Susan Adriani has been a fan of Jane Austen and her beloved characters for as long as she can remember. Originally from New England, she attended a small art college close to her home, where she majored in illustration. In 2007, after contemplating the unexplored possibilities in one of Miss Austen’s most celebrated novels, Pride and Prejudice, she began to write her first novel-length story, The Truth About Mr. Darcy (formerly Affinity and Affection). With encouragement from fellow Austen enthusiasts she continued, and is currently at work on her second book. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, young daughter, and a very impertinent cat. The Truth About Mr. Darcy will be available in bookstores in May 2011.
THE GIVEAWAY is open worldwide this week!!! Susan Adriani's book is inspired to Pride and Prejudice, so we decided that, since her novel is not available yet, leaving your comments and e-mail address you'll have a chance to win a brand new copy of very special edition of Jane Austen's masterpiece: The Annotated Pride and Prejudice, edited by David M. Shapard.
Glad to talk with you about Jane Austen, Susan. Thank you for accepting to answer my questions.
Thank you so much for inviting me, Maria Grazia. It's a pleasure to be here today.
Welcome on My Jane Austen Book Club and thank you, Susan. First question, as usual, you and Jane Austen. When did it start and how?
My first journey into Jane Austen's world was when the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride & Prejudice first aired on television. My best friend lured me to her house, where we spent an entire rainy afternoon glued to the television (she'd taped it on VHS). The next day I went out and bought the book. After that, there was no turning back.
What is it in her work and in her life that most fascinating you?
At first, it was Jane's sense of humor that drew me in, but it was her cast of characters—heroes, heroines, and villains alike—that captivated me throughout. She also paints a very vivid picture of life in the regency period, and I've always found that life fascinating. I love the politeness of the era, the formality, the customs, the language, the dress—the list goes on and on!
Do you think she fully accepted or she just bore the fact of living in the world she depicted, that of England’s country gentry? I mean, did she dream in a different reality? What’s the impression you got from her stories?
I've always noticed a very prominent undertone present in Jane's writing. Her heroines each have a certain strength and determination about them. She lived in a time where women had very little say about their fates, and her novels depict many different aspects of that life, be it through the eyes and experiences of heroines like Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse, or more minor characters such as Charlotte Lucas, and Anne Elliot's friend Mrs. Smith. Women of the gentry couldn't work to support themselves and still be considered respectable, nor were unmarried ladies allowed to venture outside of their homes unaccompanied. Their well-being and their futures were entrusted to men—first their fathers, then their husbands. It mattered little what befell them; society expected them to conduct themselves respectably, and with dignity at all times, regardless of their situation. Jane used her talent and her sense of humor masterfully. Through her novels, we are given a very clear picture of how she felt about a woman's role in regency society.
Pride and Prejudice inspired your The Truth About Mr. Darcy (formerly Affinity and Affection) which is going to be released by publisher Sourcebooks in May. What is so special in P&P that it has inspired so many fanfiction writers, in your opinion?
Pride and Prejudice gives us such a realistic view of the world, but in an entertaining and often comical light, and I think that appeals to so many readers on a universal level.
Why is it so special to you instead?
Pride &Prejudice has always been my favorite of all of Jane Austen's works. I've lost track of the number of times I've read it, but the bottom line is that I simply fell in love with the characters. From Mr. Collins to Mrs. Bennet, from the Gardiners to the Bingleys, there are so many unique, vivid personalities, and I find each one of them completely intriguing.
Mr Darcy is Jane Austen most beloved hero. What are the qualities that have made him a cult beyond time, the dream man of many a women?
Mr. Darcy's manners may not be as engaging as Colonel Fitzwilliam's, Captain Wentworth's, or Henry Tilney's, but he is, without a doubt, the epitome of tall, dark, and handsome! While we are initially given to believe that he is proud, haughty, and aloof—we soon discover there is more to him than our initial impression. His quiet brooding lends him a very powerful and enigmatic presence, one that is all the more enticing once we learn how much of a gentleman Darcy truly is, and how brightly he burns for Elizabeth Bennet. The fact that he takes her reproofs to heart, and truly makes an effort to change his haughty ways so he could someday earn her good opinion, only sweetens the deal!
Among the several Mr Darcys we saw on screen, have you got a favourite one?
I have always admired Colin Firth's performance in Andrew Davies' 1995 adaptation, but that may have something to do with the fact that it was the very first adaptation I had the pleasure of seeing, and is, by all accounts, my favorite.
Can you tell us, without giving huge spoilers away, what “ the truth” about Mr Darcy is ? Is there anything we never suspected? Any terrible secret to unveil?
I'm afraid that this Darcy isn't as secretive and mysterious as the new Sourcebooks title makes him sound! He begins the same way as he does in the original P&P—believing himself above his company and, more particularly, Elizabeth Bennet and her family. It isn't until George Wickham comes to Meryton and Darcy sees him speaking to Elizabeth (and Elizabeth's enthusiastic reaction to his former friend) that the master of Pemberley finds himself moved to act in a manner he otherwise wouldn't. Darcy quietly acquaints her with Wickham's dissolute tendencies and questionable character, putting Elizabeth on her guard. A series of events and interactions soon culminate in Darcy realizing much earlier on that Elizabeth's opinion of him is not at all equal to his ardent admiration of her. Though you did mention it earlier, Maria Grazia, I would like to point out once more that "The Truth About Mr. Darcy" is not a new novel by me, but a re-release of my debut novel "Affinity and Affection." There are no major changes to the storyline, but there has been quite a bit of editing, which has yielded a much cleaner and more finished text.
Among Austen heroines, which is the one who most resembles your personality?
Hmm...that's a tough one, but I think I'd have to say I'm mostly a cross between Elizabeth Bennet and Elinor Dashwood and leave it at that!
The minor character you would like to write a spin-off story of ?
I hate to admit it, but I really do like Mr. Collins, and a writer can have a lot of fun with his character's back-story!
The hero or heroine whose destiny you would like to change re-writing his/her story?
Though I am a huge fan of Colonel Brandon (I literally wept with happiness when he finally won Marianne Dashwood's heart in Sense and Sensibility), I always wondered what might have transpired had Willoughby chosen to remain in Devonshire with Marianne, rather than running off to Town and engaging himself to Miss Grey and her fifty-thousand pounds. Knowing that he really did love Marianne, there's a little part of me that always wanted the sentiments of his heart to prevail over the more demanding tug of his purse strings. Of course, he'd have an awful lot to answer for whether he stayed or fled. Either way, it would be a fun project and a great challenge!
Are you working on any new project, while waiting for the release of The Truth about Mr Darcy?
Of course, I'm always working on something! At the moment, my list includes three P&P inspired "What Ifs", so I'm definitely keeping myself busy. Though none of them are finished at this point, anyone who is interested can read a sampling of my work on my website at:
Thanks again for being with us today, Susan. Good luck with the coming out of your book.
Thank you so much, Maria Grazia. It's been wonderful talking to you and all of your readers. I've enjoyed being here very much!
Now it's your turn, dear readers. Leave your comments or questions for Susan Adriani. She'll be glad to answer you. Don't forget to add your e-mail address to be entered in the giveaway. Remember: open worldwide! Winner will be announced next Wednesday 16th February. Good luck!