I recently (well, it was a while back, but it took forever to write the reviews) interviewed Pamela Aidan, author of the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentlemen trilogy. (To read my reviews for all three books, click
Aidan: I read Pride & Prejudice in high school so that would be about 40 years ago!
ME: How did you manage to juggle your own Austen world and the one already revealed in Pride and Prejudice without sacrificing either Austen’s view of her story, or your own?
Aidan: Actually, except for a few elements, I had no “view” of the story. I was writing it piece by piece and posting it on the web at the Republic of Pemberley and the Derbyshire Writer’s Guild at first, and later on my own website as well. The process was more like waiting for Darcy to reveal himself as the events in P&P unrolled. So, I wrote with P&P open next to me, and as Darcy’s true character became clearer and clearer to me, my story evolved. I call my method “traipsing after Jane.”
ME: When did you begin to seriously ponder the goings-on of Fitzwilliam Darcy’s mind? And when did your thoughts transform into An Assembly Such as This?
Aidan:The process began with my first viewing of the BBC/A&E 1995 production of P&P. Previous adaptations to film or stage had either re-interpreted the story to the point of making it unrecognizable or the Darcy character as stiff and unemotional as a poker. The 1995 version, however, gave us a Darcy via Colin Firth who communicated a man whose emotional control was imperfect and hinted at great feeling. The idea that there was more to this character than I’d ever thought before presented itself to me. Then, there is the sea-change of character or at least of understanding when we meet Darcy at the end of P&P after a ½ book or more of absence from the plot. Why did he change? How did he change? I wanted to know! So, as an experiment I wrote a short 5 page peek at what might have been going on in Darcy’s mind as he wrote and then prepared to deliver the explanatory letter after Elizabeth’s rejection and posted it to The Republic of Pemberley. It was so well received that I then decided I would try to write the entire story from his perspective and, in so doing, find out those answers. So, I started in 1998 and finished writing Assembly in late 1999.
When I began Duty and Desire I was both excited to step away from “traipsing after Jane” and very, very apprehensive. Here, after all, was the second test of my writing ability. The first had been whether I could write well enough to capture Austen and her characters in familiar surroundings. The second was whether I could launch off on my own, take the characters elsewhere, and the readers would follow.
I found that the solid grounding in Darcy’s character that I’d developed in writing Assembly, my research and familiarity with the historical period, and the temptations and revelations I wished Darcy and the reader to experience gave me the framework. This freedom made D&D fun to write. I had no outline, but wrote as it “came” to me, listening to Darcy tell me the story as I placed him in the conflicts of Norwycke Castle.
ME: I personally adored the characters you took more creative liberties with. Georgiana was intriguing and lovable. Lord Dyfed Brougham was mysterious and amazing. Did you feel you had a different author/character connection with these characters due to the fact that you had a chance to create their personalities?
Aidan: My relationship to Darcy and the characters I created or greatly expanded is very personal and akin to feelings for real people! Darcy started as the flawed hero/lover. By the end of Assemby he’d become like one of my children, a beloved son who I desperately hoped would overcome his flaws and turn out well. Some, like Fletcher, appeared full blown. Even I didn’t know how he’d come to be so fluent in Shakespeare until near the end of book three! Brougham & Georgianna are the major catalysts in the series after Elizabeth Bennet starts Darcy’s transformational process and thus had to be carefully constructed and revealed. Their love for and frustration with Darcy mirror my own as he flails about trying to understand who he wants to be.
But their concern is compounded by their own difficulties in that quest as well. Their quests compel me to write.
ME: How many times would you say you’ve read Jane Austen’s novels, particularly Pride and Prejudice? Which novel, besides P&P, is your favorite?
I’ve probably read P&P around ten times just as a novel. When I was writing the series, it was always open next to me. So, I “studied” it almost daily. My second favorite Austen novel is Persuasion, and third is Mansfield Park, which I think has been largely misinterpreted, especially by modern readers, and therefore has never been dramatized correctly.
ME: Which is your favorite scene in your novels? If it is one of the scenes that is also in Pride and Prejudice, what would you say creates the different feel in your version, the one that entices you to love that scene so much?
My favorite scene takes place in book 3 at the Fox and Drake pub after Dy rescues Darcy from Sylvanie’s plot and coaxes a drunk and morose Darcy into finally confessing aloud the manner in which he has ruined his life. That scene explains the creation of the Brougham character. Who else could have called Darcy to account and force Darcy to listen; who else could Darcy bare his soul to but Dy?
ME: What response did you expect from readers when you packaged up your book and sent it out into the world? Were you worried your novel wouldn’t be appreciated or treated well because you’d based it on a novel so famous and beloved?
ME: Besides Darcy and Elizabeth, which character do you love most? Which do you think could use the most work?
Aidan: I love Dyfed Brougham the most. To be the friend that Darcy respects, the friend that can call Darcy out for foolishness or ill-behavior and be listened to is a man I want to know more about. The next book in the series will be as much his story as the Darcys’. As for the others, having taken three books already to tell Darcy’s story, I think I’ve rounded out all the characters that need it.
ME: When writing, did you use certain objects or music to get you in the Austen/Darcy mind-set? How did you remain consistent with your voice, Austen’s, and Darcy’s?
Aidan: When I was writing the series, I often listened to Enya’s Paint the Sky with Stars album and Jerry Reed Smith’s albums of hammered dulcimer music (Strayaway Child is his first) to get me in the mind-set. A hot cup of Earl Grey tea and some buttered toast also helped! I’m a morning person, so the dark and solitude of early morning is very conducive.
As for consistency of voice, I couldn’t say. Mostly, I just waited to “hear” Darcy speak to me in the dark, quiet solitude of early morning.
You can buy all of Aidan’s books at Borders.com
Thanks for taking a look!