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Monday, June 28, 2010

Interview with Monica Fairview, author of The Darcy Cousins, et al

On the 28th day of Jane in June, your Book Rat gives to you...
an interview with Monica Fairview, author of The Other Mr Darcy and The Darcy Cousins, among others.  Make sure that you check out the giveaway of these two books here, as well as my review of The Darcy Cousins (later today!).

Book Rat: You write on your website about being fascinated with the Regency period, and that "It was the last fling before the stolid and constricting values of the Victorian era tightened like a corset around them. " How does this mentality keep the writing fresh for you?  How do you show this in your stories? 

DSCN0098.JPGMonica Fairview: The Regency was a short window of time in which women suddenly acquired a certain physical freedom that they hadn’t had for centuries. Clothes got looser (though not for men), women’s bodies weren’t hidden or given strange unnatural shapes (see-through clothing, can you believe it!), hair was cut short (for symbolic reasons, to show support for the victims of the guillotine, but it still was a radical change) and more natural hairstyles (not wigs) prevailed. Even for us I think it’s quite startling to realize – at least at the beginning of the Regency – that they were wearing gauze-like clothes with just a thin layer of material under them and no underpants, and dampening them so their outline could show. Given the layers of clothing women had to wear before and after the regency, women really had it easy. Women could now actually walk quite fast because the hem crept up so the ankles were free. And half boots were quite sensible for walking (though not those thin ballet-style slippers).
The freshness of Pride and Prejudice for me – and why I love writing about the characters from there --  is that the Bennet girls break so many ‘rules,’ yet they somehow come out as winners on several levels. There are restrictions, but they’re not carved in stone.

BR: In The Darcy Cousins, you expand on two characters I've always wanted to see more of: Georgiana Darcy and Anne de Bourgh.  The latter especially has always fascinated me because a) just because she's sick doesn't mean she doesn't have a brain or desires, and b) growing up at Rosings with such a mother -- I've always wanted to know what she was thinking and wishing.  What was it like bringing these two very shy, internal characters to life?
MF: You’ve hit the nail on the head, Misty. I’ve always felt uneasy that Anne de Bourgh isn’t given much of a chance to reveal anything about herself, but of course that was in the context of Elizabeth thinking that Anne was supposed to marry Darcy. Elizabeth is quite mean about her, thinking that Darcy deserves someone sickly and cross because he’s so conceited. As for Georgiana, I can’t help thinking how much of a shock it must have been to discover the truth about Wickham at such a young age, and also how difficult it must have been to have no one to turn to – no mother or father, and with her brother away so much of the time – and then to end up with an unreliable governess/companion as well! There was a lot more to her that I wanted to explore.

BR: You seem to be pretty enamored of Pride and Prejudice, and your two books that are Austen-inspired are spin-offs of that story -- What is it about P&P specifically that caught your heart?
MF: The characters, all of them. I love every single one, including – as you may know – Caroline, since I tell her story in The Other Mr Darcy. I’m awed by Jane Austen’s ability to create such brilliant people, and I want to keep revisiting them over and over.

BR: Do you intend to work off of any of Austen's other writing?
MF: I would really like to, but I’m generally told that sequels of other Jane Austen don’t sell very well. Perhaps in the future.

BR: What do you make of the recent resurgence in all things Jane  (sequels, mash-ups, biopics, etc)?
MF: In our age of constant stimulation, bombardment from the media, and noise pollution, the idea of a by-gone era where things happen in slow motion – so to speak – is enormously appealing. But the paranormal is very dominant in fiction now, as it was during Jane Austen’s time, when the Gothic was all the rage. That was when Frankenstein and Dracula were born, after all. I think it’s fascinating that her writing became so popular again at the same time as the rise of the paranormal.  

BR: If you could be a fly on the wall during any Austen scene, what would it be and why?
MF: I’d have loved to be there during that second ‘proposal scene’ between Lizzy and Darcy. There is so much that isn’t said – or done. I’d also have liked to be at Rosings when Lizzy was there. As you’ve probably guessed, I find Lady Catherine fascinating, in a Gothic kind of way.   
BR: Any plans to work outside of the Regency period?
MF: Yes, I’m currently writing something from a completely different time period. The Regency has a special place in my heart, and I plan to continue to write in this period, but I want to explore a bit as well.

BR: If you had to sum up your Jane-love in six words, what would you say?
MF; Genius, insight, laughter, romance, precision and originality.

BR: Who is your favorite JA character?
MF: Anne Elliot from Persuasion.

BR: Favorite side-character?
MF: Margaret in Sense and Sensibility.

BR: Character you most want to shake?
MF: Fanny Price. She needs to live and let live. If she’s like this now, how will she be when older and she gets to be a Victorian? Her poor children!

BR: If you could visit any one location in one of Jane's novels -- besides Pemberley! -- what would it be and why?
MF: Northanger Abbey – I love the Gothic aspect of it.

BR: Picture yourself as Charlotte (Lucas) Collins -- now, swallow back the horror of that and give us a brief idea of your day-to-day. How do you keep your sanity?
MF: I think Charlotte knew what she was getting herself into, and planned for it accordingly. She cleverly sets Mr Collins up in the room that she knows will appeal to him, encourages him to garden, and generally nudges him in the direction she wants. She manages him very cleverly. Fortunately, he’s not sharp enough to realize it.

BR:  Which "bad boy" would you rather end up with: Wickham or Willoughby?
MF:  They’re both pretty awful, realistically. Now these are people I wouldn’t want to any spend time with. As far as charm goes, Wickham beats Willoughby because he’s too insensitive to know when he isn’t welcome. But they both seduce young girls – teenagers -- and they don’t have any conscience. There’s nothing redeemable about them.

BR: Would you rather spend the day with Lady Catherine or Mrs. Bennet?
MF: Both. I love them to death, even if they’d drive me to distraction. It would be great to have them spend a few days in each other’s company. That would be really fun. 

BR: Oh, the horror!  Definitely need some earplugs, I think.  There would be a lot of muttering under breath...
Thanks for joining us, Monica!! 


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