Wednesday, 26 February 2014

How "Yes" used to mean "no"

The word "yes" was not always the word used to express agreement or affirmation. It had a more emphatic sense. The general word to indicate a positive response to a question used to be "yay." We are familiar with this word; we sometimes say "yay or nay." Most people might not understand how the word was used, or rather, how it differed from the word "yes."

"Yay" is used to give a positive answer to a question asked in the affirmative. "Yes" is used to answer negatively to a question asked in the negative. In this way, yes sort of means no.

I will give you some examples.

1. "Do you want to go to the hockey game?"
"Yay, I want to go."

2. "Do you not want to go to the hockey game?"
"Yes, I do want to go."

3. "Do you not want to go to the hockey game?"
"No, I don't want to go."

"Are you coming Winifred?"
"Yes Reginald! I am just putting on my shoes"
You could also use "yes" to give emphasis to an affirmative response, like if you have been dying to go to the hockey game and someone has finally asked you, or if people always assuming you don't like hockey when actually you love it, or when everyone is walking out the door and you are still getting your shoes on and your impatient husband asks you if you are coming. In all these cases, you can use "yes."

Over the years, the more potent word came to take the place of the more moderate one, and we stopped saying "yay" in favour of saying "yes."

There is a word for this, a linguistic term, for when words or expressions lose their strength. It happens a lot with swear words. Things that used to be shocking become common-place, and new, more shocking ones take their place. I can't remember what the term is for it. Does anyone else know? Yay or nay?

Melanie Kerr is the author of Follies Past: a Prequel to Pride and Prejudice

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Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Q: What is the handsomest man in the world doing in your book trailer?

Ah, Antonio Cupo... the face that launched a thousand hits on youtube. I have had, as you might imagine, quite a number of inquiries on this subject. Consequently, I thought I should do a post to tell everyone all about it, and a bit about making the trailers in general.

Here is a picture which might convince you of how 15-year-old Georgiana Darcy, despite all of her sense and timidity, might be powerless to refuse an offer of elopement with George Wickham. After all, what would you, at that age, have done if he had burst into your Mayfair breakfast room declaring his undying affection?

I have known Antonio for years, or rather I knew him many years ago, and when I was writing “Follies Past” I imagined him as Mr. Wickham. I always thought that if I were lucky enough to have my book made into a film or television adaptation, then he would have to play that part. His appearing in the role in the trailers is just one of many incredible serendipities that came to pass in their making.

Originally, I planned to dress in costume, hidden by a trench coat, and sneak around Fort Edmonton Park followed by a friend who would intermittently film me with an iPhone. Clearly, it got more involved.

Firstly, I decided to hold auditions, to get more people involved and invested in the project, and perhaps spread the word a bit. My co-worker offered to book the Varscona Theatre for me to hold the auditions at, which legitimized the whole thing in an almost fraudulent way, and tempted a number of very good actors to come out, none more than the illustrious Mr. Troy O’Donnell, of the Freewill Shakespeare Company, among other things. When he responded to my audition notice asking to be considered for the role of the butler, I believe I fell in a fainting fit upon the sofa. Not wanting to deceive him, I explained that this was not a real gig, zero budget and no actual lines, but he still wanted to do it, and we were overjoyed to have him. I think his cameo is stellar: “Mr. Wickham to see Miss Darcy.” Perfect!

Also, having Gabby Bernard play Georgiana was a bit of a dream. I worked with her on a theatre festival a couple of years ago, and always thought she looked just like Georgiana ought to. Plus, she has great presence and her accent is terrific. Even the non-speaking roles were brilliantly done, like Dolores Kohler, who plays the housekeeper, was so charming in moment on screen.

On top of that, we got to film at Rutherford House, which is such a beautiful venue. But I don’t think anything could top my amazement and thrill at having Antonio play Wickham.

It was such a last-minute thing, and I didn’t even know if he was in the country. He is a very successful, international film and television actor. In Italy he is a huge star – seriously huge. He was on the most popular Italian television show ever. He was on Dancing with the Stars, as one of the stars. He has been on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine numerous times.  And that is just in Italy. He is also constantly working on high-profile film and television projects in Canada, the US and the UK. So it was more than a little cheeky of me to message him on Facebook 3 days before we started shooting to see if he might allow me to fly him to Edmonton and be in my film.

At first he said he couldn’t. He was out of town on vacation. The fact that he even responded made me bold to ask again, offering to move the filming date to accommodate him. To my eternal shock and unending gratitude, he said yes. I felt like a school girl who had just been asked to the prom by the captain of the football team.

At that point, I decided to expand two of the scenes into their own trailers. At first, I was going to make one trailer, with all the people saying “Wickham.” I was going to film the actors saying short lines containing the name “Wickham” and edit them down to that one word for the sequence in the one trailer. But once Antonio said he was coming, I thought I ought to do a bit more with the introduction scene and the break-up scene and make them independent little vignettes. So that gave me three trailers where I only planned to have one. And I was really happy with how the extra two turned out. It also gave Leah Beaudry, who plays Wickham’s false lover, a chance to show off her acting chops. She is really very good, and I was so happy to get to work with her, and to put her talents to work promoting my book.

So Antonio came, and all of Edmonton swooned in his company. Not only has he possibly the prettiest face on the planet, but also the most generous spirit and charming manner, not to mention a terrific voice and solid acting skill. And furthermore, without him, the trailers would not have been half so good as they are for a number of other reasons.

Antonio happens also to be quite a talented amateur photographer, and offered us the use of his high-end camera and lenses, as well as lights and sound equipment, and a tonne of invaluable expertise on film-making gleaned from years of experience on sets of actual productions with actual budgets and actual filmmakers.

The production quality was not as good as it might have been due to our having shot half the footage on a handy cam before he became involved, causing us to have to muddy some of the images and audio we recorded on his camera in order to make them match. But the result was still infinitely superior to what we could have achieved without him.

So, that is the story of our making the trailers for Follies Past, and of the striking face of Mr. Wickham.

Melanie Kerr is the author of Follies Past: a Prequel to Pride and Prejudice

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Jane Austen Reincarnated (Review of Follies Past)

Miss Kerr manages to evoke the essence of Jane Austen in the first sentence of this book, and carries it through to a satisfying ending with humour, intelligence and heart-warming characterisation. It begins with Caroline Bingley’s conviction that Fitwilliam Darcy is romantically interested in her, and is then proved completely wrong, though it takes Caroline a while to accept it. The reader is given the opportunity to take a shadenfreude type pleasure in Caroline’s self-delusion – attributable entirely to Miss Austen’s original ability to make us hate her when she doesn’t do anything that terrible.
This is more the story of Wickham and the alleged elopement with Georgiana, not to mention the duplicitous Mrs Young.
The language is exquisite, and so Austen-like I found it hard to differentiate between them. The story is well researched, giving new life to not only Georgiana, but Darcy as a man and not a suitor for Elizabeth Bennet whom he hasn’t met yet. The characters are well rounded and fascinating in their own right, and I don’t think Ms Austen would have objected to how the author has given new life to her secondary characters.
The casually insulting and insufferable Lady Catherine de Bourgh is a masterpiece, I really enjoyed this novel, and I hope there are more in the same vein.
.... Definitely one of the best fan fiction books I have read.
- Historical Novel Review

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Monday, 24 February 2014

If you love Austen's works you will love this book.

I loved this book. It was very well researched and written. I enjoyed getting to know more of the history behind the Wickham Darcy story as well as coming to love the new characters of Clare and Ashwell. I am sure I will read this book again in the future, maybe even as many times as I have turned the pages of Pride and Prejudice. I very much enjoyed getting lost in this book and would recommend it to Austen fans and as well as those who have never lost themselves in Austen works.
- Tracy Komosky (

An Engaging Trip Back Into the World of Jane Austen! (review of Follies Past)

Follies Past takes place a year before Darcy met Elizabeth and the story revolves around Darcy’s sister, fourteen-year-old Georgiana and her school friend Clare, leading to Georgiana’s unfortunate interaction with the scheming Mr. Wickham. The book fits perfectly with Austen’s style and humor as do the characters, old and new. We even get a few brief closer looks into the characters of Caroline Bingley and Anne de Bourgh. And Lady Catherine de Bourgh never disappoints in her short appearances. The book is charming and good humored with a sweet love story involving Georgiana’s friend Clare as she tries to find a way to protect her friend from the devious Wickham. The book does so well using Austen’s writing style, it flows perfectly as a prelude into Pride and Prejudice. If you are one of the multitude of Jane Austen fans, this book is truly the best of the many attempts out there of continuing Jane Austen’s creative world.
- Myrt (

Some details of Mr. Darcy's family tree

I thought I had thought about Jane Austen's characters long enough that I wouldn't discover anything new any more, at least not about obvious things like how old they are, and how they are related to each other. But just the other day, I noticed something I hadn't before. Maybe I am just slow, and maybe other people figured this out ages ago, but I thought I would point it out anyway. Lady Anne Darcy (Mr. Darcy's mum) was older than her sister Lady Catherine. I already did a post showing how all Mr. Darcy's relations are related, but this is one detail I missed.

Lady Catherine's daughter is called Anne. This is not news. But who would Lady Catherine name her daughter after? This deduction is like what we in law call similar fact evidence.

Lady Catherine has a sister called Anne, and then she named her daughter Anne. Did she name her daughter after her sister? I don't think so. I think both were named after the countess, mother of Lady Catherine and Anne Darcy. If you are looking at my previous post, for reference, this would be Lady Chawton, Mr. Darcy's maternal grandmother, who I have just deduced was also called Anne.

If Mr. Darcy's mother was named after her mother, it is most likely that she was the oldest daughter. The first girl would have been named after her mother.

Nothing rides on this, but it does show how much Jane Austen thought through all the relationships between her characters and considered these kinds of details, which I find inspiring.

Another theory I stumbled upon is with respect to old Mr. Darcy's Christian name. Darcy's mum was called Anne. We know that. But what about his dad?  Jane Austen didn't tell us directly, but I'm pretty sure she thought about it. Well, I have a pretty convincing theory about it anyway. If you think about it, it becomes obvious.

To their first born son, they gave his mother's noble family name of Fitzwilliam. If they'd had another son, they likely would have named him after his father. But they didn't. They had a daughter, whom they called Georgiana. Add in the similar fact evidence that his godson was called George and I think it becomes clear that old Mr. Darcy was a George. In fact, I myself am sure of it. Jane Austen would not have included such co-incidences without cause.

Melanie Kerr is the author of Follies Past: a Prequel to Pride and Prejudice

Read Chapter 1      Watch the Trailers    Order Paperback      Download eBook

Sunday, 23 February 2014


This book was masterfully written. The plot was believable, the characters were compelling and the prose was eloquent and composed with such style that I truly felt transported into the world of the pre-Elizabeth Darcys. The Austen characters were kept very true to themselves, with just enough backstory added to enrich the storyline in unexpected ways. The love story that evolves for Clare even informs us to some extent as to Lady C's motives for the future abuse of Elizabeth (who has not yet made an appearance in this prequel.) This delightful story is worth the read! While it doesn't venture into the actual timeline of P&P, it does expound on the significant events leading up to the arrival of a certain gentleman from Derbyshire on the scene in Hertfordshire. I highly recommend this book! - DJ (

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

New Review from Goodreads

This was a very nicely done prequel to Pride and Prejudice. I've read a huge number of P&P spin offs, sequels and retellings and this was one of my favorites. The author used good judgement and had a lot of good insights as to the possible motivations of the characters in Pride and Prejudice and told the story of Georgiana and Wickham, Caroline Bingley and Darcy and some new characters which helped set the stage, in this author's imagination, for the events of Pride and Prejudice. I am sure I will read this again at some point since it was so enjoyable.
- Tara (

Monday, 17 February 2014

Goodreads review of Follies Past

Written in the style and language so reminiscent of Jane Austen, "Follies Past" is the perfect prequel to "Pride and Prejudice." Kerr gives depth to many of Austen's more minor characters in charming and often surprising ways. The novel also incorporates a unique and incredibly sweet love story of the author's own making that feels distinctly 'Austen-esque' in its tone and theme.
I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in this book. I usually tend to stay away from prequels or sequels to Austen novels because I feel that nothing can really do them justice. Follies Past proved me wrong and made we want to start reading Pride and Prejudice straight away! 
- Asiyih (

Sunday, 16 February 2014

If you love P&P/Austen, you'll LOVE this. Read it, you won't regret it. (review of Follies Past)

I loved this book. The minute I finished reading it, I immediately picked up Pride and Prejudice and dived straight in feeling that I had even more background to the characters. it is a very enjoyable read and a true, believable prequel to my favourite book. If this doesn't get made into a movie/tv series, it will be an outrage! Beautifully written in language which seems to coexist with the Austen style, you must read this book. It is screaming out for another one, so I can find out more about these new, interesting characters. Love, love, loved it.
- FelicitgyG (

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Goodreads review

I have been reading JAFF for more than a decade, and this is one of the better Austenesque novels. The words, syntax and general tone are right and all the characters are consistent with Jane Austen's. The book makes an excellent prequel to Pride and Prejudice and I enjoyed reading it for St. Valentine's Day. - Susan (

Friday, 14 February 2014

Goodreads Review

I loved every page of this novel. It is exceptionally well written. It was for me a book hard to put down - one that you didn't want to end. If you loved Pride and Prejudice you will love this one.
- Lynn (

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Wow!!! (review of Follies Past)

For anyone who has read and loved Jane Austin, this is a winner. A home run. Really. The author has carefully studied the period and Austin's work. Her characters are nuanced and believable and just as important, believable as Austin's characters. And, the few twists she's provided on minor Austin characters are just marvelous. Miss Austin would definitely approve... it's the writing that counts and it's just wonderful. I was glued. VERY WELL DONE!!!!
– Fleury M. Sommers (

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

review of Follies Past

One of the better Austen prequel / sequels, the author really knows her P & P characters.
– Nancey (

One of the few books I regretted putting down

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The characters were absolutely delightful and the stories about them were believable. I would recommend this book to any P&P fan as it contains the joys, the sorrows, and the insights of old and new situations and impeccable accuracy of the Regency era. Thank you, Ms. Kerr, and I am pining for another great book from you!
– T. Mascolo (

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Worthy of Jane Austen's praise!

What a wonderfully written prequel to Austen's Pride and Prejudice! I simply could not put it down. The plot had me enthralled and I was crossing my fingers that the characters would all find their happy ending. A great version of the Wickham Darcy connection and an overall pleasure to read. For any Austen fans this is a must read!! It also stands alone as a well developed and delightful story. I look forward to more novels by this author.
– B.Hayes (

Monday, 10 February 2014

A Great Read

This is a book for the true Jane Austen fan. The writing style and thorough research make it seem like it came from her own pen (quill?). Even the font is authentic. The characters are very well written and you will enjoy getting to know them all better, especially Caroline Bingley. I laughed out loud at her antics. Of course, there is also a mandatory and most satisfying love story to round out this homage to the great Jane. Two thumbs up!
– chantelle (

Friday, 7 February 2014

Well crafted and thoroughly enjoyable read! (review of Follies Past)

The author tells her story in a suitably Austen'esque fashion/voice and quite seamlessly blends new characters into existing canon. Were this to be your first introduction to the house of Pemberley, you'd be eager to 'continue' by reading about Mr. Darcy and his outcome in P&P.
As soon as I'd finished reading I hopped online to see if the author had any other books for me to look forward to. I hope to see more from her.
As a huge Austen fan, giving this 5 stars wasn't done lightly. This book is, by far, the BEST and most impressive of any Austen-inspired works I've read, and I read any I can find.
– ArielCNC (

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

A Fitzwilliam Family Tree

For most Jane Austen fans, the relationships between all the characters is quite clear. But for those who are going to read my book and like Pride and Prejudice, but perhaps have not studied in detail every character's family history, the following explanation may be useful. I will also explain a couple of points about people's names, in my book and the original. You may want to get a pen and paper to make a diagram, if you get easily confused by these things.

Let us begin with the patriarch who is not in the book, as he is dead at the time it opens. That is the earl. We don't know what he was the earl of, so I am going to make something up, for ease of explanation. Let us call him Earl of Chawton. This is Mr. Darcy's maternal grandfather. His family name would have been Fitzwilliam, but his title would have been Lord Chawton, and that's what he would have been called - just like in Downton Abbey. The father is Robert Crawley, but he is Earl of Grantham, and is called Lord Grantham.

Now, Lord Chawton would likely have had other, lesser titles as well, but one is always called by one's highest title. His eldest son would have been entitled to bear the next highest title as what is called a courtesy title. For an example of this, see the book and mini-series The Buccaneers - Lord Seadown, first son of Lord Brittlesea.

For my book, I have decided that the next highest title of Lord Chawton is Viscount of Ashwell, or Lord Ashwell.

Now, the late Lord Chawton (Mr. Darcy's grandfather) had three children, two girls and a boy. The two girls were Lady Anne Fitzwilliam (later Lady Anne Darcy, Mr. Darcy's mother) and Lady Catherine Fitzwilliam (later Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr. Darcy's aunt). We are never given the name of the boy, but he he would have been called Lord Ashwell until his father died and he became Lord Chawton, the Earl.

This Lord Chawton is Colonel Fitzwilliam's father. Colonel Fitzwilliam tells us that he is the second son of an Earl. This implies that there is a first son, who would be called Lord Ashwell, until his father died, after which he would become Lord Chawton. Between friends, Lords are just called by their title alone, i.e. Chawton, or Ashwell, or Grantham.

Lady Anne Fitzwilliam married Mr. Darcy senior. She kept her title as Lady Anne, because her husband did not have a title for her to take. A woman keeps her title, unless her husband has one higher than her own. Because she was of noble lineage, she gave her first born son her family name as a first name, hence Fitzwilliam Darcy. This was quite a common practice among the English upper classes, when the mother was of high rank, in order to keep the name going.

Lady Catherine married Sir Louis De Bourgh. We are not told the exact nature of his status, I don't believe. But we do hear Mr. Collins speak of the noble family of de Bourgh, so it was more than a knighthood. It was less than a Baron, however, because he is not a Lord. I suspect he was a Baronet. We do know that Sir Louis was not of as high a station as Lady Catherine, for she kept her title. Had Sir Louis been higher in rank than her, Lady Catherine would have been called Lady de Bourgh.

In her writing, Jane Austen is inconsistent in her spelling of de Bourgh. She sometimes uses a capital D. Consequently, in my book, I alternate between the two spellings also.

Melanie Kerr is the author of Follies Past: a Prequel to Pride and Prejudice

Read Chapter 1      Watch the Trailers      Download eBook      Order Paperback

Monday, 3 February 2014

What the Victorians thought of the Regency

I came across this excerpt in a 1978 Jane Austen coffee-table book that someone bought me at a garage sale. I thought it was wonderful. The writer of it, Rev. Sydney Smith, would have been about the same age as Jane Austen, four years older. This passage is him describing, from the vantage point of the mid-nineteenth Century, what life was really like in Jane Austen's time. I love this, because it is so practical, so devoid of the romaticism with which the passage of 200 years has painted the period. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

"It is of some importance at what period a man is born. A young man, alive at this period, hardly knows to what improvements of human life he has been introduced; and I would bring before his notice the following eighteen changes which have taken place in England since I first began to breathe in it the breath of life.

Gas was unknown: I groped about the streets of London in all but the utter darkness of a twinkling oil lamp, under the protection of watchmen in their grand climacteric, and exposed to every species of depredation and insult.

I have been nine hours in sailing from Dover to Calais before the invention of steam. It took me nine hours to go from Taunton to Bath, before the invention of railroads, and I now go in six hours from Taunton to London! In going from Taunton to Bath, I suffered between 10,000 and 12,000 severe contusions, before stone-breaking Macadam was born.

I paid £15 in a single year for repairs of carriage-springs on the pavement of London; and I now glide without noise or fracture, on wooden pavements.

I can walk, by the assistance of the police, from one end of London to the other, without molestation; or, if tired, get into a cheap and active cab, instead of those cottages on wheels, which the hackney coaches were at the beginning of my life.

I had no umbrella! They were little used, and very dear. There were no waterproof hats, and my hat has often been reduced by rains into its primitive pulp.

I could not keep my smallclothes in their proper place, for braces were unknown. If I had the gout, there was no colchicum. If I was bilious, there was no calomel. If I was attacked by ague, there was no quinine. There were filthy coffee-houses instead of elegant clubs. Game could not be bought. Quarrels about uncommuted tithes were endless. The corruptions of Parliament, before Reform, infamous. There were no banks to receive the savings of the poor. The Poor Laws were gradually sapping the vitals of the country; and, whatever miseries I suffered, I had no post to whisk my complaints for a single penny to the remotest corners of the empire; and yet, in spite of all these privations, I lived on quietly, and am now ashamed that I was not more discontented, and utterly surprised that all these changes and inventions did not occur two centuries ago.

I forgot to add that, as the basket of stage-coaches, in which luggage was then carried, had no springs, your clothes were rubbed all to pieces; and that even in the best society one third of the gentlemen at least were always drunk."

Melanie Kerr is the author of Follies Past: a Prequel to Pride and Prejudice

Read Chapter 1      Watch the Trailers    Order Paperback      Download eBook