The Calico Critic issues a warm welcome to Linda Beutler, author of the new Austenesque novel, A Will of Iron! Today Linda presents an excerpt from her latest work and also offers an international giveaway of a paperback copy of the book. Thanks, Linda-- and good luck to all who enter the contest!
Dear Laura and the Calico Critic Readers,
Thanks so very much for hosting a stop on the A Will of Iron Blog Tour. When the germ of the idea for this story sprouted as my editor and I worked on another story, I didn’t quite realize how Shakespearean in structure the seedling story would become. By that I mean, with some amusing yet gruesome twists and turns, the good end well and the bad end not just badly, but dead! I had no idea I had launched upon a morality tale, but there it is! It is half Shakespearean comedy, half Greek tragedy (without following the action in 24 hours form).
Anne de Bourgh makes some wrong-headed choices, and we learn through her journals—entries of which appear peppered throughout the story—that her moral compass is as skewed as one would expect, given her confined and unvarying relationship with so domineering a mother. Anne’s will to escape leads to desperate measures. Can anything good come of decisions so bad? Therein lies our story.
In addition to giving us insights into Anne’s misbegotten motivations, her journals also provide glimpses of her astute and often acidic opinions of her family and her limited circle of acquaintance. The excerpts I’ve included are first, her reaction to the hiring of William Collins as the Hunsford vicar, followed by her initial impressions of the vicar’s new wife, the former Charlotte Lucas. In these instances, we might agree with her summations!
EXCERPTS: A Will of Iron by Linda Beutler
14 August 1811
It is not to be believed. Had I not heard the announcement myself, I would never ever have known my mother could sink so low. She has named William Collins as the vicar for Hunsford. I would have wagered the de Bourgh turquoise and diamond diadem that she would have chosen the more scholarly James Leigh. Mr. Leigh is two and thirty, from a fine old family, married with two children, and seemed well spoken when I was in his company for his interview with Mama. He is a Cambridge man, as I recall.
But, alas not.
A dinner was given today for the local dignitaries (such as they are) and the verger of the church, who will not be replaced (without regard to the flagrant embezzlement he seems to think part of the emolument of his office) since he has my mother’s support, and Collins will not thwart her. They all came to stare at this repulsive and shabby fellow. Never ever, ever have I heard anyone lavish such praise and flattery upon her, yet I do believe the misbegotten creature to be utterly sincere. He is young, stupid, lacking all self-awareness, wholly without fashion, and sings his own praises behind a guise of humble servitude. He cannot reason, which renders him incapable of guile, at least any that cannot be seen through. His countless vain little niceties are, I presume, the product of much study, and if he tells me again that my ill health has robbed the court of its finest jewel, I shall run mad. No…I have not the energy for that, but I do think I could manage an oyster fork in his throat. His repellent Adam’s apple makes a fine large target. Yes, that I would happily do.
He is unmarried. Mama will have him marry, and together these two jackdaws have mentioned something about Mr. Collins being cousin and heir to an entailed estate currently populated by a healthy incumbent, his wife, and five daughters, some or all of marriageable age. There is some plot afoot to send him off thither, to which I heartily subscribe. Let him visit his Hertfordshire cousins as often as may be. Tonight I am a disgruntled —A de B
29 December 1811
What would you have me say of the vicar’s wife? What a conundrum she is. Her name is Charlotte Collins, formerly Lucas, and her family are near neighbours of the estate Mr. Collins is to inherit.
She is not tall, neither fair nor dark, and of middling figure. But her grey eyes are intelligent, and she must occasionally hide a blush at some foolish pronouncement of her husband’s. As to the nonsense of my mother, Mrs. Collins will learn to hide her astonishment better in time. I cannot think why she would marry into a situation such as this. Relations with the man must be most distasteful, and she cannot have had any accurate information about the disposition and manners of my mother. Given the exorbitant praise heaped upon his patroness by Mr. Collins, I am certain this is so.
Poor Mrs. Collins must have entered the neighbourhood assuming an independent control over her household that she will never have while Mama yet lives. Given that the lady appears to be on the wrong side of five and twenty—she may be older than me—Mr. Collins must have been seen as a welcome pis aller, and she must be happy to no longer be a burden to her family. But the fact remains, she has married one of the stupidest men in England. How can she make herself easy with such a man as her master and my mother as his exacting benefactress?
Soon and very often, Mrs. Collins is going to wish the current incumbent of Longbourn might die of a sudden fit, no matter how intimate and pleasurable her friendship with the family. Most assuredly, when the letter comes announcing Mr. Collins is to inherit, the lady will get herself to Hertfordshire before the dust has settled from the express rider’s horse. —A de B
An additional thought from Linda, for our conservative readers:
"The book does contain mature content, mainly concentrated in the last two chapters. The themes of the entire novel are mature, in that the plot removes around the untimely death (strict moralists would say a deserved end) of Anne de Bourgh due to the complications of an illicit and thus far secret pregnancy. But as I say in the preface to theses two excerpts, the good end well and the bad most decidedly do not. But there is also something Puckish about Anne. She does want to see her cousins happy; she is not wholly lacking in compassion, she is simply remarkably self-centered. The story could also be seen as a cautionary tale against stupendously bad parenting!"
GIVEAWAY: Paperback Copy of A Will of Iron
by Linda Beutler
Ends July 29, 2015 at 12am EST
About the Author
Linda Beutler is an Oregon native who began writing professionally in 1996 (meaning that is when they started paying her...), in the field of garden writing. First published in magazines, Linda graduated to book authorship in 2004 with the publication of Gardening With Clematis (2004, Timber Press). In 2007 Timber Press presented her second title, Garden to Vase, a partnership with garden photographer Allan Mandell. Now in 2013 Linda is working with a new publisher, and writing in a completely different direction. Funny how life works out, but more on that in a minute.
Linda lives the gardening life: she is a part-time instructor in the horticulture department at Clackamas Community College, writes and lectures about gardening topics throughout the USA, and is traveling the world through her active participation in the International Clematis Society, of which she is the current president. Then there's that dream job--which she is sure everyone else must covet but which she alone has--Linda Beutler is the curator of the Rogerson Clematis Collection, which is located at Luscher Farm, a farm/park maintained by the city of Lake Oswego. They say to keep resumes brief, but Linda considers Gardening With Clematis her 72,000 word resume. She signed on as curator to North America's most comprehensive and publicly accessible collection of the genus clematis in July 2007, and they will no doubt not get shut of her until she can be carried out in a pine box.
And now for something completely different: in September 2011, Linda checked out a book of Jane Austen fan fiction from her local library, and was, to put it in the modern British vernacular, gobsmacked. After devouring every title she could get her hands on, she quite arrogantly decided that, in some cases, she could do better, and began writing her own expansions and variations of Pride and Prejudice. The will to publish became too tempting, and after viewing the welcoming Meryton Press website, she printed out the first three chapters of her book, and out it went, a child before the firing squad. Luckily, the discerning editors at Meryton Press saved the child from slaughter, and Linda's first work of Jane Austenesque fiction, The Red Chrysanthemum, published in September 2013. Her second work of fiction, From Longbourn to London was published in August of 2014.
Linda shares a small garden in Southeast Portland with her husband, and pets that function as surrogate children. Her personal collection of clematis numbers something around 230 taxa. These are also surrogate children, and just as badly behaved.
CONNECT WITH LINDA BEUTLER
Check out the other stops in the blog tour!
Blog Tour Schedule:
7/6: Review at Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell
7/7: Guest Post & Giveaway at More Agreeably Engaged
7/8: Excerpt at My Kids Led Me Back to Pride & Prejudice
7/9: Review at Wings of Paper
7/10: Guest Post & Giveaway at So Little Time…
7/11: Review at Half Agony, Half Hope
7/12: Excerpt & Giveaway at My Jane Austen Book Club
7/13: Review at Songs and Stories
7/14: Review at Austenprose
7/15: Guest Post & Giveaway at Babblings of a Bookworm
7/16: Review at Margie’s Must Reads
7/17: Excerpt & Giveaway at Best Sellers and Best Stellars
7/18: Guest Post & Giveaway at My Love for Jane Austen
7/19: Excerpt & Giveaway at The Calico Critic
7/20: Review at Diary of an Eccentric