I am always very glad and happy to introduce a new author on My Vices and Weaknesses but I am even happier because I had the chance to have a hot chocolate with him (no cake this time) and have a chat about his writing, his books and life!
Welcome, Mark Brownlow to My Vices and Weaknesses and thank you for bringing Cake and Courtship: Mr Bennet’s Memoirs Book One with you.
Here you have Mark’s biography, you may read things that you may not expect and that is always nice and refreshing:
Mark Brownlow is a British-born writer living in Vienna, Austria. His debut novel, Cake and Courtship, is a Regency romance narrated by Pride and Prejudice’s Mr Bennet. He has also written a novella, The Lovesick Maid, a cozy mystery set in Jane Austen’s fictional village of Hunsford. You can find Mark at LostOpinions.com, where he is known for his reimagining of classic literature as emails.
Science degrees from the Universities of Oxford, Aberdeen and Reading prefaced a short-lived career as a research academic. Since turning from facts to fiction, Mark has also worked as a translator, agony aunt, marketing consultant, journalist, business writer, web publisher and copywriter. None of which kept his soul happy in the way that creative writing does. When not writing, he works as a part-time lecturer in medical and scientific English at a local university.
If there is no pen to hand, he can be found watching his kids play football or sharing a glass of wine with his wife in front of a costume or historical drama.
Before reading his interview, please let me present you Cake and Courtship: Mr Bennet’s memoirs book one, a book that I believe you would love, it is very witty and “very Mr Bennet” and after reading the interview, you can easily imagine why it may be so good: Mr Bennet with his way of speaking and Mr Brownlow with his own way… Let’s start with some quotes from a few reviews on Amazon:
“An uplifting, amusing and oh so tender read!” (5-star review at Amazon.co.uk)
“The course of true love doesn’t run smooth in this sweet, witty ramble with Mr. Bennet” (5-star review at Amazon.com)
“There is so much wit, humour and likeability. I laughed out loud many, many times” (5-star review at Amazon.co.uk)
Interested now? Keep reading the blurb and a bit more of information about the book:
When John Barton falls in love with the elusive Anne Hayter, there is only one man he can turn to for advice. Unfortunately, that man is Mr Bennet of Longbourn, a world-weary gentleman with five daughters pursuing their own marital ambitions.
To help John, Mr Bennet must emerge from his beloved library and face the challenges of the tearoom and dance floor one more time. In doing so, he finds his own romantic past catching up with him.
In this Pride and Prejudice variation, Mark Brownlow takes you on an Austenesque journey full of wry humour and Regency romance (with a few slices of sponge cake).
“As you get older, Lizzy, you will discover that life does not
bow easily to the wishes of even the most romantic of souls.
Quite the opposite. Life must be mastered with pragmatism
and sense, which explains why so few people succeed at it.“
If you are already so intrigued as I was, you could buy the book on any of these links:
Without more preamble, here we have Mark Brownlow, author of Cake and Courtship answering some questions that you may not expect. Well, you may not expect the answer… watch out JAFF! 😉
Hi, Mark and welcome.
Hi, Ana, and thanks for having me as a guest on My Vices and Weaknesses!
How did you get involved in writing JAFF?
Obliquely. My wife and I watch a lot of costume and historical drama, and I always enjoyed the Austen adaptations on television. Then I found myself wondering how much of the dialogue came from the scriptwriters and how much from the books, so picked up a copy of Pride and Prejudice. I was astonished – and I mean ASTONISHED – to find that, for example, all the humour was lifted straight from the page. That’s how I discovered Jane Austen the writer.
I always wanted to write fiction, so the combination with the Austenesque world seemed a natural fit, especially as I was already writing snippets of literary humour in the same genre for a web project.
Do you have any special writing rituals?
Not as such. While working as a business writer, with constant deadlines, I was forced to be flexible – to write when and where necessary. So I’m equally comfortable with a pen or keyboard, on the sofa or in a coffee house. Having said that, my dream has always been to write like the Colin Firth character in Love Actually – rent a villa somewhere in the south of Europe and hammer away. Though I’d make copies (and do my own washing up).
I do try and write in the mornings, when the day is fresh and full of promise.
Are there any challenges being a male writer in this genre?
If there are, they’re more internal than external. I’ve never encountered anything other than warmth from the community of readers and writers. And there are other male writers already way more established than me. All of them, actually!
By internal, I mean, for example, that I’d hesitate to write from a first-person perspective with a female protagonist, of which there are obviously one or two in Jane Austen’s works! Not because I think writers should always stick to their gender, but simply because I’m not sure I’d do a good job of it. My new novella has Charlotte Collins as the “heroine” of the story. That’s written from a third-person perspective, which I think Charlotte would be relieved about.
It’s sometimes “interesting” when shifting worlds. My other lives are spent teaching scientists or at the football. I’m not sure all my friends here in Vienna have quite got their head around what I do.
Is there much awareness of the world of Jane Austen in Vienna?
Not much. Austria, of course, has classic authors of its own and the Regency period isn’t such a defined era here, for obvious reasons. A kind of equivalent in terms of interest is the long reign of Emperor Franz Joseph in the second half of the 19th century. There’s a particular fascination with his wife, Empress Elisabeth, who was a rather complex and tragic figure.
You’re not Austrian yourself?
I am now, but I was British until about six months ago. I grew up in Wiltshire, not far from Bath, and moved here in 1994.
Let’s turn to your book: it retells Pride and Prejudice from Mr Bennet’s perspective, but he’s not the first name that springs to mind when you think of the original.
No, he’s not. But his humour and cynicism make him an attractive narrator for a writer, especially when you take him out of his comfort zone and force him to swap his books for balls and bonnets.
Jane Austen leaves his backstory largely open, so there’s a fresh canvas to paint on there, too. Plus, he’s about the nearest Pride and Prejudice has to me in terms of age, gender and character, which makes writing from a first-person perspective a little easier. With my calves, I can’t do Mr Darcy.
I’m glad you mentioned Mr Darcy. He’s talked about in your novel, but he never makes an appearance. Why’s that?
Hah! Because I am more foolish than Mr Collins. When I began writing the novel, I didn’t have much experience of Austenesque fiction. So I assumed people would be tired of reading about the Elizabeth-Darcy story. You have permission to laugh at my ignorance.
But it’s also because, from Mr Bennet’s perspective, Mr Darcy doesn’t play that big a role at first: “Cake and Courtship” ends before Lizzy goes to Hunsford.
Although we see Pride and Prejudice through Mr Bennet’s eyes, there’s a separate story going on, too, with new characters. How did that come about?
I wanted to do something fresh with Mr Bennet, rather than just repeat the original plot. He wasn’t going to leave his library without good reason. It’s the story of John Barton and Anne Hayter that forces him into the unusual position of playing cupid and the unwanted position of facing up to his own past.
If the novel ends pre-Hunsford, will there be a sequel?
I’m working on it at the moment. Mr Bennet still needs to cover the second half of Pride and Prejudice. And although the “Cake and Courtship” story comes to a conclusion, there is one issue in the Bennet past that needs resolution. Also, I can put more Darcy in a sequel!
Will there be cake?
As Mr Bennet says, “Life always has more cake. It is one of its few redeeming features.”
Some quick questions to end…favourite Austen book?
Favourite Austen character?
Mr Collins. Surely everyone’s favourite?
1995 or 2005 Pride and Prejudice?
I’m not answering that. I can’t handle conflict, a character trait my kids exploit mercilessly. I will admit to a soft spot for the 2005 proposal scene (ducks).
Confession: I’m not a big cake person. But I can handle a nice bit of lemon drizzle cake.
Favourite author (you’re not allowed to say Jane Austen)?
Terry Pratchett. He also had an astonishing knack for creating memorable characters. Incidentally, if you read his novel “Snuff”, you can find a subtle tribute to Jane Austen in there.
Interests outside of writing?
Well, football and, um, football. Though I’m trying to teach myself copperplate calligraphy in a desperate attempt to convince myself that I have “varied interests”.
Thank you very much for your time, Mark.
Thank you, Ana!
What do you think, readers? Did you like his answers? Did you like his style? I had a very nice time talking to him and yes, I was a bit astonished with his idea of maybe people did not like to read more about Elizabeth and Darcy, but it is great that he found out as he will keep writing more and more!
Regarding the issue of not much of the world of Jane Austen in Vienna, and in Austria in general, I think we need to do something about it, we will see!
Check the other stops of this blog tour and you will find so much more great info about the book, about the characters and about the author. Find the links to all the blogs below the picture:
28th February Diary of an Eccentric – guest post, excerpt, giveaway
1st March Half Agony, Half Hope – review, excerpt
2nd March Austenesque Reviews – interview with Mr Bennet, giveaway
3rd March Babblings of a Bookworm – guest post, excerpt, giveaway
4th March Laughing with Lizzie – Mr Bennet’s inbox, giveaway
5th March From Pemberley to Milton – guest post, excerpt, giveaway
6th March My Vices and Weaknesses – author interview, giveaway
7th March More Agreeably Engaged – guest post, excerpt, giveaway
8th March So little time…so much to read – Mr Bennet’s diary, giveaway
10th March Just Jane 1813 – guest post, excerpt, giveaway
Time To Give Away
Mark is giving away different prizes on this blog tour. The winners can choose either a paperback copy of Cake and Courtship: Mr. Bennet’s Memoirs Book One OR a box of Viennese chocolates (super yummy, I can tell you for sure). One prize per winner and it is an international giveaway. You can comment, share your opinions and/or questions until the 12th March 23:59 CET.