Today I’m incredibly excited to be interviewing Rose Servitova Author of The Longbourn Letters: The Correspondence between Mr Collins & Mr Bennet.
Welcome Rose please tell us a little about yourself and your book.
I am an Irish humour and historical fiction writer. My grandmother’s little library was my only real access to books as a child. It contained classics such as works by Jane Austen, the Brontes, Alexander Dumas, Louisa May Alcott, Hans Christian Andersen and Agatha Christie. I am a self-confessed Janeite which according to Austen scholar Claudia Johnson is “the self-consciously idolatrous enthusiasm for ‘Jane’ and every detail relative to her.” If I was ever going to write a novel, it was always going to be a tribute, in some way, to Jane Austen and her incredibly funny characters. I am also curating a Jane Austen festival to celebrate her bicentenary year (www.facebook.com/janeausten200limerick)
What inspired you to create The Longbourn Letters?
For many years, I had the idea of writing the diary of Mr Collins. As her bicentenary approached, I decided I had to knuckle down and just start somewhere. I soon realised, however, that a diary would not work as Mr Collins had no self-awareness, was quite tunnel-visioned and conceited – several entries in and the reader would wish to throw it into the fire. Enter stage left, Mr Bennet, my second favourite character and most similar personality-wise to myself. In order to show Mr Collin off in his true magnificence, I needed a character contrasting with him in almost every way – where one was silly, the other was witty and where one was judgemental, the other was liberal. I realised I was onto something very doable as there were already four letters in Pride & Prejudice between these two gents so I merely filled in the gaps and continued to tell the tale until it reached a natural conclusion.
What is your writing routine? are you a pantster or planner?
I find walking generally, gets the wheels going and I might return home from a walk with a plot or a recipe or a poem and even if nothing comes of it, I was in the zone and that is always reassuring. I also find having some kind of meditation practice helps clear my head of clutter and worries – which are never conducive to writing light-hearted pieces. It also helps with trust which was something I really had to work at, and I’ve started to learn that trust is very important for a writer – trusting that the next line will come, that the right characters will appear and that the next project will make itself known to you at the right time.
Did you have a favourite place you liked to write, while you were creating your novel?
Yes, as I was writing on a Georgian related subject, I set up camp for a week (laying out the structure of the novel) by a large window at the magnificent No.1 Pery Square Hotel and drank pots of tea from silver teapots and listening to classical music. I believe we are very influenced by our environments so a noisy, aggressive setting would not have aided my attempt to convey a tone of tranquillity and fun.
Describe what your Muse looks like to you in three words.
What part of writing your novel did you most enjoy? E.g. First draft, research, editing…
I loved writing the first draft as I just let the two main characters say and do anything they wanted. As I wrote, when I conjured up some witty sentence or hilarious scrape, I would start roaring laughing. Generally, I do not consider myself a visual person (I’m more a feeling empath) but when writing the first draft I could see everything unfolding very clearly, as if in a film. It was such fun and kept me going through the duller job of editing later on.
If you could be one of your characters, which one would you be and why?
Mr Bennet 100%. The idea of retreating from the world every evening and being left in peace to read a book or contemplate the silliness of life is an activity I attempt to emulate. I believe he, like me, loves people to be as quirky, interesting and eccentric as possible and celebrates difference.
Which character did you like writing about the most? Why?
It would be a tie between Mr Collins (because of the comical aspect) and Mary Bennet (because I reinterpret her sullenness and spiritual qualities). I truly love Mary Bennet and see a lot of myself (and Mr Bennet) in her too.
What’s your favourite subject to write about? Why?
Ridiculousness – I find it’s everywhere in life and have been fortunate enough in life to have met with many such ridiculous situations and people.
If you could describe your main characters in three words what would they be?
Witty and foolish
What is the darkest thing any of your characters have ever done?
Reverend Smellie is a devious character who almost brings destruction into the lives of many.
Does any of your characters have any strong beliefs or fears if so what are they?
Mary Bennet is a true spiritual person (whereas Mr Collins has all the appearance of it). She undergoes a period a deep angst during the novel.
Who are your favourite Authors?
I love P.G. Wodehouse, Jane Austen and the Brontes first and foremost.
What was the best advice you’ve ever had while writing your novels?
Donal Ryan (author) said not to call my novel a novella (although it is shorter than most) as it is immediately dismissed by many. He was right. I was advised to slap another 30,000 words onto the end of it, by somebody in publishing, to make it more marketable but I decided not to. To me it was just right.
What projects are you working on next?
A subplot within The Longbourn Letters came upon me as a full novel in its own right so I started scribbling lots of notes. I am not sure when I return to it if I will feel as convinced but I actually believe I will. Its content is not as light so I will have to balance the tone to make it an great read (in other words some more ridiculousness is afoot).
Do you have any advice for fellow writers who maybe undertaking creating their first novel at this very moment?
Don’t wait to be discovered – discover yourself. Also, stick with your strengths. I never wrote more than 750 word pieces before this novel. I did not believe I had it in me to complete a book. But by writing up to 750 every day or so, I soon had my novel. My strongest voice is first person – perfect for diary or letters, hence, the format this novel took.
Any final words you would like to add?
Let disappointments slide and focus on the victories.
Thank you Rose Servitova for taking time to do this blog interview, it has been a real pleasure to hear about your novel, I wish you well with your novel and all other writing projects you may undertake in the future.
To find out more about Rose Servitova check out the links below.
Book available on Amazon http://amzn.to/2nBYXXI
Facebook page for Jane Austen Festival www.facebook.com/janeausten200limerick