As most of you know, I did my best to rid the world of the specter of Mr. Collins long ago. I documented his death in The Darcys of Pemberley and expanded on the story in Mr. Collins’s Last Supper. But guess what? He’s back – alive and well and carving out a good living for himself as a TV talk show host. I recently had the surreal experience of being interviewed by him for his show Meet the Author. He’s the one who’s in for a shock, though.
The interview was originally published on Barbara Tiller Cole’s blog Darcyholic Diversions. But it’s now reproduced in full below. Read it either place.
William Collins, celebrated TV talk show host, speaks with today’s guest: author Shannon Winslow
Stage Director: And we’re live in five, four, three…..
(The applause sign lights, and Mr. Collins, sitting opposite his guest in a matching swivel arm chair, smiles benevolently as he waits for the ovation of the studio audience to die down)
Collins: Good morning, Ms. Winslow, and thank you for joining me here on Meet the Author.
Winslow: My pleasure, Mr. Collins. But I suppose I should call you Sir William and congratulate you on your recent elevation to the knighthood.
(Another smattering of applause)
Collins: I thank you, madam, but there is no need to stand on ceremony here. Although I have been so fortunate as to attain a measure of greatness – not without the assistance of a series of noble patrons, I might add – I do not forget my humble origins as a country parson.
Winslow: Nevertheless, I’m sure this latest honor is well deserved.
Collins: I flatter myself that it is, for my ‘unique contribution to the literary world and decades of faithful service to the crown.’ I believe that was the exact wording. You may read the entire transcript at your leisure, Ms. Winslow. My assistant will supply you a copy.
Winslow: That’s very kind, but no one needs to remind me of your contribution to the literary world. Your character is legendary and has proven extremely valuable to my own modest literary efforts.
Collins: Then I am gratified, as indeed I always am, to have been of some small service. Now, I regret to confess, Ms. Winslow, that with all the demands on my time, I have not as yet read any of your work. However, I am told that you have a new book out. Have I been rightly informed?
Winslow: You have indeed! My second novel, For Myself Alone, was recently released, and I’m excited about the excellent reviews it’s received.
Collins: That is all very well, but what I wish to know is this. Am I in the book?
Winslow: Not exactly. You see, although For Myself Alone is ‘Jane Austen inspired,’ it’s an independent story with all new characters. I imagined what her next book might have been, and that’s what I wrote. Then I slipped in lines form her novels here and there just for fun. But you’ll be glad to know that one of those quotations is yours, Mr. Collins.
Winslow: “You can hardly doubt the purport of my discourse. My attentions have been too marked to be mistaken.” From the proposal scene, remember?
Collins: How could I forget? More immortal words have rarely been spoken, and they should rightly have carried the day. But I digress. Tell me about your first novel. What is it called again? I’m told it is quite successful, but the name escapes me. There is, after all, so much quality literature available at present that although I spend hours a day studying in my book room, which fronts the road by the way, I cannot possibly keep up.
Winslow: Perfectly understandable. My first book is The Darcys of Pemberley, a sequel to Pride and Prejudice. It came out last August and is doing very well, both in England and America, I’m happy to say. Of course, all of us would have loved the original author to write the continuing story. But, as she was unavailable, I did my best to stand in her place, to be true to her characters and style. I only hope I have done her justice.
Collins: Doubtless Miss Austen would be flattered that you hold her in such high regard. Now, back to me. I believe you said before the show that I play an important role in this novel.
Winslow: Oh, yes! A crucial role. I can’t imagine how I would have managed without you, Mr. Collins. In fact, you were the first person I thought of when I sat down to write. It came to me out of the blue that the story simply must begin with you. And then I later expanded the scene into a successful short story.
Collins: Well, I must say I am impressed with your obvious taste and flawless literary instincts, Ms. Winslow, for knowing at once where – and with whom – to start. And I trust my character features prominently right through the book to the last scene. In which case it occurs to me that you might have chosen the title with more circumspection – The Clergyman of Hunsford, perhaps – for The Darcys of Pemberley implies that the center of attention will be Mr. Darcy, my cousin Elizabeth, and their local society. You would not wish to lead your readers astray, would you?
Winslow: Oh, dear! Didn’t anyone tell you?
Collins: Tell me what, pray?
Winslow: That the novel is mostly about Darcy, Elizabeth, and their closest friends. I’m sorry to disappoint you, Mr. Collins, but your character’s moment in the sun, while glorious, is unfortunately rather brief. In fact, he has the great misfortune to die at the very outset of the story.
(The audience gasps and Mr. Collins blanches alarmingly, his mouth gaping open in silent horror)
Stage Director: Cut! Go to commercial!