Today we welcome guest Abigail Reynolds, who’s here to talk about her latest in The Pemberley Variations, Mr. Darcy’s Obsession and give away a signed copy.
What if Mr. Darcy never had the opportunity to propose to Elizabeth Bennet at Hunsford, and did not meet her again until her circumstances were reduced? In Mr. Darcy’s Obsession, Mr. Darcy has an even greater social distance to bridge if he wishes to marry Elizabeth. Add in some Fitzwilliam relations with links to the Prince Regent and the loose morals typical of Regency high society who feel that Elizabeth is the material of which mistresses, not wives, are made, and Mr. Darcy has to make a painful choice between the demands of a decadent society and his personal moral sense. The background of this novel is the morally bankrupt ton which Jane Austen knew well, but did not describe in detail in her novels, perhaps because it was a given to her and her contemporaneous readers. Against this backdrop, the characters of Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet shine brightly as they seek to find an alternative to the bounds of decorum that constrain Darcy’s usual marital prospects.
Readers who can’t get enough of Darcy and Elizabeth will find that Reynolds does an admirable job of capturing the feel of the period in this entertaining diversion. – Booklist
Mr. Darcy’s Obsession is an adventurous variation that explores a different route with our beloved Pride and Prejudice. In my opinion, it is one of Ms. Reynolds’s more exciting novels complete with a street urchin spy, libertine uncle, eccentric aunt, many damsels in distress, and an honorable and praiseworthy hero! I most emphatically recommend! – Austenesque Reviews
For those that have been chomping at the bit for another Reynolds’ novel, Mr. Darcy’s Obsession does not disappoint! And to Darcy & Elizabeth lovers who have yet to discover her works, you must put this at the front of the queue! – Austenprose
Abigail, that’s a gorgeous cover. Congratulations on the new release and welcome to the Riskies. Tell us your publishing story. I believe you started off self-published?
Yes, I took a very odd route to publication. My first books were posted for free on the internet in serial form. I couldn’t see Austen variations ever being published. I made an brief effort to secure an agent for my modern Austen-related novel, The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice, but that left me with a collection of rejection letters from agents who said they liked it, but that there was no market for Austen-related fiction. That was in 2003, and I don’t think I’d hear that today! Then some of my on-line readers said they’d like to get my stories in book form, so I self-published them, not expecting to sell more than a dozen, since who would buy a book that was available for free on the internet? Quite a few people, apparently. I sold several thousand, and was noticed by Deb Werksman at Sourcebooks, who made me a book offer.
What is it about P&P specifically and Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship that lends itself to such wonderful creative riffs?
P&P is a writer’s dream because Darcy and Elizabeth are such strong characters, yet Jane Austen leaves a great deal about them unsaid. We actually know very little about them or their history. That’s part of why so many people can identify with them, and also why writers can’t resist the chance to fill in some of those blanks. They’re such passionate characters that it’s easy for modern readers to relate to them, and they’re both simultaneously very admirable yet flawed in ways that aren’t threatening to us. The spirit of P&P is so bright and sparkly that readers long to return to its world.
Do you feel intimidated by “borrowing” Austen’s characters? She is a pretty tough act to follow!
She’s definitely a tough act to follow, but actually, I don’t feel intimidated because there’s no comparison. I know I’ll never be able to write them anywhere near as well as she did. It’s like if I were learning to play cello, I wouldn’t find Yo-Yo Ma intimidating, because he’s so far beyond what I could hope to achieve.
Do Austen purists approve? Can you tell us what sort of reactions you’ve had from readers?
Many Austen lovers are open-minded and willing to give anything a try, and others disapprove heartily. Oddly, though, many of the ones who swear they’d never read an Austenesque novel seem to know surprisingly well what happens in my books! Part of the problem with purists is that people read P&P so differently. Some people think it portrays a simpler, more innocent, more moral time. Others see the incisive wit and the implied criticism of society, and realize the Regency was an era of moral decadence. I’ve had astonishing conversations with people who insist that Darcy was a virgin when he met Elizabeth, which to my mind is about as likely as him being born in China. He would be such an incredible oddball for the time if he were. I’ve had an easier time with the purists lately, though, because my books seem positively mainstream to them compared to Pride & Prejudice & Zombies or Mr. Darcy, Vampyre!
Reader reactions are all over the map. Apparently Mr. Darcy’s Obsession is either my best book because it doesn’t include intimate scenes, or it’s a complete letdown for the very same reason! Some readers are so happy to have anything more of Lizzy and Darcy that I could write whatever I like, and others can’t stand having their images shattered.
What sort of research do you do and which books about Austen would you recommend?
I do a lot of online research since there’s a lot of excellent material about the time period available there. I tend to get caught up in researching odd historical details, most of which never make it into my books, but I need to know the details, like what kind of pommel a regency sidesaddle would have, to picture the scene accurately in my head. As for books about Austen, the most important thing to read is her letters. You see new sides of her in them and get a real feel for her thought process. I’d also recomment Emily Auerbach’s Searching for Jane Austen, a very readable and insightful analysis of Austen’s character and the development of the myth of “dear old Aunt Jane.”
Is there another Austen that inspires you to dream of sequels?
I’ve written a modern version of Persuasion, but publishers are much less interested in anything that’s not P&P. Sense & Sensibility also tempts me.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on another Pride & Prejudice variation, and sequels to both Mr. Darcy’s Obsession and The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice.
Thanks for inviting me! It’s been a pleasure to visit with you.
Let’s chat! Abigail will drop by to respond to questions and comments and we’ll be giving away a signed copy of her book.