Hello and welcome back, Sophie! Let's start our interview with something you said in your review. You said the premise of this story was “bonkers.” How did you come up with the idea for this book?
As for the bonkers premise, it was a combination of things, and I can’t remember which came first. I had been mulling over a what if for a lost at sea story and I also have a soft spot for amnesia plots. I also at some point learned that bigamy was technically punishable by death in the Georgian era. That was dangerous knowledge for me to have!
All of these things rattled around in my brain for a while and I just kept layering on plot and more plot until I had the plan for the story.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Two things. The first was creating that complex plot with lots of twists and turns and then actually executing it.
The second was the early part of the book where Will goes to London and discovers his identity and then goes on to Pemberley with Elizabeth. It was a chance for him to fall in love with her again but coming from a very different perspective, as someone who had been living as a fisherman for several years. I really enjoyed writing him as someone deeply uncomfortable in the world of the upper class. The idea of Fitzwilliam Darcy being this fish out water (pun intended, I guess?) fisherman trying to make his way in the world he used to be so proud of was just so fun to write.
What was most challenging about writing it?
Two things, again! The first is that I knew in order for the story to be believable for readers, they needed to be able to see Elizabeth’s remarrying as plausible. I know no one likes the idea of Elizabeth remarrying, but it was necessary for the plot of the story. So I had to really sell that as much as I could, and I generally did that by making it something she did because she thought it was necessary for her children, and also reinforcing that she really wasn’t in the best mental state to be making decisions like that.
The second was the legal aspects of the story. I knew the bit about bigamy, and the sort of general legal schedule of that time of quarter sessions (with local magistrates residing) and assizes (with a rotating set of judges residing). But the actual procedure and architecture of the courtroom and the nuances of criminal trials during that time took a lot of research to make it as historically accurate as I could while also reading as a good courtroom drama for today’s readers. I kept having to rewrite the pivotal courtroom chapter again and again as I learned new things during my research!
What were some of the things you learned?
I think the biggest learning was that things have changed drastically for criminal defendants since the beginning of the Georgian era. Historically in English criminal trials there were no lawyers. The victim did their own prosecution (or their family, in cases of murder) and the defendant was supposed to speak for themself. Often you would be arrested and not even know what it was you were charged with. The idea was that your initial reaction when you learned of the charges – in court! – would show whether you were guilty or innocent. The main protection you had in terms of a fair trial came from the judge, who was supposed to help sort of guide the trial through finding the facts of the case.
As someone from the United States,, it was also an adjustment for me even just to grasp the difference between a solicitor (who prepares the case prior to trial) and a barrister (who argues in court). Interestingly, it was solicitors who started getting involved in criminal cases first, and then barristers came after. They came first on the prosecution side, and then the defence. But while defence lawyers were allowed for cases of misdemeanor and treason, through most of the Georgian era there was no legal guarantee that you could have defence counsel for a felony. It was up to the judge to allow, although by the time Elizabeth’s trial takes place (1820), they were commonly allowed. It was only in 1836 that you had a legal right to defence representation for a felony.
Unsurprisingly, introducing lawyers changed the nature of trials significantly, shifting them from more of a fact-finding session to the adversarial system of both USA and English law.
There were other things that surprised me as well. I hadn’t realised that defence witnesses could not be legally bound to appear until 1867, and defendants did not testify under oath until 1898 in England. Trials also went extremely quickly and in some cases could be over in a matter of minutes, which is particularly mind-boggling in our modern day when it takes eight days to determine whether an actress skied into someone or not.
Just as surprising were the things that have not changed very much, like the language at swearing-in, which I got from a period book: “Viscount Neston, the evidence you shall give to the Court and Jury sworn between our sovereign lord the king and the prisoner at the bar, shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; So help you God.”
Back to Elizabeth remarrying – this is your second book that has featured Elizabeth married to someone else. Will there be more?
Never say never, but I think between Mistress and this book I have been rather hard on Elizabeth and probably should give her a rest! I think I’d be more likely to even the score a little and make Darcy a miserable widower, which I am not ruling out at some point. Right now I’m focused on my series, though.
Is this book similar to your Constant Love series?
They’re both continuations in certain ways, but the Constant Love books are much more of a traditional continuation. They’ve certainly got a lot of plot, but more normal sorts of ups and downs, and not the same level of angst and suspense. And the nice thing about a series is I’ve been able to do much more character development with a broad cast of characters over the course of so many books. In Crimes, I actually eliminated some of the original Pride and Prejudice characters before the story even started to keep the focus on a more core set of characters.
What’s next for you?
Writing book number five in the Constant Love series, which is tentatively titled A Dangerous Connection. Verona Westbrook and I are also working on the audiobook for book four, A Generation’s Secrets. It’s the longest book I’ve ever written, so needless to say the audiobook is going to be a long one as well!
ABOUT THE BOOK
After a tragic accident, Fitzwilliam Darcy is left for dead. His grief-stricken wife vows to do what is best for their children, including an ill-advised second marriage in the peerage.
Years later, Will Trevills leaves his happy life in Cornwall to discover the truth about his past. Thrust into a strange world after life as a fisherman, he gains a family he cannot recall. Lady Neston becomes Mrs. Darcy once more, and is grateful for her escape. But her husband questions his purpose as a gentleman, and cannot remember the love they shared.
Charged with bigamy, she may face the ultimate punishment, while the family she sought to protect has never been in greater peril.
Part thriller, part romance, and part courtroom drama, this Elizabeth and Darcy story is a long, absorbing read.
Readers should be aware that this story contains scenes of rape and sexual assault as well as a depiction of an abusive marriage and more general physical violence.
The Crimes of Elizabeth Darcy - Kindle
Sophie C. Turner worked as an online editor before delving even more fully into the tech world. Writing, researching the Regency era, and occasionally dreaming about living in Britain are her escapes from her day job.
She was afraid of long series until she ventured upon Patrick O’Brian’s 20-book Aubrey-Maturin masterpiece, something she might have repeated five times through.
Alas, her Constant Love series is only planned to be seven – or possibly eight – books right now, and consists of A Constant Love, A Change of Legacies, A Season Lost, and A Generation’s Secrets. The tentatively titled fifth book, A Dangerous Connection, is likely to be out in 2024 or 2025, if it comes out as long as its predecessor. She is also the author of Mistress: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, with Parts Not Suitable for Those Who Have Not Reached Their Majority and Less Proud and More Persuasive.
Sophie blogs about her writing endeavours at sophie-turner-acl.blogspot.com, where readers can find direction for the various social drawing-rooms across the Internet where she may be called upon.
Thank you so much for hosting me here at My Jane Austen Book Club! I enjoyed doing the interview.
Thank you, Sophie, for writing this book. I am SO looking forward to reading it!
You're welcome, Sophie! Thanks for being such an enthusiastic and generous guest 💕
Darcy as a fisherman, that does sound really intruiging :D Can’t wait to start reading your new book!!! So please count me in, thanks!
Darcy left for dead and then a fisherman is certaintly something new and interesting to read. Thanks for giving us this new story.
Thank you for your comments, everyone! Glad to hear Darcy as a fisherman is intriguing to you -- it was certainly fun for me to write.
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