From Huntington, WV, originally, I am a product of the 60s and 70s in small town America. I have held five roles in my lifetime: daughter, wife, mother, teacher, and author – an ordinary life with extraordinary experiences. For example, among those experiences one finds that I was a student at Marshall University when the real-life tragedy shown in the movie We Are Marshall occurred. My child came eight weeks early in the middle of my theatre class – Acting II became marriage and family life. I have met and associated with several “big Name” stars over the years. I am one of those people who is often in the right place at the right time. I recently served as a guest panelist at the Smithsonian – a surreal encounter. I stumbled into the publishing business after 39 years in the public classrooms of three different states. As the only member of my family with a university education, I hold multiple advanced degrees from Marshall University and the University of Georgia. Despite being crippled with rheumatic fever as a child, I have trained state and national dance team champions. I studied English, speech, journalism, and theatre in school. As I said: ordinary with moments of the unexpected.
How did you get started?
I admit it. I am a card-carrying member of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) – a tried and true “Janeite.” I devour anything and everything dealing with Jane Austen. As such, I often exposed my students to the nuances of the Regency world: a time of dissipated youths, of rakes, and of revolutionaries. Of blackguards and gentlemen. Of a mad king. Of reversionary interests. Of Come Outs and marriages of convenience. It was a time when a nation stood on the brink of greatness, while it fought the Americans on one shore and the French on another. In 2007, as I taught my Advanced Placement English Language and Composition class, one of my students tossed down the gauntlet. “If you know all these things, why not write your own novel?”
Originally, I laughed off his suggestion, but the idea had taken hold. Four months later, I self-published Darcy’s Passions (a retelling of Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s point of view). I even paid one of my students to create the cover. It was my way of saying to those in that particular class, “I met your challenge. Now you must meet mine.” My friends and family bought the book, but I basically forgot about it. However, the book rose quickly on the Amazon sales list. Ulysses Press contacted me regarding professionally publishing the manuscript. The rest is history.
The Scandal of Lady Eleanor is the first book in the “Realm” series. Tell us about the Realm.
The Realm is a covert group working for the British government during the Regency Period. They rescue British citizens, bring about diplomatic portals, etc. Its members are titled aristocrats and minor sons – therefore, the name “the Realm.” The members in this series number seven: James Kerrington, Viscount Worthing (and future Earl of Linworth); Brantley Fowler, the Duke of Thornhill; Gabriel Crowden, Marquis of Godown; Aidan Kimbolt, Viscount Lexford; Marcus Wellston, the Earl of Berwick; Baron John Swenton, and Carter Lowery, the youngest son of Baron Blakehell. These men have served together for several years in India and Persia, and they possess a stout camaraderie. Each holds reason for fleeing his home and title, and each must reclaim his place in Society, while still occasionally executing a mission in the name of the government. Unfortunately, not only must these men fight their own demons, they must foil the plans of Shaheed Mir, a Baloch warlord, who believes one of them has stolen a fist-sized emerald; and Mir means to have it back.
Specifically, tell us about The Scandal of Lady Eleanor.
James Kerrington, the future Earl of Linworth and a key member of the Realm, never expected to find love again after the loss of his beloved wife, Elizabeth. But upon his return home, Kerrington’s world shifts on its axis when Eleanor Fowler, literally, stumbles into his arms. However, not all is as it seems with Eleanor, as she hides a deep secret. She had hoped the death of her father, William Fowler, the Duke of Thornhill, would offer her family a chance at redemption from their dark past, but when Sir Louis Levering produces proof of Eleanor’s father’s debauchery, she is thrown into a web of immorality and blackmail. It is up to Kerrington and his friends in the Realm to free Eleanor from Levering’s hold.
Why have you chosen to include very “modern” issues in a Regency-based romance?
Just because life appears “simpler” does not mean Regency England did not reek of scandal. Women lacked options. Even women of a wealthier class were the property of first their fathers and then their husbands. As such, Lady Eleanor Fowler is no exception. When her mother dies, her father’s debauched lifestyle invades her privacy, and she is sucked into a situation because she “loves” a parent who does not really understand the meaning of the word. Eleanor’s brother Brantley escaped the Duke of Thornhill’s hold on his household, but Eleanor is left behind to cope in the only way she knows how: Survive.
After five successful Jane Austen related novels, how do you feel about leaving Miss Austen behind?
Well, first, I am certainly not deserting my Austen sequels and adaptations. I have an Austen short story coming out in the soon-to-be-released The Road to Pemberley, and I am currently writing a Christmas-themed Pride and Prejudice sequel. Yet, I must admit that it was liberating to write a story from beginning to end, without a framework in place. When an author tackles an Austen storyline, he must stay somewhat true to the original characters or “suffer the ire” of Janeites. In my Austen books, I work in her original wording and use what I know of the lady. With this series, I could create the characters and the conflict without my readers having a preconceived idea of how the story should go. Plus, when I returned to my current Austen book, I was happy to see “my old friends” again. Absence makes the heart grow fonder rather than out of sight, out of mind.
Do you have writing rituals?
I am both a “pantser” and a dinosaur. Although I am technology literate, I hate to compose on the computer screen. As I prefer an actual book to my eBook reader, I hand write my stories in a wide-ruled spiral notebook – black ink only. I sit in the same chair (desperately needing reupholstered) with a lap desk balanced on my knees and a cup of hot tea on a nearby table.
As a “pantser,” I work from an overview, but I rarely outline each chapter. Before I am at the point of writing a story, the scenes play in my head. Having theatre experience, I play and replay the proposed scene – hitting the rewind button often – until it makes sense. As such, I require few rewrites.
How do you handle the constant need to self promote in the publishing business?
We all realize that the onslaught of eBooks is changing the publishing business. We have bankruptcies and fewer opportunities to sell printed books. It is a fact of life. I have been fortunate, and if this process ends tomorrow, I shall not look on it with distaste. However, I do not wish it to end anytime soon, so I do lots of promotions to keep my name in the public’s mind. I write “niche” pieces. If a reader is looking for The Phantom of Pemberley (my romantic suspense release), he will not find it in mystery or in romance. The book is located in the General Fiction section at the bookstore, which puts me at a disadvantage. Therefore, I must have a presence at book festivals, conferences, etc., to introduce my works to new readers. I must be on the Internet and guest blogging on other websites. One of the best things I have done of late is to combine with 23 other Austen-inspired writers on one website. We each had our troubles reaching a larger audience, and we each had our own dedicated readers. Now, the readers of the twenty-two other authors have been introduced to me, and likewise. We take turns blogging and interacting with our visitors. AustenAuthors.com has opened new markets for me.
How long does it typically take you to write a book?
When I still taught school, it would be six months on an average. In 2009, I released three titles, but I had no life because I still had a full time job. Now that I am retired from the classroom, I can manage (with editing and rewrites) – assuming my muse pays a call – a new title every 3 to 4 months.
What is the best (and worst) part of writing?
The best part is when that “ah-hah” moment occurs – when something unexpected falls into place and changes the storyline – when one can pat himself on the back and feel brilliant for a moment. The worst part is hitting a wall and waiting impatiently, sometimes for several long days and nights, for the next moment of inspiration.
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
I admit to being a publishing virgin with my first novel. For example, I thought editors did what the name implied: They edited. I do not mean to criticize. It was my naïveté. I simply thought that the editor would “fix” any and all my errors. Coming from an English/journalism background and having edited many drafts over the years, it never occurred to me that I needed to be more actively involved in the process. It was my fault. I no longer take any of the production steps for granted.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Less is more when it comes to research. I do not mean to insinuate that a writer should not do adequate research for the topic and the time period, but he does not need to include every fact he discovers. It is so easy to allow research to overwhelm the characters and the conflict. One must guard against this tendency. Smothering the true purpose of a novel – which is to entertain, not to inform – can easily destroy a great storyline. Keep these suggestions in mind as one writes: avoid too much jargon; do not place complicate explanations in the mouths of lay characters; and small details are important. For example, I was writing a novella recently with a character who is a bit bungling. I had thought to have her sprayed with a skunk. The scene was delicious, except it suddenly dawned on me that there are no skunks in England – a fact, which could easily destroy the storyline.
If this series were brought to film, whom would you choose to play the roles?
I have been a Matthew Macfadyen fan long before he played Mr. Darcy in the 2005 film – back to his days in Wuthering Heights, Warriors, and The Way We Live Now. He is always the Darcy in my head when I write my Austen pieces, and he is the man I see and hear in my other works. In this series, Macfadyen is James Kerrington. James Mcavoy is Carter Lowery; James Scott is Aidan Kimbolt; Matthew Goode is Brantley Fowler; Toby Stephens (as he was in Jane Eyre) is Marcus Wellston, and Alex O’Loughlin faces Gabriel Crowden. As weird as it may sound, I do not have famous women in my head when I choose the females. I see their faces and recognize their movements, but they are ordinary women. In this series, Velvet Aldridge came to mind because I fondly remembered a former student named “Velvet.” I stole Brantley Fowler’s name from a young man I met at an Enterprise Rental Car outlet. I told him I would make him famous. Inherently, I suspect, there is something wrong with me.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
The perfect reader is one who believes that love is the most compelling of tasks. I am an incurable romantic, and it shows in my writing. Normally, my audience is female and often a Jane Austen enthusiast.
Where can readers learn more about you and your books?
Readers may visit my website www.rjeffers.com for excerpts, signing dates, and the latest information. One may also find me on Facebook, Twitter, and my Amazon Author Page. Besides my own daily blog, I regularly post on www.AustenAuthors.com.
The Scandal of Lady Eleanor is available for reviews, giveaways, and excerpts. For these or interview queries, contact Karma Bennett at 510-601-8301 x108 or karmabennett@ ulyssespress.com.
$14.95, Trade Paper
336pp, 5 x 7 7/8
March 1, 2011 from Ulysses Press
Regina Jeffers is the author of several Jane Austen adaptations including Darcy’s Passions, Darcy’s Temptation,Vampire Darcy’s Desire, The Phantom of Pemberley and Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion. She considers herself a Janeite and spends her free time with the Jane Austen Society of North America and AustenAuthors.com. A teacher for nearly 40 years in the public school systems of three different states, Regina Jeffers is a Time Warner Star Teacher Award winner, a Martha Holden Jennings Scholar, a Columbus Educator Award winner, and a guest panelist for the Smithsonian. She’s served on various national educational committees and is often sought as a media literacy consultant. Visit her at her website www.rjeffers.com for information on releases, excerpts, book signings, etc.