Archived Stories for Union County Public Schools
Published PRHS English teacher speaks at Smithsonian
Imagine being so knowledgeable about a particular topic that youâ€™re asked to serve on a round-table panel of experts at the Smithsonian.
Regina Montenaro, an English teacher at Porter Ridge High School, is such a person. Her area of expertise: Jane Austen. â€œI am a self described Jane Austen freak,â€ she said. â€œI started reading her in high school and then read some of her books in college, but it was only in the last 10 or 15 years, that I became obsessed.â€
Montenaro has just published her sixth novel with Ulysses Press out of California under the pen name of Regina Jeffers. The book, "The Phantom of Pemberley," which will hit the stands in September 2010, is part of a series written by Montenaro based on Jane Austen stories.
Her books are published under the pen name Regina Jeffers and can be purchased on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble. When writing her novels, she attempts to keep her characters true to the original characters as created by Jane Austen.
â€œAll of Jane Austenâ€™s books are told from the womanâ€™s point of view,â€ she said. â€œMine are told from Mr. Darcyâ€™s point of view. He is the epitome of the male hero. Most women who are Jane Austen fans wonder what he would be like.â€
The success of her novels, and her knowledge of Jane Austen led the Smithsonian Institute in Washington to include Montenaro at a Jane Austen Institute on March 9, 2010.
"The experience was quite surreal,â€ she said. â€œTo be at the Smithsonian and speaking on a canon of literature I so dearly cherish was an honor I cannot express. I hope that I might have served Jane Austen's legacy well."
WETA television taped the presentation and it will air on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) in the near future. It will also be available on the WETA website for downloading.
Unlike many writers who begin their careers early in life, Montenaroâ€™s career as a novelist began after she turned 60. She credits her studentsâ€™ encouragement in getting that first novel written. The book, completed in late 2007, was a sequel to Jane Austinâ€™s Pride and Prejudice, titled Darcy's Passions. â€œI started a second career at the age of 60,â€ she said.
Her first novel was self-published under Xlibris, but it sold so well online that Ulysses Press in California bought the rights to her books and picked up the series. Montenaro has now published six novels with Ulysses Press, seven total.
â€œI wrote that first book just for me,â€ she said. â€œI had never thought of going any where with it. But it sold-out right away on Amazon and thatâ€™s when Ulysses Press called and published the original book. When it continued to sell well, they asked me to write several more.â€
She is currently writing a trilogy and a novella for Ulysses, and they recently asked for a mystery book to add to the Austen series.
Thus far, she has written Darcy's Passions, Darcy's Temptation (originally titled Darcy's Dreams), Captain Wentworth's Persuasion (originally titled Wayward Love); Honor and Hope, Second Chances: The Courtship Wars, Vampire Darcy's Desire, and coming September of 2010 will be The Phantom of Pemberley.
Because of the popularity of Twilight, Montenaro was asked by her publishers to include a vampire book in her series. She avoided reading the books or watching the movies in the Twilight saga to avoid any similarities in her characters and story.
â€œItâ€™s kind of funny, because I donâ€™t read vampire books, but after 39 years of teaching English, I think I know what makes a good storyline. I researched a great deal online about vampires and legends. With mine, I took a little different twist. Mr. Darcy is part vampire and part human.â€
The end result: Vampire Darcy's Desire, a vampire retelling of Pride and Prejudice. â€œIt got a brief mention in both People Magazine and Entertainment Weekly the summer of 2009,â€ she said. â€œIt has gotten some good press, and Ulysses moved the release up from December 1, 2009, to October 1, 2009, to meet the demand. Barnes and Noble at the Arboretum had a vampire party the first week of December based around my book, and worked with several UCPS schools for that evening. Some of the proceeds came back to Porter Ridge High School.â€
Her books are selling very well in Europe and have been translated into seven languages, including Portuguese, French, Spanish, Russian and German. Montenaro is also getting fan letters, and there are plans in the making for a Jeffers fan club. â€œIâ€™m a school teacher. Iâ€™m not used to adoration. Itâ€™s surreal.â€
Montenaro will be retiring from teaching at the end of the 2009/2010 school year and looks forward to spending much more time writing. She also hopes to get into other genres such as historical romance.
Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Apr 01, 2010 by Deb Coates Bledsoe