We would like to thank Meredith for the kind invitation to participate in the August 2011, Austenesque Extravaganza. It is truly an honour to be numbered among this exceptional list of authors. Of course, the invitation to take part came with a certain amount of angst and pressure as we agonized over choosing the subject of such an auspicious post, and we discussed it at some length (but then again, we seem to find it impossible to do anything without first discussing it at some length). Finally, we managed to narrow it down to two options:
- The question we get asked most by our loyal and lovely readers – “How? How do two people who live in different countries and time zones, who communicate exclusively through email and IM, manage to work together to produce a story in such a (we flatter ourselves) seamless manner?” Or…
- The question those of you who don’t know us yet are probably asking – “Since you’re always going on about how great Pride and Prejudice is, why the heck don’t you write about Elizabeth and Darcy?”
Well, since we are all aflutter over the thought of first time visitors, we decided that this occasion best lent itself to Question 2. (And to our trusted and loyal friends, we hope you will be patient with us, we do plan to get to Question 1 in the near future.) But without further ado… Here’s why the heck we don’t write about Lizzy and Darcy:
From Pemberley to Cumbermere.
How a love of Pride and Prejudice turned into a new world of Holly and David
How can you not love Pride and Prejudice? How can you not read it time and time again, each time finding renewed delight in the familiar, yet timeless love story, in the elegance of the language and the delightful, wicked humour of it while at the same time, always finding something new and wonderful to marvel at? How can you not despair over Mr Darcy’s clueless arrogance? Or cheer atElizabeth’s liveliness and shake your head at her tendency to rush to judgement? How can you help but fall in love with the characters that surround them as you do your own family – no matter how ridiculous, silly, pompous, pitiful, annoying or funny they are. And, more to the point of this blog post, how can you not go on living with this wonderful cast long after the book is finished, reliving and recreating their finest (and most devastating) moments and letting your fancy follow them onwards with their fictive lives?
Well, of course you can’t! You watch adaptations, read spin-offs, take an interest in Regency fashion and customs—and lose yourself in fan fiction…
As did we, and through a funny spot of online intercourse and role playing, we found each other and the need to keep living in the Austen universe by creating a little special niche of our own. A niche where we could rule supreme and shamelessly indulge ourselves, staying true to the times but without the need for strict adherence to anything like “canon”.
First we wanted a match for Mr Darcy. He is, after all in Wickham’s words, a very different man in his own circle of friends: “His pride never deserts him; but with the rich, he is liberal-minded, just, sincere, rational, honourable, and perhaps agreeable, — allowing something for fortune and figure.” We wanted to see him at his best, among his equals. And so we gave him a friend, a peer of the realm, no less, to be certain we could catch Darcy among his own and see what he was really like. Lord David Baugham was born! Little did we think our dear creation very soon would surpass his role as companion and sidekick and take on a life of his own, in our minds even over-shadowing his fastidious and wealthy friend.
He has many faults, just like Darcy, but they are of an opposite nature. Lord Baugham is a peer with a troubled past and difficult childhood, as of course, befits a romantic hero. His father was a drunk and a libertine. His mother was a tragic figure. But he is also deliciously flawed in his personality in a way we always hoped would save him from turning into a stereotypical character and making him both much more interesting and more lovable. When we first meet him, he is impatient and nervous, flippant and silly, easily bored and tending to run away from anything that threatens to awaken his deeply hidden sense of duty and moral compass. Somewhere inside Lord Baugham is a good man who just cannot get out, because he sees no reason to change his leisurely and somewhat rakish ways. He is well-to-do, but not as rich as Darcy, nor will he ever be, (though he does have a house in Town, so Mrs Bennet could not disapprove of the connection) but a burden of responsibility stalks him and he does his utmost to outrun it at every turn. We found him interesting enough to want to give him a companion in turn; one who would both complement and clash with him in order to find out who this man really is and what he is truly capable of. Hey presto, Holly was born! And Holly Tournier, we decided, must be Elizabeth Bennet’s cousin because that’s the way it is in all the great old novels and in that way we can throw them all together most effectively!
Holly Tournier, then, is Mr Bennet’s niece, the daughter of an invented sister. This sister of Mr Bennet’s borrows many traits from her own niece Elizabeth in that she is head strong and very capable of holding strong opinions and acting on them. In fact, we have decided, this strong-headed-ness is something of a Bennet family trait, because Arabella Tournier née Bennet’s daughter Holly is very much of the same mould: a determined and strong girl who knows exactly what she likes—or doesn’t like to be more precise—and she very quickly decides she does not like Lord Baugham. The feeling, as it happens, is mutual. Once we had these new characters sketched out, we decided to place them all inScotland, in a little village in the Boarders called Clanough, to have it out and have each other.
Then a funny thing happened on the way to Happily Ever After. We became more interested in telling the story of these new characters than in re-telling the story of Miss Bennet and Mr Darcy. After all, we had invested so much time into fleshing them out… and was not Miss Austen’s original telling of the story of Darcy and Elizabeth perfection in itself? And had not other Austeneseque authors already explored the ‘what-ifs’ brilliantly as well? In short, we fell in love with Lord Baugham, the wicked man, and with sweet, stubborn Holly and happily went off trailing them!
In Twixt Two Equal Armies, our first book, we plucked Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy straight out of Pride and Prejudice, just after Elizabeth has given Lady Catherine deBourgh a piece of her mind in the prettyish kind of a little wilderness, and transported them to Clanough to find their way. Confused and upset,Elizabethflees to the safety of likeminded women at her Aunt Arabella’s and her cousin Holly’s cottage. As it happens, Lord Baugham, Mr Darcy’s particular friend, owns a prettyish kind of little wilderness of his own nearby, in the form of a hunting lodge called Clyne Cottage. Mr Darcy soon convinces his friend to escape to the place he loves the most, as well as to receive his best friend there. After a few misunderstandings and tribulations, we let Mr Darcy and Elizabeth return south to settle their business the way they do in the novel while we follow the rocky path that Lord Baugham and Holly seem to be determined to travel. In fact, we ended up following them through seven more stories (and counting!) and expanding into our own little spin-off series set in other Centuries! Two of these stories have been published as books by Meryton Press and we are hard at work at getting the third one spruced up for the same honour.
What can we say, we love them. Holly and David are silly and stupid and act extremely badly sometimes, but we love them for what they do to, and for, one another, and for the wonderful times they have given us while writing their story. How these two come to love and live with each other is a wonderful journey. It has been a delightful process both for them and for us and if you haven’t had the chance to get to know them yet, we invite you to come along for an enjoyable ride. Leave us a comment or question below for a chance to win a free copy of our books, courtesy of Meryton Press.