First of all, welcome back Monica! It's a great pleasure to have you here at our online club.
Well, let me say I’m delighted to be back again on My Jane Austen Book Club. It’s been a while, but I’m looking forward to reconnecting with you all.
Tell me one thing you deeply love in Mr Darcy and one flaw you can avoid noticing. Don’t tell me he is perfect, Monica!
*Splutters* What do you mean, Mr. Darcy isn’t perfect? When he’s the ideal man for so many women? He has to be perfect.
What I love deeply about Mr. Darcy is that he’s the type of person you can rely on to stand by you through thick and thin. He is noble enough to find Lydia and make sure she gets married, yet he does so annonymously, clearly not claiming the credit or expecting any kind of reward. In fact, someone else might have used the occasion to get some brownie points with Lizzy. Not Mr. Darcy. He does it selflessly.
Admittedly, he does have some flaws, at the beginning, but they all go away by the end. He’s arrogant, he’s condescending to everyone especially at the Meryton assembly, he doesn’t accept Lizzy because of her background, he’s open to being manipulated by Caroline Bingley (possibly his worst flaw) and he is no good at socializing. I think what we all like about Darcy is that he’s able to overcome those flaws and become a hero. He is willing to change, and for someone who’s so proud that’s a beautiful thing.
Steampunk is a fascinating genre which gives authors great freedom. How did it suit your purpose of re-imagining Pride and Prejudice?
First of all – I know not everyone is familiar with Steampunk, and people tend to see the “punk” side of the word and get put off. In fact you have to put the emphasis on the STEAM part of it. Not as in steamy/hot but on the Steam Age i.e. Victorian and more specifically the inventiveness of the Victorians, the fact that they created the Industrial Revolution, for better or for worse. Steampunk fiction is fiction set in an alternative Victorian world, one in which petroleum never became the dominant fuel. Having said that, it’s a world where people believed in the actual existence of fairies, in seances, and so it’s a bizarre mixture of the fantastical and the real. A lot of our everyday fictional figures were given fictional form in the 19th century – from Frankenstein to vampires. Jane Austen may seem like a far cry from all this, but only because she didn’t live long enough to witness it. Her sister Cassandra actually lived under Victoria, though of course the term isn’t just restricted to Queen Victoria’s reign.
You might ask – what does that to do with Darcy? Well, like it or not, even though Mr. Darcy is a product of the Regency period, most of his life (assuming he lives until a ripe old age, which I hope he does) will be spent in the Victorian period. I started off my novel wanting to imagine him as a Victorian gentleman, but then I didn’t really want to present him in his 40’s or 50’s. I wanted to explore how he’d have been as a young Victorian. That’s when I decided to set the novel in an alternative Victorian setting and the novel took off from there.
How different from the original characters are your Darcy and your Elizabeth, I mean, Seraphene?
Well, William Darcy is a Victorian gentleman, through and through, and he’s also very powerful (as the original Darcy would have been). He has a very strict moral code – and he bases it on Fitzwilliam’s gentlemanly conduct. He is similar in that he is very arrogant and sure of his place in the world. He assumes, like Fitzwilliam, that all he has to do is propose to a woman and she’s going to swoon at his feet (in William’s case, he offers her a job). Well, Seraphene is having none of it – and like in Lizzy’s case, her refusal brings out a different side of Darcy.
As for Seraphene, I like to think of her as a modern version of Lizzy, but of course she’s a product of her world. She’s a survivor. She’s tough, she’s sassy and she gives as good as she gets. But like Lizzy, she gets things wrong, and has to backtrack when she realizes how much of a fool she’s been. I think she’s quite “delightful,” though not in quite the same way.
You give second chances to Wickham and Georgiana in this novel. Without spoiling too much, what can we expect for them?
Do I give second chances to Wickham and Georgiana? I didn’t really think about it that way. Giana to me is very similar to her namesake in the original. She’s a teenager who makes the mistake of trusting someone reprehensible and she (almost) pays a very high price for it. Those kind of mistakes are learning experiences we all go through, I suppose.
As for Wickham – I can’t say anything without spoilers -- but he has his reasons for behaving as he does.
Which was the most difficult scene to write, the one you had to work on longer? And which one was instead the funniest to write?
The most difficult scene to write was when Darcy visits Seraphene in her poor neighborhood. He’s in unfamiliar territory and he’s in the wrong, so he’s a bit more vulnerable than usual. It was difficult to balance his usual arrogance with that “off-center” moment. I was asked to rewrite that scene several times before it came out right.
The funniest scene? I could pick out several. I find the scenes with the pirates very funny, but that may be my odd sense of humor.
Which other Austen novel would you like to re-write as a steampunk tale?
Northanger Abbey would make a perfect Steampunk story. It already has a bit of a Victorian feel to it with its Gothic undertones. It would be relatively easy to transpose the novel from Bath to London and have it set in foggy cobble-stoned streets. I’d love to do that.
Why should a Janeite fond of Pride and Prejudice read your Steampunk Darcy?
I think the reason there are so many Pride and Prejudice re-interpretations is because we want to project Darcy and Lizzy into different situations. Twenty-first century readers enjoy different takes on the same theme. It’s our modern-day equivalent of jazz as it was in the 1920’s – seeing how creatively people can improvise on something that’s already established. It’s the familiar and the unfamiliar working together. It’s a way, I suppose, of reliving what we love most about Pride and Prejudice over and over so that it’s kept alive.
You could say that my take on Pride and Prejudice bridges the past and the future. Steampunk Darcy is a descendant of Fitzwilliam. He idolizes Fitzwilliam and Lizzy. To him, the Darcy family provide a role model in a world of uncertainties. I think this is true of many of us – the world portrayed in Pride and Prejudice provides us with a glimpse into the world the way it ought to be, not as it is.
In Steampunk Darcy there’s been a flood and an Uprising. So much has been destroyed. A new society is coming into being. This new beginning needs people like Mr. Darcy and Lizzy as part of its foundation. That’s the fairytale part of it.
But I think the main reason a Janeite should read it is it’s a romance, it’s an adventure and its a tongue-in-cheek tribute to a lot of Pride and Prejudice’s beloved characters. It’s fun and I guarantee you at least one smile.
Thank you so much, Monica, for being my guest and taking the time to answer some questions. We’ll wait for you back soon at My Jane Austen Book Club!
Thank you for this wonderful opportunity, Maria Grazia. I hope to be visiting again in the near future.
About the book
William Darcy is obsessed with his ancestors. So much so that he intends to rebuild Pemberley (destroyed during the Uprising) stone by stone, and he wants to employ reconstruction expert Seraphene Grant to help him.Or does he? Seraphene wasn’t born yesterday. She can smell a rat, particularly when it stinks all the way up to her airship. She knows Darcy is hiding something. But with the Authorities after her and her other options dwindling by the moment, the temptation of genuine English tea and a gorgeous Steampunk gentleman are very difficult to resist.
But what if Darcy’s mystery job courts nothing but trouble? What if Darcy is harboring a secret to kill for? When kiss comes to shove, will Darcy’s secret destroy Seraphene, or will it be her salvation?
Join us on a romantic adventure like no other in this Pride and Prejudice-inspired tribute, featuring Darcy (of course) Wickham, dirigibles, swash-buckling pirates and a heroine with fine eyes and an attitude.
About the author
Monica Fairview is an ex-literature professor who abandoned teaching criticism about long gone authors who can't defend themselves in order to write novels of her own. Monica can be described as a wanderer, opening her eyes to life in London and travelling ever since. She spent many years in the USA before coming back full circle to London, thus proving that the world is undeniably round.
Monica's first novel, An Improper Suitor, a humorous Regency, was short-listed for the Romantic Novelists' Association's Joan Hassayan prize. Since then, she has written two traditional Jane Austen sequels: The Other Mr. Darcy and The Darcy Cousins (both published by Sourcebooks) and contributed a sequel to Emma in Laurel Ann Nattress's anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It (Ballantine).
Originally a lover of everything Regency, Monica has since discovered that the Victorian period can be jolly good fun, too, if seen with retro-vision and rose-colored goggles. She adores Jane Austen, Steampunk, cats, her husband and her impossible child.
If you'd like to find out more about Monica, you can find her at www.monicafairview.com, austenauthors.net, www.monicafairview.blogspot.com on Facebook and on Twitter @Monica_Fairview
Read an Excerpt
Alright, Mr. Hoity-Toity. This had better be good. I’m risking skin and bone to get here.
The door opened and she strode into—.
Whatever it was, it wasn’t an office. It was an emporium, a museum and the Great Exhibition of 1851, complete with Victorian gents and ladies who had the glazed look of trophy animals. Except that the Victorians were standing around instead of hanging on the wall.
“Are these actual people? Did you have them stuffed and embalmed?” she asked, by way of greeting, “Or are they wax figures, like Madame Tussauds?”
In the gloomy gas lamp-lit interior, she couldn’t tell which one of them was William Darcy until he stepped forward and bowed.
“Welcome to Longbourn Laboratories, Miss Grant.”
The smirk fell off her face.
Raven black hair with a green swirl draped over his left eye. Silver eyes like the sheen of a dagger.
Gorgeous was not the right word for him. Gorgeous was a word invented for ordinary mortals. This particular specimen was splenderous. She didn’t know if it was a real word but it was the right one.
For just a second, she had a sense of vertigo.
Vertigo? A seasoned aviator like me? To bring herself back down to earth, she focused on the flaws in his appearance. The tailored green frockcoat that skimmed the top of his knees was shipshape, except for the fluffy bits (cotton? Did he manufacture cloth?). His silver cravat would have done the most demanding gentleman proud, but it looked crooked, as if he’d been tugging at it. The silver earpiece with jade stones matched perfectly with his outfit, but it was lopsided as if he’d put it on in a hurry. Everything about him suggested a need to keep moving.
Looking for his flaws hadn’t helped at all. If anything, it had given her a chance to ogle him more closely, which somehow had an undesirable effect on her knees – and other parts of her. Her knees especially.
Nobody turned Seraphene’s knees soggy. Not without her permission.
Her gaze drifted back to his face.
He was scrutinizing her with his right eyebrow slanted arrogantly upwards, a monocle in hand.
She was definitely averse to arrogant eyebrows and she absolutely did not like monocles, no matter how fashionable they might be.
That put some backbone into her knees. She snapped out of it. He could be as splenderous as he wanted. She was here to do a job, and unless he happened to be interested in dead-end scientific research, which was her legal work, then he wanted her for something illegal and she intended to make him pay through his teeth. That meant she couldn’t afford to even look in his splenderous direction or he might just manage to distract her.
She looked at the closest surface to her, which was a shelf, and there, casually cast there – too casually --was a print newspaper with a large headline announcing the opening of the Great Exhibition with a daguerreotype photograph of Queen Victoria.
She examined the newspaper. She could have sworn it was the genuine article. Yellowed pages, jagged edges and all. It would fetch a good price. She wondered if he would notice if she nicked it. Her hand twitched.
“It’s authentic,” said the deep, British-sounding voice. “You may have it if you like.”
It was a bribe. She knew it, and he knew it. He’d chosen that newspaper deliberately to entice her.
“No thanks,” she said, putting her hands behind her back and holding them tightly together. The newspaper was bait but she wasn’t going to play fish.
“Take it with you when you leave, then,” said Darcy, with bored indifference. He took down the newspaper, folded it, and tossed it – tossed it! – onto the neighboring chair. Seraphene cringed. It was like tossing a Spode china cup onto a side table.
She refused to be rattled by his pretentious disdain for valuable objects.
“You sent me an invitation, Mr. Darcy.” A flat statement of fact.
“Call me Darcy. Most people do. May I call you Seraphene? It makes negotiating much less cumbersome. I’m delighted you agreed to see me, Seraphene.”
There was definitely something smug about the way he said it. He was taking her for granted, assuming she’d agree to any terms he set.
He didn’t know her yet.
“I wouldn’t exactly call it agreeing.” Though technically, she supposed she had, just by showing up. “Perhaps I came out of curiosity.”
“Of course. I’d counted on that. It’s every scientist’s weakness.”
She was tempted to point out that it must be his as well, but she bit her tongue. Just because she didn’t like his arrogance didn’t mean she should start being petty. Besides, she was ready to bet he hadn’t invited her here because she was a scientist.
“Let’s get down to business, then,” she said. “If you have cargo to unload I might as well warn you that I charge a high price for anything that involves risk.”
His silver grey eyes glimmered in amusement.
Hades’ hounds! Those eyes could melt whatever was left of the icebergs. They certainly turned something inside her to slush. She struggled to pull her scrambled thoughts together.
At this rate, she’d be selling her soul to him within the next three seconds. Now she knew how he’d earned his reputation for never taking no for an answer. He turned his victims into jelly-legged squat-fish the moment they walked through the door.
He’s probably counting on having this effect on me.
The thought worked like a splash of cold water. It dampened her pheromone-controlled response long enough to unscramble her thoughts into something close to logic.
“I see you like to come straight to the point,” he said. “Good. I like that in my employees.”
“May I point out, Mr. Darcy, that I haven’t agreed to anything, let alone being your employee.”
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