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Thursday, March 1, 2012


Long and Short Reviews welcomes Nina Benneton whose latest release Compulsively Mr. Darby was released last month. Nina told me she was inspired to write because she wanted to give her tabloid addiction some legitimacy.

"I'm sorry to say that I'm one of those people whose heart always does a little skip when I walk into the dentist office for a root canal and I see the latest issue of People," she confessed. "It's a bonus if they have also US Weekly. It's absolutely heaven when they have Stars or the Enquirer. I don't watch TV; the only way I get any popular culture is from my tabloids. But I don't have a subscription. That would ruin the guilty pleasure. It's more fun if I can sneak reading them at the checkout lines or the doctor's offices. I once dropped a dentist because he was too superior to have tabloids in his waiting room. His receptionist said he only wanted classy magazines like National Geographic or Sunset. Excuse me? If I'm about to get a root canal done, I don't want to be reading about the Pygmy in the Amazon learning how to grow rare cactus. I want to read about how prickly Sean Penn dumped trophy-babe Scarlett Johansson in Hollywood."

How does her addiction tie in to her writing Compulsively Mr. Darcy? A few years ago, she read about Brad and Angelina adopting a Vietnamese orphan in the tabloid. She was inspired to write about the Netherfield gang from Pride and Prejudice traveling to Vietnam to adopt a trendy Hollywood baby.

I asked her, "When did you first consider yourself a writer?"

" Honestly? It was when I saw the 'Best Book' review here, on Long and Short Review. I'd received an excellent review from Publishers Weekly, but I thought that was a fluke and the reviewer there must have had a good spring roll at a Vietnamese restaurant that day. When I read the review here at LASR, and saw that your reviewer got the characters and the humor I'd intended, and she laughed at the mention of armpits and tweezers, then I considered myself a writer. The story I wanted to tell did come across the way I wanted it to a reader who hasn't read Jane Austen, no less. That tickled me to no end. The same week, a box of my author's copies arrived in the mail. I have to confess that until I saw the physical book, I'd been waiting for my agent to call and say, 'Sorry. The publisher made a mistake. They've decided not to publish your book after all. They're calling you a faker. And I agree with them.'"

Nina is in denial about the existence of writer's block, because if she admits it exists, she might indulge herself and procrastinate. She tries to write every single day, allowing herself the freedom to write a vomit-first draft and not be perfect. She then has to spend a lot of time in revision, but it works for her.

"I can always revise and edit something to make it better," she explained, "but I need to have words on paper first. If I'm truly stuck, I get up and go for a long walk or a long run around the block. Somehow, movement helps me get the kinks out."

The original title for Compulsively Mr. Darcy was Love and Acceptance.

"Fortunately, my publisher asked me to change it since it was cheesy and smaltzy," she said. "They asked me to come up with a list of ten alternatives. I turned to family and friends who've read the book for help. When the publisher bought the book, the acquisition editor called it a compulsive read. From that, my sister suggested, 'Compulsively Mr. Darcy.' I think sometimes other people are better at titles for your stories than you are. My plan is to have other people come up with titles for stories I write. "

When she's not writing, it's Nina's goal to find the perfect container for everything in the house.

"Know those clear, hard plastic containers that Jelly Belly come in? They make perfect Barbie shoe organizers, did you know that? I'm very proud of that discovery, and I tell every parent I meet at on the playgrounds that. When my husband took my favored-customer card to The Container Store away and told me to get a life, I decided to take up writing. I've been warning him, though, if not enough people buy my book and this publishing author deal doesn't work out, I'm going to be a frequent flyer at 'Hold Everything,'" she told me.

Nina was surprised to discover that years of reading tabloids didn't prepare one to write a novel. It seemed to her that the research took more time than the actual writing.

"Fortunately, everyone is very helpful and pleased to be asked to help with research. Of course, I was a little embarrassed to tell some people I was simply writing an irreverent, spicy romance, not the great, deep, navel-contemplating American novel they were hoping," she admitted.

"There are many Austen-inspired works out these days," I said. "How do you keep your writing different from all the others?"

"I don't think most Jane Austen writers get their inspiration from reading the tabloids, so I'm probably safe," she said. "Seriously, I don't think that's a big concern for me as yet. My mind tends to go to odd, quirky places and I write for myself as a reader. Don't tell my agent this, but I actually don't write a book to get published. I write a story because something about the characters or situations appeal to me. I write because I have passion for the characters or the subject, not because I want to see my name in print, though that's very nice. At the risk of sounding very smaltzy here, I'm happy to be published because people are enjoying and laughing at my jokes, not because it means I've arrived as an author. But, please, again, do not tell my agent this. I really want to be a successful author so I can justify her signing me. If you saw the list of big name authors she's representing, you'd understand."

"What is the one thing most readers would be surprised to learn about you?" I wondered.

"That, despite my wise-cracking online presence and the spiciness in my writing, I'm actually quite shy and very polite in person. My mother sent me to etiquette school to learn how to pour tea without scalding your guests, how to write calligraphy without getting ink on your fingers, how to demurely eat a banana in public without having strange men stare hungrily at you and so forth… so I'm quite prepared," she assured me. "I was once invited to the vice president's mansion (by Tipper Gore) with a group of women and acquitted myself quite properly. Too bad Gore didn't win, I would have loved to frame that photo of me and Tipper on my mantel. My mother would have been over the moon, although she wouldn't have voted for Gore. Btw, wasn't it sad about Al and Tipper? Forty years, and they're calling it quit? What? She found out for real that he didn't discover the Internet after all? If he's showing up with Scarlet Johansson as his trophy-babe one of these days on my tabloid, that's it, I'm going over to Ace Hardware and buy myself the most energy-wasting light bulb there is."

Leave a comment for a chance to win either one print copy of Compulsively Mr. Darcy (US/Canada reader) or an ebook copy (international reader).

About the Author: As a child, Nina Benneton promised the French Catholic nuns who taught her that she would grow up and find the cure for cancer, effect world peace, and win a Nobel Prize for something, anything. Alas, her own Mr. Darcy and the requisite number of beautiful children interrupted her plans. Tired of alphabetizing her spices and searching for stray Barbie shoes, she turned to writing.

Find the author online at:


Twitter: @NinaBenneton

Compulsively Mr. Darcy is a modern, romantic comedy update of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. In this re-telling, Mr. Darcy is a control freak with obsessive-compulsive disorder who, during a trip to Vietnam to help the Bingley family adopt a trendy third-world orphan, meets a granola Berkeley girl, the impulsive, infectious disease doctor Elizabeth Bennet.



oloore said...

I am surprised, Nina!:) Pleasantly surprised that apart from writing, quilling and taking care of your family you write calligraphy!
I take great pleasure in reading your spicy and funny online blog posts and in finding more about how Compulsively Mr.Darcy was written. And to tell the truth this title appeals to me more than its predecessor would have.
Please do not enter me into giveaway, because I will receive my copy soon.

Regina Jeffers said...

I think it absolutely fascinating how each of us has come to this point in our lives. Although I love my Appalachian background, I have spent a lifetime trying to lose the "hillbilly" moniker so easily placed on people from the South.
You are correct. It is a shame about the Gores. After 40 years, one would think that a marriage was safe from divorce. It makes one wonder if true love is possible.

Mary Simonsen said...

Hi Nina. I continue to follow you around b/c you are hilarious. I can testify that you are not only very polite, but warm, gracious, and generous. All this from meeting you one time at a Dunkin' Donuts.

Pamala Knight said...

The hilarity continues! I always enjoy reading about the other side of the writer's life. And writing calligraphy WITHOUT getting ink on your hands?? Well, that is a skill to be admired and envied.

Thanks for the great interview. Don't enter me into the drawing because I already have a treasured copy of the book.

kaewink said...

I, too, have to say, that I like Compulsively Mr. Darcy as a title better then the first one. But then I don´t know if I´d ever be able to come up with a good title for something I´d write.
And also the change of perspective by getting suggestions from family is probably quite helpful, I would think.

And I think it´s so sad to see so many marriages break.

Thanks for the jet again different insight into your world and process of writing, Nina.
What an interesting interview!

Margaret said...

I took a calligraphy course once. Unfortunately I'm not very good at it. Glad to hear you're a calligrapher Nina! What I am good at though is compulsively entering giveaways for this book lol!


Nina Benneton said...

biuser esedersOloore!

I'm honored you stopped by even after you've already won a copy. Gosh, now the pressure is on. What if you don't like the book!

About calligraphy--oh no, I didn't master it, just like I didn't master foreign languages well. I learned how to use the pen without getting ink all over my fingers--but not anything worthwhile about calligraphy. '

I completely agree. This new title is so much better! Now I don't have to cringe every time tell people the title.

Thanks for stopping here! I hope you'll enjoy the book.

Nina Benneton said...


I would kill to have Appalachian hillbilly background. Think of the stories I could write with a quirky background! But then, I know you're a lot more classy than moi--barely squeaking by graduating from etiquette school (only because I knew my mother would make me take it until I graduate!)

40 years is TRUE LOVE for many people. Can you believe that the Gores broke up while the Clintons are still TOGETHER? Life's strange, eh?

Nina Benneton said...

Mary, my love,

It's the sugar in the Dunkin Donuts talking!

I'm so glad you're willing to commit yourself and tell the world that I am polite in person... ;) I've been known to bow to people to show my politeness and respect, even people who vote differently than me. ;)

Love you for stopping by!

Nina Benneton said...


Listen, the BIC pen was invented for a reason! I went to a Japanese festival last weekend with my kids. They had a calligraphy tent there. I steered CLEAR of it. All those feelings of inadequacy!

Which reminds me of an exchange I had with my son while we were watching a Samurai demonstration.

Son: "Mom, why is it just white men on stage doing martial art demonstrations?"

Me: "It's just like Japanese people wanting to play own handguns, honey."

Nina Benneton said...


You followed me from the other blog! I'm so honored.

It is sad isn't it? That's why I like to read and write about Darcy and Elizabeth--the big everlasting romance.

I don't feel that way about Heathcliff or Mr. Rochester. But then, I'm not into taking care of tortured men. Blech! Darcy is dreamy because he grew --that last chapter of P & P... I reread and reread it. Ahhh! So satisfying.

Much kisses to you for stopping here...

Nina Benneton said...


LOL. Oh, no, I said I learned to not get ink on my fingers--not anything about mastering calligraphy.

Good LUCK with winning!!!

oloore said...

If a small story about visit to dentist can be this entertaining, then the whole book would undoubtedly be even better:)
These words "biuser eseders", standing before my name in your reply, are from a foreign-foreign language? I tried to google them, but in vain, and google tries to convince me that they have something to do with "biser" and "seeders":)

Nina Benneton said...


LOL. I'm so sorry. Did I tell you right before my novel release, my doctor ordered me off the computer to rest my eyes because of eyestrain?

I was trying to type the code to prove I'm not a robot, and somehow it ended up before your name. Sorry!

oloore said...

A couple of times I saw you use in your post foreign language words (Brazilian, I think, and Hawaiian), so I thought that this time was the same:) Sorry for troubling you over something so insignificant.
It’s impressive that you have managed to have such extensive blog tour dedicated to the book release despite eyestrain! Hopefully your eyes will receive some good rest after the release celebrations are over.

GranJan said...

I'm so glad I stopped in to read this blog! since laughter is the best medicine you can also add registered pharmacist to your string of accomplishments!

to view life as one great challenge to find the right container is exactly the seriousness level I was looking for this morning! personally, my Barbie shoes are in snack size ziploc bags - my choice of container for almost everything!
I am now hungry to read your book so major woo-hoos if I can win it (my baggie of 'book' money is getting down to a few coins lately..)!

Nina Benneton said...


I do speak gibberish foreign languages, daily, online and in real life.

About eyestrain--did you know writers suffer from that? It's from staring at the computer screen. And those tiresome capstcha thing! I tried to take it away from my own website--but then I got slammed with spams.

I had no idea until the eye doctor told me.

Nina Benneton said...

Dearest GranJan,

No. No. Little ziploc bags don't stack together well, and they still look so messy in a drawer or a cupboard.

I'm very serious about containers. I don't like Tupperware. Their lids are way, way too difficult to open and close (why do you think all the old ladies tend to sell their Tupperware at garage sales?). Besides, I'm frugal like my Elizabeth. Tupperware is way too expensive. [Sorry if you're a Tupperware saleslady!]

I like those containers with snap lids you can buy bulk at Costco. Easy on the fingers and the wallet.

Heheheheh. Did I scare you how Martha-Stewart crazy I am about containers?

This is why my family is very happy that I'm writing.... ;)