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Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Chat with Alyssa Goodnight...and then some

The scene: I'm sitting down with author Alyssa Goodnight to talk about her about-to-be-released-into-the-wild book, Austensibly Ordinary. We're cozied up to a little table, with coffee or something warm and yummy, casually chatting. There are two people seated behind her: a pretty girl dressed like a nice, prim little English teacher (because she is), but with a certain gleam in her eye that hints she's maybe not always so prim, and a man of the tall, dark, and handsome variety, nerdy but sexy - and yes, there should be a word for that.  His attention is mostly focused on the girl at his side, but he took in the whole room with quick, determined focus.  Alyssa introduced them as Cate Kendall and Ethan Chavez when they came in, and if I was surprised to find she travels with her main characters, I hid it well. (I think.) So far, they've been content to sit in the background and keep each other occupied...
But back to the conversation with Alyssa.

Me: So, Alyssa - are we going to see the Austen journal pop up again with another perplexed owner?
Alyssa: Not in the very near future. I was only contracted by Kensington for two 'Jane Austen Journal' books, so if there is another one, I would very likely put it out on my own.
Me: But who do you think the journal would find next? A Catherine-type, maybe, or perhaps an Anne? mutters: Though perhaps a Fanny-type needs the most help...
We both pause to sip our steaming drinks.
Alyssa: Catherine would be fun, Anne more serious but lots of potential. I'm not convinced that Fanny would take any advice that was offered, even if Jane herself was doing the offering.
Cate looks as if she's about to say something here, but then her attention is drawn back by a whisper from Ethan, and the moment passes.
Me: Well, if you could use the journal just once, and try to pry an answer from the ever-crypic Jane, would you?
Alyssa's eyes light up. Of course she'd use the journal - who would pass up an opportunity to interact with Jane Austen?
Me: laughs So that's a yes. What would you ask?
Alyssa ponders this, and says: Gifted with the opportunity to ask Jane of the Journal a question, I might ask for her best writing advice. I feel like I have my romantic life pretty locked in. She'd probably tell me, 'Write what you know and edit until it's utterly readable.' And she'd be spot-on.
We all nod sagely...
Me: Well, you may have your romantic life "locked in" (and gold star for you on that), but we can all agree we need to do little things for ourselves every now and then to shake things up...like Cate did with her alter-ego, Cat.
Cate blushes, but also looks fiercely proud...
Me: What would your alter-ego be like, Alyssa? What buried aspects of your personality would she bring out?
Alyssa: An alter-ego for moi? Hmmm…such a good question! If I was going to go to the trouble of creating an alter-ego, my new identity would definitely need to be more adventurous than I am. And more confident and outspoken. And she'd need to have thick, wavy hair. Looks wistfully at her own pin-staight and superfine hair...
Me: Would you base her on anyone, the way Cate did with her Hitchcockian femme fatales?
Alyssa: Maybe Emma Stone. Or Emma Watson.
Me: Thing for the Emmas, eh? I wink at Cate and Ethan, who have their own Emma connection. Then, realizing I always look ridiculous winking, I stop.
Alyssa: laughs Or Helen Mirren. In case you're wondering, blonde is not a requirement… I'm always inspired by the characters they play, and I have a feeling that they're drawing on their own personalities to bring those characters to life.
Me: On a sort of similar note, it seemed like you were drawing on your own experiences with the city of Austin when you wrote Austensibly Ordinary; Austin is a great presence in the book!
Alyssa: blushes
Me: So what's your favorite thing about the Weird City?
Alyssa, pondering: My favorite thing about Austin is its quirky, melting pot culture: the feeling that if it's happening anywhere in the U.S., it's happening somewhere in Austin. Austin is one of those cities where you feel like your options are limitless, and you can spend a weekend--or a week--on totally divergent pastimes, never running out of things to do.
Me: Sounds like Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein should move there and film a show called Austinlandia...
Alyssa: laughs I totally took that for granted when I lived there, and I regret that every time I go back.
Me: looks at Cate and Ethan. What about you two? You're being awfully quiet back there...
Cate and Ethan pull apart - barely - and look up at us. Ethan smiles; he has a dimple.
Ethan: Despite the obvious irony, I'd say my favorite thing about Austin is the "Live and let live." mentality. The city is completely 'anything goes.' And with some notable exceptions, everybody steers clear of everyone else's business.
Cate: snorts Where's the fun in that? You needed someone up in your business, Chavez. Be thankful I volunteered. My new favorite thing about Austin would definitely be how easy it is to reinvent yourself! The city is in a constant state of flux and reinvention. I decided I wanted to be a temporary femme fatale, and I made it happen--just for a few weeks, and it was fun and sexy and unexpected. Now I want to start all over again, and it almost feels like the city is spurring me on. Maybe I want to join a roller derby team… In Austin, not only is that an option, but I have my pick of teams…one week I could be a Hustler and the next, a Honky Tonk Heartbreaker.
Ethan: You do not want to join a roller derby team. And the fact that you know two team names worries me.
Cate: Why? You don't think I can bring it?
Ethan: If you were as tenacious with speed skating and bodychecking as you are with people's private lives, you could totally bring it…
Cate: All that bad grammar out there on the track? I could see it working me into a tizzy… And I already have a name picked out! What do you think of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof? Too tame?
Ethan: For your imaginary roller derby persona? No, I think it's fine--perfect.
Cate: If we still had the journal, we could ask Gypsy Jane what she thought about a roller derby alter ego.
Ethan: Given the chance to ask her one final question, that's the one you'd pick?
Cate: No, probably not. I'd probably want to ask if we'll ever work together. Like Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
Ethan (choking): Whereas I'd ask if you'll ever be completely comfortable in your own skin. That's the one thing I'm going to miss about Cat--she was comfortable, almost too comfortable. I might miss a few of her outfits too.
Cate: I knew you had a soft spot for Cat, despite your grumpy demeanor every time she showed up. Variety is the spice of life, Chavez. How about I outfit my imaginary roller derby persona: I'm thinking lots of leg and not a small amount of cleavage, and then we'll see what you think.
Ethan: I can't stop you, even if I wanted to.
Cate: But you don't want to. Admit it, Ethan.
Ethan: I don't want to.
Alyssa and I, feeling like we're suddenly intruding on a private moment, finish our drinks and leave Cate and Ethan to their banter... 

You can pick up Austensibly Ordinary starting this Tuesday - and if you're a Janeite, in any way romantic, or just in need of a damn good, fun book, I'd highly suggest you do.
Stop back tomorrow for my review and a letter to Jane Austen, in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Pride & Prejudice!
Steamy, funky, and thoroughly modern, Austin, Texas isn’t much like the gardened country estates of Jane Austen’s work. But there might be a few similarities in its inhabitants…

Cate Kendall is no stranger to daydreams of brooding men and fancy parties—after all, she teaches one of her beloved Jane Austen novels in her English classes every year. But as for romance or adventure in her own life, the highlight of most weeks is Scrabble with her cute coworker, Ethan, and he draws the line at witty banter. But Cate is ready for a change. When she finds a mysterious journal that seems to have a link to the soul of the great Jane Austen herself, she knows it’s her chance. And she grabs on with both hands…

Before she knows it, Cate has invented an alter ego with an attitude, attended some seriously chic soirees, and gotten tangled up with a delicious mystery man. And she’s uncovered enough unexpected secrets about Ethan that her Scrabble partner has taken to brooding looks and unfathomable silences. It’s a positively Austenite predicament, and Cate is sure she’ll land in hot water and heartbreak—but maybe not with Jane herself to guide her…


  1. This sounds fantastic! I love good banter, and certainly a woman inventing an alter-ego to express a confidence boost is a delicious, and relatable thing (so says the actress/writer).
    Also, Austin sounds very fun- I hear from my liberal/weird/fun friends that it's the sole town of independent and odd expression in TX, a freehold of hip and acceptance cultures. Rather like Portland and Seattle, only hotter. Hrmm.....Austinlandia....yes, I can see that....

  2. Roller derby alter egos sound intriguing! LOL I love these characters and Alyssa's sense of humor.


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