Please welcome J B Grantham, author of Mr Darcy’s Guide to Pemberley, due to be released on 1st October 2017. The book will provide the reader with an opportunity to ‘walk’ the grounds of Pemberley guided by its Master, none other than Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy himself, as he invites you to discover its beauty and secrets.
Julia very kindly agreed to be interviewed for my Blog and so, without further delay, here is our conversation!
First of all, thank you so much, Cass, for inviting me to visit your gorgeous blog. I really appreciate this opportunity to talk to your readers about my new book and all things Pemberley.
Since my very first meeting with Cass, which – very appropriately – took place in Winchester, we’ve been discovering various common interests and obsessions. Apart from Jane Austen (obsession, obviously), we share a love for Harry Potter (also obsession, of course), English history and countryside, themed jewellery and – quite perplexingly – the size of asparagus in different parts of the world (I won’t attempt an explanation of how this came about, but one has to tell it like it is)!
I was also privileged and delighted to attend a launch party at 4 Sydney Place, Bath for Cass’s book, co-written with her friend, Ada Bright, The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen, and it remains one of my favourite memories of attending a Jane-Austen-inspired event.
The invitation to visit Cass’ blog could not have been met with more enthusiasm – I am very happy to be here and very grateful for such thoughtful questions.
And I am grateful to you for joining me here, Julia! Now, tell us a little about how Jane Austen first came into your life and your first encounter with Mr Darcy!
It was a long time ago, in what I refer to sometimes as ‘my previous life’. In that life, I was a medical doctor and a lecturer at a medical university in Russia. I’d worked on my PhD in gastroenterology and lived in happy (or, should I say, unhappy) ignorance of Pemberley, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy. This continued until, by some absolute miracle, one of the Russian TV channels purchased and broadcast the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. It was shown over 6 weeks, one episode a week, and I just couldn’t wait for each instalment.
I must say, Jane Austen was not particularly known in the Soviet Union and, subsequently, Russia. Although it is very different now, the ideological bosses of the Soviet era did not see her books as political enough. Her characters didn’t suffer at the hands of ruling classes, their dreams and aspirations were too domestic, they were far from revolutionary, and the endings were too happy. Austen’s sharp tongue and merciless satire were, of course, lost on those who made decisions about what the ‘masses’ should read.
I worked at a university, but no one in my department had read Pride and Prejudice or any other of Jane Austen’s books. Of course, I could not rest until I found the book in a Russian translation. One of the old professors had an ancient edition, and I read it in one sitting. With most of my female colleagues becoming enchanted with and bewildered by Mr Darcy, my favourite character was Elizabeth – then and ever since. So much so that, when the opportunity arose for me to come to England to do some research in my field of medicine, I accepted it only because it was the country of Jane Austen and Elizabeth Bennet.
That’s fascinating, Julia. I’m so pleased you eventually discovered the pleasures of Jane Austen’s world. What, then, gave you the inspiration to create your gorgeous book, Mr Darcy’s Guide to Pemberley?
I spent many years in the UK before I had a chance to visit Lyme Park, which for me always has been Pemberley. During the years when I couldn’t visit, I was searching the bookshops and then, later, the Internet, for an illustrated book about the property. I searched and searched and couldn’t find anything apart from a National Trust paperback. I bought it, of course; but it did not satisfy my desire to see more of the place. That is why, after my first visit to Pemberley a few years ago, I started drafting this book so that everyone could learn more about this beautiful place, especially people who live far away and cannot easily come and visit Lyme Park.
I’m so happy you made that decision! The book is beautifully illustrated, but who created the drawings, and can you tell us a bit about the process?
All the images, apart from those clearly mentioned in the notes, are my own work. The process is very long and not straightforward. It starts with pencils and watercolours, of course. Then I use scissors for various cut-outs, combine pictures together, scan them and edit further on a graphics tablet. Each image is re-scanned and re-edited many times, which is why it took me over three years to complete the book. And I am still trying to change some of the images!
As for the photographs from the BBC 1995 adaptation, they are copyrighted to the BBC, so I purchased licences for each of them. It is a detailed process – you need to list the title you are using them in, the page number, even the size, but I felt it was the right thing to do.
Your dedication and hard work has resulted in a delightful book!
It is clear you have a deep love for, and knowledge of, Lyme Park in Cheshire, (the National Trust managed property which stood in for the exterior and grounds of Pemberley in the iconic BBC adaptation of Pride & Prejudice). How did you research the ‘Pemberley estate’?
I tried to read everything I could. As I said – it wasn’t much. Visiting Lyme Park and talking to its wonderful guides was a great source of information, but it still felt not enough, and then one day I just hit lucky! I discovered a reprinted book from 1917, published originally in New York, The House of Lyme: from its foundation to the end of the eighteenth century, by the Lady Newton. It is a thick tome, and, of course, I was writing about Pemberley, not the history of the Lyme Park estate, but I used several details from the book in the Guide, such as the first names of both Mr Darcy’s grandfather and his father.
I am pledging 10% of the book’s profits to the Foundation, which raises money for literacy projects in Jane Austen’s name, and I am very happy to support a worthy cause so close to my heart.
That’s a wonderful gesture, Julia.
Now, can you share what your favourite part of the grounds is, the place where you like to sit and just take everything in?
In the grounds of Pemberley I usually walk and walk – there is so much to take in before dark. But, when my legs give up under me, my favourite place to sit is, undoubtedly, the covered top terrace of the rose garden.
It is important to mention that some constructions at Lyme Park were added later than Pride and Prejudice’s timeline. However, they featured in the TV adaptation and are there now for every visitor to see. To deal with this dilemma, I marked with an asterisk all the places that did not exist in 1814 (when Mr Darcy was writing his guide book), but are there now.
It is an inevitable challenge when writing this sort of book – a fusion of fantasy and reality – but my aim was to do justice to a place I love and, as much as possible, to enable the reader to separate the reality from fiction should they wish to. That is why the names of real people – architects and craftsmen – are highlighted in bold italic, while fictional characters are not highlighted in this way. In other words, I took all precautions to keep the fantasy alive while staying true to facts.
And you’ve done a wonderful job!
You have a beautiful garden of your own. Did any part of it inspire aspects of your book – the illustrations of the individual blooms, for example?
It is rather the other way around, in that I always have Pemberley in mind when I work in my garden – not that it is anywhere near it in scale or grandeur, but one always can dream. For example, ever since I noticed small islands of daisies growing in the lawns of Pemberley, I started leaving them to grow in my lawn – daisies, white clover – these little patches of flowers look great on the lawn and attract hundreds of bees, and the idea came to me from Pemberley.
I’ll tell you another amazing story about our garden and Lyme Park. Our house is quite old, with one wall dating back to 1800, and there is a plaque built into the outside chimney depicting an arm holding a banner.
Imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered these severed arms with a banner can be found in abundance at Lyme House! How astonished I was to discover this was the ‘Augmentation of Honour’ of the Legh family, an honour bestowed on the family in 1575 by Queen Elizabeth I, in recognition of a courageous rescue of the Black Prince standard by a Legh family ancestor, Thomas Danyers.
How this symbol found its way onto the chimney of our house is a mystery I am currently trying to decipher.
Wow, that’s fascinating, Julia, and what a wonderful potential connection to a place that has become so significant to you! Thank you so much for coming along to share some of the background behind your love of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and the inspiration behind the gorgeous and innovative Mr Darcy’s Guide to Pemberley.
I’m proud to say I was asked to write a review for inclusion in the book, and I highly recommend it, not only to fans of Pride and Prejudice, but anyone who loves history, English landscapes, stately homes and stunning gardens.
About the Author
J B Grantham is a wife, mother, medical doctor, PhD, university lecturer, businesswoman, training consultant, video producer, an aspiring author of children’s fiction, a Harry Potter fanatic, Jane Austen enthusiast, the mother of cats (two), ducks (multiple) and a pheasant, a Facebook blogger with a great following (thank you, guys!), a Creative Director of the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation (we are all volunteers there), a writer and illustrator of Jane Austen-inspired travel fiction.
About the Book and its Specifications
Sumptuously presented, and doing full justice to the stunning place it describes, this book is the first and only of its kind. It is only available as a hardback, wrapped in a smooth dustcover with gold emboss. Inside, the book is printed on high quality silky paper with full colour paintings adorning every page. Hand-drawn maps guide you around Mr Darcy’s extensive estate and perfectly imagine every detail as if you were walking the garden paths beside your generous (and handsome!) host.
From the author:
“When I brought my specifications to the printers their reply was: ‘Sounds like a nice book with every high priced print process known to man and the most expensive paper you can buy.’ That scared me a little, but I had to stick to it to do justice to the beautiful place this book is about.”
– hardback, landscape, 28×21 cm
– Dust cover with gold emboss
– Satin paper
– Full colour throughout
– 108 pages, with illustrations on every page
Because the book will be expensive to print, pre-orders will be fulfilled first. There may then be some available for general sale.
How to Order Your Copy
You can pre-order to save money and secure your copy.
Firstly, this way you secure your copy. The book is a limited edition and the number of copies produced will be strongly determined by the number of pre-orders we receive.
Secondly, there is a special introductory price on pre-orders, saving £5 off the regular price of the book.
The book will be released on 1st October 2017, and you will not be charged until the date of release.
It is coming to Amazon.co.uk in October at RRP £25 + p&p
Pre-order at https://gumroad.com/pemberleybooks for £20 + p&p only
The Jane Austen Literacy Foundation
J B Grantham is delighted to be supporting the Jane Austen Literary Foundation, a registered not-for-profit organisation. The Foundation was created in honour of Jane Austen, to improve global literacy rates by raising money to fund reading and writing resources for communities in need across the world, by Caroline Jane Knight, Jane Austen’s fifth great niece, who has also kindly written the Foreword for the book.
Julia is offering a fabulous giveaway for one lucky winner! It’s open internationally, is absolutely unique and cannot be replicated or purchased in any shops because it is completely handmade by talented artists.
This is what you could win:
- An A5 portrait of Mr Darcy by an amazing artist, E Tarnovski;
- A Jane Austen silhouette badge;
- Four Jane Austen books pendants (they can be worn as individual pendants, or as part of a necklace or a charm bracelet) – all by talented young artist, Alyona.
To enter, please leave a comment below answering the following question from Julia:
“If you could choose a friend amongst Jane Austen’s characters (only a friend), who would it be and why?”
Good luck everyone!
NB: The giveaway will run until midnight UK time on Monday, 4th September 2017, and the winner will be announced here on the Blog. If the prize is not claimed within 48 hours, a further draw will be made.
Where to find J B Grantham
Connect with J B Grantham on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100016605124868
Follow the Mr Darcy’s Guide to Pemberley Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pemberleybooks
Follow Julia’s Blog Looking for Elizabeth: https://elizabethdarcysite.wordpress.com/