If you could only choose one, which would you prefer to have: love or a career?
If you chose the latter and were given a second chance to obtain the former, would you seize it?
So is Emma Shaw’s predicament in Modern Persuasion, a romance novel (set to be released on 20 March 2017) inspired by Jane Austen’s similarly titled Persuasion. Please join me in extending a warm welcome to the author of Modern Persuasion, Sara Marks.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a librarian in Massachusetts, but I grew up in Miami. I work at a local university library teaching students how to think critically about information sources. I do a lot of work with Wikipedia as an editor and a researcher. I am an avid reader and have been almost all my life. I am also a knitter and periodically design my own patterns. I love the color purple, unicorns, travelling, and the city of Paris.
2. When did you start writing?
I started writing as a child, but in 2004 I participated in my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing month run each November). Now I write during NaNoWriMo and related events. I have won NaNoWriMo every time except my second year.
3. Why did you start writing?
I had a story to tell and it was stuck in my head. I need to write it down to be able to move on. Sometimes even that isn’t enough. There are stories that I keep turning over in my mind and adapt as I flesh out the original idea.
4. Do you recall the moment you first conceived the idea for your novel?
I was in New York City for two conferences: the Book Expo Conference (the big publishing industry conference) and a small Wikipedia Conference. I kept playing with the idea of two people who reunite at Book Expo. I realized it was the same plot of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I had just written a modernization of Pride and Prejudice (that is what I am editing right now), but I became obsessed with this new idea and needed to see it through.
Things really didn’t change between my drafts, but I made changes to the original Austen novel. I wanted my characters to be truly modern. I didn’t simply want to take each character and put them in the 21st century. I even changed names, removed unnecessary characters, and dealt with issues I felt Austen overlooked.
5. Does your story have a moral?
I wouldn’t call it a moral, but the theme of regret is a big one. Austen’s story was about a couple getting a second chance. Regret is a massive part of that type of story. I personally feel that mistakes from our past shape the person we are now and we are unfair to ourselves when we live completely immersed in regret.
6. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?
I have been doing short character profiles for my blog. I share things you won’t learn about the characters from the novel. While I love Emma and Fredrick, I realized they take a back seat to Emma’s parents. Her father, Walter, falls apart when her mother dies. Even Emma doesn’t realize his hurtful behavior is how he is stuck in his grief. Even now I am shocked at how similar Emma and Walter’s stories are.
7. Using five words or less, describe the protagonist in Modern Persuasion.
Emma is: detail oriented, organized, nurturing, and Ravenpuff (Google that).
8. What does a typical writing session look like for you?
I have to get out of the house to write. There are too many potential distractions at home. I make playlists for characters, pairs, and even the entire book. This one became a Pandora list I called Indie Pop-Tarts and was something I got from a friend. Then I just write. I am typically writing as part of National Novel Writing Month so there may be other people with me.
9. What are you currently reading?
I am re-reading Northanger Abbey in various forms to get ready for this November’s National Novel Writing Month. I am trying something new by co-writing a modernization of Northanger Abbey with a friend. We are playing with ghost hunting and imagined hauntings.
10. Any project in the works?
I have 12 years of NaNoWriMo novels to edit and publish! Right now I am most focused on a modernization of Pride and Prejudice. It is in the middle of being edited right now.
11. How long does it usually take you to write a book?
The writing takes me about a month. It could take me years to build the idea to the point where I am ready to write though. After I write, it goes away for months or even a year before I am ready to edit.
12. In your opinion, what makes a story ‘good’?
Good is completely subjective. I have disliked plenty of stories everyone thought were good. I have loved and then eventually hated books. I have hated and then loved books. Good depends on the story you need to read. The stories I enjoy are the stories where I connect emotionally to the characters.
13. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write in any way you can. Write a blog, write fan fiction, write non-fiction, write poorly, but just write
And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Nights out or nights in?
I am an introvert, so nights in.
2. Living in the city or living in the country?
City living is far better than country living, but I prefer smaller cities where there is plenty to do, but far fewer people.
3. Having telepathy or having telekinesis?
I have always wished to have both and sometimes I want telepathy if only to talk to people in through our minds. In the end, it’s too much and telekinesis would be the better between the two.
4. Being able to travel to the past or being able to travel to the future?
Travelling to the future creates too many problems. I would much rather see the past to understand events and people better.
5. Staying in a hotel or going camping?
Oh, I am a complete princess! Hotel any day.
6. To find true love or to win the lottery?
Despite the fact that I am writing romance, I would much rather win the lottery. I could pay off my student loans and my mortgage and take care of my parents and family. It would be great.
7. Being Spider-Man for a day or being Batman for a day?
8. To speak using ONLY rap lyrics (from songs released in the 21st century) or to speak using ONLY quotes from Austen’s books?
Given what I write, easily quotes from Jane Austen books.
9. Being able to speak and understand every language known to humankind or being able to speak and understand every language known to animals?
Every language known to humankind! I could travel the world and never worry about not understanding the local language, especially in India where there are hundreds of dialects.
10. Having your car break down on an extremely busy expressway or along an abandoned road in the middle of nowhere?
I feel like I would get help quickly on a busy expressway, but being in the middle of nowhere is the beginning of a horror story.
11. To never speak again or to never eat solid food again?
I would never give up my ability to speak, so I am going to have to live on milk shakes, soup, and pudding.
12. To never read another book or to never watch another film?
Never watch another film. I feel like there are far too many books in the world and I have probably seen enough films to be fine with giving that up… but only if I had no choice.
13. Finding yourself caught in the middle of a hurricane or finding yourself caught in the middle of a snowstorm? (Note: in both scenarios, you’d be outdoors and have no access to shelter.)
Having lived through both, but with shelter, it really depends. The hurricane could be nothing more than rain and wind. You could probably be fine, unless it was a higher category… Sorry, my father researches hurricanes so I know more about them than the average person. With a snow storm, as long as I have a nice heavy coat, a hat, a scarf, mittens, and boots on then that would be fine.
14. To never again eat a piece of chocolate or to never again drink a cup of coffee?
I would give up coffee since I don’t drink it anyway! I drink tea, but I would even give that up to keep chocolate in my life.
15. Have every day be Saturday or have every day be your birthday?
I would probably always go with every day being my birthday. I know it would probably lose it’s thrill and excitement, but the same can be said for everyday being Saturday. I would get bored either way. It helps that I love my job 75% of the time.