Guest Post: Jane Austen’s Dragons (Author: Maria Grace Narrator: Benjamin Fife) ~ #AudiobookTour #Excerpt


 

What draws your interest into stories about dragons? What do you hope to find inside the world in which they are built round and the kind of fantastical details which give you a wicked good read (or listen)?

Dragons are Larger than life.  I adore the How to Train Your Dragon film series (the books are a little weak).  Stories with dragons are so incredibly varied, from them being mindless beasts driven by instinct alone, to being sentient & more wise than humans.  I love when authors incorporate all kinds of different dragon species, with different abilities.  Maria has done so extensively through this series, but what she has also done is researched dragon folklore extensively to come up with a “well rounded society” of dragons.

Blessedly this author has taken our beloved interest in Pride and Prejudice and intermixed it with our fantastical attraction to dragons and the lore of intrigue within both worlds. What was your favorite discovery within Pemberley: Mr Darcy’s Dragon? What did you feel about how these two individually distinct worlds became co-merged into a new place where Classical readers and Fantasy readers could co-habitat?

Some of the absurd behavior of the characters from the original can now be explained away as being under the influence of dragons.   Mrs. Bennet?  She’s just been living not hearing dragons her whole life, but being persuaded by them nonetheless.  No wonder she’s got no sense.  There was a reviewer who made a point that the main characters lose their “titular flaws.”  I suppose there’s an argument there, but I felt that instead, their character traits were partially expanded in the increased cast, and for me at least, the involvement of Dragons in their whole lives is more than enough to explain why some things happen a little differently & their reactions are slightly different. There are also some things that are very tipped on their heads.  Instead of just Lizzy being fooled by Wickham, you have Darcy fooled in much the same manner by Longbourn.  They’re both forced to deal with their assumptions head on & realize that they are more alike than they are different, in faults as well as in strengths.

What do you love most about the Pride and Prejudice aspects which overlay into this new world?

Taking Jane Austen’s pristine world & creating a dragon society that in many ways is modeled directly after it.  That challenge of realizing that whatever our perspective is, we are undoubtedly missing something.  I recently read a book that pointed out how narrow minded the phrase “there’s 2 sides to every story” is.  It pointed out there are at least 360 sides to every story.   (If you expand on that idea 3 dimensionally, it means there are at least 46,656,000 ways of looking at  anything). That to me is in large part what Jane Austen wrote about.  No one ever has the whole picture.

Of all the dragons within this series – do you have a favorite  What made them stand out to you?

Ooh.  That’s a hard one.  I adore so many of them!  And I also don’t want to give away too much.  I hate to say it, because he’s a bit of a schmuck through most of the series, but I really like Longbourn.  He’s curmudgeonly & spoiled, and you don’t really find out his whole story and motivation until the end of book 3.  He’s a brat, but I LOVED voicing him.  But I also love doing Walker, and April – in particular their relationship, and some of the minor characters were delightful too.  Maria has written the dragon companions to in some ways mirror their companions, so if you love the characters in the original, you can’t help but love the dragons as well. 

Which aspects of the world-building within this framework of the Jane Austen Dragons do you think Fantasy readers will be most keen to listen for and to discover as they make their way into the series? What makes this world distinctively fantastical in other worlds?

The idea that in fact, Dragons do exist & could very well exist in the world we live in today.   If only certain people can perceive them as dragons & understand them, and those people are sworn to secrecy, who’s to say that particularly large great dane of your neighbors isn’t a minor drake in disguise & you just happen to be dragon deaf.    I told Maria my idea (ever so slight spoiler – Pemberly survives) that since Fire Drakes are so long lived, She’s still around today and established & runs the Westminster Dog show with her current keepers.  I always love when authors can take historical events (or times) and weave them into fantasy or Science Fiction. It makes it so anything crazy or absurd that happens today has some kind of logical, albeit fantastical, explanation.  I love the idea that somehow its ALL true.  Dragons.  The Stargate Program.  Doctor Who.  The Wizarding World.  Somewhere, someone is raising a little Zephram Cochrane right now who’s studying physics & warp field design….  Its all just covered up.

When it pertains to the dragons themselves – can you share a short insight into the kind of dragons readers can expect to become introduced? Do they have any particular unique characteristics that you felt were most inspiring? And, is there a mix of good and bad dragons? I was curious about the ‘society of dragons’ and what you’re own impressions were therein?

In this series, at least so far (she’s writing some based on Persuasion & Northanger Abbey), she’s kind of stuck to the human traits of Jane Austen’s characters, only possibly amplified.  The one difference is that notably across all the species of dragons, they always say what they mean. But in the series there are Wyrms, Lindwurms, Wyverns, Fire Drakes, Fairy dragons, Tatzelwurms.  Basically, if there’s ever been a legend of some kind of Dragon, Maria has tried to incorporate them into this world & a hierarchy for them based on size, ability, wisdom, etc.  I’m excited to see what new dragons she introduces in the forthcoming books (and I’m still really hoping she wants me to voice them too!)

Outside this world – which stories about dragons impressed you the most? Who are your favorite dragons and which worlds would you love to re-visit if you could? 

I have pre kindergarten memories of watching my older siblings in a play version of the Hobbit & also the old cartoon that was made of the hobbit. Pete’s Dragon appears in my memory about the same time.  I’ve read a little bit of Anne McCaffrey.  My favorite modern dragons created are undoubtedly Toothless & the gang from the movie series How to Train Your Dragon.  (Definitely different from the books – They’re a little odd & not near as cool as the movies – usually that’s the other way around). Timothy Zahn has a Dragon series I keep meaning to read too.  Who DOESN’T love dragons?  It’s like its wired into us or something.  I drew dragons growing up.  My oldest daughter spent a year it seems drawing nothing but dragon eyes.  Dragons seem to be a window into a powerful untapped portion of our psyche.  Ok, maybe I’m going a little deep here. But I’d love to live with Hiccup Haddock & crew to bring it back to your question.

What do you find more challenging? Creating a voice for a child or for changing genders from male to female? How do you work through how to articulate your voice to intone the differences?

Child.  Without a doubt.  I’ve read to my kids outloud for years before narrating professionally, and I loved reading Jane Eyre to them.  Its kind of something where it depends on the story too.  If the story is told more from a child’s perspective, I handle it fine, but when it’s more of an adult perspective book – like this series – and then there’s a little bit of child thrown in, it just kind of throws me. In this series, there’s very little child dialogue & it certainly is not my strong point in it.  With any character, I mainly just try to get in their head.  When I’m recording, my face changes for each character I voice.  As I stand while I record, sometimes my stance changes as well, if it’s a domineering character or a sniveling guy like Collins. For Feminine voices, instead of trying to “match” a woman’s voice, I pitch it just a little higher (notable exceptions – Lydia & Mrs. Bennet) and breathier.  There’s so much that goes into making each character a little different.  Especially when characters are related, or similar in attitude. 

As you’re committed to narrating the Jane Austen Dragons series for the long-term, what you are you most excited about when it comes to presenting the prequel A Proper Introduction to Dragons? Both for readers who are already listening to the series and for new readers who haven’t yet heard Pemberley?

As I just indicated.  Voicing a child is not necessarily my strongsuit.  I’m excited for the challenge to do just that.  But being told from a child’s perspective, (no, its not in 1st person, but there’s a degree of the overall narrator that becomes its own character – for example, my tone in the “Lizzy” chapters or sections vs. the “Darcy” sections are a little different) I think I will be able to pull it off, and I hope very well.   I guess Maria & listeners will be the ultimate judges of that. 

It sounds like the author is intending to go through the canon of Jane Austen whilst re-working each of the novels or stories in sequence into the Jane Austen Dragons world? Do you know the order of sequence she’s working on and of all the stories yet to be adapted which are you most looking forward to narrating? And, why?

She’s currently about 80% done with one based on Persuasion, but it sounds like it may turn into 2 books for it.  She says its turning out to be almost more of a political mystery novel, which I’m excited about.  Stories kind of take on a life of their own, which is what I love about being part of the creative process. She’s also got something in the works for Northanger Abbey.  I think that could be positively delightful.  I’m also hoping that there will be some crossover of characters from one of Austen’s books to the others.   I also told her should consider expanding to other classic authors.  Book 3 of this series would be a great segue to “Victor Hugo’s Dragons.” But French is also not my strong suit, so before we get to Les Miserables Dragons, maybe I should work on it… 

What have been your favorite takeaways as you’ve now narrated three stories of the Jane Austen Dragons? Especially in consideration with the handling of the Pride and Prejudice world set within the world of the dragons – how did you feel the author handled bridging in our favorite characters like Lizzie, Darcy, etc and do you have any favorite moments of them? How do you feel the world of Jane Austen is transitioning into this world as well? 

When you take a beloved book like P&P, dissect it, and put it back together with an an entire added cast of characters & underground society, there are going to be some casualties. And those casualties include Jane & Bingley.  Beyond book 1, they’re barely mentioned, much less present. Also, if you liked Mr. Bennet originally… you probably won’t like him in this series.  He’s more curmudgeonly than Longbourn. I’ve read a couple of reviews that have been a little harsh on this being little more than “fan-fic”.  If you go into this expecting pure Pride & Prejudice, just with dragons, you’re probably going to be disappointed.  BUT – she’s for the most part very true to the characters Austen created. Maria sometimes uses the exact phraseology from the books, but often with another character voicing the classic lines.  I personally adored how she handled it.

You lean towards narrating serial fiction – is this sparked out of feeling inspired by getting the chance to stay within a world longer than if it were just a one-off or is this a nod towards your own reading preferences? Do you have a series you’d love to narrate or hear narrated?

Frankly, I love narrating about anything.  Years of reading to my kids every night has exposed all of us to a wide array of literature.  Everything from Seven Years in Tibet to Hank the Cowdog. There are some Non-fiction books I’d love to do.  I do enjoy doing series because I get to revisit characters & explore these brilliant worlds authors have created.  It also is good for business.   I would love to narrate any series by Timothy Zahn.  There are a few books that we’ve come back to as a family multiple times – The Lord of the Rings, Narnia.  I know they’ve already got some phenomenal performances of them, but I’d love to do some C.S. Lewis, Dickens, and so many others.

When you’re not narrating stories and seeking out new authors to narrate what renews your spirit the most?

I’m an eclectic music junky & music history junky.  Classical – Though Pretty much post-Mozart (though I do enjoy his operas – he actually considered himself an opera composer foremost) on up to current “classical” from Phillip Glass to John Cage, to Henry Brandt, to the Silk Road Ensemble.  I’ve listened soundtracks often without seeing the movies based on the composer.  John Williams.  James Horner. Danny Elfman.  Michael Giacchino.  Johan Johannsen. Ludwig Goranson.   I love everything from Pink Floyd to Pink Martini and then some.  World music to me is amazing.  I love the organic nature of it.  Give me ethnic music from anywhere & I’m in heaven. Yourclassical.org has some very good streams to choose from.  I myself also sing, play the trumpet well, play the piano & violin poorly, the harmonica okay, and can noodle around on the ukulele & guitar.  We probably have 5 instruments in our house per person at least. And we have 6 kids.  Being with them & my wife, consuming copious amounts of optimistic sci-fi & fantasy.  That sums us up.


 

Author: Maria Grace
Narrator: Benjamin Fife
Length: 8 hours 11 minutes
Publisher: Maria Grace⎮2019
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: Jane Austen’s Dragons, Book 1
Release date: July 2, 2019

Synopsis: England is overrun by dragons of all shapes and sizes. Most people are blissfully unaware of them and the Pendragon Treaty that keeps the peace between human and dragon kind. Only those born with preternatural hearing, like Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are able to hear and converse with dragonkind.  

When the first firedrake egg laid in a century is stolen from Pemberley, the fragile dragon peace teeters on collapse. Darcy has no choice but to chase down the thief, a journey that leads him to quaint market town of Meryton and fellow Dragon Keeper, Elizabeth Bennet.    

Elizabeth shares a unique bond with dragons, stronger than anything Darcy has ever experienced. More than that, her vast experience and knowledge of dragon lore may be the key to uncovering the lost egg. But Elizabeth can’t stand Darcy’s arrogance and doesn’t trust him to care properly for a precious baby firedrake. After all, he already lost the egg once. What’s to prevent it from happening again?  

Can he win her trust and recover the stolen egg before it hatches and sends England spiraling back into the Dark Ages of Dragon War?  

Jane Austen meets Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern. A must-listen for Pern fans.

Audible

 

 
Author: Maria Grace
Narrator: Benjamin Fife
Length: 9 hours 38 minutes
Publisher: Maria Grace⎮2019
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: Jane Austen’s Dragons, Book 2
Release date: Dec. 4, 2019 

Synopsis: Darcy thought his problems were over when Pemberley hatched and successfully imprinted on humans. But baby dragons prove far more difficult than any dragon lore prepared him for. Only Elizabeth Bennet’s notes offer him any help. When his imperious Aunt Catherine takes matters into her own hands, things take a turn for the worse and Pemberley’s life hangs in the balance. He desperately needs more of Elizabeth’s help, but she ignores all of his requests. 

Elizabeth, though, has problems of her own. After the Bennet family dragon sent Pemberley away, life at Longbourn was supposed to return to normal and Elizabeth get on with the all-important business of marrying the heir to her father’s estate. Except that he is the last man in the world whom she could ever be prevailed on to marry – a bumbling, addle-pated dragon-hater who demands she gives up the dragons she lives for. 

Can she, with the help of her dragon friends, find her way back to Pemberley before they both suffer their fate from the Dragon Entail? 

Jane Austen meets Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Riders of Pern. A must-listen for Pern fans.

Audible

 

 
Author: Maria Grace
Narrator: Benjamin Fife
Length: 9 hours  40 minutes
Publisher: Maria Grace⎮2020
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: Jane Austen’s Dragons, Book 3
Release date: Jan. 31, 2020

Synopsis: Elizabeth Bennet thought she was prepared to do anything to make the Dragon Conclave accept her beloved young dragon Pemberley into the Blue Order, but she had not anticipated it would leave her banished from her ancestral home and betrothed to none other than Mr. Darcy. But before Elizabeth and Darcy wed, they must find a dangerous rogue dragon before it provokes a war amongst the dragons and brings the fragile peace between dragons and mankind to a catastrophic end.

Nothing written in the annals of dragon lore has prepared Elizabeth to manage a dragon not governed by the Blue Order. Dragons have always loved her, but this one finds her arrogant, selfish and insensitive to others. With only her instincts to guide her, she must convince the rogue of her good intentions before the Blue Order loses patience and decides on more drastic measures.

Called away to the other side of the kingdom, trying to settle the dragons’ unrest, Darcy learns the nature of the force poisoning the rogue dragon against Elizabeth. One nearer and dearer than they could have imagined.

Can Elizabeth and Darcy convince with rogue dragon to cooperate before darker forces turn it against them, without destroying the fragile bonds uniting the couple?

 


 

 

About the Author: Maria Grace

Five time BRAG Medallion Honoree and #1 best selling Historical Fantasy author, Maria Grace has her PhD in Educational Psychology and is a 16-year veteran of the university classroom where she taught courses in human growth and development, learning, test development and counseling. None of which have anything to do with her undergraduate studies in economics/sociology/managerial studies/behavior sciences. She pretends to be a mild-mannered writer/cat-lady, but most of her vacations require helmets and waivers or historical costumes, usually not at the same time.

She writes gaslamp fantasy, historical romance and non-fiction to help justify her research addiction.

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About the Narrator: Benjamin Fife

Benjamin Fife has always had a passion for learning. With a mind that remembers all sorts of numbers and useless trivia, he regularly wins local radio shows and enjoys confusing people with sci-fi quotes. 

Fife grew up in Southeast Idaho. He attended college at Idaho State University, where he met his future wife in their music theory class. They have been married nearly 20 years and now have six children and a whole menagerie of animals. When their oldest daughter was three or four years old they started reading aloud from novels every night at bedtime, and have continued the tradition ever since. The family loves exploring various worlds and topics through Fife’s wonderful reading skills, which get better every year. They all have his Christmas Carol voices memorized (and the older kids are known to quote along with portions), since he has read it to them every December. 

Benjamin enjoys all kinds of sci-fi and fantasy – both books and shows, is an extreme eclectic music lover, and prefers his chocolate to be of the 90% cocoa variety. Above all, he loves to be with his family. He loves recording audio books, and is delighted to tell people, “I’ve finally found what I want to be when I grow up!” 

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Runs Jan. 30th-Feb. 20th⎮Open internationally

Jane Austen’s Dragons Giveaway: Custom Statue of the Dragon ‘Pemberly’

 


 

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I was born and raised in Northern Indiana. I’m an outdoor sun loving reader living near San Fransisco. I’m a mother, wife, dog owner, animal, and book lover. I’m the owner, reviewer, and mind behind Angel’s Guilty Pleasures. My favorite animals are horses & dogs. As for reading I love all things paranormal & urban fantasy. My favorite shifters are dragons!

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Jodi Hunter
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Jodi Hunter

The artwork is beautiful.

Benny Fife
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Thanks so much for participating in this tour. I’ve loved working with Maria on this & am looking forward to more.

Sophia Rose
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I love Benjamin’s narration work on this series. Great dragon voices! 🙂

sherry fundin
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fantastic cover. i love anything dragon!!!!
sherry @ fundinmental