Let’s begin our discussion with Jane Austen. When did you discover Jane Austen? What inspired you to start writing Austenesque fiction?
I discovered Jane Austen in 2002 and quickly read everything I could find by her. But as we all know, 6 novels only goes so far. So then I discovered Jane Austen Fan Fiction on the net. I was delighted by the opportunity to spend more time with the characters I loved, as well as make new friends with others who shared my obsession. The wonderful people I met on the fan fictions site encouraged me to try my hand at writing stories, and from there I was hooked.
What genre of books do you enjoy reading? Who are your favorite author(s)? Why?
I enjoy a wide variety of books. I love mysteries (Arthur Conan Doyle, Rex Stout, Dorothy Sayers, Michael Jenks, Ellis Peters), Romances (Jennifer Crusie, Janet Evanovich), Paranormal Romances (Kim Harrison, Patricia Briggs, Charlaine Harris), and when I’m feeling virtuous, I’ll read something non-fiction.
Jane Austen and rock stars? That’s not a combination you see every day! What inspired you to write a Pride and Prejudice retelling in the world of “sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll?”
I enjoy modern adaptations as well as regency stories, and to be honest, my regency-speak is pretty bad. So I was looking to write a new book and in it I wanted a way to convey Darcy’s elite status in modern culture. The idea of a well-known artist was already on my mind, and then there was a song. It was “She Hates Me” from a group called Puddle of Mudd and I was stunned at how well it could be applied to Darcy’s complex emotions after Elizabeth rejects his first proposal at Hunsford. So then I thought about a musician who was willing to let someone else be in the front, while he let is music speak for him. A musician who was, dare I say it, broody. And it all fell into place: my Darcy was handsome, rich, talented, aloof, and famous-just as Jane Austen would have wanted him.
The more I thought about it, the more I knew I had to write this.
I love how it just all fell into place like that! Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star has a lot to do with music and the music industry. Heather, are you musically inclined? What types of music do you listen to? What are some of your all time favorite songs?
I grew up in a musical family. My father was an accomplished baritone and was often hired by the various churches in town to be a soloist for their holiday concerts. As I grew up, I was pleased to be able to sing with him and consequently, did a lot of advanced choir work before I was even in college. Once in college, I sang, played, majored in Music Therapy, and produced the on-campus classical and jazz concerts, which gave me some helpful information for writing the story.
As for the types of music I enjoy- it’s a long list. I like lots of rock, obviously. I also enjoy classic Jazz, blues, broadway showtunes, Opera and classical instrumental works, some folk music, some pop, some hiphop, lots of alternative, and according to itunes, punk.
Was it challenging to translate Pride and Prejudice to the modern world of rock stars? What familiar themes and plot events from Pride and Prejudice will readers see in your novel?
It was very exciting to find modern equivalents for Pride and Prejudice. As I said above, I had Wickham was fired at the Ramsgate festival. We all know what happened there, but Elizabeth has to wait to find out until she’s half-way through the book. Instead of having Jane catch a cold and have to stay at Netherfield, I had her get hit with a bottle during a concert and have to go to the ER.
Truthfully, updating the story was one of my favorite parts of the experience. As for themes, there’s the basic characters: Darcy is proud and aloof, Elizabeth is lively and witty, Bingley is friendly and outgoing, Jane is sweet and thinks well of everyone, Charlotte is pragmatic, Collins is insufferable, and Lady Catherine believes she know better than anyone.
The themes are there as well. Darcy offends Elizabeth within an hour of meeting her. Elizabeth holds a grudge, Darcy’s first proposal goes horribly, Charles and Jane get together, then apart, then together again. And I’m going to stop there, because I don’t want to spoil too much of the story.
*POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT*
In Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star, I love how you didn’t focus solely on Darcy and Elizabeth! It was such a treat to see Jane, Bingley, Charlotte, and Richard Fitzwilliam receive more page time and attention! There was triple the romance and triple the tension! What motivated you to include more about these characters?
Seriously, I think it’s part of my personality type, I can’t stand to ignore anyone, and so the other couples got a good bit of attention. I also have to admit to being very fond of Charles Bingley (yes, yes, I know) but he’s a sweetheart and I hate to hurt him. Consequently, he and Jane get a bit more drama going on.
Richard and Charlotte almost ran away with the story and were the most difficult couple to wrangle. Richard Fitzwilliam, (formerly known as Col. Fitzwilliam) got a complete makeover in Fitzwilliam Darcy Rock Star. He goes from a plot device for 2 chapters to a leading character. He’s the most ‘Rock Star’ in his behavior: drinking, groupies, rehab- he’s done it all. He also served as something of a surrogate for Darcy: when it was way too early for Darcy to be having sex, it was never too early for Richard. He’s got that self-knowledge that folks who’ve been through 12-step programs have, and it becomes the perfect foil for the super-pragmatic Charlotte.
*POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT*
I loved your Charles Bingley, he was one of my favorites! Can you tell us a little about his sister Caroline Bingley? It was very interesting to see her 1) as a band manager and 2) not a spiteful, jealous, snob!
Caroline was an experiment: I thought that in Pride and Prejudice, Caroline is so obviously a spiteful, jealous suck-up to Darcy that it’s easy for him to see how she is and to choose Elizabeth. She’s never really any competition to her. So what if I made her a genuinely good person? Someone who was nice and reasonable, someone who you could see ending up with Darcy? (Don’t worry, Darcy never even looks at her)
I was surprised when I was posting the story online how many people were sure that Caroline ‘was just acting nice!’ It took a very long time before they were able to believe she wasn’t a badie at heart.
As for making her the tour manager, it was simply because I needed a way to have her with the band. With her character makeover, she wouldn’t be the type to just ‘hang around’ as they were touring. As band manager, she could be close to Darcy, have a reason to be on the tour, and I could use her for some exposition when I needed it.
Let’s broach that sometimes taboo topic of sex in Austenesque novels. Some readers, as I’m sure you are aware, do not feel these scenes belong in a Jane Austen related novel. What purpose do you think they serve in your books? What inspired you to illustrate the intimate side of your characters’ relationships?
Seriously, I could spend pages on this one alone, but I’ll try to be brief. Jane Austen was progressive for her time and situation, so it seems logical for an update of her work would contain sex as a type of progressive content.
I wrote about adult characters falling in love, so it’s only natural that they would behave like adults and have romantic scenes. I don’t feel the sex is gratuitous or out of character. I think the romantic scenes have a way of ‘showing not telling’ the characters emotions and how they are relating to each other: they have break-up sex, they have make up sex, they have denying their feelings sex, they have admitting their feelings sex.
I honestly don’t think I could write as good a book without describing their physical side. It’s an important part of the whole characters, and adds to the overall quality of the work.
Excellent answer, Heather. And I agree, these scenes did reveal a lot about your characters. Now speaking of scenes, what is your favorite scene from Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star? Which scene was the most challenging to write?
It’s really hard to pick a favorite scene. I love the book, I love the characters and I’ve said before, I don’t pick favorites. That being said, one scene I love is when Jane is hit with a bottle in the middle of a concert.
It starts with everyone being happy and in a good place, doing what they do best. Long Borne Suffering (Elizabeth’s group) is performing while Darcy and Charles are watching them. Suddenly everything changes- Jane is down. Elizabeth is shocked, Charles is running and Darcy is taking charge. It’s a great scene because there’s so much happening. Elizabeth, who in the past was super-active, is stunned and helpless. Darcy, who so far has been simply pompous is all of a sudden taking charge, making decision and giving orders. Charles goes from being sweet and happy go to terrified to furious. And the result is you get to see a very different side of the characters.
As for most challenging to write, it has to be the make up scene between Richard and Charlotte. They were not being easy, and either started acting like Darcy and Elizabeth, or worse, Charles and Jane (and boy, was that weird) or they would just try and make jokes instead of dealing with what was going on. I swear I did at least 5 full re-writes of that scene.
Charlotte and Richard as Jane and Charles?!? LOL! I love both of those scenes and I guess all your rewrites paid off because I felt the Charlotte and Richard scene was excellent! I understand this story was posted as Slurry on some Jane Austen Fan Fiction sites. Can you share with us a little about your experience with serialized posting and online readers?
I love serial posting because of the interactions between the writers and the readers. I got a lot of feedback when I was posting Slurry and honestly, the comment threads took on a life of their own. It wasn’t just comments, there were stories, poems and songs. (At one point I was chased by someone’s dog when we got to particularly angst-y part) It was also educational for me to see the reader’s reactions to various scenes or characters. For example, early on someone posted about how it was appropriate it was that Darcy always wore dark sunglasses when performing, because it was symbolic of the way he hid his emotions. I never would have picked up on that, but it did seem a very keen observation.
I see that most of your stories are about Pride and Prejudice or the characters from Pride and Prejudice. What do you love most about Pride and Prejudice? Would you ever write a story about any other Austen characters?
I love the characters in Pride and Prejudice. How can you not love Darcy and Elizabeth? They are timeless and so very real. They are such great, great characters.
While I’ll probably write more P&P, I would also to like to do a story based on Northanger Abbey, because I enjoy that story so much and because I feel that Catherine’s obsession with Gothic novels could easily be updated to para-romance novels.
Oh yes! Please wrte a Northanger Abbey novel! Can you tell us what other projects you are working on? I see you have other stories posted on Austen Interlude, any chance that we will see those in print soon?
I am working on updating my first novel, Longborn and Pemberley go to War and I hope to have that published next. I also have plans for a para-romance that would be an independent work. And, as I said, I’d love to do Northanger Abbey.
Excellent! I look forward to reading Longborn and Pemberley Go To War! Thank you so very much for taking the time to participate in this interview, Heather! I absolutely loved Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star and I wish you much success with its release!
Thanks so much for having me here, Meredith. I’m looking forward to hearing from your readers.
GIVEAWAY TIME!!! Thanks to Beth from Sourcebooks, Austenesque Reviews has one lovely copy of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star to give away to you wonderful readers! (US and Canada only)
You can enter this giveaway by commenting with naming a song title you think Slurry or Long Borne Suffering might do a cover of. Maybe one that would be fitting for them to sing to each other. (i.e. Lizzie singing “You’re So Vain” to Darcy, or Charles singing “So Happy Together” to Jane).
This is just for fun – and if you can’t come up with one, no worries, just comment andyou will be entered anyway!
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