I'm spoiling my Janeites this week - I know we just had a Moment of Jane on Monday (and will start having them regularly), but I've got more Janey goodness for you today. Author Sally Smith O'Rourke has stopped by to tell us a story about her first book, The Man Who Loved Jane Austen, and a run-in with everyone's favorite Darcy (don't even try to deny it; all of you Matthew Macfadyen-ers and Elliot Cowan-ers are just being stubborn...).
To go along with her story, she's also sharing an excerpt of her new book, Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen - but first up: Darcy...
Some of you may be aware that my late husband, Michael, and I collaborated on The Man Who Loved Jane Austen. It was a very personal project that he called the ultimate valentine because it came out of our love for each other.
We decided to bind the finished product and give it as gifts to friends and family. Originally we did a dozen copies that were hand bound with green ribbon in three volumes as Austen’s books were printed. When people started asking for additional copies we had them professionally printed and bound rather than trying to keep up with the demand with handmade editions.
It was fun that everyone seemed to enjoy the book, but the fun didn’t last long. I lost Michael suddenly on November 14, 2001; my world crashed. Everything went on the shelf, even my life.
A few months after the funeral, a close friend (the best man at our wedding) called and told me that I needed to get out so he was taking me to the screening of a movie. He was right of course, it would have been very easy for me to become a hermit. As a member of BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) he had passes to an, as yet, unreleased British film. I grudgingly agreed to go and just as I was leaving he called again and asked that I bring a copy of the book. “Why?” I asked (he had gotten one of the original hand bound editions). “I want to give it to someone.” I picked up a copy and left.
The screening was at one of the film and television studios in Hollywood. As it was only a short time after 9/11 the security was extreme. There were check points to get on to the parking lot, the walk through gate, the building entrance and the theatre itself. Very time consuming.
When we reached the stairs leading to the theatre it was clear the theatre was not yet open as a crowd was gathering in the hall. Apparently the film had arrived without numbers differentiating the reels so the projectionist had no idea in which order they were to run. Until it was cleared up they wouldn’t let anyone in the theatre (never was really sure why, overly secure I guess). A tall, handsome young man politely made his way through the crowd and straightened it all out and we were finally allowed to enter the screening room.
While Roger made his rounds to visit with friends I sat down and waited, still finding it difficult to mingle with people; particularly strangers. After a while he came over, handed me the book and looked up the aisle, “Go give it to him.” I looked over my shoulder, six feet away was the star of the movie we were there to see. The tall young man who had fixed the film roll problem. I looked back at Roger quizzically. “You dedicated the book to him, now give it to him.” “Seriously?” I asked. He pulled me to my feet, “Yes.”
We had dedicated the book to him; to him, Jennifer Ehle and Jane Austen. I took a deep breath and looked back at Roger; he nodded his head and sat down. Slowly I made my way up the steps and stood next to him as he finished a conversation with someone else. He turned to me and smiled, “Hello.” I didn’t reciprocate the greeting, I just said, “I have something for you.”
His lovely smile turned to trepidation and I realized that he was afraid I was a stalker. I assured him I wasn’t, told him about the book and showed him the dedication. The smile returned and he thanked me as the house lights dimmed and we returned to our seats.
After a much anticipated Question and Answer session with the film’s director, producer and cast, Roger and I headed to the exit. As we neared the door the young man stopped me. He thanked me again, saying he was exceedingly touched by the gesture and had never been given a nicer compliment. He bent down and kissed my cheek and then was pulled away by another fan.
In the tram that took us to the car a woman’s voice asked, “You’re the one who gave Colin the book aren’t you?” I turned around; the question had been asked by Minnie Driver who was sitting next to Saffron Burrows. I only had time to respond in the affirmative when we arrived at the car.
I realize now that it was a pretty amazing evening but I didn’t really appreciate and enjoy it as much as I might have. The wound incurred by the loss of Mike was still raw and I was very much in a daze most of the time. Still the gracious young man left an indelible impression and what else can you say when you’ve been kissed by Colin Firth?
Though this post is actually for the launch of my newest book, Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen (also dedicated to Jane Austen, Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth) I’m pretty sure that the Jane Austen and Colin Firth fans out there would enjoy the story.
Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen is an expansion and continuation of the story in The Man Who Loved Jane Austen. It delves into the complex nature of Fitzwilliam Darcy, the 21st century American horseman who slipped through a rip in the fabric of time and met Jane Austen.
Eliza Knight, the Manhattan artist who finds a letter from Jane Austen proving to Darcy that he did, in fact, travel in time, has fallen in love with the enigmatic Virginian after a long weekend at his home, Pemberley Farms. However, his epic tale of love and romance in Regency England puts Eliza on the defensive. How can she compete with the inimitable Jane Austen? And things are happening in the small hamlet of Chawton, England that could change everything. Will Jane Austen be the wedge that divides the modern couple or the tie that binds them?
Ann Channon of Jane Austen’s House Museum (Chawton Cottage) said:
“I have finished Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen and really liked it. Your books are imaginative and very different. Your ideas are new and fresh and endearing. Well, done.”