Books: midnight in austenland
  How it started

This book started with a character sketch. Well, I suppose technically it started years before that with austenland, which was published in 2006. In November 2009, Jerusha Hess and I were working on the Austenland screenplay and I thought it would be helpful to her if I wrote up character sketches for all the major characters. With Colonel Andrews, I wrote that he is like the Julie McCoy of Pembrook Park. He enjoys making up little entertainments for the guests, such as performing theatricals, making up mini-mysteries for them to solve, etc.

I got to thinking about that last item, and the idea of it pleased me so much. What kind of mystery would Andrews invent? And what if there was a second, possibly real mystery as well? What if a guest wasn't sure which, if any, were make believe? Like Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey. Austenland was a perfect venue to further explore the ideas of reality and fantasy through mystery. The idea was positively alluring.

I had never considered writing a sequel to austenland. I liked Jane's story where it ended and nothing provoked me to bring her back. But now I was having ideas of another Austenland adventure. Pembrook Park went on without Jane, its inhabitants continued to live. Who else might visit and get entangled in Colonel Andrews's mystery? The idea of Charlotte's story came to me in such wonderful detail I knew immediately I was hooked.

It wouldn't be a sequel. I thought of it instead as a kind of Fantasy Island (note the Love Boat reference above as well--you know how I spent my Saturday nights in the early 1980s). Each week new guest stars came to Fantasy Island to live out their fantasy, got what they needed, then went home again. Pembrook Park was a sort of Fantasy Island, wasn't it? I could write another book where some of the characters from the first book are still present, but a new main character arrives on vacation. The idea that Miss Charming would still be there seemed an absolute (and made me laugh). Mrs. Wattlesbrook is still in charge. But there would be a new guest, new gentlemen, new adventures.

I started writing it almost immediately. As Jerusha and I continued to work on the screenplay through the first half of 2010, I kept getting more ideas for Austenland and was fully immersed myself. All in all, it was quite a quick book, taking me only a year from first to final draft. And it was a gift too. Most of my time writing, I was pregnant with twins (nausea leading into bed rest). Escaping to Austenland, like Charlotte, was exactly what I needed.

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