I sought out new JAFF author, Carloyn Whyte, on Goodreads after I read Darcy’s Denial last month. I congratulated her on creating this heart-wrenching JAFF book and anxiously inquired into her plans for the book’s sequel. Once I launched this blog, I knew I wanted to sing her praises from my virtual rooftop.
Therefore, having her join us with an interview is such a treat for our readers, as I believe she will continue to grow into a beloved JAFF author. Thank you to our Just Jane 1813 readers, for joining us here today to meet Carolyn Whyte and learn more about her upcoming writing plans. Her interview gave me new insights to think about regarding Austen’s characters. If you haven’t read Darcy’s Denial, there may be some slight spoilers in this interview that you may want to avoid reading about here.
Thank you for supporting the “Salute to our Veterans” event at Just Jane 1813. I love reading JAFF stories that have a focus on Colonel Fitzwilliam. What made you decide to focus your book on Colonel Fitzwilliam?
My idea for this book arose out of my earlier book, The Longbourn Will: specifically, whether Elizabeth would be able to resist Colonel Fitzwilliam (whom I called “Richard” following what seems to have become canon in Jane Austen Fan Fiction, even if his first name was never actually mentioned in Pride and Prejudice) had he not been constrained by lack of fortune. In The Longbourn Will, Colonel Fitzwilliam still loses out to Mr Darcy, fortune or no, but Mr Darcy had the advantage (such as it was) of prior acquaintance.
Sometimes the characters have conversations in my head about how they want to be represented.
Col Fitzwilliam: You mean I can afford to court Elizabeth this time? Great! She’ll prefer me to Darcy for certain.
Darcy: Nobody wants to read a story like that! Elizabeth and I have to end up together.
Elizabeth: Well, I’d be game to give it a go!
Me: Sorry, this one doesn’t go that way. Elizabeth is already unknowingly in love with Mr Darcy.
Elizabeth: But I might not be if you keep that up!
Col Fitzwilliam: What if I meet Elizabeth first next time? I bet she couldn’t resist me!
Hence the last line of The Longbourn Will and the premise of Darcy’s Denial. And everyone’s predictions played out: Elizabeth couldn’t say ‘no’ to Colonel Fitzwilliam, once she had met and formed an attachment to him first, and Darcy was at least partially right in that some reviewers have said that they didn’t want to read such a story. But I’ve been thrilled by the number of people who have left encouraging reviews indicating that they were happy to accept such a departure from canon, at least on the assumption that I will fix everything back up in Volume 2.
What decisions were behind publishing two books during the same month?
I had a fair bit of “will I, won’t I?” happening before publishing The Longbourn Will. The story had been ready to go for months, just needing me to bite the bullet and upload it to Amazon. On Monday 14 September (Aussie time) I woke up and thought, “Right: no excuses, today’s the day!” So on my lunch hour, I uploaded everything, held my breath and pressed “Publish”. Small scream. Immediately afterwards, I thought, “Wow, that was easy!” (Thanks, Amazon!)
Darcy’s Denial was also ready to go: a month or two earlier I had split it into two books when it became clear that the first part was going to be long enough to be a book in its own right, and so the following weekend I published that as well. The decisions were spur-of-the-moment and mostly just based on me overcoming the trepidation of putting The Longbourn Will out there.
Please tell us more about the next book, which I believe will be a sequel to Darcy’s Denial. How are you doing with writing this book?
The next book is titled Darcy’s Deliverance and, as I indicated in the description for Darcy’s Denial, will resolve everything. Or everything that needs resolution, anyway, which is primarily the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth. I had the book about a quarter of the way written when I published Darcy’s Denial, and I am a bit over half-way through now. I must say that it is proving to be a more challenging book to write than the other two.
The Longbourn Will and Darcy’s Denial occurred in the time period and settings of Jane Austen’s original story, and mainly involved the original characters. But in Darcy’s Deliverance, I’m finding myself seriously off-piste from Pride and Prejudice in a number of areas.
The world that Richard and Elizabeth inhabit is not exclusively that of small-town rural England, and the time period has some dramatic military events in the background, both the War of 1812 with the United States and the end of the Napoleonic Wars. But aside from war, what other events influenced our characters’ lives? What was happening in Parliament at that time? How did mail travel from England to Canada and back, and how long did it take? What were the major shipping ports, and how frequent were the departures for particular destinations? When did the St Lawrence River become clear of ice in the spring? How did one launch a debutante? How long did it take for news of events elsewhere to reach England?
These and other questions are leading me through a vast array of historical minutiae, even though hours of research may only contribute to a sentence or two of background in the novel that most people will pass over with a glance. Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of many people interested in researching the history of the time (including some lovely Jane Austen websites) and Google, most of this research can be done from my couch in the Northern Territory with two cats attached.
What inspires you to write JAFF?
I haven’t read another novel that has engaged me in quite the same way as Pride and Prejudice, although I read quite a diverse array of books, fiction and otherwise. I think it must be the unforgettable characters that Jane Austen created in Pride and Prejudice, as well as the delightful way in which she sends up the pretentious elements of her society.
A casual search one day turned up literally hundreds of Pride and Prejudice sequels, prequels, variations and more, and I was away, reading just about every version that I could find–occasionally I have to remind myself to read something else! Reading so many varied and interesting stories inevitably led to my own ideas forming, and after amusing myself for a while by jotting down notes, it was the Christmas of 2013 that I began writing The Longbourn Will in earnest.
How do you find JAFF books that you enjoy reading?
A search on Amazon or iBooks turns up huge quantities of published JAFF books, and I have seen websites where people post their stories for feedback from readers prior to publishing them. My tastes are varied and my tolerances relatively wide: it has to be either appallingly written or a very unfortunate portrayal of Elizabeth or Mr Darcy before I stop reading.
Darcy’s relationship with Colonel Fitzwilliam has always been one that I have enjoyed reading about in JAFF books. What are your feelings about their relationship?
Even though nothing explicit is said in Pride and Prejudice, I have always felt that Mr Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam likely shared a very close relationship: they are joint guardians of Georgiana, and the colonel seems like the brother that Mr Darcy never had. I imagine that they would do anything for each other–which was why it was interesting, in both The Longbourn Will and Darcy’s Denial, to explore what might occur in their relationship if they both loved the same woman.
My feeling was that Colonel Fitzwilliam would handle losing out better than Mr Darcy: not having been raised as the heir, he is “inured to self-denial” as Jane Austen puts it. He takes his rejection well in The Longbourn Will, acknowledging the prior love that has sprung up between Elizabeth and Darcy.
Mr Darcy, on the other hand, has not only been granted everything he likely ever wanted in life, but has had the longer relationship and time for his love for Elizabeth to grow; and so in Darcy’s Denial he goes rather off the rails when he loses Elizabeth to his cousin. A love that has inspired people for 200 years will not sit tamely by when events go in the wrong direction, and Mr Darcy has a very difficult time submitting to the loss of Elizabeth. (Some readers have difficulty with this as well!) Ultimately the respect that each man has for the other wins in both books, but not before a bit of friction develops.
Jane Austen is tremendously popular 200 years after the publication of her work. Why do you think she is so popular today and what do you think, in regards to Austen, really resonates with modern audiences?
The romance is obviously a key element for many readers, and Pride and Prejudice is a clear favourite with its themes of a second chance at finding true love and the plucky heroine managing to marry Prince Eventually-Charming, despite not being a princess herself (we’ve all been there). But beyond, or in addition to, those aspects is the humorous way in which Jane Austen portrays human frailties. We may not live in Regency England, but we can still recognise her characters in those around us.
How many of us went to school with a Miss Bingley, or have fallen for a Mr Wickham? We all need our Jane Bennet, that sister or friend to whom we can always turn when in need of sympathy, a laugh or just a good talk, and we may have to do our part to help her out of a mire with a Mr Bingley or two. And at some point, we might meet that maddening man who is so definitely Mr Wrong–until he suddenly becomes Mr Right. Did he change, or did we? And (scarily) we might be one of those characters for someone else.
The clever but polite way in which Jane Austen pokes fun at her subjects also makes a refreshing change from the heavy-handed, often crude attempts at humour that are common today. Jane Austen makes us laugh without employing a single expletive!
Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image?
Oh dear–covers aren’t my strong suit! The cover of Darcy’s Denial features a detail from The Duchess of Richmond’s Ball, a painting by Robert Alexander Hillingford. My husband found it while searching for public domain images that might be suitable cover images. Evidently other books have used details from elsewhere in that particular painting, but in the lower left corner was an officer sitting down, talking to a young lady. Even though there are other officers present in the background and Colonel Fitzwilliam was the only officer present at the Meryton Ball, we still thought it was a suitable image to evoke the critical first moments of the story.
As for the rest: thank-you to Amazon and their cover creator program, which has numerous options for do-it-yourself-ers with few artistic talents to create respectable-looking covers. Don’t blame them for The Longbourn Will, though: that was just me and Word one desperate evening.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Apart from Darcy’s Deliverance, which I hope to have ready by the end of January 2016, I have a few notes and sketches for other Pride and Prejudice-inspired stories bubbling along, including a modern variation, a prequel to Darcy’s Denial, and a view of Pride and Prejudice through the diary of a secondary character.
My only other foray into novel-writing was during university in the US, when I sent a girlfriend bits and pieces of a story as I wrote it. That tale took place, strangely enough, here in the Northern Territory, although when I wrote it the closest link I had to Australia was a Kiwi boyfriend (now husband and key supporter of my novel-writing efforts). That book is still unfinished, but now that I am actually living here, I keep thinking that I should dig it out and complete it. So one day I might publish something original. Although, come to think of it, that story was inspired by a line of clothing that featured a red-headed model (oh dear).
What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
Perhaps tell someone else about it? One of the biggest eye-openers for me in the on-line publishing process has been the whole review dynamic. I’m not really one for writing reviews myself, and it has been by turns entertaining, thrilling and challenging to read how people have responded to my books. To those who have left encouraging reviews–thank you! They liven up my day, so that I can’t wait to get home from work and write a bit more. And to those leaving critical reviews–thank you! I do try to make use of constructive criticism.
And Claudine, congratulations on putting together such an interesting blog! Thank you for featuring Darcy’s Denial and giving me the opportunity to contribute. I look forward to reading your interviews with other authors and reviews of other books.
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
I have author pages set up in Amazon for the US and UK markets and also in Goodreads, and I check those regularly for new messages, questions or discussions. If anyone would like to be on an e-mail list for updates or provide feedback, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would like to extend a big thank you to Carolyn Whyte for this awesome interview. It’s such a joy to learn about how JAFF writers develop their own writing processes and how they are inspired in such fascinating ways. Carolyn is a new JAFF author and her two books, recently published one week apart, have been well-received by readers. I know that I have joined a growing group of fans who are hanging on and waiting for Darcy’s Deliverance to be published later this winter…