Hi Everyone! I had the pleasure to be interviewed by Maria Grazia on her My Jane Austen Book Club blog. Below is the interview. You can visit her site to see the interview and to enter a contest to win one of three copies of the book!
Jane Austen and the 21st century. She lives in book clubs, conversations, sequels and movie adaptations. Do you think she has traveled through the centuries unchanged?
I think how we view Jane Austen changes constantly because our culture is always in flux. If you look at the 1940 version of P&P, it’s quite different from any Austen adaptation today because they were focused on different aspects of her work. She’s enjoying a surge in popularity today because particular aspects of her writing are particularly appealing to our culture at this moment. I guess I would say that Austen hasn’t changed, but how we see her changes quite a bit.
She’s loved and appreciated all over the world. Can different cultures find different messages in her work or is she actually so universal?
What makes Austen’s books great works of literature is that you can view them from many different angles and focus on diffferent layers of meaning and get different experiences from them. I think only the very best literature allows for this multi-layered approach. We tend to focus on Austen’s romanticism, but you could write multiple doctoral dissertations about her social satire or her subtle commentary on gender politics in the Regency time period. And those are just a few examples.
So, that’s a long-winded way of saying that, yes, I think she’s universal. I would imagine that readers in different cultures find her work appealing in different ways.
When did you decide to write a variation of Pride and Prejudice and why did you want to try yourself in such a challenging task?
It wasn’t actually a conscious decision! I had read a wide variety of P&P variations – some of which are quite wonderful. But I found myself thinking: “What if…” Before long I had a whole plot in my head and felt compelled to start putting it down in paper – or pixels, as it were.
What was the premise of your retelling?
There was a brief moment of peace between France and England in 1803 – following the signing of the Treaty of Amiens. During that time, hundreds of English citizens (who were huge fans of French fashion and French wine despite the war) flocked to Paris. When the war broke out again, these travelers were desperate to escape the country.
I thought it would be fascinating to put Elizabeth and Darcy among these English citizens. Austen doesn’t deal much with the war or politics, but I liked the idea of complicating their romance with these outside events – and taking them out of their comfort zones. Darcy is used to being in charge of everything, but his wealth and position don’t mean much as a fugitive in France.
Traditionally, P&P variations have been set in 1813, the year the book was published, but Austen actually wrote the first draft long before 1800, so I didn’t think that changing the setting to 1803 was that big a stretch.
How much do your Elizabeth and your Darcy differ from the Austen models?
I tried very hard to stay close to the spirit of Austen’s characters. I really dislike it when characters in variations behave in ways that I believe are totally out of character. That said, I put Darcy and Elizabeth in some completely new situations, so it presents new challenges. They spend a lot of time alone together since they’re escaping France in a two-person curricle. And Elizabeth falls ill. So these events force them into closer proximity than in the original P&P, and this compells them to examine their feelings.
At a ball you would gladly accept to dance – even twice – with …
Darcy, of course. He’s the only man I’d contemplate leaving my husband for. J I’d also love to get to know Captain Wentworth or Colonel Brandon better – still waters run deep.
For which of the minor characters would you like to write a spin off ? Why?
That’s a tough question because I find Darcy and Elizabeth so compelling that it’s hard to imagine focusing on someone else. But I could envision writing about Colonel Fitzwilliam or Georgiana. A lot of the other minor characters would need a personality transplant before I could spend that much time with them. J
Let’s play Lost in Austen? Which of her novel would you like to end up in?
Definitely Pride and Prejudice! It’s my favorite. Although I would be thrilled to visit Persuasion or Sense and Sensibility – I even have a soft spot for Mansfield Park.
What would you miss the most if you could go back and live in the Regency? What would you be more excited about?
I think I would miss showers and deoderant! And toothpaste. But it would be wonderful to wear elegant dresses and attend dances. I love to dance and that would be great fun. And wouldn’t it be wonderful to go back in time and actually meet Jane Austen?
How would you present your The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth in about 50 words?
After his disastrous marriage proposal, Darcy unexpectedly encounters Elizabeth in Paris, but a declaration of war means English citizens are in danger, and Darcy must help Elizabeth escape France. When they return to England, they have secrets they must conceal—even from their own families.
What are you up next? Are you working on another Jane Austen – inspired writing project or something totally different?
I am currently writing another Pride and Prejudice variation. I had such an overwhelmingly positive reader response to The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth and I learned so much from the experience that I’m very excited about releasing my next book!