Thursday, July 30, 2009
Guest Post: Marsha Altman
In the book you revealed some skeletons in the Darcy family closet and I was wondering what skeletons you think are in Darcy's own personal closet? Also, what are you planning on writing next?
Since these two questions are tied together I’ll just answer them at once. First of all, let me just get out that there are no illegitimate children from Darcy’s past. In Plight of the Darcy Brothers the question comes up because he did tour the Continent after University and did so not under any oath of celibacy, but it turns out to be a matter of timing and his father’s problem, not his.
I received some criticism for not making Darcy a virgin in book 1. I was expecting this, as Regency Romance fans have some notion that the good characters are saints until their wedding night and the ones who aren’t end up as rogues, cads, rakes, and other euphemisms for people who ruin women’s reputations. In real life, which is what my writing aspires to be a bit closer to, your average Regency gentleman probably lost his virginity in high school (Harrow or Eton), or at the very least University (Cambridge or Oxford). Even the most upstanding gentleman could be seen coming in or out of a respectable house of prostitution, specifically the more famous ones if he’s rich enough to afford them. Children resulting in those couplings were for the most part aborted by the courtesans without the gentleman ever being the wiser or caring, necessarily.
Darcy, who is 28 or 29 when he marries depending on where his birthday falls (not mentioned in Austen’s book), would realistically not be inexperienced. The fact that Bingley, a flirty guy and 23 years old, is himself inexperienced at the start of The Darcys and the Bingleys is itself more unbelievable, but readers have their image of Darcy as sacrosanct and they don’t want that ruined. So, he’s been around, but nothing special, and since he took over Pemberley at 23, nothing much happened until he met Elizabeth. He’s about as pure as he’s going to realistically be. I like to err on the side of realism because it gives me more to do – in Plight of the Darcy Brothers we have illegitimate children, whores extorting people for money, and highway robbery involving an actual highway and an actual attempted robbery. In other words, it’s a bit beyond the scope of who is marrying whom.
As far Darcy’s personal closet, it’s more connected to his personality and the Darcy family tree, which is extended in book 2 but there are more revelations in book 3 (not involving bastard sons) about some things that were covered up before Darcy was even born, but had a lot to do, genetically, with shaping Darcy as a person. In the third book, due out in February 2010, Darcy spends a portion of the book in wrongful imprisonment in Transylvania, and the resulting stress on his physical and emotional person has fallout for the rest of the book and reveals a lot more about Darcy as I have interpreted him. His personality quirks which made him both frustrating and romantic in Pride and Prejudice (he’s quiet, possibly shy yet dignified, stubborn, and willing to repress his own feelings for the greater good of his family) come out with great flair after a traumatic period, and while he doesn’t fight or abandon Elizabeth, she’s the main person who now has to deal with them and help him deal with himself.
Taking a 21st century lens to Darcy, uninhibited by romantic literary ideals, you might want to prescribe this person some Paxil. It would make him less interesting a literary figure, so fortunately nobody has Paxil around, or any SSRI. The spectrum of what we consider “normal” and what Regency people considered “normal” has always interested me, and in the second book I begin to explore it and in the third book I delve fully into it.
I’m being vague about this to not ruin plot revelations for the third book. A lot of characters in the books are colorful, and therefore considered (and called) “crazy” by their relatives, though they are fully mentally capable. Darcy, who’s the one usually calling people crazy for wanting to do things outside the norm, is at times socially inept, unable to express his feelings in Pride and Prejudice and oblivious to the feelings of others, as so delightfully and famously highlighted by his first proposal to Elizabeth at Hunsford. He admits to being unable to suppress his own natural feelings of love, then denigrates the person he loves before offering her marriage, and is temporarily rendered speechless when she fires back at him all the ammunition she has against his character – and she has a lot of it, despite his meticulous attempts to maintain himself as a gentleman. This is for me a key scene to opening the door of interpretations of Darcy – does he know how rude he’s being? Is he really that oblivious? Everyone who reads Pride and Prejudice has their own interpretation; that’s what happens when a master author like Austen writes such a multi-layered character. My interpretation is at times extreme, and heavy on the psychology (something the other characters are unable to put into words because psychology at this point, for all intent and purposes, does not exist), but I hope you, having read the second book, will try the third book, and follow me as I try to present my own Darcy as I see him.
Also, there are way more swordfights in book 3.
How do you interpret Darcy? Shy or arrogant? Possessive or gracious? Or something that is not one word or its opposite?
Please go here for my giveaway of Marsha’s two awesome books and here for a list of tour dates.