Today I am thrilled to share an interview with a new JAFF author, Steph Nixon. Steph lives in England and is the author of “The Darcy Madness,” which was my first taste of a JAFF paranormal. I am honored that she is here with us today and that she has an excerpt to share of her upcoming “sequel!”
What made you consider the world of writing P&P paranormal?
I don’t think that it was a conscious decision to be honest. I’ve always enjoyed paranormal fiction, both reading and writing, and since I’ve also always been a little bit obsessed with Mr Darcy, what better than to turn him into a hero of paranormal proportions? Plus by mixing magic and mystique into the story, it allows my brain to do all sorts of crazy things.
As for why I decided that my Mr Darcy should be a shape-shifting, madness-cursed jaguar… well I can’t really explain why! I’m something of a mad-cat lady. I love cats of all kinds, and jaguars are so elegant and moody, that I thought it fitted Darcy fairly well personality wise!
What inspires you to continue Austen’s work?
I’ve been in love with Jane Austen since before Colin Firth jumped into a lake with only a shirt on, although I will, and have argued vehemently, that the 1995 BBC production is the best TV/film adaptation that has, or ever will be made. For me, Jane Austen has so much life and depth, even 200 years after she was first published, that how can someone not be drawn to Austen’s intellect and voice? I love Austen’s prose, and I love delving into it and finding new quotes that I can tweak to find new meanings.
Although, if I’m being brutally honest, my main reasons for writing JAFF are entirely selfish! Kitty doesn’t “cough for [her] own amusement”, but I do write for mine. Mostly I write to entertain myself, as I’ve got tens of half-written stories or novellas sitting on my hard drive to amuse myself. Only a handful of them are fit for public consumption, for whatever reason, but depending on my mood, they make me laugh, cry or want to dance around the room like a loon.
How is Austen relevant for you? What do you hope young girls today take away from reading Austen and JAFF?
Her wit and humour are as sharp and relevant today as it has ever been and can span all cultures. It’s not just 19th Century England where a forced marriage to someone you cannot, and perhaps, will never respect happens. It happens today, in our society – as much as people don’t really want to think about it – and it takes courage to reject such a life, knowing that it might alienate family and friends.
I think Jane Austen was a feminist before being such a thing was fashionable. I could (and have) written essays on strong, independent women in literature, and many of my favourites were creations of Austen’s brilliant mind.
All of her heroines know their own minds, and are not afraid to act on them. In our enlightened times, we somehow seem to overlook how big a deal it would have been for Lizzy Bennet to refuse both Mr Collins and Mr Darcy. It would have secured her family’s future, as well as her own, but she refused, because she wanted to be happy and to find love, although I’m not so sure that she really recognized what her feelings really were.
In those days there was no social care, or health care, and the government couldn’t really care less about what happened to the masses and Elizabeth throws away the chance for a secure home, and future. She isn’t afraid to be herself, even when doing so brings her into direct conflict with society and those who she should respect.
I think that is something that girls who read Austen should take away from her works. They shouldn’t be afraid to be themselves, to have opinions that don’t always conform with what society or their peers think they should be. Also, people deserve a second chance. Not everyone is what they seem and we shouldn’t be too quick to judge others.
How do you find JAFF that you love to read, published and unpublished?
Mostly I find them on AHA, it’s one of the best sites around for JAFF of every shape and kind. But Amazon also has a very good variety of JAFF, which they kindly recommend to me every time I buy a different book! I’m afraid that I’m a little bit lazy when it comes to finding new JAFF stories. If someone reads them and thinks they’re good, I’ll read it, but I don’t tend to go out of my way to find them.
What are your thoughts on Pride & Prejudice & Zombies? Do you think we will see more Austen paranormal JAFF in our movie theaters?
I’m sorry to say that zombies really aren’t my thing! I’d like to see more Austen variety on the flicks, but if I’m being honest, I don’t think that it’s a genre we’re going to be inundated with. There is some interest in Austen films and BBC productions, as evidenced by the massive vote of enthusiasm for the 2005 film, but there are far more popular, eye catching movies to be made; Star Wars and James Bond etc. I’d love to see it, but I don’t think its going to happen.
Please tell us about your “Sequel” to “The Darcy Madness.”
I suppose I can’t really call it a sequel in the true sense of the word because it doesn’t really have anything to do with the characters in the original book. The second book of the Darcy Jaguars is set in a modern timeframe, where The Others have been discovered some 20 years previously and the world has reacted somewhat unfavourably to the revelation of their existence. It’s unsurprising that the general population react with distrust, fear and violence to something that they don’t understand and The Others, and the Darcys to some extent, are struggling with that social pressure. It’s non-canon and quite gory in places, which anyone who’s read TDM will expect with some scenes for Mature Audiences only. It’s not finished yet, but I promise that it will be (but real life is kicking me in the head at the moment and I barely have chance to sleep never mind write) hopefully before the end of next year.
Thank you to Steph Nixon for supporting my blog with this great (and rare) interview and for sharing the excerpt below of your upcoming “sequel!”
It is funny the way certain moments stick indelibly to the walls of our mind, immutable and unchangeable like priceless pieces of art upon a gallery wall, so that decades hence we will always be able to recall in precise and brutal detail the events of those momentous days. The day that Britain declared war on Nazi Germany; the moon landings; the day Martin Luther King, JFK or John Lennon, were assassinated; 9/11. Days that changed the world. Days that are forever rooted into the collective consciousness of the population, never to be forgotten; mostly to be regretted. Those were the days that seemed to change the very fabric of our universe.
I remember the day the world learnt that concealed within the mad melee of the human race there were those of us who were something decidedly abnormal. People who could summon fire at will, transform their shape into deadly predatory creatures, move objects with nothing more than the power of their thoughts. People who, through no fault of their own, aside from a quirk of nature, or unruly genetics, would never understand what it was to be perfectly, mundanely normal. And now people who would be constantly looking over their shoulders for the rest of their lives in fear of being discovered to be abnormal and subjected to the rabid, xenophobic mania of the general populace. It was like the religious madness and uneducated terror of anyone different that had led to so many innocents being burnt as witches in centuries past and the persecution of freed slaves all rolled neatly into one. These extraordinary people, who were no better or worse than the average Joe on the street, were, within the space of twenty-four hours, suddenly set apart from those whom they knew and possibly even loved.
When the bodies were discovered nobody seemed to have any knowledge of the murders. The authorities did not particularly even seem to care, despite the fact that several of the victims had nothing of the otherness about them in any way, shape or form. They had merely been perceived to be acting oddly by vigilantes who feared everything that they did not understand and hated everything that they feared. And when the government forced identification cards upon those who were confirmed to be of Other origins a few short years after the revelations, I could not help but think of the yellow stars of David that Jews were forced to wear before the SS began to round them up like cattle and murder them in their droves. Were the gas chambers the final destination for the others as well? Had civilization as a whole not learnt the lessons of our past mistakes? I suspected that the answer to that was no.
When groups of human-rights protesters challenged the edict, the government claimed that in this millennium the world was a much more civilized place. After all, the dissenters contended, we lived in a country where it was illegal to hunt wild animals with dogs; surely it should be just as difficult for those who wished to hunt or hurt sentient human beings. The government scoffed at their arguments and insisted that no such horrific and deliberate action would ever be taken against those who were forced to register their differences on the central database, the thought of which gave all of those who hid their true natures as assiduously as the Jews had hidden from the atrocity of the Third Reich debilitating nightmares. Those of us who watched these developments with rising unhappiness and encroaching dread could almost see it looming on the horizon. If that information fell into the wrong hands then all that would ensue would be a blood-bath.
In later years I would always think it strange that I remembered the exact shade of brown of the shell of my breakfast egg, the colour of the blouse that my mother wore – a soft rosy pink – and be able to recite verbatim exactly what was being said on the radio, the moment that my father picked up his daily newspaper and read those words that changed all our lives forever.
We Are Not Alone!
Four words. Four, ill-thought prejudicial words that changed the course of the future for all time. Four words that would in time cause me to burn with anger and disgust every time that they were alluded to. The author of that article won prizes for what he had done. How could I not see red? They gave him an award for damning us all.
When I became an adult I would marvel at the fact that those sensational, scare-mongering four words would be responsible for so much havoc, so much inalterable change within the world. So many deaths. But as that innocent, unknowing child I only found it strange that my normally unflappable father leapt up from his seat at the breakfast table with a roar that I was certain would shake loose the foundations of the old house. The newspaper became nothing more than indecipherable shreds as claws and savage fury tore it into such small pieces that it could never possibly be reassembled. He stood beside his chair, breathing as though he had just run from one end of Pemberley, our ten miles around family estate, to the other. His emerald eyes were flickering with high-lights of feral, beaten gold and his round pupils had turned into narrow slits as something wild and brutal stared out at us with a raging tempest of seething emotion.
It was the first time in my life that I had really been afraid of my father, the true viciousness that had once caused the males of our line to savagely destroy the ones that they loved, turning his usually stern but devoted expression into a violent mask of hatred that I did not recognize. But it was definitely not the last time that article stirred fear, dread and horror within me.
The Darcys of Pemberley and Derbyshire had long been considered one of the first families of high society. We could trace our family tree back to the Norman Conquest, and had a smattering of Spanish nobility in there for good measure. Our blood was so blue that it could rival the colour of the midsummer sky. In the wake of the article with all of that vicious accusation and finger pointing, nobody suspected that we could possibly be beset by otherness as some other upper class families had been revealed to be, despite the oddness that was part and parcel of our family. In us it was taken as eccentricity and summarily ignored. It seemed as though we were to be above suspicion, which was ironic considering the circumstances.
The family had been visited by an ancient Aztec curse for longer than any of us cared to think about. Placed upon one Juan-Pablo Fernandes, a Conquistador in the sixteenth century who took the name Darcy when he married into the family saving us from rack and ruin with his blood soaked spoils of conquest, we had suffered beneath the weight of the displeasure of Tezcatlipoca, the Aztec Jaguar God, whom the Shaman who had cursed Juan-Pablo had belonged to until it almost ended in our destruction. For centuries after that we had been men suffering the destiny to slide into vicious insanity and murder, until the early eighteen hundreds, when one of my ancestors learnt the secret of living peaceably with the talons of the family madness, thus saving his descendants from the despair that had, up until then plagued every male Darcy.
For as long as I could remember I had known that there were two souls co-existing within the confines of my shared skin; the spirit of the jaguar a watchful presence in the corners of my mind that sometimes made itself known at the oddest of times. A beast of cunning instinct and feral understanding without being burdened by the trappings of civilization. It was a difficult thing for a little boy – the least civilized incarnation of humanity – to control without disaster, but it had never seemed abnormal to me that I could do things that other boys my age could not, even if I had to keep that side of myself concealed. My father had taught me to respect its strengths, be aware of its weaknesses and to be ever vigilant against the feathery wings of insanity that constantly hovered, waiting to take advantage of a momentary distraction. I had known that I was different from the vast majority of the world, known that I had to be careful of my actions around those who were not like me, and to tell no one outside the immediate family about the secrets that lurked beneath my skin, but at Pemberley it never seemed to matter. Most of the people who worked for my family were different too. And when my cousin Richard, on my mother’s Fitzwilliam side of the family – from a more normal family than I could ever hope to meet – discovered my otherness when we were both boys, it never seemed to alter our relationship overly much, excepting that he seemed fascinated by my increased physical capabilities when changed.
After the article nothing was ever the same. After the article, we were never the same. My father became worried and burdened and troubled by what was happening out there in the world.
Pemberley, and the surroundings villages that had always been attached to the estate, seemed to become a sanctuary to those who were other. We existed under a blanket of secrecy, always looking over our shoulders and making sure that nobody was watching us. It bred a certain amount of mistrust and apathy toward the outside world that my father struggled against but could not always overcome in those who looked to us for protection. And more than once I had heard him grumbling promises of retribution under his breath if he should ever meet the journalist responsible for the travesty that destroyed so many innocent lives.
Fortunately for the continuing integrity, and secrecy, of the Darcy name my father never did meet his nemesis and get to put all those creative vengeful schemes into practice. Unfortunately for me, I did.