Thursday, 22 December 2011

TALKING JANE AUSTEN AND DICKENS WITH ... BARBARA TILLER COLE + GIVEAWAY


My guest for a pre-Christmas session of "Talking Jane Austen with ..." is Barbara Tiller Cole, author of a perfect season Austen-reading like "Fitzwilliam Ebenezer Darcy"
Read through our interesting chat and leave your comments to get the chance to win a signed copy. The giveaway details are below in the post. Enjoy and good luck!

Welcome back to our online club, Barbara! Let's start with one of my favourite questions about Jane Austen. What would her wit’s favourite targets have been if she had written nowadays?

Jane loved to look at intriguing characters and enjoyed commenting on social structure and class distinctions.  Today, the classes might not be as harshly divided as they once were, but variations in social standing still exist.  These distinctions would still have fascinated her and attracted her impertinent nature.

I imagine she would have particularly enjoyed sharpening her wit on celebrities—and would have enjoyed pointing out the differences between an Oscar winning actor and a reality show star on Survivor or the Jersey Shore or Housewives.  Can’t you imagine her observations on the silliness of ‘reality show stars’—laughing at their foibles and over exaggerated hijinks, as well as those who spend their lives watching them?

Perhaps she would have been a guest at Prince William’s royal wedding, and while, as in her day, she might not have commented directly about the royals out of respect, I imagine that the outrageous hats would have made their way into Caroline Bingley’s and Mrs. Elton’s wardrobes.  She, J.K. Rowlings and Stephanie Meyers would perhaps have been the best of friends, and enjoyed discussing all the fan fiction variations of their works over tea.  If she were writing today, I imagine she would have been on the set for the filming of her next epic—perhaps directed by Kathryn Bigelow (first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director), the Cohen Brothers, or Ron Howard; gathering fodder for her next novel, as she examined the wide variety of characters in the cast and crew.

I do imagine that she would have found herself on top of the best seller list, and would be enjoying her success in a more public way than in her own century.  She would have a Facebook page, a Facebook author fan site, a web page of her own and a blog, and would regularly be tweeting to her adoring fans.  I am SURE that she would have loved Colin Firth’s embodiment of her beloved Pride and Prejudice more than Matthew MacFadyen’s (and I, obviously, am stating my own preferences in this matter.) 

When did you first read Jane Austen? 


In my high school humanities class, and I fell in love with Austen’s work.  My mother always encouraged me to improve my mind by extensive reading, and I was most often to be found with my head in a book. After reading the novels while in high school, my mother and I managed to find a few Jane Austen sequels even back then (and no, I am not going to tell you when back then was, as we ladies never give away our true age). 

The next time I read her works was after I had major surgery in the year 2000.  A friend loaned me her VCR tape version of the BBC/A&E Pride and Prejudice mini series.  I DO know I can attribute my restored health, at least in part, to being able to watch Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy over and over.  I read ALL of Jane Austen’s novels during my recovery, and then found Austen sequels and online communities.  My obsession was born, and this recovery period did create the birth of my desire to write.

You know I’m a teacher to teenage students. Do you think she can still teach/be a model for nowadays youth?

Yes I do.  I recently spent time with a young fifteen year old girl who is a friend of the family.  She loves Jane Austen’s classics and is attempting to do some writing of her own.  She recently went to New York City just to see the Pride and Prejudice musical that was a part of the New York Theatre Festival.  She told me that she loved the historical aspect of Miss Austen’s novels.  We discussed the influence that Jane Austen had on the recognition of women in the literary world, as well as learning how to craft a story through reading Austen’s works. 

I admire you for your vocation, as well as anyone that works in the field of education.  I do believe that Jane Austen is still a teacher as well as a role model.  I am very grateful for my own learning experience, especially for those special teachers who provided me with a thorough education preparing me to be an accomplished lady in our century.   To be truly accomplished today, has very little to do with netting purses and covering screens, or our manner of walking.  I imagine if you asked the question to some of your students, they might believe it has more to do with the ability to text, tweet, blog and chat.  However, I believe that those who are going to succeed in the future will know how to craft a letter with complete words and sentences.  In this age of texting, ROTFLMAO might be all some know of complete sentences.  A thorough knowledge of history, literature, science, math (without calculators), and foreign languages will be to their advantage; and, of course, to all this we must add improving their minds through extensive reading.

Jane Austen, in many ways, was before her time.  In a day when proper ladies did not work in any capacity, she utilized her talents to provide for herself and her mother.  She fearlessly followed her dream and vision, and did not give into fear.  Her ability to use her wit and education to entertain others, while providing social commentary is an excellent example to any writer.
  
The protagonist of your new book is Mr Darcy. What is so special about him to make him a hero beyond time?

Mr. Darcy is the quintessential romantic male character of all time, in my estimation.  In a 2009 survey, conducted by Entertainment Weekly to search for the most romantic character in literature of all time, both Mr. Darcy and Mark Darcy (who was the romantic lead in a modern version of Pride and Prejudice) were in the top 10. Many believe Mr. Darcy to be number one.

If Mrs. Bennet were doing this interview with you, I am sure that she would say the reason is that he is rich—a man of property with many fine carriages, a gorgeous estate and a house in town—as well as handsome.  Honestly, I am sure that his bank account and his sex appeal are part of an almost universal attraction to him. 

I think the overall reason that he is a hero beyond time is that he was willing to change.  Mr. Darcy was a man that had everything he could ever want, except the love of a woman he wanted to be his wife.  Guess what?  He changed in order to secure her love.  Think about all the changes that he made.  He overcame his prejudices about social order and class distinctions among the ton.  He allowed himself to be vulnerable and stop hiding behind his mask of indifference in order to be approachable and more acceptable to Elizabeth’s friends and family.  He risked a great deal to find Wickham and Lydia and make them marry, including his tremendous financial assistance in this matter.  He let go of his pride, by allowing others to take credit for his good deeds, wanting Elizabeth to love him for himself and not out of gratitutde.

How many women long to have a man who would be willing to change to be all that she wanted?  Yes, it may be a fantasy, but it is a fantasy that has kept women (and yes, some men) obsessed for almost 200 years.  For me, I would just love for my husband to remember to put the toilet seat down.  Actually he is much better since a friend suggested that I leave it up for him.  Ironically, it took him a month to notice.  Now, at least most of the time, it is down. I like to imagine that Elizabeth would have tried that very impertinent trick. 

Thinking of the perfect match among Austen characters. Which is the happiest couple among the ones Jane formed? The least happy couple?

Pride and Prejudice is definitely my favorite among Austen’s novels, hence I tend to think of characters of that particular novel first.  Oh, I am sure that Emma and her Mr. Knightley were very happy together.  I know that Elinor was ecstatically happy with Edward, and Anne and Captain Wentworth sailed away into the sunset.  But I think that Mr. and Mrs. Darcy had the happiest life together. Why do you ask?  They had more to overcome in order to find each other.  As Mrs. Darcy’s philosophy was to think of the past only as the remembrance gives you pleasure, I am sure that pleasure and happiness was what they found together.

As to the least happy couple?  My first thought was Caroline Bingley and whomever eventually married her.  But I don’t know that that is really true.  Some may think it was Charlotte Collins as she had to marry the ridiculous parson, but she was not romantic and seemed to be content to have her own home. 

My answer may be a surprising one to some.  I would chose Jane and Charles Bingley.  They were both weak characters in my estimation.  Charles never had the gumption to make decisions for himself.  He was easily led.  Jane was used to being the prettiest, the most genteel, the apple of her mother’s eye.  I have always suspected that Mr. Darcy was right when he said that he never sensed any particular regard in her, as she did not have real feelings of her own.  Maybe the Bingleys were content with each other, but I suspect that they never had a true depth to their relationship.

And now questions about your book! Pride and Prejudice meets A Christmas Carol in your 'Fitzwilliam Ebenezer Darcy'. Hence, Austen meets Dickens. Do you think they share much as writers or are they more dissimilar?

Charles Dickens wrote his novel, A Christmas Carol, in 1843—approximately 30 years after Pride and Prejudice was written.  So, even though both books were written in 19th Century England, the time period was different and society was changing with the industrial age.  Dickens’ main character was male, while Jane Austen’s was female; and the source of their angst was different.  I believe Dickens to be a much darker writer, and focused on social/political issues versus character foibles and development.   
As for the similarties, I think both authors created intricate characters.  Fitzwilliam Darcy and Ebenezer Scrooge had complicated, burdened personalities, and both changed a great deal as a result of outside intervention.  Their characters were challenged to take a hard look at themselves during the course of their respective novels.  Both of the heros decided to transform due to the ‘intervention’ of others.  Ultimately, both found happiness.  So I do think that there were many similarities between the two authors, at least when we look at these two particular novels.

I really can’t see Mr Darcy as grumpy, old, mean Ebenezer Scrooge. How much did you change of our beloved Austen hero?

Fitzwilliam Ebenezer in my story does not have the character of Ebenezer Scrooge.  He is NOT a miser.  He is not determined to ONLY work and make money, and he does not abuse those who work for him.  Darcy is miserable and isolated from family by his own choice.  He has failed to attain his first love, and has given up on any hope of happiness.  I won’t give everything away, but during the course of the book Darcy sees himself and others in a new way during the visitation of ghosts.  He believes he has no choice other than change, just as Scrooge did in A Christmas Carol.  He is transformed through the visions that he is shown. 
The story takes place the Christmas after he assisted in the Wickham wedding. So, he is not an old man.  He is still the same handsome, rich man he was in the canon story, but has lost all hope and has fallen into miserable self-pity and inconsolable drunkenness.  It is in this state of wretchedness that our ghosts visit him at Pemberley.
So grumpy and devoid of hope—yes. Old and mean—no.

How did the idea of this medley come to your mind?

I love holiday movies, and in 2008 I watched at least ten different versions of A Christmas Carol over a long weekend. I called it the ‘Christmas Carol Festival’ at the time.  From George C. Scott to Susan Lucci, and Kelsey Grammer to Jim Carrey, I enjoyed the portrayals.  It was during the Bill Murray version—called Scrooged—that I thought of doing this story.  It was the Ghost of Christmas Past that solidified my vision for the story.  I hope that, as in Scrooged, my story has the right touch of lightness and humor to complement the transformation of Darcy’s character as  —like Elizabeth Bennet—I dearly love to laugh.

What about the language you decided to use? Is it more wit and irony in Austen style or more melodramatic and/or comic in Dickens’s style?

I will let the reader decide for themselves on what they believe to be the most signficiant elements I utilized during the story—but I attempted to develop a mixture of both.  I hope the story has the wit and irony of Austen, but there are some melodramatic scenes of deep sadness within the story, as well as some comedic elements.  After all, Darcy needs a reason to WANT to change.  At the beginning of this tale, he has given up all hope. It takes a bit of both styles to provide Darcy with enough motivation to want to make a transformation.

How would you recommend your book to our readers in about 50 words?

If you desire to read a Holiday story about transformation of character and spirit, in which its title character is allowed to see himself and to change.  If you wish for an opportunity to give and receive forgiveness and begin again—while laughing—Fitzwilliam Ebenezer Darcy is for you.

Giveaway details

Those that comment on this post will be given the opportunity to win a copy of the book, signed by the author. National and International alike can enter. The giveaway contest ends on December 29 when the winner is announced.



Pride and Prejudice meets A Christmas Carol: A Jane Austen/Charles Dickens crossover story, Fitzwilliam Ebenezer Darcy takes the best of both classics and spins them into a delightful Holiday treat! F.E. Darcy has fallen into pitiful self-loathing and sorrowful angst-ridden despair; all of this due to his belief that he has lost forever the chance to marry the only woman he has ever loved—Elizabeth Bennet. Seeing her son in such a state, the Ghost of Anne Darcy reaches out to him; informing him that three ghosts would visit him and give him hope. Will these Spirits provide him with the courage to try again to win the esteem of his one true soul mate? Barbara Tiller Cole, an Atlanta native and the writer of the popular book White Lies and Other Half Truths, presents this family friendly classic—a delightful combination of the best of her two favorite authors, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. Barbara credits her parents with fostering a love for both of these authors. Each Christmas, Barbara’s father would sit and read Dicken’s classic A Christmas Carol to the family. Her mother consistently challenged her to improve her mind by extensive reading, Jane Austen style. This book is dedicated to the memory of Cliff and Jeanne and the season they loved the best.



AUTHOR BIO NOTE

Barbara Tiller Cole, an Atlanta native and the writer of the popular book 'White Lies and Other Half Truths' (an adult farce inspired by Pride and Prejudice) has just released 'Fitzwilliam Ebenezer Darcy'--a delightful combination of the best of her two favorite authors, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens.
Barbara credits her parents with fostering a love for both of these authors. Each Christmas, Barbara's father would sit and read Dickens's classic, 'A Christmas Carol', to the family. Her mother consistently challenged her to improve her mind by extensive reading, Jane Austen style. Her next novel, 'Elizabeth Bennet, Darcyholic', is coming soon.

You'll find Barbara Tiller Cole on line at her blog - An Austen Adventure or Facebook Author Fan Page





25 comments:

Kate @ Musings said...

How delightful to combine two of your favorites stories! I would love the chance to see Mr. Darcy change in order to win his love! What a fantastic interview, and makes me want to read this book even more! Happy Christmas, All!
oreannie at yahoo com

Margaret said...

I think this is such a great idea! I'd love to read this! Thanks!

Margaret
singitm(at)hotmail(dot)com

BeckyC said...

What a fun idea, especially for this time of year. And a combo of your two favorite stories...perfect!
Thanks for the giveaway!
cherringtonmb@sbcglobal.net

marilyn said...

Great interview about these 2 topics!

Thanks for the giveaway.
marilyn
daniel423@centurytel.net

Patricia said...

Nice interview! It's always amazing to read about Mr. Darcy
Thanks for the giveaway!
pato3_89@hotmail.com

Farida Mestek said...

The book sounds very interesting and intriguing! I'd love to have the chance to read it. Thank you for the giveaway!

faridamestek@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

Nice interwiev! Thanks Maria Grazia.
I agree with the author when she says that Mr. Darcy is a hero because of his being willing to change.
I think JA enjoyed herself a lot in creating a proud character just to put him later through the most "embarassing" situations. Just think about his first proposal to Lizzy. Wasn't it the worst moment ever? She was so annoyed about him!
Merry Christmas to all!
carrer.loredana@yahoo.it

Barbara Tiller Cole said...

[Kate @ Musings said...
How delightful to combine two of your favorites stories! I would love the chance to see Mr. Darcy change in order to win his love! What a fantastic interview, and makes me want to read this book even more! Happy Christmas, All!]

Kate: Thank you so much for your wonderful comment. I also thank Maria for her questions and the opportunity to do the interview here at My Jane Austen Book Club. I hope you have a very Happy Christmas!

Barbara Tiller Cole

Barbara Tiller Cole said...

[Margaret said...
I think this is such a great idea! I'd love to read this! Thanks!

Margaret]

Margaret: Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I wish you good luck! Barbara Tiller Cole

Barbara Tiller Cole said...

[BeckyC said...
What a fun idea, especially for this time of year. And a combo of your two favorite stories...perfect!
Thanks for the giveaway!]

Becky:

So glad that you like the idea and hope you enjoy the story as well. Have a Wonderful Christmas! Barbara Tiller Cole

Barbara Tiller Cole said...

[marilyn said...
Great interview about these 2 topics!

Thanks for the giveaway.
marilyn ]

Marilyn:

I am so glad that you enjoyed it. Good luck with the give away!

Barbara Tiller Cole

Barbara Tiller Cole said...

[ Patricia said...
Nice interview! It's always amazing to read about Mr. Darcy
Thanks for the giveaway!]

Patricia:

Thanks. I am so glad you enjoyed the interview. And I DO agree with you! A day without Darcy is like a Day without Sunshine! Merry Christmas! Barbara Tiller Cole

Barbara Tiller Cole said...

[ Farida Mestek said...
The book sounds very interesting and intriguing! I'd love to have the chance to read it. Thank you for the giveaway!]

Farida:

I am so glad that the interview made the book look interesting. I wish you luck on the give away! And have a Happy Christmas!

Barbara Tiller Cole

Barbara Tiller Cole said...

[ Anonymous said...
Nice interwiev! Thanks Maria Grazia.
I agree with the author when she says that Mr. Darcy is a hero because of his being willing to change.
I think JA enjoyed herself a lot in creating a proud character just to put him later through the most "embarassing" situations. Just think about his first proposal to Lizzy. Wasn't it the worst moment ever? She was so annoyed about him!
Merry Christmas to all!]

I am so glad that you enjoyed the interview. And my impression about Mr. Darcy as a hero due to his willingness to change. For me that IS the fantasy of Mr. Darcy. To have a man that would go to THAT extreme to win me! And to be rich and handsome at the same time..LOL. Yes..the first proposal was horrible..for both of them.

Merry Christmas to you! Barbara Tiller Cole

Nina Benneton said...

Barbara is quite an adventurous, fearless writer to tackle two classics. I bow down and touch your feet, authoress.

Btw, great interview. Very provocative, thoughtful questions that made me think.

I disagree with my friend Barbara. I think Charles and Jane are very happy because their expectation of marital felicity differs from the grand passion that we sense Darcy & Elizabeth would have. The grand passion isn't for everyone, (and really, who wants to read about Jane and Charles' grand passion!)...and vanilla ice cream goes a long way over rocky roads. ;)

cyn209 said...

already added onto my WishList!!!

another twist that i cannot wait to read!!

thank you for the giveaway!!!

cyn209 at juno dot com

Viola said...

I would love to read the book! Darcy is one of my favourite heroes, although I think that Henry Tilney is less intimidating. I couldn't live up to Mr Darcy.

I agree that Elizabeth and Darcy were probably the happiest couple. However, I think that Jane and Bingley aren't shallow. They see the best in everyone, which can be a good thing. Jane is, in fact, more understanding about Darcy in Pride & Prejudice and her advice to Lizzy is that she is too quick to judge. She is right!

Laura Ferrari said...

This sounds delightful!
I would love to read it, especially now that it's Christmas and I've just finished rereading A Christmas carol.
Merry Christmas ladies!

lallyjx@libero.it

MonicaP said...

Interesting take on Jane and Charles, I never really thought about it. I do agree that he is too easily lead, and I always hoped that he learned from it and grew a pair. Lol I do think theyd have been happier than Charlotte and Mr Collins (well, maybe just Charlotte. I dont think Collins was smart enough to realize his wife detests him).

I dont know how anyone could not love Mr Darcy! He's my #1 for sure. I didnt like the Macfadyen version, either.

Cant wait to read FED!

Barbara Tiller Cole said...

[Barbara is quite an adventurous, fearless writer to tackle two classics. I bow down and touch your feet, authoress.

Btw, great interview. Very provocative, thoughtful questions that made me think.

I disagree with my friend Barbara. I think Charles and Jane are very happy because their expectation of marital felicity differs from the grand passion that we sense Darcy & Elizabeth would have. The grand passion isn't for everyone, (and really, who wants to read about Jane and Charles' grand passion!)...and vanilla ice cream goes a long way over rocky roads. ;)]

Nina:

I thank you for your kind words, but I have always suspected that you like to process opinions that are not your own..LOL.

As for Jane and Charles, I do understand your opinion, but I spent a great deal of time contemplating this question. Think about it! Jane and Charles find themselves married, and neither of them wants to think anything except the best about everyone that they know. Jane has learned that Carolyn does not always have the best of intentions, however, now her sister in law is most likely living with them and trying to run HER household. And Jane is too nice to do anything about it, OR to be able to SAY anything to Bingley about it. Bingley does not have the gumption to stand up to his sister (I know--there are many fan fiction versions in which he does, but as to the original novel? I just don't see the Bingley of P&P doing it.) and Jane and Charles are both very unhappy to have her under their feet, but hopeless to do a thing about it, or to even discuss it. They TRY to live naively through their life, but they begin to move further and further away from each other as they DO have feelings but are terrified to express them to anyone--much less each other and slowly become less and less happy.

But then again...Maybe I like to express opinions that are not truly my own! :D

I would LOVE to hear YOUR answer to this question Nina!

Have a wonderful Merry Christmas...

Barbara

Barbara Tiller Cole said...

[cyn209 said...
already added onto my WishList!!!

another twist that i cannot wait to read!!

thank you for the giveaway!!!]

Cyn:

I am honored to have my book on your WishList! Hope you had a very happy Christmas! And Good luck!

Barbara Tiller Cole!

Barbara Tiller Cole said...

[Viola said...
I would love to read the book! Darcy is one of my favourite heroes, although I think that Henry Tilney is less intimidating. I couldn't live up to Mr Darcy.

I agree that Elizabeth and Darcy were probably the happiest couple. However, I think that Jane and Bingley aren't shallow. They see the best in everyone, which can be a good thing. Jane is, in fact, more understanding about Darcy in Pride & Prejudice and her advice to Lizzy is that she is too quick to judge. She is right!]

Viola:

I love your thoughts on these questions. Henry Tilney IS perhaps much less intimidating, but Mr. Darcy--ahhh...he is just Darcy to me.. :D

As to Jane and Charles, you ARE correct, that Jane was able to give Mr. Darcy more the benefit of the doubt because he was Mr. Bingley's friend. And even if she thought that because she wanted to think the best about everyone, and she KNEW that her Mr. Bingley couldn't have a friend who would do such a thing. I have always been bothered by the fact that Jane just accepted all the praise from her mother and never seemed to ever defend Elizabeth. I don't KNOW that she was stuck up and thought better of herself because she BELiEVED her self to be the most beautiful or not, but I could see that that could have been the case. It is just a personal prejudice! Honestly. But then again, perhaps I like to express opinions that are not truly my own in an impertinent attempt to be provocative!

Have a Very Merry Christmas, Viola! And thanks for commenting!

Barbara Tiller Cole

Barbara Tiller Cole said...

[Laura Ferrari said...
This sounds delightful!
I would love to read it, especially now that it's Christmas and I've just finished rereading A Christmas carol.
Merry Christmas ladies!]

Laura:

I hope that you have had a wonderful Christams and enjoyed your re-read of A Christmas Carol! Hope you get a chance to read this somewhere along the line!

Barbara Tiller Cole

Barbara Tiller Cole said...

[MonicaP said...
Interesting take on Jane and Charles, I never really thought about it. I do agree that he is too easily lead, and I always hoped that he learned from it and grew a pair. Lol I do think theyd have been happier than Charlotte and Mr Collins (well, maybe just Charlotte. I dont think Collins was smart enough to realize his wife detests him).

I dont know how anyone could not love Mr Darcy! He's my #1 for sure. I didnt like the Macfadyen version, either.

Cant wait to read FED!]

Monica:

I am glad you enjoyed my thoughts about Jane and Charles. I know that they might be a bit provocative. But I just see Charles so weak that he was so easily led, and fickle. And Jane in her attempt to see the best in everyone, blind to the true nature of people. Perhaps that is a recipe for happiness? But I suspect that neither of them really knew themselves and would be terrified to truly be honest with each other--especially about their feelings about Carolyn who was most likely living with them. And as said in P&P, there were many who were likely to cheat them. Hopefully they would not be cheated so badly that Bingley completely lost his shirt.

I thought of Mr. And Mrs. Collins as well. But Charlotte seemed delighted in P&P to have her own home. And so proud to show it off. She told Elizabeth that she was not romantic. I some how think that she was content to have her own life...and while I am SURE that life with Mr. Collins was a trial, I don't think that they would have been the MOST unhappy couple in Jane Austen literature.

Those that married simply for economic and connection reason were probably content. My FIRST thought was Carolyn Bingley and whomever found themselves married to her. But they would have been happy with her money and she would have been happy with their connections...even if they never saw each other.

Have a wonderful holiday, Monica!

Barbara Tiller Cole

Gisele Alv said...

Oh my! Im so excited to participate in this giveaway! I think is amazing to mix two lovely book in one delightful story and with Mr. Darcy as main character, sigh! Please I would like to win! :)
I'm so grateful to have the opportunity of enjoying the amazing novels of Jane Austen and i don't know why still are people who don't give classics novels a chance to be enjoyed.
- I love how in the interview Barbara described Mr. Darcy: "I think the overall reason that he is a hero beyond time is that he was willing to change. Mr. Darcy was a man that had everything he could ever want, except the love of a woman he wanted to be his wife. Guess what? He changed in order to secure her love." (I LOVE IT, sigh)
- And about the least happy couple?
I was shock too, but thinking about it, you are right, if you put your mind to it, Jane and Bingley probably were ok or fine with each other but the relationship would never be that strong like Darcy and Elizabeth.

Thank you so much for this interview I enjoy it so so much, and i'm crossing fingers here, I would LOVE to read this book!!

ilepachequin(at)hotmail(dot)com