Abigail Reynolds is one of my favorite Austen authors. I am excited to have her on my blog today for an interview about her writing and her new novel, What Would Mr. Darcy Do?
LAG: How do you come up with your "what if" Mr. Darcy scenarios?
AR: Re-reading Pride & Prejudice is always a good place for me to start. When a scene makes me grind my teeth because Darcy is explaining himself badly or Elizabeth is misunderstanding him or there’s some external impediment to their acquaintance – that’s a good sign that it could be the basis of a variation. Sometimes it’ll be something that occurs to me when I’m reading. For my next book, it was the moment when Elizabeth takes Darcy’s letter, something I’ve learned was a huge violation of social proprieties. What if she’d done the “right” thing and refused to take it?
Sometimes a “what if” variation will turn out not to make much change in the overall story line, and those usually turn into short stories or novellas. I’ve just collected five of those in my newest book, A Pemberley Medley.
LAG: Have you thought about expanding the "what if" scenarios to other Austen novels?
AR: I’ve ruled out Emma and Mansfield Park simply because I don’t enjoy the characters enough to live with them in my mind for that long, but just lately I’ve found myself intrigued by Captain Wentworth. Anne Elliott was persuaded to refuse him the first time because he was poor and socially undistinguised, and when he re-enters her life years later, he’s become a captain and is wealthy from prize-money. Most poor seamen never made it to captain, of course. What would have happened if a captaincy hadn’t become available at the right time, and so he was only Lieutenant Wentworth and still short of money? Would the Musgrove sisters have found him so interesting? Would Anne make a different decision this time? There’s the tricky part about figuring out how he would get to Bath under those circumsatnces, but I think the plot line has great potential. Sense and Sensibility has some good variation possibilities as well.
LAG: Do you ever discuss Austen with any of your patients? I'm just wondering as when I was expecting my daughter, my doctor and I would discuss whatever book each of us were reading:-)
AR: I do discuss Austen with patients sometimes! Most of my patients are aware that I’m an Austen fan – the Jane Austen mug and the Jane Austen tote bag give it away, not to mention that I’m prone to quote Jane Austen out of the blue. I live in a town with lots of Austen fans, so a surprising number of them pick up on my quotes. Since I don’t practice under the name of Reynolds, most of them don’t know I’m a writer, though there are a dozen or so who’ve either figured it out or I’ve told them when I realized they were on the verge of discovering it – like the one who came in and recommended that I should read this great book she’d just discovered called To Conquer Mr. Darcy! The funny thing is that a couple of the patients who do know about my writing have used talking about my sex scenes as a way of leading into a discussion of their sexual issues. Hey, whatever works to make it easier for people to talk about the tough stuff!
Thanks for inviting me!
LAG: Thank-you for answering my questions - and for writing such great books! I often wonder if any of my Madison friends have you as a doctor and don't know about your secret identity! I hope you are able to write a Persuasion variation in the future - Persuasion is tied with P&P as my favorite Austen novel!
Sourcebooks has been kind enough to offer one copy of What Would Mr. Darcy Do? by Abigail Reynolds for a giveaway.
If you would like to win a copy of What Would Mr. Darcy Do?, please leave a comment about what intrigues you about the novel or this interview.
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The deadline for entry is midnight, Friday April 29th.