Author Jeanette Watts: My Dearest Miss Fairfax

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Jeanette Watts will be awarding a crazy quilt tea cosy to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Author Interview: Jeanette Watts

1. How did you choose your genre? What made you write this book?

My stories tend to choose me, instead of my choosing them. “My Dearest Miss Fairfax” is my third Jane Austen-inspired novel, and at the same time it is my third historical fiction novel! It’s kind of a funny intersection.

My first love is writing historical fiction. I love history, and I adore research. I’ve always been a question-asker. It gets me in trouble, but I can’t live any other way. My first two books are set in the Industrial Revolution (some people also call it The Gilded Age) in Pittsburgh, because I was living in Pittsburgh and wanted to write the story of the people who lived and loved in the steel industry ruins I used to drive past.

But when I got the idea for “Jane Austen Lied to Me,” I took a detour to write a modern romantic comedy. Then I got the idea for “A Woman’s Persuasion,” and took another detour to write a lesbian romance that translates Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” chapter by chapter from the 18-teens to 2008.

I am clearly a Janeite, so of course I belong to a lot of Jane Austen chat groups. Sometimes I’m in there chatting as a writer, sometimes I’m in there as another fan who wants to talk about how hot Colin Firth is, or about how subversive Austen’s writing actually is, if you look just below the surface. I was in a conversation talking about the character of Emma Woodhouse, and I was writing a defense of Miss Woodhouse’s character. A lot of Janeites honestly do not like Emma – the book OR the character. It was a long and interesting discussion, and by the end of it, I went from writing to defend Emma’s good qualities to declaring I was going to write a novel about her frenemy, Jane Fairfax! Yes, that’s an exact 180 degree twist. Like I said, it was an interesting conversation.

2. Writers write what they know, and must observe the world. Are you a first born, middle or last child and how does this shape your view of the world?

(I notice you do not mention being an only child!)

I am the oldest child, although that comes with a caveat. Usually, the first born child is the one that parents make all their mistakes on, the one that gets all the attention, the one that gets picked up every single time the baby starts crying.

My mother pretty much raised her younger brother and sister, who were 13 and 15 years younger than her. So I am my mother’s first biological child, but her third baby. She knew what she was doing by the time I came along.

I had a very interesting conversation with a psychologist years ago, at a folk dance event. It was very common for a small group of us, during certain songs, to break off from the lines and go dance in the middle. I am a belly dancer, and fairly flexible, so I would be doing backbends and floorwork. I would end up on my knees, bent back, the top of my head on the floor, looking at people’s feet upside down as they danced past me. This psychologist told me after one such dance, “When you were a baby, all your needs were met well. You have a very, very complete trust of people.”

It didn’t seem to me a very big stretch to expect that people were not going to step on my face while they danced past, but that, this lady told me, is an illustration of my profound trust in people.

3. Where is your favorite place to write?

Not at home. I have managed to do it – in fact, I’ve done a lot of writing at home. While I was writing “Wealth and Privilege,” my first novel, I wrote the entire thing in longhand. I had a notebook that was with me wherever I went, and I would sit by the sewing machine and think and sew, then when I knew what I was saying I would stop sewing and pick up the pen and write. Then when I didn’t know what I was going to say, I stopped writing and went back to sewing.

You can imagine that is not the most effective way to get the writing done. More sewing got done than writing most of the time. I wrote most of “A Woman’s Persuasion” in the breakfast nook at my house, overlooking the garden and the back yard. But it’s right next to the kitchen. Every time I stop and think, instead of turning around and getting more sewing done, I get up and walk into the kitchen and open up the refrigerator or the pantry. Definitely not a good place for writing. At least, not and also be able to wear the same clothes.

So instead, I learned to go away to write. I like to write in pretty places. Allegheny National Forest has cabins with electricity for $50 a night, I got to write with a view of a mountain to my left and a burbling creek to my right while I sat on my little porch with my laptop. A friend has a cabin in Canada where I got to type (yes, I eventually learned to type my books instead of transcribing them from spiral-bound notebooks…) with a beachfront view of Lake Erie. I frequently build in some extra time whenever I travel to spend a little quiet quality time for me and my next book. Last time I was at the Tucson Festival of Books, for example, I drove out first thing in the morning the next day and spent the entire day writing among the Saguaro cactuses. It was fabulous!

I have not tried it yet, but in off season, it is possible to apply for Artist-in-residence getaways at some National Parks. I am willing to spend some time writing while looking at the Grand Canyon, or the forest, or the ocean!

4. How do you feel about killing your darlings, and what do you do with the remains?

Well, I haven’t really killed too many characters. And unfortunately, the only deaths in my books are kind of spoilers, so I really can’t talk about it much. Read “Wealth and Privilege,” and you’ll see why I really can’t say anything.

5. You are introduced to your favorite author. Who is it, and what is that one burning question you must ask them?

William Shakespeare happens to show up at the same party as me. I will convince him to take a couple of shots, and once I have lowered his defences with a few drinks, I will ask him, “Every one of your plays portrays women reading, so clearly female literacy is an important agenda in all of the works that bear your name. But both your wife AND your daughter are illiterate. We can’t prove that you ever got paid to write a play. There are zero copies of any manuscript in your handwriting. Who are you really fronting for? I promise I will keep your secret.”

6. Inquiring minds want to know…tell readers something about you that no one knows.

I don’t have a favorite color. I have a least favorite color: I’m allergic to the color orange. But I don’t have a favorite color.

7. You are stranded on a deserted island with only a back pack for company. What three items are in your survival pack?

1) A time machine
2) A genie’s lamp
3) A large box of Fannie May mint meltaways

8. If you could have one super power in your existence, what would it be?

Time travel. First stop is the Chicago World’s Fair (Columbian Exposition) of 1893. I was born in Chicago, and the Great White Way has always fascinated me. Then I’m going back to the mid-1850s to find out how people did this dance called the Gorlitza. It is described in several dance manuals as some sort of cross between a polka and a waltz, but most dance masters gave up and said they didn’t even know how to describe it. Then I have to go back to find out how the ball game was actually played in Mayan civilizations (they say after the game, players were killed, but there is disagreement over whether they killed the winners or the losers). After that, I’m going to visit Shakespeare. See above.

9. Favorite snack?

Fannie May mint meltaways. People from the Chicago area know what I’m talking about. If you aren’t from Chicago, next time you’re in Chicago, get a box. Assuming you like chocolate. There are those who would say chocolate is not a snack. They have never tried writing in their breakfast nook when they are between thoughts.

10. Indy 500 – Do you know how to get where you’re going or do you drive the speed limit?

Wait….are you saying that the only people who drive the speed limit are people who don’t know where they’re going?

I usually know where I’m going. But I’m pleading the fifth on the speed limit thing.

My Dearest Miss Fairfax

by Jeanette Watts

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GENRE: Austenesque/Historical Fiction

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BLURB:

How much would you gamble for true love? Jane Fairfax dreaded her future as a governess. But genteel solitude seemed her fate. Then handsome, charming, rich Frank Churchill asked to marry her – IF his rich aunt agreed. If their secret engagement was discovered, Jane would be ruined. Frank seemed worth the risk; but the stakes got higher when the aunt refused her consent!

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Excerpt:

Mr Churchill caught the end of one of the long ribbons from her bonnet, which were flying madly in the strong breeze. He toyed with it for a long while, then looked up into her eyes. “Do you believe in love at first sight?” he asked.

“No, I don’t suppose I do,” Jane answered. Her heart started beating harder. That was a lie. Maybe her breath was catching in her throat because she was lying: she fell in love with him the moment she saw him, rescuing the poor store clerk. Or maybe it was because he was standing so close to her, just on the other end of her bonnet ribbon. She felt her cheeks growing warm, and tried to talk herself out of blushing. He was not standing any closer to her than when they danced together, or sat on the same bench at the pianoforte. Why should it fluster her that he was wrapping the end of her bonnet ribbon around his fingers like that?

“Neither did I.” He tied a knot into the very end of the ribbon, then caught the other flying ribbon, and did the same to its end. “I thought love requires mutual respect and understanding, and complementary temperaments that can only be discovered with a judicious application of time and conversation.”

Jane hid her trembling hands inside her muff. She wished there was a way to hide the fact that she was trembling all over. “I understood you from the first moment I saw you,” she admitted, her voice little more than a whisper.

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AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Jeanette Watts has written three Jane Austen-inspired novels, two other works of historical fiction, stage melodramas, television commercials, and humorous essays for Kindle Vella.

When she is not writing, she is either dancing, sewing, or walking around in costume at a Renaissance festival talking in a funny accent and offering to find new ladies’ maids for everyone she finds in fashionably-ripped jeans.

Contact Links

Website: www.JeanetteWatts.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JeanetteWattsAuthor

Twitter: @JAMLW_writer

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6967936.Jeanette_Watts

https://www.goodreads.com/author/dashboard

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jeanette2420/_saved/

Instagram: jeanetteamlwatts

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In The Key Of Love

I should have known I would end up here... Give me a good book and I'm in heaven. Especially romance, mystery, mayhem, the fantastic and the fey. Give me a laptop and I'm writing any one of these, and not in any particular order.

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