Interview with Nina Benneton

April 19, 2012

Today I have the privilege of interviewing debut romance novelist, Nina Benneton, author of the contemporary Pride & Prejudice spoof, Compulsively Mr. Darcy. Nina has generously offered to give away a copy of Compulsively Mr. Darcy to one lucky reader. The giveaway details can be found at the end of the interview.

Welcome to The Hope Chest Reviews, Nina.

Thank you for inviting me.

1. Compulsively Mr. Darcy is your very first novel. How long did it take from start to finish to get it published?

Compulsively Mr. Darcy

Nearly five years, from the time I started writing to the publication date, Feb 1, 2012. The first draft took me about three to five solid months to write and ended at 240K words. Many, many revisions later, the final manuscript was 90K words.

I didn't work on it exclusively. I've also written three more novels, now in various stages of revisions and editing, in the last five years and am on my fifth novel.

2. What inspired you to write a Jane Austen spoof?

Because an irreverent Virginia Woolf spoof is beyond my ability. I love Virginia Woolf, and I spent years reading her and emulating her, trying to be deep. Reality hit a few years ago. I realize I've always been more of a wader than a diver. I got tired of drowning in navel contemplation in my literature. I switched over to primarily reading Jane Austen (and romance novels) and have never looked back.

Reading Jane Austen's works, I saw she didn't take herself seriously and that appeals to me as a writer. From my familiarity with Jane Austen forums online, I knew, like me, there were many readers who appreciate in Austen's writing her self-deprecating humor-about life, about people, and especially about herself. To entertain this group of Janeite readers, I decided to pen a modern spoof, and the rest is history.

3. I loved the diversity of the settings in Compulsively Mr. Darcy, from Vietnam, to New York City, to California, and the way you write about all of them gives the narrative a "hands-on" feel. Do you have personal ties to all these places?

I based Darcy's experience of traveling to Vietnam on a trip my husband and I took to Asia. New York City and the Bay Area are my two favorite cities in the whole world. Many writers can write evocatively of a place they've never seen in person, but I'm not that skilled. I need to have an emotional geography to the places in order to write, even if it's from the experience of a short visit.

4. Darcy's OCD is both touching and funny. What made you decide to give him this affliction?

Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice has been an iconic romantic literary hero for generations of women readers. He's a flawed yet relatable character because he shows amazing growth at the end-when he admits to his own failings and works to improve himself. Yet, even at the end of Pride and Prejudice, there remains something too perfect, too unattainable, too elusive about him, and that's probably why he holds our interest and we want to know more about him. (And why writers like me continue to write about him).

In writing an irreverent, modern interpretation of Mr. Darcy, however, I wanted to give my hero a flaw so unromantic-an affliction of frequent hand-washings. Nothing so sexy about a man neurotically obsessed with germs and with controlling his environment. The challenge for me as a writer was how to develop his characterization around that affliction such that he still personifies the romantic hero of Austen's original. Furthermore, I wanted the reader to laugh with him, at him, and yet feel for him.

5. In what ways are you like Elizabeth?

Like her, I'm frugal, but I have no interest in the business, money side of things. When people in the business world tell me they're consultants or project managers or they work in merger and acquisitions, I have no idea or interest in what they mean.

6. In what ways are you different?

I'm not impulsive, though I admire Elizabeth's verve. I admire people who seize the day and throw cautions in the wind, confident in their ability to handle whatever come their way, and even if they can't, they move on.

7. Compulsively Mr. Darcy is delightfully witty and sometimes downright hilarious. How would you describe your own personal sense of humor?

Tabloidy. I love reading the tabloids. For having such sleazy jobs, tabloid writers actually have a great sense of humor and irony about people they write about. Also, I have a lot of respect for the Snooki's and the Brads and the Angelinas of this world. To be publicly poked fun of daily by the media, yet, these people still get up every morning and smile for the camera and either get pregnant and have babies and babies, and then trendily adopt international orphan babies - that's inspiring. They must not take themselves too seriously, how could we not love them?

Of course, I could have answered the question with a simple 'I laugh at everything because I don't take myself seriously.' But, I've always felt whenever someone says that, they're taking themselves way too seriously.

8. When you aren't writing, what do you like to do for fun?

You didn't ask how am I like Darcy, I noticed.

If I'm not writing in my free time, I play matchmaker. I find partners for all the orphaned socks in the house, lids for all the topless containers, pairs of glasses for the empty cases, things like that.

I also love to organize everything: keep the spices alphabetized, keep my silverware drawer in order, and keep the linens neatly folded. You see why my family encourages me to spend all my free time writing.

9. This question is inspired by a favorite romance series of mine: If you knew you had only one month to live and had virtually unlimited resources, what three things would you want to do?

Travel with my family all over the world.
Eat every strange thing there is in China.
Sit still and make peace with death.

10. Besides Jane Austen, which author(s) are on your keeper shelf?

Virginia Woolf, Diane Ackerman (her nonfiction works and her poetry), Jules Verne, John Irving, Julie Garwood (her medieval stories), Georgette Heyer, Jumpha Lahiri, Amy Tan, Tony Hillerman, Isabelle Allende, and many of my fellow Jane Austen authors.

11. Last but certainly not least, what are you currently working on?

I'm currently in an intense Idea-to-Novel year-long writing class with a Tiger-mom-writing-teacher, Devon Ellington. Devon believes in multi-tasking. I'm revising a contemporary romantic comedy, I'm writing the first-draft of a time-travel, and I'm writing and submitting short stories. As soon as I find some free time, I have to slip in deep-editing of my Regency Romantic Suspense.

Thank you so much for visiting with The Hope Chest Reviews today, Nina. It's been a delight having you, and we wish you all the best.

Again, thank you for having me on The Hope Chest Reviews.

Visit Nina on the Web

Nina's Website

Read our review of Compulsively Mr. Darcy.

Book Giveaway

Nina has generously offered to give away a copy of Compulsively Mr. Darcy (ARV - $14.99) to one lucky reader. For your chance to win this book, all you need to do is fill out the official entry form. The giveaway is open to all entrants both U. S. and International. If the winner is from the U.S. or Canada, they will receive a print copy, but if the winner is from any other coutry they will receive an e-book copy. Participants must be 18 years of age or older to enter. The giveaway will run from 4/19/12 to 5/3/12. On 5/4/12, a winner will be chosen by a random electronic drawing. That person will be contacted via email and their first name, city and state (or country) will be posted here on The Hope Chest Reviews. Please see the entry page for official giveaway rules and our privacy policy. Good luck!

 Compulsively Mr. Darcy

This contest is now officially closed.

The winner is Dora from Grand Ledge, MI.

Congratulations, Dora from The Hope Chest Reviews!