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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Jane Austen Changed My Life ~ a guest post from Barbara Tiller Cole


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/
BarbaraTillerCole@gmail.com



*** Don't forget to go enter to win your choice of Barbara's books!!

Click here to be taken to the Austen in August Main Page! Fab button artwork c/o Antique Fashionista!

7 comments:

  1. What a lovely story of how you met your hubby, altho I am sorry to hear you dated a Mr Collins along the way!

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  2. It is great to read of your own personal life story. I'm so glad you finally recognized your Mr. Darcy.

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  3. I'm so nosy, I want to know all about these Wickhams and Willoughbys and Collinses in your past. Haha thank goodness you were able to make things right and find your Mr Darcy.

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  4. Barbara, I loved hearing about how you met your husband! And thank you for starting Darcyholic Diversions - it's a lovely place to meet!

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  5. Congratulations, Barbara - both in terms of finding your Mr Darcy and publishing your Austen-inspired novels!

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  6. Ceri: Thanks so much! I actually went out on a lot of first dates with a number of at least future Mr. Collins candidates as I went to seminary way back when :D.

    Suzan: Me too! That I found my Mr. Darcy that is. BUT my husband does NOT understand my fascination with all things jane Austen. When he tells his friends about my writing he says, “ Imagine that you are going to write a new ending of ‘The God Father’ and instead of Luca Brazi swims with the fishes, imagine that he opened an Italian restaurant instead of getting killed. That is what Barbara does with Pride and Prejudice. LOL.

    Monica: I will write more about the Wickham, Collins and Willoughbys that I dated at some point! ;) Will keep you informed when I do! LOL...

    Jane: Thank you so much for your kind words, Jane! And I need to get you to post on DarcyholicDiversions soon!

    Juliet Archer: Thanks so much to YOU, Juliet. And I would love to host you at DarcyholicDiversions.

    And to Jane and Juliet... Maybe you would consider both coming to the Decatur Book Festival next year? We had 28 authors that took a part. I just finished and survived and it was a wonderful weekend. So I am JUST now noticing that my post went up! Sorry that I have not noticed before now!

    Barbara Tiller Cole

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  7. I'm with Monica - I want to know all about these Wickhams and Willoughbys and Collinses in your past. And I *love* your husband's explanation for your writing! I'm a Godfather fan too, and I wish Luca Brasi had an Italian restaurant where he would serve meatballs and ravioli and cannoli (hold the poison).

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