Book Club Questions for “Alias Thomas Bennet”

Who would expect heavy rains to be so welcome? After the recent extended drought in Los Angeles and Orange County, California, my home-away-from home again this weekend, it makes sense. My Chat Chit friends’ gardens will green up! Of course, I attribute it to the engineer friend who passed away this week: he’s up there above us, and repaired the systems!

The last time I was here, I was part of a “Meet the Author” event with “The Real Orange County Book Club.” I enjoyed meeting another of their members yesterday. Her enthusiasm about my book and writing inspired me to share the Book Club Questions I wrote for their use when my novel, Alias Thomas Bennet, was their monthly read for September 2014.

Alias Thomas Bennet 1263 x 900Alias Thomas Bennet by Suzan Lauder
Book Club Questions

1. Alias Thomas Bennet is inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and follows its general plot line, which in Fan Fiction is referred to as “canon.” Discuss the differences between “canon” and Alias Thomas Bennet. Do you agree with how the changes have been made? What could be done differently?

2. Outside of this book, Fan Fiction encompasses almost every area of storytelling in our culture: from The X Files to Mulan, Little Women to Wolverine, the online community of re-writes is immense. Discuss your familiarity and reactions to the idea of Fan Fiction. What other examples of Fan Fiction are you aware of? (Hint: famous trilogy based on Twilight!)

3. Maria Lucas is a minor character in the original Pride and Prejudice. What do you think of her role in Alias Thomas Bennet? Discuss her motivation and the societal aspects that compelled her.

4. A mature scene told from Darcy’s point of view has been controversial with readers. How would this differ if it was presented by an omniscient narrator as in most mature novels? Do you think it would be different if it was not a fantasy, but a sex scene? What is your reaction to the concept that Darcy ultimately decided to propose because of his desire? Do you think there might be some element of that in Pride and Prejudice?

5. The story begins with a series of flashbacks. Talk about your reaction to the exposure of information in the flashbacks, your understanding of them, and your suspicions as they evolved with the information in each vignette. Discuss how close your conjecture was to the exposé in chapter 8 and 9.

6. Wickham is a particularly evil villain in this adaptation. Some might criticise this as a ploy to victimize the heroine in order to add importance to the role of the hero. What is your view? What do you think about the outcome for him in this book? What do you think about Elizabeth’s reactions?

7. What is your impression of Fanny and Thomas Bennet/Lord Shelton? Do you think they are over-played, and the story should be more about Elizabeth and Darcy, as in Pride and Prejudice? Why?

8. In canon, Fanny Bennet is flighty and distractible. In Alias Thomas Bennet, it’s implied she suffers from PTSD. What do you think of this possibility? Why or why not is it a plausible explanation for her canon personality?

9. Discuss what life would have been like on a sailing ship for a month with small children, eating only hard tack (cracker-like bread) and gruel.

10. Some readers love the gown descriptions, and some hate them. What do you think?

11. Discuss what it might have felt like for Elizabeth and Jane to suddenly become the focus of society, when before, they were unknown. What do you think of this class structure issue? How does it compare with how people are judged today? What are the similarities and differences?

12. What did you like best about this novel? What would you change?


Please share any special thoughts that came up as you read this list, as I love feedback, and other readers would love to hear about it as well!

January 4, 2014: Eight Blogs in Nine Days, January 7-15!

As much as Jakki Leatherberry of Leatherbound Reviews would look great in the passenger seat, this is a trip that’s a bit too intense for the little car. Time to pull out the passport and the big suitcase (parka for the north, sunscreen for the south) because we’re heading to all kinds of interesting places. It’s the Leatherbound Reviews Alias Thomas Bennet Blog Tour, January 7-15, 2014!

ATB Blog Tour Banner

Did you wonder about that boat on the cover of Alias Thomas Bennet? Follow me across the sea to Italy (that could be a children’s song!) where I’ll blog about Thomas and Fanny Bennet’s boat trip on My Jane Austen Book Club on January 7 (which also happens to be Christmas Day in my family!).

From there, we’ll fly back to sneak some peeks at my book with an excerpt at eclectic blog Everything Books and Authors on January 8: more about that boat you see on the cover! We’re on the move from here, because on January 11 My Love for Jane Austen will feature a short clip with insight into some threats to the comfortable life Thomas Bennet has built for himself and his family, and on January 15 Elizabeth will find herself in a very precarious situation on Addicted to Jane Austen. But I’m known as the secret-keeper, so these are still going to be “teaser” posts, and you’re still going to have to read the book to find out everything!

I’m down for some cool quizzing with an author interview on Songs and Stories on January 10 following a review on January 9, then my friend and fellow AHA Chat Chit Rose Fairbanks will also interview me on her blog, The Darcy Obsession, on January 12.

Finally, join me in perusing reviews of my book, Alias Thomas Bennet, written by mega-reader Anna at Diary of an Eccentric, and Spanish language blog Warmisunqu’s Austen, on January 14 and 15 respectively. I know Warmisunqu is a great fan of Janet Taylor’s cover for ATB, and I hope she finds the book equally satisfying.

It’s going to be quite the trip. You’ll be surprised as the excerpts drive the story forward with glimpses into the dramatic tension in various sections of the book, and I think I’ll be equally surprised to react to the interviews and reviews. There will be plenty of chances for you to comment on each blog, as well as give-aways for those who love to win stuff. See you at the luggage carousel!


Alias Thomas Bennet is available at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

December 18, 2013: Outtake from Alias Thomas Bennet at Austenesque Reviews

I never knew Alias Thomas Bennet was so full of hints and spoilers until I tried to figure out what text I could present as an excerpt for a blog post. I love to tease readers about what might come next, but I’d also like them to have a chance to feel the excitement as each little thing is exposed and their suspicions are confirmed, and it wouldn’t be fun if you already knew everything before you read the book. So for today’s guest blog at Austenesque Reviews, I offered to write an outtake, something brand new and unique, to give the flavour of ATB without giving too much away. Meredith liked the idea, and I hope you do, too.

Austenesque Reviews

I didn’t bug my editor, Gail, to check this scene out (she’s on the road again!), but my friend Maria had a look and confirmed it wouldn’t embarrass me technically.

December 2, 2013: Excerpt from Alias Thomas Bennet

This is part of a scene where Darcy and Bennet are chatting at the Netherfield Ball, after Darcy dances with Elizabeth.

“Very well, Bennet, you are indeed a good friend,” said Darcy. “Now, since you chose that last disagreeable topic, I would like to challenge you with my choice.”

Bennet raised his brows, but Darcy’s demeanour revealed there was jest in his intended conversation, and a smile threatened on one side of his mouth.

Darcy saw his friend understood his intention and so continued, affecting outrage, “Tell me, as a friend, what in blazes is that cousin of yours thinking, dancing when he has no notion of the forms? I was pained to see the embarrassment on your daughters’ faces as he was disrupting all the participants in the dance and ruthlessly treading on the ladies’ feet!”

Bennet noticed a hint of a wry smile in Darcy’s eyes. “I see we have abandoned all principles of gentlemanly discourse, and I am sorely regretting upsetting your sensibilities with the last topic, such that you feel a need to punish me severely by bringing up my cousin in such a manner,” Bennet said, his mouth twitching to suppress a grin. “I too observed his performance, and if it were not likely that it would further mortify the young women on the receiving end of his company, I would drag him off by his ear like an errant school boy!” However much he thought his cousin ridiculous, his humour was severely tried by Collins.

“My apologies for his ungentlemanly conduct, old man,” he continued. “He drives me quite mad. I was hopeful about his improvement, but it is obvious he does not care how he exposes himself. I have had more than one occasion to chastise him discreetly this evening, but somehow he thinks he is above heeding my counsel. All the response I receive is another ill-mannered speech about your aunt and her condescension and how the import of his station bestows him the right to do as your aunt would admire. I hope you are not so unfortunate as to be much in his company at your aunt’s estate.”

“I imagine I have succeeded in obtaining a little retribution for your opinions on the last topic, Bennet.” Darcy smiled and added drily, “Perhaps if I am ever again in the company of Mr. Collins, I could imply that you are inferior in the skills needed for a proper supplicating sycophant and make the suggestion that he exert himself to provide you advice on how to show subjection towards me and my station! I am sure he would act on my advice with uncommon alacrity!” Darcy was trying not to laugh. Bennet showed no such restraint and threw his head back with a hearty guffaw.

“If he were able to convince me as you suggest, it would make our wrangling much less lively!”

“You are correct, Bennet; that would certainly be most regrettable. In that case, I have no choice but to amend my strategy. I will avoid him, scowl most viciously to show I am not at all approachable, and refuse to attend to his ridiculous speeches.”

“Well done. In any case, we will not long have him in Hertfordshire; he is to return to Kent next Saturday.”

“I am sure you will be most grateful.”

Bennet indicated his agreement and then paused. He took a deep breath and began, “Darcy, I have another serious matter to discuss. We have a new acquaintance in the neighbourhood who causes me concern. I worry because it is not likely this person will take his leave any time soon since he is in Colonel Forster’s group of militia officers. Do you know Mr. George Wickham?” Bennet turned to point the man out. “He is right now standing up with Miss Maria Lucas. I have not yet met him but have learned much of him. He claims to be known to you.”

Darcy’s defences immediately came to full alert. He roused himself from the amusing thoughts of a moment before, straightened to his full height, and clenched his fists at his sides. “I do know him, sir, and he is a scoundrel. He was the son of my father’s steward, a very good man, and I have known him most of my life. We played together as children, and I was aware of Wickham’s nature, but his pleasant manner allowed him to gain my late father’s good opinion. My father funded Mr. Wickham’s education through school and at Cambridge. Away from my father’s eyes, he used his charms to gain friends who shared his wicked ways. He quickly developed habits of gambling, deceit, and debauchery, which caused me to abandon any presumed friendship from our youth.” Darcy was unable to hide his disgust towards Wickham.

“He tells a tall tale of misuse at your hands, and as much as my family has tried to question the verity of his claims, much of Meryton is charmed by him.”


So how much will Darcy tell Bennet, and what does this mean for Wickham’s situation in Meryton? And why are the Bennets questioning his claims? What do they know? How will Wickham react to all of this?

Alias Thomas Bennet is available now at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

November 26, 2013: The car’s in drive and the book’s on the shelves!

I’ve been a bit of a wreck all week knowing that Alias Thomas Bennet was to go on sale any day now. It really wasn’t warranted, but I think it’s traditional.

You see, the people at Meryton Press are so fantastic there was little to worry about, even if I’m a control freak and agonized over the times I had to stop and wait and let them do their jobs.

I had a lot of interaction when it came to editing and layout with Gail Warner and Ellen Pickels, as well as incorporating Janet Taylor’s ability to interpret and enhance my vision of the cover. My opinions were taken very seriously, and I think the only place I grumbled was when I wanted to keep a double negative (Austen used them, you know!) and Gail said she drew the line there! I’ve been told by other authors that I’m lucky I was allowed to be so involved with the process, since most publishers pretty much leave the writer out of the loop. Instead I came away from it with some new friends.

Then there are the invisible people like Zorylee Diaz-Lupitou and Michele Reed who work the marketing and production and strategy and who knows what else. It all happened with selective input by me, which felt strange because usually I’m the one in charge and on top of every detail. But being new to this, I had no clue what the details entailed, and thank goodness someone else was there to handle them.

I was cared for. That’s really a lovely feeling. I got to be the author. The one who was being helped, being pleased. Peel me a grape.

The silly thing is that my mind was dwelling on things like “Should I use a different picture on Amazon?” “What if there’s a problem getting the book on the market?” (Don’t go there, Suzan, even if a self-published friend had a few issues last week!) “Should I have cut ‘those’ scenes so I wouldn’t have to blush when my mom reads it?” and “How many copies do I need to give away to family and friends?” because “What if no one likes it?”

And there lies the classic author’s insecurity.

But see, I like it. That’s the thing. I’m very pleased with a plot that was supposed to be a rather simple “what-if” and turned into something I’ve been told over and over again is extremely unique. I love my new characters, and especially how they pushed their way into importance in the lives of the Bennets. I think I succeeded in the way I used the traditional characters from Pride and Prejudice and changed their actions because of their circumstances but stuck with the base personalities that Austen created for them. And I’m proud of how I put the words and scenes together to create something new and decidedly different.

When I look back and see all I learned as a writer through working with the betas for the original series on A Happy Assembly, and then with Gail on the book, I’m grateful that I had that chance to grow and to make Alias Thomas Bennet the kind of book I’m proud to share with the world. I get to go forward with more confidence and skill as I return to work on my next novel.

And while I’m writing that next book, my readers are getting to find out what’s behind that cover and blurb, like:

“What’s with the boat? Is it coming or going?”

“Who are these people?”
(A good guess is that it’s Jane, Elizabeth, and their father.)

“What is little Jane looking at?”

“Where is this quay that they are standing on, and why are they there?”

“What is the significance of the house on the back cover?”
(Which again a good guess would say is Longbourn.)

“If Jane and Elizabeth are really young, how much of the traditional time period of Pride and Prejudice will we see?”
(The main story is played parallel to canon in 1811-1812, with a few short flashbacks.)

“So if this story is about Mr. Bennet, what about Darcy and Elizabeth?”
(Don’t worry, it’s still all about Darcy and Elizabeth; in fact, our favourite couple’s slightly simpler romance makes for some prime snogging, and there’s a particularly steamy carriage scene!)

“So what is this mystery about the Bennets being recognized and Darcy being important to it all?”
(Okay, I started this post off okay but then got into the habit answering the questions a bit too easily. You’ll have to read the book for this one!)

Heh heh heh.

 photo DSC02916_zpsdcd47818.jpg

Let me know what you think!

November 12, 2013: Guest blog at More Agreeably Engaged: A Mystery is Lurking at Longbourn and Suzan Lauder Wrote It!

Northanger Abbey
Today we’re traveling to Janet Taylor’s blog, More Agreeably Engaged, to find out how Northanger Abbey affected my love for JAFF, the evolution of my writing, and a bit more about Thomas Bennet.

Not satisfied with blogging, Janet is also the cover artist for ATB, so you might want to browse the rest of her site!

See you over there!