Today I welcome to Jaffareadstoo the talented writing duo Ada Bright and Cass Grafton who are talking to us about their novel, The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen
|Brown Dog Books|
It’s September, and the city of Bath is playing host to the annual Jane Austen Festival, a celebration of the famous author and her works. Rose Wallace, Bath resident and avid Jane Austen fan, can’t wait for her friends to arrive and the Festival to start, unaware one of the recently arrived guests will turn her life upside down by sharing with her a secret that ultimately puts Jane Austen’s entire literary legacy at risk. With the support of a displaced two hundred year old author and a charmed necklace, can Rose help to bring back some of the most beloved stories of all time and turn her own life around in the process.
A warm welcome to both Ada and Cass...
Tell us about yourselves and what got you interested in writing a historical novel?
Tell us about yourselves and what got you interested in writing a historical novel?
Ada: I became an avid reader in Elementary School and before I set about ruining my eyesight reading fantasy novels and murder mysteries, I first read the entire school library's section of biographies. So I've always been interested in history, both in fiction and non-fiction writings. This particular instance came about because Cass had already been living in Regency writing for several years and it was natural that whatever project we collaborated on together would have a bias toward history.
Cass: Reading has always been my ‘thing’, ever since I was a young child. I grew up on a diet of Enid Blyton stories before progressing to Mills & Boon, who totally coloured my idea of what love and romance should be like! Both Ada I started to co-write fan fiction together when we first met (14 years ago), and although our initials stories were fantasy-based, we soon discovered a shared love of classic literature and progressed to co-writing Jane Austen inspired stories. I then wrote a full-length Pride & Prejudice inspired novel set in the Regency era (for which Ada and her mom provided the cover artwork).
Our new book does have historical influences, but it is a contemporary novel set in present day Bath, and it was a lot of fun to mix the two worlds together!
When you start writing do you both have a writing plan or do you plot out the story together as you go along?
Both! We met together in Bath last year to outline the entire book. In some ways that outline stood pretty sturdy, but when we needed to make a change we called each other up on our trusty FaceTime applications and ironed everything out. There was very little that was ever up in the air for long - it simply wasn't feasible to leave any doubt as to where we were going because between the two of us, writing sections independent of each other and then revising each other's work, we would have been tangled up beyond repair if we didn't fix problems that arose fast.
Do you each have a favourite part of the writing/publishing process?
Ada: We definitely have different favorites and that has served us well. I think there were times each of us felt guilty for not being up to snuff for the other in a certain area.
Cass: I genuinely believe it’s our differences which make us the perfect writing partnership! Our styles complement each other, and we each have different strengths, so we can bring a lot to the table between us. For me, the best part of the publishing process is the cover design! It’s so exciting when you get to that stage and can finally visualise all those months of work as an actual book!
What are the ups and downs of being a writing duo and who is the worst critic?
Ada: Wow, that is a fabulous question. The advantages of co-writing are something I can go on and on about. At its core, the reason I love it is that we're in it together. A beta reader or friend who lovingly encourages you through a book is nice - important even! But it's nothing like sharing the burden completely with someone else. On the other edge of that sword, therein lies the negative as well: there were times I'm sure both of us wanted to walk away and we simply couldn't - we had someone else counting on us. If we stopped writing we were directly affecting one of our best friends whom we'd made a commitment to. It wasn't just our work that would be wasted if we gave up, but our partner's as well. So there was pressure and there was accountability, but mostly there was support.
Oh and Cass was definitely the worst critic - because she insisted on bringing in logic to our arguments! Ugh! The nerve!
Cass: The best ‘up’ for me was that if I was struggling to kick-start a scene, all I had to do was say to Ada, can you get me started, and she would! Brilliant! The down? There were a couple of times when I’d written what for me (as a Brit) was a funny line (or so I thought), and then, when the scene came back after Ada’s latest edit, it would be gone! Needless to say, we did see the funny side of our sense of humours being different most of the time!
The worst critic? Yep; definitely me. Ada is well versed in fantasy and time travel through her interests, and I’m not! I had to understand how something could work, how it would blend with reality to sound credible, whereas Ada would just shrug and say, ‘those are just some of the established rules of time travel’
What was the inspiration behind your novel?
Staying in Jane Austen’s former home in Bath, which is now holiday apartments, provided the initial inspiration. What if Jane Austen, when she was living in the house in Bath in the early nineteenth century, found a way to come forward to the present day? This led us neatly to: what if she became trapped there, before she had become a published author?
The company managing the property was also incredibly helpful with information about the building, which helped to feed part of the plot. Once we started to put the two things together, it was clear we had the makings of a good story!
Whose idea was the title of your book?
Ada: I'm pretty sure the title came from Cass, but Cass's husband deserves credit because his insistence on offering ridiculous titles full of puns had her so annoyed (not seriously) that she pushed us to settle on something officially so as to keep him from persisting. I don't actually know if it worked. I actually liked a few of them (note: I asked Cass if she could find any of them but she’d thrown his long list away. We didn’t dare ask him if he could remember any in case he started all over again!)
Cass: We really do, and always have, struggled at choosing titles for our stories, and this was no exception. Ada is right! My husband simply would not stop coming up with more and more bizarre titles, and it was the only way to effectively stop him!
What were some of the challenges you faced on the road to publication?
Just the sheer formatting of the paperback was a huge pain, even though we enlisted the services of a ‘specialist’. They still missed several typos, and even worse, the automatic correcting they did actually created some more! If any of you own the paperback, you will have one of our characters having a ‘riffle’ through some things. It’s become our new secret code word!
Now that the book is published are there any nuggets of wisdom you can impart to aspiring writers?
Ada: Wisdom: yes, so much. The thing that stands out is that we should have worked harder to settle on a genre. I wouldn't have wanted to change much from our original idea, but because of that we almost fought against genre. I think we should have welcomed that being a little more clear might have been nice.
Cass: Definitely agree. The story touches on so many genres (mystery, romance, fantasy/time travel, history), we struggled to determine where it should sit. Having said that, we wouldn’t want to make any changes to our story. We just wish we had forced ourselves to think it through from the genre-aspect before we prepared it for publication!
Any plans for another collaborative novel?
Ada: YES we have plans for another collaborative novel... indeed we do!
Cass: There have been some calls for a sequel, and as we had so much fun spending time with our characters, we’re keen to work with them again.
Where to find Ada and Cass. Please click on the links below
My thoughts about The Particular Charm of Jane Austen
Time travel, romance, literature and history all combine to make a lovely story which is written with great charm. Reminiscent of Jane Austen's own style of writing, what is so refreshing about this novel is that the authors have allowed a modern twist, with a cleverly controlled plot, which has, at its heart, a cleverly thought out mystery.
To say more about the plot would be to do the book a complete disservice because as with all mysteries it’s best that you read without any preconceptions. However, what I will say is that, if you enjoy a wonderfully inspired Jane Austen novel, which has delightful heroines, then I am sure that The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen will greatly appeal to you as it did to me.
The authors have captured this collaborative style of writing so very well. Their partnership is quite seamless so that you really can’t tell where one finishes and the other starts, so that, rather unusually for me, I forgot that I was reading the work of two different writers.
The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen is a lovely story which entertained me from start to finish and which, ultimately, made me smile and left me wanting to read more from this talented writing duo.
I am pleased to learn that the authors are considering a sequel, the ending certainly lends itself to a continuation.
Best Read With ...A pot of English Breakfast tea and a generous slice of Lemon Meringue Pie
Huge thanks to both Ada Bright and Cass Grafton for spending time with us today and for answering our questions so thoughtfully.
Jaffa and I have loved having you as our guests and look forward to reading more of your work in the future.
Come back and see us again soon.