Thursday, February 18, 2016

Celebrate Love Blog Series with Author Sarah Johnson and Cupid’s Traps: A Matchmaker’s Tale

After the brutal cold, Mother Nature dumped close to two feet of snow and topped it off with freezing rain. The up-side is that we're supposed to have an awesome spring. It can start anytime now...I'm ready. But sadly, we're still mid February, and winter has been known to drag its feet. The good thing about this time of year is that almost everyone should have lots of chocolate on hand!
And what better way to enjoy some of that chocolate than to curl up with a book that has Cupid in it's title? Read on, I'll go get my stash, there's plenty to share.

Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?

My journey to picking up the pen was completely out of the blue. I wrote a little in school, but was otherwise never inspired to do so again until one day a forum I was often on announced a new writer’s contest. I figured, sure, I can try it. I was never short on ideas, so after forming something in my head, I wrote it. I won some prizes for that contest! While that was exciting, what was more exciting was that the story I wrote did not stop in my mind with the original scene. So, I continued to write it, and it turned into a long story of over 300,000 words, later to be turned into my first published novel series, Leaving Bennet Behind. I love how life pushes us into these situations that we might have totally ignored had we not dared take a chance. Good for you.

Do you write full time? How much of your life is set aside for writing?

I do write full time, but am hardly ever alone. Some weeks I get more time than others, as my family responsibilities take over. I do not work outside of the home, so I take care of meal planning, cooking, and cleaning, as well as homeschooling our six children. My writing takes place between the spills and pencil wars that come with such a life. Haha, I can relate!

What do you think makes a good romance story?

My husband, my mom, and all my friends will immediately tell you that they are shocked that I write romance stories, as I am not a romantic person. I guess my ultimate definition of a romance would be: love and good wins while hate and evil are vanquished. Now that just fuels my belief that as an author, our job is to express the story that is already there, in its entirety, waiting to see the light.

Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow? If you use an outline, how detailed is it?

I usually start a story with a small seed of an idea, and then write about 5,000 words or so before I need to stop and figure out where it is going. I have a general idea by then usually, but the journey to getting there always works best when I leave it to play out while I write. There are times I look at sections, though, and think that the resolution is happening too quickly, so I will rearrange things, but generally I try to write in order or how it ends up being. It helps me build the characters properly when I write in order. That I understand. Personally, I can’t imagine writing scenes out of order. It would be like hindering the flow and not letting the story come to life.

Could you tell us how you go about your research, how you ‘catalogue’ information to make it all work?

Well, since I write historical fiction, I have been collecting tid-bits of information for many years. There are some things I just know, and a lot of things I keep in a notebook by my desk or bookmarked in my browser. I have a small list of websites I check first when I need to know something new.

How do you handle marketing? Do you have a plan, a publicist or just take one day at a time?

I have tried all sorts of ways, and I do whatever I feel might work at the time, but I have found, through the years, that the best marketing for a book is to get another one written.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Don’t quit! Keep working towards that moment when you finally write “the end”, and then have a little party, but don’t stop there. Keep learning. Keep growing. Keep writing.

Could you tell us a little about your novel?

Cupid’s Traps: A Matchmaker’s Tale is a novella that is different than all of my others. I wanted to explore writing more comedic scenes, so it has a lot of slips, trips, and falls, as well as a great happily ever after. The inspiration for it was Shakespeare’s line in Much Ado About Nothing (Act 3, Scene 1) that says: Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps. It caught my attention, and I had fun coming up with ways Cupid, and his cohorts, would help bring about happiness for a couple.

Where does the inspiration for your main character and story come from?

I write stories based on Jane Austen’s characters from the novel Pride & Prejudice. It has always been one of my favorite books, and it is fun getting to explore how I can change just one thing here or another thing there and end up with a completely different story for Elizabeth and Darcy. It is almost like a perpetual choose your own adventure book for me. Now that sounds like fun.

What is the time span in your novel, weeks, months, years?

Cupid’s Traps: A Matchmaker’s Tale, takes place over the course of just a few weeks’ time, starting with the Easter holiday at Rosings Park.

How much research went into your story?

There were some fun things I had to research – such as knot tying and boats in the Regency period. Mostly it was just a fun tale though, drawing on information I already knew. Now you never can tell when knot tying will come in handy!

Could you tell us what you’re working on now?

I am currently finishing the fourth and last book in my novel series, Leaving Bennet Behind. My goal was to have it out this month, but then I got sick, so maybe Easter is a more realistic time frame for it being ready. The series is, again, based off of Pride & Prejudice, and explores the changes that could take place with a major accident that alters the family dynamic just a few years before it begins. That altered dynamic, of course, leads them down a different path, and this series follows all five Bennet sisters as they each find love and leave the name of Bennet forever behind them. Now that one went right over my head. I thought some poor guy was being left behind, lol.

William Shakespeare said it best when he penned, ‘Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps’. Georgiana Darcy, in her first matchmaking adventure, might need to call in a few favors from her family, or even Cupid himself, in order to pull off the perfect match for her brother, Fitzwilliam Darcy. He is truly smitten, but the lady, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, is not impressed with his character. Within the throes of Cupid’s traps, will she finally see that her heart is touched by this handsome gentleman before these traps force them into a union?

Taken from Chapter III

    The four were so eagerly discussing the awe-inspiring experience that they did not notice the latch on the door did not fully catch when they left the cage.
    Anne was compelled into a coughing fit, and the next thing they knew, a flock of parrots flew overhead, squawking loudly, with more coming out of the opened door.
    A curdling scream came from the sitting area, and all four rushed to find out what had happened. They were brought to a stop immediately when they rounded the corner and saw Georgiana’s favorite parrot sitting atop Lady Catherine’s head, firmly planted in her hair, while Mr Collins’ flailing arms tried to fend off another persistent bird. Charlotte was in such shock she watched on in stunned silence. Maria jumped into the fray and tried to help her brother-in-law, but only succeeded in chasing him, and the bird, in circles and making herself quite dizzy. The colonel was no help to anyone as he was laughing so hard he was doubled over and nearly on the floor.
    The four raced over and tried to help Lady Catherine, but the squawking only increased as two more parrots joined in on the attack. Anne was trying to remain composed and help her mother, but when Lady Catherine’s prized peacock, which had always had full run of the solarium, came running towards them, his tail feathers wide and on display for all to see, she could control herself no longer and began to laugh just as hard as her cousin Richard.
    Georgiana joined Maria in trying to chase off the parrot that was engaged in a game of tag with Mr Collins, leaving Elizabeth and Darcy to battle the birds that were attracted to Lady Catherine’s hair.
    Servants were filling the room quickly, most busily trying to find all the escaped birds to put them back into their enclosure, though none dared step in to be hit by the flying arms of their mistress, Lady Catherine.
    Elizabeth tried to get the most annoying of the parrots off of the grand lady, but his talon was stuck in her hair. Lady Catherine was putting up such a fuss that Elizabeth was willing to do anything to free the bird, so she pulled harder. What she thought was Lady Catherine’s hair turned out to be nothing more than a wig, and the tugging made it come off, exposing Lady Catherine’s bald head to all in the room.
    The grand lady’s hands immediately went to her head and her shrill voice filled the air as shrieks of ‘how dare you’ and ‘you will pay for exposing me to such censure’ escaped her lips.
    In her anger, Lady Catherine pushed Elizabeth away, causing her to stumble backwards and right into Darcy.
    Darcy was already stunned by the revelation that his aunt had no hair, and when Elizabeth fell into him, he did not have the wherewithal to do anything but grab at her falling form. His arms reached around her in a most ungentlemanly fashion, and their feet became entangled, causing both of them to land on the floor in such a manner as to send Lady Catherine into shrieks once again, this time about the compromising position in which Elizabeth now lay, sprawled out atop her nephew.
    Every eye in the room now turned to the two, and, in her haste to stand, Elizabeth caused the ties of her dress to become caught on Mr Darcy’s coat button. She felt mortified and trapped. Scrambling to get to her feet was not working and was only causing more problems.
    Richard stepped in to lead his enraged aunt from the room, followed closely by Mr Collins, who still flailed his arms about trying to rid himself of the persistent bird, his loud voice booming his concern to ensure the serenity of his patroness once again.
    Anne rolled her eyes at the ridiculous man and turned away to address the servants, ensuring the others were given some privacy as Charlotte knelt beside her distraught friend, joined by Georgiana as well.
    Maria, not knowing what to do now that her brother-in-law was not in the room, turned her attention to the two who lay sprawled out on the floor, a wicked grin displayed on her lips as she thought of what fun her good friend Lydia Bennet was missing. This was certainly something she would have to tell in great detail!
    Elizabeth was on her back, lying atop Mr Darcy, who was amazingly still for such chaos surrounding them. As she looked up to the ceiling above where birds still flew overhead, her eyes filled with tears. What had happened to lead to such a situation?
    Darcy was completely mortified at his own actions, even if they were unintentional. When Elizabeth fell against him, his arms flew around to catch her and his feet stumbled backwards, causing their fall. But what was now so mortifying was where exactly his hands had grabbed in his attempt. Being a well-sought after gentleman, he had occasionally had a lady rub against his arm when he offered his assistance, especially Miss Bingley. But he had long tried to remain as far from those women as possible, for he did not wish to be put in such a position as to be forced to offer his hand. Now here he was, being/acting the one whose hands had grabbed so willingly, and with Miss Elizabeth as well! After all they had both said today, this was certainly not going to help his plight. He tried to remain as still as possible now, knowing that if he moved, he might embarrass them both even more. Just her moving atop him was enough to cause his heart to race. He had to focus on something else, so he chose, instead, to think of the pain he felt at her elbow being in his ribs, hoping it would be enough.
    Georgiana and Charlotte both tried to undo the knots that held the two entwined, but when it was clear something more was needed, Georgiana ran off to get the scissors from her sewing box.
    While they waited, Charlotte assured Elizabeth it would be well, but the more she said the more distraught her friend became. Finally she just chose to remain silent as they awaited Georgiana’s return.
    Soon the scissors were produced, and the ties on Elizabeth’s dress were cut, allowing the two to stand once again, though it was not so easy to accomplish as Elizabeth had to hold the top of her dress.
    When Elizabeth was once again on her feet, Charlotte said, “I must go and find my husband now. Come, Maria,” she grabbed her sister’s hand, pulling her out of the room.
    Georgiana quietly added, “I will check on Aunt Catherine,” and followed as well, leaving the two alone in the solarium.
    Darcy removed his coat and draped it over Elizabeth’s shoulders as he asked, “Are you injured?”
    Elizabeth looked from the doorway back to the man at her side, then down to the coat that now hung on her shoulders. She reached her arms out into the sleeves and buttoned the front, folding the lapels up and over the top portion of her dress. “It is only my pride that is injured, sir.”
    “I believe you once espoused that you dearly love to laugh at follies and nonsense, and you even accused me of being without them. Do you still feel as such?”
    His tease was just enough to ease the anxiety that had arisen in her chest. She pushed the sleeves of his coat up, a laugh finally escaping her lips, “Certainly we both espoused much nonsense that evening. I believe I was most shocked at your teasing Miss Bingley about her figure being to the greatest advantage when we took a turn about the room.”
    Darcy’s eyes grew dark, “It was not Miss Bingley to whom I was referring when I made such a statement.”
    Elizabeth looked up into his eyes, not knowing what to say to such a statement. Could he have been admiring her all those months ago?
    Her thoughts were interrupted when her cousin came storming back into the room, talking of the situation, followed by Charlotte and Maria. He insisted they must leave, and Darcy watched as the four gathered their belongings and left the solarium, Elizabeth still wearing his coat. Once they were gone, he went to find his cousins and sister and see what needed to be done about keeping the servants quiet after such an evening. 

Author Biography:

Sarah Johnson is a professional juggler in the circus of life! Married to her own Mr Darcy for seventeen years, they traveled the world thanks to the US Army. Now back in the
civilian life and settled in Texas, where she grew up, they focus on homeschooling their six children and participating in church and community activities. She can often be found writing a manuscript between spills, science labs, and pencil wars, or late into the night when the house is finally still enough for her imagination to run wild! When she has a few spare moments, she enjoys just about anything crafty - scrapbooking, painting, sewing, quilting, crocheting - basically anything except knitting, a craft she swears few left-handers truly ever pick up well.
A devotee of all things Jane Austen, she enjoys exploring the story lines Jane never lived long enough to give the world. She is often found discussing with her online friends the intricacies of the novels we do have from our dearest author. It is these discussions that often lead to the plot bunnies that have now become many stories over the last few years, and hopefully further into the future as well. 

Amazon Reviewer: J Bennet
A hilarious sweet romance. ... Perils of Pauline combined with Wuthering Heights! This is a laugh-out-loud romp that will make you love the P&P [Pride & Prejudice] characters more than ever. Don't miss this engaging short story. It deserves every one of its five stars.

Amazon Reviewer: RCM Silvia
This is a delightfully amusing romp along the courtship trail-- akin to A Comedy of Errors! The novella is charmingly narrated by a determined Georgiana via inter-chapters wherein she explains her good intentions leading the chapter itself to reveal the lengths and depths of ensuing confusion. A very fun read!

Amazon Reviewer: maryann
What a great novel. It is light, airy, and easy reading as well as it keeps you interested and you really don't want to put it down. This one is a matchmaking plot primarily by Georgianna with the help of the Colonel and cousin Anne at times. It is comical, entertaining and truly a love match that cupid's arrow hit Darcy's heart from the beginning but Cupid's trap caught Lizzy. You will have to read this novel to really see why I gave it 5 stars.
Amazon Reviewer: T. Garcia Ruy Sanchez
You really have to read this story if you want to spend a very agreeable time with a really novel approach to a twist of a favorite book. It's really worth it!!

Amazon Reviewer: Debra
Delightful tale! I thoroughly enjoyed this humorous version of my favorite couple. Georgina is cupid's accomplice in this sweet version of how Lizzie comes to love Mr, Darcy.

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