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An Interview with Alice McVeigh, author of Darcy

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Alice has been published by Orion/Hachette in contemporary fiction, by Unbound (using a pen name) in speculative fiction, and by Warleigh Hall Press in historical fiction. Her novels have won Kirkus stars, “Editors Pick” on Publishers Weekly, placed in the BookLife Award and in Foreword Indies’ “Book of the Year” Award, and won innumerable other prizes.

Prior to taking her fiction seriously, Alice McVeigh played cello professionally in many of London top orchestras, including the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I started writing (appalling) poetry at four, stories at five, and finished my first novel aged 12. This was probably because my sister and I were living where there was NO TV (Seoul, Bangkok, Singapore, Myanmar). Our father was a US diplomat, is why… So, with nothing to do but read, we did nothing but read. And write!

What inspired you to start writing this book?

I fell in love with Austen upon moving to London as a cello pupil of Jacqueline du Pre’s, in the 80s, but never dreamed of writing Austenesque fiction until I’d landed a major contract with a “big-five” publisher for contemporary fiction… And, when I did, my agent talked me out of it. It took me a long time to get around to it, after that…

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

I wanted to make it clear that:

1) I’m not pretending to be Austen (even though Publishers Weekly has compared me to her), and

2) It’s not EXACTLY the same plot as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Instead, I’ve taken the chance of Austen’s being terrified of representing a male’s perspective—she never married—to feature Darcy’s point of view. Austen only gives us Elizabeth’s, as you know.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

Tchaikovsky’s “Fifth Symphony”—I’m a professional cello player, after all!!!!

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I was a professional cellist in London orchestras for almost 20 years. Mostly for that reason, I’ve not only lived in seven countries but I’ve visited 44! (I grew up in Asia, and now live partly in London and partly in Crete, the largest of Greece’s many islands.)

What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?

I doubt I could have written so well in Jane Austen’s style that Publishers Weekly describes it as “pitch perfect—echoes the master herself” WITHOUT having lived in London since I was 21, and married to an Englishman since I was 23. I DO—thanks to my musical training—have a very musical ear. But I still doubt that I could have managed it!

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

My perfect reader is one clever enough to see past Jane Austen’s “happily ever after” plots to her main fascination, which was always with character. And my hope is they move straight from one of my novels to the genius that is…Austen!

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