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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Midnight in Austenland: Review, Author Interview, and Giveaway!

I was extremely lucky to be able to read Midnight in Austenland prior to its release date. And, if that weren't good enough, I contacted the publisher and they agreed to BOTH an author interview AND a giveaway! How lucky can a girl get?

I'll start with my review, followed by the interview with author Shannon Hale, and end this post with the giveaway details.

Midnight in AustenlandMidnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Charlotte Kinder never saw her husband's unfaithfulness coming, or the subsequent divorce. She's a successful entrepreneur, but that isn't helping her feel content with life. She starts reading Jane Austen novels and wishes for the Austen lifestyle over the horrible blind dates her friends are insisting on.

And then she finds out about Austenland. Two weeks of living an Austen experience in England, complete with period dress and actors that make you feel like you are part of one of the novels you adore.

This follow up novel to Hale's Austenland is a very enjoyable read. There is romance, but the focus is more on a mystery. Charlotte is a wonderful heroine.

I was certain that I had solved the mystery, but I was wrong. It was hard to let go of my suspicions, but even with that, reading Midnight in Austenland was time well spent.

What do you have in common with Shannon Hale? Visit her website http://www.squeetus.com/ to find out. I discovered all sorts of fun details, like Shannon is also one of five children born and raised in Utah. She loved reading and ate Saltine Crackers. We are like two peas in a pod (well, until she got older and became famous and all that). ;)

On to the interview:

Shannon,

*Being the author or co-author of 11 published books, with more in the works and a movie adaptation in post-production, is writing still fun or is it now a "job"?

It is both, strangely enough, just as it always was. I love writing, and yet it's the hardest work I've ever done. Sometimes it's fun, sometimes it's not, but completing a draft or book is always satisfying, more so than any other work.

*An author friend of mine recently decided to not read reviews of her books. How do you feel about your reviews?

I think your friend is wise! Reviews are SO important. Even bad ones (alas!) get the word out and can bring more readers to a book. But they are for the readers, not the writer. The book is done, there's no changing it, so reviews are not helpful feedback. No matter how many drafts I do, no matter how hard I work and how much I love a book, someone will not. That's only natural. And each book is so different, the experience of writing each novel so unique, hearing what someone didn't like about one book doesn't help me make the next one more broadly appealing. I do read what reviews come my way because I'm always curious how something is received, but I don't seek them out. The hard words can be so crippling, it can be hard to keep writing.

*Your website says that you like to read, but it also seems like you have a very hectic schedule between writing and being the mother of four (including young twins) and a wife. When do you find time to read?

Ay, that's the rub! It's very hard, and since I had my twins (child #3 & #4) my reading time has suffered the most. It's impossible to read during the day. At night, once all kids are in bed and after I've cleaned up a bit and taken care  of any urgent business, I'm ready to fall down dead. That's when I read. Some nights for five minutes, some nights for an hour. I wish it were more, but there it is.

*You served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Paraguay. Do you have any plans to go back to visit, or if you already have, what was your favorite part going as a tourist? Also, are you still fluent in Spanish?


I haven't been back. I always wanted to, but at first after returning I was a poor college student. By the time I was working and could afford it, I was afraid no one would remember me. Paraguay is not really a place for tourists. I have such fond memories of that country. I can't claim Spanish fluency any longer. I used to be! Lack of practice has twisted my accent into Gringa Maxima and taken a hatchet to my vocabulary. My husband also speaks so we converse sometimes at least.

*One might assume you are a big Jane Austen fan based on your novels Austenland and Midnight in Austenland. Are you, in fact, a big Austen fan, and do you have a favorite Austen novel?

Of course! My favorite was always Pride & Prejudice, and while it still is SO good to me, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey are vying for top spot each time I reread them.

*What do you hope readers will take away from Midnight in Austenland?

Whatever they need.

*When you write, do you feel any fan or publisher pressure about the content?

When I write, I am able to block out the voices and just focus on what the story needs. If I couldn't, I don't think I could write any more books. The fear would shatter me. That doesn't mean I don't fret--I absolutely fret about what people will think and fear their displeasure. But happily I can turn that off while I'm writing! My publisher has been great. The stories are what I want to write.

And some rapid fire questions:

*Milk chocolate or semi-sweet?


Milk

 *Utah or BYU?

Yes

*Laundry or dishes?


Occasionally

*Chick flick or Action-Adventure?

Both, if they're well-written

I love how you wrote, "rejection doesn't always mean 'You stink!' It can mean, 'You haven't found your home yet. Keep looking.'" You are a great example of never giving up.

Also, thank you for writing novels that are enjoyable and clean.
 

Thank you!

On to the giveaway:

Thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing, one lucky follower of LiteraryTimeOut will receive a copy of Midnight in Austenland!

To enter, follow this blog (by clicking the Join This Site button in the upper left) and comment below letting me know you've done so.

For additional entries you can share this post on your blog, on Facebook, and/or on Twitter. Make sure you come back here and comment separately (with the links) for each of these.

The giveaway will be open until 11:59 PM on Valentine's Day. I will use a random number generator to select the winner (so be sure you have a separate comment for each entry). I will post the winner on February 15th.

Good luck and happy reading!

*You must have a mailing address in the Continental United States to enter the giveaway.