Congratulations on the wonderful news of your two-book deal with Kensington. The first is called AUSTEN IN AUSTIN. Can you tell us a little more about it?
Thanks so much, David! Honestly it still doesn't feel completely real. (I'm still reeling from landing an agent back in October.) In fact, the one thing that does feel real is the the 'two-book' part of the deal--the fact that I'm expected to turn something out in a timely manner! But none of that was part of your question, so let me get back to that.
To describe AUSTEN IN AUSTIN, which, I've been told, is a temporary title, I'm going to re-use the blurb paragraph I used during my agent search. It garnered me one loyal fan...
What do you do when you don’t believe in magic but your life has just been liberally sprinkled with fairy dust? Suck it up, vacuum optional.
Nicola James is a left-brainer with a carefully finessed life plan, a plan that doesn’t include an enchanted journal or an interfering fairy godmother. But when Nicola discovers her first journal entry has been mysteriously whittled down to a few select words that read like a snippet from a Jane Austen novel, she’s freaked first, skeptical second, and finally downright curious. She can’t help but keep writing, dueling really, with a two-dimensional fairy godmother she doesn’t totally believe in. But when the odd little excerpts start coming true, screwing with her plans, her head, and her life, nudging her towards an impossible—and impossibly seductive—romance with a man who’s inarguably wrong for her, she’s torn, trapped between a life that makes sense and a man who doesn’t. With a fairy godmother wedged in the middle. A fairy godmother who just happens to be the spirit of Jane Austen herself.
When did you first decide you wanted to write romance novels?
Honestly, it started as a lark. I was visiting my sister with my then eight month old son, and I think one of us was reading a romance that wasn't living up to expectations. This prompted the two of us to comment that between the two of us we could write a better book, and out came the paper and pens. We had fun with our little project for the duration of the visit and agreed to keep things going long-distance. I'd write a bit and send it off to her, and then she'd edit what I'd written and tack on a bit more. It went back and forth like that for a little while until she got tired of it. I, on the other hand, was totally and completely hooked and kept at it, writing pretty much every day while my little boys napped. The final result was UNLADYLIKE PURSUITS, my self-pubbed Regency historical novel.
What is it about Jane Austen that keeps us coming back to her work 193 years after her passing?
Personally, I think a big part of it is that she published so few novels. Most readers probably get introduced to Ms. Austen via Pride & Prejudice, and they so enjoy the storyline, the characters (Mr. Darcy chalks up the adoring fans...), and the author's light, sardonic wit, that they immediately go in search of another novel, and then another. But there are only six complete novels. So as devoted readers, we either have to reread those six or branch out to reading spin-offs, hoping that they'll capture some of the magic of the originals. So authors keep writing, hoping to appeal to that audience, and at the same time, capture a little Austen magic for themselves.
Beyond that, each of Ms. Austen's novels are compulsively readable. These were popular fiction at the time of their publication, rather than highbrow literature, and they remain completely accessible to readers today. The themes are still mostly relatable and the characters are much beloved.
Why do so many romance novels seem to be period pieces. Is it because romance is lacking in today's society?
Most historical romances are set in either eighteenth or nineteenth century Britain or in the early American West. Certainly there are romances set in other times, some featuring Vikings, pirates, and Medieval warriors, no doubt because readers are curious about the lives, cultures, and customs of those periods in history. Not to mention their romance lives.
I started reading Regency romances when I was a teenager, and I think what appealed to me was how very different life was in that time period. A girl my age would already be having to think about getting married off--yikes! Luckily, given we're discussing romance novels, the heroine always ended up with the right guy, and the story ended with a happily-ever-after. In a typical Regency romance, the characters tend to be upper class and so a good bit of the storyline revolves around balls, walks in the garden, and invitations to country houses. There is witty banter and flirting. The seedy side of humanity tends to fade into the background--or else the villains are soundly routed by the hero (possibly with help from the heroine). Men are men (breeches don't leave much to the imagination), and women are innocent...until page 275. Seriously though, It's an escape to another time, glossing over mistresses and brothels, and resolving all romantic problems within 300 pages.
I wouldn't say romance is lacking in today's society. Maybe it could maybe use a jump start.
How do family and friends support your career?
Honestly? They are so supportive as to be almost pesty. But in a good way. I almost dread the initial pleasantries after seeing someone after a long absence. They invariably pose the question, "So...do you have a new book out yet?" Little do they know that not only am I a S-L-O-W writer, but the publishing industry itself is notoriously slow. Admittedly, if I'd decided to self-publish my second book, I could have had it in their eager hands long ago, but I chose to pursue traditional publishing this time around. Now I can tell them proudly, "I finally have a new book coming out!" but then I'll have to admit it won't be available for at least another year. Still, I'm thrilled that they're interested, I just wish I could promise a better response time.
My husband and sons are tremendously supportive--it was my husband who suggested I give self-publishing a shot, and my older son is constantly keeping tabs on how many reviews I have up on Amazon and how many pages I've managed to write between check points. It's sweet.
What activities does Alyssa Goodnight enjoy outside of writing?
Definitely reading--that's a big one, as it is for most writers. For me reading is the perfect break, a magical little escape. Other than that, I have fun keeping up with my kids and all the things they're doing and saying. Last week my older son was watching TV (while I was reading a book) and he says to me, "Mom, it's your kind playing basketball." I thought he meant the University of Texas was playing, or maybe even Ohio State. Nope. He meant girls were playing.
I like romantic comedies, long lunches, browsing the bookstore or the library, lazing outside in the spring or fall, and all the hype associated with holidays...although I'm adamantly opposed to Christmas decorations before November.
Which side are you on in the Angelina Jolie vs. Jennifer Aniston war?
I find this question hilarious coming from you, David. And I must admit that I can't claim to have an experienced opinion on this matter. The limited information I have gleaned has come from National Enquirer headlines quickly scanned at the supermarket checkout counter. Then again, maybe that makes me as experienced as anyone else here.
I think I have to side with Jennifer Aniston for these reasons:
1. Angelina Jolie is coming off as somewhat of a hussy. (And honestly, I think she's running with that.)
2. Jennifer Aniston has a girl-next-door vibe about her, whereas A.J....hussy.
(It's just now occurring to me that they have the same initials, just backwards.)
3. From all appearances, Brad Pitt is a wishy-washy bozo--I think Jennifer Aniston doesn't need that dragging her down. (Nor does she need to be associated with a couples' nickname like Brangelina. Gag!)