Welcome to Austenesque Reviews, Sara Angelini! Thank you so much for stopping by and chatting about your debut novel The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy, Jane Austen, and writing. Thank you, Sara, so much for your insightful and informative answers to my questions.
Thank you, Meredith, for letting me ramble here! It’s been great fun.
For anyone who is interested in reading an excerpt from The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy, please visit my website http://www.judgedarcy.com/
How long have you been writing? What inspired you to start writing?
I have been writing in some form or another for as long as I can remember. I started off with goofy greeting cards for my parents, and graduated to sappy mothers’ day poems. Then I wrote my first book in the third grade. It was called “The Case of the Mysterious Bubbling Floor” or something like that. I wrote and illustrated it myself and used wax paper for a jacket cover. I even did an “about the author” blurb on the back! Once I hit junior high and high school, my essays were pretty regularly being read in front of the English class and I always aced my essay tests. My dad was always suggesting that I go into the Army and write for Stars and Stripes, but no way was I going to subject myself to basic training! I wound up going to law school and becoming a lawyer, which is very heavy on the writing. I started writing for pleasure a few years ago when I just wanted a way to unwind and to express some ideas I’d had. I actually never intended to be a published author.
What genre of books do you enjoy reading? Who are some of your favorite authors?
I really love fantasy. I love JRR Tolkien and I’m especially hooked on George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. I also loved all the Harry Potter books, but didn’t like the last one. I felt she dealt Hermione a great injustice by turning her into a whining, co-dependent shrew whose only function was to nag and cry.
I don’t get to read as much as I would like to; I probably read less than a book a month, although I always intend to read more. I’ve found that these days, after working all day, playing with the kids, taking care of the house and husband, and then doing some more work before bed, I’m just not in the mood to focus; all I want to do is sleep!
Where and when did you first discover Jane Austen? Which Austen heroine do you identify with the most? Who is your favorite hero?
I first discovered Jane Austen when I saw the Pride and Prejudice mini series starring Colin Firth. Like many others, it exposed me to a great literary work that I’d never read before but soon came to love. I now read it once a year. The only other Austen work I’ve read was Emma. I have to say that I like Mr. Knightley very much; he’s kinder and gentler than Mr. Darcy, and I think his love is truer that Mr. Darcy’s love for Elizabeth.
What prompted you to combine Jane Austen and the legal world?
The golden rule of writing is to write what you know, and I know the legal world!
Was it challenging modernizing Pride and Prejudice? Why or why not?
I don’t think it was much of a challenge because Austen’s characters are so relatable; the challenge was updating the plot when so much was based on Regency rules of conduct that don’t apply in today’s world.
Does your Elizabeth Bennet, resemble you in anyway or vice versa?
Um….we both drive MINI coopers!
I absolutely loved the character of Lou Hurst! What prompted you to transform Louisa Hurst into Elizabeth’s gay best friend?
That’s a good question! I really wanted somebody for Elizabeth to be able to banter with, and no matter how much I like Jane, she just never seemed to have the wit or vivacity to keep up with Elizabeth. I came up with the idea of doing a Will and Grace type pairing, and didn’t want to introduce a completely foreign character into the story. Because Louisa Hurst had very little role in the original work, I thought her character was expendable, but I wanted to keep the character recognizable to some degree, so I swiped her name and stuck it on my gay best friend character.
There doesn’t seem to be a Wickham-type character in your book. Why did you choose to not have an antagonist like Wickham vying for Elizabeth’s attention?
The reason I chose to eliminate Wickham was because of the advanced timeline. In order for Darcy to be a judge, he needed to be at least mid-thirties, which meant that Georgiana was in her mid-twenties. Therefore Wickham’s involvement with Georgiana would have been in the distant past, and it seemed to me that the characters would have moved on with their lives by now. In the original version, Wickham did make an appearance as one of Elizabeth’s clients, but it was cut out to streamline the storyline.
In a way, Lou Hurst is the other antagonist vying for Elizabeth’s attention. He’s who Elizabeth turns to in times of need, and in the original version, he and Darcy had much more conflict over Elizabeth. But since they both only want what’s best for Elizabeth, it was inevitable that they would resolve their differences.
I also wasn’t interested in bringing in another romantic interest for Elizabeth. I felt that the ethical conflict that she faced with Darcy was enough conflict for my first effort.
[Meredith: Darcy and Elizabeth dealing with an ethical conflict was unique and excellent for your first effort!]
Where and when do you write? Do you have a writing routine, schedule, or plan?
Unfortunately, I don’t get to write much anymore. My writing office has been converted into a nursery and I’m on mommy duty until around 9pm every night…then I’m on wife duty….then I’m asleep.
When did you begin writing this novel? Can you tell us about the process of getting your book published?
I began writing this book in 2006. It was written very quickly over 5 months, and I published in in serial format on the fan fiction site A Happier Alternative. I then decided to self-publish it, and it went through a round of editing in preparation for that. After I self-published on Lulu, I considered doing a serious revision and submitting it for publication. But before I had a chance to do that, I was contacted by an editor who had seen my book on Lulu. He asked me to send him a copy of the manuscript. I asked a friend of a friend, who had been published, if she had ever heard of this publishing house. She asked her agent and editor, who confirmed that the publishing house was legitimate, but both asked to see my manuscript as well. I sent it off to them only to discover that I’d sent them the wrong revision!! But they liked it well enough that I picked up an agent, editor, and publishing contract. I did not go through the normal process of submitting your work to an agency or editor for consideration; I just had the dumb, blind luck of being in the right place at the right time.
What scene did you have the most fun writing? What was the most challenging thing about writing this book?
I don’t recall which scene I had the most fun writing, but there are a few scenes that remain my favorites to read: Bingley’s Halloween party; the Tahoe encounter; the Symphony in the Park encounter; their first love scene.
The most challenging thing about writing this book was to update the plot to something relevant to modern society. I had to take out the element of class and instead relied on the ethical conflict to prevent their romance. I had to remove the Wickham element but still find a way for Darcy to prove his worth. I had to marginalize the minor characters in order to concentrate on the major ones. Originally, Georgiana played a much larger role; I wish I could have kept more of her in the story.
Do you post your writing on any Jane Austen Fan Fiction Sites? If so, how has that influenced your writing?
I was one of the original founders of A Happier Alternative (now A Happy Assembly, the fan fiction forum of The Meryton Literary Society) and I posted on that website before leaving to start Austen Underground. All of my other stories can be found there. The main influence of writing on the fan fiction boards was to commit to finish the story. I had found so many unfinished works-in-progress that I vowed that I would never begin to post a story unless I had actually finished writing it. I’ve held true to that promise, but it means I’ve not posted anything in two years because I’ve not finished anything since my first child was born!
Are you working on any new projects? If you were to write another sequel of an Jane Austen novel, what would it be?
I have a few projects that are simmering, waiting for my full attention. All of my projects started out as Pride and Prejudice spin-offs, but can really stand on their own as original stories. Writing an updated version of Emma might be fun, but for now I don’t have any plans for that.
If you could ask Jane Austen any question today, what would it be?
My one burning question has always been: Why did Mr. Darcy, Sr., have such an affection for George Wickham? I have a theory that Wickham was actually either an illegitimate son of Mr. Darcy, Sr. or of Mrs. Darcy and Mr. Wickham, Sr.
[Meredith: Great question!]
The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy
“Judge Fitzwilliam Darcy, a legal expert on both sides of the Atlantic, is ready to hang up his black robe and return to the life of a country gentleman—until he meets Elizabeth Bennet, a fresh-faced attorney with a hectic schedule and no time for the sexy but haughty judge.
Tempers and sparks fly in Judge Darcy’s courtroom— and outside, in a series of chance encounters that give each of them pause—as the two match wits and try to fight their overwhelming attraction. When they meet up in England at an international law conference, they embark on a hot, heavy affair. Back in the States, though, ethical considerations intrude, and each is subjected to a torturous period of soul-searching before they can find their way back to each other…”