I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Price, author of First Impressions: An Amish Tale of Pride and Prejudice (a retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Book #1 from her Amish Classic series). First Impressions was published last May 2014. It's a great book. If you haven't read it yet, you can purchase your copy here.
A big THANK YOU to Sarah Price (and Michelle Dawn of Destination Amish) for this wonderful opportunity to interview her here on this blog relating to her book aforementioned above.
Jeane: Your novel "First Impressions: An Amish Tale of Pride and Prejudice" is book #1 on your Amish Classic series (with current book #2, The Matchmaker and upcoming book #3, Second Chances), what made you start writing and adapting Jane Austen's classics into an Amish classic series?
Sarah Price: When I was growing up, the all-time best birthday or Christmas present for me was a book. A nice, leather bound library edition of a book. I simply loved books. My first one was a collection of Jane Austen’s novels, given to me by my aunt Alice. Needless to say, I devoured the novels. About five years ago, my friend, Erin Brady (who also is an author but in a different genre), suggested that I adapt Pride & Prejudice to the Amish setting. That idea set of the lightbulb. Retelling the Jane Austen stories is a way to challenge myself and to truly develop a deep story line with rich characters and suspenseful romances. I’m not a fan of formula fiction, as most of my readers know. This series is unlike anything written in the genre of Amish fiction; deeper and more literary while still being light enough so that it does not overwhelm anyone.
J: How many books are you writing in your Amish Classic series?
SP: Right now, I’m under contract to write five more books, but I certainly hope to continue writing more. There are so many wonderful books that are waiting to be retold. I am of the opinion that many people are intimidated by the word “classics” and, therefore, are not as quick to pick up a Jane Austen or Victor Hugo novel. By retelling these amazing literary masterpieces in a non-intimidating way, developing the characters and building the suspense of the romances, I believe people will be intrigue enough to read the classics. If not, at least they will have been exposed to a well-told story centered in the Amish community.
J: With your own take of P&P (in First Impressions), Emma (The Matchmaker), and Persuasion (Second Chances), are you writing and adapting all of Austen's six classic novels for the rest of your Amish Classic series?
SP: Funny you ask that (grin). Yes I am! And after Jane’s books have been retold and published, I am moving onto the Bronte Sisters. I have enjoyed writing these books in a way that I hadn’t thought possible. And my readers have enjoyed reading them. While I love the romance in Jane Austen’s stories, I also enjoy the intellectual stimulation of challenging myself from a literary perspective.
J: In First Impressions, why change Elizabeth Bennet's last name to Blank when you kept her original first name? Also, in First Impressions, why named him Frederick Detweiler instead of Fitzwilliam Darcy?
SP: COMBINED ANSWER: I try to keep my Amish stories as authentic as possible. Additionally, even though First Impression retells Pride & Prejudice, it is still, at heart, an Amish story. That is what I love so much about this challenge: adapting stories from the 1800s into an Amish setting in the 21st century and maintaining the authenticity of the culture and religion.
The surnames, Bennet, Bingley and Darcy, are clearly not Amish. Elizabeth, however, is. I do wish that Jane Austen had named more male characters with another letter! It has been hard to find names that start with F (Fitzwilliam, Frank, etc.).
J: If First Impressions is turn into a TV movie or film, who would you want to see cast as Elizabeth & Frederick? Who would be your dream cast for the Blank family and other characters?
SP: Wouldn’t it be fun to have Kiera Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen play Lizzie and Frederick? Oh the thought of that is so exciting! Of course, they are both a bit older now. So, from a 2015 perspective, I would have to recruit Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Hemsworth. They both have the look that I envision in Lizzie and Frederick. Jennifer has an intelligent look about her and Chris can give a “keep your distance” aura. They also can maintain an air of aristocracy about them. Yet, I can also see them as a couple, once they have chiseled away at their erroneous first impressions and actually get to know each other.
J: Have you read some or all of Austen's novels prior to writing the Amish Classic series? If so, which Jane Austen novel is your favorite?
SP: I almost responded “hands down, Pride and Prejudice!” but that’s not true. Her novels are so well crafted that I love all of them for different reasons. I must admit that I had the most fun writing The Matchmaker, A Retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma. After all, Emma is a fun, light, and sometimes silly character. Much different than Anna in Second Chances, A Retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I believe that most of us have elements of each protagonist from every Jane Austen novel. No person is pure vanilla. We have a blending of characteristics which, in my opinion, is one of the reasons that Jane Austen’s novels are so appealing: we can relate to each character in some way. Of course, there’s the romance element. In each of her novels, Austen has one of those moments that just sweeps readers into a land of warm embraces and tender words that simply warm our hearts.
J: How many Pride and Prejudice adaptations have you seen? Which one is your favorite and why?
SP: I’ve watched four adaptations of Pride and Prejudice. Each one is special in its own right. However, as a diehard romantic, my preferences is for the 2005 Pride & Prejudice version with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. While I’m normally not a big Keira Knightley fan, I felt she really knocked it out of the ballpark with her Lizzie Bennet. And Matthew Macfadyen…his sulky, bored look changes and, once he has life in those eyes, I find him, and his portrayal of Mr. Darcy, irresistible.
J: What made you decide to title book #1 as "First Impressions," the original title to Austen's P&P novel?
SP: The original title of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was First Impressions. Given that this book is a retelling of arguably the greatest author of all times, I certainly did not want to flatter myself by using the Pride and Prejudice title. Also, given that the setting for my novel is in an Amish community, neither pride nor prejudice belongs in the title. Those two traits of the Amish are considered to be particularly sinful. In all of my writing, I try to remain respectful of the Amish culture and religion, leaning on my almost thirty years of being a welcomed outsider to several families and their respective church districts. Additionally, for my readers, I always strive to maintain a level of authenticity that comes only from being a part of these communities. First Impressions felt right on many different levels. It pays homage to Jane Austen and her magnificent literary skills while it also hints at my hope that readers new to both Jane Austen and/or the Amish will finish this novel with a first impression that is most positive. This is not your typical love story and, despite the fantastic storylines of Jane Austen’s novels, it is not particularly easy to transfer them into the Amish setting. Doing so in a manner that seems transparent to the reader, and leaves them wanting to read more, is the highest compliment that I could seek.
J: What's your favorite chapter and passage in Austen's P&P and in your own version, First Impressions?
SP: In Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I loved the scene when Lizzie meets Mr. Darcy. His aloofness is classic for a society with high expectations within a strict social hierarchy. The fact that she stands up to him creates the tone for the rest of the novel. It was hard to recreate that scene in First Impressions since the Amish tend to socialize infrequently, unless it is with family or church. Using the youth singing as the setting for the infamous “tolerable” comment and having Lizzie find an opportunity to toss it back to Frederick was difficult. Neither Amish men nor women engage in verbal fencing with others. In fact, they tend to shut down, an invisible wall immediately surrounding them, when something disagreeable occurs. It’s better to remain silent than to retaliate.
Will pride and prejudice keep the Blank sisters from finding love?
With five daughters and no sons, Daed and Maem Blank are anxious to find their girls suitors who might eventually take over their family farm. When news arrives that Charles Beachey, the son of a prominent Amish farmer, will be returning from Ohio with his cousin Frederick, they are hopeful that the young men might be good matches for their daughters.
The oldest daughter, Jane, starts courting Charles, a well-mannered and very respectful young man, but her younger sister Lizzie is not interested in either courtship or Frederick. In fact, she wants nothing to do with him, finding him full of pride and disdain for her family's way of life. But in a community and culture where pride is scorned, Lizzie must learn that first impressions can be dangerous and people are not always who they seem to be.
This Amish retelling of the popular Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice is a beautiful take on the power of love to overcome class boundaries and prejudices that will win your heart.
Sarah Price self-published her first book, Fields of Corn, in 2009, a book she wrote thirty years earlier while studying anthropology and writing at Drew University (Madison, NJ). With her Anabaptist upbringing, she was drawn to the amazing culture of the Amish of Lancaster County. Ms. Price is heavily involved with numerous Amish communities where she is considered family by some and friend by most others. Fields of Corn became an Amazon bestseller and fans began asking her for more books.Follow her on social media:
In 2013, she signed with Realms, a division of Charisma House, to publish the Amish Classics series. Initially focusing on the retelling of Jane Austen's timeless classics from within an Amish setting, her first traditionally published book, First Impressions, A Retelling of Pride & Prejudice, debuted on the ECPA bestseller list. She intends to continue retelling classics, including the Bronte sisters and Victor Hugo, as she enjoys "raising the bar" on her own intellectual stimulation as well as that of her expansive base of loyal readers.
In 2014, she signed with Waterfall Press and published An Amish Buggy Ride which became a #1 bestseller in Religious Romance.
Ms. Price was a former full-time college professor. After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, she now writes full-time.