Please join us today in welcoming Austenesque author Abigail Reynolds for the official launch of her blog tour of What Would Mr. Darcy Do, a new Pride and Prejudice variation that was released on April 1, 2011, by Sourcebooks.
LAN: Hi Abigail. It is such a pleasure to have this opportunity to chat with you today about your new book, What Would Mr. Darcy Do? Previously self-published as From Lambton to Longbourn, this novel is your fifth Pride and Prejudice variation to be re-issued by Sourcebooks. Could you share with readers the premise of the book, and how you were inspired to write it? Are there any changes from the original publication?
AR: I started with one of Darcy and Elizabeth’s classic misunderstandings, when they part at the Lambton Inn, Elizabeth thinking that Darcy will despise her now and Darcy believing that Elizabeth understands his love for her. That scene always makes me want to lock them up together until they talk instead of trying to read each other’s mind. I didn’t lock them up physically, but I did make them use their words, as we tell quarreling preschoolers. I’ve added a new scene at the beginning, but most of the book is the same as the original publication. Sourcebooks outdid themselves with the cover – it’s beautiful.LAN: Besides altering the course of Austen’s original plot and placing her characters in new situations, this book has some really clever, funny, letter exchanges – particularly between Elizabeth and Georgiana. Can you share your impressions of Austen’s effective use of letters in her own novels, and how you used it to our advantage in What Would Mr. Darcy Do?
AR: As you know, Austen originally wrote Pride & Prejudice as an epistolary novel called First Impressions. The strengths of the form still come through in the letters that remain in the final version. Austen often uses letters when she has important and complicated information to impart, which makes sense given that the reserve typical of the Regency made it difficult for people to talk openly. She also does an amazing job of conveying the character’s voice in their letters. In the letters I wrote, I tried to catch Elizabeth’s wit, Georgiana’s shyness, Darcy’s intensity, and Mr. Gardiner’s sly sense of humor. The letters were particularly helpful in building the relationship between Georgiana and Elizabeth.
LAN: With the re-issue of this novel, I noticed that you placed Mr. Darcy in your new title. His name not only commands the attention of Janeites, but scholars and pleasure readers alike. What is it about this haughty, endearingly flawed personality that fascinates us so? How did you approach writing his character in the novel, and did you have any revelations to share with your readers?
AR: Much as I love Mr. Darcy, it’s actually my editor at Sourcebooks who is responsible for his name appearing in all my titles. She thinks it’s important for marketing. What fascinates me about Darcy is how profoundly he changes in the course of the novel. It’s rare to find someone who is willing to listen to criticism and reassess their lives. In writing this book, I was struck by how often Darcy believes Elizabeth can read his mind, even after multiple misunderstandings. It’s only at the very end of P&P that he learns to tell her what he feels.
LAN: You were one of the first Austenesque writers to specialize in Pride and Prejudice variations, a sub-genre within the Austen sequels. Since 2001 you have written seven novels inspired by Elizabeth and Darcy’s love story and are presently working on the eighth. It must be incredibly challenging to be fresh and innovative after traveling the same path for many years. How do you rev yourself up for the writing process? Do you have a favorite room to write in, a cherished movie to pop into the DVD player, or a lucky charm to inspire you?
AR: After five books, I felt as if I’d reached the end of my ability to make my P&P variations unique, so I took a break and went over to writing moderns. Learning to write a different type of novel ended up giving me ideas for creating fresh variations as well, but I’m still slower at it than I was at first. I have an unusual ritual for creating the mood for writing Regency. I search out photos of English stately homes and formal gardens and turn them into virtual jigsaw puzzles. Putting the puzzles together forces me to notice detail I’d otherwise miss, and by the time I’m done, I’m usually well into my characters’ mindset.
LAN: As we know from Jane Austen’s own experience, the road to publication can be long and trying. You first chose to self-publish, and then to re-issue with a commercial publisher. You have been very supportive of new authors seeking publication. What advice can you offer an unpublished author in this rapidly changing market?
AR: In a word, self-publish. Your book will be available much faster, you’ll have more control over it, and you’ll make more money. But please, please, please proofread carefully, then make everyone you know proofread it as well before you sell it! Typos and errors make books seem amateur and make readers less likely to trust other self-published books.
LAN: What’s up next for Abigail Reynolds? Could we tempt you to write a variation of Persuasion or Sense and Sensibility? Or, better yet, Mansfield Park? Being Jane Austen’s dark horse, there are many roads not yet traveled that might end far more favorably for Fanny Price and Mary Crawford. Seriously, if you could write about anything you chose, what would be your heart’s desire?
AR: I’d love to write a Persuasion variation!
LAN: Now for a bit of fun. If you could be introduced to any of Jane Austen’s colorful heroes or villains, who would it be, and what penetrating question would you ask them?
AR: I’ve always wanted to ask Darcy what he felt about Elizabeth in the time between Netherfield and Rosings, and what he thought when he saw her again for the first time.
Thanks for inviting me! It’s been a pleasure.
Abigail Reynolds is a lifelong Jane Austen enthusiast and a physician. Originally from upstate New York, she studied Russian, theater, and marine biology at Bryn Mawr College before deciding to attend medical school. She began writing Pride and Prejudice variations in 2001 to spend more time with her favorite characters. Her most recent releases are What Would Mr. Darcy Do? and an anthology of Pride and Prejudice stories, A Pemberley Medley. Abigail is a lifetime member of the Jane Austen Society of North America and lives in Wisconsin with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of wild animals masquerading as pets. Her hobbies include beading, reading, and finding time to sleep. Website: Pemberley Variations; Blog: Austen Authors; Facebook: Abigail Reynolds and at Twitter: @AbigailReynolds
Enter a chance to win one of three copies of What Would Mr. Darcy Do?, by leaving a comment answering what intrigues you most about reading a Pride and Prejudice variation, or which of Austen’s novels you would like to see Abigail write about next, by midnight PT, Wednesday, April 13, 2011. Winner announced on Thursday, April 14, 2010. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!
© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose