Wednesday, January 13, 2010
An Interview With My Pal Sharon Lathan
I'm really excited to welcome my very good friend and fellow Sourcebooks Casablanca author Sharon Lathan to my blog! Sharon and I first met at the 2008 RWA National Conference in San Francisco. We attended the Sourcebooks dinner (will we ever forget those limos?) and then met up again the next day at the Sourcebooks spotlight session, after which we went to lunch together and a friendship was born! Even though Sharon lives three thousand miles from me in California, we have become very close e-friends. Sharon was also with me for the best moment at the 2009 RWA conference, when we got to meet Nora Roberts and have her pose with my Emily on her 14th birthday. Sharon also has a daughter named Emily who is a great fan of my books, which is just another reason to love Sharon—she has nice kids! Sharon is such a sweetie, and I'm delighted to have her here today to talk about her Austen sequels, the latest of which, My Dearest Mr. Darcy, was released earlier this month.
Marie: I love your story of how you came to be a Darcy sequel writer. Tell us about how you stumbled upon your writing career at the movie theater!
Sharon: It truly was stumbling! I went to see Joe Wright's adaptation of "Pride & Prejudice" over Thanksgiving weekend in 2005 with no expectations beyond watching a fun chick-flick with some girlfriends. I was totally mesmerized. I immediately began devouring anything related to Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Joe Wright, Matthew Macfadyen, the Regency, England, and so on. It was merely a fun diversion for a couple of months, but as time passed, and I discovered other fan-fiction, I realized I had this story swirling in my head. My story was of their marriage and life, presenting it as a happily-ever-after vision. I began writing these scenes down, eventually bravely sharing them with the Jane Austen fan-fiction community. But it was some 10 months later before I recognized and accepted that I had a potential writing career! I still can't believe it sometimes.
Marie: (I should mention that Sharon works as a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit.) That's a great story, Sharon. Since we've gotten to know each other, I've become aware of the huge Jane Austen genre that's blossomed in the last few years. All these years after her death, she's still going strong! Tell me some more about your series, beginning with the first book and up to My Darling Mr. Darcy, which recently hit the shelves.
Sharon: Indeed, she is doing well for a woman some 200 years old! I often wonder what she would think of Austen-mania (not that her opinion would probably stem the tide). I bet she would be stunned. The devotion to her novels is truly amazing. That passion is why there are so many varied takes on what she wrote. My series is a sequel, obviously, and offers something different from the others. In short, Lizzy and Darcy are happy! I strive to present a positive picture of marriage. These first three novels only cover one year of their life together, so the pace is leisurely. The reader is taken through the day-to-day happenings both within the private moments of the lovers and the public world they inhabit.
The three novels are meant to be read in order. They are really one long story, or saga, as each week into month from the wedding day on through to their one year anniversary is recounted. "Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy" is the honeymoon, getting-to-know-each-other portion. Lots of loving and discovery of their passion for each other as well as learning to live as a couple and members of Derbyshire society. "Loving Mr. Darcy" moves the Darcys away from Pemberley, traveling to London and other parts of England. Lizzy is introduced into Society and the interactions with other characters is extensive. "My Dearest Mr. Darcy" brings the focus back onto our favorite couple. They travel to the seacoast, but for the most part they settle into Pemberley as the year draws to a close and they welcome their first child.
Marie: Thanks for all that insight into your wonderful series! I happen to know you're very happily married to your own Mr. Darcy. How much of your image of the Darcy's marriage was inspired by your own first year of wedded bliss?
Sharon: Well, if you ask Steve (my wonderful husband), he will insist that he is the embodiment of my written Mr. Darcy and the total inspiration for my writing. Ya think? LOL! Not to burst his bubble, because he truly is a terrific guy, but we all know that there is real life and then the written fantasy. Ha!
Nevertheless, I am very fortunate—or blessed, as I believe—to have found my soulmate. After 23 years, I can affirm that we are very much in love, more so in fact, and even happier than we were in the beginning. My approach to writing of the Darcys was to tell of those giddy, highly romantic early months that (hopefully) all relationships contain, while hinting of that deeper love that comes only through time and adversity. As my saga progresses we see that deeper spiritual bonding play out. Yet there is no doubt that Darcy and Lizzy's first year, especially those honeymoon months, is VERY reminiscent of what I recall! *wink.* No fantasy there, trust me! And I don't even remember arguing that much with my new spouse. Probably because we were too busy engaged in more pleasurable pursuits!
Marie: Going to poke out the old mind's eye, Sharon. LOL! Just kidding. You always speak of Steve with such a dreamy look in your eye. That's a lovely thing after 23 years and two kids together! I had a feeling Mr. and Mrs. Darcy were based on a tad bit of Lathan reality. You've had three books released in 10 months, a publishing tilt-a-whirl. What's been the best and worst parts of the whirl?
Sharon: Oh no, Marie, was the image a bit TMI? So sorry! Personal experience aside, I think the reality of new love and fresh discovered passion is fairly universal. I once had a young, unmarried gal write on my forum that she enjoyed my book but just didn't believe it was physically possible for two people to have sex that often! The way she wrote it was hysterical. Before I could even respond, a dozen other women did, assuring her that it was indeed quite possible! I wish I still had that post because it was very funny.
Anywho—The "publishing tilt-a-whirl"—Ooh, I like that! Coin a phrase, Ms. Force. Nice! Yep, indeed it is very like a frightening carnival ride at times. I am sure I will look back upon this year at some point and wonder how I managed. Then again, maybe I haven't managed at all and am now dreaming all of this while straitjacketed in Bedlam!
The best parts, hands down, are when I hold the finished book in my hand and/or see it on a book store shelf. It truly is a surreal thrill to see my name on a book, knowing the work that went into it and how proud I am. I keep waiting for the angelic Hallelujah chorus to burst forth as it seems only fitting for how my heart feels. That hasn't happened, but I have gotten tons of emails, etc. from satisfied readers. That is the next best part, for sure.
The worst part is the negative reviews. And I don't mean those folks who honestly, kindly, and tactfully say why they didn't care for it. Fine and dandy; it isn't for everyone, I know. What gets me are the horrid people who clearly delight in ripping someone else apart with the express purpose of wounding and boosting their own egos. Fortunately those reviews have been fewer as time moves on, and I have grown a thicker skin. But it was very rough in the beginning and emotionally I did not handle it well. 'Nuff said.
Marie: No worries on the TMI. I was just teasing you! That's a pretty funny story about the woman who didn't believe it was possible to have that much sex. Poor thing. Haha! I agree with you on the best part of the tilt-a-whirl. Holding those finished books in hand is a lovely thing indeed. And, I have to toss in there (hijacking your interview, here) that the people I have met, including my lovely Casa sisters and many other writing friends as well as the many dear readers who take the time to write in and say bravo, have been right up there with the smell of a printed book with my name on it. And OH, the naysayers. I agree: why do they have to be so vicious? I think you're dealing with more than your share of that because you've taken on a beloved author and her stories. Do you think that's part of it? And to move on to bigger and better things, tell us about books 4 and 5 and what's in store for the Darcys.
Sharon: Hijack away! I think we are on your blog, right? :) I totally agree about the friendships and acquaintances made being so special. The reality of how many truly dear friends I have made via this story and my publishing ventures is an anchor that keeps me calm and secure when the trials come. And that is not a jest or exaggeration. It brings me right to your point about the naysayers....
Yes, critical opinion is part of the game. But, there is no doubt that I have received more than my fair share due to taking on Austen's characters. I know this not just because of my own experiences (and it has been bad, trust me), but because I know many other Austen writers. The stories of abuse are the same and of a vicious nature and extent not generally seen in the average literary critic. Thus, receiving the praise and affirmation that we fragile authors always need becomes even more vital. I quite literally (To use a word Deb, our editor, hates but in this case is true!) would not have been able to persevere if not for my loyal fans. I owe them everything.
OK, mawkish sentimentality done! Darcy #4 now has a title! Whoot! Or at least, this week it has a title that Deb assures is "confirmed" but not "final"—not that final means final. Kapish? Me neither. "Romancing Mr. Darcy" is being edited as I type this and is set to be released October 1, 2010. Unlike the previous three, it covers a bit more than a year. The pace is faster and secondary characters take a larger role. Of course Lizzy and Darcy (and now the baby) are central. Darcy #5 is not finished, but it set for a Spring 2011 release. Readers will discover it to have the same similarities of all my novels—romantic and historical, but with action and drama taking center stage more than ever before. And that is all I shall say at this point! *insert evil laugh here.
This November I also have a novella being released as part of a Darcy Christmas-themed anthology, along with Amanda Grange and Carolyn Esau. I titled it "Reflections of Christmas at Pemberley" and wrote a series of scenes that span 25 years in the life of the Darcys. I am so proud of this novella!
Marie: So sorry to hear you've had such a hard time with the haters. People have no idea how much of ourselves we put into these books, and most of them are probably frustrated writers who are jealous of your success. I got a two-star Amazon review for Love at First Flight and that hurt! Ha! I guess I shouldn't bother to complain after what you've been through. The new books and the novellas sound great! Will you do more with the Darcys after book five? Do you ever think you'll write a non-Darcy story?
Sharon: Anyone who gives "Love at First Flight" two stars is clearly insane. But it does hurt, no matter how stupid the review is. And I agree with your assessment of the motives.
Marie: I like how you think! As my son would say, pish-posh on the two-star review! :-)
Sharon: After the fifth "Darcy" novel I am working on a companion novel focusing on Georgiana Darcy, Mr. Darcy's sister. Although a "Darcy" novel in one respect, I really feel as if it is totally different. For one thing, the other Darcys are not involved. In this story Georgiana is nearly five years older than she was in Austen's P&P, and since she wasn't given much of a character in the original, this Georgiana is of my own creation. Secondly, the novel is set primarily in post-Napoleonic Empire France. Third, it is more of a pure romance than the other books. A true girl-meet-boy type story, although I do include a wealth of history and intend to take it past the wedding as that is my MO!
Beyond that I am undecided. I love writing historical fiction with romantic elements, so imagine I will stay with that. I have a couple other secondary characters I would love to write about. One is Dr. George Darcy, who is 100 percent my creation, so that would be unique. I am open to whatever pops into the wee brain!
Marie: Well, Sharon, it's been really fun to chat with you. I hope you enjoyed our interview and I wish you much success with My Dearest Mr. Darcy and the next two books in the series! Any last words?
Thanks for your wish for my success, Marie, and for coming up with the idea for this interview. And that brings me to my "last words." The community of writers, especially romance writers, is unparalleled. I was new to Sourcebooks, not even known by anyone, when the Casablanca gals welcomed me into their fold. The experience of opening myself to other writers, partaking of their freely given knowledge and heartfelt support, has been a blessing. That community, a sisterhood of sorts, is invaluable and has aided me in remarkable ways this past year and a half. I could go on and on, but trust me—if you are even thinking of being a writer and part of this crazy business, get connected!
Definite last words: The Sourcebooks line of fiction and romance is awesome. And the CasaBabes ROCK!
Sharon and I with our good friend Kendra Leigh Castle at the 2009 RWA Conference in Washington, D.C.
Thanks so much for being here today, Sharon! Best of luck to you as well as Mr. and Mrs. Darcy!
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Find out more about Sharon and her Darcy saga.