Today I am pleased to welcome Abigail Reynolds, author of the newly released Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World, to Psychotic State. Welcome, Abigail!
Why Austen sequels are so popular, or Regency NCIS
by Abigail Reynolds
You can’t walk into a bookstore these days without tripping over half a dozen sequels to Jane Austen’s novels. There’s a seemingly endless supply of them, and the readers seem to love following Darcy and Elizabeth through the future, even though all the futures are different. The books I write take these parallel universes a step farther. I start in the middle of Pride & Prejudice, change a key event, and write what unfolds. In my latest, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World, Elizabeth is forced to accept Darcy’s first insulting proposal, and learns to love him after rather than before their wedding. Now, sequels are one thing, but why would anybody want to read a variation on the original? Jane Austen writes ten times better than I ever will, and certainly knew the historical period much better. So what gives me the nerve to mess with perfection, and why do so many people love to read it when I do? And what in heaven’s name does this have to do with NCIS?
I don’t watch much TV, but every Tuesday night, my teenage daughter and I have a date to watch NCIS, the police procedural show about a team of investigators working to solve murders of naval personnel. The mystery isn’t why we watch it. We enjoy the interactions between the individual, often quirky, team members. The characters are like familiar friends, yet it’s always entertaining to watch how they react to things. It’s like a Jane Austen sequel or variation. Familiar loveable characters in different situations. It’s even a parallel universe in some ways, in that it has to be fictional because I certainly hope there aren’t navy members murdered every week!
Jane Austen sequels are popular for the same reasons NCIS is, and for the same reason lots of book series are. It’s relaxing to slip into the skin of characters we already know well and love. It’s less work than learning completely new characters and situations, so we can focus more on the interactions. Because we love the characters, it’s fun to see how they interact in a new scenario.
But why Jane Austen? Why aren’t the bookstores stuffed with sequels to Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre? It’s a combination of things. First of all, Jane Austen’s books are happy. The characters are happy most of the time, and the endings are happy. Terrible things don’t tend to happen in Jane Austen novels. Because of Victorian propaganda, modern readers tend to perceive the Regency as a very proper time, and that lends an air of simplicity to society as Jane Austen portrays it. In truth, the Regency was a decadent time of lax morals, but what we don’t know won’t hurt us. That’s a whole subject in itself, and I won’t try to touch on it now.
But escapism, familiarity, happiness and simplicity aren’t enough by themselves. Why do I think we have so many Pride & Prejudice sequels and variations? Because we love Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, and Jane Austen didn’t write anywhere near enough to saturate our longing for one of the greatest love stories ever written. Modern writers can’t hope to write them as Jane Austen did, but we can’t resist them anyway.
Thanks for inviting me!
Abigail, many thanks for stopping by my blog today and helping to keep Jane Austen alive and well. Best of luck with your blog tour!
IN STORES JANUARY 2010!
In this sexy Jane Austen sequel, Elizabeth Bennet accepts Mr. Darcy's first marriage proposal, answering the "What if...?" question fans everywhere have pondered
" I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry."
Famous last words indeed! Elizabeth Bennet's furious response to Mr. Darcy's marriage proposal has resonated for generations of readers. But what if she had never said it? Would she have learned to recognize Mr. Darcy's admirable qualities on her own? Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy follows Elizabeth and Darcy as they struggle to find their way through the maze of their prejudices after Elizabeth, against her better judgment, agrees to marry Darcy instead of refusing his proposal.
Two of the most beloved characters in English literature explore the meaning of true love in a tumultuous and passionate attempt to make a success of their marriage.
About Author Abigail Reynolds
Abigail Reynolds is a physician and a lifelong Jane Austen enthusiast. She began writing The Pemberley Variations series in 2001, and encouragement from fellow Austen fans convinced her to continue asking “What if…?” She lives with her husband and two teenage children in Madison, Wisconsin. For more information, please visit Abigail's blog.
Thanks to the lovely Danielle at Sourcebooks, I have 2 brand new copies of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World to give away to lucky readers. To enter, simply leave me a comment about Abigail's guest post with your email address. The contest will end on February 14 and I will draw the two lucky winners' names on February 15. U.S. and Canada only please.