I have movies on my mind today, but first a quick update on my work-in-progress: Colonel Brandon in His Own Words. The book is about 3/4 done and it’s all starting to come together! I hope to have it out before the end of the summer. (Read more about it here and here.)
I have a fairly small movie collection – DVDs I have judiciously selected over the years. I normally watch the movie first (in the theater, rented, borrowed, streamed) before purchasing, so that I don’t waste my money on an unknown. I don’t need to own mediocre movies I will only watch once; I want to own movies that are so good I’ll watch them again and again.
That’s the theory anyway. But it doesn’t always work out that way in practice.
Here’s what happens. When I feel like watching a movie, I go to my collection and scan through the titles for something I haven’t seen in a while. But there are some that remain on the shelf. I consistently pass over them, again and again, even though they are really good (or else I wouldn’t have bought them, right?).
I can be okay with an ambiguous ending if there’s a good reason for it, which makes me a little more broadminded that some. (My sister, for example, who pretty much insists that I pre-watch any unknown commodity before I play it for her on one of our “movie days,” to be sure the ending is acceptable = unequivocally happy.) To me, on the other hand, it’s possible for and ending to be satisfying without being classically “happy.” Here are some examples from my collection:
With Atonement (I skip over all the grueling war stuff, btw), we’re given a better alternative ending to believe if we choose (which I do). Before We Go and Before Sunrise leave it to our own imaginations to decide how things workout, so it’s up to you. 500 Days of Summer doesn’t end the way you expect, but you’re left with the understanding that all will be well. Similarly, with Becoming Jane, we don’t get the outcome we may have been rooting for, but we understand that Jane and Tom made the right choice and were not left miserable because of it. A higher good was served.
These are exceptions, but in general, I’m all about the happy ending. That’s what I want and expect after I’ve invested my time and money. And I often feel annoyed (or worse) if I don’t get it – be it book or movie.
I know tragedies can be beautiful and moving too, and that’s where I get into trouble. I watch one and think, “Oh, that was such a good movie!” And so I buy it for my collection. But then, now knowing how it ends, I can’t bear to put myself through the anguish of such a heart-wrenchingly sad story. I say, “Not tonight. I’m in the mood for something light and happy.” Problem is, I’m basically always in the mood for light and happy.
So these wonderful films – City of Angels, Romeo and Juliet, Tristan + Isolde, Sommersby, First Knight – sit neglected on the shelf, month after month, year after year. Some of them I have literally never seen a second time and I can barely remember. I just know they’re very sad. And so, they have become the best movies I own but never watch.
Do you have this issue too? Thoughts on any of the movies named here or others you would add to the list? As for movies I do watch more than once, here’s a related post: My Movie Picks. It’s several years old now, and there are probably a few things I would update. But it’s still pretty accurate. And speaking of happy endings…
Colonel Brandon was now as happy as all those who best loved him believed he deserved to be. In Marianne he was consoled for every past affliction; her regard and her society restored his mind to animation, and his spirits to cheerfullness… (Sense and Sensibility, chapter 50)
I’m pretty dedicated to my morning walks – about 2 1/2 miles with significant elevation gain, over the roads and trails of our rural neighborhood. It’s something I started on my own years ago, after I quit my “day job,” and which I now continue with my husband since he retired. We go rain or shine, or even in 8-10″ of snow like this morning! I draw the line at high winds, though, since we’re surrounded by large trees that have a way of blowing over from time to time.
It’s my main form of exercise – good for body and mind alike. Writing is a very sedentary occupation. But I inevitably find that getting the blood moving enables the words to flow more freely too, and a brisk turn out of doors is the best cure for writer’s block I’ve yet discovered. So, 5-6 days a week, we put on our hiking boots and set out from home on one of a variety or routes.
“I do not wish to avoid the walk. The distance is nothing when one has a motive; only three miles. I shall be back by dinner.” (Pride and Prejudice, chapter 7)
I think Jane Austen would approve. In her stories, she uses a person’s activity level as one subtle clue to his/her character. Her favorites, like Elizabeth Bennet, tend to be, if not truly athletic, at least lively and energetic, with a fondness for walking and dancing. Meanwhile, those less favored often demonstrate more indolent habits (think Mr. Hurst, Lady Bertram, and even Mr. Bennet). The fact that Austen expected her heroines, as well as her heroes, to be physically active, puts her ahead of her time since fine ladies of her day were not generally encouraged to much exert themselves. As you remember, Elizabeth’s walk to Netherfield surprises her family and positively shocks Mr. Bingley’s sisters:
That she should have walked three miles so early in the day, in such dirty weather, and by herself, was almost incredible to Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley; and Elizabeth was convinced that they held her in contempt for it. …Mr. Darcy was divided between admiration of the brilliancy which exercise had given to her complexion, and doubt as to the occasion’s justifying her coming so far alone.
I’ve carried on Jane Austen’s custom in this as well as many other things – sending my heroes and heroines on long walks as often as possible, not only for their benefit (often giving them a better chance for private conversation with each other) but also for mine! There’s nothing more tedious (for the reader or writer) than having nothing for your characters to do except sit around a drawing room day after day.
In Return to Longbourn, for example, I sent Mary Bennet on an important walk with the new heir, Tristan Collins, which ended with their dashing back to the house together, thoroughly drenched by the rain. Come to think of it, Mary got drenched again later in the book, this time on a ride instead of a walk, and with a different man altogether! (Hmm. Must be that whole wet-shirt fascination thing.)
And it’s the same for my other novels. I’m sure you will find significant long walks in most if not all of them. But there’s one walk that stands out in my mind at the moment, and so I thought I’d share it with you today. This scene is from The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen and represents what happened in Austen’s own life that inspired what she wrote in Persuasion – specifically the proposal Jane received from one Captain Philippe Devereaux (whose fictional counterparts are Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth):
Then Philippe rode over that fateful morning from his temporary lodgings to propose one more walk to Ashe before the breakup of the party.
“An excellent notion,” said Henry, in response to the Captain’s suggestion. “Do not you agree, my dear Eliza? It will serve as our take-leave visit.”
“Yes, to be sure, although it pains me to think that we must go away tomorrow. Jane, you will walk with us.”
Looking up from the book I pretended to read, I saw her wink at me. “Certainly, if you wish it,” said I, as if it were all one to me.
“I would not lose your company for one hour,” continued Eliza, “even to gain that of the Lefroys.”
With no one else available to join in, we four set off for Ashe parsonage, walking at a brisk rate to match the bracing chill in the air. Once out of sight of the house, the Captain and I slackened our pace, steadily dropping behind the others, as we had so often done before. Words were not necessary to orchestrate this alteration, or the fact that our parallel paths soon drifted a little closer, to the point where the sleeve of his coat might happen to brush mine occasionally. I could then at least imagine I felt his warmth bridging the gap between us, though we never touched.
“I believe I owe you an apology, Miss Austen,” he began at length as we went along.
I looked sideways up at him. “Truly? Whatever for? And please, do call me by my Christian name whenever we are alone.” I longed to hear myself addressed so. And, coming from his lips, I expected that one syllable would sound as sweet as the most elegant sonnet.
He paused and looked at me. “Very well, Jane.”
A wave of pleasure washed over me at his caressing tone, and time seemed suspended for a moment while the exquisite sound hung in the air.
Then he remembered himself, resumed our walk, and continued with his thought. “I owe you an apology, or at least an explanation, for my behaviour to you in London. You must have wondered why I ended our conversation so abruptly, especially when we had been doing so well together.”
“You did give me an explanation,” said I, determined now to make light of the circumstance that had hitherto given me so much anxiety. “You said you feared detaining me from my friends overly long. Still, I thought I must have said or done something to displease you.”
“Not at all. Quite the opposite, I assure you. Perhaps you did not suspect it, but I knew within minutes of our first meeting that I could care for you, that an attachment was indeed already beginning, on my side at least. The longer we were together, the more difficult it would be to break away. And, not being in a strong position to make any commitments, I believed I owed it to us both to part before any real harm was done.”
“Yet you followed me to Hampshire anyway.” I stopped and turned to my companion, and he did likewise.
“Yes,” he said almost breathlessly. “I suppose I changed my mind.”
Perhaps it would have been more correct to demure, but I simply said, “I am so glad you did, Philippe.”
This seemed to decide him. Rewarding me with a gratified smile, he took both my gloved hands in his and hurried on. “The world would tell us that it is imprudent to contemplate marrying on so little. I have some money saved, otherwise there will be barely anything above my pay to live on. But I love you too passionately for delay, Jane, and I am asking you to believe in me. I am resourceful, hard working, determined, and, despite my history, I count myself a lucky sort of person. With you by my side, I cannot fail of achieving great things, both in my career and as regards to fortune. There is plenty of prize money to be made in the war, and I still hope to recover at least a portion of my family’s property as well. Dearest Jane…” Here he dropped to one knee. “…will you trust me? I may have no right to ask, but will you marry me now, while I am undeserving? If you agree, you will never regret it, I promise.”
Dear God! How long ago that scene played out! And still, I have yet to forget one detail of it – the stray lock of dark hair forming a flawless curl on the captain’s forehead; the small puffs of fog created when his warm breath merged with the frigid air as he spoke; the call of a distant rook punctuating the brief silence after he finished. These and other precious remembrances compose a sharply drawn picture in my mind, undiminished and unmarred by the passage of time. The words spoken on that wooded pathway remain so perfectly preserved that I have no difficulty recalling them even now, more than seventeen years later, recalling them and ascribing the substance of my captain’s sentiments over to his fictional counterpart. I take my pen and write:
Captain Wentworth had no fortune… But he was confident that he should soon be rich; full of life and ardour, he knew that he should soon have a ship, and soon be on a station that would lead to every thing he wanted. He had always been lucky; he knew he should be so still. Such confidence, powerful in its own warmth, and bewitching in the wit which often expressed it, must have been enough for Anne.
Likewise, it had been enough for me as well. I agreed to marry Captain Devereaux that day, and it would be impossible to say which of us was the happiest – I, in receiving his declaration of love, or he in having his proposal accepted. We laughed and kissed by turns, forgetting to make much progress towards our destination. I smiled so much that by the time we finally did reach Ashe, my cheeks ached for it. If only that initial happiness, that boundless, unlimited joy, had been stout enough to withstand the storm to come.
Well, what did you think? Was this a walk worth taking, even beyond the beneficial exercise? It’s hard to imagine one that had a more significant bearing on those involved. And the proposal just wouldn’t have been the same if it had taken place in a drawing room! Don’t you agree?
I’ll get to the nostalgia part in a bit, but first I want to give you the November update. Did you know that this month is National Novel Writing Month? Many intrepid souls set out to write an entire novel in one month… more or less… in what’s called the NaNoWriMo Challenge. I can’t write that fast, but I have been busy and making good headway on my work-in-progress: Colonel Brandon in His Own Words (see two previous posts for more info). With 14 chapters and 35K words, I’m closing in on the halfway point. Although I still have a long way to go, I hope to have it ready for you by early summer.
Time for writing must always rank behind family obligations, though.
As I mentioned in my August Ups and Downs post, my mother just recently passed away. At 89, she had lived a full life, and so it wasn’t a tragic death. Still, we were very close, and it has been hard to say goodbye. For various reasons, we were forced to delay the memorial service for several weeks. And during that period, I did a lot of looking back as I wrote the eulogy and prepared a PowerPoint slide show to commemorate Mom’s life.
I went through tons of pictures, piles of papers, and boxes of memorabilia, coming across some real treasures in the process. Although I was looking for artifacts representing my mother’s life, naturally, I came across a lot from my own too, stirring up memories and feelings of nostalgia.
When I discovered this picture of my mom (age 6) in the process, my first thought was how much she looks like my oldest granddaughter did at the same age! That was so unexpected.
There were lots of childhood pictures of my mom with her younger sister, reminding me of how close they always were (and of how close I am with my own sister). This one also speaks of her life-long fondness for cats, one that I also share.
Some of my favorites, though, are the pictures of my mom and dad together, from when they were young marrieds, then raising a family, and on through to old age: 61 years together before Dad died. I was very fortunate to be born into such a loving, stable home.
You notice we’ve now transitioned into color! Here’s the whole family in front our first house about 1960. (That’s me on the left, standing on the step.)
There are plenty of pictures representing Mom’s love of family, of course. But also a great number showing all the places she travelled in her lifetime – with Dad, with all of us, or on her own. (She made it to 49 of the 50 states as well as 5 of 7 continents.)
Mom was an artist at heart, though, pursuing that calling in earnest once her children were somewhat self-sufficient – studying, painting in almost every medium, exhibiting and selling her work, and also teaching others. Her love of the creative process is something else I shared with her. Although I eventually discovered my true passion was writing, I dabbled in various other art forms first, and Mom and I made a great team at weekend art shows.
So, other than enjoying a walk down memory lane, where am I going with all this? I don’t know exactly, except I felt like I needed to acknowledge Mom’s life and her passing here, sharing a bit of her story with you. By the world’s standards, I suppose, she wasn’t a very important person; she certainly never became rich or famous. Maybe she never accomplished great things. But every life has meaning and value. Every life touches others. That’s certainly true of parents.
It’s all about connections and relationships. And isn’t that what we enjoy most when we’re immersed in a wonderful novel? We can be interested in an individual’s life and adventures, but we care most about whether or not the hero and heroine get together, whether the conflict with their friend/sibling/parent will be resolved.
Jane Austen didn’t write about great military heroes or famous statesmen. She didn’t write sweeping, epic tales of war or the birth of empires. She wrote about fairly ordinary people and their relationships: three or four families in a country village… And yet look how many lives she touched!
Thanks, Mom, for how you loved and cared for your family, and for all you taught me.
Edward’s loss is terrible, and must be felt as such, and these are too early days indeed to think of moderation in grief, either in him or his afflicted daughter, but soon we may hope that our dear Fanny’s sense of duty to that beloved father will rouse her to exertion. For his sake, and as the most acceptable proof of love to the spirit of her departed mother, she will try to be tranquil and resigned.
You’ll be glad to hear that I’ve made at least some further progress on the next book: Colonel Brandon in His Own Words. It’s still slow going, but I have several chapters written – about 20K words – which means I’m closing in on about a quarter of an average length novel. Unlike my usual practice, however, I’ve been bouncing around a little – writing not in logical order but whatever scene inspires me that day or pops into my head. I think I’ll end up assembling the book in a similar fashion, just following the colonel’s flow of thought, his stream of consciousness, rather than strict chronology.
Colonel Brandon’s life could easily break down into phases: early life with Eliza, military years, empty years after his return and before meeting Marianne, and then what happens with Marianne. But I don’t want to write a Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 book. What particularly interest me is how those periods of his life connect. Where are the crossovers, the repeated patterns, the common themes?
To be honest, I’ve never given that much thought before – at least not this early in the writing process – to developing themes in a book. If something shows up along the way, I’m just happy to take advantage of it as a bonus. But this time I couldn’t help noticing certain refrains at once. Sense and Sensibility is loaded with them.
We have the most obvious theme given right in the title of the source book: the tension between sense and sensibility– primarily exhibited by the sisters Elinor and Marianne, and not so much Colonel Brandon. Although everybody has some measure of both inside, often at odds with each other.
As in other Austen novels, the similar tension between love and money shows up here too. The Dashwood girls are left without fortunes, which limits their chances of making a good match. And Willoughby ultimately deserts Marianne for Miss Gray, when he can no longer afford to marry for love alone.
Jane Austen has also given us the strong idea of history repeating itself for Brandon. We know that when he meets Marianne, he is struck by her similarity to his first love Eliza. He also expects to have to stand by – again – and see the woman he loves married to another man, as I wrote about in my Prologue (read here). Then there’s the business with Eliza herself; her daughter, who bears the same name, meets with the same fate (mistreated by men and bearing a child out of wedlock).
In both these cases (and with Marianne as well, to a lesser degree), Brandon must have believed he’d failed in his perceived duty – failed to protect the women he loved.
Then I was just thinking about another theme of the book: the question of second attachments, which, as this quotation testifies, applies equally to both Colonel Brandon and to Marianne
Marianne Dashwood was born to an extraordinary fate. She was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions, and to counteract by her conduct, her most favourite maxims. She was born to overcome an affection formed so late in life as at seventeen, and with no sentiment superior to strong esteem and lively friendship, voluntarily to give her hand to another! – and that other, a man who had suffered no less than herself under the event of a former attachment, whom, two years before, she had considered too old to be married, – and who still sought the constitutional safeguard of a flannel waistcoat!
Sense and Sensibility, chapter 50
So it’s my job to tie it all together from this new perspective, supplementing what Jane Austen gave us. I think these themes will come out quite naturally. Colonel Brandon strikes me as a thoughtful, introspective kind of guy, who would be aware enough to notice these repeating elements showing up in his own life. And if he notices, we’ll hear about it, since he’s telling the story in his own words.
Colonel Brandon’s past cannot help but color his view of the future, as it does with all of us to some extent. So can he overcome his tragic history to find happiness at last? Fortunately, we know the answer is yes! Now, I thought you might enjoy this little clip from the chapter I wrote about when Brandon first sets eyes on Marianne. (This is one of many scenes that Jane Austen didn’t write and that I’m happy to fill in!)
Delightful and pretty as can be, Sir John had said. That would be agreeable, of course, but I only hoped they would be pleasant, sensible, well-mannered women with no propensity for silliness or flirtation. There, my age had become my best protection; no doubt it would be the same in this case. At five and thirty, I must have been too old to be of any interest to the girls and too young for the mother. That was as it should be, for I was a confirmed bachelor, long since having passed the point of wanting a wife of my own, and content for my nephew to be my heir.
Then I walked into the room that night, took one look at Marianne Dashwood, and everything changed. A part of me that I had long given up as dead, flared to new life. Miss Marianne was very fair… and very young. In fact, she was exactly of an age and of a remarkable likeness to my Eliza before I lost her. For a long moment, I was struck dumb and stone still; I could do no more than stare. Then I gave myself an inward shake and dragged my eyes away before I could be thought too boorish. Still, I am afraid I was quite stupid when introduced to the ladies, for I could not quickly shake off the startling impression that some measure of the sweet friend of my youth had been miraculously resurrected before my eyes.
Do you think this is how it happened and what Brandon was feeling at that moment? Had you ever thought about these themes in Sense and Sensibility before? Which one most interests you? Did I miss any that you’ve noticed? I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few more. The themes just keep on coming!
Sometimes starting is the hardest part of writing a novel (read more about that subject here). That’s seems to be the case this time. At least I certainly hope it gets easier going forward!
I knew I wanted to write a Sense and Sensibility novel, as I told you back in June (post: What’s Next?). Then after your feedback, I settled on telling Colonel Brandon’s story. (Proposed title: Colonel Brandon in His Own Words.) I will delve a little deeper into his backstory – his relationships with his family and especially with Eliza, a bit about his army years, returning home to find Eliza dying, his inheriting Delaford. Then his life is reanimated by meeting Marianne – their relationship evolving from one-sided through to mutual love and marriage. Everything from Brandon’s point of view and in His Own Words.
I looked forward to filling in all those blanks – the stuff Jane Austen only hinted at, just as I did in my previous book (Fitzwilliam Darcy in His Own Words). But still I couldn’t seem to get started. First roadblock: some research, which is not my forte. Another challenge was deciding at what point in time to open the book.
I didn’t want to start at the beginning of his life, writing the book like a perfectly chronological diary: “I was born October19, 1778…” After all, authors are always told that we should start our stories where the action is. That’s something I haven’t always succeeded in doing. Of course, neither did Jane Austen, so I don’t feel too bad about that.
I could start close to the end and tell nearly everything in retrospective; that would be another perfectly viable option.
But I think I’m going to start in the middle instead, at Colonel Brandon’s point of crisis, when he’s sure he’s lost Marianne forever. There are actually six days between when he goes to Elinor to confirm that Marianne is going to marry Willoughby (“Tell me then, Miss Dashwood, please. Is everything finally settled between them?“) and when he learns that Willoughby is actually engaged to Miss Gray.
What a miserable week that must have been for him. Plenty of time to think through all that has gone before as well as the bleak outlook for the future. So that’s the situation in the excerpt below. Hope you enjoy this sneak peek! Then I’ll want your opinion.
It is happening again, and I suddenly feel very old. Although I survived it once before – just – I have the gravest doubts that I can do so again. Some days, I do not even wish to.
The circumstances are quite different this time, it is true. But the pain is the same – the sudden wrenching in my gut each time I think of it, which I do nearly every minute of every day; the repeated jolt of panic in my brain, which tells me that I must do something to stop it; the hollow ache in my heart and the certain knowledge of my own pathetic powerlessness. It is all too familiar, for once again the hand of the woman I love more than life itself is being given irrevocably to another, and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.
It is no doubt weak and self-indulgent, as I have repeatedly told myself, but my mind will persist in entertaining questions of morbid curiosity. I cannot seem to help asking if, overall, it is better or worse this time. Is my disappointment more or less profound, the circumstances more or less regrettable? Will the resulting pain last as long as before and leave scars as deep?
On the surface, the current event appears worse – at least for myself personally – for I shall not only have the pain that she is lost to me forever but the additional mortification of knowing she does not care for me. Well in fact, she thinks nothing of me at all. So, God willing, I shall be the only one to suffer, which was not the case before.
Poor Eliza. I would not wish Marianne Dashwood to experience the same fate, not for the world. In fact, that must be my chief consolation: knowing that she is happy, even if it must be in the arms of another man. I would willingly sacrifice my own happiness and more if it would secure a lasting one for her. And yet who can say that her current bliss will endure, dependent as it is upon a man of whom I have every reason to think ill? And so my mind cannot by any means be easy for the future – hers or my own.
I’m still very open to suggestions at this point, so what do you think? Is this a good way to start the book? Does it capture your interest and make you want to read more, or not? Do you think it’s cruel of me to leave poor Brandon stuck in this painful place for so long? But then, that’s another bit of writing wisdom: You must torture you hero/heroine before giving them their happy ending. And of course there will be a happy ending!
Colonel Brandon… was silent and grave. His appearance however was not unpleasing, in spite of his being in the opinion of Marianne and Margaret an absolute old bachelor, for he was on the wrong side of five and thirty; but though his face was not handsome his countenance was sensible, and his address was particularly gentlemanlike. – Sense and Sensibility
Before you ask, no, I don’t have exciting progress on a new book to tell you about. I wish I did. I will have to count that as one of the “downs” of this month.
But I always look forward to August – good weather, our anniversary, often a trip to the lake – and this year was no different. In fact, we had two trips planned this time – unusual for us, since we hardly ever go anywhere.
First, though, I had a week of jury duty to get through. Not necessarily a “down.” I’ve done it before and found it interesting. It would just be an inconvenience – driving into Tacoma every day, dealing with city traffic and city parking, getting nothing else done. That’s what I anticipated. Instead what happened is that my group number never came up, so I didn’t have to report at all.
Then we were off to Sunriver, Oregon, for six days of vacation! We visited friends in Bend on the way, which was a delight, and we were meeting other friends at our destination. It promised to be a fun getaway!
That promise was mostly kept. We hiked beside the Deschutes River to a falls, and we also traversed the subterranean caverns of a mile-long lava tube. We explored the quaint town of Sunriver Village, ate overpriced ice cream, and floated the Deschutes River. All good.
But while there, I received the upsetting news that my 89-year old mother had been hospitalized with a significant stroke. We left Sunriver early to begin a bedside vigil that lasted ten days until she passed away.
My mom and I were very close, so obviously this was a severe blow, as those of you who have been through it know all too well. And yet, even in this most-serious of downs – loss of a family member – there were blessings. I’m grateful for my mom’s sweet spirit. I am grateful that she didn’t suffer a painful death. I am grateful there was time for everyone to come and say goodbye. I’m grateful that instead of lingering, possibly for years, in the ever-increasing incapacitation that her dementia would have caused, she could talk and walk and recognize her loved ones to the end. And I’m most grateful for the hope of heaven, where I will see her again someday. In the meantime, I’m glad to know she is freed from her struggle, restored, and at peace, safe with Jesus and reunited with my dad and others who have gone before.
One more thing I’m grateful for: that we had a peaceful place to retreat afterward. Although our trip to Montana was delayed, we decided not to cancel it entirely. So this is where I sit now as I write this post. When something bad happens, we more than ever need reminders of what’s good and beautiful in our world. It’s easy to see that here. In fact, it feels like a little taste of heaven.
“I shall soon be rested,” said Fanny; “to sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure, is the most perfect refreshment.”
When your firstborn turns 10, it’s only fitting that you should throw a party, right? That’s what’s happening today. My very first novel – The Darcys of Pemberley – was published exactly ten years ago today, and what a difference that decade has made in my life!
You should know that when I started writing the story in 2004, I had absolutely no idea that such a thing as Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF) existed. I just knew that I wanted more Jane Austen – more Pride and Prejudice particularly.
What would happen after the wedding, I wondered. How would Darcy and Elizabeth deal with the first major crisis in their marriage? Did Georgiana have a secret love? What kind of trouble would Wickham cause next? And would Lady Catherine ever get her comeuppance? My inquiring mind needed to know!
So one day I sat down at the computer to try to answer those questions. I hoped to create what I desperately wanted myself: a faithful sequel to Pride and Prejudice. Since I had never attempted to write a novel before, I didn’t know if I could actually do it. And I certainly had no aspirations of publication at the time. I was doing it mostly for my own entertainment.
But I surprised myself. The book turned out so well – at least for my first try – that I thought I might be a legitimate novelist after all! Many hurdles remained, of course, but finally on July 28, 2011, my “darling child” was launched out into the world. Now I have ten novels (and one non-fiction) published, and my “day job” has long since disappeared from my rearview mirror. But it all began with The Darcys of Pemberley – my first, bestselling, and still most popular novel.
I want to tell you that I have got my own darling child from London. On Wednesday I received one copy sent down by Falkener… Miss B. dined with us on the very day of the book’s coming, and in the evening we fairly set at it, and read half the first vol. to her… she really does seem to admire Elizabeth. I must confess that I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, and how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know.
– Jane Austen, in a letter, regarding Pride and Prejudice
I can just imagine how Jane Austen felt when she wrote this about her newly published novel Pride and Prejudice. I felt much the same, I think, when I first held a copy of The Darcys of Pemberley in my hand 10 years ago.
Solet’s celebrate that big day with some games and prizes!
Game 1: Cover art puzzle. Just for fun, follow this link to do an online jigsaw puzzle of the artwork used for the full, wrap-around paperback cover of The Darcys of Pemberley. (You can adjust the numbers of pieces to make it more or less difficult if you want.)
Game 2: How about a little scavenger hunt through chapter one? (If you don’t own the book, you can read chapter one from the free sample at Amazon). First, discover who has died. Next, find a new character who was never mentioned in Pride and Prejudice. What’s her name and her relation to the deceased? Finally, what’s your favorite line in chapter one – something that made you laugh or smile perhaps?
You don’t have to play the games to win, but If you do play (game 2), you will double your chances by being entered twice in the random drawing! What’s at stake? I’m giving away 5 audio codes, 2 ebooks, and 1 signed paperback – that’s for the runners up. The grand prize winner gets all three, plus a limited-edition Darcys of Pemberley book bead, pictured! (Due to the high cost of international shipping, the physical prizes are offered to US residents only. Electronic alternatives will be substituted for all others.)
To be entered, just bop on over to Austen Variations (where this post is running concurrently), and leave a comment: your scavenger hunt answers and/or whatever else you’d like to say. Have you read The Darcys of Pemberley? If so, how long ago, and what did you enjoy about it? If you haven’t read it yet, would you like to? Why? Winners will be announced August 2nd, right here, on the Austen Variations post, and on the AuVar FB page. So be sure to check back.
And thank you for celebrating TDoP’s 10th birthday with me!
UPDATE 8/2/21: CONGRATULATIONS to the WINNERS! Elizabeth Litton (Grand Prize), Katie Jackson, Laura Wiersma, Laura H, Lois, Glynis, Betty Madden, JWGarrett, and Sheila L. Majczan. Please email me at shannon(at)shannonwinslow(dot)com (subject line Happy BirthdayTDoP) to claim your prize. Tell me your preference (what book, what form you would like) and hopefully I will be able to accommodate your requests! You do not need to have an Audible account to use an audio code, btw, but I will need to know which you have access to, Audible US or UK.
I haven’t done a movie review here in quite a while. So, since I just watched it again, I thought I’d share my thoughts about the newest Austen novel adaptation, Emma 2020. But first a brief update:
No, unfortunately I don’t have major progress on a new book to report (see previous post). But the good news is that the audio book of Fitzwilliam Darcy in His Own Words is now available! Harry Frost (who is the voice of Darcy to so many) did a great job narrating the story, and I think you’ll enjoy listening to it. I did! (Read a little about the collaborative process – my notes to him and his comments to me, etc. – in this post at Austen Variations.)
Now, back to the movie review.
To begin, I should say that when I heard there was another film adaptation of Emma being made, my initial reaction was, “Why?” After all, we already had three good movie versions, (starring Kate Beckinsale, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Ramola Garai in the title role). I own and like them all, for slightly different reasons. (I wondered why they didn’t make a decent adaptation of Mansfield Park instead? I’m still waiting for one worth adding to my collection!)
Of course, when it came out, I had to see it anyway. I couldn’t NOT watch a new Jane Austen movie! In fact, I had a date made to meet a friend at the theater. Then Covid hit and closed the theaters that very day. I finally got to see the movie a few months later.
At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of it, though – strange music, a bazaar nose bleed just where I would least want one, a Knightley who seemed too young and briefly appeared naked, and plenty of liberties taken with the story and characters. A faithful adaptation? No. Still there was something interesting about it – interesting enough to take a second look.
I was glad, then, that I had a copy of the movie on loan, so that I could do just that. In fact, I watched it three times before returning it – or maybe it was four. Each time, the movie grew on me a little more until I decided I must add it to my permanent collection alongside the other three.
What turned the tide of my opinion? Most importantly, after the first time through I stopped expecting it to be something it wasn’t. No, although it captures the spirit, it’s not a completely faithful adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel. But, as I said before, we didn’t really need another one of those anyway, did we? This Emma is deliberately different; it must be judged for what it is – what it attempts to do – not for what it isn’t.
What it is is innovative and quirky. It’s fun and funny. It’s “Jane Austen’s beloved comedy… reimagined in [a] delicious new film adaptation.”
So, considered in this new light, everything makes more sense. The odd music choices don’t put me off; I rather enjoy them. I find Johnny Flynn’s version of Mr. Knightley – one more tortured and less sure of himself than the others – rather endearing. Bill Nighy’s much more energetic but equally neurotic Mr. Woodhouse has completely won me over. (I still don’t really care for the nosebleed, btw, but I can live with it.)
As for the leading lady, Anya Taylor-Joy, I think she does the title role justice. Her Emma is not very likable (Jane Austen never meant her to be), but by the end she has been humbled and softened sufficiently that we can wish her well.
The real evils indeed of Emma’s situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself; these were disadvantages which threatened alloy to her many enjoyments. The danger, however, was at present so unperceived, that they did not by any means rank as misfortunes with her. (Emma, chapter 1)
Other highlights? THE COSTUMING! Even people who hated the movie raved about the costumes. And then there’s the Emma/Knightley ON-SCREEN CHEMISTRY. It really revs up during the dance sequence, and then there’s that one other scene… In the Kate Beckinsale / Mark Strong version of the culminating kiss, I cringe every time or even avert my eyes: zero chemistry. With this one, I sigh, then I back it up and watch it again… and possibly again after that.
[Confession: I would probably have bought the movie just for this scene alone – their palpable attraction first explored, along with the moving musical accompaniment – thrills my romantic little soul every time. It has now joined a couple of other all-time favorite scenes that I always watch more than once: what I call “The Look” in P&P ’95, and the meeting at the railway station at the end of North and South.]
So if you haven’t seen Emma 2020 yet, I recommend you do… with an open mind, not expecting something it was never intended to be. If you have seen it and didn’t care for it, consider giving it a second look. It may grow on you, like it did me, until you’ve given it a place in your affection and maybe even in your movie collection.
Note: A big THANK-YOU to those who have read it and then told your friends or left lovely reviews for the book at Amazon and Goodreads. I SO appreciate your taking a few minutes to do that!!!
The only task still ahead is to see the audio version – being recorded right now by Harry Frost – through to publication (end of June or in July). So it’s about time I get serious about starting another book!
I have in mind doing a Sense and Sensibility book next. As you may know, my goal is to write at least one novel related to each of Jane Austen’s six, and only Emma and S&S remain. Also, S&S is the book that will be featured at the 2022 JASNA AGM, which I hope to attend since it will be relatively close by (Victoria, BC, Canada).
I’ve considered a couple of options for this next book. See what you think.
1) I’ve thought of doing a S&S sequel in the style of a mystery, since I had so much fun writing Murder at Northanger Abbey. Strange things start happening at Delaford, and it appears Marianne’s life might be in danger. The main focus would be on her relationship with her husband Col. Brandon, before and then after their happiness is disrupted. Edward and Elinor, who live so close by at the parsonage, naturally get into the act too, helping to solve the mystery. I don’t know what the title would be, though. Danger at Delaford?
2) Since I enjoyed writing from Darcy’s point of view, I could do another book in the same format: Colonel Brandon in His Own Words. I could delve a little deeper into his backstory – his relationships with his family members and especially with Eliza, their forced separation, a bit about his army years, returning home to find Eliza dying and him inheriting Delaford. Then his life is reanimated by meeting Marianne – their relationship evolving from one-sided through to mutual love. (Aside: Since it would be Brandon’s first-person account, wouldn’t it have been a dream-come-true if Alan Rickman could have narrated the audio book?)
3) Actually, I don’t exactly have a third option in mind, but I’m totally open to suggestions!
In any case, it’s Colonel Brandon that I find the most appealing and possibility-filled character.
Colonel Brandon… was silent and grave. His appearance however was not unpleasing, in spite of his being in the opinion of Marianne and Margaret an absolute old bachelor, for he was on the wrong side of five and thirty; but though his face was not handsome his countenance was sensible, and his address was particularly gentlemanlike. – Sense and Sensibility, chapter 7
So, what do you think? Do you have more enthusiasm for option #1 or 2, or is there a different sort of Sense and Sensibility book you’re dying to read?
Where does S&S rank on your list of Jane Austen’s novel? (For me, it’s probably about the middle of the pack – somewhere after P&P and Persuasion, and somewhere before Mansfield Park.
Which character in the book do you think is most intriguing?
Which film adaptation do you think is the best?
I’d love to hear your opinions. Help me decide What’s Next!
It’s here at last! I’m excited and proud to introduce my latest novel to you: Fitzwilliam Darcy in His Own Words.
When one online friend heard that my new book was coming out on Star Wars Day (“May the 4th be with you.”), she said she fully expected it to be a Pride and Prejudice / Star Wars mash-up. Sorry. Cool idea. Maybe a short story someday.
But, no,Fitzwilliam Darcy in His Own Words is pure, unadulterated Pride and Prejudice – unadulterated, that is, in the sense that Austen’s original story remains unchanged. But I have added a treasure trove of previously undisclosed information to it, including revealing the behind-the-scenes love triangle that threatened to completely and permanently change the outcome! So is this novel a variation or not? Yes and no. It’s part prequel, a ton of “missing scenes” material and all of it in an alternate character’s point of view: that of our favorite hero, Fitzwilliam Darcy.
It was tremendous fun writing this book! -getting inside Darcy’s head, discovering what he was thinking and what he was up to all that time. I hope you will enjoy reading his story too! So, without further ado, here’s the book blurb, followed by the slightly shocking Prologue in Darcy’s Own Words:
What was Mr. Darcy’s life like before he met Elizabeth Bennet? – before he stepped onto the Pride and Prejudice stage at the Meryton assembly? More importantly, where is he and what is he doing all the time he’s absent from the page thereafter? And what is his relationship to a woman named Amelia?
With Fitzwilliam Darcy, in His Own Words, the iconic literary hero finally tells his own story, from the traumas of his early life to the consummation of his love for Elizabeth and everything in between.
This is not a variation but a supplement to the original story, chronicled in Darcy’s point of view – a behind-the-scenes look at the things Jane Austen didn’t tell us. As it happens, Darcy’s journey was more tortuous than she let on, his happy ending with Elizabeth in jeopardy at every turn in his struggle between duty and his heart’s desire, between the suitable lady he has promised to marry and the woman he can’t stop thinking about.
I still occasionally suffer that recurrent dream – a nightmare, really. I awake at Darcy House in London. Morning light is filtering through the diaphanous draperies at the windows, painting ghostly shadow patterns across the opposite wall. I feel a great sense of wellbeing at the start of a new day. All is right with the world, or at least my portion of it.
Then I turn toward the other side of the bed and see… not Elizabeth, as I expect, but the Honorable Miss Amelia Lambright. Only of course she is no longer an honorable miss, not when she has spent the night in a man’s bed. Then I suddenly remember why she is there. Her name is Miss Lambright no more; she is Mrs. Darcy now. My heart lurches and I break into a cold sweat, not because the former Miss Lambright is so horridly unappealing, but because she is not Elizabeth.
I tell myself it surely must be a hallucination or some trick of the light. So I shake my head to clear any cobwebs, rub my eyes, and blink. Still, the wrong woman is before me. Please, God, let it be a dream!
I fight to awaken, to claw my way back to the world where I belong, the world where Mrs. Darcy has not blonde but dark, sat-iny hair and sparkling eyes. My throat constricts; I cannot breathe. I cannot find my voice to call out. Elizabeth, where are you? I must find her! My life depends on it.
When on these disturbing occasions I at last come to myself, it is many minutes before my heart and breathing return to normal, and longer still until my mind can quiet itself. Even after I have verified that Elizabeth is indeed beside me where she belongs; beheld her face, a peaceful portrait of repose in whatever meager light offers; pulled her warm, familiar form to fit close against mine; and heard her sleepy but unmistakable voice murmuring my name with affection…
Even then my soul quakes within me for how close the vision from which I have just awakened came to being true, how close I came to missing Elizabeth altogether. Then she and I would have been only two ships sailing the same stretch of sea, perhaps even passing within sight of each other occasionally but never hap-pening to come into a common port together, at least not until it had been too late.
My happier outcome depended on the slimmest thread of unlikely circumstances being precariously strung together without error. At any one of a dozen junctures, the course of my life could have carried me in a completely different direction.
When I consider this, I shudder. Then I thank God for His providential care in guiding me safely through. I thank Bingley for Netherfield. And Wickham. Strangely enough, now, years later, I can think back with some philosophy, enough to acknowledge the part he unwittingly played. Were it not for Wickham and his nefarious but timely interventions, I would likely be married to Amelia Lambright today.
Intrigued? I hope so! Fitzwilliam Darcy in His Own Words is available NOW in paperback, Kindle, and KU. Want it in audio? I’m delighted to tell you that the incomparable Harry Frost is currently recording the book! It should be out the end of June or in July.
Meanwhile, watch for the limited blog tour stops I have planned for more about the book, excerpts, and humorous interviews (featuring a disgruntled Mr. Collins and an aloof Mr. Darcy).