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Today we welcome multi-pubbed Austenesque author Regina Jeffers with her new release The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, talking about the Scottish highland settings that were the inspiration for the book. She’s also giving away a copy of the book to one lucky commenter, so let’s get chatting.

Here’s the blurb (and isn’t that a lovely cover!):

Shackled in the dungeon of a macabre castle with no recollection of her past, a young woman finds herself falling in love with her captor – the estate’s master. Yet, placing her trust in him before she regains her memory and unravels the castle’s wicked truths would be a catastrophe. Far away at Pemberley, the Darcys happily gather to celebrate the marriage of Kitty Bennet. But a dark cloud sweeps through the festivities: Georgiana Darcy has disappeared without a trace. Upon receiving word of his sister’s likely demise, Darcy and wife, Elizabeth, set off across the English countryside, seeking answers in the unfamiliar and menacing Scottish moors. How can Darcy keep his sister safe from the most sinister threat she has ever faced when he doesn’t even know if she’s alive? True to Austen’s style and rife with malicious villains, dramatic revelations and heroic gestures, this suspense-packed mystery places Darcy and Elizabeth in the most harrowing situation they have ever faced – finding Georgiana before it is too late.

My latest novel, The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, is set in the Scottish Uplands in a land drenched in legend and mystery. It is an area where the heather in bloom can steal one’s breath with its beauty, but where nature can also teach harsh lessons.

The Merrick is a 2766-foot hill that is part of the Awful Hand. Close by is the descent to Loch Enoch, the Grey Man, the Murder Hole, and a host of other lochs. The wilderness walk that traverses the area covers nine miles. The Range of the Awful Hand is a string of hills in the Southern Uplands named due to their resemblance to the fingers of a hand. The hills, starting at the ‘thumb’ are Benyellary (719 m); Merrick (843 m); Kirriereoch Hill (786 m); Tarfessock (697 m); Shalloch on Minnoch (768 m).

The wilderness walk starts at Bruce’s Stone, a monument erected in memory of Robert Bruce’s defeat of the English at Glen Troll. If one knows anything of the battle, he realizes that the monument represents Bruce’s men rolling huge rocks down the hillside on the advancing army.

The “Grey Man of Merrick” is an eerie rocky outcrop aptly named, as it clearly resembles the stoney face of an old man. He sits just below Merrick Hill, acting almost as a guard to the highest hill in Galloway.

If one is adventurous enough to set out on foot in the area, it is best to approach Loch Neldricken via the Rig of Loch Enoch, which is high enough to keep a person from the bog lands below. The advantage of walking along the Rig of Loch Enoch is it is high enough to keep a person out the bog lands below. There are no paths, and the grass grows in lumpy tufts making walking quite difficult. Sometimes one’s feet will disappear into a deep shuch, and a person ends up covered in mud.

In this photo, one finds the infamous Murder Hole. It is the round pool to the right of the loch in this photo. Legend has it that many years ago weary travelers were robbed and their bodies dumped in the hole never to be seen again. In summer there is a ring of reeds growing around the hole, but none grow in it. It is also rumored that in even the coldest winters, the center does not freeze.

Though it is claimed that the real Murder Hole is near Rowantree Bridge on the Water of Minnoch where the bodies of waylaid, murdered travelers were dumped, the “Murder Hole” refers to an incident in Samuel Crockett’s novel The Raiders.

Galloway’s landscape and its legends inspired Samuel Rutherford Crockett (1859-1914), a writer with a prodigious output. The Raiders, his best known book, was a romantic, loosely historical, adventure story, which sold thousands of copies in 1894, and further editions were published to meet demand.

Taking A762 past the ruined Kenmure Castle, a traveler will eventually come to Mossdale, where he will find the sad little wooden sign of Little Duchrae Farm, where Samuel Crockett was born and further on the impressive memorial at Laurieston Village, the Clachanpluck of ‘The Raiders’ story. Paid for by public subscription and unveiled in 1932 by Crockett’s wife Ruth, it is constructed with large granite blocks set on a slight rise just off the road. Although he never met Robert Louis Stevenson, Crockett and Stevenson corresponded, and a plaque on the pillar carries part of the Stevenson poem, To SR Crockett,

Blows the wind today,
and the sun and the rain are flying,
Blows the wind on the moors today and now,
Where about the graves of the martyrs the whaups are crying
My heart remembers Now!

In her book The Life and Times of Samuel Rutherford Crockett, Islay Murray Donaldson stresses that, due to various circumstances, Crockett could not afford the luxury of spending enough time on his literary efforts, so he never reached Stevenson’s sustained heights or enduring popularity.

So, this is the setting for the mystery behind The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy. Is it not the perfect? One of the best sites for photos of this area is Walkhighlands.

If you’d like your name to be entered into the drawing for a copy of The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, you must include your email in a “safe” form, e.g., riskies at yahoo dot com. We’ll announce the winner on Monday evening.

Tell us about favorite settings, real or imagined, that you’ve enjoyed in books.

I attended a panel discussion sponsored by the Smithsonian Resident Associates Program this week, Jane Austen: The Author, Her Legacy and… Sea Monsters? and I thought I’d share a few snippets of what I heard.

The participants were Seth Grahame-Smith, co-author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and total author of Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter; Ben Winters, co-author of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, Tara Wallace, author of Jane Austen and Narrative Authority, and Regina Jeffers, author of Vampire Darcy’s Desire. The panel was moderated by Bethanne Patrick, managing editor of The Book Studio.

Now you all know about monster mash-ups and you’ve heard of all these books (I think the covers are brilliant). But some interesting points came up at the seminar.

One was that most of the fans are women. So even the lure of zombies still makes guys shy of Austen, although they may enjoy the 2011 movie version of P&P&Z starring Natalie Portman and yes, Colin Firth; Seth is writing the screenplay as well as writing MTV’s first scripted comedy series. Ben is writing another book for Quirk, Android Karenina, coming out later this year (with another brilliant cover).

Both Seth and Ben agreed that it was Austen’s economy of language that enabled the blood and guts and scales to integrate so well into the original books, and that although Austen is so sparing of physical descriptions, you don’t miss them. Tolstoy, being so much wordier, according to Ben, is a lot harder. On the other hand, according to Seth, “It’s not good policy to edit Jane Austen.”

All three writers agreed that a successful mash-up must understand and respect the original book and work with the internal logic of the story. Interestingly, all of the books were inspired by editors’ suggestions, and as Regina Jeffers said, “If I don’t do it, someone else may do it with less class.”

And someone–I wish I remembered who it was–made the comment that marriage in Austen’s time is the end of the story. Now so often–in real life and possibly in fiction–it’s the beginning of our stories.

And on the topic of doing terrible things to beloved authors, here’s the gorgeous cover of Reader, I Married Him, my enovella based on Jane Eyre, releasing this month from Loose-Id. I’ll be telling you more about it soon.

Do you like monster mash-ups?
Which have you read?
What classic do you think would benefit from the, uh, injection of new material?
And what do you think of the comment that marriage is a beginning rather than an end?

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