woman is my contempt. — Sometimes indeed a flash of feeling seems to irradiate him — as in the Lines we were speaking of — “Oh! Woman in our hours of Ease’. — But Burns is always on fire. — His Soul was the Altar in which lovely Woman sat enshrined, his Spirit truly breathed the immortal Incence which is her Due. –”
To which Charlotte replies, in what critics have assumed is Jane Austen’s voice:
“I have read several of Burns’ Poems with great delight”, said Charlotte, as soon as she had time to speak, “but I am not poetic enough to separate a Man’s Poetry entirely from his Character; — & poor Burns’s known Irregularities greatly interrupt my enjoyment of his Lines. — I have difficulty in depending on the Truth of his Feelings as a Lover. I have not faith in the sincerity of the affections of a Man of his Description. He felt & he wrote & he forgot.”
“Oh! no no” exclaimed Sir Edward in an extacy (sic). “He is all about ardour and Truth! – His genius and his susceptibilities might lead him into some Aberrations – But who is perfect?…. Nor can you, loveliest Miss Heywood (speaking with an air of deep sentiment) – nor can any Woman be a fair judge of what a Man may be propelled to say, write or do, by the sovereign impulses of illimitable Ardour.”
[from Sanditon, ch. VII]
So I leave you with these thoughts on Jane Austen and Robert Burns and a few links for further reading:
- the recent (Jan 2013) news on the discovery of Burns’s manuscripts at the Guardian
- Elaine Bander’s article “’O Leave Novels’: Jane Austen, Sir Charles Grandison, Sir Edward Denham, and Rob Mossgiel” on Burns and Austen from Persuasions 30 (2008) can be found here online
- Gillian Dooley’s article “A Red Red Rose” – from Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine Jan/Feb 2011
- University of Glasgow’s Centre for Robert Burns Studies
- Morgan Library exhibition on Burns (Dec 2011 – Feb 2012)
- Robert Burns and Jane Austen at Jane Austen Centre Bath
- Austen and Burns in Robert Burns: The Critical Heritage, by Donald Low (1974)
- Digital Collections of Robert Burns: http://library.sc.edu/digital/collections/cbook0.html
- Robert Burns Website
- Burns Birthplace Museum
- Visit Scotland – Robert Burns
- How to celebrate Burns Night in London
Full text of Their Groves o’ Sweet Myrtle:
Their groves o’ sweet myrtle let Foreign Lands reckon,
Where bright-beaming summers exalt the perfume;
Far dearer to me yon lone glen o’ green breckan,
Wi’ the burn stealing under the lang, yellow broom.
Far dearer to me are yon humble broom bowers
Where the blue-bell and gowan lurk, lowly, unseen;
For there, lightly tripping, among the wild flowers,
A-list’ning the linnet, aft wanders my Jean.
Tho’ rich is the breeze in their gay, sunny valleys,
And cauld Caledonia’s blast on the wave;
Their sweet-scented woodlands that skirt the proud palace,
What are they? – the haunt of the Tyrant and Slave.
The Slave’s spicy forests, and gold-bubbling fountains,
The brave Caledonian views wi’ disdain;
He wanders as free as the winds of his mountains,
Save Love’s willing fetters – the chains of his Jean.