16 November 2018

Novel Conversations with Susan Appleyard and Ludwig, the King of Bavaria

 In conjunction with Indie BRAG
posted every Friday

To be a little different from the usual 'meet the author' 
today we have royalty! Let's meet him...

Ludwig, King of Bavaria

Q: Hello, I’m Helen the host of Novel Conversations, please do make yourself comfortable. Would you like a drink? Tea, coffee, wine – something stronger? You’ll find a box of chocolates and a bowl of fruit on the table next to you, please do help yourself. I believe you are a character in Susan Appleyard’s novel Dark Spirit. Would you like to introduce yourself? Are you a lead character or a supporting role?   
A: Mmm. Thank you. How did you know I adore chocolate? I am Ludwig, King of Bavaria, of the Wittelsbach family, and I am of course the lead character in Ms. Appleyard’s book.

Q: What genre is the novel and what is it about?
A: It’s a historical novel that relates the last months of my life and my er… unfortunate demise.

Q: No spoilers, but are you a ‘goody’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both!) 
A: Oh, what a difficult question Miss Helen. I am only human and at the same time a king. I think it is true to say that I am a better human being than king. I never wanted to be king, you see. I just am not made that way. I don’t like crowds, and I HATE war, which is not very kingly. I am criticised for spending too much money on my palaces, but if you’ve seen them and are a person of refinement, I hope you will agree that I did created something wonderful there. Also, I am always kind to my subjects. I love driving out on my sleigh on winter nights to visit them in their cottages and give them presents.

Q:  Tell me about another character in the novel – maybe your best friend, lover or partner … or maybe you’re a arch enemy! 
A: Dr Gudden. Can you believe that despicable fellow declared me insane without ever examining me? We had only met briefly several years earlier when I called on him to treat my poor brother Otto. Doesn’t that tell you a great deal about him? Oh, but I expect you want more. Well, you won’t hear anything good from me. He is a conscienceless cad who destroyed my life.

Q: Is this the only novel you have appeared in, or are there others in a series? 
A: This is the only one and it is, in fact, a novella. I do hope Ms Appleyard will resurrect me. I believe she’s thinking about it.

Q: What is one of your least favourite scenes you appear in?  

A: The scene where I am seized by Dr Gudden and the policemen. I’m sure you will agree it is very sad.

Q: And your favourite scene?  
A: The day I drove in my sleigh up to the royal hunting lodge in the Vorderiss for lunch with my head ranger and his family. Frau Thoma managed to produce a bouquet of Alpenrosen which she presented to me. The women had set up a table in a meadow where the view was the finest while the apple-cheeked children played in the snow. That was the day I took up an axe and chopped wood. They thought I would chop off my leg, but I showed them. Ha! Ha! They almost fell over in surprise.  

Q: Tell me a little about your author. Has she written any other books? 
A: Oh, yes, many. Two were published by what you people call traditional publishers, and seven she published herself.

Q: Is your author working on anything else at the moment? 
A: Yes, and I’ve had to speak to her quite sharply about her predilection for tragic stories, but she takes no notice of me. She’s presently working on a novel about the Albigensian Crusade, which took place in the 13th century.

Q: How do you think indie authors, such as your author, can be helped or supported by readers or groups? What does your author think is the most useful for her personally? 
A: She does wish someone would make Goodreads a little more user-friendly. Is that the sort of thing you mean? Otherwise there is so much help to be had on social media and the net, so many kind people devoting their time and knowledge to help others. Authors are very fortunate that way.
Q: Finally, before we must bid adieu, the novel you appear in has been awarded a prestigious IndieBRAG Medallion, does your author find this helpful, and is there anything else he/she would like IndieBRAG to do to help indie authors receive the recognition they deserve? 
A: My author is very proud to have received IndieBRAG medallions for several of her books. She cannot think what more IndieBRAG could do.

Helen: Thank you, King Ludwig, it was a pleasure talking to you. Would your author like to add a short excerpt? While she does so, may I pour you more wine, and I think I might have another box of chocolaes somewhere, the one beside you appears to be empty.
Salute! Here’s to being a successful Brag Medallion Honouree!  

The first snow of the year had begun to fall in Munich when Karl Hesselschwerdt, the king’s beefy, red-faced stable quartermaster, ducked into a café and was surprised to see the aide who had been chosen to go to Persia and beg a loan from a millionaire.
“Haven’t you gone yet or are you back?” he asked with a smirk.
The man was clearly embarrassed to be caught out. “Do me a favour. Tell the king that by the time I got there the fellow had died of cholera.”
“I’d like to oblige, but I can’t,” Hesselschwerdt replied with a grin. “I’m supposed to be in Naples to find a loan for the king. I’m not due back until Wednesday.”

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full guest list: click here

13 November 2018

My Tuesday Talk Guest: Fanny Price of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park: A Proto-feminist?

by Brooke West

No one has ever accused Fanny Price of being witty or exciting. She is barely beautiful and is wholly dependent upon wealthier relations for any standing in society or comfort at home. Everything that happens, happens to or around her, never because of her. When I first read Mansfield Park, I was exasperated with Fanny. I puzzled over why Fanny’s story was worth being told.

During my first read, Henry owned my heart and I kept thinking that maybe if I just wished hard enough, Fanny would see in him what I saw and finally, finally accept him. Fanny did no such thing and all my wishing was for naught. I ended the book frustrated and disgusted by her acceptance of Edmund. Edmund, who never seemed to listen to Fanny and constantly overlooked her, got the girl? I could only imagine his proposal was akin to Ron Weasley asking Hermione Granger to the ball: “Hey, you’re a girl….” Austen told us Fanny was happy with Edmund, but all I could think was, “What could have compelled Fanny to want that man?”

Publicity still of Billie Piper as Fanny Price in 2007 adaptation of Mansfield Park.

I avoided Mansfield Park for years after the first read—only turning my attention to it long enough to consider making it into a horror story (I may still do this. Stay tuned.). When I finally did re-read it, I was struck dumb by a simple realization: Fanny was right. Henry was an ill fit. I realized I had fallen into the trap of thinking that just because a man wants a woman badly enough, he should have her. Just because he starts being nice to her, even though he’s still terrible to everyone else, he earned her. That it should be sufficient for the woman that the somewhat-handsome and well-off man loves her.

I had done Fanny wrong.

I had thought Fanny was the antithesis of a feminist. I had thought her acceptance of Edmund was a capitulation to a misogynistic marriage ideal that rewarded women for being dutiful and moral and quiet. Instead, I finally saw her inner strength had allowed her to remain true to her principles. Fanny was no fool. She saw what life with Henry would be and she rejected it. Not out of fear or insecurity, but out of her strong moral sensibilities. She wasn’t, as I’d first thought, being uncharitable and not allowing Henry to make a change for the better. She had the good sense to see that he had not and would not change, even though he seemed to try and managed to accomplish some very good deeds.

Frances O’Connor as Fanny Price
 in the 1999 adaptation of Mansfield Park.

That every woman should have the freedom to decide how she lives her life is, to me, the foundational tenet of feminism. Fanny—while too early to be termed a “feminist”—lived that ideal. I was stunned by that realization and ashamed at how poorly I’d judged her. Fanny was to be admired and emulated. I could finally see her steely core and the resolve that allowed her to stand up to her family when her nature compelled her to concede to their wishes to make them happy.

The Bertrams, her Portsmouth family, Henry, Maria—everyone took advantage of her nature, her desire to please and to not disappoint. Though it pained her to do so, she held fast when it mattered. Fanny had a rational mind, but was not unfeeling.

Fanny Price exemplifies what I find to be the pure heart of feminism: the strength, the determination to find what is right for you and to live that truth. The unwillingness to be swayed by opinion or expectation. Fanny may be intensely moral, but her morals have no bearing on her feminism; feminism does not depend upon morality, though a woman’s morality certainly would inform her choices. Mary Crawford is, to my mind, as much a feminist symbol as is Fanny Price. Her morality (or lack of) does not diminish the brilliance of her independent spirit. She lost her love in the pages of Mansfield Park, but no one can doubt she lands on her feet, eventually.

Being a feminist doesn’t mean you always win. It means you’re true to yourself and make room for other people’s truths, even if they differ from yours.  You make your own choices and allow others the same freedom. So, Fanny made a choice and stuck with it. She rejected Henry, again and again. I, finally, could respect that.

But then she made another choice—to marry Edmund.

This, I could not fathom. Taking Fanny as the rational, clear-headed, intelligent, self-possessed woman I now saw her to be, I was at a loss to explain how she overcame every failing I saw in Edmund and chose to marry him.

Surely there was a lot that happened off the page that we never saw. Austen herself glossed their courtship. It couldn’t be that Fanny succumbed to a childish infatuation or married him out of obligation. Not after all she’d been through! After some pondering, I found my answer. It’s the only answer that would allow Fanny to take Edmund as a husband: she said yes because she wanted to, because it made sense for her to do so. And that is good enough for me.

Fanny Price taught me to be a more honest feminist, and for that I’ll always cherish Mansfield Park.

Still, I only tolerate Edmund because Fanny loves him.

Brooke West 

Brooke West is one of sixteen Austen-inspired authors in the anthology Rational Creatures, writing Fanny Price’s story “The Meaning of Wife”. West always loved the strong women of literature and thinks the best leading women have complex inner lives. When she’s not spinning tales of rakish men and daring women, Brooke spends her time in the kitchen baking or at the gym working off all that baking. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and son and their three mischievous cats. Brooke co-authored the IPPY award winning novel The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy and the short story “Holiday Mix Tape” in Then Comes Winter. She also authored the short story “Last Letter to Mansfield,” which you can find in Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues. Find 

Brooke on Twitter @WordyWest.

About Rational Creatures:
“But I hate to hear you talking so, like a fine gentleman, and as if women were all fine ladies, instead of rational creatures. We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days.” —Persuasion
 Jane Austen: True romantic or rational creature? Her novels transport us back to the Regency, a time when well-mannered gentlemen and finely-bred ladies fell in love as they danced at balls and rode in carriages. Yet her heroines, such as Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Elliot, and Elinor Dashwood, were no swooning, fainthearted damsels in distress. Austen’s novels have become timeless classics because of their biting wit, honest social commentary, and because she wrote of strong women who were ahead of their day. True to their principles and beliefs, they fought through hypocrisy and broke social boundaries to find their happily-ever-after.
 In the third romance anthology of The Quill Collective series, sixteen celebrated Austenesque authors write the untold histories of Austen’s brave adventuresses, her shy maidens, her talkative spinsters, and her naughty matrons. Peek around the curtain and discover what made Lady Susan so wicked, Mary Crawford so capricious, and Hettie Bates so in need of Emma Woodhouse’s pity.
 Rational Creatures is a collection of humorous, poignant, and engaging short stories set in Georgian England that complement and pay homage to Austen’s great works and great ladies who were, perhaps, the first feminists in an era that was not quite ready for feminism.
 “Make women rational creatures, and free citizens, and they will become good wives; —that is, if men do not neglect the duties of husbands and fathers.” —Mary Wollstonecraft
Stories by: Elizabeth Adams * Nicole Clarkston * Karen M Cox * J. Marie Croft * Amy D’Orazio * Jenetta James * Jessie Lewis * KaraLynne Mackrory * Lona Manning * Christina Morland * Beau North * Sophia Rose * Anngela Schroeder * Joana Starnes * Caitlin Williams * Edited by Christina Boyd * Foreword by Devoney Looser

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