Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for our Delighted Reader blog.
I am a huge fan of Jane Austen and Pride & Prejudice is my second favorite of her novels. I was tickled to discover that you wrote a book mashing this famous classic love story with the paranormal since I am a big fan of the paranormal romance genre.
Why a Pride & Prejudice paranormal? And in particular, why vampires?
Over the years, I had become something of an authority on Pride and Prejudice, having studied it extensively and reading several literary analyses, as well as annotated editions, and I had even done a term paper in college comparing Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy to Beatrice and Benedict from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing (which I reference several times in Pulse and Prejudice). Until a few years ago, I would have identified myself as a complete Austen purist. I didn’t even like most screen adaptations because they changed so much, and – believe it or not – I had never even heard of Jane Austen Fan Fiction.
That all changed with the success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. My daughter had a copy, and I forced myself to read it, but I found it appalling. I had hoped it might be a parody along the lines of the film Shawn of the Dead. Instead, the “co-author” had just taken Austen’s complete text and stuck zombies and ninjas here and there with no respect to the language and style of the original. When I returned that book to my daughter’s shelf, however, I spotted Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange, and my curiosity got the better of me. I found it brief but delightful! After that, I read Pamela Aidan’s trilogy, which provides a more detailed retelling of the events from Mr. Darcy’s point of view.
I believe I first got the idea for a vampire adaptation after seeing another title by Amanda Grange – Mr. Darcy, Vampyre – and immediately the similarities between the dark, brooding Mr. Darcy and the classic gentleman vampire (first envisioned by John Polidori’s vampire and based on Lord Byron) became evident. To this day, I confess I still have not read Ms. Grange’s vampire novel, but I knew it to be a sequel to Pride and Prejudice through Elizabeth’s point of view; so with Pulse and Prejudice, I hoped to provide a unique contribution to the subgenre.
Did you tackle this mash-up idea with trepidation since you were building upon such a famous literary work?
First let me say, Pulse and Prejudice is not a “mash-up.” A “mash-up” takes the complete original text and then mixes in the odd bits of another genre between paragraphs. There IS a Pride and Prejudice/vampire mash-up, but I did not have anything to do with it.
Pulse and Prejudice is an adaptation of the Jane Austen classic from Mr. Darcy’s point of view, as in Pamela Aidan’s trilogy, except that in my adaptation, Darcy is a vampire.
Because of the respect I have for Miss Austen, I remained true to her language and style throughout the novel, approaching it as if she herself had always intended the character of Mr. Darcy to be a vampire. Miss Austen provides only a few clues into his true nature throughout the novel, particularly as we see his character sketched from Elizabeth’s perspective, so I had just enough material to build on and expand to mold him into this darker, tortured character.
When I read your story, I noted that you use the characters, the plot and the dialogue from Austen’s story. I felt that your handling of Jane Austen’s story was done well.
Could you please share some things that make your story fresh and original, yet true to P&P?
Pulse and Prejudice remains faithful to the plot, style, and language of Miss Austen’s classic throughout the first three volumes. Mr. Darcy actually does not appear on many pages in the original, so sometimes I would use a single sentence from Pride and Prejudice – for example, in Mrs. Gardiner’s letter to Elizabeth, she says of Mr. Darcy, “He dined with us the next day” – and expand that into an entire scene: Darcy dining with the Gardiners.
Of course, because the events unfold through Darcy’s eyes, once he leaves Elizabeth in Hertfordshire, we follow him to London and become involved in his social life – as well as his suffering – whilst in Town, not to mention his pursuit of Wickham and Lydia following their elopement.
The additional volume – Beyond Pride and Prejudice – while still maintaining the language and style of 19th century literary conventions, takes some liberties, so to speak, to appeal to romance readers of this century and those of us who so desperately wanted a physical representation of their obvious passion for one another. For anyone who would prefer their Elizabeth and Darcy to remain chaste, I recommend they skip Volume Four altogether and jump right to the Epilogue.
Oh, and another thing that makes it fresh and original: Darcy is a vampire!
What was your favorite moment in your story?
I find it difficult to narrow it down to only one. In Volume One, I like the scene when Darcy listens as Elizabeth plays Beethoven’s sonata on the pianoforte and he becomes overwrought with emotion. Then, in Volume Four, Elizabeth recites a portion of Lord Byron’s poem “The Giaour” to Darcy, we see how their relationship has evolved and how much closer they have become over the weeks of their courtship. (As much as I love Pride and Prejudice, there’s no denying that the novel did not allow much “getting to know you” interaction between the two of them – especially as Elizabeth despised him throughout most of the novel!)
Another scene, though, which I particularly like is Darcy’s search for Wickham in St. James and Green Parks during the Grand Jubilee. I enjoyed including this historical event in the novel because, for one thing, no celebration of that caliber had ever been held in London – and I could just imagine Darcy fighting through these throngs of people trying to find this one man! – but also because the description I found of the tower erected for the occasion struck me as a wonderful metaphor for the apparent hopelessness of the situation:
The illustration on the side of the tower facing Darcy depicted Strife, descending from heaven to excite dissension among men, terrifying inhabitants of Earth. Mars and the Furies were shown leaving towns on fire and desolation in their wake; as Charity, Truth, and Justice quit the Earth with Hope following just behind.
Wickham was gone.
I love stories set in historical eras. I enjoy both those which are strongly accurate and those which slip a bit when it comes to the accuracy in favor of the story line. I noticed some of the fun ‘deliberate’ modern departures from historical authenticity. It made me wonder about research for such a story.
Could you share about that aspect of your writing? Do you already have a background in history or historical research that helps? And what about those modern teasers?
I do love history, in fact so much so that I married an historian! One thing about being a faculty wife, though, I knew my novel would be scrutinized by his colleagues for historical accuracy, so I made a point to avoid any kind of anachronisms. The reader should not find a single word in the novel that was not in use in 1813. I was fortunate, too, that one of the editors my publisher assigned is not only British and a complete Austen-phile herself, but also she understood my commitment to maintaining the language and style of the Regency era. Plus she eliminated any Americanisms that might have slipped in.
Although I believed myself to be held to a higher standard because of our friends in the history departments of several universities, alas, none of our closest friends had chosen the Georgian or Regency eras as their fields of expertise; so I had to do all of the research myself. I travelled to England twice, and I used primary sources in addition to reading books about the London high society, as well as the underworld during the Regency for the chapters when Darcy must go beyond Grosvenor Square. The novel is historically accurate down to the weather. I figured if I went to the trouble to research it, I might as well incorporate it into the story; and I think the unbearable winter works well as a metaphor for the cold emptiness felt by both Darcy and Bingley once they leave Hertfordshire. For the two-volume book Darcy is reading whilst staying at Netherfield when Elizabeth is there caring for Jane, I wanted to find something that had been printed at that time, which I thought he would be likely to read. I guess I went a little crazy because I am now the proud owner of a 200 year-old edition of Southey’s The Life of Nelson!
On the vampire side, I researched historical references going back to ancient times and primarily applied only vampire qualities suggested into the early 19th century. I also read several books on the topic by Dom Augustine Calmet and Augustus Montague Summers. (By the way, any original characters I created were named after people from vampire literature or history books.) I did allow myself a little literary license by applying a characteristic of Polidori’s vampire, which he did not create until 1819 – allowing vampires to be healed by the moonlight. I chose to proceed on the assumption that he wrote this based on prior knowledge of vampire traits.
As to the modern cultural allusions, I included those as a wink to the reader just to remind them that, yes, this novel might come across as serious literature because of the style and language, but it is still a vampire adaptation. We mustn’t take ourselves too seriously! Although not truly breaking the fourth wall, the reader might be going along quite swimmingly then catch something familiar and think, “Hey! Is that what I think it is?” Readers have had so much fun finding the pop culture references, my publisher and I put together The Pulse and Prejudice Pop Culture Challenge offering prizes for those who find the most. (Check it out at www.pulseandprejudice.com.)
Yet, even these modern references I blended into the prose only when appropriate and while still maintaining the style and tone of the Regency era, just as I slipped in the occasional vampire reference throughout. For example, when I write of Bingley that “Darcy had taken the lost boy under his wing,” the term “lost boy” is a clear reference to the 1987 vampire film The Lost Boys, and “under his wing” alludes to vampires turning into bats – a quality not bestowed upon them until later that century by Bram Stoker, but the idiom “under his wing” dates back to the 13th century.
I think all of my research paid off because at least I did not embarrass my husband. Recently he received an email from a professor who had served on his dissertation committee: “I read Pulse and Prejudice and absolutely loved it. It’s a great book, so carefully researched that it’s a real pleasure for a historian to read. I will recommend it highly to all the students every time I teach my 19th C class.”
Now I’m going to turn my attention to some things that came out as a result of my review of your story and the subsequent dialogue we had. In my review, I expressed confusion and a certain amount of disappointment because I thought the heroine’s character had changed suddenly. Later, I received your kind and gracious message in regard to my review with a perfectly clear explanation for what was really happening showing me I got the situation all wrong. This got me to wondering-
As a writer, has it ever happened that you finished a story, turned it in, got it published and then later still felt the need to tweak the story maybe even this book? If so, can you give me an example?
I did with my other novel All My Tomorrows. I am a strong proponent of Hemingway’s iceberg theory of writing, that if the author knows everything beneath the surface, he only needs to reveal a portion of it to the reader. After All My Tomorrows was published, I realized I hadn’t given enough insight into Alice’s feelings about missing her recently-deceased mother. That’s why she begins reading this old paperback to begin with. Fortunately, I was able to spruce it up and republish it without too much trouble, and I’m much happier with it now.
Before I continue, let me say, I do not make a habit of contacting reviewers, but you and I have interacted aside from this, and overall your review had been glowing and respectful, and I truly wanted to see how I might have made my intentions more clear.
After you and another reviewer both misinterpreted what had transpired in this particular section of Pulse and Prejudice, I went back and read through it. I wasn’t quite sure how to take it because, of course, the manuscript had had several beta readers, and none of the other reviewers had mentioned it; so now I have decided to take it as a compliment!
I don’t write first person, but I do write from a deep third person point of view. From your responses, I realize I had succeeded in pulling you into Darcy’s point of view, which – much like the narrative from Elizabeth’s perspective in Pride and Prejudice – was his unreliable interpretation and reaction. Later, in the scene following their waltz when Elizabeth sets him straight (which is actually an expansion on details provided by Miss Austen about Elizabeth’s insecurities in this area – I’m trying not to give away any spoilers), all is resolved between them. I wish you had been a beta reader so perhaps then you could have given me some feedback on how I could have clarified this further – perhaps even just one additional sentence would have done the trick.
As to the other reviewer, (s)he, too, fully accepted Darcy’s point of view as fact, even though throughout both my novel and Austen’s, Darcy frequently errs in his interpretations of human emotions, believing Jane indifferent to Bingley and thinking Elizabeth would welcome his suit. After that one, I said, “No more!” I cannot read any more reviews because it took all my self-control not to contact that reviewer and ask, “Did you even finish the book? Didn’t you see this was all cleared up on page such-n-such?”
Another point I would like to mention has more to do with changes made prior to publication. Although Pulse and Prejudice might technically fall under the category of “fan fiction,” I had intended it as a standalone adaptation, and none of my beta readers were in the JAFF community. Because of this, they either had never read Pride and Prejudice at all or had read it so long ago that they didn’t remember it. Because of that, I had to go back to Volume One and add more of Miss Austen’s original text, tweaked to come from Darcy’s perspective, to fill in the gaps for those who do not know the original as well as you and I do; so prior knowledge of Miss Austen’s novel is not required for full enjoyment of Pulse and Prejudice. A few readers have suggested that I publish a “mirror” edition with my text on one side and Pride and Prejudice on the other so they can see what is going on with both Darcy and Elizabeth at the same time!
And in conclusion, I’m sure you have other writing projects going on. Would you please share what you have coming out in the future? Do you have the publisher’s date on Pulse and Prejudice’s sequel?
I just signed a new contract for my romantic suspense, Alicia’s Possession, which will be available in July.
Recently I spent 10 weeks on disability, which, combined with other family issues, has delayed the sequel to Pulse and Prejudice. So I’m sorry to say Dearest Bloodiest Elizabeth will not be released until next year.
Last year I took a screenwriting class, so my next project will be to adapt All My Tomorrows into a script.
Any final thoughts you wish to share with our blog readers?
Support your independent authors! Stay away from pirate sites. If you love a book, leave a 4 or 5 star review (for some reason, on Amazon a 3 star review is considered negative) and tell everyone you know. Ask your local library to carry it. Without the backing of the Big 6 publishing houses, Indie authors depend on word of mouth more than readers realize.
Now I’ll get off my soapbox and back to writing!