Saturday 31 December 2011


Two great books for two lucky winners! In this festive atmosphere, I'm very glad to announce that 

1.  Jane Austen Made Me Do It goes to  Denise


2. The Fourth Edition of Jane Austen's Letters by Deirdre Le Faye has been won by  Lesly

Congratulations to you both. Many thanks to Deirdre Le Faye and Laurel Ann Nattress for being my guests.   

And to everybody a Happy New Year full of Austenesque joy! 

Friday 30 December 2011


Read this lovely guestpost by Abigail Reynolds, leave your comment + e-mail address to get a chance to win a signed copy of "Mr Darcy's Letter". This giveaway is limited to US and Canada readers and ends on January 5th, 2012  when the winner is announced. 

    Pride, Prejudice and Propriety 

We all know that etiquette and proper behaviour were de riguer in the Regency period.  Unmarried women had to be chaperoned at all time, they could not correspond with unmarried gentlemen, they were expected to be pure in mind and body, etc.  But where there are human beings involved, rules and reality will always differ.  From today’s vantage point, some readers feel that Darcy and Elizabeth embody proper behavior.  It’s a pleasant thought; unfortunately, it isn’t in keeping with the characters Jane Austen wrote.  Both Darcy and Elizabeth constantly push the envelope on appropriate behavior to the point where it could have – and probably did – affect their reputations.

Let’s start with Elizabeth. We know that many of Austen’s contemporaries disliked the character of Elizabeth and felt that Jane Bennet should have been the heroine, and they had good reason. Elizabeth scampers all over the countryside on pleasure strolls by herself when she should always be accompanied by a maid or a sister. Modern readers may think that’s fine, but a Regency audience would agree with Miss Bingley that Elizabeth’s manners were “very bad indeed:”

"You observed it, Mr. Darcy, I am sure," said Miss Bingley, "and I am inclined to think that you would not wish to see your sister make such an exhibition."

"Certainly not."

"To walk three miles, or four miles, or five miles, or whatever it is, above her ancles in dirt, and alone, quite alone! what could she mean by it? It seems to me to shew an abominable sort of conceited independence, a most country town indifference to decorum."

Perhaps the most important rule for young ladies was never to be alone with an unrelated gentleman under any circumstances.  Elizabeth flouts this one regularly. When Darcy comes to call at Hunsford and everyone else is away from home, Elizabeth should have refused to meet with him without a maid present, and Darcy should have politely declined to stay.  They take long walks alone together at Rosings, which is enough to harm her reputation seriously, but she doesn’t stop there; she also walks alone with Colonel Fitzwilliam, and one assumes she would have no hesitation doing so with Wickham or any other gentleman. 

Then there’s the famous letter Darcy writes her.  Remember the part about young ladies not corresponding with gentlemen?  Accepting Darcy’s letter is a complete breach of propriety, as the text itself tells us.  Darcy holds out “a letter, which she instinctively took” (my italics).  Jane Austen added that “instinctively” because she had to justify Elizabeth behaving in a completely unacceptable manner.  But even having taken it instinctively, Elizabeth should have returned it unopened or refused to read it, as she does in my latest variation, Mr. Darcy’s Letter. Of course, that action leads to trouble of a different sort, but it is proper!

Darcy is, if anything, worse.  He goes along with all the impropriety I’ve mentioned, behavior which I’m quite sure he wouldn’t have condoned in Georgiana, who has a hired companion to protect her from those very mistakes.  He’s inexcusably rude at the Meryton Assembly.  Modern readers tend to think of it as just his excessive pride, but look at the reaction of the people of Meryton.  Mrs. Bennet and the other matchmaking mamas, who would still have considered Bingley eligible if he had been a slovenly middle-aged man as drunk as Mr. Hurst so long as he still had his 5000 pounds per year, write off handsome Mr. Darcy’s 10,000 pounds based solely on his outrageous rudeness.  That’s not a reaction to pride, which could be expected in a man of his stature – it’s behavior that’s beyond the pale for them. 

Then there’s the scene when Miss Bingley invites Elizabeth to take a turn around the room at Netherfield.  Darcy refuses, and says to their faces, “… you are conscious that your figures appear to the greatest advantage in walking … [and] I can admire you much better as I sit by the fire.”  It is indeed, as Miss Bingley says, a shocking and altogether abominable thing to say.  Not only is he admitting publicly to looking at their figures for his pleasure, but he is making reference to the fact that their dresses were deliberately translucent as was the fashion, and sitting “by the fire” he would get an excellent view.  He’s telling the ladies, “No, I’ll stay right here so that I admire your legs through your dresses which you are deliberately exposing in hopes of inflaming my lust.” This apparently isn’t even unusual behavior for him; Jane Austen tells us that he was “continually giving offence” wherever he appeared.  That is most likely the reason Darcy, the nephew of an Earl, is spending his time with the children of tradesmen when it’s clear that he’s quite a snob.  He doesn’t behave properly, and society holds it against him.  

Both Darcy and Elizabeth are comfortable flouting almost any rule of etiquette that gets in their way.  Yes, it’s true that they both see some things as too improper even for them, like Lydia running off with Wickham.  However, that’s like saying that it doesn’t matter if your new in-laws are boorish, drunken slobs as long as they aren’t criminals. 

Don’t get me wrong – I like it that Darcy and Elizabeth are the free spirits of their age.  That’s a large part of what makes them so appealing to me.  It’s just that when people tell me that Darcy or Elizabeth would never have approved of this or that, I sometimes wonder if we’ve been reading the same book.  And now despise me if you dare!  J
Abigail Reynolds
The Book

A lady's reputation is a fragile thing. If anyone ever discovered that Miss Elizabeth Bennet had received a letter from a single gentleman, she could be ruined... or forced to marry a man she detests. In this Pride & Prejudice variation, Elizabeth takes the safer course and refuses to read Mr. Darcy's letter of explanation. Returning home unaware of Wickham's true nature, Elizabeth confesses everything to him, putting both Mr. Darcy and herself in grave danger from Wickham's schemes.

The Author

Abigail Reynolds  is a lifelong Jane Austen enthusiast and a physician.  In addition to writing, she has a part-time private practice and  enjoys spending time with her family.  Originally from upstate New York, she studied Russian, theater, and marine biology before deciding to attend medical school.   She began writing From Lambton to Longbourn in 2001 to spend more time with her favorite characters from Pride & Prejudice.  Encouragement from fellow Austen fans convinced her to continue asking ‘What if…?’, which led to five other Pemberley Variations and her modern novel, The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice. She is a lifetime member of JASNA and lives in Wisconsin with her husband, two teenaged children, and a menagerie of pets.

Thursday 29 December 2011


A perfect gift reflecting the festive atmosphere of these Christmas  Holidays, "Fitzwilliam Ebenezer Darcy",   is going to get to one of the kind commenters of "Talking Jane Austen and Dickens with Barbara Tiller Cole"

My congratulations to ... Gisele Alv!

Enjoy your new read, Gisele. And thanks again for being such a kind guest, Barbara! 


Tuesday 27 December 2011


Professor Amanda Vickery in Bath
I was so happy I could see this show! The Many Lovers of Miss Jane Austen is a 60-minute programme, broadcast on BBC 2 on December 23rd. In it,   Professor Amanda Vickery, one of the leading chroniclers of Georgian England,  wonders why on earth millions of us are still reading Jane Austen period romances or how  her “genteel fiction” has become a 21st century global phenomenon. Professor Vickery , both as a historian and as an unashamed fan, is fascinated by the story of how an anonymous, minor novelist in her own lifetime, became celebrated today as our very best-loved writer.
This TV show was not the classic documentary dedicated to a National literary treasure, only celebrating and quoting from a writer  as popular as Jane Austen. It was really interesting and focused on Jane’s fame through the centuries   entertaining and  informing at the same time.

Professor Amanda Vickery’s  search for the reasons of Austen’s global popularity starts quite far from Chawton, Hampshire or England. It begins in Fort Worth, Texas, USA where Jane Austen Society of North America  held their annual convention (watch a clip from the programme), the biggest International celebration for an author whose fame ranks second only to Shakespeare. On this occasion, Professor Vickery could show the audience examples of the rampant commercialization of the brand Jane Austen, the astounding phenomenon we know so well here at My Jane Austen Book Club. As Professor Vickery recognises in Texas, it seems possible that…” Jane Austen the commercial brand dances hand in hand with the appreciation of Jane Austen the serious novelist. And it’s this partnership that gives  Austen a unique position in the world of literature”.

Another example of how treasurable everything belonging to Jane Austen has become nowadays is the sale at Sotheby’s in London of the manuscript of the fragment of  “The Watsons”. It was exciting to see the auction in Professor Vickery’s (very surprised ) eyes and to see her so excited at reading some lines from that same manuscript before it went sold to  the Bodleian Library in Oxford  for a stunning £850,000: an amazing achievement for a woman who struggled in genteel poverty. This demonstrates Jane Austen’s academic status today is just as potent as her commercial brand.
Earl Spencer reading Sense and Sensibility
To understand this huge success Professor Vickery then passes to analyze how Jane Austen was read in the different epochs, from her own age up to these days. Who was reading her and why?
The very first people to read Jane Austen were her family, of course. But then, when at last Austen managed to have her first novel, Sense and Sensibility, printed and distributed  (October 1811) who were the 750 people who bought it? Certainly young noble ladies who could fully appreciate Austen’s understatements about her discriminated, bound role in a male-oriented society but also a wider, less refined public thanks to the popular circulating libraries of the time.  Respect to the standards of her own age - for a woman writing -  and respect to the very brief period in which she published her first 4 novels, she may well be considered quite successful.
After 3 years from her death, however, she had fallen out of fashion and out of  print. The main culprit for the neglect her work fell into, is Romanticism and the publishing of passionate novels like those by the Brontes.  Professor Vickery discusses then Charlotte Bronte’s dislike for Austen’s work (“…  the passions are perfectly unknown to her”)  with Lucasta Miller, a Bronte expert and defends Jane Austen’s from the accuses of being … shallow, superficial, prim and in denial of true human nature.

Anyway, by the middle of the 19th century, Austen was back in print and read -  as well as her more modern colleagues, Gaskell, Eliot, Thackeray, Dickens – thanks to a new Victorian invention: trains and railways creative a captive new audience for books, cheap yellowback editions of  novels were sold in WH bookshops at the stations. Jane Austen’s titles had just fallen out of copyright and that’s the reason why they were included in the low-priced popular yellow back series of books. It was the debut of Austen to a mass audience. In 1870, Austen’s relationship with her Victorian readers changed thanks to the authorised account of her life made by her nephew, James Edward Austen – Leigh.

Professor Amanda Vickery on set
The tour  to the places of  Austen myth  goes on, from Chawton to Bath, where the annual Jane Austen Festival is held in September. There, Professor Vickery and Katie Halsey, author of “The History of Reading”,  discuss who the Janeites were when they started as a sophisticated and eye – brow clique of academics and aesthetes. And they insist on the fact that Janeites were men highly appreciating Jane Austen’s work, men like Winston Churchill reading her novels during the war or Rudyard Kipling soon after his own only son’s death, or even soldiers in the terror of the trench warfare (watch a clip about Austen in Trenches from the programme). It seems impossibile but face to face with death each moment of their horrifying monotonous lives in the trenches, soldiers could be taken away and consoled by Jane Austen’s words.
After WWI, humanities and the study of literature got to have a new prestige in the academic world of universities, they seemed essential for the future of mankind. This is when Jane Austen started being studied and appreciated in a new serious way by literary scholars  like the Leavis in Cambridge and immensely loved by a new mass audience that came to her work through the TV and film adaptations.

Austen has been reinvented and ultimately popularised  and her fame is alive thanks to a huge International  community of extremely diverse individuals -  scholars, fans and readers - joined  by their love for Jane Austen and a strong sense of sisterhood. Because, yes, they still are especially women.
The secret of her popularity,  then? The combination,  as a writer,  of academic prestige and popular devotion.

If you live in the UK, you can watch this programme on iPlayer

Monday 26 December 2011


Happy Boxing Day everybody! I've got two presents for two lucky readers today. I've just picked up the names of the two winners of Brenda J. Webb's  Darcy An Honourable Man and I'm here to announce them.

The signed paperback copy (US & Canada limited contest) goes to Marcie in the US while the e-book version (the second contest was open worldwide) has been won by  IdentitySeeker in South Africa.

Thanks to Brenda J. Webb for granting me the interview (HERE) and providing the two copies for the giveaway and many thanks to all readers and commenters who took part in the contest.

Sunday 25 December 2011


Deirdre Le Faye has researched the life and times of Jane Austen for the last forty years.  She has published the definitive factual biography, Jane Austen: A Family Record, plus a new edition of Jane Austen’s Letters, several other books, and numerous scholarly articles on Austenian topics.

This is my Christmas gift to all my Janeite friends and readers: an interview with her!  Moreover, Oxford University Press has provided a copy of Ms Le Faye's latest edition of Jane Austen's Letters for a giveaway, this time limited to US & Canada.  Leave your comments and e-mail addresses, this is an extraordinary occasion to win this precious addition  to your Austen shelf. The giveaway ends on December 31st.

First of all, let me say it is a great honour and a joy to have you as my very special guest, Ms Le Faye,  since I most ardently admire you and  your incredibile work as an Austen  scholar. I’ve read and own some of your books and I just wonder,  how did you come up dedicating so much of your research work just to Jane Austen?
Because I had the good luck to gain access to the Austen-Leigh archive, which no-one else had bothered to study properly beforehand.

Jane Austen has never been as popular as she is now. What’s the appeal of her world for the 21st century reader?
I believe it's because most people think her late Georgian/Regency period was more elegant, calmer, and more civilised than our present noisy century.

What, instead,  would Jane most appreciate of our world?
The improvement in medical care;  if she were living nowadays, I expect her terminal illness could have been prevented or cured.

Which novel is your favourite among the major six and why?
Mansfield Park, because it is so beautifully planned that the outcome seems quite inevitable when one looks back at the beginning.

Who are your favourite Austen hero and heroine?
Mr Knightley and Emma.

You know, Ms Le Faye,  I’m a teacher of English as a foreign language to teenage students in Italy and I love teaching English literature (especially  19th century authors) . What do you think Jane Austen can  teach  to  nowadays youth?
That they should be intelligent, sensible, and honest in thought and deed.

I often feature Austen fan fiction (sequels , spin-offs , what-if stories) here on My Jane Austen Book Club and I think they are great fun to read. But don’t  you think that all those adaptations, both written and for the  screen, could alter, mislead  or even distort the interpretation of Austen’s work?
Most of these prequels, sequels and spin-offs are fairly silly and inadequate;  but if they encourage readers to go back to the original novels, so much the better.

You’ve just published the fourth edition of Jane Austen’s Letters for Oxford University Press and your familiarity with Jane Austen’s life is incredibile. So, I’d like to know  your personal opinion about her personality:  was she more a romantic girl or a matter-of- fact woman? More sense or more sensibility?
She was both, as her elder brother James knew, and stated in a little verse he wrote to her when she published Sense and Sensibility:   "Fair Elinor's Self in that Mind is exprest, / And the Feelings of Marianne live in that Breast."

And what do you think of the little we know about her affairs of the heart
That she never met a man who was her equal in intelligence, and wouldn't settle for anyone stupider.

Have you noticed/discovered anything that you hadn’t before, working on Jane’s private correspondence again?
When composing my new Subject Index, I was surprised to see how often she suffered from colds! - but then, so did many of the other people she knew.

Are you working on a new Austen project at the moment?
I'm always researching and making notes with future publications in mind.

That’s all, Ms Le Faye. Thanks a lot for being my kind guest and answering my questions. And special thanks for all your precious work,  which is immensely appreciated by Austenites all over the world. Merry Christmas! 

The Book

(Oxford | December 15, 2011 | Hardcover | 688 pages | $45.00 | ISBN: 9780199576074)

“Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings,” said Jane Austen.  And yet, the unfolding of these nothings is what makes up the amazing stories of our lives, whether they are the lives of characters in books, or the lives of writers. Few writers are as revered, emulated, and beloved as JaneAusten, her novels holding a secure place in the cannon of English literature. Now, at the bicentennial anniversary of the publication of Sense and Sensibility—Austen’s first novel in print—comes an intimate look into the life of Jane Austen in her own words in JANE AUSTEN’S LETTERS: Fourth Edition(Oxford | December 2011), edited by Deirdre Le Faye.

In these letters—mostly addressed to members of her family, and the majority of those to her sister, Cassandra—Austen shares her personal insight into contemporary events and places in her own turn of phrase. Her observations serve to further our understanding of life in that time, and in so doing, we learn some of her own secrets. Most significantly, the gossip, witty social commentary, humor, and voice found in Austen’s letters echo unmistakably in such novels as Northanger AbbeyEmma, andPride and Prejudice.

The fourth edition of JANE AUSTEN’S LETTERS also includes:
·       A new insightful preface by Le Faye
·       Reorganization of the letters into their correct chronological sequence
·       Complete annotations for each letter as well as a list of the physical details of the manuscripts
·       Updated and enhanced biographical and topographical indexes and a new subject index
·       Added notes to the general index

Scholars, students, and fans of Jane Austen will relish in this exposure of the novelist’s life as she experienced it. Le Faye’s updates in JANE AUSTEN’S LETTERS: Fourth Edition greatly enhance our understanding of the life and times of one of the most popular writers of all time.

Enter the giveaway of one copy, leaving your comment + e-mail address. Open to US & Canada readers only, this giveaway ends on December 31. Good luck and Merry Christmas Time!

Best wishes to you all! 
Maria Grazia

Friday 23 December 2011


Lyn Shepherd: Did Santa put Death Comes to Pemberley in your stocking?
Maria Grazia: YES!!!
Lynn Shepherd: Did you read Murder at Mansfield Park when it came out last year?
Maria Grazia: YES!!!
Lynn Shepherd: If so, why not join in some Austenesque festive frolics and take part in the #AustenMurderMatch on Twitter?
Maria Grazia: YES, COUNT ME IN!!!

What is this all about?

It's about  ... a great fun event Lynn Shepherd, author of Murder at Mansfield Park and Tom-All-Alone's (to be released on February 2012in the UK, then in the US as The Solitary House)  has just launched on her site and on twitter.
She’s going to pitch two Janeite murder mysteries (her Murder at Mansfield Park and P.D. James’s Death Comes to Pemberley ) together, head to head, and see which one we readers think comes out on top. She’s  inviting anyone who’s read both books to write a short review comparing the two, and
giving them each a score. The #AustenMurderMatch will start on December 26th and run till Monday 9th January 2012, and at the end all the scores will be added up and the winner announced!

Three of the reviewers who take part will also be chosen at random to receive a prize:

1.     One UK reviewer will receive a copy of my next book, Tom-All-Alone’s, a murder mystery inspired by Charles Dickens’ Bleak House

2.       One US or Canada reviewer will receive a copy of my Dickens book under its North American title,  
          The Solitary House

3.       And one reviewer from the rest of the world will receive a signed copy of Murder at Mansfield Park.

I’ve already accepted the invitation and ... sharpened my quill! Do you want to know what you need to do to take part in the event?

Send Lynn Shepherd an email at before midnight UK time on Sunday 8th January. The email needs to contain:

•            Your Twitter name

•            A review, in English, comparing Death Comes to Pemberley and Murder at Mansfield Park. This     
             should be no more than 150 words long. 
•            A score out of ten for each of the books.
•         The country where you live (this will not be made public – it’s purely for the purpose of the prize draw).

All  reviews will be published in full on Lynn’s website (including your Twitter name), though of course she  reserves the right not to publish anything I’m sent that’s inappropriate or offensive. Hopefully there will be enough reviews to allow her to publish them in batches, so we can keep a running score of which book is winning! And of course you can publish your own review on your blog or elsewhere if you want to as well. 

If you got any question, do not esitate to write Lynn Shepherd at the e-mail address given above. 


We celebrated Jane Austen's Birthday with friends and mates all over the blogosphere just one week ago ( HERE ). The Soiree Katherine Cox at November's Autumn and I organized was a great success thanks to the enthusiasm and generosity of all the participants and, of course, to the positive response of so many readers. Thanks a lot, everybody!
I enjoyed all the gifts for Jane and all the posts. It was great to hop from blog to blog and discover what each participant had created as a present to our beloved Jane!  I'm more and more convinced that Janeites are a very special, huge , international community whose main peculiarity is ... love for beutiful things!
Let's go on spreading the love for Jane Austen and her work and ...till next year for another joyful celebration.

Here's the name of the lucky winner in the giveaway contest  on My Jane Austen Book Club,  which  I picked up through

She chose Captain Wentworth Card among my birthday gifts for Jane...

...  Murder Most Persuasive  by Tracey Kiely as her prize ... 

 ... and her name is ... GABRIELLA PARISI. 

Congratulations, Gabriella!!! 

Thursday 22 December 2011


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.


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