Jane Greensmith and I bumped into each other reading and commenting the same blogs. Little by little I discovered she was such an active woman (writer, reader, great reviewer, blogger, traveller) and I started liking her more and more. Then I was so lucky as to win her “Intimations of Jane Austen”, her collection of 9 lovely short stories, in a giveaway on her blog Reading, Writing, Working, Playing and now I definitely admire her.

 This is an occasion for all of you to meet her,  but also to win a free copy of her INTIMATIONS OF JANE AUSTEN (my review HERE) .
 Read the interview below, leave a comment, add your e-mail address and stay tuned. Winner will be announced on 7th February.

1. So Jane, welcome on Fly High! I’m so pleased you accepted my invitation. Please, tell us something about yourself .
I’m a native of Colorado, though a first-generation American. My dad is from England, though he spent several years as a teenager in Australia, and my mother is from Montreal. They met during WWII when my dad was stationed in Canada, and they married and she lived with his family in Birmingham during the remainder of the war. They’re both primarily self-educated, and our house was always filled with books, classical music, including opera, and art prints. For most of my childhood and teenage years, we didn’t have a TV in the house, so I spent a lot of time reading.

My husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary last year, and we have three teenaged kids—my older daughter is a senior in high school and my younger daughter and son are twins.
When I turned 50 in 2008, I added a Milestones page to my website that provides more info about me and some photos of Jane through the ages!

2. Do you remember – because I actually don’t –how or where we met on line?
When I first started my blog I was reading and writing on Elizabeth Gaskell almost exclusively and I had set up a Google alert that would point me to blogs that mentioned Gaskell. I found Fly High in this way as a result of a search that found one of your blogs on North and South with the marvelous Richard Armitage. I have really enjoyed getting to know you from both your blogs.

3. Thank you!  Marvelous Richard, indeed! And now let's pull ourselves together, please, and go on.  When did you started writing?
I wrote a lot in college because I was an English major, and I’ve written a lot in my career in public relations and marketing, but I didn’t start writing fiction until 1999 when I discovered the Austen fanfiction site The Derbyshire Writers Guild. I started reading some of the stories and in no time at all started writing them as well. It was and is a very nurturing environment, where fellow writers post encouraging comments on each other’s stories and I was amazed to find out how many incredibly nice, smart, and interesting Janeites there are out there. I wrote Austen fanfic regularly for about five years, and then found I simply didn’t have time to write fiction, work full time, and be a good parent and wife so my fiction writing is on hold right now...but I’ve got a lot of stories brewing!

4. How did you come to write an Austen inspired collection of stories?
Every one of my stories first appeared on The Derbyshire Writers Guild (or DWG as it is affectionately known) and the Bits of Ivory board (aka BOI) on The Republic of Pemberley site. Most fanfic tends to be very long stories, but I found that I was much better at writing short stories and so most of what I produced was in that genre. I started reading Austen at about age 13 and have been rereading the novels, reading about Austen, and discussing her works for well over 30 years. I found that writing a short story, “The Last Baby,” from Mrs. Bennet’s perspective was a more effective way for me to “defend” her as a character than arguing about her plight in a lit-crit paper. Likewise, I’ve also always thought the Lady Russell was more right in her advice to young Anne Eliot than most people acknowledge, which led me to write “The Three Sisters.” Each of my stories reflects a point that I want to make about an Austen character—I believe in truth in story-telling and my stories illustrate an aspect of an Austen story that has touched me deeply.

Fans of my stories encouraged me to produce a collection of them, but I knew that I would never get a publisher interested in them. Even though Austen Inc. is a major industry these days, I know enough about the publishing industry to know that it is almost impossible to get a collection of short stories published so I decided to self-publish the book and I have not regretted the decision. I have done all the marketing for the book myself, and I find it immensely gratifying when I can find readers for my stories.

Because I have no illusions that this set of stories will enable me to quit my day job as PR manager for a high-tech company and become a full-time writer, I decided to leave all my stories on my website (http://www.janegs.com/) and most of them are still at DWG and BOI as well. I want people to read my stories, and if they want them in a collection, I figure the price of my book is about the same as they would spend on the ink and paper to print them out from the Internet, but it’s their choice.

5. What about you and blogging?
I adore blogging! After I decided that I simply didn’t have time to write fiction, I knew that I didn’t want to give up writing daily nor did I want to lose the bookish community that I find so enriching, energizing, and gratifying to be part of. I have made friends with fellow bloggers from all over the world and have learned about books, movies, perspectives, foods, customs, ideas, and dreams from them.
I love to write about the books I’m reading and I try to provide a unique perspective or dig for what makes a book or movie work or not work for me. I also love to write about my travels, my garden, and anything else that I find interesting and worth sharing.

6. You and reading? Your favourite authors and books?
Jane Austen is, of course, top of the heap, but I have read all of her works so many times that I limit myself to one Austen a year. I love reading the classics, especially Victorian literature—it was an absolute treat to discover Elizabeth Gaskell and spend a year reading about her and all her works—and George Eliot is fantastic as well. I often say that Austen is my favorite author, but Middlemarch is my favorite book. I love Shakespeare and read/watch/attend the plays whenever possible, historical fiction (especially Edward Rutherford and Diana Gabaldon), biographies (Jenny Uglow, Peter Ackroyd and Claire Tomalin are my favorite biographers), and a lot of non-fiction as well. I am particularly interested in how science and technology developed and affected society and humanity.

A couple of years ago I got really interested in the ancient world and fell in love with Robert Harris’s books Pompeii and Imperium. I enjoy mystery series a lot too. I recently discovered Ian Rankin from a fellow blogger and enjoyed the first in his Inspector Rebus series. I also like Donna Leon, Nevada Barr, and Julia Spencer-Fleming. I’ve tried Romance but find I don’t like it much, except I read about one Georgette Heyer a year and some would argue that Gabaldon belongs in Romance and not Historical Fiction, so there are exceptions to every rule. I read some best-sellers but not usually until they’ve been out for awhile. I read some Austen paraliterature if it gets good reviews—I really liked Murder at Longbourn, Jane Austen in Boca, and The Jane Austen Bookclub, but hated The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet and found Lady Vernon and Her Daughter dull. I think Pamela Aidan’s trilogy Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman is the definitive Darcy story, and Susan Kaye’s two-parter Frederick Wentworth, Captain to be the definitive Wentworth story. I also love Laura Hile’s Mercy’s Embrace two-parter about Elizabeth Eliot. All three authors are Internet friends that I met when I first starting writing my short stories, and they are creme de la creme when it comes to Austen paraliterature.

7. Do you like period or costume drama? What about your favourite one, if you’ve got any?

I love period dramas, both adaptations as well as bio pics. Apart from the Colin Firth P&P, the Amanda Root Persuasion, and both the Emma Thompson and Hattie Morahan S&S, North and South, Wives and Daughters, Cranford, and A Room with a View are my favorites. I loved going to period dramas as a kid and still love Mary, Queen of Scots, Anne of the Thousand Days, and Nicholas and Alexandra. I collect Shakespeare movies as well as Austen ones, and am eagerly awaiting Bright Star and Young Victoria.

I also like to study the Civil War and consider the movie Gettysburg, which is based on Michael Shaara’s fabulous novel Killer Angels, to be superb. I fell in love with westerns as a kid and will always love High Noon, Big Country, How the West was Won, and Centennial (the TV series), among countless others.

8. What is the best and the worst thing which has happened to you since you’ve become a writer?
Writing fanfic led to writing non-fanfic stories, and I had one of them (“The Last Chance Texaco”) accepted for inclusion in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers short story anthology, Dry Spell. That and having Intimations of Austen discovered by bloggers are definitely the high points for me.
The worst was having to face the fact that I couldn’t be a good parent if I continued to try to write fiction while my kids were teenagers. I realized that I couldn’t keep on telling them that I was too busy to listen to them, talk to them, go to movies with them, go shopping with them, cook with them, help them with homework, and encourage them. They are young for such a short amount of time and I know that my hiatus from writing is only for the short term, but it was hard to put my writing on the shelf just when I was starting to feel that I was making significant strides. Now, I am content to know that I am “filling the creative well” by reading, watching movies, and just living, and that when they are out of the house and in college and working, I will have plenty of time for writing.

9. Are you working on a new writing project?
My blog is my writing right now, although I have a couple of modern-day versions of Gaskell's ghost stories that I am playing with a bit.

10. You’ve also gone on interesting trips recently. You’ve posted about your journey to Haworth and other interesting places in England  and I know you’ve just visited The Austen Exhibition at the Morgan Library in NY. What about you and travelling?

Most of the travel I do is for my job—I take several trips a year to Florida, the Boston area, and the NYC area, but I dream of having the time and funds to travel more. I want to visit Italy so much that I started learning Italian two years ago. Last year, my older daughter and I visited Ireland and the UK for two weeks and had a spectacularly good time. My kids love NYC and we are planning another spring break trip there this year. My husband and I also love California and are not above begging my sister-in-law to stay with the kids so that we can have an occasional weekend in LA. I enjoy literary pilgrimages, and loved visiting Haworth (the Yorkshire village that the Brontes lived in) and Stratford last summer. I still haven’t made it to Chawton, Austen’s last home, but I will...I know I will.

11. You told us about blogging, writing, reading, period drama or films, travelling … Is there anything else you want to tell us about? Any other hobby or interest?
I enjoy gardening a lot and wish I had the time to do more of it. I am a strong proponent of the Slow Food movement, and I believe in eating locally as much as possible, cooking from scratch, and composting. I consider Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Joan Dye Gussow’s book The Organic Life to have changed my life. My mother always had a garden, and my husband and I always had a garden, but these books gave me practical advice on how to live more simply and closer to the earth. My husband and I grow everything we need for pickles, salsa, tomato sauce, apple sauce, and apple pie filling, and the summer is spent growing, canning, pickling, and learning to preserve more and more of our own food.
In one of my few novel length works, Ruffling Feathers, I wrote about an all-white flower garden that reflects the moonlight. The year before I wrote that story, I grew an all-white flower garden and loved so much to meditate on the world sitting amongst the flowers on a summer’s night.

I love the mountains of Colorado deeply—I love to travel but I really can’t imagine living for any period of ime without my mountains. The wind in the trees, the view from the top, the craggy outposts of granite, the rosy hues of winter sunrise, these are the things that make me who I am...that and what I read. It all goes into what I write.

I want to thank you, Maria, for inviting me to share some things about myself in this forum. I really feel blessed to have found so many kindred spirits in the blogosphere and my life is richer from knowing you and sharing opinions with you on movies, books, art, music, and life. You put such thought and care into your blog and I always come away happy that I carved out time from my day to read what you have to say.

God bless you, Jane! It is JUST the same for me. Thanks for being my guest. And since you've been studying Italian  in the last two years: Grazie mille e a presto!


Lucy said...

What a fantastic interview!!! I learned so much! Hey and the author also is a bit of Montrealer too (you know that's where I'm born and raised....and still here:) Fascinating stuff- I will absolutely go visit her blog right after this. And- I just got to read your review- what a neat book! I love a book with several stories in it...Austenesque all the way!! Love it.

Please enter me for this one, Maria:)I would love, love, love to read it!

Meredith said...

Lovely, lovely interview!!!! I adore both Jane's blog and yours, Maria! What a special treat it was learn more about you, Jane! Excellent questions, Maria.

No need to enter me in the giveaway as I am already a happy owner of Intimations of Austen! Jane, it was well worth the money and I would love to read more of your wonderful stories in the future!

Luciana said...

Again very nice to learn more about a blogger! I sometimes visit Jane's blog and I clearly see we share many interests!

Heather G. said...

Fantastic interview! One of the most exciting things about blogging is meeting such wonderful people! Thanks for letting us know so much more about Jane Greensmith! I absolutely loved her stories and can't wait for more!

Thanks, Jane too!

Martha Lawson said...

This sounds really good. I'd love to be entered to win. Thanks for the giveaway

mlawson17 at hotmail dot com

Linda Fern said...

Speaking of kindred spirits dear Jane, I feel as though we really are 'sisters'! We have so much in common, but my problem is time, as in not having time to do the things I would like. I am busy though with my grandchildren, so all is not lost. I will take my joy from reading your works. Thanks for knowing you!

Yrs aff'ly,
Linda Fern

Anonymous said...

Such an interesting person and a wonderful interview. Thanks for letting me know about her.
Now I'd really like to read her book.



Mary Gray said...

I remember reading your review of Intimations of Jane Austen and thinking I need to read this book! Now I need to more than ever! This author truly studied her entire life to write a book that has such a unique take.

Good job prioritizing motherhood over writing, Jane. I have two little ones and battle this dilemma daily. I, too, graduated in PR so I felt like I have a lot in common with this author. I will be reading your book and think it would make a great gift, too!!

BurtonReview said...

This was really a wonderful piece! Well done ladies. I hate it when we ask others who their fave authors are & they beg off. Who best to learn about good writing but from other writers? I enjoyed seeing what inspires her & who she enjoys reading. Please enter me for her book as well!
Marieburton2004 at yahoo dot com

Phylly3 said...

MG, I can see why you are such good friends with Jane. She sounds like a wonderful and very talented person. I would love to read her fiction if you would be so kind to enter me in your draw.
Thanks for this opportunity!
P.S. I have my fingers crossed, but if I am the winner I may not be available to reply until a bit later.

lunarossa said...

This is really interesting, MG, what a great lady. It must have been absolutely fantastic to get to know her and her work. Wouldn't mind to win the book but, if not, I will surely buy it! Ciao. A.

Avalon said...

Great interview Maria, you are one terrific person.
Jane Greensmith sounds absolutely interesting.

Anonymous said...

MissBluestocking (couldn't log in again):

Holy Canoly! *gulp* I wish I was the only one here that way I'd know I'd win the book for sure! I want, want, want to read it! Of course, if I don't win, I'm going to try and buy it too!

Great Interview by the way! It's so interesting to read about an author who is in love with period dramas, books, etc., *Sigh* I get all fluttery when I just thing of the Regency/Victorian era.

Enter me in!

Christina / Book Addict said...

I enjoyed the interview. Please enter me!

mrsshukra said...

I enjoyed reading this interview post, thanks! Please count me in!


teabird said...

Stories about Austen! How could I not want to read this!? I love the idea of a white garden.......

teabird17 AT yahoodotcom