When Sharon and Abigail approached me about joining this blog, I couldn’t have been more delighted. What more could an Austenesque author wish for than to be cast into the company of so many authors and readers who agree on one thing: you can never get enough Austen? In the words of Jane herself, “my only fear is of your being so agreeable, so much to (my) taste, as to make (me) wish to keep you with (me) for ever.”
Before I do that, though, you probably need to know a bit more about me and about the journey which brought me here.
It starts in a school in
Manchester, UK, Elizabeth Gaskell country (Cranford, North and South). Which is perhaps my major claim to fame, since I lived for several months in her former home there on Plymouth Grove. This was before it was rescued from neglect and restored. But I digress.
The room is airless, stifling in that wooden way that old buildings have. Some of the girls fling open a window (what would Mr Woodhouse say?) and let in the cold November air. They are not interested in our English lesson. They are wishing they could climb through the window and escape.
Then our teacher arrives and it’s too late. The wood groans under her feet as she walks in. Or was that some of the girls?
“Now where were we?” says the teacher.
“We got to where Mrs Bennet is winking at Kitty to leave the room,” I answer, because I can hardly wait for the teacher to transform back into Mrs Bennet. The girls at the window thumb their noses at me for playing teacher’s favourite. One of them is Kitty. She peers at the teacher who is trying to signal something to her.
“What?” says Kitty. “Why is everyone looking at me?”
“You’re supposed to read the next line,” says Mrs Bennet, in that half-whining, half-bullying voice of hers that I still remember after all these years, even though I’ve long since forgotten her face.
No production of Pride & Prejudice has ever equalled the magic of that first experience of Jane Austen. Even though Mr Darcy was played by a girl with long blonde hair who wrung her hands and threw herself melodramatically to her knees when she read Mr Darcy’s proposal (it was an all-girls school), and even though Lydia rolled her eyes every time it was her turn to read, in that classroom Pride and Prejudice really came to life.
But I’ll admit it. It gave me a skewed idea of the novel.
To my thirteen-year-old mind, Pride and Prejudice was a hilarious comedy about families that did their best to embarrass you, about younger sisters who bickered and competed about everything, about boy-obsessed teenagers, and about how messed up parents’ expectations can be. I knew there was a romance in the story, but to me that wasn’t the point of the novel. The point of the novel was that it made me laugh, because somehow, even if everyone was in 19th century clothing, it was so true.
Some time later – when I was older and much wiser – I was enthralled by Mr Darcy in the form of Colin Firth. My heart quickened at the suppressed passion roiling under the haughty surface. I shivered with delight as the mighty gentleman surrendered to the inevitable and accepted his destiny with
Elizabeth. I dreamt of piercing dark eyes staring across piano keyboards, of smouldering glances in Regency rooms crackling with tension. I realized then that Pride and Prejudice was a romance. And what a discovery!
Then I encountered other writings by Austen. I shook my head over Emma’s wilful blindness, lamented Anne Elliot’s self-sacrificing nature that almost cost her the love of her life (really, how could she let Lady Russell convince her to give up Captain Wentworth?), frowned over Fanny Price’s dogmatic persistence, laughed with Henry Tilney at Catherine’s tomboyish innocence, and tried to work out whether I sided with Elinor or Marianne. I combed the letters for all the gems of sparkling wit I could find, and raged against her sister Cassandra for destroying what must surely be the best letters of all.
A long time later, I came to write romance myself. Naturally, who would I turn to as my mentor? After all, it was Jane Austen who invented the blueprint for romance as we know it. Wasn’t she the first one to write the poor-girl-meets-powerful-arrogant-billionaire-plot?
Over the years, I’ve learned to appreciate Jane Austen as a writer for many reasons. I could list them, but it would take up a lot of space.
Still, there’s one thing that hasn’t changed in all this time. I still think that the best thing of all about Jane Austen is that she makes me laugh.
Monica Fairview has published two Austen sequels, The Other Mr Darcy, which was chosen by All About Romance as Hidden Treasure of 2009 as well as designated a Desert Island Keeper. The Library Journal called it “heart-warming and charming.”
The Darcy Cousins,
published earlier this year, is the story of Georgiana Darcy as she struggles to emerge from under her brother’s charismatic wing to assert her independence, and to find love. Historical Novels Reviews
calls it “A humorous, stately romp through 19th-century England”.
For more information on Monica, you may visit the archives of her now-abandoned blog
or check out her website
Author of THE OTHER MR DARCY: sparks fly as Caroline Bingley and Darcy's charming American cousin clash. THE DARCY COUSINS: Defiance and misunderstandings abound as Darcy's sister Georgiana takes lessons from her feisty American cousin about love and romance. STEAMPUNK DARCY: A PRIDE AND PREJUDICE INSPIRED COMEDY ADVENTURE: Austen meets Neo-Victorian in this post-apocalyptic romantic adventure.
Monica is currently busy writing a brand new Regency romance and a new Pride & Prejudice variation coming in March 2014