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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Interview and Giveaway with Mary Lydon Simonsen, author of Searching for Pemberley

Mary Lydon Simonsen is the author of the recent December release of Searching for Pemberley. She is also the author of the The Second Date. Please give her a warm and friendly welcome!


Thank you very much for stopping by today. I have been waiting anxiously for this interview ever since we started chatting. So let's get started.

Thank you for inviting me to appear on your blog, and I’m glad you like the cover. I do too.

I read that you have done extensive research on your family’s history and ancestry. Did this start out with stories you remembered from your grandparents, or was it something that interested you?

Searching for Pemberley actually started as a family research project, something of a passion for me. My ancestors sacrificed so much to come to America from Ireland. I wanted to make sure their stories were recorded. My main character, Maggie Joyce, grew up in a coal-mining town near Scranton. A lot of her experiences are those of my parents from the Depression Era and early World War II, including her desire to get beyond the Pocono Mountains and see what was out there in the wider world. Maggie travels to Germany and England. My parents made it as far as Washington and New Jersey.

You have incorporated this research into your storyline for Searching for Pemberley. How did these two pieces come together? Did a light bulb go off one day or did the idea percolate as you researched your family history?

I’ve often felt that I was born one generation too late. Except for not eating regularly and foreclosures, I liked everything about the 1930s and 1940s—the clothes, music, movies, etc. So I knew that any novel I wrote would be set in that time period, but I needed a hook. I thought about my other love, Regency England and Austen’s novels, and worked out a plot where I could combine the two interests.

[I also feel the same. Maybe that's why we clicked.]

What is your next favorite Austen novel? For me it’s a tie between Persuasion and Northanger Abbey.

Definitely Persuasion. Every time I read the letter from Captain Wentworth to Anne Elliot, I melt. “You pierce my soul.” Who wouldn’t want a guy who can write like that? Also, I like the idea that Anne is not a wide-eyed innocent. She knows how the world works.

I’ve read your fan fiction piece A Walk in the Meadow at Rosings Park. What was the inspiration for this?

I was thinking about what Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship would have been like if Darcy had skedaddled after the disastrous first encounter with Lizzy at the Meryton Assembly. When Lizzy sees Mr. Darcy in Kent, would she be able to forgive, forget, and look at Mr. Darcy in a more sympathetic light? Because Lizzy is intelligent and not one to hold a grudge, I decided to have her overlook Darcy’s abominable pride, and then I had the Master of Pemberley fall for her fast and hard. Of course, it was a short story, so I had to do that.

Have you always wanted to write or was it something you developed an interest in?

I’ve been writing since junior high school, whether it be short stories, bad poetry, or a neighborhood newsletter, but I never thought I’d actually publish a book. Writing Searching for Pemberley came about because I had knee replacement surgery, and I had a lot of time on my hands. So why not write a 400 page novel?

What is your writing process? Do you carry a notebook around or go to a separate room in your home? Do you dedicate time everyday to writing?

I don’t actually start writing until I have spent a lot of time thinking about the characters and the dialog. Only then do I sit down and start fleshing out my ideas. I might write down the odd note, maybe a historical nugget I happened upon, but 99% of it comes right out of my head. However, once I start putting the novel on paper, I am a virtual writing machine. I do all my writing in an office that I share with my husband, Paul, who is an architect. Our chairs are back to back for hours a day, and although we don’t talk much, we enjoy each other’s company.

You have written another book, The Second Date, Love Italian-American Style. How do you know about “gravy?” I live in South Philly and make a big pot of gravy and meatballs myself every Sunday. I have never heard anyone outside my neighborhood use this expression. I love it!

I’m of Irish descent, but growing up in North Jersey, I had a lot of Italian friends. I noticed that their families were more interesting than mine, and they ate better—a lot better. Lasagna versus ham and cabbage. The boy I dated all through high school and beyond was half Italian, and his mother never called her tomato sauce anything other than gravy (also pot cheese for ricotta and mozzarelle for mozzarella—no “a”). I received an e-mail from a reader who grew up in Delaware for that very reason. She wrote, “You say gravy, not sauce, and North Jersey, not New Jersey.”

Besides Austen, who are some of your favorite authors?

I love Charles Dickens. When I relax, I like to read mysteries where the author has a sense of humor. My favorite is probably Jamie Harrison who writes about a quirky town in Montana and its sheriff. I also like Clyde Edgerton.

What books are you currently reading?

I just finished Murder at Longbourn by Tracy Kiely, and I’m currently reading a biography of Andrew Carnegie.

Do you have any future projects in mind that you would like to speak about?

Thanks for asking. I have an Austen re-imagining coming out next December called Longbourn to Pemberley (working title) with Sourcebooks. As much as I love Pride and Prejudice, I feel that some of the characters lacked depth. In my novel, Anne De Bourgh and Georgiana Darcy are the ones who move Darcy and Lizzy through the story to their rendezvous with destiny at Pemberley. Anne is not the wooden Miss De Bourgh who sits on the couch and says nothing, and Georgiana is a vibrant teenager, who secretly writes romance novels. There is a lot of humor in the story because I am an admirer of Austen’s wit and wanted to be faithful to her style.


Thank you so much for stopping by today. I had a great time and feel I know you even better. Here's to that cup of coffee some day :)

About the Author

Mary Simonsen grew up in North Jersey with the exciting venues of New York City easily accessible. She is largely self-educated and is especially interested in American and European history and 19th Century novels. In Searching for Pemberley she was able to combine her love of history (World War II and postwar England) with Austen's characters, Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, and being a romantic, the novel includes three love stories from three different time periods, all thanks to Jane Austen. She lives in Peoria, Arizona. For more information, please visit



Set against Regency England, World Wars I and II, and postwar England, three love stories intertwine in surprising and fateful ways.

American Maggie Joyce, touring Derbyshire in 1947, visits, Montclair, an 18th century Georgian country house, that she is told was the model for Jane Austen's Pemberley. More amazingly, the former residents of the mansion, William Lacey and Elizabeth Garrison, were the inspiration for the characters of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.

Through letters, diary entries, and oral history, Beth and Jack Crowell, a couple who lives in the nearby village of Crofton, share stories of the people they say inspired Jane Austen. They also tell their own love story, made difficult by their vastly different backgrounds—she was one of the social elite while he was the son of a servant. When their son, Michael, travels home from his RAF station in Malta, Maggie may have just found her very own Mr. Darcy.


I have two copies of this wonderful read to give away!

So here's the Giveaway scoop!

1. Open to residents of U.S. and Canada only. No P.O. boxes please.
2. Leave a comment with your email address so I can get in touch with you.
3. +1 entry for posting about this contest on your blog or side bar. Leave me a link please :)

Since it's such a busy time of the year, I am going to run this contest a little longer than usual.
Contest will end at midnight on Monday December 28th.
Good luck everyone!

Thank you to Danielle from Sourcebooks for arranging this interview and giveaway.


Heather Snow said...

Thanks for introducing us to this book and its author...sounds very interesting!

I've added your contest to my blog sidebar:

bermudaonion said...

What a great interview. I've never heard sauce called gravy before. I love Philadelphia but haven't been there since 2001. milou2ster(at)

vvb32 reads said...

i'm so looking forward to this book! i'm also looking forward to reading some backstory on anne and georgiana.
thanks for the giveaway offer.
vvb32 at

Staci said...

The cover is gorgeous and I loved your interview!!!

Jennifer said...

I would love to win a copy of this book. Thank you for hosting this contest.
knittingmomof3 (AT) gmail (DOT) com

Jennifer said...

The contest is up in my right side bar under contest:
knittingmomof3 (AT) gmail (DOT) com

Mary Simonsen said...

Hi Jenny, Thank you for hosting me on your blog, which has become one of my favorites b/c you have a light touch. I agree that we "clicked." It might have something to do with South Philly and North Jersey. Looking forward to reading all the comments, and I appreciate everyone who took the time to do so.

Tudor Daughter said...

Jenny~this looks marvelous! I love the the Cover. Please enter me in giveaway
Posted giveaway on my blog:

BTW~check out my current giveaway on my blog.

Benita said...

I'd love to read this book. I've not read the author's work before. The interview was quite enlightening. Many thanks for the possibility.


Kristin said...

I love everything of Mary's that I have ever read. The Second Date was fabulous! One of the things I love most about Mary's stories is that she writes really great heroines. For many writers in this genre it is all about the hero but Mary puts a lot into her heroines. They are women you would want to have lunch with or go shopping with. Now of course the guys are great too. Please enter me in the giveaway contest. My email is knhub at sbcglobal . net.


michchick said...

Hey Jenny- Mary is great and I love the interview with her! Please consider this an entry for the drawing. My email is

I'd also like a +1 entry as I've linked your blog to my own and the address is:

Cool blog! Congrats on your blogaversary!

Sue said...

Thanks for the giveaway.

s.mickelson at gmail dot com

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Michelle Santiago said...

the cover of searching for pemberley is just lovely! i love that soft blue :)

The Bookworm said...

Searching For Pemberly sounds great! And what a pretty cover.
Great interview.
I love Persuasion too, and that letter that Wentworth gives Anne is amazing.
'Longbourn to Pemberley' sounds like its going to be a good one!

Anonymous said...

Great interview! This book looks great, but if you've seen my post today you know that I don't need another book right now :)

Teddyree said...

What a fun interview, loved learning a little about Mary, (like what to do after knee replacement surgery ... write a 400novel LOL.) Cover of Searching for Pemberley is very pretty & it sounds like a great read!

Mary (Bookfan) said...

Great interview. I've been reading reviews for this and really want to read it.


I posted in my sidebar giveaways:

Linda said...

Enjoyed reading this interview. I had run into the gravy/sauce dilemma before but don't remember what book. And following knee replacement last spring, I logged many, many pages - Reading! This book sounds great, and like others, I think the cover is gorgeous.

justpeachy36 said...

Please enter me in the giveaway.

Laura Hartness said...

Thanks for hosting this giveaway! I also posted on my blog about it and added it to my Giveaways sidebar:


Laura Hartness

traveler said...

Thanks for this wonderful giveaway. This impressive book interests me greatly and sounds unique and compelling. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Anita Yancey said...

Loved the interview. Sounds like a wonderful book, one I would really like to read. Please enter me. Thanks!


Laura Hartness said...

Guess what? I won a copy of Searching for Pemberley from the "Enchanted by Josephine" blog. So you may remove me from this contest. Thanks for hosting the giveaway!

Laura Hartness
The Calico Critic

Kim said...

I'd love to win this book!

dsandyboy said...

Count me in.

Anonymous said...

Please enter me.

g.g. said...

This sounds like a good one..I enjoyed the review

anjamie4 AT gmail dot com

Margie said...

Please enter me in the giveaway. Thanks!
mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

Toni said...

What a great interview Jenny. I'd love to win this one. Thank you.

tonigomez (at) surewest (dot) net

Liz Mays said...

That's quite a positive bonus to have surgery if you pen a book like this! Thank you for having the giveaway!

teabird said...

I'd love to read this - what a fascinating concept!

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