Kindle Author Interview: Janet Aylmer

Janet Aylmer, author of Dialogue with Darcy, discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.

DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about your novel Dialogue with Darcy?

JANET AYLMER: After the success of my first book Darcy’s Story (published in the UK in 1996, and by HarperCollins in the USA in 2006), I was asked to consider writing a sequel. My initial reaction was to say no, as by 2006 there were already many sequels to Pride and Prejudice, from the explicit to the less exciting, with some good ones in between. Finally I penned two sample chapters, but by that time the publishers had other priorities.

DAVID WISEHART: Why did you decide to serialize the new novel on Kindle?

JANET AYLMER: There was an article in one of our Sunday newspapers here in the UK in September 2010, saying that authors could upload their books to the Kindle Store if they hold the copyright. When I read that Kindle was not only a (hardware) ebook reader, but also software that can be downloaded onto any PC, Mac or smartphone (iPhone or Android), I decided to do something about it.

I uploaded the two chapters that I had already written as the first of six parts (the way that Charles Dickens had published his novels), and immediately Amazon customers started buying the book. So since then I have been writing two more chapters each month, and publishing each new part on Kindle. I have since put three of my other books on Kindle.

DAVID WISEHART: What historical research did you do for the book?

JANET AYLMER: I have written two other novels about the Maitland family—also set in the Regency period. Julia & the Master of Morancourt (a rather unwieldy title chosen by HarperCollins) was published in paperback and Sophie’s Salvation is on Kindle.

For both those novels, I researched the war against Napoleon in Spain and France, and some of the history in parts of England in previous centuries, as well as the technical innovations in the 18th and early 19th centuries. I have used that and more research in Dialogue with Darcy.

DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

JANET AYLMER: We may all think that we know a great deal about both Elizabeth and Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. However, I originally wrote Darcy’s Story because one of my daughters was a fan of Mr. Darcy, and she reminded me of how little there is about the hero in Jane Austen’s novel. I have tried to further develop the characters of the hero and heroine in the various narrative strands that I have developed in Dialogue with Darcy. Elizabeth in particular was moving into very different social circumstances after her marriage, and I was interested to explore how she and her husband dealt with that, and what happened to some of the other characters in Jane Austen’s novel.

In my other books, I start with an idea of the characters of the hero and the heroine, and move on from there to develop their characters through the plot.

DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?

JANET AYLMER: For Dialogue with Darcy, someone who wants to enjoy interesting novels set in the Regency period, and likes an element of humour in what they are reading. Also readers who want to know more about two of the best loved characters in romantic fiction, but who prefer an interesting plot to explicit descriptions of what happens behind “the bedroom door.”

For my other books, I am thinking of readers who enjoy the romance of the Regency period.

DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?

JANET AYLMER: I was good at English Language and Literature at school, and much of my subsequent career has involved listening to people telling me details of many complex matters and then using words to convey the essence of that information. But that was fact, and novels are fiction, so I was interested to see how I would get on with writing for a different purpose.

DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?

JANET AYLMER: I map out a general synopsis first, and then one sentence about each chapter. As I think my way through the general structure of the plot, I prepare an A4 page listing some details about the major characters in the novel. I like to write chapters that are about 5000 to 6000 words long, and to create the first draft of each in about a week. Then I print out the text, noting comments and additions on the printed page before editing, and where necessary expanding, what I have written.

I don’t get “writers’ block” as I have always had to write to very strict time deadlines. If I can’t get down to writing, it is because I am feeling lazy or, rarely, unwell!

DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?

JANET AYLMER: I am influenced more by the way people write, rather than by who they are.

Before I started writing the novel which was eventually titled Julia & the Master of Morancourt, I purchased several well-reviewed books from Amazon.co.uk about plotting a novel, balancing reported speech and description, and so on. I found the advice from those authors very useful, for instance in setting the atmosphere and the framework of the story in the few paragraphs at the beginning of the first chapter, and ending one chapter in such a way that it leads the reader to want to continue to the next.

DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?

JANET AYLMER: I admire the skills of many authors, but i would not wish to single out any one in particular.

DAVID WISEHART: You've been traditionally published. What are your thoughts on recent changes in the publishing industry

JANET AYLMER: I will always prefer have a printed book in my hand to seeing the same text on a screen. But in certain circumstances, for instance when travelling for pleasure or business, downloading several books onto an ebook reader is a great convenience, as is being able to add more books if I should finish reading those already on my Kindle!

The ability to download and to read a free sample of an ebook before buying is also a good idea; having time to fully browse a volume in a bookstore can be difficult, and risks damaging the book.

DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?

JANET AYLMER: My first book Darcy’s Story almost sold itself. Although I did not realise it at the time, the novel was one of the first "spin-offs" written and published after the showing of the BBC series of Pride and Prejudice on television in the UK in 1995. Some 2000 copies were printed, and the first (small) outlet sold 40 copies in one weekend in August 1996. Copies were sold on the Internet to readers in nearly 40 countries by the publishers from their own site, until Amazon came along and took over that role. HarperCollins did very well with their edition in 2006 and onwards in the USA and Canada, although I do not know the details of how they promoted the book. I was interviewed for the website http://www.pemberley.com/ and for the magazine Bellaonline about Darcy’s Story, and have been in contact with various fan sites since then..

Having had quite good reviews for that book led some readers to my other novels. More recently, I have set up my own web site with links to sites selling the paperbacks and to the Kindle Store. As a member of the Historical Novel Society, the references on their web site to my books and to www.janetaylmer.com are very useful. I have put two short videos on YouTube, and am considering whether I have sufficient time to venture into social networking or blogging.

DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?

JANET AYLMER: Readers need to be able to find your book if you are to sell it, so consider very carefully indeed what title you choose, and the text to be used by Amazon to explain as much as possible about your book on their Kindle site. Join Author Central at Amazon to tell readers about yourself. Try to network online with people who share your interest in the subject of your book, or its genre.

DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.


Janet Aylmer is married to John and has lived in the beautiful city of Bath in the west of England for nearly 30 years. Janet and John have four children and three grandchildren.

Janet was born in Peterborough, England. She was brought up in the county of Surrey before moving to London to go to college. She was trained as a property professional and worked in a private company and then in local government before taking a responsible role in central government.

Visit her website.

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