Jane Austen Changed My Life
By Barbara Tiller Cole
I was in the middle before I knew I had begun…
I read Jane Austen’s books for the first time in high school for a group project. My mother read along with me as she always encouraged me to improve my mind through extensive reading. After completion of the project, I read all of Austen’s works, but it was not that experience that turned my fascination into obsession. No, that would come later.
Austen’s works resurfaced in college. I came home for winter break and my mother had found a ‘sequel’ to Pride and Prejudice. We read the original again first, and then the sequel and a seed of curiosity sprouted, serving as kindling for my Austen pilot light.
Flash forward to 2001. Following major surgery, a girlfriend loaned me her VHS copy of the BBC/A&E Pride and Prejudice to assist me in my recovery. I watched it over and over again. I fell in love with the language, the costumes, the period, and the music. Along with that, I fell in love with Mr. Darcy as personified by Colin Firth.
During my surgical recovery another friend took me out to see a movie. Dressed in sweats and no make-up I saw Bridget Jones Diary. It was my first actual glimpse at Austen Inspired literature, for whether you liked the film or not, BJD was inspired by Austen. I loved the film because I loved Mr. Darcy, portrayed again by Colin Firth. My obsession was born.
I read and re-read Pride and Prejudice. I found it in audio-book format so I could listen to it on the way back and forth to work. I googled and found another world of online Jane Austen inspired literature. I devoured prequels, sequels and variations like an alcoholic does booze. My husband was more than a little concerned about my obsession, but, as it wasn’t costing him any money, he let me have my diversion.
Today, he understands that my fascination with Darcy has more than a little to do with our own relationship having a very ‘Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth’ type start. I rejected him twice before our true love relationship began.
I first met my Mr. Darcy in grad school when I played the piano for a men’s quartet he was singing in. He asked me out, believing that we were a match-made-in-heaven, and I turned him down flat. I was dating someone else (who may or may not have been Wickham). I met him next at a mall in Atlanta several years later and he convinced me to go out with him. The first date was to a 5-star restaurant and a Broadway show. The second was similar, and then on the date he took me to an under the stars Johnny Mathis concert. At a particularly romantic point in the evening he told me he thought God had destined us to be together. I told him I wasn’t sure I was attracted to him. Looking back on it I imagine I sounded a bit like Elizabeth Bennet when Mr. Darcy proposed to her the first time at Hunsford?
I spent a period of time cataloguing the long list of Jane Austen’s less admirable men I had been in relationship with along the line, and recognized the Wickhams, Willoughbys and yes, a Mr. Collins I had dated and found them severely lacking. I even called a few of them to make sure that they had not changed!
My eyes were brightened by that particular excerise! So what happened you say? The third time I called my Mr. Darcy instead of waiting for him to appear again, confessing that I had made a grave error. Thank God I do not live in the Regency era or it would have been beyond propriety to me to make that particular call!
A few years ago I found a group of women online who all lived in the vicinity of Greater Atlanta. I was amazed that others were as obsessed as I about Mr. Darcy. We met for tea, and for conversations. We talked about stories we had read and about our fascination with all things Darcy. Before too long I had written and published my first Austen inspired book, White Lies and Other Half Truths. My second book—Fitzwilliam Ebenezer Darcy—a novella that is a cross between Pride and Prejudice and A Christmas Carol, was released last Halloween. My next book, Adventures of a Darcyholic, will be released late Fall 2012.
In addition to books coming from my obsession with all things Austen, a website/blog and facebook group were born—Darcyholic Diversions. It is dedicated to the love of Austen, and authors of fiction and non-fiction Austen inspired works, readers, Austen lovers and bloggers share their stories of how they discovered Austen. I would love for you to visit (or post if you are interested!).
And last, but not least, my hunger for Austen has led to being the program chairman and author liaison for the upcoming Decatur Book Festival Jane Austen: Then and Now events this Labor Day weekend with 27 Austen Inspired Authors participating! For more information go to: http://www.darcyholicdiversions.com/p/jasna-georgias-participation-in-decatur.html
Darcyholic Diversions: www.DarcyholicDiversions.com
Darcyholic Diversions Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/darcyholicdiversions/
*** Don't forget to go enter to win your choice of Barbara's books!!