Interview + Giveaway with Mary Smythe About Her Debut Novel, "Dare to Refuse Such a Man"
It is my pleasure to kick off the blog tour for Mary Smythe's debut novel, Dare to Refuse Such a Man. It was released just today and is available through this direct link via Amazon. When I received a copy of the book (check out the beautiful cover!), and opened it to the first page of text, I was instantly drawn in by the riveting and nonconventional prologue. I have been an avid reader of Austenesque fiction for many years now. While some tried and true scenarios (e.g., forced marriage, kidnapping, etc.) yield interesting results, I've lately been most drawn to the new and different. Luckily for me, I don't believe I have ever read a book with the same starting premise as this one. The book's blurb describes it better and more succinctly than I ever could...
He is the kind of man, indeed, to whom I should never dare refuse anything which he condescended to ask."
-Mr. Bennet, Pride and Prejudice Volume III, Chapter 17
It had never occurred to Fitzwilliam Darcy that, once he had chosen his bride, her father might dare to refuse this consent. When his dearest, loveliest Elizabeth is taken from him with only a curt note of explanation, he determines that, far from accepting her father's rejection of his suit, he must instead find her again and make his case. After all, a woman worthy of being pleased is also worth fighting for.
Several months shy of her majority, it is not so simple a thing to defy Mr. Bennet's will, but Elizabeth, for the sake of her future happiness, must try. With various allies in her corner, as well as foes standing against her, Elizabeth's courage must rise against all attempts at intimidation. Even from her own, much beloved father.
Now that I've piqued your interest, I would like to offer a warm welcome the author herself! First, here's a brief bio...
Mary Smythe is a homemaker living in South Carolina with a rather useless BA in English collecting dust in a closet somewhere. Mrs Smythe discovered the works of Jane Austen as a teenager thanks to the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries featuring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle and has since gone on to read everything written by Ms Austen at least once yearly, always wishing that there were more. She has been writing since 2001, but only discovered Jane Austen Fanfiction in the summer of 2018. Dare to Refuse Such a Man is the first full-length novel she has ever completed, though she can boast a few shorter works in her library, as well.
1) This book has an original premise (which I love). Do you care to provide an overview of it to my readers?
Thank you! In short, my book is a "what if?" scenario in which Mr Bennet dares to refuse Mr Darcy as Elizabeth's suitor. I realized some time ago that the only true obstacle between Darcy and Elizabeth that could actually prevent a marriage would be Mr Bennet (so long as Elizabeth is under twenty-one). No matter how much Lady Catherine blusters, or Mrs Bennet attempts to thrust her girls at eligible gentleman, it's always the father who has the final say in whom his underaged daughter will marry. Once I'd realized this, a new world of possibilities opened up, though I needed to tweak Mr Bennet a little bit to make the idea work. In the original, he's quoted as saying, "[Mr Darcy] is the kind of man, indeed, to whom I should never dare refuse any thing, which he condescended to ask" implying that men of Mr Bennet's station simply do not say NO to men of Mr Darcy's. And so I gave him some reasons to do it, none of which I will spoil here. :)
2) What was your inspiration for the book and did the story evolve over time?
My initial inspiration for the story was a single scene which popped into my head one day, the same scene you'll find in the prologue. Not to say too much to those who haven't read it yet, but it's a very...different rendition of the Meryton assembly which ends on an unexpected note. From there, I created the rest of the story to make that one scene work and the result is a complicated quagmire of star-crossed love, obstinate fathers, power struggles, and unlikely allies. As for external inspirations, I've read several variations in which Mr Bennet was too obstinate for Darcy and Elizabeth's own good, but never one in which it was the primary conflict and I wanted to explore that.
Oh definitely, the story evolved over time. I wrote about twelve chapters in the beginning, while I was one a hot streak, before realizing that I wanted to go back and write about twelve more in between! So there was some rewind, reworking, and regret as I went back and filled in some blanks. And that was all before the editing stage where things got tightened up and rearranged (and all for the better; I assure you; thank you Christina Boyd!).
3) Which character(s) were most difficult to write? Easiest?
I think Elizabeth is probably easiest for me to write because I have an innate tendency to be quippy. I'm not as naturally outgoing as she is, but I do love to see the humor in the everyday as she does and so it's not difficulty to get into her headspace.
As for difficult, you'd think it would be Mr Bennet, since I had to infuse some obstinacy into him, but he was fairly easy too. It was a simple matter of taking his usual tendencies (slothful parenting, a desire for peace over all else and a penchant for thinking a little too well of his own intelligence over that of others) and turning them up a notch. Mrs Bennet was the greater challenge because, honestly, she's so one dimensional in the original and often maligned in JAFF. To look deeper into her character and drag out more than just nerves while keeping her general personality wasn't easy, but I'm pleased with how she turned out. It helped to find something about Mrs Bennet that I could identify with (specifically, being a mother) and then I understood her better.
4) Where does this book fall on the angst spectrum? Does our dear couple encounter a lot of barriers on their way to happily ever after?
It's funny, but I don't feel like the story is that angsty, but I've been told by practically everyone else that it is. I'm probably too close to it and/or am more invested in the sweeter/more humorous portions of the story. I think it's mostly about perspective, but as one of its tags is "angst" I think that says much.
5) Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about the book?
A slight warning. Toward the end of the book, there's a minor scene of domestic violence--which is neither graphic nor prolonged--that more sensitive readers might find uncomfortable. It's not especially disturbing, but then I'm not the one to judge another person's trigger level. Unfortunately, to be more specific would give away the ending, so I'll leave it at that.
6) Is an audiobook forthcoming?
Yes! It's been a little delayed by unforeseen circumstances, but will be along soon.
I'd again like to thank Mary Smythe for stopping by the Jane Austen State of Mind blog! There are several more stops along this blog tour over the next week in celebration of the release of Dare to Refuse Such a Man.