Thursday, 12 April 2012

On Writing Suspiciously Reserved: Setting

When I first imgained writing a modern day version of Emma, I assumed I would set it in England.  I wanted to keep things as similar as possible, since I love the story so much.  However, when I then considered I’ve never been to England and would not be able to write authentically about it, I turned to Canada.  What places in Canada were like the places in Emma?

I chose White Rock B.C. as the setting for Jane’s first meeting with Frank.  It is on the ocean, a great place for sailing and within easy travelling distance of Seattle, where Frank would live.  I had been to both of these places on family holidays, but it had been some time.  The more I wrote about these settings and researched details, the more I wanted to visit them again.  One of my favourite places featuring a favourite scene is on Granville Island in Vancouver.  Such an eclectic meeting place for the arts, food, crafts and quaint little shops.


Then, Jane needed to return to her home with the Campbells.  In Emma, this home is in London.  I needed a city that I knew well.  Having lived in Saskatoon for ten years, I was excited to revisit some of my favourite haunts.  I chose one of the wealthiest neighbourhoods in the city for the Campbell’s home and was able to use Beaver Creek Conservation Area, TCU Place, Broadway Street and

Spadina Avenue in my book.


Finally, Jane needed to return to her roots – In Emma this is Highbury, a small village within a day’s journey of London.  I can’t remember when I first thought of using Tugaske (pronounced Tuh-gas-key), Saskatchewan, but as I wrote, I found it the perfect place for a snug, tight-knit and slightly conservative community.  I visited Tugaske with my husband in the summer of 2006.  Most people have never heard of it, but with its easy access to Diefenbaker Lake, many artists-in-residence and attachment to a agricultural history, it is a beautiful setting for romance.

Find Suspiciously Reserved: A Twist on Jane Austen's Emma here:

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

On Writing Suspiciously Reserved - The Idea

Suspiciously Reserved: A Twist on Jane Austen's EmmaThe idea of writing Jane Austen’s Emma from Jane Fairfax’s point of view came to me as I wrote a Jane Austen murder mystery called Murder of a Matchmaker.  Jane Fairfax was one of the actors in the play and therefore, one of the suspects.  I’ll admit the 2010 BBC version of Emma starring Romola Garai was also a big impetus.  This version made Jane much more sympathetic than others.  She was appropriately pretty, sweet and shy.  It explained the injustice of her life of dependence.

However, the seed for the idea came long before I could do anything about it – or more to the point, write anything about it.  After writing Murder of a Matchmaker, I returned to my yet-to-be-published novel, Taking Comfort.  I worked on revising Taking Comfort, republishing Expectations and preparing Subgirl for publication before I could take a breath and decide to work on something new.  I also began another novel about a book club in a small prairie town.  In April 2011, I had to decide – would I continue my book club book or would I venture into another Jane Austen venture?  Jane Austen won again!

Writing Suspiciously Reserved was the fastest, most enjoyable project I have done yet.  I wrote the entire book between April and August 2012.  I was inspired by my upcoming return to full-time teaching to get the book finished.  An excited entry in my daytimer states “Finished book rough draft!!” on August 15.  I even had time to do a first edit before school started. 

I’ll be the first to admit that at the beginning of the book, even I was in love with Frank Churchill, but coming up to the end, I decided Jane must give him up and turn to her rightful partner – George Knightley.  Knightley remains the true “knight in shining armour” that he is in Emma.  But could I go through with this major revision to the original story?  I’m not giving out any spoilers.  You will have to read for yourself!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

A Meeting of the Minds

I always wanted to join a writers group.  Ever since I read author’s giving thanks to their writers groups in their acknowledgement or dedication pages, I felt the urge to belong.  I made several unsuccessful attempts while living in Saskatchewan.  It seems that being a mother of two young children make joining anything outside of the home difficult. 

When I moved to Alberta, I joined a book club almost immediately.  It was a great way to get to know new people in a new town.  When I found out one of the members was also a writer, I felt excited.  When she asked me to help her start a writers group, I was tickled and a bit apprehensive.  Who would come?  How would we advertise?  What would we do?  Fortunately, my friend Katie is a pro at online life.  I finally joined Facebook and we met for our first writers group.  We were only three, Katie, her husband and me, but by sharing our writing, we got to know one another quickly. 

The first year was touch and go.  I invited a few people who came once or twice, but people began to join our Facebook page.  We also put a free ad in the local paper.  By September, we had a couple of email inquiries and a few more people attended.  This September, we had about four more inquiries and we now have a general attendance of four to six people each month.  We aren’t big, but we’re small, as Stewart McLean would say.

As we now prepare for our first writers retreat this summer, I am reminded of the many things I have gained by meeting with other writers. 

Without Writers Group . . .

I would not have come up with the idea for my latest novel project.
I would not have written at least five of my short stories.
I would not have met about twenty people in my town.
I would not be looking forward to my first ever writers retreat.
I would not have joined Twitter.
I would not have joined Facebook.
I would not have started this blog.

I would love to know, do you belong to a writers group and what is the best thing about your meetings?