1. What inspired you to write Pride and Prejudice variations?
I tend to get very involved in the books I read, some people might say a little too involved! One time while I was rereading Pride and Prejudice for the millionth time and reached the scene at the Lambton inn, I was feeling heartbroken that Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy were once again misunderstanding each other’s intentions. I wanted to scream at Darcy that he shouldn’t leave without telling Elizabeth how he felt. “Good communication is critical!” I told him. He didn’t listen. I snatched up a piece of paper and said, “Look, I’ll show you how much easier it will be if you just tell her you still love her.” That became the first page of From Lambton to Longbourn, one of my first Pemberley Variations!
2. Please tell us a bit about Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World and why you chose to take on the infamous proposal scene?
Most young women in the Regency didn’t have a choice about who they married. If Elizabeth Bennet had been from a more traditional family, she wouldn’t have been allowed to refuse Darcy’s proposal even though she hated him. That made me wonder what would happen if Elizabeth did have to marry Mr. Darcy when she still disliked him, without the evidence of his letter of explanation to clear up her misapprehensions and without his housekeeper’s testimony to his character. Would she learn to see through her prejudices to find the true Mr. Darcy? I decided to test it out. In Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World, Darcy proposes to Elizabeth on a walk rather than in the parsonage. Expecting her to be thrilled with his proposal, he kisses her. Before Elizabeth can express her fury at him, she realizes that the kiss was observed by Colonel Fitzwilliam. If she refuses Darcy now, her reputation and that of her sisters will be ruined. With grave misgivings she consents to marry him in order to save her family from disgrace.
Because she still thinks him an ill-tempered and resentful man, she tries to avoid provoking him and keeps her feelings to herself. They get married and go to Pemberley. While Elizabeth recognizes Darcy is doing his best to be gentle and kind to her, she still believes that he misused Wickham and can’t respect him. Inevitably the truth comes out to the open and they have a bitter fight. Darcy, horrified by the discovery that his bride hates him, withdraws almost completely, though continuing to treat Elizabeth with respect. Gradually Elizabeth discovers he is a far better man than she thought him. When Darcy is injured in a riding accident and almost dies, Elizabeth realizes that she loves him. After his recovery, they struggle together to work out their remaining difficulties on the way to a happily ever after ending.
3. I thought Lizzy and Darcy’s reactions to these very different circumstances were very true to their characters, did you find it at all difficult to keep them in character?
Keeping characters true to themselves is always a challenge. It’s a little easier with Elizabeth and Darcy than with other characters because Jane Austen developed them as such powerful characters that it’s relatively easy to slip into their skins. I have a harder time with some of the minor characters.
4. Have there been any other novels that you have been tempted to write a variation for?
Not so far, although I’ve written a modern novel partially based on Persuasion. When I write a novel, the characters have to live constantly inside my head for months, which means it has to be characters I like spending time with. There are very few other books with characters I love as much as the ones in Pride and Prejudice. I also write some non-Pride and Prejudice fiction with original characters, but I appreciate all that I learned from Jane Austen through borrowing her characters.
5. What is up next for you?
I’m working a new Pemberley Variation, this one based on what would have happened if Elizabeth had never read Darcy’s letter. I’ve completed a modern novel which is partially based on Persuasion and is a sequel to Pemberley by the Sea, but the market for contemporary fiction isn’t strong at the moment, so it’s unclear as to whether I will find a publisher for that one. Still, I enjoy writing moderns.
My favorite book is: Pride and Prejudice
What book would you never read again even if was the only book left in existence: Night by Elie Wiesel. It’s brilliant but I’m still traumatized from reading it 30 years ago.
My favorite movie is: Casablanca
My ideal Lizzy is: the one in my head. I read Pride and Prejudice long before I saw any of the adaptations, and my imaginary version of her is stronger than any actress.
My ideal Darcy is: the one in my head.
If I received a free trip to anywhere in the world where would I visit: St Petersburg, Russia
If I could do any job in the world, I would: work on a tall ship sailing between Cape Cod and the Caribbean
My favorite word is? Sesquipedalian. It means very long words, literally words that are six feet long.
My favorite historical time period is: I love reading about ancient Greece and medieval times, but I’m very grateful to live in the present.
Mr. Darcy or Mr. Rochester: Mr. Darcy
If a genie granted me three wishes, I would wish for: health and happiness for the people I love and a elf who would clean my house and make dinner every night.
MR. FITZWILLIAM DARCY: THE LAST MAN IN THE WORLD
IN STORES JANUARY 2010!
In this sexy Jane Austen sequel, Elizabeth Bennet accepts Mr. Darcy's first marriage proposal, answering the "What if...?" question fans everywhere have pondered
" I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry."
Famous last words indeed! Elizabeth Bennet's furious response to Mr. Darcy's marriage proposal has resonated for generations of readers. But what if she had never said it? Would she have learned to recognize Mr. Darcy's admirable qualities on her own? Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy follows Elizabeth and Darcy as they struggle to find their way through the maze of their prejudices after Elizabeth, against her better judgment, agrees to marry Darcy instead of refusing his proposal.
Two of the most beloved characters in English literature explore the meaning of true love in a tumultuous and passionate attempt to make a success of their marriage.
About the Author
Abigail Reynolds is a physician and a lifelong Jane Austen enthusiast. She began writing The Pemberley Variations series in 2001, and encouragement from fellow Austen fans convinced her to continue asking “What if…?” She lives with her husband and two teenage children in Madison, Wisconsin. For more information, please visit http://pemberleyvariations.com/