Books Magazine

Shannon Winslow: Discovering Mr. Knightley

By Mariagrazia @SMaryG

(from Shannon Winslow)

Writing a novel takes a long time, so authors need strong inspiration to carry them through. My inspiration (for this book and all the others) comes from Jane Austen – from what she wrote, yes, but just as much from what she didn’t write. My mission, you see, is to fill in the blanks she left behind. I add on to rather than varying from Austen’s timeless stories.

As you know, Jane Austen’s novels are written almost entirely from the heroine’s point of view. We readers see and experience nearly everything from her perspective and her perspective alone. We know how she thinks and feels about the events and the people that surround her. We learn about her background and her family. But we generally learn very little about the heroes of the books, except through the heroine.

What was Mr. Darcy doing all the time he was absent from the page? What happened to Colonel Brandon in India? How did Mr. Knightley become “his own master” at such an early age? What happened to his parents? Did he ever fall in love before Emma? And what can explain his incredible forbearance towards the eccentric Mr. Woodhouse? These are things I wanted to know, and so I set out to discover the answers in my recent hero-point-of-view books – first Fitzwilliam Darcy, then Colonel Brandon, and now Mr. Knightley, letting each one tell his story in His Own Words.

Of the three Austen hero novels I’ve written so far, Mr. Knightley’s story represented the biggest “blank.” About all we know of his past from the original novel is that his parents apparently died young, since Emma says that he’s always been his “own master.” That didn’t give me much to go on, which was both the bad news AND the good news. Austen hadn’t left me many clues, but then I didn’t have to worry about contradicting her either. The possibilities were unlimited. So much scope for my imagination!

As I said above, I set out to “discover” the answers to all the questions that popped into my mind, because that’s what the process of writing one of these books feels like to me. I start with what I already know about the man, and then I keep digging until I unearth the rest, until all the pieces of the puzzle finally fit together. What I ended up with this time is a novel spanning three crucial time periods in George Knightley’s life: his adolescence (age 15-17), the young man (age 23-24), and the “present day” (the span of the original novel).

Now I know what critical service Mr. Woodhouse rendered George and his family long ago. Now I know what happened to the rest of his family. Now I know the sad outcome of his first love, how that became one more devastating experience of loss. I’ve seen how he persevered in the face of great hardship – to save Donwell and to provide for his younger brother – how his principles and character grew stronger through it all, becoming the man Emma can’t help falling in love with in the end. Truth is, I couldn’t help falling in love with him either!

It was a complete delight discovering Mr. Knightley’s story, and I hope you will enjoy getting to know this remarkable gentleman of quiet dignity much better too.

Shannon Winslow


About the Book

Mr. George Knightley. According to Emma Woodhouse, you won’t see one in a hundred who is so clearly the gentleman. Respected by all, he’s kind, unpretentious, and scrupulously honest, with an air so remarkably good that it’s unfair to compare other men to him. We also know he’s been his “own master” from a young age. But Jane Austen tells us little more.

What were his early years like, and how did he lose his parents? A man in his mid-thirties, he must have had at least one romance along the way. Did it end badly? Is that why he’s never married? When and how did his relationship with Emma shift from friendship to love? And what can explain his incredible forbearance towards the eccentric Mr. Woodhouse? Now, Mr. Knightley reveals these answers and more in His Own Words.

This is not a variation from but a supplement to the original story of Emma, chronicled in the hero’s point of view. Two-thirds completely new material, it features key events in Mr. Knightley’s past – events that still haunt him and yet have shaped who he’s become, the superior man Emma can’t help falling in love with.



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