I am exceedingly delighted to welcome, Amanda Grange, author of the newly released Dear Mr. Darcy and Pride and Pyramids, to Austenesque Reviews. Amanda, it is such a pleasure and honor to be interviewing you here, once again, on Austenesque Reviews. I greatly enjoyed our last interview, which was in April of 2011, celebrating your release of Wickham’s Diary! Thank you so much for taking the time to come back and answer some more of my questions!
My goodness, Amanda! You have been busy! Three Austenesque novels – Henry Tilney’s Diary (December 2011), Pride and Pyramids (July 2012), Dear Mr. Darcy (August 2012) published in the span nine months! That’s amazing! First off, I would like to thank you for adding three more fantastic novels to the oeuvre of Austenesque literature, I love all three of your new releases (especially
Henry Tilney’s Diary!) My question for you is, did you write all three novels in short succession? How did it come about? Were you working on two or all three at the same time?
Although the books came out in quick succession, they weren’t written in such quick succession. I finished writing Henry Tilney’s Diary in the early months of 2010. I sent it to my UK publishers, Robert Hale Ltd, and their UK hardback version came out in May 2011. (It can often take a year for a book to come out once I’ve submitted it to the publishers.)
I wrote Pride and Pyramids with Jacqueline Webb and so it didn’t take as long as writing a book on my own. As for Dear Mr Darcy, I’ve actually been writing it on and off for years. It took a lot of thought because it was so complex to organize all the letters in an order which made sense and also flowed well. I wrote a few letters at a time, in between other projects, until I had the main body of the work down, at which point I devoted all my attention to it, shaping and improving it. From there on, it took about a year to write.
The fact that Pride and Pyramidsand Dear Mr Darcy came out within a month of each other is down to publishers’ schedules. But it’s certainly made this summer very exciting!
I can only imagine! I loved your idea for writing a Pride and Prejudice retelling through letters. In your Author’s Note for Dear Mr. Darcy you mentioned that you were inspired to write this epistolary novel because you felt Jane Austen’s first draft of Pride and Prejudice, titled First Impressions, might have been written in epistolary format just like Jane Austen’s first draft of Sense and Sensibility, Elinor and Marianne, correct? I never thought of it before, but that does make perfect sense because Lady Susan (which is also in epistolary form) was most likely written just before Elinor and Marianne. If Jane Austen did write First Impressionsin epistolary form, why do you think she eventually chose to abandon that style and rework it in novel form?
That’s a very interesting question. I think she probably reworked it because she found a publisher for Sense and Sensibility and so she decided to adapt Pride and Prejudice in the same way in the hope of selling that as well.
Speaking of First Impressions, what do you think Jane Austen’s first draft was like? Other than possibly being written in epistolary form, what other differences do you think readers would find?
I think the first draft was certainly longer – Jane Austen talked of having “lopt and cropt” it in the editing process. I think all the main characters would have been there, but I think there must have been some other characters in the book, because I don’t think it would be possible to tell the story without some additional characters.
In Dear Mr. Darcy, letters are not just exchanged between the main principals from Pride and Prejudice, readers are introduced to several new characters of your creation. Can you tell us a little about your inspiration and creation of the Sotherton sisters, Philip Darcy, and Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Bingley?
I’ve often thought that the most important character in Pride and Prejudice is not any of the characters we know and love, but a character whose existence we can deduce, ie the owner of Netherfield Park. If the owner hadn’t needed a tenant then Mr Bingley would never have moved into the area and Mr Darcy would never have met Elizabeth. I decided to call him Mr Sotherton and give him a large family, who would be friends of the Bennet family.
Elizabeth’s friend is Susan Sotherton. Elizabeth frequently writes to Susan, which gave me a chance to explore Elizabeth’s feelings more fully, because there are times in Pride and Prejudice when Elizabeth has no one to confide in. And of course Susan would be very interested in everything that happened at Netherfield because it was her former home. Susan’s sisters write to the other Bennet girls, so that I had a way of bringing them into the novel.
Philip Darcy came about because I wanted Mr Darcy to have someone of his own social standing and temperament to confide in. I wanted to delve deeper into his thoughts and feelings and I felt that, if he had an equal to write to, I would be able to do that.
Mr and Mrs Frederick Bingley (Mr Bingley’s parents) were a joy to create. We know from Pride and Prejudice that the Bingleys were a northern family who made their money in trade. Since Bingley is the name of a small town in Yorkshire, it made sense to make the family Yorkshire people. This also had a great appeal for me as I grew up a few miles away from Bingley, in fact I had a Saturday job in Bingley library as a teenager! I made Mr Frederick Bingley a bluff Yorkshireman and his wife a social climber. It was she who decided the girls should go to a good seminary, and she encouraged them in their aspirations. Despite this, she’s an endearing character who just wants the best for her girls.
I would love to live near a town that had the same name as a Jane Austen character or place! While there are several new characters in this Dear Mr. Darcy, I believe some of these characters aren’t entirely new to you. I think I recognized both Belle Younge and Matthew Parker from Wickham’s Diary. Do any of your other original characters make a second appearance in Dear Mr. Darcy? How do Belle Younge and Matthew Parker serve you in this novel?
Yes, this is a second appearance for Susan Sotherton (Mr. Darcy, Vampyre), too, as she makes an appearance in Dear Mr Darcy,in fact she has a major role to play as Elizabeth’s confidante.
As for Belle and Matthew, I wanted to include them because I felt they added variety in the letters. Also, I felt it would be helpful for them to appear as it would be useful for the plot. In an epistolary novel, it can be difficult to make sure all the plot is included because there is no narrative to help the author. Absolutely everything has to be told by the letters. By including Belle and Matthew, I gave Wickham someone to write to, so that we would know what he was plotting.
Now, this may surprise you and my readers when I say this but, one of my favorite exchanges of letters to witness in Dear Mr. Darcy were those written to and from Mary Bennet! Between Mary’s tireless quest to become a Learned Women, her justifications for her new tastes in literature, and oblivious comprehension of Mr. Shackleton’s intentions, I, for once, found Mary very entertaining! What prompted you to develop her character and give her more attention?
A few years ago, I wrote a very short extract from Mary Bennet’s Diary and posted it on the Historical Romance UK blog I was amazed by the response. I had loads of emails from readers, begging me to write Mary’s diary. I was so busy with other projects it was impossible, but when I was writing Dear Mr Darcy I knew I would have a chance to use some of the material from Mary’s diary. All I had to do was to convert it into letter form and expand on it. I jumped at the chance, because I find Mary hilarious.
Well, I definitely found your Mary definitely made me laugh! With so many detailed letters from the pens of so many characters in Dear Mr. Darcy, I’m sure you had many decisions to make about what events and correspondences to include in your retelling. How did you decide which details or plot events to include and which to omit? How did you decide when each character would write a letter? And to whom the letter would be addressed? What were the challenges you found retelling Pride and Prejudice in epistolary form?
I knew I had to include all the major events, I also knew I would have to include any minor event which impacted on the story or which gave important insight into a character.
Beyond that, I wanted to delve deeper into some of the relationships, so I included quite a lot of letters between Anne de Bourgh and Georgiana. There is a large age gap, but they are both isolated by their status and I felt they would both benefit from a friendship. Georgiana went through a traumatic time with Wickham and I felt it would be a relief to her to be able to confide in Anne.
I had to consider the flow of the book, and so that often dictated when someone would write a letter, for example if I felt the book needed lightening at a certain point, I would put in a letter from Mary or perhaps Lydia. As for the rest, it was mainly instinct. When reading the book through in the editing stage, I could tell if something seemed out of place and so I would move it.
I think one of the biggest challenges was deciding what to put in and what to leave out. The pacing was very important and sometimes I had to cut out a series of letters because I felt they were slowing down the narrative too much. A lot of letters were left on the cutting room floor!
Oooooo! Too bad readers can’t buy a “Special Deluxe Edition” of Dear Mr. Darcy and see all these “deleted scenes!” Since I loved and found much to admire in your new Pride and Prejudice retelling, Dear Mr. Darcy, you must forgive me for asking/hoping-with-fingers-crossed that this is the start of another series for you? Perhaps to follow the same path of your Jane Austen men retellings series? If you can share it with us, what is the next project you are working on? *please let it be Dear Miss Dashwood or Sincerely Yours, Frederick Wentworth* (Please excuse my impertinence!)
Oh, goodness, I hadn’t thought of that! It was exhausting to write Dear Mr Darcy and I don’t have any plans for another similar marathon in the future. But never say never.
As for my next project, I’m currently working on a contemporary novel with Jacqueline Webb, about a group of Austen fans in the twenty-first century.
Austen fans in the twenty-first century? That sounds fantastic, Amanda! Perhaps Jane Austen also found it to be exhausting and that is why she didn’t continue writing in epistolary form. Well, I’m going to have to keep my fingers crossed because I truly loved seeing a Pride and Prejudice retelling in this format!
Thanks for answering my questions, Amanda! It has been such a pleasure to have you back on Austenesque Reviews. I look forward to seeing you again during Austenesque Extravaganza this September! Best of luck on your new release(s)!
GIVEAWAY!!! Berkley Books has kindly donated a brand new paperback copy and of Dear Mr. Darcy for me to giveaway!!
To enter and win this BEAUTIFUL prize all you have to do is comment below sharing what Jane Austen novel you would LOVE to see Amanda Grange pen an epistolary retelling of next. (I can’t be the only one that wants more!)
- To save your inbox from unwanted spam, please leave your email address with an [at] instead of @.
- (You could also leave a Twitter handle or Facebook username instead).
- This giveaway is open to US residents.
This contest will end August 13th! Thank you for entering and best of luck!
***Want an extra entry? Hop on over to my review and tell me what you think of Dear Mr. Darcy!