Thanks for willing to be interviewed!
I, for one, love the story of Daddy Long Legs and all of Austen’s books. How did you come up with the idea of mixing the two together?
I was injured and, rather than receive flowers in the hospital, all my friends brought me books. So I left with over thirty new titles, but a desire to spend time in Jane Austen. As I read, a character started to form in my head, complete with struggles and quirks, but no story within which to put her. But when I came to Daddy Long Legs, I found that missing element, a context for her, and the idea rolled from there…
Samantha is a great heroine with strengths and weaknesses that are completely relatable. Can you tell us who or what inspired her creation?
Sam shares no common history with any one I know personally or with me, but I can relate to all her struggles. I think that was the inspiration – the universal struggle, regardless of our circumstances, to define ourselves, face insecurity and fear, seek a place to stand and belong, and search for a family to love. When writing, I worked to make Sam’s life bigger, tougher, and more challenging than many of us face so that we could more easily sneak into her emotional world and relate to her without feeling too exposed ourselves.
Your novel deals with knowledge of the foster care system, Northwestern’s journalism program and lots of Jane Austen. How much research did you have to do?
Quite a bit, but it didn’t feel like research. I loved it! I did attend Northwestern, but not the journalism school. I’ve read all of Austen, but over so many years that I think it’s all a part of me. I have never studied her – so my knowledge is generated from a love of the literature, not from any great analytical insights. As for the foster care system, I talked to so many people and read a great deal – and that said, any mistakes in the logistics of Sam’s childhood are my own and the details of her personal story are fictional.
What would you consider the major point that you wanted to get across when writing Dear Mr. Knightley?
Love this question. No one has asked this! I think Professor Muir says it best when he talks about Sam’s past: “Never let something so unworthy define you.” Sam is haunted by her past and it’s damaging her future, but she need not be defined by it. It doesn’t need to trap her. Yet, that realization, and forgiving all that happened, is so terribly hard and wrenchingly painful. But Sam can be free. And there is tremendous power and hope in that.
Can you tell us about what you’re working on next?
Lizzy and Jane is next and it’s in the editing process right now. It will be out next fall and I’m so excited. Lizzy had more humor and confidence available to her than Sam did. But she’s got some struggles ahead of her as well – can’t make life too easy on her.
This story has all the big guns: sisters, conflict, food, Jane Austen, Hemingway (threw you there, didn’t I?), love, and breast cancer. I know that last one is a bummer, but it’s a reality that so many of us experience either personally or walking the journey with family and friends. Basically Lizzy and Jane is the story of a young woman, Lizzy, who has excised love from her life and, as she helps her sister through chemotherapy, she starts to put it back in – in all its wonderful and varied forms.
Thank you so much for letting me chat here! Great questions and a lot of fun. Thanks!
Check out Dear Mr. Knightley if you haven’t!