I have a special treat for you today, readers! Meryton Press author, C. P. Odom is stopping in for a visit and chat about his newest release, Perilous Seige! As you may have already learned, this new Pride and Prejudice variation includes an original character by the name of Major Edward McDunn. Colin has prepared a very lovely interview between Major McDunn and his granddaughter! We hope you enjoy!
Good morning, Meredith and thank you for hosting my character interview on your blog. It’s great to be here at Austenesque Reviews.
Today I am sharing an interview based on my latest release, Perilous Siege. I had a lot of fun writing this story and this interview takes readers behind the scenes for a more in-depth view of Edward McDunn, one of the leading characters in this story.
So let’s head back to 1864 for this exclusive interview…
Date: November 20, 1864
Location: Pemberley vaults, Pemberley family estate, Derbyshire, Imperial Commonwealth of Great Britain
Note: The following is the second of a series of interviews conducted between Edward McDunn and Virginia Fitzwilliam. The in-depth interviews were ordered by Elizabeth Darcy, the director of Imperial Intelligence, to document the role played by her immediate family in the establishment of the Empire. While the outside world considered the Darcys, the McDunns, and the Fitzwilliams nothing more than significant figures among many from those early days, Mrs. Darcy had more information and had for long—among inner family circles only—referred to those six as “The Founders.” She believed it important to capture their special memories and opinions for posterity, though the interview records would be restricted to inner family members and maintained in the carefully guarded and newly constructed family vaults deep beneath Pemberley. Since she believed Major McDunn had played possibly the dominant role in those critical events, she deemed it especially critical to capture his recollections and opinions to the fullest extent possible. Accordingly, she assigned the task to one of her operatives who was also the granddaughter of McDunn. Mrs. Darcy believed Virginia Fitzwilliam might be able to elicit more information from the usually taciturn McDunn than would normally be the case.
Narrative: Edward McDunn sat at his ease in a comfortable chair, sipping a cup of excellent coffee while he waited for Virginia to arrive. He had arrived a few minutes early for the interview, and his granddaughter entered, as usual, exactly on time. She smiled a bit uncomfortably at her grandfather and took her seat next to his.
Virginia Fitzwilliam: Hello, Grandpa.
Major McDunn: Howdy, Ginnie. Have a cup of this coffee—it’s really excellent. How’s married life suit you?
Virginia: It suits me fine, Grandpa, as you ought to know from my letters to Grandma Dancer. But it is necessary to make one thing clear—I am supposed to be asking the questions. Remember, I told you last time that Mrs. Darcy warned me you would try to hijack the interview if I let you!
McDunn: Ah, that’s right, isn’t it. I had forgotten—getting kind of senile in my old age.
Virginia: And please do not try that on me. Mrs. Darcy warned me of that, also.
McDunn, shaking his head sadly: She did, did she? That girl’s gotten way too smart over time. Well, go ahead, Ginnie! Ask your questions—I may even answer some of them!
Virginia: As well I know. Then, to begin, I’ll state for the recorder that this is the second interview between Major Edward McDunn and Virginia Fitzwilliam, operative of Imperial Intelligence, operating under authority of the Director. As you remember, Major, last time we covered the events leading up to your encounter with Kaswallon, the priest who controlled the Siege Perilous, and the manner in which you were transported from your world of 2045 to our world of 1809. At least, we covered everything I could get you to talk about.
McDunn: You were very probing and searching in your questions, Ginnie.
Virginia: And I got far too many of your enigmatic smiles, Grandpa, as you well know. Especially the events before you were wounded and dragged into that cave by Kaswallon. Why won’t you or Grandpa Fitzwilliam speak more openly about your experiences in your wars? I know you talk more freely among yourselves—I have overheard you, when I could manage it.
McDunn (with a shrug and a crooked smile): You always were a sly young thing, girl. You were made to be in Imperial Intelligence, sneaking around like you did. As for your question, it’s hard to explain, but it’s always been that way. My own grandfather hardly talked about his own experiences in combat until I came back from my first deployment. After that, we could discuss what we’d experienced more freely.
Virginia: I know it is not simply because I am a girl, since I have also overheard you and Grandma Dancer talking of similar things.
McDunn: That’s true, but she’s also seen the elephant. Have I ever explained that phrase to you?
Virginia: Too many times, Grandpa, always as a reason why you not be more forthcoming. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. Today, I would like to move away from the factual events we went over last time to the more personal side and talk about the your memories of the people you met after you woke up in that Pemberley meadow. For example, I know my Uncle Darcy woke you up by nudging you with his cane.
Virginia: After things calmed down, what were your thoughts?
McDunn: It took a few moments before I got over my sense of alarm—I thought I was back in combat against the barbs. After that . . . to be honest, my first thought was, Why are these people dressed so strangely?”
Virginia: How do you mean, strangely?
McDunn: At the time, I had never seen gentleman’s attire. I had read of it, naturally, but seeing it in person was a bit of a jolt. I could tell it had to be fashionable, but it also looked really uncomfortable. Fitz’s cavalry uniform didn’t look much more comfortable. And I couldn’t help thinking that his red coat would make him a really great target!
Virginia: But you did not shoot anyone. Why not? I assume you were disoriented by the transition through the Siege, were you not?
McDunn: You know it, Ginnie! I was completely discombobulated.
Virginia (laughing): Discombobulated? Where did that one come from? I thought I had heard all of your sayings from the future!
McDunn: I’m saving a few to keep you on your toes, sweetheart. But, to answer your question, everyone may have been dressed uncomfortably, but they weren’t dressed like the barb had been. And even though Darcy’s footman had his old-time pistol out, he wasn’t pointing it at me and it wasn’t cocked. So there was no need to fire.
Virginia: You noticed all that so quickly?
McDunn (speaking softly): You just said I wasn’t forthcoming about my combat experiences, Ginny, but all the Marines who couldn’t scan and evaluate that quickly were already dead.
Virginia: I see. So, what did you think of everyone you met that first day?
McDunn (after several moments of thought, he spoke slowly and carefully): I was very impressed by how . . . open-minded they were. I mean, the year was 1809, and here Darcy and Fitzwilliam found this stranger on Darcy’s land, lying unconscious in a meadow, dressed in strange-looking Marine battle dress with some really fantastic-looking weaponry about him. Fitzwilliam and Darcy both told me later they immediately recognized that my pistol and rifle were really deadly, despite never before seeing anything similar. Later, I realized that I should have expected a subconscious reaction something like, Here’s a stranger! An outsider! Danger! Kill him! But they didn’t, which is still the most amazing thing about those two men.
Virginia (speaking dryly): That might have been a very bad idea to have reacted that way. Last time, we talked about what how amazed both Uncle Darcy and Grandpa were when you exploded up from the ground and had your pistol out. If they had reacted like you said, they’d have been dead.
McDunn: Very likely. And you and I wouldn’t be sitting here today. I’m sure I would have been dead soon afterwards. A stranger in a strange land and all that. So both Darcy and Fitzwilliam were amazing men.
Virgina: And what were your subsequent thoughts, after everyone got introduced and especially after you starting explaining how you were sent here?
McDunn (after another moment of thought): I thought they were the nicest people I had ever met. All three of them, Darcy, Fitzwilliam, and Georgiana, who was only thirteen at the time. I was especially impressed by how polite and mannerly they were. I hadn’t given much thought to manners at the time, but I should have. I’ve now come to believe that manners are the grease that makes society work.
Virginia: Of course. Everyone knows that.
McDunn: They didn’t know it in my world. My grandmother tried to make that point when I was younger, but I didn’t listen to her. Ah, the stupidity of youth!
Virginia: Grandma Georgiana said on many occasions that you had been very good for her brother. She said he had never seemed to take to a person like he did you.
McDunn: I’ve heard her say that, and I have to admit the two of us seemed to hit it off from the beginning. He was nothing at all like I expected a gentleman from that time to be. It’s still unbelievable that he didn’t have me taken off to that Bethlem Royal Hospital, where they used to send nut cases. Instead, he made me welcome and let me stay at Pemberley for years and years. What’s even more amazing is that I later found out most other gentlemen would have reacted exactly like I would have imagined. Have I mentioned that your uncle is an amazing man?
Virginia: A time or two. And the two of you made an awful lot of money together, Grandpa.
McDunn: True enough, but all four of us made several fortunes—large fortunes. But the friendship Darcy and I shared is far more important than money. And my friendship with Fitzwilliam, of course. Darcy and I liked each other from the first, but Fitzwilliam and I understood each other. Still do.
Virginia: What was your impression of Pemberley when you first saw it?
McDunn: While it looked much like the pictures I’d seen of many English estates from my time, it was still different to actually see it in person. Everything looked quite new, unlike the weathered look from the imagery in my time. The building looked very handsome, and the surrounding grounds were equally so. The inside was similarly subtle and attractive. I would have expected something gaudier, with bric-a-brac sitting around everywhere.
Virginia: I feel the same way. I think I spent almost as much time at Pemberley as the house where I grew up.
McDunn: Your mom was fifteen before Pemberley got so crowded that I finally succumbed to Dancer’s requests to build our own estate. But I made sure Tara was similar to Pemberley, in a smaller fashion. But Darcy made sure to keep my rooms at Pemberley the same as they were, for when Dancer and I visit.
Virginia: Why did you name your estate Tara?
McDunn (with another crooked smile): It’s from a book and a movie in my time. You know what a movie is, don’t you?
Virginia: Only from your description.
McDunn: The book was extremely popular in the U.S., somewhere around 1930 or so. But it’ll probably never be written now, since the American Civil War didn’t happen, and America and Canada are now the North American commonwealth in the Empire. There’s a half-million plus who won’t die in a war.
Virginia: Yes, I know. But we can talk more about how that happened in other interviews. Now we’re concentrating on the personal, and you have said how much you like Pemberley. Let’s discuss Grandma Georgiana.
McDunn: Ah, you should have seen Georgiana at thirteen, Ginnie! As cute as a young girl could be and extremely inquisitive. She wasn’t about to be left out of anything—my explanations, my projects, or our future actions to help the Empire along. She was so adorable when she kept demanding that I call her Georgiana and I refused, saying I was her protector, not her brother, and she would remain Miss Darcy. Sometimes she’d even stamp her foot and glower at me. Great memories. I’ve loved that girl like my own dead sisters from the first day I met her.
Virginia: Uncle Darcy mentioned once that he considered you as a possible future husband for her.
McDunn: So I inferred, but Georgiana was always a sister. Plus, Darcy didn’t know that his sister already had certain plans in mind, even at that young an age.
Virginia: Now that you mention that topic . . .
McDunn: . . . we shall defer it until later. I want to talk about Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam.
Virginia: Who you enticed into an appreciation of that deplorable Scotch you both love. Uncle Darcy still mutters about that!
McDunn: I never claimed your uncle was perfect, even if he is the best man I know. Or, perhaps it would be better to say one of the two best men I know, since Fitz has been as excellent a friend as Darcy. And, as I said, Fitz and I understood each other.
Virginia: I managed to come to that conclusion when I was sneaking about, as you phrased it.
McDunn: You were good, Ginnie, but Fitz and I gained an extra sense that you don’t have. We knew when you were about.
Virginia: Evidently. You seemed to talk in incomplete sentences when I overheard you, as if the other could figure out what you meant. It made it very hard to decipher the full extent of your conversation.
McDunn: Yeah. I remember mentioning one time that we had to bug out without burying our dead because the barbs would get around our flank. I had to explain it more clearly to Darcy, but Fitz just nodded. He’d been in that position.
Virginia: I did not hear that particular story, but I can imagine how confused Uncle Darcy would have been.
McDunn: He was knowledgeable about the war with the Corsican tyrant but more from the naval point of view than ground actions. Fitz’s experiences in the Peninsula Wars still make me shudder. It’s fortunate that muskets were so inaccurate that he didn’t get killed, but I’ve never been a fan of cold steel.
Virginia: Yet you always carry a knife down your boot.
McDunn: Old habits die hard. But it’s more because a knife is so handy in so many situations, not because I plan on defending myself with it.
Virginia: I take it you were planning on using the pistol in your shoulder holster that Uncle Darcy says you always used to wear if you had to defend yourself.
McDunn: Or shoot my horse if he threw me and my boot caught in the stirrup. I still wear it when I ride, but that’s about the only time. I’ve mellowed in my old age.
Virginia (with a disbelieving smile): Yes, Grandpa. I really believe that.
McDunn: Well, I have!
Virginia: Let us go back to the topic of Grandpa Fitzwilliam.
McDunn (with a shrug): There’s not a lot more to tell. He was a loyal friend always, and he was one of the ones I would have depended on if my life was in danger. And he did his part as my projects progressed and as your uncle got into politics. Fortunately, he made Field Marshal and was knighted before Darcy gained high office, so there were no charges of nepotism.
Virginia: But he was accused of using his military rank for political ends, as I have read.
McDunn: And he just said, The man’s my cousin, you idiot! Of course I’m going to say nice things about him! You’d do the same for your cousin, wouldn’t you? And then he’d grin that grin he copied from me and twirl his mustache.
Virginia: Which he also copied from you.
Virginia: Both of you are impossible, you realize.
McDunn: Yes, I know. I’d always hoped to live long enough to be a problem for my children and grandchildren.
Virginia: You have certainly achieved your goal, Grandpa. So, perhaps we could talk about how Uncle Darcy and Aunt Elizabeth met and decided to marry. I think that is one subject on which they are even more close-mouthed than you and Grandpa Fitzwilliam are about war.
McDunn: I’m afraid I’m going to have to disappoint you on this subject, young lady. I will say—and I’m doing so only because the information will stay in the family papers—is that Darcy had some . . . ah, deficiencies . . . at the time he met Miss Elizabeth Bennet. He and Fitz are the best friends I could have ever imagined, but your uncle, at the time, had a tendency to be rather reserved and even haughty with people he didn’t know well.
Virginia (shocked): Really! He has always seemed like the nicest person to me!
McDunn: The Uncle Darcy you know has changed considerably under the tutelage of his wife. At the time I met him, he had been considered the legitimate prey of any number of eligible young ladies of his own social class for some time. You have to remember how it was for women then, even if they came from the wealthier classes. A young lady who didn’t marry well didn’t have the opportunities that are available now. If her family had money, she wouldn’t starve, but she would remain at home and have become a spinster. That was a fate considered almost the same as death, and a wealthy, young bachelor like Darcy made a juicy target for them and their equally aggressive mothers. The situation was not to Darcy’s liking, and it made him a bit . . . careful. Too much so. Your Aunt Elizabeth didn’t like him when she first met him.
Virginia: Are you serious, Grandpa?
McDunn: Very much so, at least on their first meeting. But that’s all I’m going to say on the subject. If you wish to know more, you’ll have to ask Darcy and Elizabeth.
McDunn: Sorry, Ginny. I think both of them want to live in the present far more than to dwell on the past. I think your Aunt Darcy said something to that effect, about thinking of the past only when such remembrances give you pleasure. It’s good advice. Now, let’s move on.
Virginia: After getting that enigmatic smile on my last line of enquiry, I hesitate to even ask how you and Grandma Dancer managed your courtship.
McDunn: Really? I thought the family knew all about it! We’ve never been particularly secretive among the family.
Virginia: Maybe not at your level of the family, Grandpa, but whenever we kids asked, everyone always seemed to find the weather a much more interesting topic. Even Mother and Father just smiled. I think they learned that from you.
McDunn: Interesting. I thought we’d been more forthcoming, but perhaps it was because there were always so many people from outside the family coming and going through Pemberley. That was especially true when Darcy was in politics. Most of his colleagues seemed to live here whenever he was able to get away from London for a so called “rest.”
Virginia: So tell me about your courtship, Grandpa.
McDunn: I will say that it was short. Very short.
Virginia: And? What happened then?
McDunn: Well, we had five kids, who then had twelve grandchildren, and . . .
Virginia: No, no! What happened? Did you get down on one knee, like in the romance novels?
McDunn: Nope. The truth is, Dancer and I have been living together in sin for . . . how long has it been? Ah, fifty-two years.
[A period of silence lasting well over a minute took place before McDunn broke the quiet.]
McDunn: What, Ginnie? Cat got your tongue?
Virginia: Not in the slightest. But I am certain you are pulling my leg, so I am simply waiting for you to enlighten me.
McDunn (with a chuckle): Am I that transparent? I used to play a pretty mean game of poker, and no one could guess my hole card. I must be losing it in my old age. Or else you got way too many smarts from your grandmother’s side of the family. You couldn’t have inherited it from that Darcy fellow your mom married.
Virginia: Now you be quiet about Father! You have never forgiven him for accepting a position as a Fellow at Cambridge! But he is the nicest father any girl could have had!
McDunn: True, true. He is certainly amiable. And I will agree he’s intelligent. And a good debater, which he calls rhetoric. Just not very . . . ah, practical.
Virginia: Now stop that! He’s a scholar!
McDunn: Okay, okay. He’s a scholar. Next question?
Virginia: You are not going to be more forthcoming?
McDunn: Everything I said is the straight, literal truth. In a fashion, that is.
Virginia: In a fashion. I see. And you want me to believe you and grandmother were reservoirs of raging passions and never bothered to marry. And Uncle Darcy allowed you to stay at Pemberley for years.
McDunn: You or one of the other investigators can always ask Dancer, you know.
Virginia: Who will likely smile the same enigmatic smile you are giving me now! I suppose Grandpa Fitz and Aunt Georgiana never bothered to marry, either.
McDunn: You know better than that. Why, you have likely seen the photograph of them in the church! It was one of the first photos I took with my camera after I got it working.
Virginia: True enough. So what happened to lead up to the marriage?
McDunn: It was all very normal and unexciting. No drama at all.
Virginia: I suppose. Actually, the lack of drama may make their marriage the most unbelievable of all of you.
McDunn: And you won’t breathe a single word about any of this outside this room, young lady. I know the kind of instructions Mrs. Darcy must have given you. She told me to be completely honest and forthcoming about everything that wasn’t classified “Imperial Most Secret,” since none of it would ever go into the Imperial security files. But I want to reiterate that everything we’ve discussed is a Family secret.
Virginia: Yes, Grandpa. Uh, perhaps you could wipe this drool off my chin for me? I seem to have lost my hankie.
McDunn: Good girl, Ginny! Now, what’s your next question?
Virginia: My word! Look at the time! Mrs. Darcy said to keep the interviews between a half-hour and an hour, and we’re past an hour. I suppose we will have to defer my other questions until next time.
McDunn: Good! This may be good coffee, but after being dragged over the coals by your savage interrogation, I feel the need for a good, stiff drink.
Virginia: Of that filthy Scotch that only you could like, I suppose.
McDunn: Me and your Grandpa Fitz, of course.
Virginia: It makes me shudder to even think of it. And close your mouth, Grandpa! I do not wish to know of anyone else in the family who likes the stuff!
McDunn (with a shrug and a wide grin): No curiosity, huh? Well, as they’ll say sometime in the future, ‘No guts, no green stamps!’
Virginia: I think you just made that up. And no, I have not the slightest interest in what a Green Stamp is! This marks the end of the second interview with Major Edward McDunn. And I think I shall go have myself a nice cup of tea.
Wow! What a thorough interview!! And so many intriguing hints dropped…it leads to even more questions begging to be asked! 😉 Thank you so much for sharing, Colin! I loved learning what we did about Major McDunn! I can’t wait to learn more, like: What circumstances brought him to Regency England? What was happening in 2045? What role does he play in Pride and Prejudice?
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Meryton Press is generously giving away 8 ebook editions of Perilous Seige in conjunction with this blog tour!! Woot woot!
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Thank you to Claudine Pepe, Meryton Press, C.P. Odom for making this blog tour possible!!
Perilous Siege Blog Tour Schedule
April 8 ~ My Jane Austen Book Club ~ Guest Post
April 10 ~ My Vices and Weaknesses ~ Book Excerpt
**April 12 ~ Austenesque Reviews ~ Character Interview**
April 13 ~ Just Jane 1813 ~ Meet C.P. Odom
April 14 ~ Margie’s Must Reads ~ Book Review
April 15 ~ Babblings of a Bookworm ~ Book Excerpt
April 16 ~ From Pemberley to Milton ~Vignette
April 17 ~ Diary of an Eccentric ~ Book Excerpt
April 18 ~ More Agreeably Engaged ~ Guest Post