Jack Caldwell is an author, amateur historian, professional economic developer, playwright, and like many Cajuns, a darn good cook. Born and raised in the Bayou County of Louisiana, Jack and his wife, Barbara, are Hurricane Katrina victims, and now make the upper Midwest their home. Always a history buff, Jack found and fell in love with Jane Austen in his twenties, struck by her innate understanding of the human condition.
Jack uses his work to share his knowledge of history. Through his characters, he hopes the reader gains a better understanding of what went on before, developing an appreciation for our ancestors' trials and tribulations. A devout convert to Roman Catholicism, Jack is married with three grown sons.
As usual, in our "Talking Jane Austen with ... " sessions there's a great giveaway for My Jane Asuten Book Club readers! Leave your comments and e-mail addresses below and two of you will have the chance to win a copy of Jack Caldwell PEMBERLEY RANCH!!! The giveaway is open to US and Canada readers only and will end next Wednesday 3rd November. Enjoy our interview and good luck to all of you!
I'm so glad to host the first man ever on My Jane Austen Book Club. It’s such a rare event! Well, let’s say unique so far. Quoting from a blogpost of yours … it takes a real man to write historical romance … so please, tell us all how and when you started doing it.
Maria Grazia , thank you for inviting me on My Jane Austen Book Club. It’s a pleasure talking with you.
I first read Jane Austen back in the early 1980’s, and I’ve always been fascinated by history. About ten years ago, I came upon The Republic of Pemberley, the first of many Jane Austen fan fiction sites on the Internet I would visit in the years to follow. I had no idea that fan fiction existed, and I enjoyed reading what others did with Miss Austen’s beloved characters. By 2005, my muse had convinced me to take a stab at it, combining my love of Austen with my deep interest in history. My first story, The Three Colonels, was very well received, and will be published by Sourcebooks in the spring of 2012. My muse was aflame and I have been writing ever since.
What do you particularly appreciate in Jane Austen’s work?
From the beginning, I was struck by Miss Austen’s understanding of the human condition. She knew how men and women acted and talked, admittedly in her version of the dialogue of Regency England. From the beginning of time, men and woman have been involved in the great game of love and understanding. The timeliness of her stories is as real today as it was two hundred years ago.
Also, as a reader, I admire Miss Austen’s genius in turning a phrase. Is there any opening sentence better than, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife”?
As a man, which of her fascinating heroines would you be more pleased to meet and woo?
Ha! As I already have met, wooed, and married the perfect woman—my dear wife Barbara—I can’t say I’m fascinated by any one of Miss Austen’s heroines. Rather, I would say that I admire the wit and brightness of Elizabeth Bennet, the quiet sensibleness of Elinor Dashwood, and the steadfastness of Anne Elliot. Characteristics that are found in my lovely wife.
Well, you are very lucky Jack. You can say you’ve found a typical Austen ending for your own life! A marriage of love with a real Austen heroine. Which of her heroes do you feel resembles you the most?
I would like to say Fitzwilliam Darcy, but Barbara would say that I’m more like Frederick Wentworth. Hard working and loyal, but a bit hard-headed.
How do you explain such a great success for everything Austen these days?
Obviously, the films help. But I think there is a desire to look back at a simpler time. Plus, Miss Austen wrote about such wonderful, real characters. Readers just want to continue hanging out with them.
Your Austenesque novel Pemberley Ranch is going to be released in December and it is such an original, different interpretation of our beloved P&P. You moved the Bennets and their adventures both in space and time. Tell us something more about it, I’m so curious!
Pride and Prejudice is based upon misconceptions the lead characters have about each other over class, behavior, and motivations. By moving the story to Reconstruction-era Texas, I’ve kicked the onflict up a few notches.
In my novel, Pemberley Ranch, Beth Bennet is a farm girl from Ohio whose only brother died while serving in the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, the family moved to Rosings, Texas to get a new start. There, she meets and befriends a fellow Yankee, George Whitehead, who works for the occupation government. She also comes in contact with the reclusive Will Darcy, ex-Confederate officer and owner of the largest spread in the county, Pemberley Ranch. Beth is both attracted and repulsed by Darcy, for she had vowed to hate Southerners for causing her brother’s death. Whitehead knows Darcy, and his tales of the former Rebel only intensify Beth’s aversion to the rancher.
Unfortunately for the Bennets, not everything is as it seems. Evil is stalking the plains of Texas, and Beth’s family is in deadly danger. Will Beth set aside her prejudices and place her trust in the man she rejected—the man who is her family’s only hope of salvation?
What do you think of the many Austen adaptations, I mean, the several different movies and TV series based on her major works? Have you seen any of them? Have you got any favorite one/s?
Honestly, I have seen almost all of the Jane Austen TV and/or movie adaptations. Most are very, very good. 2009’s “Sense and Sensibility” and 1995’s “Persuasion” were excellent.
My favorite P&P adaptation is the first one I saw—the 1980 BBC miniseries starring Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul. I enjoyed both the Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth and the Keira Knightley/Matthew Macfadyen versions, but Garvie/Rintoul is the definitive depiction, in my opinion.
However, my wife and I hold a special place in our hearts for the Bollywood extravaganza, “Bride and Prejudice.” It’s a hoot!
Would you accept if they asked you to adapt your Pemberley Ranch? Any suggestion for the leads in the eventual casting?
I would love to have Pemberley Ranch made into a movie. I’ll leave the casting suggestions to the readers, though.
I’ve asked this several times before but, maybe, you are the right Austenite to ask this. How would you convince my teenage male students to read Jane Austen? I usually face a hard task when I try … my attempts are rarely very successful. Any tips?
Young men—and men in general—consider Austen “chick lit,” to their detriment. Jane Austen is one of the giants of English literature. I have a couple of Ideas.
Persuasion is the most “male” of Austen’s works—the reader has a greater understanding of who Frederick Wentworth is than they have of Fitzwilliam Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, which is told through Elizabeth’s eyes. Wentworth is a naval officer, dashing and successful at war. He is also deeply hurt by what he considers a betrayal by the girl he loves. What teenaged boy doesn’t understand that?
Another approach is what was used in the amusing film, “The Jane Austen Book Club.” To put it bluntly, if a guy wants to understand girls, read what the girls read. They will get more dates. Same reason to take your girl to a “chick flick.” If your girl is happy, the guy will be happy.
Persuasion is my favourite one! I ‘ve always felt Anne is the Austen heroine I can sympathize with the most. But I’ve never thought of it as the most “male” of Jane Austen’s works. Thanks a lot! It’ll be a great pleasure to try. Any other Austenesque future projects?
I have written or co-written eight novels using Miss Austen’s characters, both Regency and Modern, and I’m in the process of writing a ninth. Pemberley Ranch is the first to be published. The Three Colonels, a Regency sequel to Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, centered on the Battle of Waterloo, will be published in early 2012.
Excerpts from this and my other works can be found at my web site, Ramblings of a Cajun in Exile .
I also invite your readers to stop by Austen Authors , the blog I share with some truly outstanding Austenesque writers.
Final task, Jack! You’ve got about 50 words to convince our readers to read/buy your PEMBERLEY RANCH.
Pemberley Ranch – hailed by critics as a “fresh and original” re-imagining of Jane Austen’s classic novel that is “’Pride & Prejudice’ meets ‘Gone With The Wind’!”
Not enough? How about—William Darcy is a tall, handsome cowboy. How’s that?
Maria Grazia, thank you. I’ve enjoyed this very much.
Thank you, Jack. I wish you great success in the Jane Austen fan fiction world and, in general, with your writing! I both love P&P and Gone with the Wind so I can’t wait to read your PEMBERLEY RANCH! Now it's your turn, dear readers! Suggest your ideal cast for a movie adaptation of PEMBERLEY RANCH or just leave a comment and your e-mail address to enter the double giveaway! I'll announce the names of the winners next Wednesday 3rd November. But remember, US and Canada only!