Hi readers! I’m so excited to welcome author Kate Coombs to Austenesque Reviews today! Kate is here to celebrate her latest release, Goodnight Mr. Darcy, which, if you didn’t already know is a Baby-Lit parody of Goodnight Moon. Thank you, Kate for stopping by Austenesque Reviews!
Your favorite book is Pride and Prejudice, your favorite hero is proud (but secretly not so bad) Mr. Darcy and your favorite heroine is proud (but actually quite likable) Elizabeth Bennet. There’s a nice long book about these two—just under 122,000 words—and you love-love-love it!
Now, can you tell their story in a slightly shorter format? Say, 50,000 words? 5,000 words? What about 130 words?
That was the task I took on a year ago. Oh, and it had to be a bedtime story that sounded very much like Goodnight Moon. Gibbs Smith Associate Publisher Suzanne Taylor called me and said, “How would you like to do a parody of Pride and Prejudice and Goodnight Moon called Goodnight Mr. Darcy?”
Naturally, being a respectful Austen admirer, I started laughing. Then I said sure, that would be great. And it was on.
Being of a Cinderella mind frame, I knew I wanted to tell about a ball. Being a tad short on pages, I decided to combine the assembly where Jane and Elizabeth first meet Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley with the Netherfield Ball. Instead of the “great green room” with which Goodnight Moon begins, I would write about “the great ballroom.” Elizabeth Bennet would be poised at the door, about to have the rather irritating encounter that would change her life.
And isn’t that what happens when a story begins, whether it’s as short as a fairy tale like Cinderella or as long as Jane Austen’s famous novel? Readers and main character alike are poised at the door to the ballroom, ready for their lives to change.
What else matters? What else should be shown? The comic relief of Lydia and Kitty flirting with officers, something that wouldn’t turn darker till much deeper into the book. The equally comic relief of pompous Mr. Collins (our “buffoon”), and of Mrs Bennet with her loud, hopeful gossip. I’m sure you’ve noticed that each of these characters has their own version of pride, as do Mary and Mr. Bennet. There’s pride all over the place in this book!
Now, Jane and Mr. Bingley matter a great deal in telling the story, their romance proceeding in a gentle parallel to the gathering storm of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s relationship. Both girls will have their hearts broken, defeated by pride and prejudice. Both will have them mended.
Originally, I imagined the entire book taking place at or around the Netherfield Ball. For the next-to-last scene in the book, a crucial one, I pictured Mr. Darcy in front of Netherfield, watching Elizabeth drive away in a carriage with her family. It seemed to suit the words.
But the illustrator, Alli Arnold, wisely moved us away from Netherfield to Longbourn after the ball, where we find the girls sighing over the young men they’ve met and Mrs. Bennet tucking her husband into bed.
The editor asked me what I thought should go on that next-to-last spread now that we weren’t going to do the carriage scene. Having set my thoughts free to consider the entire rest of the novel, I had to come up with an iconic moment that would show, well, everything.
What would you choose?
For me the great turning point of the book is not Mr. Darcy’s final proposal, lovely though that may be. It’s not Mr. Darcy coming to Elizabeth’s rescue when she is at the inn near Pemberley. No, it’s the letter. The letter that opens Elizabeth’s mind, illuminating both her pride and her prejudice.
Alli took the idea of the letter scene and ran with it. And so our key picture book spread shows Elizabeth reading the letter, with Mr. Darcy standing there as if he had just handed it to her and were waiting for her response.
My favorite lines are on those pages—“Goodnight Mr. Darcy/Goodnight pride.” Goodbye pride, of course, because both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy have left their pride behind. We turn the page and see a wedding. We read the final words, “Goodnight Elizabeth/Goodnight bride.”
Of course, Alli and I had to have a little fun. The mouse that appears in much of the artwork in Goodnight Moon is here and finds a friend, or actually a fiancé: the two are shown in their own little wedding portrait on the page just after the wedding scene and again on the back cover.
Can Pride and Prejudice be retold in a picture book parody? Not really. But we had a wonderful time capturing some of the best moments from Austen’s best-loved novel in the small frame created by Margaret Wise Brown’s children’s classic Goodnight Moon.
Thank you for sharing the story with us, Kate! What an undertaking! Love the idea of sharing Jane Austen and the joys her novels and charactes bring with such a young audience! Mr. Bingley and I will definitely want to do that when we have our own little ones, one day! 🙂
The kind people at Gibbs Smith have kindly donated ONE lovely hardcover copy of Goodnight Mr. Darcy for me to give away to ONE lucky winner!
To enter this giveaway, leave a comment, question, or some love for Kate!
- This giveaway is open for US residents. Thank you, Gibbs Smith!
- This giveaway ends November 24th!