Victoria has kindly offered to answer some of my nosey questions, and she’s offering an international giveaway of a paperback or an ebook of ‘Mr Darcy to the Rescue’ to a commenter here. So let’s get on with the questions!
I actually have written other books (and I started my writing career as a playwright and screenwriter), but only my JAFF has been published. I first published The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth and it was far more successful than I expected—and the JAFF community was so warm and supportive—that I thought “maybe I’ll write another one” and it’s snowballed from there. The more I write, the more ideas I get about new things to write. It’s been fun and very rewarding.
Which is your favourite of Jane Austen’s novels? Which of her characters do you love and which do you love to hate?
Pride and Prejudice is my favorite of course, although I love all the others as well. Actually Emma is the one I struggle with the most, although I know a lot of Janeites consider that to be their favorite. I just find Emma herself to be a less sympathetic protagonist than Austen’s others.
In terms of characters, I dislike all the usual suspects from the various novels—although some of them are very entertaining, like Mr. Collins. Many of her characters are annoying, but you understand why they are the way they are (like Mrs. Bennet or Lydia), while others I don’t think really have an excuse for their behaviour (like Lady Catherine).
‘Mr Darcy to the Rescue’ is your third book. As somebody who is never likely to publish anything, I am interested to know what you have learned from the experience of writing the previous two?
What I learned from the first one is not to have your husband edit your first book! He does a ton of writing/editing for work and swore he could find every error, but…you get what you pay for. J I hired an editor for the second book and didn’t have any readers’ complaints about mistakes. I’m an editor myself, but when it comes to my own work, I can’t catch every error.
Would you consider writing a book based on another of Jane Austen’s novels?
I would love to! I had thought about writing a mash up of Persuasion and P&P, but then discovered Joana Starnes had already done it! (Great minds…) I might still do that mash up or one with another novel; it would be fun for P&P characters to meet characters from Austen’s other books. I’ve also considered doing something with Mansfield Park someday; I have a soft spot for that book. So far I haven’t had any ideas that were compelling enough to demand I start writing.
Do you think you’d ever write an Austenesque novel based in a different era? And if so, what era?
I’ve had quite a few ideas for modern P&P adaptations. I even wrote a screenplay once adapting P&P for a high school, so I might turn that into a novel. I’ve also thought about a modern P&P set in Washington DC, since that’s near where I live.
What gave you the idea for the storyline of each of your books?
With The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth, it was learning about this brief period of peace during the Napoleonic wars and how a lot of English travellers were caught in Paris when war resumed; I thought it would be interesting if D&E were two of the people caught.
The idea of Colonel Fitzwilliam proposing to Elizabeth had been in my head for a while; it seemed like an obvious alternative version since they definitely have some attraction going on in P&P, but he can’t propose because he needs to marry for money. So I wondered what would happen if you removed that obstacle, and Pride and Proposals was the result.
With Mr. Darcy to the Rescue, I just wondered what Darcy would do if Elizabeth accepted Collins’s proposal, which he never knows about in the original P&P. In many ways this book was the opposite of Pride and Proposals. The Darcy I envision couldn’t see himself interfering his cousin’s engagement with Elizabeth, but he really can’t stomach her being engaged to Collins—so he actively tries to thwart the betrothal.
But this is probably the last of my books in which Elizabeth gets engaged to someone else. I’m running out of eligible men. J Wickham is just awful and Bingley would be weird. Lol.
Which of your books is your favourite?
That’s a difficult question to answer. I’m proud of all of them and so happy when the readers enjoy them. I’m sick to death of them after writing and revising each one, so I can’t imagine re-reading any of them. Maybe my favorite is the one I’m about to write.J That’s always such an exciting stage!
‘Mr Darcy to the Rescue’ has come out hot on the heels of ‘Pride & Proposals’; when can we expect another book from you? Will you tell us something about your current work in progress?
One of the reasons the two books came out so close together is that there were some delays in publishing Pride and Proposals, so Mr. Darcy to the Rescue was already half written by the time it came out. That is not the case with my next WIP. Right now I’m working on a short story about Mary Bennet, but I also have plot worked out for a new P&P novel that I’m very excited about. Hopefully the short story will be out in a couple months, but that’s the best I can predict. I try to keep readers informed of the new releases though my Facebook page and my blog.
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Thank you, Victoria, for those answers. I've only read a few books where characters from different Austen books cross over but I really like that aspect, so I'll keep my fingers crossed that a plot bunny appears for that story soon! I know just what you mean about Emma, she isn't the easiest character to love. Funnily enough I have always been quite fond of Emma, I think she has been so spoiled by her family that it's no wonder she is how she is, and I always like that she is thinking of others, even if she is often quite wrong! I struggled to like Fanny Price for much of Mansfield Park, though I got there in the end. The other Austen character I struggled with was Marianne Dashwood, however, I hope to give Sense & Sensibility a re-read soon, to see if my view of her alters.
Victoria has also provided an excerpt of 'Mr Darcy to the Rescue', it's a wonderful scene, but please note for those of you who are of a queasy disposition, that Mr Collins is in full-on unctuous suitor mode (double-ewwww!)
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Setting aside her needlework, Mrs. Bennet arose and greeted Mr. Collins with an excessive enthusiasm she had never displayed toward Mr. Darcy. Mr. Collins rushed across the room to Elizabeth and latched onto her hand. “My darling! It has been so long since our parting!” The very loudness and effusiveness of his gestures meant they would have been appropriate for the London stage. Mr. Collins rubbed the back of her hand against his cheek in what he must have imagined was an affectionate gesture, but Elizabeth only noticed the roughness of his beard stubble.
Over Mr. Collins’s shoulder, she saw Mr. Darcy glaring at the man’s back. Did he disapprove of the familiarity of their greeting? “Mr. Collins,” Elizabeth murmured, knowing her cheeks were turning red.
“No, Elizabeth. Your modesty does you credit, but you must call me by my given name. For we are soon to know each other on a most intimate basis.” His smile might have been intended to convey affection, but it emerged as a leer.
Elizabeth’s stomach churned. She cast her eyes down, unwilling to meet the gaze of anyone in the room. Bad enough that her fiancé was trafficking in innuendos, but to do so before Mr. Darcy!
If only something would happen to distract everyone’s attention. Lydia rushing in with news about officers and dances. Her mother’s attack of the vapors. Oh, where was a plague of locusts when one needed it?
Mr. Collins turned to greet Jane and became aware of Mr. Darcy’s presence. “Mr. Darcy! I did not know you were here, sir!” He bowed so deeply he almost toppled over and needed to grab a chair for support. “I pray you understand I did not intend any slight.”
“No, no, of course not.” Mr. Darcy frowned, almost as if he harbored some sort of resentment against the parson, but most likely, he was simply annoyed at the man’s obsequious behavior.
Mr. Collins’s face brightened as if he were about to impart the most wonderful secret. “I have come directly from Kent. Your aunt and cousin have been enjoying wonderful health!”
“That is good to hear,” Darcy muttered.
“I do believe Miss de Bourgh’s coughing has grown less frequent and less forceful than previously. And she has had more color in her cheeks these past weeks. I told her at dinner the other night, ‘Miss de Bourgh, you are like a delicate English rose!’” Mr. Collins drew himself up to his full height. “I flatter myself she was well pleased with the compliment.”
“I am sure.” A fly in Mr. Darcy’s soup could not have received a colder welcome. Mr. Collins nodded enthusiastically, completely oblivious to Mr. Darcy’s tone.
Mr. Collins wasted no time in positioning himself next to Elizabeth on the loveseat, far closer than she would have liked. Mr. Darcy was scowling again. Did he disapprove of their closeness? Well, it was no matter. Betrothed couples were allowed some liberties, after all.
“Lady Catherine has been most condescendingly helpful in preparing the parsonage for my dear Elizabeth’s arrival. She suggested new curtains in the upstairs sitting room and shelves in the bedchamber’s closet! Is that not a capital idea?”
“A masterstroke,” Darcy agreed, his face carefully neutral.
Mr. Collins took Elizabeth’s hand and held it in the crook of his arm, against his body. She keenly felt the impropriety of this position, but removing her hand would only draw more attention to his actions. Was this how the rest of her life would be?
Mr. Collins patted her hand. “My dearest Elizabeth and I seem to have been formed for each other.”
Mr. Darcy’s walking stick clattered to the floor. “Pardon me.” The man bent to retrieve it, his face an unusual shade of red. Could dropping his walking stick have cause so much embarrassment?
Undeterred, Mr. Collins gazed down on Elizabeth fondly. “We are in perfect accord in all things.”
Elizabeth began to suspect Mr. Collins of knowing a completely different Elizabeth, one made of whole cloth from his imagination. Suppressing a keen urge to roll her eyes, she could do nothing but smile wanly at him.
“How fortunate.” There was an odd tone in Mr. Darcy’s voice that Elizabeth could not identify. She would understand if such a declaration had provoked stifled laughter or disbelief, but Mr. Darcy seemed almost—angry? No, she must be imagining it. If Mr. Collins irritated him too much, Mr. Darcy would simply leave for Netherfield—which would solve one of Elizabeth’s problems for the day. Elizabeth found herself silently encouraging Mr. Collins.
He remained oblivious to Mr. Darcy’s tone. “I cannot wait until that day when she will make me the happiest of men, and we can begin our lives of wedded bliss.” Quickly bringing a handkerchief up to her mouth, Elizabeth pretended a cough to hide her smile. Why did he insist on speaking like a heroine in a lurid popular novel?
“But the greatest joy will be when we return to Hunsford. For, my dear,” he gave her hand another clumsy pat, “Lady Catherine has promised to visit you upon your arrival! What an honor! What condescension!”
“That is very good of her!” Mrs. Bennet cried. “You are very fortunate in your situation.”
“I am indeed,” Mr. Collins replied. “The most fortunate man alive!” A smug smile appeared on his face.
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Oh dear, this is so bad for poor Elizabeth, but so funny for us to read!
Victoria is kindly offering to give away a copy of 'Mr Darcy to the Rescue' to one of you. The giveaway is open to international entrants and winner can choose whether they'd prefer a paperback or ebook copy. To enter, all you need to do is leave a comment regarding the interview or the excerpt by the end of the day on Monday 24 August 2015. Please leave a way for me to contact you in case you're the lucky winner.