Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Jane Austen Week: Day 3 - Q&A with Teri Wilson

Welcome to Day 3 of Jane Austen Week! To recap briefly, on Day 1 I shared the recipe for chamomile and lavender scones, as well as the link to the All Things Jane Giveaway. On Day 2, I got  chat Jane Austen and time travel with author Kathleen A. Flynn.

Today, I'm thrilled to be hosting Teri Wilson, author of Unleashing Mr. Darcy!

Teri came onto my radar via an elderly neighbor from our Vancouver, Washington neighborhood. I'd been gardening and doing yard work with my mom in the front yard and had Shiloh and puppy Sylvie tethered near the front door. The neighborhood's bank of mailboxes was just to the left of our house, and I met most of my neighbors over there. That day a sweet, elderly lady from two doors down introduced herself and, after a fashion, remarked on Shiloh and Sylvie.

"They look just like the dogs from that movie, that Hallmark movie," she said. "The Mr. Darcy movie."

As you can imagine, my ears perked up. Cavaliers? Mr. Darcy?

I did some creative Googling later and discovered that Unleashing Mr. Darcy was indeed a Hallmark Original Movie - which would be re-airing in a couple weeks - and was based on a book by Teri Wilson.

Who has two cavaliers.

So - you can imagine my enjoyment in reading Teri's novel and then watching Unleashing Mr. Darcy off of my DVR - especially when it came to getting to see cavies on TV! I'm extra thrilled to have Teri on the blog today, as a fellow Austen-adapter and cavalier-keeper.

Hillary Manton Lodge: Thanks so much for joining in today! Because this is Austen Week, let’s start with Unleashing Mr. Darcy. Where did the idea of Pride & Prejudice set in the dog-show world come from?

Teri Wilson: I first got the idea for Unleashing Mr. Darcy when I was at a dog show. I have two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels named Bliss and Finn, just like the dogs in Unleashing. When they were very young, I showed them in conformation dog shows. I was a dog show novice. Honestly, I was pretty terrible at it - I was always very nervous in the ring. There’s a lot of downtime at shows, and at one point, I was re-reading Pride & Prejudice ringside and I just started thinking about what it would be like if Mr. Darcy were the judge and how terrifying that would be. I started imagining all the conversations he and Elizabeth could have if she were showing her dog in his ring. I thought about the book for months before I decided to actually write it. I thought it was such a niche idea that no one would want to read it. Thank goodness I was wrong.

HML: I love how writer's brain works! That's so great. Tell us about your history with Jane Austen’s stories, then. Which ones are your favorites?

TW: I never really read them until I was an adult. I fell, fast and hard. I read them all, and then I started in on all the modern, Austen-inspired novels. Isn’t it amazing how she’s become an entire sub-genre now? It’s probably obvious that Pride & Prejudice is my favorite. But honestly, I love them all. I’ve toyed with the idea of doing a retelling of Persuasion. “Half agony, half hope.” Swoon.

HML: Your Donovan Darcy – a billionaire dog breeder, naturally – is based on Austen’s Fitzwilliam Darcy (also very wealthy, probably also had dogs). Why do you think the character of Darcy is so popular, decade after decade?

TW: Darcy was the original romantic hero. He was the first, and in a way, he’s the inspiration for all the other romantic heroes in literature (particularly the alpha heroes). He’s charming when he wants to be, but he’s generally pretty haughty. Only Elizabeth brings out his softer side. No one else. I think that’s what makes him so appealing as a book boyfriend. Who wouldn’t want to have that kind of affect on a man like Darcy? (At least on the pages of a book.)

HML: I love how, in Pride & Prejudice, Elizabeth teases Darcy and his sister, Georgiana, just kind of goggles at her. Nobody else had every thought to tease him like that, and I don't think he'd much take it from anyone else - that was one of her super powers. In what ways are your Elizabeth Scott and Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet similar? How are they different?

TW: They both move about in a world of privilege, but come from families that aren’t necessarily wealthy. They’re both headstrong, smart and independent heroines. They both enter into their first interactions with Mr. Darcy full of assumptions about what sort of man he is. As far as differences, my Elizabeth probably likes dogs a lot more than the original Elizabeth Bennet does. Haha! She’s also a bit more modern in that she’s taken steps to become financially independent from her family. Her independence becomes threatened though, and that’s when things get complicated.

HML: Pride & Prejudice finds new readers generation after generation, remaining an enduring classic. Why do you think that is?

TW: I always say that the classics become classics for a reason. They touch on universal themes that people throughout time can identify with. I think many women see themselves in Elizabeth Bennet. She’s bookish and witty and independent. She cares deeply about her family, embarrassing as they may be. But she’s not the prettiest or the richest or most popular girl around. I think she taps into the underdog in all of us. And Mr. Darcy is just so perfect…“You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” Siiiigh. I firmly believe those words will never lose their power.

HML: Okay – the big question. Do you prefer the 1995 miniseries or the 2005 film?

TW: Don’t make me choose! It could seriously go either way on any given day. I used to say Colin Firth was my favorite Darcy, but that changed when Unleashing Mr. Darcy was made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel. Ryan Paevey will always be my favorite Darcy now, because he’s mine.

HML: I love that! You get your own personal Darcy! So tell us more about the adaption of Unleashing Mr. Darcy into a Hallmark Original Movie. What was that process like? What was the most fun for you?

TW: The entire experience was completely surreal in all the best ways. I was so overwhelmed with joy at every stage of the process that I burst into tears all the time. Every single day. I’m not kidding. I was actually afraid to go on set because I thought I’d be a weepy mess. I managed to hold it together until the crew gave me my own director’s chair with my name on it. Then I cried like a baby. It’s a very humbling experience to have something you’ve made up in your head become an actual, real thing. And I’m so pleased with the finished film. I love everything about it, from Ryan as Darcy (perfection!) to the dogs. The most fun for me was definitely being on set. I’ve loved movies my entire life, and being involved with my own was an experience I will always treasure.

HML: Recently, you got to judge beauty pageants in Florida – clearly you are living your best life. Tell us more about that! Do you think the contestants were accomplished enough to impress Caroline Bingley?

TW: Can you believe I got to judge the Miss United States pageant? It just happened a week ago, so I’m not even sure I’ve wrapped my head around it yet! I was really surprised (and so completely thrilled) to receive the invitation to judge a huge national pageant. I write a lot of non-fiction articles about fashion for and it’s no secret that I’ve never met a tiara I didn’t like, and I think those two things contributed to the invite. The Miss United States pageant is the same pageant that was featured in the Miss Congeniality movies. (It’s real!) I had the best time. I was so looking forward to it, but honestly, it exceeded my expectations. I was excited about the fashion aspect and all the glamour, but it was very inspiring and much more emotional than I anticipated.

The pageant is platform-based, and in the personal interview portion, I got to speak with the contestants about their community involvement and the volunteer work they do to support their platforms. I was so impressed with all the wonderful things those young women do to help others as well as with their grace and speaking ability, especially the teenagers. It was quite remarkable. The young lady who won the Jr. Teen portion of the pageant is a brain cancer survivor and will be such an inspiration to girls her age. There were several contestants in the adult division who are active duty military. It was a very empowering experience. I dare say, even Caroline Bingley would have been astounded.

HML: Since Unleashing Mr. Darcy, you’ve released a Romeo & Juliet adaptation (Unmasking Juliet) and a My Fair Lady adaptation (The Art of Us, also adapted by Hallmark). Do you have other literature-inspired projects in the works?

TW: I don’t have any classic literature retellings in the works right now, but all three books in my series The Royals for Pocket Star Books are contemporary adaptations of classic movies. Royally Roma is based on the Audrey Hepburn film, Roman Holiday. Book 2 in the series, Royally Romanov, was inspired by Anastasia (more on that below!). The series ends in November with Royally Wed, which is loosely based on the Fred Astaire film Royal Wedding. I adore old black and white movies, so I had the best time writing these books.

HML: I love that idea! But yes, tell us more about Royally Romanov - there was a time when I was particularly fascinated by the Russian royal family, so I'm excited about that one.

TW: Royally Romanov is a contemporary romance inspired by the story of the Grand Duchess Anastasia. The heroine, a museum curator, falls for a mysterious man who may or may not be a long lost heir to Russian's imperial Romanov dynasty. I’m so excited about this book because I’ve always been intrigued by the Romanovs and I’m a huge fan of the animated Anastasia movie!

HML: That's so fun, I'm really looking forward to that one! What are the best places for readers to connect with you on social media?

TW: I love interacting with readers! You can find me at my website, as well as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

HML: For reals, dear readers, I promise Teri is worth the follow. It's a feast of dog pics and tiaras and joy. Thanks so much for joining in on Austen Week, Teri!

Readers - two things before you go. First, use the form below to enter to win a signed copies of Unleashing Mr. Darcy and It Started With A Diamond

Second, don't forgetthat tomorrow night is the Sense & Sensibility Watch-Along! Visit the event page for details.


  1. I was introdued to teri, from the Unleashing Mr Darcy, hallmark movie..
    And I can't wait to read all her books that are retakes on classic stories! And I just loved her Mr.Darcy❤

    Emily B

  2. Fun interview! I haven't had the chance to see Unleashing Mr. Darcy, but I've been wanting to see it, so I'll be keeping my eyes on the Hallmark channel line-up.

    1. Oh, and Matthew Macfadyen is my favorite Darcy, so far. :)

  3. I have only seen the older movie and I liked that Mr. Darcy.
    Martha T.

  4. Oh my goodness! I need to read every single one of your books STAT! And I love the story of the Romanovs-Anastasia is one of my all time favorite movies!! I will be contacting my library to purchase all of your books, if they don't already have them. Ha! Thank you for sharing your talent and your love for Jane Austin.

    1. Oh and my favorite Mr. Darcy...ooh that's hard to choose...but I think I would pick the actor in "Pride and Prejudice: A Latter-Day Comedy"-I can't remember his name.

  5. Ryan Peavey would be my choice,too! Although,I have liked each one at the time. I love these books and movies! Thank you! ❤

  6. I haven't watched all of the adaptations of Pride & Prejudice but I really like the 1940 version with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier. I did watch the Hallmark movie and enjoyed it! Thanks for the giveaway! :)

  7. The Matthew Macfadyen version is pretty good, but it's been a while since I've experienced others. Also, can't beat the original from the Austen novel!

  8. Colin Firth is my favorite Darcy, no question--both in P&P and Bridget Jones's Diary!

  9. I am smitten with those dogs! Adorable!

  10. Colin Firth. . just because Fun interview.

  11. I have only seen the 2005 version, so of course, that would be my favorite.

  12. Colin Firth is my favorite Mr. Darcy! Thank you for the fun interview!

  13. I love the movie, Unleashing Mr. Darcy. I didn't realize it was a book adaptation. I also just recently watched The Art of Us, another good Hallmark movie. It doesn't hurt that they both have wonderful leading men. How cool that Teri is the author of both books. Definitely going to find her books now!

    1. Oh and my favorite Mr. Darcy. I definitely loved Ryan Paevey!

  14. Matthew is DEFINITELY my favorite Darcy from the 2005 P&P!! <3

  15. Colin Firth is my favorite Mr. Darcy. Unleashing Mr.Darcy was such a cute movie! And now I must search out your books, they sound delightful!

  16. Do not make me pick a favorite! I loved Colin Firth, but I didn't see that until recently. It is longer, so of course I feel like it is in a league of its own! Also, I watched Unleashing Mr. Darcy on Hallmark and enjoyed it, so I'd love to read the actual book now. It was fun getting to know Teri on here!


Join in on the discussion!