I wanted to get this up last weekend but I was sick and then I knew I’d be posting a few things this week with my book release and I didn’t want to post on top of this. If you’ve read Jane Austen Fan Fiction for a bit then you’ve probably read some by Melanie Schertz. She publishes so frequently she was like a reader’s dream when I found the genre! I even found the online forums because I was trolling for more by her. I wish I were doing this closer to the release of one of her books, but I’ll try to have her on again later in the year, then. Without further ado…
Like all your books, On the Road to Ramsgate begins with an enthralling deviation from Canon. How did the inspiration strike you for this opening?
It was a different take, which is something I prefer to do with my stories. There are few stories out there that delve into what would have happened had Darcy been too late to save his sister from Wickham, and then to have Darcy and Elizabeth literally run into each other at that pivotal moment was something I wanted to play with. Also, how I handled what happens to Georgiana Darcy was completely against the norm of that time. But Darcy has never been, in my opinion, one to follow the norms.
Elizabeth Bennet suffers quite an injury in this book and ends up needing to use canes to move around. In fact, she also suffers from depression due to the injury even as she insists on keeping her independence. In the last year, you had knee replacement surgery. Is there a part of your experience in Elizabeth Bennet’s?
I do have depression, and I openly admit to being on medication. I think there is too much negative stigma still on any sort of mental illness, including depression, anxiety, and many others. But, as Elizabeth does in the book, I found that being loved, having people who honestly cared about me, made a tremendous difference in my life. In the story, it allows Elizabeth to heal nearly to her before accident condition. The twins and Darcy help her to feel whole again. Though her aunt and uncle had done their best for her, it was not the same sort of love, and the desire to be needed and to be useful to others was something Elizabeth needed, not people feeling sorry for her.
What is your favorite part about writing?
I love playing with the characters. We know how Jane Austen wrote the characters, but she also left room to take them out, play with them, and still have them fall in love. The characters can be moulded and crafted to what I want them to be. In this story, I made Jane a nasty for the first time. It was so much fun being able to take the meek and sweet Jane and turn her into a fortune hunter, bitter hag. But what led her to become that person, how did she get there? That is fun developing.
Do you have any sort of writing routine or strategy you must follow?
Well, unlike many writers I have come to know, I do better with chaos around me. The TV on, or music playing, or some sort of noise. Too much quiet and I go bonkers. Too many years of having to write reports in details for the police department, with the radio chatter going on, people talking to me, and such. I also sit on my bed, legs pulled up so that the computer sits on my feet and lower legs as I type. Usually, one or more of the animals is trying to grab my attention, as my service dog, Darcy, is trying to do at this very moment. He has his head beside the computer and is sighing.
I don’t do an outline or plot everything out ahead of time. I go with the flow and whatever comes to mind is what I work with.
Why do you think Jane Austen’s works are so timeless and still appealing to us 200 years later?
The characters are timeless. We have all known a Wickham or Willoughby in our lives, or perhaps a Mr Collins or Lady Catherine. And we all dream of one day finding someone who will love us, for all our faults as well as our pluses. I think that her work was done in a simple style which is easy to read and understand, and Jane Austen took a step forward for women when women had very few rights. Having worked in a “Man’s Job” for most of my life, I feel she has helped us move past what is expected of us as “female” to move into new worlds.
Also, with the social media connecting the world as it does now, we can reach out to one another, share our opinions, tell each other when there is a new book coming out or check out each other’s blogs. Look at all the research which goes into all the blogs that are posted each and every week, giving us information from the Regency time frame, history on how life was for Jane Austen, sharing with each other our fantasies of who would make the best Mr Darcy, or even helping each other improve and reach farther. I am so grateful to be a part of Austen Authors, as there are so many amazing authors there who have so many different talents that we are using to help each other with things like posting, artwork for book covers, audiobooks, and more. Jane Austen has helped us look to expand and be who we want to be.
What are your two favorite works by Jane Austen and how would you say they differ?
Of course, Pride and Prejudice, and the second would have to be Persuasion. In P&P, you have Lizzy who is impertinent, outspoken, everyone knows her and, for the most part, love her. Even when she is wrong, she does not sit back and let anyone walk over her.
In Persuasion, you have Anne Elliot who is trampled by her family, who are all miserable people. They are selfish, they expect Anne to take care of them and their problems, while outside her family Anne is well loved by all who know her. She places her own happiness aside for her family, and she is pretty much treated as a servant. It was wonderful to see her finally stand her ground and accept the man she had loved for years, and thought she had lost. Where Lizzy Bennet was always a strong, impertinent young lady, Anne was always the submissive one, until she finally blew off the family and chose for her own happiness.
I know there is a Darcy in your life! Can you tell us about him?
This is funny, as the 2 relationships I have had both ended up badly. My daughter’s father is an alright guy, but he disappears from his family for years at a time. The second guy, the relationship ended when he had me pinned to the floor, my arm twisted behind my back, with his hand around my neck. He whispered in my ear that he could be lethal if he wanted to be. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. So, my daughter teases me that I write love stories. I had to have a good imagination or she wouldn’t have been born.
My Mr Darcy at this point is my handsome service dog, named Darcy. I have finally learned the hard lesson of not settling, and to like myself and who I am rather than base from the views of others. Darcy is not only loyal, he is my protector and a love. He can tell when I am not up to my best and watches over me. We have fights at times as to who is the boss, though I end up winning the battle of wills. He and his kitty (Lizzy, of course) were adopted together, 2 days after i got my first royalty check. So those who bought my books made it possible for me to have Darcy and Lizzy. (and yes, she is extremely impertinent and climbs everywhere).
What are your current projects?
I am over half way done with The Bennet and Darcy Arrangement. It has the Bennet family being an off shoot of the Darcy family, and the 2 families have been friends for most of their lives. Elizabeth and Darcy have grown up together, and there is an arrangement for them to marry.
Do you naturally enjoy history or was it only after becoming an Austen fan that your interest grew?
I grew up with antiques all around me, and was very close to my grandparents. They taught me so much about history, and learning from the past.
Can you tell us about your first Austen experience?
I am dyslexic, and as a kid, in a time when no one knew what dyslexic was, I avoided reading as much as possible. So, I was a late bloomer to being an Austen Addict, after seeing the 2005 movie. It was amazing to be able to read Jane Austen’s work and be able to understand what she was saying, which helped me work towards improving my reading skills. So Jane Austen has done a great deal for me.
Excerpt of On the Road to Ramsgate
“Mr Darcy, we did not expect you to be here.” Mrs Lowe announced as she stepped closer to the gentleman. “Your sister did not say you would be coming, especially as she departed just this morning.”
“Departed? To where was she heading?” Darcy was shocked, as his sister, Georgiana, was to remain at Ramsgate for another fortnight, when he was to come to collect her.
“She and Mrs Younge left with a gentleman. They stated they were to journey north, so I assumed they were going to Pemberley. Is your estate not in the north, in Derbyshire?”
“Yes, it is. Who was the gentleman with whom they were traveling?” Darcy asked, confused with what was being said.
“Mr Walker…no, that is not correct. Wilson? No, Wilkens, I think.” The housekeeper had not been introduced to the man, only heard Miss Darcy and her companion, Mrs Younge, speak of the young man.
“Could it be Wickham?” Darcy felt an icy chill take hold of his heart.
“Yes, that is the name. George Wickham. He came in a carriage to collect the ladies. I believe your sister declared him to be a long time family friend.”
“Good God, this is beyond belief. How long ago did they leave?”
Mrs Lowe was surprised at the gentleman’s behavior. “They left near nine this morning.”
Darcy looked at the pocket watch he had pulled from his vest pocket. It was now almost four in the afternoon. “Have my carriage ready to leave as soon as possible. I need to check my sister’s rooms and then I will be leaving.” He shouted his orders as he headed up the stairs to the rooms Georgiana had used while she stayed in Ramsgate.
Darcy was well acquainted with George Wickham. And he knew of what his former friend was capable.
George Wickham was the son of Darcy’s father’s steward. Mr Gerald Darcy had been pleased with his steward’s years of dedicated service to Pemberley, and had been named the god father for George when he was born. Mr Darcy was saddened when the steward had died suddenly from what was later learned to be a heart condition for which he had refused to be treated. The physician had insisted that Mr Wickham take medication to treat the condition, but the steward stated that he did not wish to appear weak. He died when George was only ten years old.
Mr Darcy had been fond of George, and paid for the boy to be educated alongside his son. By the time George was in school, his true nature was clear to young Darcy.
George had a passion for gambling, and it did not matter to him that he did not have the finances to live the lifestyle he desired. George was also fond of the ladies. He had ruined many a lady, no matter if she were young or old, servant or wealthy, rich or poor. The man had an insatiable hunger for bedding the ladies. Mr Darcy was kept in the dark of his godson’s behavior, as his son wished to protect the Master of Pemberley from the pain which would be inflicted.
When Mr Darcy died, only five years previously, he had left an inheritance of one thousand pounds and the living at Kympton parish, should George take orders to become a parson. Fortunately, George declined to take orders, stating a preference for the law. Darcy was pleased to see George’s decision, as he did not believe the reprobate to be a proper candidate to lead a parish. Darcy agreed to pay George three thousand pounds in addition to the one thousand bequeathed him, after George signed papers releasing Darcy from any further claims.
With the papers signed and the funds given to Wickham, Darcy prayed that there would never be a reason to cross paths with the man again. Unfortunately, only a year previous, Wickham darkened Darcy’s doorstep again. He declared himself a changed man and was ready to take orders, wishing the living to which he had signed away claim. At first, Wickham put on a mask of sincerity, though it quickly dissolved. When Darcy stated he would not give the living to Wickham, the scoundrel began making all sorts of threats against him. After Wickham was dragged from Darcy House by servants, Darcy hired a man from Bow Street Runners to investigate Wickham. It was learned that Wickham had accumulated extensive debts, totaling over five thousand pounds. He was on the run from some of the men to which he owed money, as they had placed a price on his head. It appeared that Wickham wished to have the living so he would have somewhere to lay low from his creditors.
Again, Darcy prayed it would be the last time their paths would cross. But it was not to be. Now, Wickham had abducted Georgiana. Darcy cursed to himself for leaving Georgiana with only her companion, and for not telling Georgiana the truth of George Wickham’s nature.
Darcy knew his cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, was currently staying in London, so he would go there first. Richard shared guardianship over Georgiana with Darcy, and the military man despised Wickham. With Richard’s skills, they should be able to locate Georgiana quickly. At least, that was what Darcy hoped.
The weather was matching Darcy’s mood, as the rainstorm grew in intensity. The wind began to blow, rocking the carriage, and the rain was making the road difficult for the wheels, sliding in the mud.
There was a loud shout from the top of the carriage, just before the carriage turned sharply. Then there was a crash, as if something had struck the carriage. Darcy was thrown across the carriage, before it began to tip over. Over and over it went, flipping more times than Darcy could count. Then the carriage came to an abrupt stop, flinging Darcy head first into one of its corners. The world turned black and cold as Darcy slipped into a world of unconsciousness.
~~ ** ~~
“Papa.” Elizabeth screamed as their carriage lost control, sliding until it struck something hard. It continued to slide, as Elizabeth attempted to hold on to her father.
“Hold tight my dear girl.” Mr Bennet said, attempting, but failing, to keep his voice calm.
It seemed like the carriage slide forever, before it slid into another hard object, bringing the carriage to a complete halt as it broke into pieces. All Elizabeth could remember was her hand being pulled from her father’s, as she was thrown from the splintered side of what had been their carriage. She was lying on her back in mud, as the rain pummeled her.
She attempted to stand, crying out as she fell back to the ground. Stabbing pain shot through her from her left leg. “Papa, where are you?” Elizabeth called out. “Please, Papa, where are you?”
There was no answer. “Papa, I cannot stand. My leg is injured. Please, I need you Papa.”
“Miss Elizabeth.” The voice came from several feet to her right. She was dazed at first, but realized it was the voice of their driver.
“Matthew, are you injured?”
“My arm, I believe I broke it when I fell off the carriage.”
“Where is my father?” Elizabeth asked frantically.
“I have not seen him. He might still be inside the carriage.”
Elizabeth made another attempt to stand, only to cry out and fall down again. “Please, Matthew, look for him.”
The driver went to the carriage’s remains and looked inside. He could see Mr Bennet, and it was obvious that his employer was no longer living.
Melanie is graciously giving away one print copy and one ebook copy of On the Road to Ramsgate. Please comment with the format you desire to enter for below. Drawing will close on Friday, April 17th at 11:59 pm EST. Be sure the e-mail you use to leave a comment is the best way to contact you.
Blurb: A Pride and Prejudice variation. The worlds of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet literally collide. During a violent storm, Darcy races to recover his sister from George Wickham. At the same time, Elizabeth and her father are traveling to holiday in Ramsgate with the Gardiner family. When the two carriages collide, their lives will be altered forever.
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Thanks for sharing with us, Melanie!!