As 2011 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s first novel Sense and Sensibility, it is a great pleasure to see a new sequel to it arrive from Pemberley Chronicles author Rebecca Ann Collins.
Please join us today in welcoming Rebecca Ann on her blog tour in celebration of the release of Expectations of Happiness published this month by Sourcebooks. Rebecca Ann has kindly shared with us some insights on creating the novel.
Thank you very much, Laurel Ann, for inviting me to contribute to your blog; it is a pleasure to be able to speak directly to you and your readers about my work and the new book – Expectations of Happiness.
You have asked why I chose to write a companion volume to Sense and Sensibility and how I managed to “get my head into the Regency period after writing The Pemberley Chronicles.
If I may answer your second question first – I had absolutely no difficulty with the Regency Period, which covers the latter part of Jane Austen’s life; I was familiar with the historical, social and cultural background of that era.
As a Jane Austen addict ever since I first read Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility when I was just twelve years old, and a student of both English Literature and History, I had read everything I could get my hands on about the author, her family, her life and times. Her novels were published within the period of the Regency so it was inevitable that a passionate reader and student of Miss Austen’s work and the society in which she lived would absorb the events and ambiance of the era.
Besides that, I should point out that the first volume of The Pemberley Chronicles series follows directly after the conclusion of Pride and Prejudice – which is in the middle of the Regency, and I had undertaken careful research of the period in which the story takes place, as the main characters moved from Longbourn and Netherfield in Hertfordshire to London and Pemberley in Derbyshire. This period includes the years covered by Expectations of Happiness – 1819 to 1820, that marks the end of the Regency with the death of George III and the beginning of the reign of George IV – which was in many ways an extension of the Regent’s style into the next decade of the 19th century.
To proceed to your first question – choosing to write a continuation to Sense and Sensibility was easy because of all Miss Austen’s novels, it is the one that leaves the door open widest for a sequel.
Unlike all her major novels – Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion – in which the main characters settle happily and credibly into their new lives with their beloved partners, I found the conclusion of Sense and Sensibility unconvincing – particularly the manner in which the author describes Marianne’s marriage to Colonel Brandon. Not because I thought Brandon was not a suitable husband for Marianne, Jane Austen makes it clear that he is man of excellent character and loves her dearly, but because it seemed to be taken for granted, that having been betrayed by Willoughby, Marianne – at nineteen, could discard her dreams of romance and accept a rather staid marriage to Brandon, with whom she is not in love, as a kind of safe haven after a storm.
I felt that we needed to see more of the development of Marianne’s character – post-Willoughby, to be convinced that she had matured sufficiently to appreciate the true worth of Brandon’s character and his genuine love for her. Using the opportunity of a chance meeting with Willoughby a few years later, to test this, was, I felt, justifiable in the circumstances. Furthermore, Jane Austen makes it clear that Willoughby is miserable in his own marriage and deeply resents Brandon’s marriage to Marianne.
The clues are all there in Miss Austen’s novel. It wasn’t difficult to develop the characters and draw out the plotlines, including some of the best minor figures in the story – Sir John Middleton, Mrs. Jennings, the Palmers, Lucy Steele, Mrs. Ferrars – to reach a more satisfying conclusion, while respecting the essential integrity of the original.
And then, there was young Margaret Dashwood; only in Sense and Sensibility are we left with an attractive young girl on the brink of womanhood, her potential as a character undeveloped, with the rest of her life uncharted as the book concludes. It was unthinkable that she should not be given the chance to fulfill “that sanguine expectation of happiness that is happiness itself”.
I also wanted to tell younger sister Margaret’s story, which I could do with a greater degree of freedom than I had with Elinor and Marianne, whose paths through life had already been set. With Margaret, one had more flexibility to develop a young woman – educated, well-traveled and with a new outlook on life. It was irresistible, and telling her story was a particular pleasure.
However, as in The Pemberley Chronicles series, in Expectations of Happiness, my concern has been to extend the lives and expand the horizons of Jane Austen’s beloved characters, while working within the framework she created, rather than to distort their personalities and manipulate their lives in ways that would have outraged their creator and her many devoted fans. In so doing, I hope I have provided my readers with a story they can enjoy reading as much as I have loved writing it.
I look forward to reading your comments and those of your readers.
Thank you again and best regards,
Rebecca Ann Collins
Rebecca Ann Collins is the author of The Pemberley Chronicles series of novels, which traces the continuing lives of certain characters in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice over a period of some fifty years.
A lifelong fan of the art of Miss Austen, Rebecca Ann Collins first read Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice at the age of twelve. Encouraged by a perceptive English mistress, she read everything available about the author, her life and times and the historical and social background of the era. At University, she studied both English Literature and History.
Ms. Collins – a teacher and librarian – loves reading, writing, listening to music and entertaining her friends. She lives in Australia’s beautiful capital city – Canberra and enjoys gardening and walking her dog. Visit Rebecca Ann at her website- www.rebeccaanncollins.com
Giveaway of Expectations of Happiness
Enter a chance to win one of three copies of Expectations of Happiness, by Rebecca Ann Collins by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about this new sequel to Sense and Sensibility, or which character in the original novel you love or hate, by midnight PT, Wednesday, October 19, 2011. Winner announced on Thursday, October 20, 2011. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!
Expectations of Happiness: A Companion Volume to Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, by Rebecca Ann Collins
Trade paperback (352) pages
©2007 – 2011 Rebecca Ann Collins, Austenprose