Perfect Day is an unforgettable retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion remade into a male/male story you’ll love! We were lucky enough to chat with author Sally Malcolm about Jane Austen, writing romance, and what she’s working on next.
I’ve been a dedicated Jane Austen fan since I first read Emma as a teenager. I’ve read all her books countless times, I’ve seen every adaptation and every retelling out there. I even live about an hour from her house in Chawton, which I’ve visited several times. Basically, I’m an unapologetic Janeite! So, writing a modern version of one of her novels was something I’ve always wanted to do.
Why Persuasion? For me, it’s Austen’s most romantic novel—a deeply emotional tale of loss, yearning and the exquisite happiness of lovers reunited. It’s about learning to forgive your own mistakes, and the missteps of others, and ultimately, it’s about leaving the past behind and striding into a happier future. I find it an incredibly moving, hopeful story and retelling it has been an absolute thrill.
What I wanted to do with Perfect Day was to genuinely retell Persuasion rather than simply replicate it with the names and settings changed. I wanted to take the essence of a story I adore and spin it anew for a contemporary audience. So, most of the challenges I experienced were around what to leave out, because it didn’t work in the modern world, and what new material to include.
For example, Josh Newton is not simply a male version of Anne Elliot. He can’t be. As a young man in the 21st century, Josh has much more power to shape his fate than Anne Elliot ever did as a 19th-century woman. Anne’s great virtue was to “love longest when all hope is gone”—she had no choice but to wait patiently for Wentworth to understand his own feelings and return to her, unable to take the initiative herself. But this wouldn’t work for Josh. Which means his hesitancy when he and Finn first meet again must come from an internal source—from his own sense of guilt at having broken Finn’s heart, from his melancholy and regret—rather than from external pressures. The impact on the story remains the same, but the characters’ motivations must be different.
And then there’s the sex. Clearly, there’s no sex in Austen’s books (although there’s plenty offscreen!), but most readers of contemporary romance expect a little heat between the pages. Finding ways to include this, while sticking to Austen’s story, was a challenge. However, one of the things I most enjoyed about writing Perfect Day was being able to explore Josh and Finn’s summer romance through a series of flashback scenes, and that provided the perfect opportunity to ramp up the heat. They’re actually some of my favourite scenes in the book, too. Sweet and hopeful, but so painfully poignant because we all know what’s coming…
As a Persuasion retelling, Perfect Day is the ultimate second-chance romance—one of my favourite romance tropes!
Joshua Newton is a sweet and sensitive musician, a total cinnamon roll, but he has a sarcastic bite when pushed too far. Finn Callaghan is hard and resentful on the outside, but a squishy marshmallow on the inside—especially when it comes to Josh.
And they are SO in love, even when they’re anguished and resentful of each other. It’s the kind of yearning love that makes your tummy pinch and flutter, but they have the most joyful HEA I’ve ever written.
Writing romance novels makes me happy. That’s it, that’s the reason. There’s simply nothing I’d rather do than sit down and write stories about people falling in love, fighting for love, going through all kinds of agonies for love and, finally, heading into a bright and hopeful future together. In a world of uncertainties, I love to escape into romantic fiction.
I always, and I mean ALWAYS, give my characters a happy-ever-after. No exceptions. Ever.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve read (gulp) over 150 m/m romances across the whole spectrum from historical to contemporary to suspense. I guess you could call me an addict.
My writing roots are in fanfiction, and I still maintain it’s the best way for anyone to learn and improve their writing craft.
I’m really excited about Between the Lines, the follow-up to Perfect Day. It’s an original story, so not an Austen retelling, but it’s set in the same seaside town as Perfect Day. It’s kind of an enemies-to-lovers story and features itinerant surf instructor Luca Moretti and property developer Theo Wishart, who wants to build a golf resort in New Milton.
Two things especially excite me about this book. First, Theo has dyspraxia, also known as developmental coordination disorder. This is something my daughter has and for a long time I’ve wanted to write a character who shares some of her experiences—I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out, and I can’t wait for people to meet Theo.
The second thing I love about Between the Lines is that I got to write Finn and Josh’s wedding. (I hope that’s not a spoiler!) It was so lovely to see the boys on their big day and to have it play a significant part in Luca and Theo’s story. Between the Lines will be out in December 2018.
About Perfect Day:
Love doesn’t burn out just because the timing’s wrong. It grows. It never leaves.
When Joshua Newton, prodigal son of one of New Milton’s elite, fell in love with ambitious young actor Finn Callaghan, his world finally made sense. With every stolen moment, soft touch and breathless kiss, they fell deeper in love.
Finn was his future…until he wasn’t.
Love stays. Even when you don’t want it to, even when you try to deny it, it stays.
Eight years later, Finn has returned to the seaside town where it all began. He’s on the brink of stardom, a far cry from the poor mechanic who spent one gorgeous summer falling in love on the beach.
The last thing he wants is a second chance with the man who broke his heart. Finn has spent a long time forgetting Joshua Newton—he certainly doesn’t plan to forgive him.
Love grows. It never leaves.