Alexa Adams- Author of First Impressions- A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice
Alexa Adams, an Austenite, blogger, author and a fan of travelling has taken the time to answer some questions for us. Her new book, First Impressions (which can be bought from Amazon) is said to be about “how the events of Jane Austen’s beloved novel would have transpired if Darcy and Elizabeth had danced together at the Meryton Assembly.” I absolutely cannot wait to read it, and I definitely suggest checking out the first three chapters of the book on her blog (details below).
Alexa herself was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, currently living West of the city, in the Brandywine Valley. She and her husband just bought a house in Wilmington, Delaware where they are moving with Jasper and Garrick, their two cats.
She “studied English Literature and Classical (Greco-Roman) Civilization” at college, and is soon to celebrate her sixth wedding anniversary. She is very interested in Greek and Renaissance costuming, having studies the former, “in high school and college, designing costumes for a reading of the Orestia. The renaissance costuming comes from the fact that I am a “Renny” (active renaissance festival participant). Each year my husband and I deck ourselves out in period garb to watch jousts and Shakespeare while eating turkey legs. We have both been attending festivals since we were children, and it was this mutual interest that first brought us together.”
Quirk: When naming her cats she “wanted to give them literary name but some how ended up with TV names instead. Jasper is the name of the old, bald man with the long beard on the Simpsons, while Garrick is the name of the exiled Cardassian tailor on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”
When did you first read Pride and Prejudice?
You know, I actually don’t remember. The first Austen I read was Northanger Abbey, sometime around the age of twelve, and I read the rest of her books over the next year or so. I remember rereading Pride and Prejudice as a teenager, and I definitely recall when the 1995 BBC mini-series came out, but I can’t tell you what my “first impression” was of the book, except that I liked it.
What is your favourite book and why?
That’s an extremely difficult question to answer. I have so many! My favorite Austen book is Persuasion, and if I had to name a life long, consistent favorite it would be A Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Burnett, but there are so many others. If you asked me my twenty favorite books, in no particular order, I would have a hard time narrowing it down.
Your book, First Impressions, is a completely new take on the Pride and Prejudice storyline. How is it different from Pride and Prejudice?
In my version of events, Mr. Darcy realizes Elizabeth can overhear him right before making that horrible “she is tolerable” speech. Feeling that to not ask her to dance would now be an insult, they dance together and after some initial awkwardness, find they enjoy each other’s company. Once I changed that moment, events seem to play out on their own. The path is cleared for Jane and Bingley’s romance, while Elizabeth and Darcy only have to overcome the prejudices of others, instead of their own. Events play out very differently, but I don’t want to give away the plot and so will say no more.
How did you come up with this idea?
Honestly, I was exercising. I had just discovered Abigail Reynolds’ Pemberley Variations and was entranced by the concept. Suddenly the notion struck me – what if Darcy and Elizabeth danced at Meryton? I cooled down, stretched, and wrote the first chapter.
What is your favourite line from your novel First Impressions?
It’s so hard to say! I think I have to go with the one I used on the back cover: “I see how it is Mrs. Bennet – a rich man has danced with Lizzy. When he arrives to ask for her hand do show him in.”
Your book starts with a humorous apology to “Miss Austen”. If she were alive, what do you believe she would think about your book?
I hope she would find it amusing, as it was meant to be. I wanted to write something she could read, if she were alive, without blushing. The apology was my attempt to reconcile my desire to write the story and the sensation that I was desecrating one of the greatest literary triumphs of the 19th century. If I had been unable to convince myself that fan fiction adds to the discourse on and relevancy of Austen’s work, I never could have picked up the pen.
Have you always wanted to write?
Not consciously. I have always done a lot of writing, but typically not fiction. After college (and a few years in the real world), I realized I needed a creative outlet and started writing short stories.
Have you got any advice for upcoming writers?
I advise all writers to think seriously about how they, as individuals, work best. I’ve read so many books and articles that say you have to write everyday, so may words, for so many minutes, but everyone is different. You aren’t going to get anywhere if you don’t figure out that unique methodology that is right for you. Personally, I write in spurts. I used to kick myself for not writing everyday, but once I realized I’m just not programed that way, I became a lot more productive. I also find it easier to write by hand then on the computer. If I’m typing, I keep on changing things too often and don’t make any progress.
What do you do in your free time?
Both my husband and I are voracious readers, which takes up a lot of time. We also like to travel whenever we can. My husband is an excellent chef and we frequently get together with friends to cook and hang out. During the winter months, I tend to do a lot of needle work and origami. I also absolutely love going to the theater, even when the performance is terrible.
You run a blog that is almost entirely devoted to Jane Austen. How long have you been blogging for?
Just since last October, about the time I started production on the book. It began as just a method of publicity, but soon I was hooked. It has become a very fulfilling part of my life.
What has been your favourite “blogging experience”?
When a person I had never heard of before wrote to me to say that she had read the first three chapters, which I had posted, over and over again, and to ask when the book would be out because she was overwhelmed with impatience. It was indescribably exciting to know someone cared that much about my writing.
Which Austen heroine are you most like?
Emma Woodhouse, without question. I would like to be like Anne Elliot, but I am far too spoiled and selfish, so Emma it is. I blunder my way through life, always intending to be more Anne-like, but never managing to follow through on my resolutions.
What do you think about the costumes in the 1995 BBC A&E Pride and Prejudice and the 2005 Keira Knightley P&P?
I prefer the costumes in the 1995 version, especially Jane Bennet’s gowns. If I’m not mistaken, several were made from saris, which was very fashionable at the time, and are simply gorgeous, as are the men’s coats. Mr. Bennet wears a linen one I would love to have and as for Mr. Darcy’s greatcoat, I find it far more becoming than his wet shirt.
How hard is it to create a Regency outfit?
I have actually only ever made one Regency gown, which was a basic round gown and not terribly complex. Anyone with a basic knowledge of sewing can make a descent replica, and there are several, widely available patterns on the market. Vic of Jane Austen Today recently did an entire series of posts on how to make a Regency costume which was very informative. I am far more familiar with Reconnaissance and ancient Greek costume than that of the 19th century.
If you could take anything from the Regency era and have it in society today- what would it be?
If I could have anything from the Regency period in the modern world it would be the formal attire. I love how much attention men paid to their dress and how everyone was expected to change their clothes several times a day. I am constantly overdressed – not being a jeans and t-shirt girl myself – and would really enjoy living in a society where clothing was so complex and ornate.
If you want to get in contact with Alexa then you can Twitter her: @ElegantExtracts, or you can check out her fabulous blog, which also contains the first three chapters of her book (you need to go and read them right now, they are an absolute breath of fresh air- and if her book continues on to be as well written as these chapters are then I imagine it is going to be a big hit for us JA fans).