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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mary Lydon Simonsen Interview

Searching for Pemberley
1. What was your inspiration for Searching for Pemberley?
I have long been interested in my family history. My parents, grandparents, and great grandparents lived/grew up in Minooka, a coal-mining town in the Poconos, and I am a coal-miner’s granddaughter. So I wanted my main character, Maggie Joyce, to come from that town. I’m also a baby boomer. I was fascinated by the stories I heard from family members from the World War II generation. I was the annoying kid who was always asking questions. That time period provided the setting for my novel, and my love of Pride and Prejudice is the thread that holds the story together.
2. Did you do any significant historical research for Searching for Pemberley?
I’ve been reading about the three time periods, World Wars I and II and the Regency Era, for decades, so a lot of the history was already in my head. After I finished writing the first draft, I went back and fact checked everything, and I was pleased with how accurate I was.
3. Maggie and Michael are so different from Lizzy and Darcy, yet they are just as compelling. Did you model them on any couple (fictional or real)?
Maggie was modeled on my mother and three aunts, all who went to Washington, D.C. to work during World War II. They grew up in a town where the Catholic Church was the dominant factor in their lives. At night, their pastor used to walk around with a shillelagh banging the bushes, looking for kids who were out after curfew (which he had imposed). But now these young ladies were living in a city filled to overflowing with servicemen and government workers from all over the country. Leaving Minooka and working in Washington gave them the confidence to do other things. My Aunt Mim went to work for the State Department in a devastated Berlin in 1945, which I included in Searching for Pemberley, when Maggie goes to work for the Army Exchange Service in Frankfurt. As for Michael, he’s very close to my husband, Paul, in personality, someone who will love me no matter what, but not looks. Paul actually looks like Rob, the other guy.
4. I think every Jane Austen fan wants Lizzy and Darcy to have been real. Is there any other fictional couple you would love to bring to life?
I absolutely adore Nick and Nora Charles from the Thin Man series, but since I don’t/can’t write mysteries, I’ll have to go back to Jane Austen. I’ve written a parody of Persuasion in which my Anne Elliot is a lot feistier. After being written off by her family as a woman doomed to spinsterhood, she becomes her own person, and through her own investigations, exposes her cousin, William Elliot, as a fraud. When Captain Wentworth returns after eight years at sea, she has blossomed into someone who would be strong enough to sail the world with him.
5. What is up next for you?
I have two more novels coming out with Sourcebooks. From Longbourn to Pemberley (working title) is a Pride and Prejudice re-imagining in which a romantic, teenaged Georgiana and a not-so-fragile Anne De Bourgh move Darcy and Lizzy through the story to their rendezvous with destiny at Pemberley. The second is More Than Tolerable (for now) in which Darcy realizes how rude he was to Lizzy, apologizes immediately, and that sends their romance in a completely different direction.
My favorite book is: Lonesome Dove
What book would you never read again even if was the only book left in existence: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
My favorite movie is: Casablanca
The author who influences me the most is: Jane Austen
If I received a free trip to anywhere in the world where would I visit: Amalfi Coast
If I could do any job in the world, I would: Even though I can’t sing, a Country Western singer with the big tour bus
My favorite word is? Serendipitous

My favorite historical time period is:
1928 to 1948

Mr. Darcy or Mr. Rochester
: Easily Mr. Darcy

If a genie granted me three wishes, I would wish for:

I assume you mean other than an end to all wars and health and happiness for my family, so I would wish for a year (or longer) in Italy, a long visit to Ireland to find my family’s roots, and to be physically fit without exercising.

Thanks for having me!

Set against Regency England, World Wars I and II, and postwar England, three love stories intertwine in surprising and fateful ways
American Maggie Joyce, touring Derbyshire in 1947, visits, Montclair, an 18th century Georgian country house, that she is told was the model for Jane Austen's Pemberley. More amazingly, the former residents of the mansion, William Lacey and Elizabeth Garrison, were the inspiration for the characters of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.
Through letters, diary entries, and oral history, Beth and Jack Crowell, a couple who lives in the nearby village of Crofton, share stories of the people they say inspired Jane Austen. They also tell their own love story, made difficult by their vastly different backgrounds—she was one of the social elite while he was the son of a servant. When their son, Michael, travels home from his RAF station in Malta, Maggie may have just found her very own Mr. Darcy.
About the Author
Mary Simonsen grew up in North Jersey with the exciting venues of New York City easily accessible. She is especially interested in American and European history and 19th Century novels. In Searching for Pemberley she was able to combine her love of history (World War II and postwar England) with Austen's characters, Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, and being a romantic, the novel includes three love stories from three different time periods, all thanks to Jane Austen. She lives in Peoria, Arizona. For more information, please visit

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