1. Pamela Aidan grew up in small towns outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She graduated from high school with the desire to be a history teacher, but changed her major to Library Science after her first year at college.Later, she earned a Masters in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has worked as a librarian in a wide variety of settings for over thirty years.
Besides writing and operating Wytherngate Press, she is also the director of Liberty Lake Municipal Library in eastern Washington, a short distance from her home in Idaho. She and her husband have six children, three children each from former marriage sand, so far, six grandchildren.
She published the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series including An Assembly such as this, Duty and Desire, These Three Remain.
Read my interview with her, leave your comment and add your e-mail address to get the chance to win Pamela Aidan's brand new Young Master Darcy: A Lesson in Honour. The giveaway is open worldwide and ends 26th January.
Now join me in welcoming Pamela Aidan on My Jane Austen Book Club!
An Assembly Such as This, Duty and Desire, and These Three Remain are a retell ing of the story of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s point of view. My first questions focuses on him, the most beloved Austen hero : Mr Darcy. What has made this character a cult model hero in your opinion?
When you say a “cult model hero,” we can only be talking about the popularity of Darcy post-1995 BBC Pride & Prejudice. Previous to that production, I think we’d be hard pressed to find evidence of Darcy as cult hero. It was that 1995 production in which Colin Firth interpreted Darcy to the world that started this Austen character on the road to wide-spread acclaim. The elements were all present or potentially so as Austen wrote them, of course. Every regency novel written after Austen owes its plot and characters to her story of initial antagonism between a man and woman of unequal status. But it was only after Firth’s portrayal of a Darcy that is vulnerable as well as proud, with a sense of humor and a real admiration of Elizabeth prior to the first proposal that this Austen character shot into the company of heroes. The later version, starring Matthew McFadyen continued, to some degree, this new interpretation of Darcy as more than a stiff poker tersely delivering set-downs to all and sundry.
Given Firth’s humanization of Darcy, I think the answer must then turn to the character as Austen wrote him. The heroic elements are there as well as a delicious mystery. Darcy’s situation in life is one that makes him very attractive to most women: he is handsome, in a socially superior sphere of society, wealthy, educated, admired, and the right age. His wife would enjoy a life without fear of want, society, conversation, or extended widow-hood. The perfect companion, this Prince Charming! But, his proud temper ruins it all and has the perverse effect of making the heroine into the unsuitable partner. What girl has not experienced a similar rejection and worked to overcome the negative feelings about herself as a result? But, Darcy changes and changes so significantly that he proposes to her twice and does her service that he would never have considered before. His commitment to do Elizabeth good (Lydia’s predicament) in secret, without her ever knowing, shows a complete change of character that sets him among the company of heroes.
Austen’s novel is Elizabeth’s novel, written mostly from her point of view. Darcy’s inner thoughts, motivations, and struggles are not touched upon until the first proposal and after the second. We simply don’t know who he is and, most importantly, why and how he changed. My trilogy began as an attempt to understand why and how Darcy changed so dramatically. In discovering the answer, I had to create a world for him in which to live and breathe, other friends and characters who could explain him to us and people and events for him to rub up against so that he might discover more about himself. I think Firth was brilliant in his portrayal of Darcy and I took my cue from that and tried to create a fully-realized character.
I suppose I still do not regard Darcy’s character as “finished” even after three books! He seems very nearly perfect and we can’t have that! He must stay human and flawed to some degree or in some area.
I decided to make him aware of his feelings for Elizabeth sooner, perhaps, than Austen intended. I probably made him more introspective than the character really is. The most obvious change is that “my” Darcy’s actions are sometimes a result of insecurity, uncertainty, or family pressure rather than undiluted pride.
Firth or McFadyen?
It should be quite obvious by now: Firth, Firth, Firth! Although, in fairness to McFadyen, he was working with a much inferior script.
Your latest realease too features Darcy as the protagonist: Young Master Darcy: A Lesson in Honour. Could you please tell us something about this new novel ?
When I wrote and published the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series there were very few other books out there that were using characters from Pride and Prejudice and even fewer that were using an alternate point of view to retell the original events. Now there are dozens and dozens of books of Austen fan fiction, most of which are sequels, exploring Darcy and Elizabeth’s married life. That path is, therefore, well-trod. As the Gentleman series began with asking the question “How and why did Darcy change?” Young Master Darcy begins with the question “How did Darcy become the man Elizabeth met at the assembly in Meryton?” We have a tantalizing hint in Darcy’s discourse with Elizabeth after the second proposal where he indicates that he was raised with “good principles” but never made to live by them. Darcy as a teen and young man seemed a much more interesting field for discovery than another book on his post Pride and Prejudice life.
Young Master Darcy: A Lesson in Honour begins with a thirteen year-old Darcy coming home from his first term away at school at Christmas time 1797 to find that his mother is ill and dying. She asks everyone to keep a stiff upper lip and celebrate Christmas at Pemberley as they always have, but this becomes increasingly hard for young Darcy. He is distracted from his grief by a company of young mummers he stumbles upon, his cousins D’Arcy and Richard Fitzwilliam, and a girl among the mummers who intrigues him in a new and different way. As the story unfolds, readers will be able to meet Darcy’s father, mother and two year-old Georgianna. It is a coming of age story. Darcy is growing into the man we recognize in Pride and Prejudice.
The hardest task for an Austen inspired writer is coping with her unique witty style. Mimicking her must really be tough job. How did you prepare yourself to write Austen sequels?
I knew that I could not imitate Austen successfully. Her style is too original, too unique. Yet, I knew that I would need to approach her style simply to avoid a disconnect between parts of Austen’s work that would have to be used word-for-word and my own work. I settled for a quasi-imitation that recalled her syntax and sentence structure but was not slavishly attached to it. I also helped myself to the regency slang or cant that I picked up from a long acquaintance with Georgette Heyer’s regency novels of the 1940s and 1950s. It seems to have been successful!
Is there any aspect in Austen work which hasn’t been properly studied or divulged?
In my opinion, Mansfield Park is the most difficult book for a modern audience to grasp. One thing that the 1995 Pride and Prejudice did for modern and particularly American audiences was to reveal when something was supposed to be funny! Like Shakespeare and the Bible, every utterance was taken to be deadly serious and the humanity and humor were lost until we saw the actors laughing with their lines. Now, with younger readers and viewers of Pride and Prejudice having no idea why all the fuss is made about Lydia’s running off and living with Wickham sans marriage, Mansfield Park suffers from a particularly wide cultural gap. As a result the book and its heroine, Fanny Price, are largely dismissed, even to the point where the antagonists of the book, the Crawfords, are regarded as the true heroes! Did Austen make a mistake in writing Mansfield Park, or does it need to be studied further for those of us reading it two hundred years later to appreciate? I believe the latter.
How do you explain the current incredible success of everything Austen related? What his the appeal of her work to nowadays’ audience?
This appeal, I believe, occurs at two levels. On the surface, the appeal to women comes from several angles. First, Austen’s heroines are pretty, not unrealistically gorgeous, and are witty and forthright, holding their own with the male protagonist. Most women would like to be that confident.
The other great appeal lies in the way in which the honor of both hero and heroine heightens the value of the actions in each as they come to resolution of their love for each other. Elizabeth’s honor is further adorned by the love of a man of Darcy’s distinction and the lengths to which he goes to win her regard. Darcy’s honor is heightened by the love of a woman “worthy of being pleased,” who has proven immune to compromise and is sensible of the great efforts he has made to correct his flaws. To be so valued is a heady thing in any age.
. There are lots of movie adaptation of Austen novels and films which are Austen-inpired. Have all these adaptations contributed to bring more people to read the books or to the fact that the new contemporary audience is satisfied with making the acquaintance with Austen characters and plots only through them without ever reading the originals?
I’m sure, for many people, the films are enough, especially when the adaptations have been faithful to the book. But, it has been my experience that those who have read my novels first, go back to the original either for the first time or with renewed enthusiasm because now, they say, they “understand it better.” Because of Austen’s style and the two hundred year gap in culture, we’ve needed the movies to give us the cues for what is happening or being discussed in the novels. It appears from the sales figures, that Austen’s original novels are being read in extraordinary numbers.
I think that the films have both distorted the real nature of Austen’s work and contributed to their popularity, but not every one has done both!
We've recently celebrated Jane’s birthday here on My Jane Austen Book Club and all over the Austen-dedicated blogosphere. Did you do anything special?
I celebrated Jane’s birthday by posting a note of deep appreciation for her at my Facebook account and publishing my fourth book—Young Master Darcy!
Thanks a lot, Pamela for finding the time to be my guest and answer my questions. It's been a great pleasure!
Good luck to all our readers in the giveaway of Young Master Darcy.