Thursday, April 22, 2010

Interview with Leanna Renee Hieber - Author of Strangely Beautiful Series and a Book Giveaway

 Today we have the author of the Strangely Beautiful Series (you can find my review of book one and the soon to be released book two on the blog this week) Leanna Renee Hieber answering some questions about her books and about herself so check it out and stay tuned for contest details at the end of the post!


Welcome to Darkly Reading, I am so happy that you are my first interview on the blog! Can you give a little introduction to my readers about your Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker and the soon to be out release - Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker?

       Thank you Heather! It’s such an honour to be your inaugural interview! The Strangely Beautiful series is Gothic Victorian Fantasy Romance. Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show described Strangely Beautiful as “Bulfinch’s Mythology, Harry Potter and Wuthering Heights in a blender.” *grin* And I think that’s about right. The Darkly Luminous Fight picks up exactly where The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker leaves off, keeping Percy and Alexi in the main focus. From the back cover:
       “With radiant, snow white skin and hair, Percy Parker was a beacon for Fate. True love had found her, in the tempestuous form of Professor Alexi Rychman. But her mythic destiny was not complete. Accompanying the ghosts with which she alone could converse, new and terrifying omens loomed. A war was coming, a desperate ploy of a spectral host. Victorian London would be overrun.  Yet, Percy kept faith. Within the mighty bastion of Athens Academy, alongside The Guard whose magic shielded mortals from the agents of the Underworld, she counted herself among friends. Wreathed in hallowed fire, they would stand together, no matter what dreams or nightmares—may come.”

Where do you get your inspiration for your characters? Are there any specific book characters or actors that inspired Alexi and Percy?

       I’ve always been inspired by the Victorian Era, since childhood, when I fell in love with Dickens and Poe. The era speaks to me; all its grit and grandeur, struggle and romance, a conflicted society rife with passions hid under preened exteriors.  I’ve always been drawn to the Gothic too – and the Gothic revival in the 19th century, and that’s where my love for the paranormal, spiritual, fantastical and the neo-classical finds a natural home. 
       Professor Alexi Rychman is very much the picture of a Gothic hero; he is all my literary love affairs wrapped up into one. One reviewer described him as a cross between Mr. Darcy and Severus Snape. *grin* And I think that’s about right too.  As for actors – well, ten years ago when I began Strangely Beautiful, the actor playing Alexi was (and shall always remain, in my mind) Alan Rickman. However if it were to be made into a movie today, I’d certainly cast Richard Armitage – and I’m thrilled that other reviewers (such as yourself) have pegged him the same, some reviewers even referencing that the delicate, aching dynamic in his BBC production of North and South reminds them of the simmering dynamic between Alexi and Percy. It’s such an honour to be compared to that.
       While Miss Percy is very much the typical Gothic heroine, orphaned, alone, meek, containing powers she doesn’t yet understand, dear Percy became a force all on her own. She came to me as a fully formed character, looking like a ghost, and demanding (ever so sweetly, mind you) that I write her Tale. My vision began with the two of them and their aching dynamic. The tension between them begged me to unearth all of their secrets, ghostly or otherwise. I wanted them to be surrounded by a rich, vibrant community of secondary characters that would allow us to get to know them better through outside, colourful eyes. Certainly my characters have parts of myself, of friends and family within them, but only certain traits. Percy, Alexi and the Guard truly have evolved into unique people entirely on their own. At this point I just sit back and take dictation.
 
The titles for your books are unusual - how did you come up with them? Have you found any interesting misspellings of the titles on the web?

       The initial title came entirely from my agent who figured the best way to market a cross-genre book like mine was to give it a descriptive title, to give the readers a sense of what they’re about to read. When he made the point, I absolutely agreed with him, and it became a marketing coup of his. The subsequent titles have been brainstorms between my editor and I. I can’t say I’ve found many misspellings – a few words switched around perhaps, and not everyone gets the series title of the “Strangely Beautiful” series correct, but nothing atrocious.

Do you have any favorite secondary characters in your books? Will they be getting books of their own?

       I can’t pick a favourite from my Guard. I love them all equally, for all their differences.  I adore books with rich group dynamics, and The Guard have all been so much fun and are each so dear to my heart. I’m so excited that Rebecca and Michael get their own novella this fall, releasing September 28th! “A Christmas Carroll” will be featured in Dorchester’s A MIDWINTER FANTASY anthology. I’d love to offer the same novella opportunity to Elijah and Josephine, we’ll have to see!
 
What is the future of the Strangely Beautiful world? How many books do you see in the series?
 
       Four books and two novellas (Rebecca and Michael get theirs this fall, I hope Elijah and Josephine can have the same next fall). Book 3 is a prequel and Book 4 will continue with the Rychman familial legacy up to and broaching World War I.

Your books have many influences - Victorian England, ghost stories, gothic novels, and Greek mythology - do you have any particular favorite stories you came across during the course of your research?

    In college I pursued a focus in the Victorian Era and I loved researching all these disparate aspects that are a part of Victorian society – they were ardent spiritualists and fascinated with ghosts. And so to honour this, why make up all the ghosts when I could just use some that actually exist?  So all of the ghosts in the books- save for the spectral residents of my fictional Athens Academy and those in the Whisper-World- are real, documented London haunts. Picking my ghost stories was my favourite part of the research process, as well as trailing Jack the Ripper in Strangely Beautiful #1. You can learn all about them by joining in my Haunted London Blog Tour beginning April 26th! Schedule:  http://www.leannareneehieber.com/haunted-london-blog-tour/
 
When you write do you have any rituals to put you in the mood - or can you be found jotting down a few lines on a cocktail napkin while out at the bar? How do you avoid writers block?

       Yes and yes to the first two questions. My rituals if at home (though I have been known to have very productive sessions at a good coffee shop): spend a few quiet moments daydreaming, get the lighting right (turn on the stained-glass lamps) put on atmospheric classical or movie soundtracks without words – something period or particularly sweeping.  Brew a cup of spiced, clove tea because that’s Alexi’s scent; “all clove tea and leather-bound books” because I want his essence near me.  I always have pens on hand, everywhere (dry erase markers for the washroom). My characters talk to me all the time (I know, it’s a fine line between being an author and a schizophrenic) and so I have to be ready to take dictation no matter where I am. I’ve been known to pause when I’m out and about with my boyfriend or my friends and say. “Hold on, Elijah just said something really funny.” (It’s usually Elijah who interrupts me. Thankfully, most of my friends are authors or actors and they get it, and my boyfriend is just a saint of a good sport.) 
       Writer’s block is just something you can’t accept when you’re a contracted author on deadline. You have to get around it. Since I write very character driven stories, my characters help me avoid writers block.  If I have a problem, I ask my characters to fix it and let them percolate on it. Generally within a day or so they present me with an answer (which comes to me in the form of a mental movie that I then translate into words – I write like a cinematographer, director and an actor all at the same time.) As a director of my book, I have a cast of actors, my characters, and with my asking the right questions, they come up with the solutions.
 
I noticed that you are quite that expert at connecting to your fans through social media (facebook page, twitter, website) - do you think it's helped promote your book to a wider audience and have you ever had any strange encounters of the fan kind - besides me of course? Do you have any favorite fan encounter stories as well?

       I’d not dare call myself an expert, though I’m definitely active in the social media spheres. And it’s absolutely made the series. I thanked book bloggers in the acknowledgements of Darkly Luminous because it really was connecting with bloggers like you that was the defining factor in getting me, a debut author with a new series, off the ground. It’s one aspect of many factors that make a successful book, some of which end up being random (like book covers since authors have no control over them, titles; often authors have no control, the time of year its released, whether or not the publisher pushes the book to sales reps or not, etc), and then some of which we can control, like how much we ourselves try and get the word out about our work – and social media is the easiest, fastest and most cost-effective way to do so. I balance a lot of social media presence with a bunch of public appearances around the release of my book, as well as a few print media advertising spots. I confess it gets utterly overwhelming, and often I get scatterbrained. Each author has to establish for themselves how much they can do and can balance while keeping to their book deadlines. It isn’t easy.
       No strange encounters of the fan kind, just lovely ones. Truly, when people write to me or review my book saying how much they connected with my characters, there’s just nothing better than that. My Strangely Beautiful characters have been with me for a decade and are family to me. When readers take them into their hearts as their family too, it’s such a great honour.  My favourite fan moments: The stuffed kookaburra Mary sent me from Australia and the “If you like Twilight you’ll like Strangely Beautiful” YouTube video that Hanna made me.
 
Now onto questions a little off book topic -
Favorite Tea?
 
Bigelow’s “Constant Comment” – it has cloves in it. As I mentioned, it Alexi’s scent. Yum.

Favorite Sweet Treat?

Sour apple gummy things.
 
Favorite deep dark secret TV show?

I have no secrets, nor shame. I’m proud of my love of Beauty and the Beast (my favourite from back in the day). I’m a Star Trek Next Gen fan, a Battlestar Galactica fan (the new one) and I’m most proud of my eldest television obsession that began at age 8: with Doctor Who (old and new – Baker and Tennant are my Doctors). 

Favorite character you've ever played on stage?

See pictures: Lucy in Dracula (Cincinnati Shakespeare Company). Yep, that’s me. Favourite stage photo ever. (Thanks Rich Sofranko) And then, going as Miss Percy for Halloween to a costumed ball (replete with photography by Steven Rosen) really took the cake last year. People think at first glance that picture of me as Miss Percy is a painting. Hee-hee.


What are your favorite authors and books?

All the 19th century greats, particularly the Gothic and fantastical authors like Poe and Stoker. The list continues with King, Gaiman, Tolkien,  Lewis, Austen, L. M. Montgomery and last but most certainly not least: J.K. Rowling. As for favourite books; the whole of these authors’ work.

Favorite music?

Classical (Dvorak, Vaughan Williams, Debussy, Chopin, Sibelius, Glass), Goth (VNV Nation, Covenant, Apoptygma Berzerk, The Cure, Depeche Mode), Alternative / Folk (Over the Rhine, Radiohead)
 
Before you go - do you have any special events planned around your latest release that you want people to know about?

Join me for my Darkly Luminous Haunted London Blog Tour (full of giveaways) and my contest, all details available at http://www.leannareneehieber.com and I really hope you’ll pick up The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker starting April 27th!  I’ll also have lots of updates regarding the option agreement for the musical theatre adaptation of The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker up on my blog: http://www.leannareneebooks.blogspot.com
and via Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/leannarenee and the Strangely Beautiful Facebook page: http://tinyurl.com/sbsfan Also, I’m all over the country this year at conventions and conferences, see if I’m coming to a town near you:  http://www.booktour.com/author/leanna_renee_hieber

Thanks for your answers Leanna!


Thanks, Heather, for this wonderful opportunity!



***Book Giveaway Time***

So I'm giving away a copy of one of Leanna's books - either Strangely Beautiful or Darkly Luminous - winner's choice. The contest is international (anywhere Book Depository ships) and will go till Saturday May 1st.

To Enter:
-Leave a comment/ question for Leanna (she will be on later this afternoon to answer questions) or answer this question: What's your favorite novel set in the Victorian era?

-To get extra entries: follow my blog/ follow me on twitter/ tweet about the contest - just let me know (and leave the name you use to follow me with) and leave a link if you tweet! (each counts as one extra entry)

-Check back on the blog on May 2nd to see if you won!

37 comments:

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

This is a great interview and I am fascinated by the author!

Leanna, tell me about your passion for writing. Where does that come from? (I am a want-to-be-writer)

journey through books @ gmail dot com

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

Hi Sheila! Thanks for your interest!

I'm popping in before I have to go off and teach a class about writing and theatre at my old alma mater, Miami University.

I can't say that I know exactly where the passion for writing comes from as it has been with me as early as I can remember - as soon as I could pick up a pen and finish a sentence. It was truly something I was born with, and my fascination with the Victorian Era goes back nearly as far, an early childhood obsession. I sometimes wonder if its a past life or something. :)

If you write, and write because you have to and do so consistently, then you are a writer and that's that. Eventually you will be an author, provided you just keep persevering and keep learning the craft as you go. (It took me many years to sell this book- a 9 year journey all told - so hang in there my fellow writers!)

Thanks Heather for posting this today! I'll be back after 5pm once I'm done speaking to the school to answer other questions / thoughts. Blessings!

Rebecca @ DSB said...

Congrats on the interview Heather. I enjoyed reading about Leann's books. I've heard of The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Percy Parker, and Victorian stuff is hot right now.

Karen said...

Great inaugural interview Heather!!
This is not my usual type of book but your reviews & this interview have peaked my interest and I will be picking them up!
-follow the blog
-follow on twitter (teamsheltie)

Stella (Ex Libris) said...

Wonderful interview, thank you Heather for the great questions, I really learned a lot about Leanna, the series, and her writing process.

Thank you Leanna for your detailed answers, it was a joy to read them. I'm also a huge Richard Armitage fan, so thank you for the tip, now I'll have him in mind when imagining Alexi! :-) (and I also LOVE the scent of cloves, it is spicy and strong yet exotic, mmm..)

It is too funny that even when you are out with your flesh&blood friends you tell them to keep quiet because your character is telling you something right now :-D heehee

+1 I'm a follower of your blog
+1 follow you on Twitter (@Stella_ExLibris)
+1 tweeted here: http://twitter.com/Stella_ExLibris/status/12645653138
+1 spread the word on Facebook:http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000899165880&v=wall&story_fbid=111167352255236

+1 and even posted your giveaway on my right contest sidebar: http://exlibris-stella.blogspot.com/

Thank you, after everything I've read about this series (the praising reviews, the exciting premise, the fun interviews), I can't wait to get my hands on it! Please enter me, thank you!

stella.exlibris (at) gmail DOT com

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

Wow! Great interview, I love the photos!! The Dracula photo is awesome! I can understand why that was your favorite! Also I love the Halloween costume :)

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Thanks so much!!

Heather (DarklyReading) said...

@Sheila - Great question!

@Leanna - Thx for stopping by to answer questions! I'm glad you stuck with Percy for your 9 year journey to get the book published!

@Rebecca - Between Leanna's books and Carriger's Parasol Protectorate there are some really great Victiorian paranormals out there!

@Karen - thx for stopping by - I'm glad my reviews have inspired some new book interests ;) - you've definitely gotten me to look at more YA books -especially Jeri Smith-Ready's books ;)

@Stella - I love when authors attach a scent with their characters..for some reason it helps me picture them better..

@Carrie - The Lucy photo is great - though I really like the Percy pic as well - I really hope the first book makes it to the stage!

Sarah said...

Great interview! I've heard good things about this series but I haven't actually read it yet. I'm definitely going to have to check it out though :o)

I'm a blog & twitter follower (@sarahsreviews). I'll go on twitter & tweet your giveaway now

Smokinhotbooks said...

Great interview Heather - Leanna you know how much I heart your work *blows air kisses*

HODGEPODGESPV said...

? so when is one of your tours coming to texas?

as a rickman is a bit old for the part, who do you see playing the part of the professor? (i can hope!)

what a silly question! why her first novel of course!

i am a new blog and twitter follower (http://twitter.com/spvaughan/status/12656985165). i now should get your emails, facebooked interview as sandra vaughan

i want the new one!! of course!!!

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

Hi friends!

Back from speaking to my alma mater. I love telling people never to give up on their dreams- after the long journey with Miss Percy, I was tempted to give up, but I had people tell me to keep going and persevere, so my promise to the Universe was to turn around and do the same when my wishes were granted.

Rebecca-
Glad you stopped by, and I couldn't be more thrilled that Victorian is "in" right now - after 9 years I'm finally trendy! ;) Proof that the market will find you eventually!

Stella,
Indeed, imagining The Armitage just makes everything better, doesn't it? :) Thrilled to have you on board with the series! Especially as a fellow clove fan. :)

Hi Carrie,
Thanks tons, yes, while my mother refuses to look at that Dracula photo, I sure love it. Heh. Thanks for stopping by!

Sarah,
I hope you'll enjoy it, thanks!

KC (Smokinhot)
*air kisses back to you*

Sandra(Hodge)
I'd love to get to Texas for something other than a whirlwind day for a wedding (which is the only time I've been to Texas) - I'll be sure and let you know when an opportunity brings me there. Yes, dear Alan is too long in the tooth for him these days - so I'd cast Richard Armitage as seen in the photo Heather so kindly posted above! Isn't he delicious?

Barbara E. said...

My favorite novel set in the Victorian era is Soulless with a close second of Changeless, both by Gail Carriger.
I throughly enjoyed The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, and look forward to reading The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker. I really like both titles by the way, they certainly stand out in a crowd.

Martha Lawson said...

This was a reaaly great interview! Loved the pictures. I can't wait to read these books - they sound awesome..

mlawson17 at hotmail dot com

gillcrist said...

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ErotRomReader (Janna) said...

You already had caught my interest for Leanna's books with your reviews, Heather! This wonderful interview only makes me want to read them more. So please enter me :) You know I stalk.. eh.. follow you everywhere and I tweeted about this post too (http://twitter.com/ErotRomReader/status/12699841965).
I'm afraid I'm a day too late to ask Leanna a question but I can tell what Victorian book is my favorite, because that's easy ;) Leanna mentioned it already, it's Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. That brooding, surly Heathcliff has left a definite print on my memory.

Heather (DarklyReading) said...

@Babara - I loved Soulless too! Loved the Steampunk in that book!

@Martha - Thanks!

@Janna - I am bad and have never read Wuthering Heights..I seem to just end up reading books with characters based on him.. one of these days I'll read it ;)

Melissa said...

I have heard so many great things about this series I really want to read it!!

I'd have to say my fave book set in the era would be Pride and Prejudice.

I follow you both on the blog and twitter (@BooksThings).

angie said...

Great interview! I just wanted to ask Leanna who are some of her favorite authors to read? I am always looking for new books to read. These books look great and I have heard great things about them!
I follow this blog Angie Dubisher
I follow on twitter @bangersis
I tweeted http://twitter.com/bangersis/status/12741072634
Thanks!
email bangersis(at)msn(dot)com

Lady_Graeye said...

I am so waiting for the release of your newest book on Tuesday. Do you have any other books planned of a different nature? Who would you want to play Percy Parker in the musical? Does Percy have any traits similar to you?

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Giada M said...

Thank you for the interesting interview! The Strangely beautiful series sounds amazing! Thank you for making thi giveaway international! The first book is already on my wishlist.

I'm a blog follower.
I follow you on twitter. ( @hatshepsut0011 )
I tweeted http://twitter.com/hatshepsut0011/status/12755343339

Thank you for this chance!

Giada M.

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Christine H said...

My Favorite Book took place in 1838 Dangerous Beauty bu Anastasia Black.

I follow you on twitter-romantic73
I'm a GCFollower
I tweeted the giveaway: http://twitter.com/Romantic73

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Patti said...

Great interview! I really liked the stage photo and I am one of the people who thought the halloween pic was a painting, LOL!

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Leanna Renee Hieber said...

ErotRomReader

I'm popping back in since I figured there may have been some questions I missed- let me know via any of my various social media connections, I'm always game to answer questions. :) Yay for Wuthering, yay also for Jane Eyre. :)

Angie,
My favourite authors are the 19th century novelists, particularly those that have any Gothic bent to them. And fantasy authors like Tolkien and Rowling, but lately I've been going back to some of my very favourites, Victorian-set mysteries, for humour: Elizabeth Peters (Her Amelia Peabody series is not to be missed) and for grit: Anne Perry.

I'm currently reading The Alienist and its blowing my mind, I can't believe I didn't read it sooner.

Lady Graeye,
I'm so glad to hear it! I don't actually know a lot of the up and coming young talents as far as who I'd like to play Percy. She may be one of those 'discover a new ingenue' roles. As for if any of Percy's qualities are like mine, I'd say a few. When Percy gets really passionate, and she lights up and goes suddenly a bit fan-girl about something, that is VERY me. I can turn from my 30 year old self into childlike, unabashed rapture in seconds. Also, her ability to think of eerie things as beautiful is also how I see the world.

Patti,
I love that it caused a double-take reaction, this photos has been such a fun and also important thing to have - some real representation of a girl that I describe all the time in the book but very few people can maintain an accurate mental picture about.

Cheers all!

donnas said...

Great interview. I really enjoyed the first book and am looking forward to the second.

How many are you planning in the series? And did you do as much research for this one as the first?

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Spav said...

Wel, I've never read any book set in the Victorian era. The truth is that I've just started reading novels with a historical setting.

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JenM said...

I just loved Jane Eyre when I read it as a teenager, although I wasn't a fan of Wuthering Heights. I'm so happy that the Victorian era is in fashion right now. It's such a rich period in history.

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Christine H said...

My favorite book is Dangerous Beauty, I think it just made the cut off of 1838 if I'm correct on when she was crowned. The book moved me through so many emotions. I felt sick at times, sad, happy. I've never felt so much emotion reading any other book. The beginning is a little slow. I didn't think I was going to like it, but it turned out great!

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I tweeted the giveaway:
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Rosalie said...

Great interview! I love that you've included real ghosts in your story, Leanna. It lends such an authenticity to your world. Can't wait to read this second book!

buddyt said...

I am a Follower.

I enjoyed the interview.

Quite surprised to see you like all the same authors that I do. I will have to investigate L. M. Montgomery though as that is someone new to me.

Thanks

Carol T

buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

Cherry said...

Heather asked if Miss Hieber get character inspiration from celebreties or other book characters... how about family, friends? People around you? Mother-in-law in one of the bad guys? :)

Did I tell you I'm a nosey reader? *trying to affect my most innocent look I could manage*

I'm a new follower of your blog.

Follow you on Twitter. My Twitter name is @cherrymischivus.

Re-posted your contest at: http://contests-freebies.blogspot.com/2010/04/win-lr-hieber-book-at-darkly-reading.html

Twitted: http://twitter.com/cherrymischivus/status/13061219785

Elizabeth said...

I was wondering how does it feel to be on stage. I would love to be on stage but I get nerves to much.
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EVA SB said...

I love reading Leanna's interviews and this one was excellent.

My Victorian book is The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I also have a soft spot for Bleak House as it is the first Dickens I ever enjoyed enough to finish.

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I tweeted
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Julie said...

What attracts you to the Victorian Era? Is it the perceived elegance of the times, or is it something more?

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Steph said...

What was it about the Victorian Era that you like the most? The Darkness or the Simpleness of it?

Cheryl said...

That was a great interview. I have to admit that I have never read a victorian era book, so that would be a new one for me. I would like to enter and try it out!
I am a new follower
cherylbaryl@hotmail.com

k_sunshine1977 said...

y'know, i thought the photo was a painting, too!
my favorite victorian era books (so far, subject to change) are jane eyre and anne perry's pitt series. and leanna, i agree with you, the alienist is an awesome book!
k_sunshine1977@yahoo.com

mbreakfield said...

Great interview. I love Alan Rickman and Richard Armitage, too. NORTH AND SOUTH is second only to P&P for me. Alan Rickman was the only redeeming part of ROBIN HOOD. I was rooting for the villain.
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