Monday, March 2, 2009
Author Interview: Sharon Lathan
The greatest influence was simply its existence. Without the presence of so many JAFF websites with the vast variety of styles, I never would have gone down the road nor had the nerve to post my story in the first place. I already had sequel scenes swirling through my head, so when I began reading it was in a search to find what I was looking for. Along the way, even though I did not find a story that completely captured the happy-ever-after vision in my mind, I grew to appreciate the plethora of behind the scenes, fill in the blanks, variations, and even some modern and alternate-universe type tales. For the most part they are all written with love of Austen and the desire to keep the characters alive as the prime instigation. Everyone has their own spin on how the characters act/react, and that diversity gave me courage to approach my story in the way I was inspired to do.
There are so many authors I appreciated, most whose pennames escape me. A big influence was Abigail Reynolds. I love her voice and style, seeing it as vaguely how I wanted to write my version. I love, love, love “Summer at Pemberley” by Lucy on Austen Interlude. It is a novella, but so beautifully written and the closest I ever read to what I was looking for in a sequel.
2. Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One was influenced by the 2005 movie version of P&P starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. What attracted you to this version of P&P?
I walked into the theater an Austen virgin for the most part. I had only seen the major motion picture adaptations of “Emma” and “Sense and Sensibility” prior to seeing P&P, and those movies were so well done that I was very excited. Yet nothing prepared me for how I was struck by Joe Wright’s masterpiece! Everything about it was phenomenal to me, and still is. The costumes, the music, the cinematography, the drama, the passion, the humor, the language, the actors (every last one), the gritty realistic atmosphere – all of it absolutely brilliant. I had no concern whatsoever on whether is was true to the novel at that point. I simply fell in love with a stunning movie that profoundly affected me. The love between Lizzy and Darcy was palpable, believable, visceral, and ardent – perfectly acted by Macfadyen and Knightley with an astounding chemistry. I just can’t say enough about how marvelous it was to me.
Few movies have touched me to this degree, but this one did and I refuse to allow any of the pointless debates ruin that for me.
3. I view the two versions of Lizzy and Darcy from the 1995 and 2005 versions of P&P as essentially different couples. Do you think your novel would have been different if influenced by the 1995 version?
I agree with you about the couples. I also do not think it matters or that one version is correct over the other one. They are both a dramatization of a novel written by someone a long time ago who isn’t here to say precisely what she meant in every instance. But to answer your question without launching into a discussion I find boring, the truth is I never would have been so radically influenced by the 1995 series. That does not mean I dislike it! Not at all. I like it just fine and think that Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle were terrific as Darcy and Lizzy. However, in my opinion, the miniseries as does not possess the fire, the passion, and the air of drama that I adore. Still, I do think Lizzy and Darcy, however they are presented on screen, were meant by Miss Austen to be content and happy in life. So, in that respect, I suppose I can say with confidence that I would have written them the same because it is how I imagine them to be.
4. You were so successful at creating the character of Lord Orman. I got the creepy chills every time he appeared in the novel. What was your influence for him?
Thank you! Wouldn’t it be a great story if I could say I knew someone like that? Ha! Alas, he came out of the recesses of my mind and I have no idea how! Darcy is so prim, proper, and morally upright that it made logical sense to give him a foil. I did not want to fall back on the standard Wickham plotline, so I created a new scoundrel and made him even worse. He was originally thrown in just to add a little spice to the Masque. But the more I thought about him, I realized he was too good to just toss away – a ready plot device just waiting to happen. I do not want to give too much away, but let’s just say that a good villain should always be kept lurking in the background somewhere.
5. The relationship you created between Lizzy and Darcy was so idyllic and sweet. I have read some sequels where they are constantly squabbling and causing a ruckus. What was your inspiration for this?
There are many reasons for this choice. First, I truly do believe a couple can live in general harmony without constant bickering. It isn’t that I believe Lizzy and Darcy never argue; I show them conflicting from time to time, or refer to an argument. I simply prefer not to make that the focus of the story. If they do quarrel, I explain how they overcome that with open conversation and the deep respect they possess for each other. Love conquers all, I suppose you could say. Additionally, this first novel is set during the definite honeymoon period. Not sure about you, but I wasn’t spending lots of time fighting with my new husband when there were far more pleasurable things to do!
Logically I looked at the realities of life for the Darcys. I mean, what are they going to tussle over? Finances? He leaves the toilet seat up or she doesn’t pick up her clothes? Mother-in-law woes when Mrs. Bennet is 150 miles by a carriage drive away? Hopefully they learned the hard lessons of how hostility leads to unwarranted anguish and would avoid unnecessary dissention.
Historically this was an age, we are lead to believe, when propriety, decorum, manners, respect, and so forth were the common practice. I can’t see a gentleman of Darcy’s statue lacing into his wife. Nor would a wife, even one as spunky as Lizzy, be ridiculing or insolent toward her husband.
And, considering the majority of sequels and variations are all about the two of them facing endless traumas, both outwardly inflicted and due to personality clashes, why not have at least one that is cheery and optimistic?
6. If Jane Austen had written a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, what do you think she would have written?
You know, I really have no idea! Of course, neither does anyone else, do they? I am quite sure she would not relate their bedroom activities, so can see why some are squeamish about that. But I do think she would want them to be happy, however one defines that. Clearly she saw a difference in the marriages of people like Mr. and Mrs. Bennet compared to the Gardiners. She was not against marriage, so why does it have to contain constant squabbling and ruckus, to quote you?
Her books were about the normal aspects of life during the times. The drama was rather sedate for the most part. It pertained to misunderstands, meddling individuals, societal mores, and so on. Few kidnappings or wild horse chases or life threatening situations!
7. Which actor, other than Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen, do you think would make a great Darcy?
I thought Elliot Cowan in “Lost in Austen” was a very good Mr. Darcy. Gerard Butler, if a bit younger, could do it since he has that intensity that we like in Darcy, but also a sensitive side. Daniel Day-Lewis or Jeremy Northam – same thing. I love Ioan Gruffudd! Greg Wise maybe. Richard Armitage, Joseph Fiennes, JJ Feild. He has to be tall and very manly! And I am sure there are some Americans who could pull off a Brit accent if they had to.
8. If you were to write a sequel to another Austen novel, which one would it be?
Excellent question! I have never thought of it. Hmm… I have enjoyed everything Austen has written and the various adaptations done. My favorite is “ Mansfield Park .” Not necessarily because I love Fanny and Edmund, but because there are great characters in the whole story. So many angles one could take with an array of relationships and social situations to delve into. But that is just off the top of my head as I really have not had the time, sadly, to study Austen in depth beyond “Pride and Prejudice.” Someday, I keep saying, someday.
9. What is coming up next for you? Another Austen sequel (hopefully)?
Indeed yes! “Loving Mr. Darcy ~ Journeys Beyond Pemberley” takes up where “Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy” ends, following the Darcys as they travel to London and elsewhere. The story deepens dramatically with a multitude of new and old characters introduced and added to the mix. It will be released in September 2009. In January of 2010 the third volume will be published: “The Darcys at Year’s End.” I am currently writing the as yet unnamed fourth installment and a companion novel centering on the romantic adventures of Georgiana Darcy. Tentatively they will appear later in 2010. More ideas are circulating, but that is all that is written right now. The bottom line is that the Darcy Saga shows no signs of diminishing either in my head!
Thank you, Grace, for granting me this opportunity to talk about my novels. I truly am honored and do appreciate it. I would like to end by encouraging everyone to click over to my website for further information about the novel and the series. Anything you could possibly want to know can be discovered there! www.darcysaga.net