Author Jennifer Richardson launches her memoir Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage
For some people, happiness means extra money in the bank, a nice home, a zero balance on a credit card, vacationing at an exotic locale or just a close friend willing to lend a shoulder to cry on. Perceptions of what makes us truly happy typically shifts over the course of our lives as our circumstances change.
Like many of us, the question of what provides the true meaning of happiness has manifested itself frequently throughout Jennifer Richardson’s adult life. Would a move from California to England for her British husband’s new job opportunity provide more happiness in their marriage? Would going back to his roots and purchasing a charming cottage in the English countryside dampen the dark days that often took over her husband’s day-to-day life? In her memoir Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage, the couple’s decision about whether or not to have a child plays out against a backdrop of village fêtes, rural rambles, and a cast of eccentrics clad in corduroy and tweed.
Paperback: 164 pages
Publisher: She Writes Press (April 23, 2013)
Twitter hashtag: #Americashire
Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage is available as a print and e-book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and She Writes Press.
Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of Americashire: A Field Guide to Marriage, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes this Friday, May 10 at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!
About the author:
Jennifer Richardson is an American Anglophile who spent three years living in a Cotswold village populated straight out of English central casting by fumbling aristocrats, gentlemen farmers, and a village idiot. She is married to an Englishman who, although not the village idiot, provides her with ample writing material. She currently lives in Santa Monica, California along with her husband and her royal wedding tea towel collection.
Find out more about the author by visiting her online:
Jennifer’s website: http://americashire.com/
-----Interview by Renee Roberson
WOW: I want to start off by saying that having never been to England personally, this book was a really fun read for me. I’d love to know more about how you decided to write Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage. Is it the result of journals you kept as the events were happening or did you write it after you returned to the United States?
Jennifer: Shortly after I first moved to the Cotswolds, I started writing a blog called An American in the Cotswolds. Much of the raw material for the book came from that blog, although the real work was after the fact in crafting the narrative. You hear it all the time, but a book really is different than a blog.
WOW: When you began writing Americashire what did you think it would be . . . the tale of living in the English countryside, the tale of your medical problems, the tale of your questions about motherhood? Were you surprised when it ended up being all three?
Jennifer: When I first started writing the blog, it was largely travelogue. But at a certain point I realized that for the book to have any emotional core, I needed to include the larger question of whether or not to have kids that I had been struggling with during my time living in the Cotswolds. There have certainly been successful travel memoirs in the past that didn’t deal with any personal issues—Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence comes to mind—but ultimately I think my book is stronger because it includes this narrative strand. As for my medical challenges, it made sense to include them because they ended up having an unexpected, and ultimately happy, tie-in with the motherhood question.
WOW: Being an American living in England, did you find yourself having to fend off any preconceived notions of cultural stereotypes or profiling from your Cotswold neighbors?
Jennifer: When we moved to the Cotswolds, I found being an American to be a positive experience. Unlike London, there are not many Americans living in the area, and so my accent and nationality were a natural conversation starter. People would tell me about their favorite places in the US and enjoyed chatting about American politics. Any ribbing on the latter subject was generally light hearted.
WOW: Food and drink are two main themes throughout Americashire. How did their presence factor into the organization of the book? Why did you decide to anchor so many of the stories with food and drink?
Jennifer: Well, I do love to eat and drink, but I think the Cotswolds, or more generally England, decided for me! What I mean by that is, as a society, I think the English are more in tune with an “eat, drink, and be merry” mentality than America. There is generally less guilt and you won’t hear anybody stressing about eating carbs or meat. (In fact, I can only think of one vegetarian restaurant in the entire Cotswolds, an area that is larger than Los Angeles in square miles.) Of course, there is also the central role the pub—or in our village’s case, the wine bar—plays in English society.
WOW: If you could transport one Cotswold event, food, or habit to the United States what would it be?
Jennifer: If I could transport one Cotswoldian thing to the US, it would be our beloved wine bar. It was like having a regular cocktail party in walking distance from your house: always there with good wine and interesting people on tap, but you didn’t have to clean up at the end. Sure there are bars in the U.S., but these are largely venues for watching sports or for young people to hook up. We even have a wine bar in our L.A. neighborhood, but nobody mingles. So I guess that is really at the heart of what I would transport: an environment where you could strike up a conversation with a stranger without getting a funny look. With wine, of course.
|Field Guide Number Three: Walk for bickering against a scenic backdrop on a fine day.|
Jennifer: At a certain point I was really on the fence about whether or not to include the maps and walking guides; I was concerned they were a bit out of keeping with the rest of the book. But in the end I decided to work them into Americashire because walking is such an essential part of the British rural experience—they even have a special word for it, “rambling”—as well as an essential part of my personal experience. Hiking was both how my husband and I got to know and love the Cotswolds, as well as a therapeutic endeavor. Of course it was also the setting for humor, as in the third and my favorite field guide, “Walk for bickering against a scenic backdrop on a fine day.”
WOW: I did love that one, especially the part where it says to “return to pub if bickering intensifies.” During your time in the Cotswolds, did you find the lifestyle of the English countryside more conducive to writing or is it the same procrastination just different excuses?
Jennifer: It was conducive in the sense that it was foreign to me, so everything felt like a discovery I needed to document.
WOW: What was the publishing process like for you? Did you go the route of querying agents or go straight to publishing houses with your idea?
Jennifer: I started by querying agents. While I was plentifully ignored and/or rejected, I also had enough encouragement in the form of full manuscript requests and agent feedback to know that I had not written a complete pile of dross. There was also a consistent (and depressing) theme in the positive feedback, which was that while the book was well-written, it was almost impossible to sell this type of memoir these days unless it was penned by a celebrity. So, in the end, I submitted to She Writes Press, which has been an overwhelmingly positive experience.
WOW: That’s a very inspiring story! Now let’s talk about the business of writing memoirs for a minute, because it is such a personal experience. Did you struggle with how certain characters in the book might react with their portrayal, particularly since you discuss your relationship with your husband in the book?
Jennifer: My husband has always read my blog, so he was included from the beginning of the process in writing this book. He is also a ham, so will always favor being talked about in any light rather than not being talked about at all! I did worry about how my parents would react to their portrayal, but just focused on being honest without hurtful while hoping they bring their sense of humor when reading it.
WOW: Now that you're residing in the United States do you find yourself hanging on to any habits or thoughts you picked up from Cotswold neighbors that make your present neighbors look at you with an odd look?
Jennifer: Now that I am back in the US, I try my best to avoid using English words like boot and bin, lest I appear to be pulling a Madonna-in-her-Guy-Ritchie period faux English accent. I do, however, try to emulate the natural English disdain for anything overtly healthy, i.e., I still drink too much wine and eat carbs with abandon.
WOW: I love it. What are you writing now?
Jennifer: Mostly short pieces to promote the Americashire launch! But I have also been inspired by reading Jeanette Winterson’s two books in close succession, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Both are ostensibly memoir about the same thing (although the first was a novel), but written years apart. In Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? she writes: “When we tell a story we exercise control, but in such a way to leave a gap, an opening. It is a version, but never the final one. And perhaps we hope that the silences will be heard by someone else, and the story can continue, can be retold.”
For me in Americashire, I think the silence or the gap that Winterson refers to is around my husband’s depression. I deal with it in a cursory way, in a way that is in keeping with the overall tone of the book, but this is the part of the story that I think continues and can be retold.
Monday, May 6 @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview and book giveaway!
Thursday, May 9 @ CMash Loves to Read
Jennifer Richardson reveals what it’s like living with a chronic medical condition. Enter to win a free copy of Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage.
Friday, May 10 @ A Writer’s Life
Check out “Five Things You Won’t Want to Miss in the Cotswolds,” according to author Jennifer Richardson.
Tuesday, May 14 @ Words by Webb
Jodi interviews Jennifer Richardson, author of Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage.
Wednesday, May 15 @ All Things Audry
Author Jennifer Richardson discusses “The Question of Motherhood” theme from her book Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage.
Thursday, May 16 @ Words by Webb
See what Jodi has to say about the memoir Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage.
Monday, May 20 @ Misadventures with Andi
Travel and food blogger Andi Fisher interviews Jennifer Richardson about her adventures in the English countryside.
Tuesday, May 21@ Books I Think You Should Read
Jennifer Richardson discusses how her memoir developed out of a blog and what the writing process is like for her.
Wednesday, May 22 @ Kristine Meldrum Denholm
Her husband’s depression has played a part in her marriage for as long as Jennifer Richardson can remember. Stop by for tips on how to survive a partner’s depression, and how the author made the personal decision to write about it in Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage.
Friday, May 24 @ National Association of Memoir Writers
Jennifer Richardson shares the differences between London and The Cotswolds and talks about what it was like describing the two places as if they were characters in Americashire: A Field Guide to Marriage.
May 27 @ Books I Think You Should Read
Liz Parker reviews Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage and offers readers a chance to win a free copy of the book!
May 31 @ Choices
Learn more about Jennifer Richardson’s decision to live a child-free life in a guest post at Madeline’s blog.
June 4 @ Tiffany Talks Books
Jennifer Richardson, author of Americashire, shares her experience living the life of an Ex-Patriot and participates in an interview.
June 5 @ Thoughts in Progress
Ever wondered about the hybrid publishing model? Jennifer Richardson shares her publishing experience regarding her book Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage.
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