Sunday, 15 June 2014


According to Newton’s Third Law of Fiction, for every protagonist there is an equal and opposite antagonist. The truth is immutable, but it’s the ‘equal and opposite’ part that gets a little tricky.

Clever got me this far
And tricky got me in

You see, though I dearly love to read action adventures, Stronger Even Than Pride is a character driven story—no one is abducted by pirates, contracts amnesia or time travels through a portal into another dimension in its universe. Instead, I wanted to explore how Jane Austen’s obstinate and headstrong Elizabeth and proud and aloof Darcy would fare if one small but significant detail in their journey to self-knowledge was changed: Elizabeth does not read the letter Darcy presses upon her in the grove at Rosings Park. And with that one alteration, the entire progression of the story changes: Darcy’s Hunsford Awakening is interrupted and Elizabeth’s “till this moment I never knew myself” realization never takes place. Instead, each goes about his or her way, every bit as flawed and mistaken as ever. So I had to spend a lot of time thinking… trying to get into their heads to figure out how my un-Hunsfordised protagonists would behave and react to each other and their choices.

Eye on what I’m after
I don’t need another friend.

And then there’s George Wickham, our favorite antagonist. Usually bad guys are pretty one-dimensional and not much of a challenge to write, but since Darcy is not the perfect, flawless hero, Wickham cannot be the typical villain – it’s that equal and opposite law thing again.

Smile and drop the cliché
Till you think I’m listening.

So now I had to get into Wickham’s head. To understand why he behaved the way he did in Jane Austen’s world, and then figure out what he would do under these new circumstances.

I’ll take just what I came for
Then I’m out the door again.

And at last I had it. Darcy was proud. Elizabeth was prejudiced. And Wickham was selfish. Not an evil mastermind, not a sociopath, predator or sexual deviant. Just profoundly self-centered. He wanted what he wanted, he felt he deserved more than he had, and he possessed the looks and charm to manipulate those around him to get it. And if he failed, whoever thwarted him must pay. Once I understood that, I knew exactly what he would do.

Lie to get what I came for
Lie to get what I need now
Lie to get what I’m craving
Lie and smile to get what’s mine.

The song lyrics are from The Package, by A Perfect Circle. It ran through my head every time Wickham came on the scene and helped me to remember exactly who he was.

That’s it. Not very sexy or dramatic on the surface, but selfishness in the hands of a handsome and charming man without ethics or scruple—one who was raised with certain expectations—can be devastating to those who cross his path. Or get in his way. Or hold him back. In Wickham’s eyes, Darcy got in his way, held him back, kept him from what he wanted and deserved, and he lied and smiled to get what he considered was his.

Take what’s mine,
Mine, mine, mine…

The journey to knowledge and redemption in Stronger Even Than Pride is a difficult one for all its imperfect characters, but you may rest in the knowledge that everyone gets what is coming to them. And that should make Wickham very happy, don’t you think? 
 Gail McEwen

About the book

“…in his behaviour to me there were stronger influences even than pride.”

When George Wickham speaks these words to an impressionable Elizabeth Bennet, she can have no idea how true they will turn out to be. Stronger Even Than Pride, Gail McEwen’s latest novel, explores whether love can survive the biggest obstacles fate—and a most ruinous stubbornness—can conjure up to separate two people destined to be together. After Miss Bennet refuses to read the faithful narrative of Darcy’s dealings with Mr Wickham, this Pride and Prejudice variation takes an unexpected turn when she chooses to exonerate the wrong man.

Events quickly spiral out of control and Fitzwilliam Darcy is forced to watch helplessly as the woman he loves slips further and further from reach. Can there be a happily ever after for them? Can a love, stronger than pride, redeem even the worst mistakes?

About the Author 

It took a few decades, but Gail finally took her English teacher’s advice and “became a writer.” It’s not that she didn’t want to be a writer – she always wanted to be a writer – she just didn’t know how to go about it. Because, truthfully, if one is going to write, one must eventually allow others to read what has been scribbled in that notebook shoved in the back of the drawer.

Gail eventually worked up enough nerve to share her efforts with the anonymous world of the internet, after that she ventured out to college classes, writing contests, and eventually found a publisher.

Gail’s newest book, Stronger Even Than Pride, is a wicked twist on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Depending on your measure, her success is either modest or phenomenal – while she is in no danger of growing either rich or famous, she is a published, award-winning author! Gail chooses the latter yardstick.

So it just goes to show – you should always listen to your teachers.


Christina Boyd said...

Great descriptor-- a wicked twist on Pride & Prejudice! Terrific post.

Anji said...

Sounds fascinating, Gail. I'm going to be intrigued to find out how we get to the HEA. We do have a HEA, don't we, please? Pretty please?

When I eventually read this, though, it'll be Adrian Lukis I see and hear, not Rupert Friend who's in your picture above. I think Mr. Lukis' portrayal of Wickham ticks all the boxes you've mentioned in your post, for me at least.

Maria Grazia said...

Hi Anji, thanks for visiting and commenting. I'm the one to blame for the choice of pictures here. What can I do? This is the image I got of Wickham the first time I read the book, a charming, roguish young man with long blond hair, I tend to imagine all Austen bad boys with long hair, actually.

junewilliams7 said...

profoundly self-centered. He wanted what he wanted, he felt he deserved more than he had, and he possessed the looks and charm to manipulate those around him to get it. And if he failed, whoever thwarted him must pay.

This immediately made me think of the young shooter at Isla Vista - he was self-centered, felt he deserved more than he had, was able to manipulate those around him, etc. Very scary villain you wrote!

Thank you for letting us in on your thought process.

Gail said...

Thank you everyone for sharing your comments. Maria, thank you so much for allowing me to share on your lovely blog.

Christina, thank you for bravely taking on this wicked twist!

Anji, yes, I can promise you an HEA. I always pictured James Purefoy for this Wickham - he has a deadly smile!

Maria, you can put any picture you like. He certainly fits the charming rogue model.

June, you're right... selfishness combined with a lack of morals and principle is a very scary combination.

Thanks again, everybody, for reading and sharing your thoughts.