Yes, Darcy is now a vampire! Well actually a Dhampir. Do I sound skeptical or just cynical?
Vampires are hot in the media these days after the Twilight phenomenon. Moreover, everyone knows that a young “lady’s imagination is very rapid;” it jumps from the nouveau hottie on the block Edward Cullen to the ultimate one, Mr. Darcy, in a moment. So Darcy becoming a vampire was not a big stretch. Like death and taxes it was inevitable.
I must admit I am intrigued by the concept and more than willing to see what an author could do with “turning” the most iconic romantic hero in literature. It would certainly explain some of Darcy’s superior and enigmatic behavior in Pride and Prejudice. We have already seen one author’s interpretation of Jane Austen’s most famous character struggling with his dark family secret this last summer with Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange. Now Vampire Darcy’s Desire by Regina Jeffers has just been released. I was interested to know from the author’s perspective what inspired her take on such a challenging transformation and what direction she would take in integrating the vampire lore. Ms. Jeffers kindly agreed to answer my questions and granted me this thoughtful and engaging interview. It might surprise you. It has certainly tempted me to read the book.
What was your inspiration to transform Pride and Prejudice into a vampire-themed novel?
Truthfully, the initial concept came from the publisher Ulysses Press. When one of the editors approached me on the project, my rankles immediately rose because, to me, Pride and Prejudice is the most perfect novel ever written, and the thoughts of someone abusing that storyline sent me into a state of amusement mixed with irritation. However, after discussing the idea with close friends and with my editor, I realized I could maintain integrity in the storyline because of my love for and knowledge of the Austen oeuvre.
I could not abide by conceptualizing Darcy as the vampire who seduces Elizabeth. If vampirism was to be added to the tale, I wanted Darcy portrayed as a poetic tragic hero rather than as an embodiment of evil. I also wanted to control the representation of sexuality, the combination of horror and lust. As in Austen’s work, Darcy would desire Elizabeth and would be willing to put aside his beliefs and lifestyle in order to earn her love.
Do you see any similarities from the Vampire genre and Jane Austen’s novels?
Vampire literature springs from the early Gothic tales, which ironically peppered the literature of Jane Austen’s time. In early vampire tales, a respectable and virtuous woman rejects a man’s love. The woman is under the influence of a tyrannical and powerful male, from whom the “hero” must save her, and that “hero” possesses a highly developed intelligence and exceptional charisma and charm. A “seduction” of sorts occurs. Are those elements not also present in each of Austen’s pieces?
After all, Austen herself parodied the Gothic novel with her Northanger Abbey, even mocking Anne Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho. She used the stereotypes of the abbey, the mysterious murder, and the evil seducer; yet, Austen kept the theme of the individual’s worth, found in all vampiric literature.
Vampire novels can be scary and gory. Could you elaborate on the tone and direction you have chosen for Vampire Darcy’s Desire and how you have handled the Gothic parts?
Anne Radcliffe said, “Terror and Horror are so far opposite that the first expands the soul and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life; the other contracts, freezes, and nearly annihilates them . . .. And where lies the difference between horror and terror, but in the uncertainty and obscurity that accompany the first, respecting the dreading evil?”
Some elements of the Gothic are apparent in Vampire Darcy’s Desire: an ancient prophecy, dream visions, supernatural powers, characters suffering from impending doom, women threatened by a powerful, domineering male, and the quick shorthand of the metonymy to set the scenes. Yet, essentials of romance are just as prominent: a powerful love, with elements of uncertainty about the love being returned, the lovers separated by outside forces, and a young woman becoming the target of an evil schemer.
Darcy voluntarily isolates himself because of the family curse; Wickham is the epitome of evil. As in many Gothic tales, supernatural phenomena and prevalent fears (murder, seduction, and perversion) are incorporated, but the underlying theme of a fallen hero centralizes the storyline. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick claims (“The Structure of the Gothic Convention,” The Coherence of Gothic Conventions, 1980) a person’s suppressed emotions are compared in the extended metaphor of the protagonist’s struggle against nightmarish forces. Vampire Darcy’s Desire combines terror with horror and mystery, set within the framework of a love story.
Can you briefly describe Darcy the Dhampir? How is he different from Jane Austen’s Darcy?
A Dhampir, the product of the union between a vampire and a human, probably finds its origin in Serbian folklore. Modern fiction holds many examples: Blade (a Marvel comic brought to life by Wesley Snipes on the screen), the character Connor in the TV series Angel (the show’s male equivalent of a Slayer), and Renesmee (the daughter of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen from Stephanie Meyer’s Breaking Dawn). Traditionally, a Dhampir has the ability to see vampires, even when they are cloaked with the power of invisibility. They generally have similar vampire powers with only a few complications.
This new Darcy possesses many of the qualities the reader notes in Austen’s character. He is “withdrawn” from society, is generous to those he affects, is protective of his sister and his estate, and has a sharp wit. He is amused by Elizabeth’s verbal battles and is attracted to her physically. Darcy denies this attraction initially and then makes changes in his life to win and to keep Elizabeth’s regard.
In order to end the curse of vampirism passed on to the first-born son of each generation, Darcy the Dhampir has decided he will never marry. He considers it to be an honorable action. No previous generation has ever succeeded in defeating George Wickham, but this Fitzwilliam Darcy is less likely to succumb to the temptation of eternal life, so Wickham must resort to different tactics to exact revenge.
Austen’s Darcy says, “I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit . . .. I was spoiled by my parents . . . allowed, encouraged, almost taught to be selfish and overbearing . . ..” This characteristic plays well in the Dhampir Darcy’s pursuit of Elizabeth. He more aggressively persists in winning her affection in this book.
Thank you for joining us today Regina. Vampire Darcy’s Desire is now available from Ulysses Press.
Regina Jeffers currently is a teacher in the North Carolina public schools, but previously she taught in both West Virginia and Ohio. Nearly forty years in the classroom gives her insights into what makes a good story. A self-confessed Jane Austen “freak,” she began her writing career two years ago with the encouragement of her Advanced Placement students. Her next Austen inspired novel Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion: Jane Austen’s Classic Retold Through His Eyes will be released by Ulysses Press in March 2010.
Cover image courtesy of Ulysses Press © 2009; text Regina Jeffers & Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose.com