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School of Medicine physician, author travels to China to donate proceeds of her Jane Austen spin-off to orphanage

Jan. 10, 2013

It is a truth universally acknowledged -- particularly in recent years -- that a Jane Austen novel must be in want of a spin-off.

book cover

One of the latest e-books to have appeared on Amazon’s top 10 hot new Regency romance releases, “Mr. Darcy’s Mistake” was written by Deanna “DeDe” Willis, an associate professor and vice chair of research at the IU School of Medicine, and the school’s statewide director of Social and Community Context of Healthcare Competency.

Shops and bookshelves are full of spin-offs now, those variation tales that detail the courtship of Lizzy and Mr. Darcy from his point of view, or delve into what happened to fiction’s favorite couple after they marry, ranging from the murder of the dubious Wickham to how their five independent-minded daughters fare in society.

Available for $9.99 for Kindle readers, Willis' storyline takes off after Elizabeth declines Darcy’s proposal and is preparing to leave on a trip with her aunt and uncle -- a trip that marks a pivotal plot point in Austen’s text -- when her father unexpectedly dies.

“I’m an Austen fan, and I think I own every ‘Pride and Prejudice’ variation book that’s out there,” Willis said with a chuckle.

“And reading them, you start to think, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if somebody looked at it this way or that way?’ And eventually, I started to think I might as well tell the story myself. So I thought, ‘Why not?’ I wrote the first two chapters on the plane coming home from a family vacation last summer.”

For a busy doctor and professor with a young family, airplanes quickly became the key to a work-life-writing balance.

“For my job, I travel quite a bit for meetings or for service engagements for national committee work or for talks. I also do some work with medical students in China, so I fly regularly,” Willis said. “A lot of my work requires either email or the Internet with Web-based applications, but planes either don’t have Wi-Fi or it’s not the fastest, so I find it’s easier to do something I enjoy.”


DeDe Willis' work regularly takes her to China. She and her husband, Marcus Schamberger, associate professor of clinical pediatrics at Riley, adopted two daughters from China.

She completed her manuscript in August and self-published through Amazon, using her husband’s surname as a pen name. Husband Marcus Schamberger is an associate professor of clinical pediatrics at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.

“It’s actually the ultimate experiment in social media,” Willis said of promoting her book. “After I published it, I posted the news on Facebook. All my friends started buying copies. And then once you rise high enough on Amazon’s Regency list, people start to see it. And then once you get reviews, you start getting co-listed as ‘suggested reading.’ So the word just keeps spreading.”

Willis is donating some of the proceeds from her book sales to an orphanage in China. She and her husband adopted their two daughters from there and have since worked to integrate the country into their everyday lives.

“If there’s anything I’d say about this experience, it’s just that if you’re one of those people who’ve always wanted to write a book, just do it,” Willis said. “We all have unique life experiences, and I believe writing is a great way to bring meaning and perspective to our own journey.”

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