I’m very happy to be welcoming a new visitor to the blog today. Gailie Ruth Caress has published a book called Fearful Symmetry: A Pride & Prejudice Variaion with Quills and Quartos, and the blog tour for the book visits here today. Let’s take a look at the blurb and then we’ll move on to an interview with the author. There’s also a giveaway to accompany the blog tour. Read on for details!
Darcy had never known such a woman, one who could rush into an inferno and emerge as bold and brilliant as burnished brass, bright as any mirror.
Fitzwilliam Darcy had planned to leave Netherfield Park and all thoughts of the enchanting Miss Elizabeth Bennet behind him—until one night when he saw smoke rising from Longbourn and realised she was imperiled.
Elizabeth Bennet found Mr Darcy arrogant and insufferable right up until he became her hero, pulling her and her sister from the fire that devastated their home, and could have claimed both of their lives. Seeing how he put his own life at risk to pull her from the fire, how could she help but change her opinion of him?
Thrown together again in the refuge offered at Netherfield, Darcy and Elizabeth’s unexpected bond gains strength. But disapproval, debts, and doubts all arise when the costs in time and expense involved in rebuilding Longbourn threaten to widen the gulf in standing between Elizabeth and Darcy in the eyes of society. Amidst these perplexities of destruction and decorum, can love’s courage overcome calamity?
Author Interview with Gailie Ruth Caress
Thank you for having me here, Ceri! I feel so honored to be invited to come visit for an author interview.
I’ll do my best to be a good guest and behave myself. **Sits and pours some tea** Let me see if I can tackle these good questions on your list!
1. What inspired your Pride and Prejudice variation?
In 2012 when I began to write Fearful Symmetry, I was still actively processing what felt like the rather abrupt end to my carefree youth. My excellent father had passed away from a long and rough battle with cancer just a few years prior, when I was twenty-one years old—very close to Elizabeth Bennet’s age in Pride & Prejudice. In the weeks and months after his death, I graduated college and entered the workforce during the 2009 US economic recession. It was a rough year to say the least, and I felt like I’d had to hurry up and finish becoming a fully-fledged adult very quickly, and without a lot of support or stability. In Fearful Symmetry, the housefire that guts Longbourn in its early chapters similarly catapults Elizabeth out of her idyllic, sheltered life as a young country miss, and she must rise to new responsibilities and open her eyes to a deeper understanding of the real challenges of the world she inhabits. It’s ultimately a coming-of-age tale for her, and it served as a bit of “narrative therapy” for me!
The title of my novel comes from a line in a poem called “The Tyger,” a work pulled from William Blake’s collection called “Songs of Experience,” which he wrote as a counter-themed collection to his “Songs of Innocence.” Fittingly, the journey Elizabeth takes in my novel not only borrows from some of the fiery imagery from “The Tyger” (hello, housefire!), but it also moves her into a brand-new world of experience, and out of the innocence of her halcyon days at Longbourn.
This was a story I would compose in spurts and then set aside—sometimes for years at a time. But there was something healing for me in the experience of writing this new path for Elizabeth. The worlds and characters of Jane Austen feel “safe” to us since they are known and familiar, and I think that sense of safety helped me to gather courage as a writer to explore some of the more difficult parts of my own life within these fictional confines. Because I know, in Elizabeth’s world, I can count on making my way towards a resolution with a happy ending even when my own might be far more uncertain.
I think this form of narrative “therapy” worked; finishing the manuscript for this novel under pandemic lockdown definitely helped me retain some hope for the days to come!
2. Besides Jane Austen, what other books are your favorites and why?
I should start off by saying I’m a long-time fan of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South. I also survived my angst in middle school reading Jane Eyre; and then in high school, when I wasn’t working my way through The Lord of the Rings, I was diving into postmodern gothic-inspired works like Anne Rice (Interview with the Vampire) and Thomas Harris’s (Silence of the Lambs) novels.
I really loved Gaskell and Brontë’s narrative voices, which convey their leading characters’ keen emotional self-awareness without being cloying. I was fascinated by Tolkien’s world-building. And I was constantly in awe of Rice and Harris’s story craft. Each of their books’ plotlines feel like a rollercoaster! They launch the reader out of their seat with some kind of revelation or action sequence in the very first chapter, then the middle-plot develops a steep and unstable arc of conflict and growth, and finally the whole tale just rolls downhill at a gathering pace towards a breathless ending each time. It’s mesmerizing. Harris in particular knows how to pace his pages, and he never wastes a word.
3. What do you do when you are not reading or writing?
Right now, I am taking care of my two wild little boys, ages five and two, which is my main daily challenge as a mom. You might also find me trying not to fall on my face at Jazzercise class (yes, Jazzercise! I’m a former show-choir kid and musical theatre geek, so I fit right in). Sometimes I sew, bake, help people build websites, and sing. My husband is a pastor in a rural church, so I help organize church events and children’s ministry, gather community resources for folks in the margins, and sometimes lead Bible studies for adults that let me be nerdy in my hermeneutics by pulling in socio-historic and linguistic context for scripture. And that last bit involves me researching, which I also love to do. I’ll be looking to return to the work force in some form or other in 2021, but I’m grateful I could stay home during this terrible pandemic so my whole family could literally survive the virus (since we all had it in November, and it was awful!).
4. Do you have any plans for a second book?
Oh yes, but it’s not a sequel, if that’s what you mean. I’m trying to be secretive about it. I suppose I could tell you that it’s a “crossover” between two of Austen’s works—but I won’t give away which ones! I’m also working on a short story woven out of some side-plot threads I had cut away from Fearful Symmetry. I admit I have a soft spot for gothic tropes, and they’ll appear in this shorter tale featuring a bit of the paranormal. Doesn’t that sound fun?
Thank you so much for having me by to chat today! I really enjoyed this interview!
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I hope you enjoyed this interview, because I certainly did!
I think all our experiences shape us but some big experiences are like a milestone in our lives that we can see as life changing when we look back, there is us before the event and a different us afterwards. It's amazing to me that Gailie Ruth has weaved her loss into something as creative and lasting as a book.
I am so glad Gailie Ruth told us about her reading habits, too, because that’s something I always find interesting. I have actually read all the books she mentioned, most of them more than once! Big thanks to Kristi from Quills and Quartos for her input to this post 😊
If you are wondering about the poem, I am sure you will recognise it. Here is the first stanza:
I am not a big one for poetry, but I love this one, it’s very dramatic! I know it's written by Englishman William Blake but if I read it aloud I go full on Welsh sounding. I think it's something we learn at school here, if we read poetry we all sound like Dylan Thomas!
Gailie Ruth Caress, author of Fearful Symmetry, never dreamed of writing a debut novel in her own pleasure-reading genre when she was a no-nonsense, 4.0-chasing English major who won prizes for her academic essays at Hanover College in her home state of Indiana. Forced to readily adapt after a pivotal loss in early adulthood, she became a dabbler in many forms of expression and relationship-building—from opera and ballroom dance to nonprofit education and mentoring. And yet, she committed mid-Pandemic to the challenge of completing the manuscript of the story that kept her up at night, driven by a need to borrow from the courageous vulnerability of her favorite Jane Austen couple in a landscape transformed by disaster.
Her everyday life continues to hold unexpected adventures. Her two small boys and a duo of sassy tabby cats run wild on the Illinois prairie around a parsonage, where they keep her busy alongside rural community and ministry work with her pastor-husband. Learn more about Gailie Ruth at gailieruthwrites.com.
Fearful Symmetry is available to buy now in Paperback, Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. It’s also available in audio!
Quills and Quartos are giving away an ebook of Fearful Symmetry to a commenter on this post. They will choose the winner on 19 March.
If you have any problems adding your comment please contact me and I will add your comment for you :)
Blog Tour Schedule
Visit the other stops on the blog tour to learn more about Fearful Symmetry.
Visit the other stops on the blog tour to learn more about Fearful Symmetry.
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