I am exceedingly delighted to welcome, Linda Berdoll, best-selling author of three beloved Pride and Prejudice sequels, to Austenesque Reviews. Linda, it is such a pleasure and honor to be interviewing you! Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife (The Bar Sinister) was one of the first Austenesque novels I read nine years ago and most definitely helped trigger my unquenchable thirst for Austenesque literature! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some of my questions! How ’bout we start by talking about your writing, how long have you been writing? What inspired you to start writing?
I come from a family of writers (my father had been the editor of several small newspapers and my sister a very successful television writer). However, the only writing I had done was as a local correspondent for the Austin newspaper (I only took that job because no one else would do it.) Fiction was never my forte. I always believed myself unimaginative.
I think it is safe to say that assessment was wholly inaccurate! Let’s talk about Jane Austen a little. Please share with us your relationship with Jane Austen. When did you first become an admirer of her novels?
I had meant only to tape the episodes of A&E’s presentation of Pride & Prejudice for future viewing so as to avoid the commercials. I sat down for a moment – just to see that the taping began as it should. From the moment of the opening lines I was hooked. I watched every minute of all three nights, rewound it and watched it again. I didn’t want it to end. I really, really didn’t want it to end.
I have to admit that my adoration of Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice, Darcy & Elizabeth, and all things Regency was ignited by that P&P mini-series.
Truth be told, I would have loved Jane Austen just as well, but I do not think that I would have been sent into such a tailspin of obsession had the role of Mr. Darcy not been so well cast. Indeed, a photo of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy atop Mr. Darcy’s horse (wearing Mr. Darcy’s tall boots) has been my steadfast muse. If I need inspiration – there it is!
After the series was over I dug out my hardback copy of P&P and read and re-read it. While I fantasized about D&E together, I devoured all of JA’s novels, several biographies, her Juvenilia, and was fascinated by her letters to her sister Cassandra. The additional months I spent pouring over nonfiction about the Regency Era did nothing to sate my passion. As I learned more about the period, I was struck, not only by what JA wrote, but what she did not. I wanted, nay, needed to know what really might have happened to Darcy & Elizabeth. In 1995 no one else seemed to have chimed in on the subject, so I had to satisfy this longing through my own unexplored imagination.
What prompted you to write Pride and Prejudice sequels? Can you tell us a little about your first novel and how it went from being self-published to published by Sourcebooks?
I credit my husband’s encouragement for daring to publish what I knew some might believe was heresy. His good opinion I admire above all others. Had he disapproved, it would have been merely a lark – pages locked in a drawer to one day embarrass my children. As my husband and I are known as a reputable and sedate couple, when the book came out it was to the amazement of friends, neighbors, and family. (We found their surprise utterly hilarious.) One fan asked me if my husband knew how high a mark he had set for other men. I decided to put the question to him. When I did, I believe he blushed.
Had it not been for the Internet I doubt we would have sold many books at all. As it was, we sold them one by one, putting pins in a map showing where we had shipped them – including such destinations as Singapore and Moscow. In time, Amazon began to buy them by the boxful and then Barnes & Noble placed an order, allowing us to have a distributor. We had no idea that 10,000 copies was a phenomenal feat for a self-published book. Each time we printed another thousand copies I worried they would end up gathering mold in my garage.
We would still be peddling them had I not received a call from Deb Werksman of Sourcebooks inquiring if the rights to TBS were available. I replied (forefinger to chin), “er, Maybe.”
With more good sense than I usually display, I accepted their offer. That gave us a chance to correct the editing and resurrect the working title Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife. I am forever grateful to Deb and Sourcebooks for delivering an elegant new book. Their initial run, however, was a tentative 7,500 copies. MDTAW (2004) and Darcy & Elizabeth (2006) have now sold over 325,000 copies.
WOW! That is a staggering amount! Congratulations! That must feel amazing! I’m honored to be one of that large number! I read The Bar Sinisternine years ago, when my love for Austenesque novels was just beginning to blossom. I loved how EPIC your novel was, there was so much action and adventure! And the romance was so passionate and achingly beautiful. It was quite different from anything else published at the time. What motivated you to take Jane Austen’s characters in this new and daring direction?
The Regency Era was historically tumultuous; society’s mores were in flux. Once I decided to take the characters where Jane Austen, as a maiden, could not, I simply wove the historical fabric into the storyline. I wanted to see how our characters might be affected by the upheaval.
The first scene I wrote was the wedding night; the second was the last page. Although I wrote and rewrote the rest of the book a dozen times, those pages remained largely untouched. To me, what came to pass on their wedding night reflected what their relationship would come to be and that was the foundation of Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife.
When I wrote my version of Fitzwilliam’s story, it only seemed natural that the Napoleonic Wars would be subject matter. As for the rest, it was clear that life, even in rural England was quite dangerous. The rich were not immune to death. I knew that somehow Wickham would live – and commit sins of a Shakespearean nature.
In your novels Darcy and Elizabeth share intimate/romantic scenes. As I’m sure you are aware, this is sometimes a controversial issue with Austenesque readers. What purpose do you think these scenes serve in your books? What inspired you to illustrate the intimate side of Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s relationship?
The undercurrent of passion that we all recognized in P&P was the reason I wrote my book. I literally could not bear Darcy and Elizabeth’s story to end – simple as that.
I knew there would be those who would be horrified, not just at a P&P sequel, but the explicitness of The Bar Sinister. I did not want to rattle anyone’s cage. In fact I did everything possible to fly under the radar, going so far as posting an advisory against the faint of heart from purchasing it. (I could point out here that some enjoy their fits and nerves more than any other occupation, but I won’t.) I would have liked to sell only from my own website to avoid a semi-public thrashing. But, alas, I decided to sell TBS on Amazon. The minute it went up, the hue and cry could be heard on several continents. At that time (2000) there no recourse on Amazon to respond to reviews – either to answer attackers or correct misrepresentations and that was frustrating. (Granted, some of the criticism was fair – the original editing was atrocious.) The level of vitriol was quite off-putting. There seemed to be no middle ground – readers either loved or hated it.
Given the chance, I explained that I didn’t have the guts (or the talent) to replicate Jane Austen either in wit or dialog, so I wrote my book with a wink and a sense of fun (I mean, really, does anyone employ the term “purple-helmeted-warrior of love” seriously?). Fortunately, more seemed to “get it” than not. I have come to understand that some of the naysayers simply didn’t know what to make of the book. Time has even allowed a few converts.
I say now it as I said then: If you believe that Jane Austen sequels are inherently wrong, I respect your position. However, I am quite annoyed by those who insist that I shouldn’t have written my books because my interpretation of the characters does not agree with theirs.
I, for one, enjoyed your passionate scenes! I just love how you portray Darcy and Elizabeth’s marriage! And since I first read your book when I was only seventeen, I feel like it had an impact on my own desires for matrimony and husband; I wanted what your Darcy and Elizabeth had! What was most important to you when portraying Darcy and Lizzy as a married couple?
Although passion keeps their flame burning, I see trust and loyalty trumping everything else in the Darcys’s exceedingly well-tended marriage. Betrayal is always more than mere infidelity. Not to say that they are perfect beings – that would be no fun at all. To me it is Darcy’s imperfections that make him so desirable. Above all else we know that in the end, when all hope is lost, we will see him coming through the door to rescue us.
Now, your two latest novels are actually sequels to your first novel Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife (The Bar Sinister), which is a sequel to Pride and Prejudice. Was it in your original plan to write three consecutive Pride and Prejudicesequels? Do you think there will be any more continuations after The Ruling Passion?
I have been asked why I killed off so many characters in Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife. My only answer is: Had I known I would write two more sequels, I would never have done it.
I wrote follow-ups because so many people asked for them – but I wouldn’t have had I not still wanted to see where life would take these characters. I knew, however, the deck was stacked against me. MDTAW was much beloved. The passion of new love is quite incomparable (especially with our Mr. Darcy.) I am grateful that D&E and TRP have been enjoyed by long-time fans.
When beginning The Ruling Passion I had planned to take it into their children making matches, but there were so many storylines to tie up, I didn’t. If I start another, I’ll begin it there.
For those who have not yet had the pleasure of reading your novels, can you describe what readers can expect? Of the three novels, do you have a favorite? Do your readers have a favorite?
One newspaper reviewer of MDTAW suggested that Mr. Darcy’s penis was actually another character in the book! (I had to laugh because it’s so true!) It also makes itself known, so to speak, in all my sequels. So, I have this advice for any potential readers: If you swoon at the notion Darcy’s manly instrument: Hang onto your bonnets, you are in for a bumpy ride.
Most likely, Mr. Darcy Takes a Wifewill remain my favorite. If sales reflect reader preference, they agree with me.
That answer should definitely give readers a clear “head’s up!” Can you share with us a little more about your latest release, The Ruling Passion, I look forward to reading this novel during the summer! What was the most challenging thing about writing this novel?
The Ruling Passion takes up several years after Darcy & Elizabeth ends. The theme of the book is in its name – from Alexander Pope:
The Ruling Passion, be it what it will; The Ruling Passion conquers reason still.
The war is over, but England’s economy is devastated with mobs on London streets and marauders endangering the roads. Yet happiness reigns as Elizabeth gives birth to a darling baby boy. A lady from Darcy’s past vies for his affections; Elizabeth is unamused. Old menaces (of all species) threaten more than just the Darcys’s standing.
The most challenging thing about writing TRP? Continuity. I had to recall not only what happened in the original P&P, but what I wrote in MDTAW and D&E.
Sounds like plenty of drama and action – I can’t wait! What is next for you? Any more Austeneque novels in the works?
I always wanted to do a furthering of Sense & Sensibility, but I write so slowly it might not ever happen.
That would be so fantastic if you did write one! We need more S&S novels! I’ll keep my fingers crossed!! Thank you so very much for taking the time to participate in this interview, Linda I absolutely loved Mr. Darcy Takes a Wifeand greatly look forward to reading your next two books this summer!
All you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling us what intrigues you about Linda’s novels. (To save your inbox from unwanted spam, please don’t leave your email address.) Just check back to see if you win! Fortunately for our international friends, this giveaway is open worldwide! Thank you, Linda!
This contest ends April 30th!!! Best of luck and thank you for entering!
Linda, is the fourth out of four authors visiting Austenesque Reviews this month.
All giveaways are still open!