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Downton Abbey Made Me Do It

Tuesday, June 24, 2014| Permalink

This week, JBC Network author Wendy Wax, the author of While We Were Watching Downton Abbey, blogs for The Postscript on the inspiration for writing her newest book The Postscript series is a special peek "behind the scenes" of a book. It's a juicy little extra something to add to a book club's discussion and a reader's understanding of how the book came together. 

If you're an Anglophile who loves Downton Abbey and wants to read more about the lives of British Jews, see our reading list on the British Jewish Experience.

I’ve enjoyed a lot of television programs in my day, but Downton Abbey is the first one that inspired me to write a novel.

I won’t say I was living in a cave at the time, but I did somehow miss season one and only tuned in after some prodding from a friend. I was hooked immediately and was in the middle of a weekend long Downton Abbey marathon, when I started imagining how cool it would be if I could find a way to use my new addiction to bring together my own cast of characters.

As I pondered the possibilities, I realized that while I wanted Downton Abbey to be at the heart of the story, I didn’t want the story to be about the program. I wanted it to be about my characters.

What evolved is While We Were Watching Downton Abbey, a story about three strangers and the British concierge of their Atlanta high-rise, who meet and bond through weekly Downton Abbey viewing parties. All are at crossroads in their lives and none anticipate the unexpected friendships that form between them. Serious fans of the show will notice that some of the characters are inspired by those living at Downton Abbey both upstairs and down; Samantha Davis, like Lady Mary is financially responsible for her younger siblings and marries Atlanta ‘Royalty’ (old money) to take care of them. Edward Parker, the building’s British concierge is a modern take on butler Carson except he has a degree from Cornell and George Clooney looks. (A writer has to have her fun!)

Together Samantha Davis, Claire Walker, Brooke Mackenzie and Edward Parker watch seasons one and two unfold. While we see bits and pieces of the episodes, the focus is on them, their growth, and their developing friendship. There are no spoilers for fellow latecomers and no need for anyone to feel left out if they haven’t watched Downton Abbey. In fact, some readers have told me the book spurred them to watch the show.

As I wrote what Newsday later dubbed ‘possibly the first novel written about fans of the show,’ my Downton Abbey addiction intensified. I don’t leave my house on Sunday nights when it airs and I can—and have—spent long hours happily discussing the lavish costumes and settings as well as the twists and turns of the series’ storylines. I blew my household Kleenex budget halfway through season three. And when my husband found me crying in a darkened room after one particular death bed departure, I had to reassure him that I didn’t want a divorce and I was fairly certain that I didn’t need antidepressants.

The truth is, I’m hanging on by a slim thread until season five airs in the states in January. Every day I have to fight the urge to read Downton gossip and I can only hope I’ll have the strength to duck spoilers when the new season airs in the U.K. months before we see it. I console myself with the thought that my novel can provide a temporary ‘fix’ for others experiencing this kind of withdrawal.

I’m always excited when a book club adopts While We Were Watching Downton Abbey and love hearing about groups that discuss my book and dish about my favourite series, sometimes while dressed in Downton-era clothing, sipping Downton style tea or cocktails, and snacking on British delicacies. I’m also thrilled that my publisher has selected While We Were Watching Downton Abbey for their Read Pink campaign this fall and that they’re offering a complimentary copy to JBC book clubs that would like to consider it*.

I’m happy to have had this chance to be in touch with you all. I hope you’ll stop by my site authorwendywax.com to read reviews and excerpts of my novels or, if you’d like me to join your discussion by phone or via Skype. You know, whatever I can do to help other Downton addicts hang on until the new season begins.

*Book giveaway closes on Friday, June 27 at noon ET.

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