When I first sat down to write The Darcys of Pemberley six and a half years ago, I had no idea where it would lead me. I’ve since discovered that creating a sequel to a much-loved novel, such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is quite an adventure – one filled with great delights … and some major challenges too.
The delights were easy for me to envision, and my main motivation for writing. I’d come to know and love the characters of Pride and Prejudice. By continuing the story, I’d be able to spend many more weeks and months in the company of the Bingleys, the Bennets, and all the others. I would get to vicariously enjoy the idyllic life of the three Darcys (don’t forget Georgiana) at that mythical paradise called Pemberley, and to guide them safely down the path ahead. How lovely! But, I soon realized that three hundred pages of happily-ever-aftering would not make a very interesting novel.
Every story needs conflict. So, despite my reluctance to torture such dear friends, I had to do it. Mr. Collins was an easy mark, and I thought Colonel Fitzwilliam’s situation offered possibilities. With very little encouragement from me, surely
, and Lady Catherine would be willing to stir up some trouble. And I could see that the courtship of Miss Georgiana might prove a rocky road. But what about Darcy and Elizabeth? Well, since no marriage is perfect, they would have to face some adversity in their relationship too. And all this had to take place within the boundaries left by Jane Austen in the final chapter of the original novel, for I was determined not to contradict anything she’d written. Wickham, Lydia
In addition to having to unravel the ending that my predecessor so carefully knit together, I faced a second unique challenge as a sequel writer: how to keep Pride and Prejudice fans happy. Janeites, myself included, feel passionately protective of her story and characters – our own vision of them, that is. The problem is we don’t all see things the same way. An example of this is the debate over who’s the true Darcy – Firth or Macfadyen (I’m solidly in the Colin Firth camp btw). More evidence: a sequel I read and personally disliked (“That’s not how Jane would have written it!”) has been praised to the skies by other Austen fans.With no way to please everybody else, I followed my own vision. The Darcys of Pemberley has been called a purist’s sequel to Pride and Prejudice. I take this as high praise indeed, since my intention was to be true to the original story, and to Jane Austen’s style, characters, and sensibilities. But another author’s interpretation may be just as valid; it will simply appeal to a different segment of Jane’s enormous fan-dom. There’s room for everybody – even zombies, I suppose.
After fine tuning the book, the final hurdle was getting it published. Not an easy task under the best of circumstances, let alone in tough financial times. One editor said, “It’s been done.” Another rejected it with, “I don’t like the third person narrative style.” (I would have loved to have been allowed to point out that Jane Austen always wrote in third person.) Fortunately, the NY publishing giants are no longer the only game in town. Technology has paved the way for small, independent publishers and e-publishers to enter the market, giving writers (and readers) more options. That’s what opened the door for me.
Producing The Darcys of Pemberley has not only been the hardest work I’ve ever done. It’s also been a labor of love and the most fun I’ve had in my life. The cherry on top is the satisfaction of now being able to share it with readers.