Monday, October 5, 2009
Monica Fairview Guest Post
First of all, I’d like to thank Grace for having me here. This is a lovely blog and I’m very happy to be part of it.
When I tell people what The Other Mr. Darcy is about, their first reaction is surprise. They are intrigued by the idea, but they also want to know how I managed to turn Caroline into a convincing heroine.
Well, of course, you’re going against the grain to start with, which was my biggest challenge. People love to hate Caroline. Personally, I think she’s not as bad as people make her out to be. Obviously Caroline wants to keep Mr. Darcy. Wouldn’t you want to keep Mr. Darcy, if you thought you had a chance? Caroline tries all kinds of silly ways to attract his attention, including asking Elizabeth to take a turn with her around the room, knowing (perversely) that Mr. Darcy would look up. Another silly technique she uses is making fun of Elizabeth. But just as Caroline makes fun of her, Elizabeth, too makes fun of Caroline. It’s a two-way thing. And then there’s the problem of Darcy himself. Yes, Caroline is snobbish, but Darcy is, too, and he actively encourages Caroline at the beginning to look down on Meryton and all its inhabitants.
The problem in Pride and Prejudice is that Caroline is never really developed any further. She starts off exactly like Darcy, she’s part of his arrogant clique, but nothing happens in the novel to change her, unlike Darcy, who is transformed by love.
So my biggest challenge was to write a book in which Caroline could be similarly transformed. I decided the best way to approach it was to combine humour with sympathy for her. I should say that my decisions weren’t necessarily thought out deliberately. It was just a writer’s instinct about how to go about things.
So I started the story with Mr. Darcy’s wedding day. Caroline has a meltdown, something that has never happened to her, ever. This is where we can both laugh at her, and feel sorry for her, because her reaction to breaking down and crying is so ridiculous. Yet most of us have been in similar situations, so we can empathize with what she’s going through.
Then, as if it isn’t enough, her pride is wrecked because someone else sees her at her most vulnerable moment: Mr. Robert Darcy. Can you imagine anything worse for Caroline than to be discovered in such a situation? It’s not an enviable situation, even if she deals with it in typical Caroline way.
By the time the Prologue’s over, she’s already had a couple of emotional shocks. The Caroline we meet when the novel actually begins almost a year later has already been changed, both by losing the man she loves, and by meeting someone who has power over her. After all, Robert Darcy is an unknown factor. He might decide to let everyone know about her carefully concealed attachment to Darcy. He might use emotional blackmail to get a hold over her. She’s unsure of her position, and she can’t just make him go away, which is what she’d like to do.
Since the novel started that way, I felt that at least one big obstacle had been removed. It’s hard to continue to hate someone when you’ve seen them at their weakest.
After that, it was a matter of giving her the chance to deal with her new challenge: a Darcy who makes fun of all her pretensions. The cobbled road toward redemption for Caroline is full of potholes. Before she can even start, she has to accept Robert as an American. Obviously, given her character, she looks down on him as an upstart and an outsider. The good thing about Robert Darcy is that he’s immune to her snubs. He takes them in his stride, and he keeps chipping at all the defences she has carefully erected.
It wasn’t easy to get Caroline from point A to point B. She had to be burnt several times before she learned her lesson. Luckily Robert is quite capable of handling her, and eventually, helping her move beyond the rigid social identity she’s constructed for herself.
About the Author
As a literature professor, Monica Fairview enjoyed teaching students to love reading. But after years of postponing the urge, she finally realized what she really wanted was to write books herself. She lived in Illinois, Los Angeles, Seattle, Texas, Colorado, Oregon and Boston as a student and professor, and now lives in London. To find out more, please visit http://www.monicafairview.co.uk/