Welcome to Historical Fiction Reader Farida. It’s a pleasure to have you with us. To start things off, please tell us a bit about Margaret's Rematch.
Thank you very much! It’s a real pleasure to be here! Margaret’s Rematch is a slow-paced novel set against the backdrop of Regency England. Here is what it is about: After the loss of her sister, Margaret Fairfax leaves London and settles on the country estate of her brother-in-law, whose dislike of her is legendary. There she is faced with the challenge of proving to him that despite the many rumours of schemes and indiscretions that followed her all the way from London, she is worthy of his regard and trust. With time and many an exertion on her part, Margaret gradually succeeds in gaining his approbation and affection, but she fears the worst when her deceitful friend arrives in order to ruin it all.
Where did the idea for this story originate?
The thing about story ideas is that with the passage of time I never quite know or never actually remember where they came from or how they originated. They usually ambush me and demand to be written down and haunt me until I give in. On the other hand, the idea to write what is generally known as “regency romance” was influenced by my passion for Jane Austen’s books. I thought of it as my homage to her and initially wanted to call my novel “Imitation”. I was actually quite scared to write something like that. It was more than twelve years ago and I didn’t feel myself equal to it. However, on a lark I showed a piece of what I’d already written to a friend – another Jane Austen fan – and she loved it so much that she encouraged me to proceed.
What historical resources helped you bring Margaret’s world to life on the page?
I meticulously studied Jane Austen’s books and spent a lot of time researching everything I could online, collecting tons of material along the way. Google Books proved to be an invaluable source of material about that period of time. I read diaries, letters, memoirs, advice columns written by people of that time, as well as different manuals on all possible subjects I could possibly need; newspapers, magazines, novels. Basically anything I could get my hands on! Nowadays I always keep a volume of Belle Assemblée and The Gentleman’s Magazine on hand. It really helps me to get into the heads of people of that time, understand their mindset and nurture and attune my language in order to make it sound more authentic.
Which character in Margaret's Rematch do you feel you have the most in common with?
Funny you should ask that! Just the other day one of my students, who read the book, looked at me apologetically and confessed that she preferred Anne Westfield (the sister of the main character) to Margaret Fairfax. She was afraid that I would be upset, but I just laughed and told her that I knew exactly what she meant and that I felt exactly the same. I’m afraid I did it on purpose. Anne is a lot more relatable than Margaret in many ways, but, mainly, I think it is because she isn’t quite as perfect as the latter. Additionally, I made her an excellent artist, which has always been a dream of mine and I thought that she might as well make it come true. Just now I’ve been editing a piece where Anne is talking and talking and talking about her love for cakes, reminding me all over again why she is so relatable and why I like her so much!
Which character do you feel you have the least in common wi?
Margaret Fairfax is definitely very different from me. I don’t think that we have anything in common at all. She is young, beautiful, rich, very popular with the opposite sex, and is quite opposed to reading. We have literally nothing in common! So I had lots of fun telling her story. I don’t want to give you the wrong impression about Margaret, though! While she is very beautiful and is well aware of it, she is not at all arrogant or conceited. In fact, she is very kind and sweet, but she does have a bit of a temper and her brother-in-law knows that better than anyone else! Her temper was actually the reason why they became bitter enemies in the first place and then continued to nurture their animosity towards each other for years.
Did any scene in Margaret's Rematch challenge you as a writer?
Oh, pretty much everything challenged me as a writer when working on this novel! I was basically just starting out and I was still learning and sometimes it was really hard to put into words what I wanted to say. I remember that it took me roughly a month to write each chapter and for some unfathomable reason I favoured really long chapters back then!
Authors are often forced to make sacrifices when composing their stories and I always wonder what ended up on the cutting room floor. Is there a character, scene, or concept you wish you could have spent more time on while writing Margaret's Rematch?
I hate doing that and it usually takes me a long while to come to terms with the necessity of cutting out anything, even when I know perfectly well that it has got to go. The only thing that helps in my case is the passage of time. For example, having returned to Margaret’s Rematch many years later, I had a lot less qualms about cutting out whole passages. I became quite ruthless about it. Though, I must say that I replaced them with new pieces right away! In fact, ever since I started editing the manuscript, my word count increased by 10K. In my defence, I believe I cut out irrelevant pieces and substituted them with important ones. Speaking about a specific scene… I wrote a cute little scene where Margaret was telling her nephew about how his mother and father met at a ball. I liked it very much but there was no place to fit it in and so it never ended up in a book.
If you could pick a fantasy cast – anyone at all, living or dead, at any point in their careers- to play your characters in a big-screen adaptation of Margaret's Rematch, who would you cast?
I feel kind of silly mentioning it, but when I was writing it twelve years ago (or was it more?), I was a big fan of Smallville and my dream cast was the cast of Smallville at the time. I even saved their photos on my old computer and called them with the names of my characters. Nowadays, I’m a fan of Supernatural and at least as far as Mr James Westfield (the main hero) and Mr Clifford Stockley (Margaret’s close friend and the brother of the main villainess) are concerned, I have no trouble imagining them being played by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles respectively. I’d love to see them in period drama costumes, talking with a British accent!
What do you hope readers take from their experience of Margaret's Rematch?
I just want them to enjoy it and to spend a lovely time on its pages, away from the troubles and problems of the world we live in.
What’s next for you? Any new writing projects in the wings?
Quite so many! I have two more Regencies lined up to be published as soon as I’m done editing them and then there’s a fantasy novel set in Regency England that I’m planning on self-publishing after that (unless my dream comes true and I find a literary agent before that), and then there’s the continuation of my YA fantasy novel that I’ve recently self-published and, hopefully, many more projects!
About Farida Mestek:
Farida Mestek spends most of her time travelling between Regency England, magic forests, and different fantasy worlds that she discovers along the way, using the best means of transportation known to man: imagination. During her travels she meets a lot of interesting characters, whose stories she then narrates (with their permission) on the pages of her books. Her favourite companions are talking animals. Currently she is learning the language of the trees.