I have been looking forward to this post for quite some time. C.P. Odom is being interviewed by…C.P. Odom. Yes, you read correctly. He explains in his first paragraph. This interview is delightful and definitely ‘not to be missed’. I laughed out loud numerous times. I know you will all enjoy it as much as I did. Oh, by the way,…did I mention that there is a giveaway?!
Thank you, Colin, for stopping by on your busy blog tour to be my guest today. I hope you will have much success with this new release. I have now purchased it and am looking forward to some much needed and desired reading time! You have me intrigued! 🙂
I want to thank Janet for hosting me here at More Agreeably Engaged to talk about my new novel, Pride, Prejudice, and Secrets. When we discussed what the content of my blog post should be, she stated that she didn’t have any specific thoughts, especially since she hadn’t yet read the book. But she went on to say that she wished we could do something different from what we did for my previous two guest appearances and which would be fun for me and the readers. So I came up with the idea of generating a Q&A session where the interviewer would be me acting as if I were running a blog and was asking me questions. Since I’m a guy and have certain experiences in rather rough and tumble endeavors, some of the following questions rate rather low on the civility scale and perhaps might even seem abrasive. But what else could you expect from someone who left college to join the Marines during the Vietnam War because he was afraid the war would be over if he waited until he graduated? (Yes, I was that dumb! Too much testosterone, obviously . . .). So, here we go:
Q1: The first question I’d ask a guest would be, “What all of us want to get is a complete synopsis of the plot, with all the little twists and turns outlined in exquisite detail. Are we going to get that, Mr. Odom, or are you going to stiff us like certain other authors who shall remain nameless?”
A: Of course I’m going to stiff you! If I give away all my little secrets, then an unknown number of people might well say, “I know everything about PP&S. Perhaps I’ll spend my hard-earned money on some other book.” Since I’m trying to separate you from your entertainment cash, it’s obvious that I want to give you just enough information to whet your appetite without giving away so much that that same appetite is satisfied. And remember, the name of my novel is Pride, Prejudice, and Secrets. In fact, the working title actually was Secrets during the writing and much of the editing process until my editor pointed out that I would be competing with about a dozen other books of the same title. She urged me to change the title so that my tome didn’t disappear into the crowd.
Q2: Secrets, huh? What secret are you trying to conceal from us?
A: Actually, it’s not a secret but rather multiple little secrets. One of the thoughts that inspired me to add that particular slant to my novel was a memory from the 70’s of a newspaper column written under the nom de plume of Miss Manners (actually, I just checked, and not only is the columnist still alive, she’s still writing columns—except that I haven’t seen one in 40 years). In that column, a reader challenged her that it was always better to be completely frank and tell friends, family, and loved ones the truth, the complete truth, and nothing but the truth. Miss Manners’ response was that such an approach was an excellent course of action if one wanted to spend their life alone, in splendid isolation. She opined that “little white lies” had gotten a very bad press, because they were the grease that kept the relationship wheels turning without squeaking. Some people may disagree with this point of view, but I was already suspicious of the social “goodness” of the “let-it-all-hang-out” mantra of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. Her column made me sit back and think about how so many people who reveled in being “frank” were actually being rather cruel. Accordingly, given the nature of Elizabeth Bennet’s unintended engagement with the proud and brash Fitzwilliam Darcy, I could see numerous occasions where I could put Miss Manner’s advice to good use and let my characters choose silence rather than complete disclosure.
Q3: What?!? That sounds like we’re not going to get a Hunsford confrontation! Isn’t Elizabeth going to tell off Darcy like he so richly deserves? Isn’t she going to tell him he’s the last man in the world she would consider marrying?
A3: What do you think, given what I said previously? If Elizabeth decides not to break the engagement, what useful purpose could be served by such brutal language? And note that if Elizabeth doesn’t charge Darcy with thwarting the hopes of a most beloved sister, he’ll continue to think that Jane was indifferent to Bingley and will not be inclined to try to rearrange a meeting in which Austen’s second most pleasing match occurs. But then, I’ve never been a Bingley fan. He has no depth of passion like Darcy and no constancy; in short, a lightweight. He doesn’t deserve Jane.
Q4: Hasn’t this variation on Pride and Prejudice, with Elizabeth Bennet accepting Darcy’s first proposal at Hunsford been done before? And probably by better authors, I might add.
A4: Boy, your Mama didn’t teach you to watch your tongue too much, did she?
Q5: Don’t you insult my mother, you girly-mon author, you! I’ll bet that you’re resorting to insults because you can’t answer my question.
A5: <Sound of gritting teeth for several seconds before . . .> Sigh. I suppose this premise has been attempted, but I can’t comment on how many times it’s been attempted. I’ve only seen it once, and that was a story where Elizabeth’s acceptance just pops out of her mouth for some inexplicable reason. It didn’t really seem believable. Thus, while I did have a long-dormant plot idea with an unintended acceptance as a premise, I had not been able to come up with a way to make that accidental acceptance believable. In fact, I really never expected that plot to make it to the light of day until one evening when I was watching a news story about some medical scare. My left-brained elder daughter (who’s majoring in computer engineering with a 3.7 GPA) was watching with me and made the idle comment that she didn’t have to worry about that disease because “I don’t get sick, Dad.” Suddenly, I remembered that obscure plot idea and instantly saw that it would give me a way for a robust Elizabeth Bennet, who also “never gets sick” but has been laid low by influenza and fever, to give Darcy a nod when he proposes marriage. A nod which he could easily—and honestly—interpret as acceptance. Because she was hazy and not thinking clearly, she would likely be dumbfounded when Charlotte bursts into the room and congratulates her on her good fortune. So dumbfounded that she could not formulate a “Wait a minute” comment and, before she knew it, Elizabeth could find herself bustled off to bed while the rest of the world quickly comes to believe she is engaged to Fitzwilliam Darcy. So that casual comment by my daughter is really what got this book written.
Q6: <Sniff> Whatever. Is this going to be a repeat of Consequences? Are you going to put us through the Angst Wringer?
A6: The quick answer is, “No” and “No.” While there will obviously be some strain associated with the basic premise of an unintended engagement, remember how difficult it was to break an engagement in Regency times. No less a personage that the Duke of Wellington married a woman he loathed rather than suffer the impact to his honor associated with “crying off” his engagement (I wonder where that metaphor came from. I found numerous references to it, but none which revealed its background). And remember that Darcy never was as loathsome as Elizabeth thought at Hunsford. It’s one of the reasons she later felt so ashamed of the unfairness of many of her accusations.
Q7: So this novel is going to be among the HEA (Happily Ever After) variants, huh? In that case, why would I waste my money on your effort rather than another author’s?
A7: I could say because of my sterling character and the superb writing, but we former Marines are well known for our humility, so I won’t go there. But I might mention that I attempt a few rather unusual subplots, one involving a somewhat unusual match that proved to be very difficult to deal with. In fact, coming up with a resolution that satisfied my editor brought on the first case of “writer’s block” that I’d had to deal with. Usually, the words come fairly easy for me, but I was stalled for several weeks and had to totally drop the effort and just do other stuff before I finally worked through the block. But, difficult as it was, I’m very grateful to my editor, Christina Boyd, because her pushing me on this point and others made this novel better than it would have been.
Q8: Are you going to kill off Wickham again? I always love it when that scoundrel gets his just desserts. I assume that you’ll at least have him arrested and put in debtor’s prison.
A8: Actually, I’m going to try to do something that came to me after I was well into the writing of PP&S, and that’s to rehabilitate Wickham. I agree with you about him being a scoundrel, so it was a stretch to come up with something that could cause him to change his behavior and mend his ways. Since I was well into having the characters maintain a discreet reticence about divulging all the details of topics better left untouched, I came up with a suitably fearsome antagonist who could deal with Wickham. For those who have followed other stops on the PP&S Blog Tour, you might have read an excerpt that hinted at Wickham, upon hearing the stunning news of Elizabeth Bennet’s engagement to Darcy, deciding that the only possible opportunity for any gain was to convince Mary King to elope with him before her uncle arrives to take her to Liverpool. I will only say that my new character was that uncle and that he is not at all the man Wickham would have expected.
Q9: Rehabilitating Wickham? Hah! I’ll believe that when I see it!
A9: That comment has been made during this tour, so if you buy my book, you’ll be able to make up your own mind. Perhaps if you post a review at Amazon.com or Goodreads.com I’ll be able to assess my success or failure. Rest assured that it was an ambitious goal, since Wickham had had many years in which to groove his lack of morals and honor, and I reasoned that it would take a soul-shattering event, or, in my case, sequence of events, to cause him to relinquish his normal modes of behavior and make a transition to a more admirable personage.
Q10: What was that “unusual match” that you mentioned in a previous answer? Matching Jane with Colonel Fitzwilliam? You already did that in your fan fiction story, Determination. How about giving us poor readers a little insight into the contents of this book you’re wanting us to buy instead of doing nothing but floating teasers in front of us!
A10: But floating teasers is such fun! But perhaps you’re right and it’s time to provide a little more information. I commented in another blog stop that I enjoy playing with the character of Colonel Fitzwilliam because Austen provided very little background to him. He appears briefly at Hunsford, is described as “about thirty, not handsome, but in person and address most truly the gentleman,” and his most significant conversation is in unwittingly alerting Elizabeth that Darcy played the main part in separating Bingley and Jane. After that, he departs the stage, never to re-appear. This gives me a lot of leeway in fleshing out his character, and I portray the good colonel as far more robust and manly than I believe Austen would have done. But, as a parson’s very proper daughter, I doubt that she would have paid much attention to such things and would have been more influenced by his gentlemanly behavior, especially since that attribute was so significant in Pride and Prejudice. So, since Col. Fitzwilliam needs to pay some attention to money when he marries, I attempt to match him with one character from the book who matches that distinction and is available, to wit, Caroline Bingley, who is likely still unmarried because she has spent possibly several years in futile pursuit of Darcy and is rather obnoxious to boot. This is a tall order, almost as ambitious as my Wickham endeavor, because Caroline’s manner is not going to be any more attractive to Col. Fitzwilliam than it was to his cousin. In fact, this proved more difficult in execution because I was not as familiar at just what might be needed to induce a woman to change than I was in what might do the same for a man. As I mentioned previously, my editor wasn’t convinced by my first effort and challenged me to do it differently. She wasn’t able to offer as much guidance as I would have preferred—she was just firmly of the opinion that significant changes and additional information was needed, so I kind of flailed about in the dark for several weeks before finally accomplishing this task to both our satisfaction.
Q11: Another unlikely attempt to generate some false excitement for a rather lame excuse of a book, and I’ll believe that one when I see it too! So, let’s sum it up: No Hunsford fireworks, no suffering Darcy to find redemption through pain, you’re probably not going to match Jane with her beloved Bingley, and then you’re going to try to distract us with a couple of feeble subplots. Is this an accurate summation, sir? Is this the best you can do?
A11: Yeah, pretty much, I suppose, for a person with the perception of a grapefruit and the civility of a long-time politician.
Q12: Nice talk for sensitive, new-age author-type of dubious manhood! How about we step outside and settle this like men?
A12: That would be difficult to do, since there’s only one man here, and he’s the one answering the questions.
Q13: Oh yeah? Well, let me tell you . . .
A13: <THUNK!> <Silence for several seconds> Oops! It appears our interviewer didn’t have as hard a head as he appeared to. So, Janet, thank you for the opportunity to discuss my book, and pardon me for the mess I left behind. At least, all he appears to have is a bump on the head. Perhaps it’ll improve his disposition. And, since our dormant interviewer never got around asking about my future plans, I’ll mention that I a number of plot ideas to ponder as well as four stories I published as fan fiction that might well be turned into published novels if my publisher, Meryton Press, is interested. Which brings up another point that may not have been clear previously, which is that this novel is completely new and was never published in any form, fan fiction or otherwise. And, since the novel is rather long, at 345 words, the reader will have sufficient text to decide whether or not I succeeded in those premises which so offended our comatose interviewer. Maybe he’ll learn some discretion before next time . . .