It isn’t often that we feature other books here at the Lexicon, but we felt this was very fitting considering the connection to Stephenie Meyer. Shannon Hale and Stephenie have been friends for a while now. Stephenie’s new movie company recently produced the film version of Shannon’s book “Austenland.” The two also headed up the charity event for The Book Babe a few years ago. Shannon has a new book coming out in a few days titled “Midnight in Austenland.” It is a sequel to “Austenland” in the fact that it takes place in the same location, however the characters are nearly all new.
We were granted the honor of interviewing Shannon about the book and her experiences as an author. We wish to thank Shannon and her staff for working with us and providing us this opportunity. Midnight in Austenland will be on sale Jan. 31.
1. When you published “Austenland” were you surprised by the response that the book got?
Yes. I’m always surprised, by both the negative and positive responses. It think it’s a good thing, though. Reading is such an intimate experience, no two people ever read the same book the same way. That’s one thing that makes reading so cool! It’s funny how many emails I’ve gotten saying, “I am Jane. How did you know?”
2. How much research did you do for the book? Did you visit England or go to any living history sites to see how they worked?
I didn’t get to any living history sites. I would have very much liked to. Are there any for Austen? I didn’t find any in my research. I did go to England. I’d spent a summer in England in college, and while writing the book I returned for a book tour and was able to tour some Georgian and Regency locations. I also read a lot, of course. The trick with this book was not to try to recreate a historical era but one person’s fantasy of a historical era.
3. When the book was finished, did you want to revisit that world again someday, or did the idea of the sequel come as a surprise?
I loved writing Austenland, but it never once occurred to me to write a sequel. I think in terms of one book every time I write. I keep thinking I’ll do a good old fashioned trilogy someday, but I always end up focusing the entire story in one volume. Midnight in Austenland isn’t a traditional sequel in that way. It’s more like my Goose Girl books – different main character, though if you’ve read the first book and know the supporting characters, you’ll follow their ongoing stories as well. It wasn’t until 2009 when I was working on the screenplay for Austenland that I had the idea for another book. I usually let a book idea ferment in my brain for a year or years, but this one was so exciting to me, I put everything else aside and began immediately.
4. Do any of the original characters from “Austenland” show up in “Midnight in Austenland?” (We will refer to this as MiA)
Yes! Should I say which ones? Would that be a spoiler? I’ll say at least that Mrs. Wattlesbrook is in charge, and a year later, Miss Charming still hasn’t left.
5. How does Charlotte from “Midnight in Austenland” compare to Jane in “Austenland?” Would they get along and be friends?
I think so. Charlotte is very agreeable generally. They’re in different situations in life and have different interests though. The only place their lives really intersect is in their admiration for Austen–a lifelong obsession for Jane but a new love for Charlotte. I think that’s one thing that interests me in the idea of Austenland. The people who go there are quite unique individuals with this one common passion. I imagine you find that with Twilight fans – a large, diverse community of disparate backgrounds who find common ground because of their shared love.
6. How does Mr. Mallery (MiA) compare to Mr. Nobely?
There is definitely a kinship there. Mr. Mallery is so old world. Here, I’ll just slap in a quote from MiA. Charlotte is meeting the three gentlemen for the first time: “While the other two gentlemen would look comfortable on a GQ cover, Mr. Mallery didn’t seem likely to feel comfortable anywhere–except maybe a castle on a moor. He had dark hair and dark eyes and standing on the threshold as he was, he seemed too untamed and, well, dangerous, to enter the prim world of the drawing room.”
7. Even though this book isn’t about Jane and Mr. Nobely, can you give us some idea of just how their lives worked out? Did they get married? Kids? Do they live in the USA or in England?”
Oh! I love these delicious questions about the ongoing story! And it absolutely kills me not to answer. I have this thing about not limiting a reader’s ability to imagine the world after the last page. I definitely have ideas but I hate being the Authorial Voice of Authority.
8. What’s more difficult to write, YA fiction or Adult fiction? Why?
I’ve written three adult novels (i.e. novels for adults!) and six YA novels (plus a couple of graphic novels for kids), and overall I’ve found the YA novels to be more challenging. That might have more to do with the narrative style I’ve chosen for the YA novels than anything. But generally, a story for young adults must be so tight, so engaging, and stand up to dozens of rereads. It’s a demanding style. I love playing in many different kinds of styles. I get bored easily. Must. Have. Variety.
9. Why do you think we are still drawn to stories like Pride and Prejudice all these years later?
I’ve thought a lot about this and I think ultimately it’s just a really great story. The characters, the plot, the setting, the writing–awesome. Jane Austen is basically just a killer author. You like comedy? Human condition? Romance? Check, check, and check.
10. If you could spend a week at Pembrook Park, what type of character would you play? What would you most look forward to? Least look forward to?
I think I’d have to play someone close to my own personality. But much wittier and prettier, naturally. I’ve worn the corset and dress and sadly learned that that style is not flattering on me at all. Soul crushing. But I used to do theater, and I think the immersive experience would be such a hoot. If I could really let go and be that character, if the setting and cast were convincing, wouldn’t it be the most awesome experience ever? Like reading a really good book x 100.