Welcome back! Today you are in for a treat! We have Shannon Winslow here to tell us all about her new release Colonel Brandon... In His Own Words. Grab a cup of tea and get yourself cozy for an interview with Shannon.
Q: What drew you to the story of Sense & Sensibility?
A: I love ALL of Jane Austen’s novels, and I’ve long had the goal of writing at least one book related to each of her six. I had several P&P books already, one that I count as my Mansfield Park novel (Leap of Hope), one for Northanger Abbey (Murder at Northanger Abbey), and an homage to Persuasion (The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen). That left Emma and Sense and Sensibility. The tie-breaker between the two was that S&S will be the theme at the JASNA convention this year, which I will be attending. So I thought the timing would be perfect to do that one first. I’m also interested in the dynamic of two sisters, close in age but miles apart in temperament.
Q: Why did you want to tell Colonel Brandon's story?
A: My books don’t change what Austen wrote; they add on or supplement it (prequels, sequels, minor character stories, etc.). In other words, filling in the blanks Jane Austen left behind is my bread and butter, and there are a LOT of intriguing blanks when it comes to Colonel Brandon. Since Sense and Sensibility follows Marianne’s and Elinor’s movements, they are well covered. But there’s quite a bit of time when the men (Edward and Colonel Brandon) are ‘off camera’, so to speak, creating blanks. And much of what we know about Colonel Brandon happened long before the scope of the novel. We’re only briefly told about it; we don’t see and experience it for ourselves. More huge blanks for me to fill!
I really enjoyed writing the first-person, hero’s point of view in my previous book (Fitzwilliam Darcy in His Own Words), and so I decided to do the same kind of thing for my S&S book. But Edward or Brandon? Hmm. No contest! In my opinion, Brandon is not only the more admirable character, he also has a much more interesting backstory to work with. What about his family, his sad history with Eliza, and his military years in India? Lots of story potential, in addition to fleshing out his romance with Marianne. Of course, Alan Rickman deserves a good chunk of the credit for making me a fan of Colonel Brandon in the first place!
Q: Who was the hardest character to write in this story?
A: I will have to mention two, and not so much that they were hard to write but hard to include. Eliza, the younger, was problematic. Her existence is important, and I wanted to bring her into the story, but I discovered there wasn’t much opportunity, since Brandon carefully shielded her existence from everybody else. Edward also posed some difficulty. Although he’s brought to the reader’s attention early on in S&S, Brandon doesn’t meet him until much later, and he doesn’t know of Elinor’s prior relationship with him until nearly the end. So again, the question was how to appropriately include Edward in a book told entirely from Brandon’s point of view!
Q: What was your plan for handling the large age gap between Colonel Brandon and Marianne?
A: First, let me say that although some modern readers may be slightly uncomfortable with the age difference (same thing with Emma and Mr. Knightley), it would not have been seen as inappropriate in Austen’s day. Girls of 17 or 18 married men twice their age all the time without raising any eyebrows. Jane Austen wouldn’t have made two April/August romances in her six novels if she had thought it unseemly, and you will notice that none of Marianne’s friends or relations objected to the match either. Plus 35 certainly isn’t “old.” So the only place it was a problem was in Marianne’s mind – her personal perception and opinion – which then became a problem for Brandon too, of course, as an obstacle needing to be overcome.
Basically, time was the solution. You may not realize it, but according to S&S, two full years elapse between when Marianne and Brandon meet and when they eventually marry. I show Brandon being very patient with her over those two years, wooing her ever so gently and gradually. During that same period, Marianne naturally matures out of some of her earlier, arbitrary and dogmatic ideas, helped along by the wisdom she gains through her life-threatening illness. She does a lot of growing up, and her eyes are ultimately opened to Brandon’s superior worth. She goes to him willingly in the end. It made for an unusual but touching way for the proposal and acceptance to eventually play out!
Q: Any future projects you can tell us about?
A: I’ve got two or three ideas rolling around in my mind, but I haven’t decided which to work on first. As you now know, I have an Emma book left to write! – Mr. Knightley in His Own Words? –or- The Gentlemen of Highbury? What do you think? But I may do another P&P book first. I’d like to write a prequel featuring the courtship of Mr. & Mrs. Gardiner alongside the courtship of Mr. & Mrs. Bennet, or possibly a P&P / Romeo and Juliet mashup. Those ideas should keep me busy quite a while. Or tell me what YOU would like me to write next!
Bonus question - What is your favorite quote from Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility?
For a succinct commentary on the difference between the two sisters, I love this dry remark to Marianne: “It is not everyone,” said Elinor, “who has your passion for dead leaves.” Otherwise, although I’d like to quote half the final chapter, I will content myself with this snippet, which sums up (yay!) our happy ending – in Sense and Sensibility as well as Colonel Brandon in His Own Words:
Colonel Brandon was now as happy as all those who best loved him believed he deserved to be. In Marianne he was consoled for every past affliction; - her regard and her society restored his mind to animation and his spirits to cheerfulness; and that Marianne found her own happiness in forming his was equally the persuasion and delight of each observing friend. Marianne could never love by halves; and her whole heart became, in time, as much devoted to her husband as it had once been to Willoughby.
Colonel Brandon is the consummate gentleman: honorable, kind almost to a fault, ever loyal and chivalrous. He’s also silent and grave, though. So, what events in his troubled past left him downcast, and how does he finally find the path to a brighter future? In Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen gives us glimpses, but not the complete picture.
Now Colonel Brandon tells us his full story in His Own Words. He relates the truth about his early family life and his dear Eliza – his devotion to her and the devastating way she was lost to him forever. He shares with us a poignant tale from his military days in India – about a woman named Rashmi and how she likewise left a permanent mark on his soul. And of course Marianne. What did Brandon think and feel when he first saw her? How did his hopes for her subsequently rise, plummet, and then eventually climb upwards again. After Willoughby’s desertion, what finally caused Marianne to see Colonel Brandon in a different light?
This is not a variation but a supplement to the original story, chronicled in Brandon’s point of view. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the things Jane Austen didn’t tell us about a true hero – the very best of men.
So, dear readers, I have read this book and highly recommend it! I always enjoy Shannon's unique perspective on Austen's characters. If you enjoy JAFF that leaves the facts in place but fills in some of the blank spots, this book is for you.
Let me know in the comments if you plan on reading this book and/or there are any book you would enjoy seeing me review.
Until next time,