1. First, tell us a bit about yourself. Where you’re from? Past jobs, awards, the usual bio stuff.
Born in Huntington, West Virginia, over the years, I held many positions: waitress, tax preparer, “Girl Friday” for a media mogul, Off-Broadway performer, media literacy consultant, and a public classroom teacher for forty years. I earned multiple advanced degrees from a variety of colleges and universities. I was a Martha Holden Jennings Scholar, a Time Warner Star Teacher, Columbus (OH) Educator of the Year, and a guest panelist for the Smithsonian. I have been a daughter, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a teacher, and now an author.
2. What do you write? You’re welcome to include your latest title (shameless plug).
I began my career writing Jane Austen-inspired novels. My first, Darcy’s Passions, was a retelling of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. That book was followed by…
Jane Austen-Inspired Novels:
Darcy’s Passions: Pride and Prejudice Retold Through His Eyes
Darcy’s Temptation: A Pride and Prejudice Sequel
Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion: Jane Austen’s Classic Retold Through His Eyes
Vampire Darcy’s Desire: A Pride and Prejudice Paranormal Adventure
The Phantom of Pemberley: A Pride and Prejudice Mystery
Christmas at Pemberley: A Pride and Prejudice Holiday Sequel
The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Mystery The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Mystery The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin: A Pride and Prejudice Mystery Elizabeth Bennet’s Deception: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary Mr. Darcy’s Fault: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary Novella
“The Pemberley Ball” (a short story in The Road to Pemberley anthology) Honor and Hope: A Contemporary Pride and Prejudice
Regency and Contemporary Romances:
The Scandal of Lady Eleanor—Book 1 of the Realm Series (aka A Touch of Scandal)
A Touch of Velvet—Book 2 of the Realm Series
A Touch of Cashémere—Book 3 of the Realm Series A Touch of Grace—Book 4 of the Realm Series A Touch of Mercy—Book 5 of the Realm Series A Touch of Love—Book 6 of the Realm Series A Touch of Honor—Book 7 of the Realm Series’ His American Heartsong: A Companion Novel to the Realm Series His Irish Eve The First Wives’ Club—Book 1 of the First Wives’ Trilogy Second Chances: The Courtship Wars
Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep
A Touch of Emeralds: The Conclusion of the Realm Series The Earl Finds His Comfort
The Earl Finds His Comfort
Readers can preview each of my novels on my website (www.rjeffers.com).
3. Who has been the most difficult character for you to write?
In writing “extensions” of Austen’s classic tales, I am often called upon to bring to life one of her minor characters – creating a back story, a description, motivations, conflict, etc., for characters which Austen offered few details: Caroline Bingley, Colonel Fitzwilliam, Charlotte Collins, Sir Walter Elliot, Captain Harville. An audience of avid Austen fans who hold preconceived ideas of how the character looks and acts because of various film adaptations of Austen’s works compounds the problem. A writer must create Georgiana Darcy to resemble Emilia Fox from the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, and Mr. Collins must hold a strong resemblance to Tom Hollander from the 2005 film.
Of all Austen’s minor characters, I want Anne De Bourgh to know a different life. I attempted three possible scenarios for Anne’s future, and although I am more comfortable with the rendering wrote in my Christmas at Pemberley, I am not totally satisfied with the depth of Anne’s characterization. I want to know more of Lady Catherine De Bourgh’s “sickly” daughter.
4. What characters are lying on your “office floor”? Why didn’t they come to life on the page and do you think they ever will? Or why not?
When I wrote A Touch of Velvet, I expected it to lead to two stories – one for each of Velvet Aldridge’s twin sisters, Cashémere and Satiné Aldridge. Needless to say, if I thought about it, I would know better. A Touch of Velvet was to be book one of the Realm series, but four chapters into writing the story of Brantley Fowler and Velvet Aldridge, I abandoned their story line. Brantley’s sister, Lady Eleanor Fowler, and Fowler’s commanding officer, James Kerrington, were “screaming” at me to tell their story first. Book 3 was to be the story of Marcus Wellston’s discovering Cashémere Aldridge was everything he never knew he needed.
Aidan Kimbolt and Satiné Aldridge were to come to a similar realization in Book 4. Yet, as I wrote A Touch of Cashémere, I found myself growing disillusioned by Satiné’s “woe is me” attitude. (Yes, I do realize that I gave the character those qualities I came to despise, but in my opinion, Satiné was not the appropriate match for Aidan Kimbolt, a character of whom I was quite fond.) Kimbolt deserved better. At the end of book 3, Satiné is in Europe.
Instead, book 4 became Gabriel Crowden’s and Grace Nelson’s joining. Kimbolt’s story is the center of Book 5, A Touch of Mercy. At length, I brought Satiné back into the series in book 7, Baron John Swenton’s story. Swenton developed an interest in Satiné in book 3, but I was still not so happy with her. You must read A Touch of Honor to discover her fate.
5. How much time does it take you to write a book?
I can finish a book in four months, but I would prefer a minimum of five. I hand write the first draft. I realize to many this appears counterproductive, but I find I am completing two steps at once. Because my cursive writing is slower than my typing, I have time to read aloud what I am writing. This provides me a good sense of how the story “sounds.” If I need a rewrite of a scene, I recognize it immediately and fix it, or I can make a notation to revisit it after the book is complete. Then I word process the piece. Again, I read the story aloud in my head. This serves as my second draft. Eventually, I correct one chapter per day the last month prior to my deadline. Although some revision does occur, this final check is more for editing. Surprisingly, my editorial changes are minimal because of the multiple checks prior to the final copy.
6. It seems there has always been an intense love of all things Jane Austen. I know many of your books are “Austen-related.” Why do you think there is this never-ending fascination with Austen, her writing, and the Regency period?
Austen’s appeal rests in the universality of her subject matter. She focuses on themes as old as time: marriage, the generation gap, and societal pressure. Jane Austen’s stories inspire self-reflection: what we never admit to ourselves, and what we will not permit others to know. In Austen, we discover the use of the family as the building block of society. Her stories take us back to a time “when things were simpler.” Her works are a mirror to our own society: as such, the reader is presented with a protagonist whose life and social standing is similar to his/her own. Austen’s heroines are women of sense, who exemplify rational love. Meanwhile, Austen transforms distant heroes into expressively communicative heroes. It is a magical combination.
7. Any funny “researching your book stories” to share with readers?
While writing, I regularly stop to research the use of a particular phase or a historic fact. Often, such research changes the original story line. For example, I have spoken previously of writing an exquisite scene for His American Heartsong, in which the main character, Arabella, is sprayed by a skunk. I was laughing aloud as I created a scene reminiscent of a friend’s encounter with a black and white intruder. Unfortunately, my instincts screamed with the realization that there are no skunks in England. A quick check proved my hunch true. I filed the scene in the trash and created a less enjoyable one.
8. What do you find is the hardest part of writing?
I do not write comic relief well. This statement would never surprise my family and friends. I am terrible at telling jokes – being one of those people who always anticipates the punch line. I rehearse a joke in private several times before I share it with others. It is not that I do not appreciate humor. In fact, I usually start an audience’s response during a film or live performance with my own laughter. I love juxtaposition, puns, malapropos, and reversals. I simply struggle in writing the ultimate comic mix. I hold a strong appreciation of those who master satire, parody, incongruity, and the double entendre.