Friday, May 16, 2014

Author Interview: Melanie Kerr

Melanie Kerr
author, Follies Past: a Prequel to Pride and Prejudice

Give us a bit of your background (where are you from, your family, traveling adventures)

A common question that people ask when they meet you is where are you from? I never quite know how to answer that.

I was born in Edmonton, but moved to New Zealand when I was 6. I lived in various towns there, Devonport, Waiheke Island and Taumarunui, mostly. Then, when I was 12, we returned to Canada, and I went to High School on Vancouver Island. After graduation, I moved to Vancouver for university, where I ended up studying linguistigs, English language and theatre. I wanted to be an actor for a long time, probably from about the age of 13, but there were just too many other things I wanted to do, and that is a profession that you cannot pursue by halves.

After finishing my degree I traveled and lived in China and Newfoundland. En route, I gave up on my acting dream, and like so many would-be artists, wrote the LSAT instead. I found myself at law school back in Edmonton, where it all began, and where I have made my home (for now). I currently have two little boys, aged 1 and 4, who are adorable and who try to kill me every day.

What is one silly fact about you?

David Mitchell is my soul mate, in a totally non-romantic way. I am very happily married to possibly the most desirable man in Edmonton. (For clarity, I mean the funny David Mitchell, the tweedy, irritatable one from TV, not the one that writes novels.)

Why do you choose to write clean/sweet romance? Do you write steamy romance as well?

I write what I like to read, and for me at least, there is nothing to compete with Jane Austen, so I have started writing like her. She never wrote anything remotely steamy, or rather, not overtly steamy. I mean, how many women have had to loosen their blouse at the thought of Mr. Darcy, rounding the corner at Pemberley, fully clothed? For me, the romantic tension is intensified by the rules of decorum, so no, I don’t write steam romance, but I think readers will still find themselves falling in love with my hero.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?

Without a doubt, just having people read my story, especially if they like it and want to talk about it. I have had people leave their favourite passages from my book on my facebook wall, and really I don’t think there could be anything more ecstatic. As a mother, I liken it to the feeling I get when people show their love to my children. Jane Austen spoke of her books as her children, and I completely sympathize with her feelings.

Where do your ideas come from?

Obviously, since I have written a prequel to Pride and Prejudice, most of my ideas came from the text of that book. I had it constantly on hand as I was writing, looking up character descriptions and story structure and word usage, so my book is really inspired on every level by Jane Austen’s own writing. But there is much of my own invention as well. The main character, Clare Langford, is the best friend of Georgiana Darcy, and is all my own work, as are several other of the characters. I have endeavoured to keep all of them consistent with the types of characters that Jane Austen created, with some of the same elements, though that is easier said than done. Her writing is so clever because she creates such original, complex people in her work. They are not stock, so you can’t just whip out a new one based on a formula.

You have to really observe the world and people and, most of all, yourself. I have always been very interested in how people work, in personality types, in pop psychology. My husband always makes fun of me for being able to dissect the personalities of family members for hours, and to get so much enjoyment out of my analysis. When I am writing, I like to really empathize with the characters in my story, try and feel how they might feel and write their reactions with the honesty of my own feelings in their place. I suppose this is sort of what I learned in acting class, Stanislovsky and Uta Hagen and all that. I hadn’t really thought of it that way before, but it feels like the same process.

Please share about your book 

Follies Past is precisely what it says, a prequel to Pride and Prejudice. In Pride and Prejudice, everything hinges on a letter that Darcy gives Elizabeth, explaining all his dealings with Mr. Wickham. The facts Austen gives us are at the heart of Follies Past. The novel begins at Pemberley, at Christmas, almost a year before the opening of Pride and Prejudice. It follows young Georgiana Darcy to London, to Ramsgate and to the brink of a perilous elopement.

As well as some exciting new characters and a sweet and touching new love story, readers will discover delightful surprises from more minor characters such as Anne de Bourgh and Mrs. Younge.

Crafted with all the skill of a trained linguist, this jaunty excursion into a flawless Regency England treats readers to the joys, the wit, and the drama of their beloved Pride and Prejudice. Existing characters are just as Austen wrote them, and the story, the manners, even the syntax, all conform to her standards and idioms. The prefect prequel to England’s favourite book, this is a novel for true Austen fans.

If you could sum your main character into five words, what would they be?

Loyal, lovely, humble, brave, wise

Use no more than two sentences. Why should we read your book?

It feels just like reading Jane Austen and the story is really enjoyable and compelling. You will be diverted.

Do you have a favorite character you have written so far? 

The first part of the book focuses on the character of Caroline Bingley, who is rather a minor character in Pride and Prejudice. I didn’t create her, but I have given her more of a history, more opportunity to display her awful talent for being disagreeable, and perhaps show a side of her we have not seen before. I loved writing her. She is so funny without trying to be, and nobody likes her anyway, so there was a lot of freedom for me as a writer in that I didn’t have any readers’ expectations to contend with. I could just have fun. Her story, too, is quite dramatic, and kind of heartbreaking, because in my book, she almost becomes likeable, but dooms herself by the force of her own ambition. It is all terribly interesting. I have started to consider doing some short stories about her, the Chronicles of Caroline or something. I think they could be really amusing.


  1. How would you react if I told you there’s a job where you have to work 24/7? Well, there’s already someone who holds this position.mothers day poems

  2. What a huge task to take on! This sounds like a wonderful read, and now I'm dying to become acquainted with Caroline Bingly. ;)



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