Today I welcome the lovely Beth Deitchman to my blog, and I have asked her a few questions about her books, particularly her latest release, Margaret Dashwood and the Enchanted Atlas. I am really enjoying her magical series, having loved Mary Bennet and the Bloomsbury Coven (see my review here!)
"Margaret Dashwood's father died soon after completing his life's work, an atlas he painstakingly enchanted for his youngest daughter. Margaret discovers her father's gift and embarks on an adventure that takes her far from England. Soon she and her new friend, Mrs. Bristlethwaite, a prominent member of the Devonshire Coven, learn that magical objects have begun disappearing from sites around the world. Seeking to prevent further thefts, Margaret and the Coven face unexpected dangers and a surprisingly devious enemy. Set in Jane Austen's England several years after the events of Sense and Sensibility, Margaret Dashwood and the Enchanted Atlas is the second book of the Regency Magic Series, whimsical tales of magic and manners published by Luminous Creatures Press."
Welcome Beth! Thank you so much for agreeing to this little interview with me. I really loved your story and I would love to learn a little more about you and your latest release!
Thank you, Sophie! I've enjoyed answering your questions.
1. It is evident from your stories that you are an avid Janeite and very much enjoy Jane Austen’s work. How did you first come across Jane Austen and fall in love with the regency world of dancing, carriages and courtship?
I came to Jane Austen a bit later than you did—in my mid-twenties when I was living in London as a post-graduate student at Queen Mary College. I was poking around a Dillon's in Bloomsbury one afternoon shortly after I'd arrived in London and found a copy of Pride and Prejudice in the sale bin. Somehow I had managed to complete two degrees in English without reading any Jane Austen (shocking, isn't it?), and I sought to right that wrong.
I had time before my course started, so I indulged in my first Austen. Many of my fellow residents at William Goodenough House—now called Goodenough College—studied at the Royal College of Music. Our common room boasted a beautiful grand piano that was often being used during the day. I have very fond memories of lying on my bed reading P&P while a musician practiced across the courtyard. Sometimes I could imagine that I was actually in a Jane Austen novel. Since then I've made a habit of re-reading all the novels every couple of years.
2. Of Ms. Austen’s six major novels, which is your favourite? What appeals to you about it? The characters, the story, the humour?
Oh my, that is a difficult question to answer as my allegiances shift from time to time. I adore Sense and Sensibility because I love the evolving relationship between Marianne and Elinor. The characters develop so beautifully over the course of the novel. Besides, I've just completed a book based on Sense and Sensibility, so I feel rather close to it.
On another day I might say Mansfield Park, again because of the characters. I especially enjoy despising Mrs. Norris!
3. In your two stories you take some of Ms. Austen’s minor characters and create a story for them. You didn't write a story based around Darcy and Lizzy, as is the majority of fan fiction. Did you want to write a story about Mary Bennet and Margaret Dashwood, the lesser explored characters, because they often get left out or fan fiction? Or had you had enough of Darcy and Lizzy and the other major characters? Or did writing a story for the minor characters intrigue you? It is very different to have a story about Margaret Dashwood especially, and I am really looking forward to reading it!
A few years ago I played Mary Bennet in a stage production of Pride and Prejudice and developed a real fondness for her. Just to give the poor girl a little adventure, I wrote the first draft of Mary Bennet in one sitting in a café—it was only about five pages long and took very little time to write. When my writing partner Emily June Street and I decided to work together, I brought this tiny story to our first meeting. She gave me a lot of great feedback, and slowly the story began to evolve. As I worked on Mary's story, I began to think about other minor characters and how I could give each of them magical adventures. By the time I finished Mary Bennet and the Bloomsbury Coven, Emily and I had started our own publishing company, Luminous Creatures Press, and the Regency Magic series was born!
4. As well as writing stories about the secondary characters, your other unique feature to your books is that you add a magical twist. I was wary of reading Mary Bennet and the Bloomsbury Coven as I couldn't see how mixing Jane Austen and magic would work, but I really enjoyed it! How did you come up with the idea in the first place? You are a fan of magic I would assume? Perhaps a Harry Potter fan?
I am a huge Harry Potter fan! I've read the series so many times that I count the characters as old friends.
When I sat down to write the little Mary Bennet story, I had a vague idea that there would be something fantastical happening to Mary, though I didn't necessarily plan the magic as it is in the final draft. If I remember correctly, I had something along the lines of Narnia in mind, but that's not the way the writing took me.
5. What is your opinion of modern variations of Ms. Austen’s work such as Clueless, or the Bollywood Pride and Prejudice or the recent YouTube series The Lizzy Bennet Diaries, or even paranormal variations such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? I was surprised but pleased that your story was kept in the same era as Jane Austen's own stories, despite the addition of the magic element, which might be seen as more appropriate or to be associated with modern tales.
I welcome modern adaptations of classics—before I started writing fiction I wrote academic papers, an MPhil thesis, and a PhD dissertation about Shakespeare films, including Ten Things I Hate About You, which is based on Taming of the Shrew. The Baz Luhrmann Romeo + Juliet is one of my favorite Shakespeare films. Shakespeare and Austen wrote stories about people without hiding their flaws. I think that is why they still hold such appeal to us now.
As for the adaptations themselves, I adore Clueless and have seen it an embarrassing number of times. I even worked it into my MPhil thesis (remember the conversation Cher has about Hamlet and Mel Gibson?). Amy Heckerling did a wonderful job adapting Emma to a teen flick set in Beverly Hills. I haven't seen the Bollywood Pride and Prejudice, but it sounds like it would be a lot of fun.
6. Mr Darcy has to be one of the most famous heroes in all of literature. However, I very much enjoyed the hero you created in Mary Bennet and the Bloomsbury Coven. How did you go about writing a hero worthy of a Bennet daughter? Was it fun to create a new character?
That is a great question! I'm not sure how clearly I can answer it without giving away too much, not about my mysterious writing process, but about key plot details. I felt that in order for it to be a successful Austen sequel there had to be some romance, and I wanted to give Mary a little love—her life is definitely lacking in that area! I also wanted the hero to be much nicer than Mr. Collins, whom many people think Mary should have married. I did enjoy writing a hero worthy of a Bennet daughter!
7. As well as the hero being a new character that you created, how did you find creating the many other new characters you have in your story, and having them interact with characters we already know from Ms. Austen's own stories?
Creating new characters is one of my favorite parts of writing the Regency Magic series. At the risk of sounding too mystical, I have to say that the characters reveal themselves to me as I go along. I very rarely have a plan, although I did base Mrs. Bristlethwaite from Margaret Dashwood and the Enchanted Atlas loosely on someone I know—Tina Packer, an English actor who founded Shakespeare and Company in Lenox, Massachusetts. I spent a month there a few years ago, so got to know her a little. She's a marvelous actor with a deliciously contagious chuckle. But even Mrs. Bristlethwaite didn't conform to my expectations of her. I have a special fondness for another character in Margaret's book called Mr. James.
In Mary Bennet and the Bloomsbury Coven, Mr. Bennet gave me a little surprise—I took a liberty that I hope Miss Austen wouldn't have minded. I based Mr. Hartbustle on a friend of mine, although only in appearance.That character also surprised me as the story unfolded.
Because people know Miss Austen's characters so well, I strive to make their interactions with the new characters as honest as possible. Luckily, Miss Austen's characters are so beautifully drawn that I can easily imagine how they would react to my characters.
8. As I have already said, I really enjoyed Mary Bennet and am looking forward to reading your latest release. Can you tell us more about it? Which character have you enjoyed writing about more, Mary or Margaret?
The new book takes place several years after Sense and Sensibility—Margaret is eighteen and a fairly accomplished sorceress. She inherits the Enchanted Atlas from her father—again, I took a little liberty with Miss Austen's character by making Henry Dashwood an accomplished sorcerer who trained his daughter until his death. Margaret's magical adventure begins after she finds the atlas and meets Mrs. Bristlethwaite, a friend of her father's and a prominent member of the Devonshire Coven. Together they learn about magical items disappearing from sites around the world. With the Devonshire Coven, Margaret embarks on a quest to stop the thefts and discover the culprit. Naturally she also finds a little love.
As for which character I enjoyed writing more—hmmm, that's another difficult question! I loved writing Mary because I got to give her a voice and an explanation for her faults. Margaret was a lot of fun because she's so romantic and earnest. But I haven't really answered your question; to be honest I'm not sure I could pick between them.
9. I will wrap up the questions now, but one final thing; do you have some other stories in the works? Are you going to continue with your magical themed Austen books? You must excuse my impatience, for I realise that your second story has only just been released, but I had to ask!
I do have other stories in the works! I just started drafting a new novel about ballet dancers tentatively called Anna's Piece. Given the way my writing process works, I imagine I'll be done with the first draft by early February, but then it will sit for at least six months before I can come back to it. That's when I'm planning to start the first draft of Regency Magic Book Three: Susan Price and the Staff of Adalet. I'm basing this one on Mansfield Park—Susan being Fanny Price's younger sister who eventually comes to live at Mansfield Park. Right now I have only vague ideas about Susan's adventure, but I imagine I'll have a lot of fun discovering what it is!
Beth Deitchman wrote her first book in third grade. Since then she has also had short-lived but very entertaining careers as a dancer, a university lecturer, and an actor. These days she writes, co-owns Luminous Creatures Press, and teaches Pilates in Northern California where she lives with her husband Dave and dog Ralphie. You can find Beth at https://luminouscreaturespress.com or on her website at http://bethdeitchman.com and you can follow her on Twitter: @beth_deitchman
**GIVEAWAY - ends Sunday 30th November**
In celebration of the release, the lovely Beth is offering 2 ebook copies of her story.
To enter, leave a comment below and the two winners shall be picked randomly.
Please leave your email address. I will then pass on the winners email addresses to Beth who will be in touch.
Good luck, and thank you again to Beth for offering this giveaway! And good luck with the book and thank you for such a great interview! I will be posting my review sometime in the near future as well!
Your affectionate friend,