A Darcy Love Affair Began At the Local Library
|The photo shows Amanda signing books at the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton last year.|
(I am very happy to have Amanda Grange with us at Darcyholic Diversions today. I began to get to know Amanda during preparations for the Decatur Book Festival this year. I hope you enjoy her post as much as I did! Comments on Amanda's post will be entries into the October drawings here on the site. BTCole)
I first discovered Pride and Prejudice at my local library when I was about twelve or thirteen and I loved it straight away. Jane Austen took me into a whole new world and I loved everything about it: the clothes, the carriages, the balls, the people - the comic characters and the sensible characters - and most of all, Mr Darcy. I’m sure everyone here will know that feeling!
There is something about Mr Darcy that is special. There must be, because he is still enthralling us, two hundred years after Jane Austen first wrote about him.
I’ve often wondered exactly what it is that makes us love him so. I’ve come up with many answers to that question over the years: we love him because he grows throughout the novel and becomes a better man; because he takes notice of Lizzy when she tells him that he’s insufferable; because he’s sensible enough to love Lizzy in the first place; because he’s a good brother and a good friend – the list is endless. But none of these things quite explain his appeal. Mr Darcy is definitely a case of a man being more than the sum of his parts. There’s something special about him, and there was something extra special about Jane Austen when she invented him. She was young and exuberant and I think she must have been half in love with him herself, to write about him so well.
When I’d finished Pride and Prejudice, I went on to read all of Jane Austen’s novels many times, but Pride and Prejudice is still my favourite.
I first started writing about Mr Darcy in 2003. It’s hard to believe it’s so long ago! I had already written about ten Regency romances, which were published in hardback by UK publisher Robert Hale Ltd. I felt a real thrill when I held my first book – A Most Unusual Governess – in my hands, and when I saw it in the library, where I had had many happy reading sessions. But I had no idea at the time that I would soon be writing something similar, but at the same time different, a retelling of Pride and Prejudice from the hero’s point of view.
It came about by accident. My work as a writer had made me look at some of my favourite books in a different way, and when I was reading Pride and Prejudice again, I thought it was a very modern book because it had a lot of things an editor would look for today. It had a fast pace, a lot of dialogue and short chapters. The only thing it didn’t have, which an editor would want today, was some scenes from the hero’s point of view.
The more I thought about it, the more I was intrigued. I wondered what exactly had happened when Mr Darcy followed Wickham to London, after Wickham’s elopement with Lydia. I started to write my idea of their meeting. I did it for my own amusement because it never occurred to me that I would write a whole book. I loved thinking about exactly what Mr Darcy would have said and done, and what Wickham would have said, and when I’d finished that scene, I wrote the scene where Darcy finds his sister about to elope with Wickham. They were both scenes that were missing from Pride and Prejudice, but we know they took place because Jane Austen gave us some information about them.
I loved writing those scenes, and when I’d finished writing about Darcy’s visit to Georgiana, I found I couldn’t stop. I was intrigued. I wanted to find out what Mr Darcy was thinking and feeling when he first met Elizabeth . . . when he danced with her at the Netherfield ball . . . I went on and on, until I found, to my surprise, that I’d written the whole book from Mr Darcy’s point of view. The book, of course, was Mr Darcy’s Diary.
I had no idea what my publishers would think of it. There wasn’t really an Austenesque genre in the UK at the time, and I didn’t know anything about the US market. It seems incredible now, but I had no idea if they would take it. I fully expected them to say that it wasn’t I my usual style, and could I please write an other Regency romance instead? But luckily they loved it and they agreed to publish it.
It came out in hardback in the UK in 2005, and it was published in the US in paperback in 2007, and the rest, as they say, is history. It’s still my most popular book and new fans are discovering it all the time, just as new fans are discovering Mr Darcy, Pride and Prejudice, and the whole world of Austenesque fiction. And I continue to write about Mr Darcy, most recently in Dear Mr Darcy, a retelling in the form of letters, and Pride and Pyramids, which is a sequel which shows us Elizabeth and Darcy fifteen years on from Pride and Prejudice, when they are blissfully married with six lively children! I think you could definitely call me a Darcyholic!