Please welcome author Monica Fairview as she stops by to chat with us during her blog tour in celebration of the release of her new novel The Darcy Cousins, a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Thank you for having me here on your blog, Laurel Ann. It’s one of my favorite places to visit.
The Darcy Cousins focuses on Mr. Darcy’s shy and naïve younger sister Georgian’s coming ‘out’ into Regency society and her first experiences with romance. What intrigued you about her situation or personality to continue her story?
Georgiana is a very secondary character in Pride and Prejudice, and of course we only see her through Elizabeth’s eyes. Elizabeth (as usual) gets it all wrong and expects Georgiana to be arrogant and obnoxious. This is one of the last mistakes she makes in the novel. Georgiana has three roles in Pride and Prejudice. The first is to show the extent of Wickham’s villainy. The second to reveal what a good brother Darcy is, and the third (more minor) that Miss Bingley wasn’t exaggerating when she said that Darcy’s sister is very accomplished. Apart from that, she doesn’t have much to say for herself. I wanted to discover what it was like to be Darcy’s sister, and through her, I wanted to find out who Fitzwilliam Darcy was when he wasn’t admiring Elizabeth. But Georgiana emerged as an independent character, quite able to hold her own in spite of her shyness. I was very glad to see that happening.
We are also introduced to Clarissa and Frederick Darcy who arrive from America to visit their British cousins and brother Robert Darcy who we met in your first sequel The Other Mr. Darcy. Clarissa and Frederick do not quite conform to the social strictures of polite society in Regency England. I sense a sly wink at American brashness vs. British traditionalism. Is this an Austenesque gentle reproof or is Monica having fun with her story?
I wonder whose side Jane Austen would take? I have my own theory (not backed by anything concrete, I concede, just an instinct) that of the two sisters, Jane Austen was the closest to Marianne in Sense and Sensibility, while Elinor was like Jane’s sister Cassandra. In some ways, I had that novel in mind when I wrote Georgiana’s and Clarissa’s story, though they are quite different personalities. Other than that, the sly wink is there, of course. I straddle both continents, having been born in one and lived a large part of my life in the other, so I love playing the two cultures against each other. Though the reality is always more complex, as Clarissa’s Puritan background indicates.
Austen’s character Lady Catherine de Bourgh plays a significant role in The Darcy Cousins. I must commend your eye-rolling interpretation of her officious and imposing personality. How did you place yourself in her regal shoes and visualize her dialogue and behavior?
Eye-rolling? I love that! To be honest, I studied Lady Catherine’s way of speaking until I knew everything she said practically by heart, then I improvised from there. To me understanding Jane Austen’s characters is much like acting. I learn the lines, then I fill in the silences, then I flesh out the characters. I loved playing Lady Catherine. She is such a wonderful character.
This is your third Regency-era historical novel. Your historical references are quite impressive and really support your characters personalities and their physical environment. What is your process for researching an historical novel? Did you discover anything surprising?
Apart from studying the characters, I do a lot of initial research because you have to take into account the events that occur during the time period of the novel. I even did my best to research the weather to make sure, for example, that I didn’t have the characters picnicking on a day that was notoriously rainy. I then included any relevant external events in the novel as I mapped it out. As I go along, I am often interrupted by specific things I need to look up though I don’t always end up including them. Yes, there’s always a lot of research involved when I write.
One of your rewards for researching is discovering pieces of information that you didn’t expect. For example, I didn’t know that the famous Turner sunset colors were due to a volcanic eruption that sent particles into the atmosphere and made the sunsets very dramatic. I knew about the volcano, not about Turner.
If you could plan a tea with Jane Austen, who else would you invite in your soiree and what would you ask her?
I would love to initiate a dialogue between Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen. I would ask Charlotte to explain herself. I never liked her disparaging remarks about Jane Austen. In that context, I’d like Ms. Austen to expand on what she means about the narrow bit of ivory because of course, you have to take everything she says with a grain of salt. I can see her laughing as she wrote that – contrasting what she did with the wide sweep of what was then called “the romance”, which was really the epic. I think there will be “a monstrous deal of stupid quizzing” at that tea party, but I hope there’ll be some very witty conversation, too.
What is next in your writing career? Do you have another novel in the works? If so, can you give us a brief preview?
I do have another novel in the works, but it isn’t an Austenesque novel. I can’t say much more since it’s still in the initial stages. I do plan to return soon to the world of Austen, though, since I have a lot of unfinished business there. I have to take care of Clarissa Darcy as well as Frederick, at the very least. And there are other irons in the fire…
Thank you for joining us today Monica. I hope you finish your new novel quickly so you can return to entertain us with the further exploits of Clarissa and Frederick Darcy.
The Darcy Cousins, by Monica Fairview
Sourcebooks, Inc. (2010)
Trade paperback (432) pages
A young lady in disgrace should at least strive to behave with decorum…
Dispatched from America to England under a cloud of scandal, Mr. Darcy’s incorrigible American cousin, Clarissa Darcy, manages to provoke Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr. Collins, and the parishioners of Hunsford all in one morning!
And there are more surprises in store for that bastion of tradition, Rosings Park, when the family gathers for their annual Easter visit. Georgiana Darcy, generally a shy model of propriety, decides to take a few lessons from her unconventional cousin to the delight of a neighboring gentleman. Anne de Bourgh encouraged to escape her “keeper” Mrs. Jenkinson, simply…vanishes. But the trouble really starts when Clarissa and Georgiana both set out to win the heart of the same young man…
About the author:
Literature professor Monica Fairview loves teaching students the joys of reading. But after years of postponing the urge, she finally realized that what she really wanted to do was write. The author of The Other Mr. Darcy and An Improper Suitor, the American-born Ms. Fairview currently resides in London. For more information, please visit www.monicafairview.com.
Enter a chance to win one of two copies of The Darcy Cousins by leaving a comment revealing which character in Pride and Prejudice you would like to see featured in a sequel, or any hints for a plot line for Monica to inspire her to write a sequel for her two American Darcy cousins Clarissa and Frederick! Contest ends on Friday, April 23rd, 2010 at midnight Pacific time. Winners announced on Saturday, April 24th, 2010. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses. Good luck to all.
Cover image courtesy Sourcebooks © 2010; text Monica Fairview & Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose.com