Thursday, February 28, 2013

Headstrong Girls Dabble into New Territories

 Our guests today are June Williams and Enid Wilson. Enid has been a long term friend of Straight from Hel, and June visited here last year to promote Honor and Integrity. They, with Debra Anne Watson, are co-authors of "Headstrong Girls," a new collection of writings inspired by Jane Austen.

June, Enid and Debra Anne met online in a Jane Austen community. After reading each other's stories for years, they decided to publish a collection together, with each person writing one third of the content – and collaborating on a tag-along story.

Helen: Enid, long time no see, where have you been to?

Hi, Helen and friends of Straight from Hel, I’ve been busy at work and then recently I went for a road trip in Florida, not to mention, I got my first tooth extracted when I returned.

Helen: Yikes, that sounds painful. I hope you’re better now. But Florida? You could have come to Hel. 

I’m better now, after being scolded by my dentist for eating too much sweet food. I blamed Florida, haha. I wish I could have gone to Hel, but my boyfriend is a “beachaholic.” Do you have beaches in Hel? *wink* It was great fun to see alligators and manatees in the Everglades, Key West and Fort Myers, not to mention the glamorous people on Miami beaches and on a cruise to Bahamas.

Helen: That sounds great fun! So the road trip provided you with a lot of inspiration?

Definitely. For example, I’ve dabbled into writing a short film script in the new book Headstrong Girls. It’s a time-travel piece, featuring some greedy people trying to kidnap Jane Austen into the future. It was very difficult to write, but quite satisfying. June is more knowledgeable than me about different forms of writings.

June: I’ve studied writing and journalism; written for advertising, magazines, and technical manuals; and dabbled in drabbles, short stories, novels, and film scripts. A film script has very little description – almost nothing about clothing, appearance, setting, or tone of voice. In a real movie, those things are determined by the director and actors; the writer has to give them room for their artistic interpretation. Scripts also have few thoughts for characters; if a character doesn’t say it or show it by his actions, then it’s not in the script. Often, the audience has to decide what a character is thinking. Honestly, I am very grateful to not have to write too much detail – I’ve seen some authors write pages of nothing but two people kissing and thinking. Bah, humbug!

Helen: Too much description can be a turn off! What about the short stories in the book? How are they different? We’ve both veteran and newbie writers visiting this blog. It will be good to hear your take about the differences.

June: Unlike a novel, a short story usually starts in the middle of a storyline and ends abruptly, with very little exposition and introduction. Since most of our stories in the book feature characters from Jane Austen novels, we could easily get away with little introduction, especially since some Pride and Prejudice characters – Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet, George Wickham – have almost become archetypes of hero, heroine, and villain. In Headstrong Girls, we started with characters and put them in challenging storylines and settings. For example, Debra Anne put Darcy and Lizzy in a South African preserve. Enid created a smarter Charles Bingley who schemed to court Jane Bennet behind his snobbish sisters’ interference, and I had a Wickham with many false names romancing wealthy and unsuspecting young women. But we could have started with storylines and then picked the characters – not necessarily Lizzy and Darcy. That’s a fun creative exercise for writers, to pick the least likely characters to do things.

Helen: So how did the three of you split up the work for creating Headstrong Girls? 

June: This is my second time publishing, but it’s different from the first time – I’m doing more proofreading and formatting of the final product. Debra Anne is the newbie, but she is a veteran editor, so she catches almost everything, especially missing commas. Enid is the one with the whip, just kidding, chasing us about deadlines.

Enid: Me with a whip? That’s an inspiration for another story. We all speak the same language but still had some language discussions. In a story set in 1812, I used the exclamation, “Bullock!” June thought it was supposed to be “bollocks” until Debra Anne explained that “bullock” once meant “cheat,” which fit the story scene.

June: Yes, it needed nearly ten emails before we agreed on what to do about “bullock.” And then, in a modern story, Debra Anne had a character exclaim, “Oh my god!” which I thought should have been capitalized – until I learned that English has changed in just the past few years, and god/God now depends on several factors.

Helen: That sounds like another stimulating discussion, about god/God. So the fruit of your labor and heated debate is available now?

Enid: Yes, Headstrong Girls, a bit of mystery, a bit of love, all inspired by Jane Austen, is available in any good ebook store. We are giving out an ebook to one lucky reader here.

June: Just leave a comment here about some heated discussions you have with your writing friends.

Helen: Entry is open to worldwide readers and closes on 18 March 2013. Happy reading and writing! Thank you, Enid and June. 

Enid and June: Thank you, Helen!

Helen: I hope everyone will link over to Amazon or Smashwords and take a look at Headstrong Girls, buy it, read it, and, if you like it, write a review. Again, thank you Enid and June for such a fun interview.


  1. Interesting interview. I always wonder how authors can write together like this. Congratulations!

  2. Thank you Helen for hosting us. T, it's very satisfying to write with friends. Do try it in future.

  3. It's a pleasure to be here, Helen! I don't find it difficult at all to write with friends. We respect each other's talents and abilities, and we edit and proofread each other's work -- the same as if we weren't publishing together. Very enjoyable!

  4. Great interview! I'm always fascinated by co-writing. And writing with well-known characters would be great--particularly because you don't have to give a lot of description, backstory, or explanation.

  5. My first thought was that you'd have a built-in audience in those that know and love the characters. On the other hand, those readers would have high expectations for you to meet.

  6. Quite a task to undertake.

  7. I agree, Ann. I've never written a book or story based on a real person, but it seems like it would be more difficult than writing a character who lives only in the writer's head.

  8. Thank you Elizabeth and Ann for dropping by. And a big hug for you Helen. I think if we write something based on a real person, we have to research more about him/her. The convenience of using JA's characters is readers know about them.

  9. Jane Austen is truly inspiring (I love her!) and I'd love to read about Darcy stalking around a South African preserve in a mood.

  10. "Stalking around": LOL, Yvonne, you sure know about Mr. Darcy!

  11. I purchased "Honor and Integrity" for my daughter as a Christmas present. She really enjoyed it, since she is a great fan of anything having to do with "Pride and Prejudice." After reading this interview, I am beginning to be intrigued, and might be persuaded to become a fan of those two books, as well as "Headstrong Girls."

  12. This was a really fun interview! And this book sounds great. Thanks, Helen.

  13. Thank you Delance for the purchase! I hope you or your daughter like Headstrong Girls too. We had fun writing it. Carol, thanks for dropping by.


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