Over the past week or so, Hubby and I have binged on “Downton Abbey,” zipping through Season 1 and half of Season 2. During the same time, I’ve been editing the final proof of the “Author’s Edition” of As You Wish (hopefully out by the end of the month). So it’s been a weird couple of weeks immersed in two period dramas set in England and thinking about how much the houses in both of them dominate the storylines.
After watching the special on Highclere Castle (see my last post) and learning that the castle inspired “Downton Abbey,” it was fascinating to see that theme in the show. The fictional Lord Grantham is so set on properly maintaining the Abbey that he doesn’t even fight the entail that will keep his wife’s money with the house (and a distant cousin who is heir) instead of going to his eldest daughter. It’s not that he cares more about the house than his daughter (I think); it’s just that both are his duties, and he figures Mary will survive without the money, but the Abbey won’t. There are more plot twists that revolve on the entail (inspired by Pride and Prejudice, I suspect), but I won’t post spoilers, in case there are other latecomers to the show who still plan to watch Season 1.
Meanwhile, without giving away too much of As You Wish, I will say that the Marquess of Solebury — father of the hero in the story, David Traymore — also takes extraordinary measures to try to save his estate, which is destined to go to his wastrel of an heir rather than the more deserving but illegitimately born David. Since the heroine Leah Cantrell has seen Solebury House in a state of ruin in the 21st century, she wonders if saving the house may be the reason she’s been transported to the past. I’d never thought about how central the house is to the plot of the book until re-reading it while watching “Downtown Abbey.”
To read the blurb and first couple chapters of As You Wish, please click on the book title to head over to the book page. If you’re an Amazon Prime Member, you can watch “Downton Abbey” episodes free on Amazon Instant Video (like Hubby and me); if not, you can buy the boxed set of DVDs here.
How important was fine art to Jane Austen? And how does it influence her books? We know that Jane sketched, and so did other members of her family. A couple of her heroines draw, too — but it’s not portrayed as their calling in life. It’s more of a hobby.
Janine Barchas, an associate prof at the University of Texas, points out in her essay “Artistic Names in Austen’s Fiction: Cameo Appearances by Prominent Painters,” that Austen also alludes to artists in some of her characters’ names. In Pride and Prejudice, Darcy’s housekeeper, who shows off her employer’s portrait to Lizzie, is named Mrs. Reynolds — maybe a reference to portrait painter Joshua Reynolds? In Emma, the title character, who sketches, has a housekeeper named Hodges — maybe inspired by William Hodges? Other characters who share names with painters of the time are George Moreland in Northanger Abbey and Charles Hayter in Persuasion.
In my Regency-set romance, The Artful Miss Irvine, the title character is a serious artist, and her work plays a key role in the plot, giving the hero insights into her personality and her past. Of course, art is always open to interpretation, and her artwork also sets the stage for a misunderstanding between the characters. 🙂
For a description and sample chapters of The Artful Miss Irvine, please hop on over to the book page here. Janine Barchas’ essay is available (for a price) from Amazon here. It also appeared in Volume 31 2009 of the Jane Austen Society journal Persuasions. More on them on this this site.
Sometimes an idea for a single scene can grow into a whole book. That was definitely the case with For the Love of Lila, where the big scene, for me at least, is the parlor game that pretty much dissolves into an orgy.
In The Artful Miss Irvine, there’s a stand-out scene where the heroine is on a balcony at night reciting Shakespeare, and the hero walks up and responds with the next lines. (Oh, how I love characters that deftly quote the classics — or speak other languages with ease. Of course, they have me, the writer, to look things up on their behalf.)
In Lord St. Leger’s Find, my favorite scene is the visit to the Egyptian-tomb exhibit. It’s dark and moody, people are getting jostled around, women are pretending to be scared … it’s just enough chaos to crack open the reserve between the main characters.
I also have a fave scene I’ve written that has no story surrounding it (yet?). It emerged from an idea for a story, but the plot felt too complicated, and I didn’t really like where it was going. The scene takes place in a Babylonian temple in ancient times and also involves moody chaos. Maybe a story will evolve around it. I hope so.
Some of my fave scenes in other people’s books? In To Kill a Mockingbird, when Scout meets Boo Radley. In Pride And Prejudice, when Elizabeth’s father talks to her about Mr. Darcy asking for “her hand.” In Catch-22, when we find out what happened with Snowden on the plane. One thing I loved about the TV series “Lost” is that the writers often took a classic scene like the one in Catch-22 and inserted the theme into an episode. If only they’d done that with the series finale.