Dec 7, 2009

Interview With Mary Lydon Simonsen, Author of Searching for Pemberley

Mary Lydon Simonsen's Searching for Pemberley hit stores earlier this month and takes place shortly after World War II as American Maggie Joyce uncovers the mystery of which English families inspired Jane Austen to write Pride & Prejudice.

Ms. Simonsen was kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about her book and her writing.  I hope you'll enjoy the interview, stay tuned for my review of her book, and think about entering the giveaway.

Please welcome, Mary Lydon Simonsen.

Searching for Pemberley explores how real people could have inspired Austen's Pride and Prejudice.  Is this an idea that you've discovered elsewhere or how did you decide to write about this aspect of the novel? 

I don’t know of anyone else who has written about Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy being modeled on real people. But I was intrigued by the idea of a man from England’s upper class marrying the daughter of a gentleman farmer “whose station in life is so decidedly beneath my own.” I was curious about what a real Lizzy and Darcy would have experienced in their courtship and marriage because they had a wide chasm to bridge because of their different places in society.

How much research did you do to create these characters who inspired Jane Austen?  And do you find that any of your characters are inspired by real people that you know or have known? 

I’ve been reading and studying about the Georgian/Regency Era since I first read Pride and Prejudice in my high school English class, and that’s going back decades. When I started to write the story, I already knew a lot about that time period, so there’s about 35 years of research in my novel. As for my inspiration for the characters, I don’t know anyone who is even remotely close to the privileged Fitzwilliam Darcy, but I do know a lot of down-to-earth Lizzy Bennets. My life experience is much closer to Maggie Joyce, my main character, who grew up in a coal mining town in the 1930s. I’m actually a coal miner’s granddaughter. (I hear Loretta Lynn singing in the background.)

Who is your favorite Jane Austen hero and why?

Definitely Elizabeth Bennet because she has spunk, something I definitely didn’t have when I was 21, Lizzy’s age. It took a lot of courage to stand up to Mr. Darcy and to say “no” to an offer of marriage from a man who had it all: looks, wealth, rank, and who was a scion of a prestigious family. Lizzy is her own person, and I’d like to think her independence is part of her attraction.

Most authors using classic characters and stories to spur their own creations fell in love with those characters and stories early on, but wanted something more.  Is this how you felt about Pride and Prejudice?  What motivated you to craft your own tale based upon Jane Austen's story? 

As a teenager, I was very shy, and because of that, I wanted to be like the self-confident Elizabeth Bennet. If you read Pride and Prejudice, you will see that Mr. Darcy actually has very little dialog, but I took care of that. Over the years, Mr. Darcy and I, as Lizzy Bennet, have had some very interesting conversations, which always ended in his asking me to marry him. Who wouldn’t want to be the wife of Fitzwilliam Darcy? In a recent survey, Australian women voted for Mr. Darcy over Brad Pitt as their dream guy. I’m in full agreement with the results.  

Why choose Jane Austen novels versus other classic authors' novels. 

I love Jane Austen’s wit, especially in Pride and Prejudice. Once you get into Victorian Era literature, things get a lot more serious, e.g., Jane Eyre and Mary Barton, and I didn’t want that. I write Austen fan fiction for, and my stories are light, funny (I hope), low angst, and always have a happy ending.

Do you have any obsessions that you would like to share?

The only obsession I have at the moment, other than chocolate, is writing. Once I started writing fiction, which was only four years ago, I found it to be addictive, and I have to force myself to leave the computer room to do things like dust, run a vacuum, cook dinner. I’m sure I have carpal tunnel syndrome because of all the typing I do.

Which books have you been reading lately, and are there any you would like to recommend?

May I recommend my own modern novel, The Second Date, Love Italian-American Style? It’s a light-hearted look at love in the Italian-American community of North Jersey. Personally, I thought it was really funny. I recently finished The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell and Murder at Longbourn by Tracy Kiely, both of which I enjoyed. I’m also reading a biography of Andrew Carnegie.

Finally, following Searching for Pemberley, do you have any other projects in the works? Do they deal with other classic literature or do you see yourself flourishing in the Pride and Prejudice market? 

I seem to have found a home at Sourcebooks, the leading publisher of Austen sequels in the country. They have bought the rights to two more novels with tie-ins to Pride and Prejudice. Longbourn to Pemberley (working title) will be out in December 2010, and More Than Tolerable (also a working title) will be out probably a year after that. I’ve also written a parody of Persuasion and a love story where Mr. Darcy is a werewolf for

Obviously, I’m a big Austen fan. Thanks again for having me on your blog!

Thanks to you Ms. Simonsen for taking time to answer my questions.  Ok, here's the giveaway details: 2 copies of Searching for Pemberley for U.S./Canada only.

1.  Leave a comment on this interview about what you found most interesting.
2.  Leave a comment on my review, which appears Dec. 8, for a second entry.
3.  Purchase a Pride & Prejudice spin-off or Jane Austen's novel through any of the enclosed Amazon Affiliate links and email me (savvyverseandwit AT gmail DOT com) the purchase information for 3 additional entries.
4.  Follow this blog for another entry.

Deadline is Dec. 14, 2009 at 11:59 PM EST.


FTC Disclosure:  Clicking on images or titles will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase required. 


bermudaonion said...

Wow, it sounds like the author has a real passion for Jane Austen's work.

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

No need to enter me ~ I've already got the book! I just wanted to say thanks for the great interview. I'm even more excited to read the book now :)

Toni said...

I'd love to win a copy. Darcy over Brad Pitt..hummmm I don't have my mind's eye completely focused on Darcy's looks... So hard to beat Brad..However, I'd have to take Darcy. I also want to say I could watch Coal Miner's Daughter over and over. Such a cute movie. :) I enjoyed the entire interview. Excellent job by the interviewer and the author. Thank you.

Anna said...

No need to enter me, as I have a copy for the tour. I'll add the giveaway to my sidebar.

Just wanted to note that "The Man Who Loved Jane Austen" is a novel in which Austen bases the Mr. Darcy of P&P on a Mr. Darcy whom she meets while he is time traveling. It's hard to describe, but it's the only other book I've seen in which the story is based on a "real" (well for the purposes of the book anyway) Mr. Darcy.

I'm looking forward to reading this one!

Diary of an Eccentric

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No need to enter me, either, darling. You know about me and my TBR problem...

I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you.

vvb32 reads said...

I would love to read Mary's book. It was a treat to find out about her piece of fiction about Darcy as werewolf in

vvb32 at

Julie P. said...

I wasn't familiar with this book so I think what I found the most interesting is the premise. I think it's a very original take on Jane Austen!!

Margay said...

I've always wondered if Elizabeth and Darcy (among other Austen characters) were based on real people, too! And I find it utterly fascinating that Mary had conversations with Darcy when she was younger - I thought I was the only one who did stuff like that!

Nise' said...

Yay for Australian women voting Mr. Darcy their dream guy, they are smart gals! Going to check out her parody of Persuasion over at


Anonymous said...

What I found really interesting was how much research went into writing this book. That's a lot!

I just became a follower of your blog.


Anonymous said...

She is writing a book where mr darcy is a werewolf!! Thx for contest..

Jenny N. said...

The book sounds interesting and its a new take on P&P which I haven't come across before. I'm also a follower of yours.

jen4777 @

Brenda said...

Who would have thought to write a book about a book.. I like it.

misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

Kaye said...

I just read your review and it makes me WANT this one! Great job, Serena. 35 years of research behind this book is a whole lot of dedication and love for the subject.

I'm a follower


MarySimonsen said...

Thanks to all who read my interview and commented on it. It really is appreciated, esp. since I'm under the weather. Your remarks cheered me up. My werewolf story on is a work-in-progress, and it is also posted on my blog: (Clever blog name, don't you think?)

Linda said...

I was fascinated by the fact about women preferring Mr. Darcy over Brad Pitt. I can identify with the concept, being far more enamored with several fictional and/or historical figures than with the current crop of film stars.

I am a follower through Google Reader.


vvb32 reads said...

Mary - thanks for posting your site for the fan fic. I was looking for your on meryton but didn't know which pieces were yours. Do you have an alias for that site?

MarySimonsen said...

Hi VVB32, I post under my own name on meryton. The werewolf story, Mr. Darcy on the Eve of All Saints' Day, is on meryton's front Stories page, but it is also on my blog. Click on the title in the sidebar. The Persuasion spoof is in Completed Stories on meryton. It's called, Anne Elliot, I Am Woman. If you have any problems, you can e-mail me at Thanks for your interest. P.S. You do have to register at Meryton. You do not have to register at my blog.

Brenda said...

Sorry you are under the weather, just hang in there and you will get better..Hey, maybe I can be a poet..LOL.. Hope you are up and about before the end of the week. Just don't over do...
misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

mabelilly28 said...

I too admire the "spunk" that Lizzy Bennett embodied...although my spunkiness has been lacking in the last few years, I also wish to once again regain this lovely feature!

mabelilly28 at yahoo dot com

mabelilly28 said...

I am a blog follower!

mabelilly28 at yahoo dot com

Laura Hartness said...

Great interview! I'm excited that she has more books in the works: Longbourn to Pemberley, More Than Tolerable and a parody of Persuasion. Looking forward to them!

I also made a comment on the book review.

I also am a follower of the blog.

Thanks for the chance to enter!

Laura Hartness

lag123 said...

She spent decades reading and researching the Georgian Regency era.

Anonymous said...

I found her devotion to Jane Austen astounding.


Anonymous said...

I have only read P&P abd S&S, but I do underdtand Austen's appeal. I hope to read them all at some point. I liked Elizabeth for all the reasons MAry mentioned. Please enter me.
stacybooks at yahoo

traveler said...

Thanks for this wonderful giveaway. This book fascinates me greatly. The research involved in writing this book interests me and this book is unique and special. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Kristen said...

This one was already on my wishlist so I'd definitely love to win. I follow through Google Reader.

whitreidsmama at yahoo dot com

dsandyboy said...

Count me in.

Anonymous said...

The concept of the book is very interesting; perhaps they ar based on real people.