Because of Elizabeth’s silence upon his return to Meryton, Fitzwilliam Darcy does not tarry or renew his addresses. Assuming Elizabeth was avoiding him and unable to forgive him, Darcy keeps his silence. Instead, full of despair and self-loathing, Darcy retreats to Pemberley where he nurses his broken heart with strong drink and solitude. Refusing Bingley’s invitations, sending Georgiana to Matlock, and giving the servants a holiday, Darcy intends to spend Christmas with his failures, his agony, and his dashed dreams. Fortunately for Darcy, three Christmas Spirits set out to alter the desolate and destructive path he is on by visiting him one strange and profound December night…
Uniting the supernatural spirits and Christmas message of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol with the characters and humor of Jane Austen, Barbara Tiller Cole presents a Christmas novella that is the perfect companion for a chilly night in front of the fire! Darcy made an excellent, albeit more brooding and romantic Scrooge, and I greatly enjoyed seeing everything from his perspective. It was heartrending to see Darcy tortured by the visions of his past and terrified of how bleak the future could be for his loved ones.
Austenesque Reviews is excited to welcome Barbara Tiller Cole, who has graciously answered somequestions of mine about writing, Jane Austen, and her novellaFitzwilliam Ebenezer Darcy. Thank you so very much, Barbara,for your time and participation in this interview. Let’s start by talking about where and when did you first discover Jane Austen? What do you love most about Jane Austen’s writing?
From an early age my mother encouraged me to improve my mind by extensive reading, and I was most often found with my head in a book. I first read Pride and Prejudice in my high school humanities class, and I fell in love with Austen’s work. After reading all of Austen’s novels while in high school, my mother and I managed to find a few Jane Austen sequels even back then (and no, I am not going to tell you when back then was, as we ladies never give away our true age).
The next time I read her works was after I had major surgery in the year 2000. A friend loaned me her VCR tape version of the BBC/A&E Pride and Prejudice mini series. I DO know I can attribute my restored health, at least in part, to being able to watch Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy over and over. I, again, read ALL of Jane Austen’s novels during my recovery, and then found Austen sequels and online communities. My obsession was born, and this recovery period created my desire to write.
As to what I like best, that is a simple answer—Mr. Darcy. As to Miss Austen’s style of writing—I love her use of wit and impertinence in observation of her characters and class struggles of the period.
I understand you are fan of Charles Dickens, and a great admirer of A Christmas Carol. What do you like most about A Christmas Carol?
I love the transformation of character that occurs during the ghostly visitations to Scrooge. Dickens’ characterizations and transformational process are a fascinating study. What I like the most is how many variations of the original have come into existence. Each holiday, I look for more opportunities to watch TV and movie versions of A Christmas Carol.
What inspired you to write a Christmas story combining Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol?
I love holiday movies, and in 2008 I watched at least ten different versions of A Christmas Carol over a long weekend. I called it the ‘Christmas Carol Festival’ at the time. From George C. Scott to Susan Lucci, and Kelsey Grammer to Jim Carrey, I enjoyed the portrayals. It was during the Bill Murray version—called Scrooged—that I thought of doing this story. It was the Ghost of Christmas Past that solidified my vision for the story. I hope that, as in Scrooged, my story has the right touch of lightness and humor to complement the transformation of Darcy’s character, as —like Elizabeth Bennet—I dearly love to laugh.
I know this may be obvious being that he is the hero of Pride and Prejudice, but why choose Darcy as your Ebenezer Scrooge?
First of all, Mr. Darcy is Pride and Prejudice to me and Fitzwilliam Ebenezer in my story needs just as dramatic of a transformation as did Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens novel. My hero does not have the character of Ebenezer Scrooge. He is NOT a miser. He is not determined to ONLY work and make money, and he does not abuse those who work for him. However, he is miserable and isolated from family by his own choice. He has failed to attain his first love and has given up on any hope of happiness. I won’t give everything away. However, during the course of the book Darcy sees himself and others in a new way because of the visitation of ghosts. He believes he has no choice other than change, just as Scrooge did in A Christmas Carol.
The story takes place the Christmas after he assisted in the Wickham wedding. So, he is not an old man. He is still the same handsome, rich man he was in the canon story. Yet, he has lost all hope and has fallen into miserable self-pity and inconsolable drunkenness. It is in this state of wretchedness that our ghosts visit him at Pemberley. So I chose Mr. Darcy because he was in such need of transformation.
What are three words you would use to describe your book?
Three separate words?
Transformational. Pathos. Awakening.
Or a three-word phrase?
Life-changing Ghostly Visitations.
*POSSIBLE SPOILER* In your novella, you had many visions, past, present, and future. Some came from Pride and Prejudice, and some are your own creation. Which vision(s) was your favorite? Which vision was the most challenging to write?
I liked all of my ghostly visions, but my favorite is Mrs. Pat. I will not give away in this interview who she is in the story, but once I created her character, I found myself wanting to use her again. I have considered having Mrs. Pat create another set of visitations for another Austen character. Time and my muse will tell if she ever sees the light of day again, but I know I would enjoy writing more of her.
The most difficult vision to create was the Ghost of Christmas Future. It was an emotional and heart rending experience to visualize what a possible history might have been for the main characters without this intervention. Also, writing about a ghost who does not talk can be tricky.
I can tell from your writing that you have a sense of humor! What makes you laugh? Which characters from Jane Austen’s novel do you find the most comical?
Laughter has always been my best medicine. I found that humor could make me popular, and by the time I got to college, I was one of the class clowns. I have also been known to hide behind my humor from time to time, so I have to be careful with that in my daily life.
What makes me laugh most often is talking with someone who is self-effacing and willing to tell me about their own follies and missteps. For my day job, I am a therapist and work in the field of addiction treatment. A person who has faced great tragedy and adversity and has overcome addiction to find sobriety has a very unique way of sharing their story and I love to hear them be able to laugh at themselves.
As for Jane Austen’s comic relief, Mr. Collins is my favorite, followed by Lady Catherine and Caroline Bingley. The hero or heroine most likely to provide laughter for me is Emma.
Any possibility of a sequel to Fitzwilliam Ebenezer Darcy? It sounded like the Spirits had another person they wanted to visit…
I am considering it, Meredith. My muse hatches so many plot bunnies I have been considering opening a petting zoo. I would be interested to know if any of your readers would be interested in reading a story in which Lady Catherine had to face her ghosts. Currently, I am currently working on a modern Austen comedy. We shall see which fluffy bunny my muse attacks after completion of that tale.
Tell us a little about your other novel, White Lies and Other Half Truths, I understand it’s a variation of Pride and Prejudice. I’m a big fan of variations!
White Lies and Other Half Truths is a sexy romantic farce. As opposed to the family friendly classic of Fitzwilliam Ebenezer Darcy, it is not for a Pride and Prejudice purist who could never imagine Darcy and Elizabeth having premarital relations. Nor, is it for someone that does not like to laugh. Even the romantic scenes are intentionally over done for comedic effect. I find that people either LOVE it or do not like it at all.
As for the variations of the story, there are quite a few. There is a quicker resolution between Darcy and Elizabeth after the Netherfield Ball. Mr. Bennet has prior connections to the Darcy’s. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet find their way back to each other in a reformation of their characters. I kill off at least one character in a manner that has never been duplicated or considered. Last and certainly not least, Darcy and Elizabeth begin a passion filled life together.
What is next for you? I see you are working on a novel titled Elizabeth Bennet, Darcyholic. What’s that story about?
Elizabeth Bennet, Darcyholic is a modern comedy. Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy are addicted to all things Jane Austen and their families independently intervene—sending them to attend Jane Austen Addicts Anonymous meetings. They meet there, and a rollicking series of events lead them into each other’s arms and on the lam. Writing this story is an opportunity to let my inner comedian loose.
If you could ask Jane Austen any question, what would it be?
The central romantic theme of your stories is the transformation of character in order to bring a man and woman together for a happy ending. Did you live in regret at not having your own happy ending, or did bringing true love to your characters allow you to live a content, fulfilled life?
Let’s talk a little bit about Christmas! What are some of your favorite traditions or memories of this holiday?
Every holiday my father would gather us together to read A Christmas Carol. My mother would fix cider, and light her favorite cinnamon scented candle while we listened to the story. On the record player would be the Ray Coniff Orchestra’s holiday album. Later, we would gather around the TV to watch Bing Crosby in ‘White Christmas’, Jimmy Stewart in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and Natalie Wood in ‘Miracle on 34th Street.’ These traditions continue for me today.
When I was in high school, Stone Mountain Park (outside of Atlanta) had a live nativity pageant every year on the walk up side of the mountain. I was chosen to play Mary. One night the donkey misbehaved, and took me on a wild ride all around mountain—while I was holding on to his mane for dear life. It was worth it on Christmas, however, when my picture as Mary ended up being on the cover of many newspapers.
More recently there was a holiday after I married that my husband and I had no money to give presents. We made gifts for each other and for our family. I didn’t even go shopping that year. I was able to feel the wonder and magic of Christmas without the commercial aspect.
Last year, I was in New York City for work two weeks in December. My husband joined me there, and each evening I was fascinated by looking at window displays, seeing Santa at Macy’s watching ice skating, smelling chestnuts roasting, experiencing a carriage ride through Central Park and special Holiday Broadway productions.
Meredith, I want to thank you again for taking the time to interview me. I appreciate your thought provoking questions.
GIVEAWAY!!! Thanks to Barbara Tiller Cole, I have one BRAND NEW copy of Fitzwilliam Ebenezer Scrooge to giveaway to one of you lucky readers!
All you have to do is leave a comment on this interview and share with your thoughts about Lady Catherine being Scrooge: YAY? or NAY? (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 interntational friends, this giveaway is open worldwide. Thank you, Barbara!!
Want to DOUBLE your chances of winning? Come back tomorrow and check out my review of Fitzwilliam Ebenezer Darcy where I will be giving away a second copy of Barbara’s lovely novel!
This contest ends December 11th. Thank you for entering and best of luck!