There is a certain mystique about a trilogy, and I think most novelists dream of writing at least one – one that’s important, acclaimed… and preferably available as a beautifully boxed set! That was my dream.
Actually when I wrote my first Pride and Prejudice sequel, I didn’t know there would be more. The goal was just to carry Darcy and Elizabeth into their married life and tell the story of Georgiana Darcy’s courtship. That’s what I did in The Darcys of Pemberley. But then my muse kept asking me, “Yeah, but what happens after that? What about Mary and Kitty? What happens if Mr. Bennet dies? Who inherits Longbourn, since you killed off Mr. Collins?” Importunate questions, indeed! And when the answers started popping into my head, I knew I had to write another book… or maybe TWO more books. Aha! That was it: a trilogy! How cool would that be?
So I set about plotting what would happen in the two books to follow – or my version of plotting, which means developing a vague idea of where I’m headed and then finding the most interesting route to get there as I write. But that’s where my plans took a detour.
In book number two, Return to Longbourn, I picked up the story a few years later when, sadly, Mr. Bennet dies, leaving his wife and two unmarried daughters to deal with the new heir to Longbourn: Mr. Tristan Collins (the much more attractive brother of William Collins, deceased). The book got off to a fine start, and then one of the characters hijacked the story and went galloping off in a different direction than I had expected. The result was a lot of fun and a much better book than the one I had originally planned.
So what’s the problem? Well, when I was finished with Return to Longbourn, all my loose ends were tied up in very neat little bows; there were no threads dangling, nothing left to spin into a third book. I had a pair of lovely novels, yes, but no trilogy! So disappointing!
I must have said it a hundred times – explaining to readers in what order they should read my books: “You should know the Pride and Prejudice story first, since the other two books are sequels to it. Then read The Darcys of Pemberley next and Return to Longborn last.”
It finally occurred to me that I ALREADY HAD MY TRILOGY! Austen had written the first volume, and I had followed with number two and three. Three books united by common characters, settings, and themes: that’s a trilogy. Right? And I certainly don’t mind sharing billing with Jane!
As for the boxed set, that remains a dream for now. But I couldn’t resist having my graphic designer whip up this virtual version in the meantime.
What do you think? Wouldn’t it look splendid sitting on your bookshelf? *sigh*
Postscript: Since writing the above, I have authored two more P&P sequels: Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley and The Ladies of Rosings Park. But these are more like variations of TDOP (companions to it), since they expand the story laterally rather than extending the series chronologically. So I’m sticking with the group above as my official Pride and Prejudice trilogy!