It has been over three years now, since March of 2014 to be precise, when I published Darcy and Elizabeth: A Season of Courtship, my “prequel to the sequel” novel. That novel, the last published in my name, is the first volume of a two-part “Prequel Duo.”
Why the long interval in between? Will the reading world ever see the second volume? Well, I have answers to both questions, and more. Read on!
To begin the update in a logical place, allow me a paragraph to explain why I decided to write into the past, as it were. After writing eight huge novels and one Christmas novella following the newly-married Darcys into the future, the idea came as a combination of prompting from fans and my own internal muse. I felt that the engagement period of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet was worthy of deeper coverage than the handful of “flashback” tidbits scattered amongst the five novels that comprise my Darcy Saga sequel series. At the time (this being early 2013) I was blessed with a seemingly endless number of inspirations! Fresh scenes of the lovers growing to know each other better, as well as expanding upon those scenes already written. For roughly a year, while simultaneously undergoing a massive move from California to Kentucky, I wrote what I had originally planned to be one book. That concept shifted into a two-volume “prequel duo” when the ideas still in my mind, together with the content already written, amounted to more material than one reasonably-sized book could handle.
Publishing as two books was a sound concept. My intentions to complete the second part in a matter of months after releasing the first were sincere, believe me. I even created both book covers at the same time! I know for absolute certainty that would have been doable… if everything with me had remained unchanged.
As most of us know, life can throw curveballs. Most of the time, those curveballs are few, minor, and easily overcome. Alas, this is not always the case. Perhaps someday I will share all that I have gone through these past three years, lay my soul bare, as the saying goes. I do think it would be cathartic, and maybe even helpful to someone else. This is not the place or time, however. Without going into the gory details, my profound hope is that everyone will believe me when I say that not finishing the second volume was never a conscious, willful choice. I tried, oh how I tried! To state simply that which is incredibly complex: the muse was gone and I could not write. Period. Any attempts to write, and there have been hundreds, were met with a stone wall. Here and there I managed to string a sentence or two together, a smattering of actual paragraphs even, and once almost a whole chapter. Then the manuscript would sit untouched for months. I would try to work on another project, something totally non-Austen as well, with no real success.
The vast majority of my fans have been patient and understanding. I truly cannot express how essential the kind emails, encouragement, sweet praise, faithful support, and blessed friendships have meant to me. This has been my lifeline, my hope. Knowing that readers wanted more, and were willing to wait in love, kept me from giving up entirely. Those of you who know me, even a little, are aware how precious my readers are to me. I thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for sticking with me.
I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to the incomparable Regina Jeffers, my partner at Austen Authors. She has been a rock and constant friend, through the worst of times. Seriously, I cannot sing her praises high enough! Persevering with Austen Authors was her push, and I cannot ever sufficiently thank her for holding tight to me and to our dream for the blog. The success of Austen Authors with such amazing authors participating, and the ongoing community-at-large of Austen literary fiction, has sustained me. As long as Jane Austen remained alive and vibrant, then I had a writing place to return to.
There are many, many others I owe a debt to. My amazing husband has been a continual source of comfort and support, and without him I would not have survived. Medical doctors got my health issues under control. Above all, God, who is my ultimate strength and peace through the storms. Another huge impact has been the wonderful ladies in my romance writers group. I refused to give up on my Romance Writers of America membership, no matter how often I questioned why I bothered, and the women of Louisville Romance Writers (LRW) never gave up on me. For a writer, even one struggling as I was, being active in a writers community is vital.
In a nutshell, that covers the months and years from the publication of Season of Courtship to about six months ago when the curveballs stopped being thrown at me.
Around Christmas 2016, the sky started to clear, and I began to believe I could, maybe, just possibly write again. Even then, I confess, after so long I was… scared. What if I opened the manuscript, again, for the umpteenth time, and nothing came? Fear is a powerful thing! For some two months I waited to see if the feelings would change or another curveball would be lobbed. Finally, in March, LRW decided to hold a writing challenge. It was the kick in the arse I needed! I set a personal challenge of 10,000 words for the month. Frankly, I thought I was insane to aim so high. Indeed, it was rocky for the first week, I admit. You see, fear had kept me from opening the dormant prequel manuscript. Nevertheless, I had written a thousand words on a Saga-related novella (more than I had written in ages) so while struggling, it gave me hope and courage. Inhaling, I turned to the story of Lizzy and Darcy, knowing it was dearer to my heart. I opened Hope of the Future, and….
I WON THE CHALLENGE! Go Sharon! By the end of March I had written 22,742 brand new words! Twice my set goal! For me, this was phenomenal. The prize included several items, but the biggie was our group mascot, the adorable Gerard the Sockpuppet, seen to the right with his namesake, the yummy Gerard Butler. I get to keep Gerard (the puppet, not, sadly, the man) until next April. He is my new muse and friendly face in the office as I write. Oh Joy!
I have been off and running ever since. April saw a short interruption as I waded through the dreaded taxes and a flair up of my shoulder bursitis requiring several doctor visits, and we had a break in the endless Kentucky spring rains for a slew of yard and home projects. In May we welcomed friends from California for a week-long visit, so that keep me away from the computer. By the second week of June I was more than 3/4 of the way done, confident enough to contact my editor, who has set aside a time slot for me in mid-July. As of the posting of this update, I am veeerrryyy close to typing THE END.
Now, the million dollar question those of you who have read this far are asking:
When will Darcy and Elizabeth: Hope of the Future be released?
I do not have a hard date to give as yet. BUT, barring something major interfering with the projected timeline, the book WILL be finished and with my editor in July. Then it is a matter of putting all the technical pieces together and getting it up onto Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, etc.
God willing and the creek don’t rise (Yes, I am Southern!) y’all will be reading the long-awaited second half by the end of July to very early in August. Whoot!
IN THE MEANTIME — I have some fun coming up to whet appetites for the big release!
Beginning tomorrow (Sunday, June 25) I will be posting a DAILY SNIPPET from Darcy and Elizabeth: Hope of the Future on my Facebook Page.
A new snippet every day, posting at 7am EST, so check back every day!
Please comment on the snippet, of course! PLUS, I will keep track of everyone who “shares” the DAILY SNIPPET to their Facebook with news of my upcoming release. When the novel is released, I will pick FIVE (5) WINNERS for an eBook. Sweet!