Friday, November 1, 2019

The Bride of Northanger Blog Tour! ~ Interview with Diana Birchall

Hello, my friends! I'm so excited to be part of The Bride of Northanger Blog Tour! I got a chance to read the book (which I loved) and ask Diana Birchall a few questions! I hope you enjoy!

1.  When did you read your first Austen novel, and which was it? What were your first impressions?

It was Pride and Prejudice, which I read at a time long before any adaptations (except the 1940 Laurence Olivier/Greer Garson film).  Austen was not so widely read in those days – of course she was known as a classic author, but she was more the property of the English literature specialists, not so universally popular as she is today.  I had a literary aunt who liked her, but because Austen just wasn’t in the spotlight, I read Pride and Prejudice at 20, a decade after reading Jane Eyre. The title seemed to me rather pompous and dull. Of course, I was immediately surprised and smitten!  This was the most delicious book I’d ever read, and the minute I was finished I started it all over again.

2.  What began your path to writing Jane Austen Fan Fiction?

Winning a contest in the JASNA journal Persuasions in 1984. I wrote a little dialogue imitating the chatter of Miss Bates in Emma. It was so exciting to win, but I also realized that I simply adored writing this kind of pastiche and vowed to do more. So, I did. My method was to focus on Austen’s writing, her exquisite style and balance, psychological acuity, and above all her wit. I suppose it was a kind of attempt to take her apart and see what made her tick. Delving into the secrets of her art, could only lead to a better understanding of her work, and incidentally improve my own writing. Hundreds of stories, and several novels and plays followed, and I am still pastiche-ing away, to my own great pleasure and enlightenment!

3.  I truly enjoyed reading The Bride of Northanger. What inspired you to write a sequel to Northanger Abbey?

Thank you, I’m glad you liked it!  I came to Northanger Abbey rather late, having already written sequels to Pride and Prejudice and Emma, as well as writing a play about Mansfield Park, and episodes in an alternate version of Persuasion. I still have not attacked Sense and Sensibility!  I always loved Northanger Abbey, for its fresh charm and youthful spirit, as well as the Gothic satire and Austen’s comments on novels. Most of all though I was interested in the central couple, Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney, and wanted to see how that slightly oddly assorted pairing – he so clever, she so young and na├»ve – would play out in marriage. 

4. After reading the story, I had a question. Was it customary at the time to pronounce the death of a high-ranking person as dying of natural causes even under suspicion circumstances because murder would not be respectable?

The English custom was to have a Coroner preside over an Inquest to examine a case of suspicious death, but there were many reasons why the local people would lean towards a “cover-up” in the case in my novel.  Such things happened then, as they still do today!

5.  I loved the "curse" on the Tilney family! Can you tell us more about that? 

If you look at the history of Netley Abbey, which Jane Austen visited when she lived in Southampton as a young woman, you’ll find many parallels with Northanger Abbey. It seems very likely that Netley was her model and inspiration. An ancient Cistercian Abbey, founded in the 13th century, it was taken over during the time of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century. The monks were turned out, and the property given to a wealthy landowner. The monks were said to have put a curse on the place, in retribution for people taking away stones for building projects, and there were legends of ghosts and a White Lady haunting the place. Jane Austen lived a couple of centuries after the dissolution, but she had a strong sense of history, and of course saw all kinds of ruins and religious houses around her landscape, often in the hands of cruel and greedy landowners like her own General Tilney. There was plenty to inspire her, and plenty for me to use in my own Gothic fancies!

6.  I couldn't go to the Jane Austen Society of North America’s AGM in Williamsburg, Virginia this year, but I saw some pictures of you there. Tell us one of the highlights of the weekend for you!

It was really a wonderful AGM! Williamsburg is well worth a visit, though I especially loved the side trips to fascinating Jamestown and the beautiful, historically rich plantations on the James River, troubling though they were because of their slave history. One of the highlights for me was the talk I gave on a panel called “The Company of Clever, Well Informed People,” about the 40-year history of JASNA. The other great thrill was signing my books at the Book Emporium. Only conference speakers could sign, and I qualified!  So many friends, old and new, came up and were so kind about my new book, that I was really, literally over the moon with joy.  I’ve written about the AGM on the Austen Variations blog, with pictures:

7.  What do like to do when you are not writing?

Read, and play with my three fat cats. Two of my favorite activities, hiking and ballet, are somewhat limited as I’ve been having trouble with my knees, but although I’ve hung up my pointe shoes, I can still walk in the mountains, and dearly love it. I’ve taken many trips to England over the years, and never ever get tired of seeing Jane Austen’s country and walking where she walked.

8.  Do you have another book that you would like to write? If so, can you share anything about it? 

Oh, yes, lots!  Next up is a Little Women sequel, but I’d also like to put together my Lady Catherine de Bourgh stories in a single volume and collect a book of plays.  And then there’s that Sense and Sensibility sequel…

The Bride of Northanger
by Diana Birchall


A happier heroine than Catherine Morland does not exist in England, for she is about to marry her beloved, the handsome, witty Henry Tilney. The night before the wedding, Henry reluctantly tells Catherine and her horrified parents a secret he has dreaded to share - that there is a terrible curse on his family and their home, Northanger Abbey. Henry is a clergyman, educated and rational, and after her year’s engagement Catherine is no longer the silly young girl who delighted in reading “horrid novels”; she has improved in both reading and rationality. This sensible young couple cannot believe curses are real...until a murder at the Abbey triggers events as horrid and Gothic as Jane Austen ever parodied - events that shake the young Tilneys’ certainties, but never their love for each other...

Buy: Amazon (paid link) • Barnes & Noble • Publisher Page
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FTC Disclaimer: Link to Amazon. I am an Amazon Associate. Should you purchase a copy of the book through the link provided, I will receive a small commission. Thanks!


“Diana Birchall once again proves herself the worthiest of Austenesque fiction writers, with keen powers of observation, discernment, judgment, fire, genius, and wit on every page.” — Devoney Looser, author of The Making of Jane Austen

“No one captures Jane Austen's vibrant style, sense of humor, intelligence, and voice better than Diana Birchall. I flew through this charming novel, which makes a delightfully spooky and most welcome sequel to Northanger Abbey.” — Syrie James, author of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen

“One of the most enjoyable returns to Austen to be found. Not to be missed.” — Susan Franzblau, author and film director

About the Author

Diana Birchall worked for many years at Warner Bros studios as a story analyst, reading novels to see if they would make movies. Reading manuscripts went side by side with a restorative and sanity-preserving life in Jane Austen studies and resulted in her writing Austenesque fiction both as homage and attempted investigation of the secrets of Jane Austen's style. She is the author of In Defense of Mrs. Elton, Mrs. Elton in America, Mrs. Darcy's Dilemma, and the new The Bride of Northanger. She has written hundreds of Austenesque short stories and plays, as well as a biography of her novelist grandmother, and has lectured on her books and staged play readings at places as diverse as Hollywood, Brooklyn, Montreal, Chawton House Library, Alaska, and Yale. Visit Diana at her Austen Variations author page, follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.

Connect with Diana Birchall

Social Media hashtags 

#BrideofNorthanger, #JaneAusten, #HistoricalFicton, #GothicMystery, #Austenesque #Janeite #BlogTour


October 28 My Jane Austen Book Club (Interview)
October 28 vvb32 Reads (Spotlight)
October 29 From Pemberley to Milton (Excerpt)
October 30 Drunk Austen (Interview)
October 30 Silver Petticoat Review (Excerpt)
October 31 Jane Austen’s World (Review)
November 01 So Little Time… (Interview)
November 01 Laura's Reviews (Review)
November 04 English Historical Fiction Authors (Guest Blog)
November 04 Confessions of a Book Addict (Spotlight)
November 05 More Agreeably Engaged (Review)
November 05 Vesper’s Place (Review)
November 06 Jane Austen in Vermont (Interview)
November 06 Diary of an Eccentric (Interview)
November 07 All Things Austen (Spotlight)
November 07 A Bookish Way of Life (Review)
November 07 Let Them Read Books (Excerpt)  
November 08 Babblings of a Bookworm (Review)
November 08 vvb32 Reads (Review)
November 11 My Jane Austen Book Club (Review)
November 11 Reading the Past (Spotlight)
November 12 Jane Austen’s World (Interview)
November 12 The Calico Critic (Excerpt)
November 13 The Book Rat (Review) 
November 13 Austenesque Reviews (Review)
November 14 Fangs, Wands, & Fairy Dust (Review)
November 14 The Fiction Addiction (Review)
November 15 My Love for Jane Austen (Spotlight)
November 15 Scuffed Slippers and Wormy Books (Review)

Diana, thank you so much for visiting us here and for answering my questions! It was fascinating to learn about Netley Abbey. I had no idea! I also enjoyed looking at your AGM pictures! Thank you for sharing! My son's wedding was the next weekend, so I wasn't able to attend this year. I would have loved to go to Virginia to see all the historic sites, and I love Northanger Abbey!

Many thanks to Laurel Ann Nattress @ Austenprose for organizing and including me in this blog tour! 

As I said above, I've had the privilege to read The Bride of Northanger, and I loved it! I felt it was written just as Jane would have wanted. The gothic feel and mystery make for a delightful read, especially this time of year! I would highly recommend it! 

I hope you enjoyed my little interview with Diana! Please, leave any comments or questions you might have below! 


  1. Engaging interview, Candy and Diana!

    Loved learning more of Diana's Austen 'roots'. :) And, yes, all those books that are percolating we will love to read, too.

    1. Thank you, Sophia Rose! Yes, doesn't Diana have an interesting history?! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Diana has really earned the crown of Doyenne of Austenesque fiction. I loved The Bride of Northanger. Thanks for the great interview Candy!

    1. Hello, Laurel Ann! Yes, she has! The Bride of Northanger is a fabulous read! Thank you!


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