A new Pride and Prejudice spinoff, The Other Mr. Darcy was released this month to positive fanfare. Focusing on Caroline Bingley, a secondary character in Jane Austen’s original novel, I truly enjoyed her transformation and romance. You can read my review to get all the details of the plot and my impressions.
It’s author Monica Fairview is visiting today during her blog tour in celebration of its release. Thanks for joining us today Monica to chat about your new book The Other Mr. Darcy, a new Austenesque novel.
While many Austen sequel writers have focused on Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, the main characters in Austen’s original novel, you have chosen to spotlight the minor but very memorable Caroline Bingley. Known for her snooty behavior and snide remarks, she is not exactly likable heroine material for a novel. What inspired you to select one of Austen’s most famous Mean Girls for your heroine?
Not all Mean Girls are Mean all the way through. I felt Jane Austen herself wanted to tell us that. Chapter 45 of Pride and Prejudice starts: “Convinced as Elizabeth now was that Miss Bingley’s dislike of her had originated in jealousy, she could not help feeling how very unwelcome her appearance at Pemberley must be to her.” I read that as an insight into Caroline’s behavior, and a recognition on Elizabeth’s part that Caroline was just trying to keep Mr. Darcy to herself. Jealousy is a very strong emotion, and it tends to bring out the mean streak in everyone. After all, wouldn’t you fight to keep Darcy if you thought you had a chance?
I read this sentence as Jane Austen providing us with Caroline’s motivation, and took it from there. If Caroline is in love with Mr. Darcy, of course she’s going to try and represent Elizabeth in the worst possible light to him. Hence her snide remarks.
When I originally read the advance publicity on The Other Mr. Darcy before it was released in the UK last summer, I was intrigued with the creative title. To many readers, Mr. Darcy is the ultimate romantic icon. Who could this other Mr. Darcy be? Like most young ladies, (or not so nearly young), my imagination is very rapid; it jumped from a twin separated at birth, to a multiple personality disorder, to an imposter in a moment! Your Mr. Darcy is of course none of those possibilities, but turns out to be his American cousin. What was your inspiration for Robert Darcy and how is he similar and differ to his English cousin Fitzwilliam Darcy?
The title was the first thing I thought of, before I even started writing. Originally, I wanted to shadow Mr. Darcy, to create a character that was the other side of him in a way. What came out was Robert Darcy. That’s why if you go through the novel, you’ll find a lot of shadows associated with him. But as he developed, he turned out to be very sunny, and he seemed to prefer open spaces and sunshine. He went his own way.
Robert is different from Fitzwilliam Darcy because he likes talking about things, he insists on being open and putting his cards on the table. His manners are easygoing and he likes to laugh. To all appearances, he has nothing in common with his cousin Fitzwilliam. But as the novel progresses, they become more similar. There’s a point in the plot where Robert is the one who is earnest and reserved, while Fitzwilliam is – well, I don’t want to give away anything in the plot, but let’s say they’re more similar than one would have thought.
Let’s delve deeper into the personality of that jealous, manipulative and scheming Caroline Bingley! In Pride and Prejudice she uses all her charms and allurements to entice Mr. Darcy into marriage. When he selects Elizabeth Bennet, of inferior birth and no consequence, her dream of being Mrs. Darcy is thwarted. In The Other Mr. Darcy your Caroline is still devastated by Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth’s marriage hiding her emotions behind propriety. Since you put yourself in her shoes so-to-speak to write the character, can you share with us your thoughts on Caroline’s personality, what you liked and disliked about her, and what you hoped to achieve in telling her own story?
Caroline used every trick she knew to get Mr. Darcy’s attention. But wouldn’t you? He was a good catch in every possible way. Because we’re on Eliza’s side, we only see Eliza’s perspective. We’ve got to remember that Eliza despises both Mr. Darcy and Caroline when she’s describing the way Caroline toadies to him. Later, she learns more about Mr. Darcy, so she comes to appreciate him. But we don’t get to know Caroline, so that initial impression remains. I felt there was a story there, particularly since Caroline is from a lower social class, and I wanted to know how she really felt about that.
The other issue that puzzles me about Mr. Darcy’s relationship with Caroline is that he chooses to spend time with her. He’s perfectly happy staying with them in Netherfield, and spends days if not weeks in the company of Caroline. Then, as if it isn’t enough, he later invites her to Pemberley to stay with him there. And of course, he dances with her at that first ball. There must be something good about her, if he’s willing to spend so much time with her. It’s not as if the Bingleys are the only friends he has (one hopes!).
In The Other Mr. Darcy you’ll find there’s a lot that’s good about her, once she realizes it’s useless to try and keep up the social pretences. It takes quite a few blows to recognize that, but once she does, and the real Caroline emerges, we can see why Fitzwilliam Darcy liked to spend time with her.
I don’t want to say more about Caroline, because the novel’s partly about her process of self discovery, so I don’t want to spoil the experience for the reader. But I do want to remind people that Caroline, who is younger than Charles Bingley, couldn’t have been more than twenty one. She’s young and inexperienced, One of her redeeming features is that she’s willing to learn from her mistakes. I think of her, in some ways, as resembling Emma, who also arrogantly blunders along and has to learn along the way, except that Emma perhaps is more confident, as she never had to prove herself to anybody.
Your first novel An Improper Suitor was also a historical romance set in the Georgian/Regency times. Your historical references and knowledge of the era are quite impressive. In The Other Mr. Darcy, Caroline travels from Netherfield Park in Hertfordshire by carriage to Pemberley in Derbyshire. Your descriptions of the towns and countryside along the route were remarkable. How do you research your novels? Did you actually reconstruct the rout in the early 1800’s to inspire your writing?
It took me a long time to work out the details of the journey north. I consulted strip maps of the time (literally, maps that are strips. They cover one particular section of the route in detail), I researched each of the places they passed through, and I used only real historic inns of the time. It was a lot of fun, but it took ages. I’m planning to take the route myself one of those days, just to see the actual places. A bit after the fact!
I’ve visited the places I mention in my next novel, though, so I know exactly what the places look like. It doesn’t make me very popular with my family, I can tell you, because I spend hours taking pictures of every nook and cranny, while they stand around being bored to tears!
Jane Austen has obviously influenced your writing. You have also mentioned your admiration for author Georgette Heyer when you wrote about her novel The Grand Sophy last summer on Jane Austen Today. What other writers have inspired, influenced, or cajoled you into becoming a writer? Who are you reading right now?
Speaking of Georgette Heyer, now that’s one writer who’s absolutely amazing with historical detail, because she’d know the routes and the distances between towns and villages at the blink of an eye. Her books are an encyclopedia of information. I remember once painstakingly doing research about some of the famous boxers of the time, and then I picked up one of her books, and in one scene she gave us more information than all the research I’d done!
I can’t say which writers influenced me most. There are so many. Virginia Woolf was important to me because through her I discovered stream of consciousness writing, and I fell under her spell for a while, until I discovered she was really too melancholy. I’ve loved Oscar Wilde, too, since I was a teen, and I would give anything to be as witty as he is (I haven’t seen Dorian Gray, yet, though I wouldn’t say wit is the strong point in that piece). Another writer I love is Toni Morrison. Perhaps at the back of my mind when I wrote The Other Mr. Darcy I had Jean Rhys’ Wild Sargasso Sea, which gives voice to the madwoman in the attic in Jane Eyre. I’ve read so many types of books, from science fiction to fantasy to postmodern, I can’t begin to say who influenced me. But I’m grateful to them all.
The only sad thing about writing is that you don’t have as much time to read.
I read many Jane Austen inspired books over a course of a year, but only a few authors really surprise and delight me as much as you did with The Other Mr. Darcy. Do you have another Austen inspired novel in the queue, or will you take a new direction?
Thank you for saying that, Laurel Ann. I’ll treasure those words. My next novel, The Darcy Cousins, is coming out in the spring, which is lovely really, because it starts in the springtime. The Darcy Cousins deals with Robert’s sister Clarissa. Meanwhile I’m working on a third book related to Pride and Prejudice, but I can’t reveal more than that.
Thank you for joining us today Monica. I am looking forward to reading The Darcy Cousins when it is released in the UK (Robert Hale) in March 2010 and in the US (Sourcebooks) in April 2010.
As a literature professor, Monica Fairview enjoyed teaching students to love reading. But after years of postponing the urge, she finally realized what she really wanted was to write books herself. She lived in Illinois, Los Angeles, Seattle, Texas, Colorado, Oregon and Boston as a student and professor, and now lives in London. To find out more, please visit her webite Monica Fairview or her blog Monica Fairview, Author.
- September 28: Fallen Angel Reviews *adult content*
- September 29: The Review from Here/ScribVibe
- September 30: Everything Victorian
- October 1: The Good, the Bad, the Unread
- October 2: A Bibliophile’s Bookshelf
- October 5: Books Like Breathing
- October 6: The Burton Review
- October 7: Bloody Bad Books
- October 7: Austenprose
- October 8: The Long and the Short Reviews
- October 9: Love Romance Passion
- October 11: Curious Statistical Anomaly
- October 12: Good and Bad Books *adult content*
- October 13: Lib’s Library
- October 16: Fresh Fiction
Question for Monica… How do you choose the book covers or the process of how you choose the artwork, etc?
It depends on the publisher. I’ve been very fortunate with both Sourcebooks and Robert Hale, because I’ve had the chance to have a lot of input. With Robert Hale, I do suggest ideas, and the artist who is doing my covers produces the artwork based on her interpretation of those ideas, and this is then worked on by marketing. Because of timing issues, I didn’t have any initial imput with the cover for The Other Mr Darcy, but I loved it the moment they showed it to me, so that isn’t an issue. For my next novel, The Darcy Cousins, I was asked to make suggestions, but the cover they came up with didn’t really fit the novel, although it was based on my original idea. I’ve had the chance to give feedback, and I’m eager to see what the final result will be.
I have to say I’ve been lucky to be working with two publishers that do invite input. At the same time, though, I’m ambivalent about my role, because I’ve discovered that artists don’t necessarily see things the way you do, and so your ideas can translate into something very different from what you expected! Also, I really think covers are very important for marketing, and that’s something I don’t know very little about.
Hope this answers your question.
I love that not everyone is stuck on seeing Caroline as such a horrible person. Realizing that we only see her from such a limited viewpoint and taking that and what little we do learn about her and making a voice for her sounds like a great book. I can’t wait to try this book and see where you’ve taken her! I’m also interested to meet this cousin and see what happens with Caroline’s relationship with the characters we already know.
Glad to see you here as well as at my blog!
Great interview! Why did you decide to have American Darcy cousins (vs London Darcy cousins, etc)? Is there any thought of American adventures of the Darcy’s in the future?
This book sounds very intriguing and I’ve added it to my TBR list.
Caroline has a lot of fantastic quotes in P&P. One of my favorites is when she is verbal sparing with Mr. Darcy about Elizabeth and says the following:
“Nay, if you are serious about it, I shall consider the matter as absolutely settled. You will have a charming mother-in-law, indeed; and, of course, she will be always at Pemberly with you.”
The thought of Mrs. Bennet always at Pemberly with him, would have indeed been terrifying to Mr. Darcy! :-)
A good question, Laura. May I send you to Historical Romance UK where I blog about the process of creating an American Darcy? http://www.historicalromanceuk.blogspot.com/
You’ll find it as you scroll down a bit.
If you read the novel, I think you’ll have to agree that the new Mr Darcy had to be American, because he comes into her life like a breath of fresh air. He represents change, a new world and a new way of looking at things. You must agree that Caroline is inclined to be stuffy!
What a wonderful interview! I’m really looking forward to reading the book.
I love how Caroline’s jealousy and insecurity come through when she taunts Darcy about Elizabeth. For example —
“Oh! yes. — Do let the portraits of your uncle and aunt Philips be placed in the gallery at Pemberley. Put them next to your great uncle, the judge. They are in the same profession, you know; only in different lines. As for your Elizabeth’s picture, you must not attempt to have it taken, for what painter could do justice to those beautiful eyes?”
Thank you for your positive feedback. I’m glad you enjoyed the interview.
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, Rebecca. That is one of the aspects of Caroline that I developed in The Other Mr Darcy: her insecurity. She has reasons to be insecure, to, not the least of which is her social background.
Great interview! I enjoyed the questions & also looking forward to the next books. Don’t enter me, I read & enjoyed this one very much!
Thank you, Marie. It’s great to see you here. Marie has a lovely review of The Other Mr Darcy and I had the honour of being a guest blogger over at http://www.theburtonreview.com/ (plus many other great blogs and reviews over there, if you haven’t been)
Here is a Caroline quote. It was from the dinner at the Lucas right after Sir Lucas tried to get Lizzie to dance with Darcy.
““You are considering how insupportable it would be to pass many evenings in this manner,—in such society; and, indeed, I am quite of your opinion. I was never more annoyed! The insipidity, and yet the noise;—the nothingness, and yet the self-importance of all these people! What would I give to hear your strictures on them!””
I always enjoyed Caroline’s the events leading up to (and including) the “Miss Eliza Bennett, let me persuade you to follow my example, and take a turn about the room,” scene. I’ve read the book I don’t know how many times, but I always find this such a telling moment about Caroline’s character.
I always found in this passage a woman determined to keep up with the fashions and tastes of those around her, and who knows how to accessorize…whether the accessories consist of an improving book, or the attention-getting Miss Bennett!
The most vivid Caroline Bingley moment for me is –
“Miss Bingley’s attention was quite as much engaged in watching Mr. Darcy’s progress through his book, as in reading her own; and she was perpetually either making some enquiry, or looking at his page. […] At length, quite exhausted by the attempt to be amused with her own book, which she had only chosen because it was the second volume of his, she gave a great yawn and said, ‘How pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book!…’ “
I love all your Caroline quotes. I could read them hundreds of times and still chuckle over them. Thank you for posting them.
My question is: Do you think in the long run, now that the Bennett family is so tied to Darcy and Bingley, Austen would have revealed to us a potential friendship between Caroline and the Bennett sisters as hopefully the prejudices on both sides may have been cleared up?
Certainly, now that they’re become “family,” the Bingleys have to co-exist with the Bennets, especially since at that time people came for prolonged visits, and it wasn’t unusual to have someone over for a month or more.
I do address this in my book. You’ll have to read and see!
I just wanted to add a big round of applause for Laurel Ann who works so hard to keep this blog constantly updated and full of fascinating things to read.
I’d honestly not thought much about Caroline before, but I love the idea of looking through her eyes after the end of Pride and Prejudice. She had so much invested in Darcy, but we don’t see her after he’s made clear he wants Elizabeth. I’m looking forward to getting to read the book!
My favorite quote from Caroline is, “Miss Eliza Bennett, let me persuade you to follow my example, and take a turn about the room.” The look on Elizabeth’s face is priceless. Is this a trap? Another way to make fun of Eliza? I don’t think she’s quite sure. Caroline for sure has many sides to her.
The new book sounds fabulous and is going on my list. Great interview!
I look forward to reading your book!
Oh, dear. I’m done for, there’s no hope, all is lost- I must read this. Great review, Laurel.
My favourite Caroline moment would have to be her remark to Darcy after seeing Elizabeth at Netherfield: “I am afraid, Mr. Darcy, that this adventure has rather affected your admiration of her FINE EYES.” His next remark I, in the place of Miss Bingley, would have found mortifying, that he could think well of such a wild, unladylike display.
What a lovely interview, Monica and Laurel Ann! I’m intrigued by the idea of Caroline being changed by love (not to mention that the object of her affection is an American!) and look forward to reading about her transformation and their courtship. :)
Lynn M, I agree, that’s a priceless moment. It’s such an ironic moment, too, because Caroline gets what she wants, since Darcy immediately looks up from his book. It must have been galling, though, to know that he only looked up because of Elizabeth.
Sarah-Wynne: yes, she must have been mortified. That’s what I think is brilliant about JA — she makes fun of Caroline, but there’s a point at which you realize she’s making such a fool of herself, and you want to cringe as well.
Thanks, Fatima, for your nice words.
Marilyn Brant, I’m very excited about your book, According to Jane. I’ve read such good reviews of it. I’m planning to order it, once the postal strike here is sorted out! Also, may I borrow the quote from JA on your web page? It fits so perfectly with my latest Pride and Prejudice question.
A big wave to everyone.
Monica, you’re more than welcome to whichever JA quote you’d like!! Since I have no personal claim to any of them, I’m not sure I deserve credit for sharing, but I’m pleased you liked the one I chose. :)
My question is: What do you think was your biggest challenge when you started writing the character of Caroline in a more favorable light and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge, really, was staying true to Jane Austen. I needed to be really sure that Caroline’s transformation made sense. So to me the Prologue had to be where everything happened, where I could pick up Caroline where Jane Austen left her, and helped her move a step forward.
I was very pleased, then, when Caroline turned into her usual self by the end of the prologue and snubbed the man who witnessed her humiliation. I knew then that it was going to be a battle, but she would have no choice but to change, because things were never going to be the same for her again.
Interesting take on Caroline, that we never see into her character because we only see her through Elizabeth’s eyes. Are there other characters in Pride and Prejudice that you think are portrayed similarly in that they could be redeemed if shown from a persepctive other than Elizabeth’s?
I am looking forward to reading this one. It’s so very different than the other takes on Pride and Prejudice characters.
Horror of horrors, could there possibly be another side to Lady Catherine?
We actually had a discussion about this on my blog a few days ago which was really fascinating. I couldn’t possibly summarize everything that people said, but I’ll point you in that direction. http://monicafairview.blogspot.com/2009/10/oh-i-absolutely-loved-your-responses.html#comments
I do think Jane Austen herself was very conscious of how easily things can be mistaken and misrepresented. She had the kind of humor which delighting in such things. Which is why I loved the quote I mentioned above on Marilyn Bryant’s page:
“Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not disguised, or a little mistaken.” JA
The book sounds delightful (The Grand Sophy is one of my favorite Heyers too).
My favorite Caroline Bingley quote: “I am afraid, Mr. Darcy . . . that this adventure has rather affected your admiration of her fine eyes.”
While it’s so satisfying to dislike Miss Bingley, I look forward to seeing her as a real person with faults and strengths like everyone else.
I’m sure my favorite quote from the book is very well known. I still chuckle every time I read it!
‘She a beauty! I should as soon call her mother a wit.’
Can’t wait to read this. One of the things that interested me the most about Caroline was how (to me) she attempted to minimize her family’s background in trade. She had to realize people would know.