Sunday, 18 December 2011

TALKING JANE AUSTEN WITH ... BRENDA J. WEBB & GIVEAWAY OF "FITWILLIAM DARCY AN HONORABLE MAN"

Brenda Webb’s first published work, Fitzwilliam Darcy An Honourable Man, came out in April 2011. In addition to her obsession with all things Jane, she spent years in the accounting field as a full charge bookkeeper and the administrative assistant to the president of a CPA firm. No longer working full time, she enjoys spending time with her family and indulging her love of storytelling.  Born on a farm in Cullman, Alabama, she proudly admits to being a country girl. After years of living in the city, she finally achieved her dream of moving back to the country and she and her husband now reside on a three acre mini-farm with chickens and numerous rescued dogs and cats.
Rediscovering Jane Austen after watching 2005’s Pride and Prejudice movie, she read everything regarding the author and eventually found the world of Jane Austen fanfiction. Trying her hand at writing, this story evolved and readers responded by following the story to her newly created website, DarcyandLizzy.com, a fanfiction forum. After getting over 43,000 reads and many requests, she decided to publish the tale and the rest, as they say, is history. 
Read Brenda's interview and leave your comment + e-mail address to win her "Fitzwilliam Darcy An Honorable Man". The  giveaway details are at the end of this post.

First of all, welcome on My Jane Austen Book Club, Brenda. Then, let's start with ... Why Jane Austen? I mean, what are the reasons for the appeal of Jane Austen’s world to 21st century readers in your opinion?

I’ve always felt that Jane Austen’s works are just as accurate a portrayal of human nature today as they were the day they were written. She was an astute observer of her world, and she created so many varied but believable, timeless characters.  Almost everyone has a Caroline Bingley, a Lydia, a Mrs. Bennet or a Mr. Collins in their life. There are heroines and heroes to love, villains and buffoons to despise as well as plenty of satire and introspection in Austen’s stories.  They are a snapshot of life in the Regency period with all its rules guiding polite society.  
I was particularly intrigued by the fact that her heroines felt the same passion, wanted to react to the same impulse we do, but they were hobbled by a society that restrained them, and that would mete out life-altering consequences if they acted on those passions.  Jane Austen depicted how hard it must have been to be a woman in Regency society, and I’m grateful to be living today.


Which is your favourite among the major six?

As is the case with most JAFF readers, Pride and Prejudice is my favorite. I’m not sure if it’s because I started my Austen journey with this story or the fact that most of the stories I read at the beginning of my fanfiction obsession were focused on Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, but I fell in love with this couple. There are just some stories that grab your imagination and never let go. Austen’s Elizabeth and Darcy’s love story has been that kind of story for me ever since.                                                                                                                                                                   

Is the huge spread  of spin-offs, sequels, and mash-ups due to a desire to preserve  Jane’s messages, atmospheres, and techniques or because there’s a wish to prolong the pleasure of these stories rather than to correct and adapt  what could be considered too distant or different in her works?  

I like to think that most sequels are written for the reason I write— to prolong the pleasure I got from the original story. My favorite Austen-based author, Linda Berdoll, once said, I was so swept away by the BBC/A&E mini-series of Pride & Prejudice that I simply could not bear to have the story end.” That describes my feelings perfectly.

There is no way to improve upon or correct Jane Austen’s works, in my opinion.  Classics cannot be improved upon, only read and cherished.  The reason I chose to tell my stories of Fitzwilliam and Lizzy with a different twist is because so many have already been written that are close in nature to Austen’s own.


Do you think that all the adaptations, both written and for the screen, could alter, mislead or even distort the interpretation of Austen’s work?

Of course, they could. Anything written or filmed can distort the truth, and it is up to the individual to be discerning—in other words, read the book!  Now, more than ever, we have movies and books that use Austen’s popularity to tell her stories in the most commercial way. For that reason, I feel sorry for the school children who think they can get away with not reading Pride and Prejudice and rely on watching one of the recent Austen movies, thinking they’ll know everything about Austen’s story.  That’s not going to work for anyone.

Having said that, I like to think that most of the people who follow Jane Austen fanfiction or have enjoyed the movies made from her stories go on to read or reread the original once they become enamored with the characters. We all take different paths to find our way to Austen, and that’s a good thing.
  
When and how did you come to write a Jane Austen sequel?

I have created stories in my mind for as long as I can remember. Whether it was a book, a television show or a movie that triggered my imagination, almost everything would be taken apart and rewritten in my head the minute I lay down at night. I wondered what might have happened to the characters if they had made another choice, if circumstance had been different.

There were not many tales that escaped my revisions. In my world, Bambi and Ole Yeller never died, Scarlett and Rhett found love again, Rick and Elsa watched the plane take off together, Dr. Zhivago got off the trolley in time to intercept Lara and Fanny Brice lived happily ever after with Nicky Arnstein—you get the picture. Everything was right with the world before the credits rolled in my versions.

Ironically, all those years of rewriting helped to prepare me for something I had no idea existed until 2006—Jane Austen fanfiction.  After watching the 2005 movie with Keira Knightly and Matthew Macfadyen, I became reacquainted with Jane Austen’s works which I had read in high school.  And my desire to know more about this fictional couple resulted in writing FitzwilliamDarcy an Honourable Man.

Pride and Prejudice is the Austen novel which has received the greatest attention from fan fiction writers. Why is that in your opinion?

It has the perfect formula: a dashing hero who immediately dismisses the woman he would come to truly desire and a heroine who is attracted to the hero but is hurt by his slight. Everyone knows they will end up together, but the joy is in the journey. Who wouldn’t love such a tale? It’s a theme used over and over again in many books, but it becomes a classic with Austen’ skill and wit.


What is so special in Mr Darcy to make him a cult hero beyond time?


For me, it’s that he is such an honorable man, to borrow the title of my book, and that’s the attraction. We can always use more of those. As Mr. Darcy himself said, “my parents were excellent people who taught me good principals; but I was left to follow them in pride and conceit.” So while he might have acted out of pride and conceit, he was basically a good man, trying to do what he thought was right. Even in originally rejecting Elizabeth Bennet as unsuitable, he was trying not to raise her expectations, as it was obvious that she was not of his station. What is remarkable is that it only took the reproof of one good woman for him see his faults and reform. Oh, if all men would do likewise!


How did the idea of writing this sequel to P&P come to your mind?

I have created stories all my life, so when I stumbled into Jane Austen fanfiction, I found the perfect story to begin my writing career with Pride and Prejudice. Encouraged by other writers and the lovely readers who cheered me on, I began to outline unique plots that were of interest to me. Then I began writing, and the stories took on a life of their own.

As for Fitzwilliam Darcy an Honourable Man, I have always admired a man who would go to any length for the woman he loved. In my story, Darcy makes the decision to give up his way of life to care for the woman he fell hopelessly in love with two years before—Elizabeth Bennet.


Are the characters in your book different from Austen originals?

My story is a “what-if” or “variation” of Pride and Prejudice, so a good many of the characters are different. Lizzy has been through a trauma and is not herself until she begins to heal.  Jane becomes more outspoken after Lizzy’s ordeal. Georgiana is only three years younger than her brother and is married to a wonderful man. Wickham was never in the militia and did not encamp in Meryton. Mr. Bennet has died and Mrs. Bennet is not very nice. I have also added many characters not found in the original. So yes, there are non-canon aspects, but I’m sure the reader will recognize elements of the original story.

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

Fitzwilliam Darcy an Honourable Man is a story of deep conflict and betrayal. It demonstrates how the enduring love of an honorable man can conquer even the deepest trauma. If you enjoy reading “what-if” stories of Pride and Prejudice, then you will enjoy this one.

THE BOOK 

Fitzwilliam Darcy, An Honourable Man is a Pride and Prejudice variation. Not a simple retelling, it is an intriguing new story. Leaving England after his disastrous proposal was refused at Hunsford, Darcy spent two lonely years in Scotland and Ireland before returning home to face Elizabeth Bennet, certain that he could regard her as an indifferent acquaintance. Events that transpired in his absence have left Elizabeth a changed woman. The victim of a marriage by deception to Count Stefano, she has suffered greatly at his hands. Will Mr. Darcy rescue the woman he vowed to forget?


GIVEAWAY

There are two copies of Fitzwilliam Darcy An Honourable Man for the readers of My Jane Austen Book Club who will comment this post :

1. signed paperback copy for US and Canada readers
2. kindle edition for readers from the rest of the world

So, leave your comment + e-mail address + country you write from and ... good luck! This giveaway contest ends December 26th when the winners are announced. 

19 comments:

MonicaP said...

This sounds like a great story full of angst and healing for Darcy and Lizzy. I've read P&P FF for a few years now and I never get tired of their story, or watching them fall in love, however that comes to pass.

When I was in school, the teachers always asked questions you could only know if you actually read the book, instead of just watching the movie. It used to drive me crazy but now I understand why. Lol

Thanks for the giveaway!

Monica, US
monicaperry00@gmail.com

Linda said...

Sounds great, I agree that Mr. Darcy is an honorable man. Being from the USA, I would love to win the print copy of this novel. Thanks for the giveaway.
lcbrower40(at)gmail(dot)com

Anonymous said...

Would love to win a copy...sadly no kindle/nook for the ebook

Austens characters still ring true today...many things have changed but human nature is still the same...

StephanieCarrico USA
lucasaaron_5297 *at* yahoo *dot*com

BeckyC said...

I love 'what ifs' and have had my eye on this one. No matter how you spin it, you can't take the honorable out of Darcy.

Congratulations on your success.
Thank you for the giveaway. I have a kindle. If I win, I would be thrilled with a PB or ebook.
cherringtonmb(at)sbcglobal(dot)net

Heather M. said...

Congratulations on the success of your book! I love what-if scenarios and I know what you mean about not wanting such a wonderful story to end.

I'm from the US and would love a print copy!
hmoll(at)nycap(dot)rr(dot)com

Mary Olson said...

I have read Brenda's book and it is a fascinating journey back into Jane Austen's Regency times where Darcy continues in this sequel to be an honourable man in his dealings with Elizabeth. Brenda captures the essence of the greatest timeless love of two people that Jane Austen created and takes it up another notch.

kaewink said...

Oh this sounds like an interesting twist. Wow.I´d love to read it!

I wirte form Austria, Europe and hav a Kindle. :)

Merry Christmas to everyone!

kewinkler at gmail dot com

Sophia Rose said...

Oh yeah! I loved reading the interview and the background of author/story. I have had this book on my wish list because I love 'what if' stories about Jane Austen's books.

Thanks for the giveaway opportunity.
I am writing from the US.

sophiarose1816@gmail.com

marilyn said...

This book sounds like it will have a happily everafter ending. I would be honored to have a copy as I live a few miles from Cullman, Ala. in the US and am proud of the author.
Thank you for the giveaway.

marilyn
daniel423@centurytel.net

cyn209 said...

another P&P variation!! can't wait to read this one!!!
thank you for this giveaway!!!
i'm in the US!!!

cyn209 at juno dot com

Janet T said...

I had read about your book and thought it sounded very good. It is on my saved list at Amazon. I enjoyed reading your interview. Congratulations on your book!

Sandy said...

Wonderful story, Brenda! You know I love your work and would read this one again and again!

suzan said...

I love variations. This sounds fascinating. I love how you've changed the characters a bit. The plot sounds intriguing. I'm so worried about Elizabeth's trauma however. I'd love to read it.
schafsue at gmail dot com

junewilliams7 said...

I think high school teachers (and college instructors) could encourage their students to read more JA by asking them "what if..." or "what would you change", instead of asking students to just recap what they read. And it would encourage more JA fic writers!

~ junewilliams7 at yahoo dot com, in the U.S.

Kirk said...

Looks interesting!

Kirk from MA, USA

IdentitySeeker said...

I agree with your response to why Jane Austen appeals to 21st Century readers. I m ever fascinated by just how accurate Ms. Austen is in her observations of human behaviour (and I'm a Psychology major- so i study human behaviour) and I know she and would have had many interesting conversations if we'd met.

Thanks for this giveaway:)

Country: South Africa

Email: sarah.setar@gmail.com

Marcie said...

This sounds like an interesting P&P variation. I'd love a chance to read it. I'm from the US marcie(dot)turner(at)yahoo(dot)com

Danielle said...

I am so glad that you "simply could not bear to have the story end" because neither could we! Those of us that aren't writers are very appreciative of you. We get an never ending continuation! Thanks!

Thanks for the giveaway as well!

drcopeland(at)hotmail(dot)com

Lieder Madchen said...

Hi! I'm a book blogger and I recently found Brenda Webb's book on the internet and I was looking to see if there is any way I can contact her about coming on my blog? Or reviewing her book? I've looked everywhere to see if I could find a website of hers, but to no avail. If you still have a way to contact Ms. Webb, would you mind terribly relaying my message? I know this is kind of a weird way to try to get in touch with someone, but I couldn't think of anything else. :) Here's my blog URL so you can see I'm legit and that I review lots of Austenesque fiction.

http://liedermadchen.blogspot.com

And my e-mail:
liedermadchen(at)hotmail(dot)com

Thank you. :)