Monday, June 26, 2017

Interview & Giveaway with Hillary Manton Lodge

Last week's winner of Tricia Goyer's give away: Paula Shreckhise!
Hillary, thank you so much for visiting us today here at the CCC blog! 

You’ve had a new release! Can you share a little bit about it and how you first hatched the idea for this story?

It started with my editor – she came up with the title (which was inspired by a misspelling) and asked if it was something I’d be interested in. I’ve loved Jane Austen stories since I was young, so I was excited to play around with it.

What special research did you need to do for this novel and did you enjoy it or find it laborious?

I did a lot of research on Jane Austen in general, Sense & Sensibility in particular. I re-familiarized myself with the original novel, read commentaries and criticisms. I also read Emma Thompson’s diaries that were published with her screenplay – they didn’t shine much light on the original material, but it was fun to read about the film’s production.

What is the primary spiritual theme of your book, and if that’s not applicable, what do you hope readers take away from reading your novel?

I’m not usually a takeaway writer – I don’t write stories because I’m teaching, I’m writing stories because I think the characters have things to do and say and learn. And I wrote this book for a cross-over market, so the spiritual themes are pretty subtle. The themes of Jane of Jane of Austin is written from two perspectives, Jane’s and Callum’s. Jane is wrestling with her relationship with her sister, Celia, since their move and Celia’s breakup from her boyfriend. Jane handles it…badly. And so does Celia. A lot of their story deals with the intricacies of sisterhood.

Callum’s story is about him healing from his adolescence, his time in the war, and his new reality as an amputee. A lot of his story deals with his physical and emotional journey, his feelings of worthiness both as a person as well as a suitor for Jane.

How did you determine what names to give your characters?

I’m a name nerd, so I spent a lot of time on the names! I knew my main character had to be Jane, because of the title. For Celia, I went with a name that was kind of a nod to Elinor, but also a nod to Cassandra, Austen’s own sister.

For Callum Beckett, I went through a couple different iterations (there are some old synopses floating around on the internet, so if you see him listed as Ben Fredrickson, that’s why!). Austen never actually shares Colonel Brandon’s first name. But I opted for a hard C name, and went with Callum because a.) I like it, and b.) I wanted to avoid an -an ending.

For a lot of the names I went with more current-feeling names with phonetic similarities to the original – Lyndsay for Lucy, Margot for Margaret, Phoebe for Fanny. But the Johns were the biggest challenge - there are a lot of Johns in S&S – John Dashwood, John Middleton, John Middleton’s oldest son, and of course, John Willoughby. I researched different versions of John in different languages and cultures – Jonathan, Ian, Ivor, and Sean.

In the book, Lady Middleton’s first name is Maria – which would have been pronounced Mariah, so I gave Mariah Vandermeide that spelling. And the Vandermeide’s surname is a play on the Dutch word for “middle.”

Even Dash, Callum’s dog, gets to have an Austen-inspired name – it’s a nod to the sisters’ original surname, Dashwood!

Like I said – I’m a name nerd. So getting to work with an Austen novel was a fun challenge!

Which sub-character is your favorite and why?

Most of my novels are ensemble novels, so it’s hard to choose! I love Margot a lot. She wasn’t in the early versions – I had intended to streamline the Woodward sisters. But it didn’t feel quite right, and when I added Margot, it shifted the stakes of the sisters’ plight in a really necessary way. Suddenly they weren’t just supporting themselves, they were supporting their kid sister. Their work, their romantic relationships – everything connects back to Margot in some way. And frankly, some of the funniest bits are thanks to Margot. A lot of scenes benefitted from having an irreverent teenager in the room. I’m really glad I was able to work her in and I’m thankful for the editors who helped make sure it was a seamless addition.

Moving on from your story, tell us a little about yourself. We’ll help! What literary character is most like you and why?

I’m basically Anne of Green Gables minus the tragic backstory and gigantic family. We’re both deeply creative, have rich (and sometimes nonsensical) inner lives, feel everything deeply, and have a sturdy grasp of the English language. I also renamed myself throughout my childhood.

What hobby do you enjoy in your “free” time (‘cause we know you have tons of free time!)

Right now, it’s physical therapy and moving in, haha! Back in January, we moved from a suburb north of Portland, Oregon, to a suburb south of Memphis, Tennessee. After six months, we’re in our new house and settling, but there are still boxes and sorting and a bit of painting left. I love finding new places to go and explore, but I also love visiting the familiar spot – after such a big move, I’ve become a big believer in the importance of familiarity. The Dixon Gallery and Gardens and the Memphis Botanic Gardens – which, handily, are across the street from each other – are two of my very favorite places.

When I’m home and relaxing, I read a lot. I make graphics for work and for pleasure. And I like to knit, so I need to find a good summer yarn that I can reach for during the scorching summer months!

Tell us about your pets (if you have some)!

I have two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Shiloh and Sylvie. If you watch Victoria, or have seen The Young Victoria, it’s the same breed as Dash; Shiloh has the same coloring. He likes to chase squirrel, take naps, and generally have his way in all things. Sylvie has the Bleinheim coloring – white and ginger. She’s also small for the breed, at just a little over 11 pounds, and is still a puppy at heart. She loves to play and chase, follow me around, and generally be adored.

When I work, I’ve found the best method to getting them to settle is to put a dog bed on my desk – they’ll curl up there are go to sleep while I type!

Readers can find pictures of them on my Instagram,, and on my newsletter (

We talk a lot about faith and how it weaves throughout our fiction, here at the blog. How has your faith affected/or not affected your writing?

Threads about God’s faithfulness and the necessity of trust are often woven into my stories. Some of those threads are more prominent than others, but they’re there.

Because Jaime has some darker elements to her split-time historical and contemporary romantic suspense coming out this year, she likes to ask weird questions. So, if you were to find yourself stranded in a creepy old house at night, who would you want with you to keep you company?

I have so many questions. Why am I at the house? Why can’t I leave on foot? But if I’m truly stranded because reasons, I’d like my husband close by. He’s my person. And he’d either tell me to chill out about whatever’s creeping, or help me defeat it, depending on the level of impending doom. 

Anne, Erica, and Gabrielle both write sweet historical romances. How does romance influence your own writing?

Well, my novels always have a romantic arc. I like reading romances, smart ones, so I write romantic element into my books. I will say that learning to write romance was hard – I was never a flirt, growing up, and I kept my romantic feelings tucked out of sight. So getting my characters to express romantic feelings was really hard! I will say that Jane of Austin might have one of the most romantic scenes I’ve written. I think the source material helped!

And for some extra fun . . .

If you could pick one superhero to save you from impending doom, who would it be and why?

Wonder Woman, obvs. And then we’d go and get ice cream after. Living so far from Themyscira, I’m sure she’d appreciate making new female friends.  

If you could guest star in one TV show, what would it be and what would your ideal role be?

Doctor Who, and I have no idea who. I’d be fully wigged out about being on camera, that’s not my thing. Is it too cheesy to say Jane Austen? Yes? Then I’m going to say it anyway. They haven’t done Austen on the show (though they’ve done Agatha Christie), and other than a throwaway line, I think that’s a missed opportunity. It’s not like the BBC doesn’t have a closet of empire-waisted gowns in their costume collection. And I’m here for any storyline involving Austen and aliens. It might solve the Tom LeFroy quandary.

Name one significant heirloom or keepsake you have and why it’s important to you:

I come from a long line, on both sides, of people who are somewhat sentimental collectors – my house is full of keepsakes. My maternal grandparents were artists, so I have a lot of my grandmother’s paintings and one of my grandfather’s paintings. Those are pretty precious to me.
We’d love you have you share a snippet from your novel to entice us and hook us! J Please share something below:

I don’t have text I can copy and paste, because there was so much editing that happened with that book, right until the end. But readers can download a sample and take a peak here:

 Hillary Manton Lodge is the author of the critically acclaimed Two Blue Doors series and the Plain and Simple duet. Jane of Austin is her sixth novel. A storyteller at heart, in her free time she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, graphic design, and finding new walking trails. She resides outside of Memphis, Tennessee with her husband and two pups.

For a chance to win a copy, name your favorite Jane Austen story and why you love it.

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Blog post by Anne Love-
Writer of Historical Romance inspired by her family roots. 
Nurse Practitioner by day. 
Wife, mother, writer by night. 
Coffee drinker--any time.
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  1. I must confess that I haven't read a Jane Austen novel before, but I have seen various movie adaptions many times. I know, how could a book-lover not read Jane Austen?! I have always had a hard time getting through classics - don't know why.
    My favourite story from watching the BBC movies would probably be Persuasion, with Sense and Sensibility being a close second!

    1. I had a hard time w/ a lot of classics until ebooks - reading them on a smaller screen helped break up the giant blocks of prose for me.

      Love Persuasion! Probably one of my favorites, too.

  2. I have not read Jane Austen either. I'm like Raechel, classics are hard for me. Does Gone With the Wind and Little Women count? I loved those.

  3. Picking my favorite Austen story is hard! I think I will have to go with Persuasion because even though Anne Elliott annoys me with her timidity and overgrown sense of duty, I love the idea of second chances. Also, has there ever been a more swoony love letter than Captain Wentworth's?!

    1. Pretty much no, lol. I love Persuasion for the same reasons. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. I love all of Jane Austen but I'll pick Sense and Sensibility. I like Colonel Brandon best because he is steadfast even though Marianne is so immature and falls for Willowby. And of course the romance between Elinor and John is so very understated! I love the touches of humor.

    1. Colonel Brandon is extremely swoony - I love a slow-build romance. And Elinor's dry humor is so great in that book. Good pick!

  5. I haven't ever read any of Jane Austen's books, but I loved the movie Pride & Prejudice! I really like Elizabeth Bennnet's character and the interactions between her and Mr. Darcy.

    1. Always fun to watch! Do you like the 1995 miniseries or the 2005 feature film?

  6. I have watched the movies more recently, but want to go back and read them all again.

    1. They're such great reads! I really enjoy them for relaxing in the evening. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. I always feel cliche when I announce that Pride and Prejudice is my favorite Jane Austen novel. Athough, my main reason is sentimental. P&P was my very first Austen read, as well as my very first historical. I read it around 15/16 years of age and it wasn't even assigned reading! To be honest, I don't even remember why chose to read it, but I do remember all the "feels;" especially the humor. Rom-coms are my favorite romance sub-genre and I know that P&P was a major influence. It is the perfect blend of wit, angst and that deeply felt, heart-aching romantic pull.

    Hilary, I'm not a big fan of Austen variations, because I'm a purist. What I do love are modern re-tellings of Austen and from the moment I saw Jane of Austin on pre-order, I was hit with reader anticipation euphoria! I have every one of your books including your Plain and Simple series and I'm very optimistic about how much I will also love this next one. Congrats on its release!

    1. Oh, and that COVER! I think it might be my favorite book cover this year, so far. 💗📘💗

  8. I haven't read Jane Austin either. I am too lazy a reader to read the classics. I love your books though! The Two Blue Doors series is amazing! I recommend them to people all the time. And I enjoy Katherine Reay's take on Austin. It is a lot of fun. Keep writing and we will keep reading!

  9. I haven't read Jane Austen's books.

    Hillary, congrats on your release!

  10. I do love P&P but Sense and Sensibility is a huge favorite of mine. :)

  11. I like the book Sense and Sensibility. Good book. Good story.

  12. I love Persuasion because two people were reunited and had a second chance at love!

  13. Sense and Sensibility is one of my favorites, but it is hard to choose! Also, thank you for the fun interview. Loved getting to know Hillary a little better and also more about the book!

  14. I LOVE the name nerd question! If I had to pick a Jane Austen favorite, I would have to go with P&P. It was my first! Thanks for the fun interview and giveaway, ladies!

  15. Totally embarrassed that I never read a novel by Jane Austen but I must rectify that soon, it looks like....


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