First of all Stan, let me welcome you to our online book club. I’m really glad you’re here to introduce yourself and present your new book to our readers.
Thank you very much for having me. I think yours is one of the most appealing and impressive websites devoted to the works of Jane Austen, and I marvel at how you manage to keep it up with all your other jobs: wife and mother, teacher, and two other blogs! Well done!
Well, thank you very much, Stan. Blogging is a very engaging but very rewarding hobby for me. Now let’s focus on you, instead and of course, my first question is: “How did it come that you decided to write your own version of Pride and Prejudice”?
My introduction to Jane Austen was the Keira Knightly / Matthew Macfadyen movie in 2005; I was in my 50’s then. I was caught immediately, even though most Austen fans think it one of the worst versions ever made; I began reading all her novels, followed by the rest of the movie and TV productions. When I ran out of those, a friend introduced me to another trilogy. While I was at first delighted simply to be back in the world created by Jane Austen, subsequent readings left me unsatisfied (I should say that I wolf down new books like a starving man at his first meal; then, once sated, I go back to savour it with a more discriminating palate). The Darcy in that series, while certainly well-written, bothered me enough that I felt the need to attempt it myself; I almost felt as if someone of my acquaintance had come off badly in the press, and that I needed to correct it. The one thing that troubled me most was that this Darcy did not, to my mind, act the way a man really would. Then I went back to P & P and asked myself if Austen’s Darcy could be more fully imagined in the way I would expect a man to act; and, to no one’s surprise, I’m sure, I found that he could. Over time, what had started off as a purely personal quest to fill in the gaps Austen left for us, turned into a larger project.
Guess what? P&P 2005 was the first adaptation of Pride and Prejudice I’d ever seen at that time and I didn’t mind it at all! Colin Firth and his Mr Darcy only came second and I highly appreciated, of course. Now, your Darcy’s Tale is written from Darcy’s point of view. How different is your hero from Jane Austen’s brooding gentleman?
Well, to begin with, I do not see Darcy as a brooding man; a bit of an introvert, yes, but not the dark, unapproachable misanthrope he is often interpreted as being. This was something else that bothered me about other portrayals of Darcy: the idea that an arrogant, self-absorbed man could be transformed into a decent, caring, loving kind of guy by the force of his love for a woman. Now, love of a woman will make a man do many, many things, but I do not believe it will change a bad one into a good one; if it could, there would be a lot more happy marriages.
As I see him, he is an essentially good man, who feels that proper manners are the way to show one’s regard for other people. Like many of us do in our youth, he just takes it a bit too far. This is from the book:
“He firmly believed in proper behaviour: that, no matter the occasion, one’s civility should never desert one; moreover, that the more one wished to show one’s regard, the more strictly one must adhere to the tenets of decorum. As a child he had been taught that proper behaviour was good behaviour, and he had never learned to feel differently…in company he was unvaryingly correct. This had earned him a reputation for reserve which was not entirely deserved; he was, in fact, a reasonably affable man whose faith in proper comportment, as a symbol of his gentlemanly regard for what was due his fellow creatures, manifested itself in an exacting observance of propriety.”
What I believe changed in him, out of his love for Elizabeth, was that he came to realize that what we do, how we act, affects everyone around us—not just those we care for, or who care for us, but everyone. What
does for Darcy is to make him human, to connect him to his fellow beings. Elizabeth
Can you tell us something more about your journey through writing Darcy’s Tale and finally getting to publish it?
Goodness. Well, it started as just an essay in self-expression, and a need to delve more deeply into a favourite character. It did not become anything more until others began reading it: friends and family felt I should make it more widely available. I was unconvinced; but I decided to test it on a knowledgeable audience. I started searching the internet, and, to my great surprise, there was a whole genre called fan fiction! I posted a few chapters on a Jane Austen fan-fiction website, and to my surprise and delight, it was well-received. It was then I started thinking more seriously about publishing. From there it was fairly straightforward – I researched the Amazon publishing venues and others, I contacted a literary agent, all the standard things. My decision to self-publish rather than pursue traditional publishers was simply the result of my own particular circumstances; nor was it wrong, it seems, as the ebook sales are running almost ten-to-one to the paperback. That surprised me, and sadden me a little: I love the feel of a real book in my hands, and I always seem to feel the words more strongly in book than on a screen. I hope this pleasure will not be lost to future generations.
Now give us just a tip to understand Mr. Darcy better. From his point of view, have we wrongly been convinced of ….anything?
He was always, from the very beginning, a well-intentioned and thoughtful gentleman, not an arrogant, clueless meddler. Young, strong, over-confident, and too prone to see things in black and white, but again, a good man. For example, when he persuades Bingley to give over his feelings for Jane, which many have seen as unconscionably arrogant, it is the combination of his youth and confidence; as he has never been humbled by the experience of hurting someone he cared about with his meddling, and his confidence leads him to act without regard to human fallibility: and we all know the result. He cannot see he is playing God; he only knows he sees many things better than his friend, and in his strength and inexperience, he steps in to do what he believes to be right. But, of course, while Darcy is the cleverer of the two, Bingley has the wiser heart, and Darcy’s interference has heartbreaking consequences for them both.
As a reader, what’s your opinion on fan fiction? Jane’s world is so down-to-earth, all sense and balance, do you think fan fiction mostly respect those features?
Honestly, I have very little to offer on the subject; after reading that first trilogy, I read only the zombie one. I can enjoy that sort of satire, but I do not understand the fan fiction that takes Austen’s characters and plugs them into entirely new lives, as pirates or whatnot, and I see all too much of that. This, to me, feels wrong, somehow: it can certainly be seen as disrespectful, and even lazy, although I’m sure that is not always the case. I understand the allure: it is not unlike the sports fans who sit and argue how Beckham would do against Pele; but my own connection to the characters feels violated in some way when I try to read such works. And, of course, the same could be said for my own work by those who disagree with how I envision Darcy. So, to those I would say: forgive me my homage – I assure you it was written with the greatest respect.
If you could write a sequel or spin-off, what Austen -novel/character would you choose?
I think Sir Walter Elliot would be hilarious to work on, but I would probably relate better to Captain Wentworth. When I first read all the novels, Persuasion was my favourite.
What is the appeal of Jane Austen and her world to nowadays readers? What’s the secret of her huge global success?
Because she understood, with a true genius, how people work – how they think and feel. And, as people have not changed in their essentials in the past two hundred years, her characters are just as real now as they were then.
Another thing I like, that many have noticed, is that her books are almost like mysteries. But instead of being a question of who the murderer is, it is a question of whether the right people will get together. And she always finishes her stories with a flourish at the very end, like any good mystery writer.
If Jane had lived nowadays what kind of novels would she have written?
I believe she would have written the same stories: she obviously loved her characters, and, if the volume of fan fiction is any indication, she would have had no difficulty expressing them in modern terms and settings. I rather suspect she would have been more open about the physical aspects of the relationships, as I do not see her as a prude by any measure, but I am certain that, however far she decided to follow her characters in their courtships, it would have been done with consummate taste.
What is it that you most appreciate in her world and in her work?
In her world? The manners. In her work, the superb and unstudied elegance of her prose. Incomparable!
What is your favourite Austen novel?
As I mentioned, I liked Persuasion best on first reading: that letter he wrote to her was extraordinarily moving. But for rereading I think Pride and Prejudice stands up better.
Let’s talk women now, Stan. Who’s your favourite heroine and why?
Elizabeth Bennet, of course, at my time of life. When I was younger I might have liked to meet
in a club
somewhere. (!) But, do you know who I would have nothing to do with? Lady
Susan: charming and enticing as she is, as a man I despise being manipulated.
In fact, I put a Lady Susan-esque character in my second volume, just to have
Darcy take her down a peg. Lydia
What Austen hero do you feel you most resemble?
Hmm…Captain Wentworth and I could get along. My wife, naturally, thinks I favour Darcy, but I think we should take that with a grain of salt.
What are you up to after Darcy’s Tales? Are there any future projects somehow Austen-related?
I will certainly continue to write, and the Regency is an era that attracts me. I imagine I will be guided, at least in part, by how my readers take to Darcy’s Tale. Among Jane Austen’s characters, Wentworth and Knightley would be possibilities, and of course the two Colonels, Brandon and Fitzwilliam.
That’s all Stan. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions and for talking Jane Austen with me.
Author bio note
Stan Hurd is a Ph.D. neurochemist who currently occupies himself writing, teaching fencing and Karate, and refurbishing samurai sword blades. He was introduced to Jane Austen's works late in life, but became immediately captivated by the unlabored beauty of her prose.
Many of his friends are amazed that he should be writing a Regency romance; he takes a particular delight in that fact.
From the back cover:
Let yourself be drawn into the world of Fitzwilliam Darcy, landed gentleman, scholar, and very eligible bachelor, whose engaging and enthusiastic friend, Mr. Bingley, has acquired a new manor. Darcy was a wealthy, well-intentioned, intelligent, and educated man; how on Earth did he become so thoroughly tangled by his acquaintance with Miss Elizabeth Bennet? Follow the beginnings of a story that will take Darcy from the heights of wealth and status, to the depths of pain and self-condemnation, and, ultimately, to the safe haven of the love and respect of his heart's mistress.
This lovingly crafted companion to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice will give her fans a feeling of homecoming, and a chance to see this beloved story from a new perspective, all the while immersed in the endearing world of Regency
so masterfully created. England
Read an Excerpt
A sample is available at Amazon in most countries around the world, or you can see it here: Darcy's Tale Volume I Amazon, USA