For me one of the best parts of writing JAFF has been encountering a community of writers and readers who are equally interested in and passionate about Jane Austen’s works. Who else will debate whether Bingley deserves Jane’s love or if Fanny Price is a sufficiently active heroine? If I tried to initiate such a discussion with my husband and kids, their eyes would glaze over long before I was satisfied the topic had been thoroughly explored.
It has been a joy to discover this community and a huge source of support. My JAFF Facebook friends will help me quell my doubts about my writing, buck me up when I’ve had a bad day, and celebrate my successes with me. I’ve also found friends who share my love of purple, my struggles with motherhood, and my somewhat skewed sense of humor.
But I have to say that one of the most unexpected benefits was when a fellow Austen Author unknowingly inspired the plot for my latest book, Chaos Comes to Longbourn. Last summer Joana Starnes wrote the following on her Facebook page: “A shocking outcome to the game of ‘Marrying Mr Darcy’ last night: Caroline Bingley eloped with Wickham, Elizabeth Bennet ended up a spinster, Charlotte Lucas married Mr Denny and Mr Darcy married LYDIA!! If this were a book, I couldn’t read it.”
In my response to her post I agreed with Joana that this would be a terrible ending for a JAFF novel, but I suggested she think of a way to write such a book and make it plausible. Joana replied that that would be beyond her powers as a writer. That should have been the end of it. But the exchange got my writer’s brain going in rather devious ways. It was a challenge. How could I make such unlikely pairings work (even if it not those exact pairings)?
I started to think how such a novel could be plausible—particularly the part of about Darcy and Lydia. It would necessarily have to be a comic novel; that combination of personalities could never be anything other than humorous. Of course I thought in terms of having them be engaged; a marriage was simply too traumatic to contemplate.
I began to wonder: If Darcy were engaged to Lydia, what impact would it have on other characters? Soon I had a plot in which everyone is engaged to the wrong person: Jane and Collins, Elizabeth and Bingley, Charlotte and Wickham. I was very proud of myself for working out how these improbable betrothals had come about. Of course, then I had to figure out how to untangle everything so they’d all have a happily ever after….
I had great fun writing Chaos Comes to Longbourn, and my readers seem to be having great fun reading it. As always I am very grateful for my community of readers and writers and their support of my work. And, right now, I am especially grateful that Joana wrote that particular Facebook post. She had no idea what she was starting! 🙂
Please enjoy this excerpt from Chaos Comes to Longbourn. Wickham has been maneuvered into proposing to Charlotte Lucas:
Tilting her head to the side, Charlotte frowned at Wickham as if he presented a puzzle to be solved. After a moment, she shook her head. “I am not sure you would make a good husband.”
What? Wickham’s pride was pricked. Women always wanted him! He was charming. Charming is what he did! Well, and attractive. How could she be so blind?
I shall show her.
Suppressing a premature grin, Wickham slid from his seat and settled next to Charlotte on the settee. She did not lay down her damn needlework, and he did not like playing second fiddle to embroidery.
He inspected her gown. A serviceable muslin, it was more modest than most dresses he encountered—which unfortunately meant less skin was available. But he could rise to this challenge. He leaned close enough to smell her faint honeysuckle scent and kissed his way down her neck.
She paused her needlework.
And then resumed.
Aside from a small furrow in her brow, his actions did not appear to have attracted her notice at all. Damnation! What was wrong with the woman? That maneuver should have earned him a shiver, a deep sigh, and perhaps some kisses in return.
He ran a finger under the edge of her neckline, right on the top of her shoulder. Perhaps she needed verbal seduction. “You are very beautiful.”
This provoked a reaction but not quite the one he expected. She turned toward him, frowning. “No, I am not. Why would you say so?”
Wickham blinked and allowed his hand to drop. Every woman loved being told she was beautiful, did she not? He swallowed, attempting to reestablish his equilibrium. “You are beautiful to me,” he murmured.
She pursed her lips. “I sincerely doubt that, Mr. Wickham. You are acquainted with many prettier women.” She moved the position of her embroidery to get better light.
Very well. It was time for heavy artillery. He leaned forward until his lips nearly touched her ear. “I love you.”
She snorted. “Do not be absurd. You barely know me.”