April 18, 2011
Author Interview: AMANDA GRANGE
Hi Amanda! Welcome to Psychotic State Book Reviews. You are quite revered in the Austen-inspired fiction world for your “diary” series of characters like Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightley and Colonel Brandon. What made you decide to turn your focus to Wickham?
AG: I´ve always had a sneaking liking for Wickham, in fact when I first read Pride and Prejudice (a long time ago now!) I spent the first half of the book thinking that Wickham was the hero. And he could so easily have been a hero. He was handsome, charming and he had a good life handed to him on a plate in the form of a wealthy Darcy living. But instead of accepting this, he bit the hand that fed him and betrayed the Darcys in the most infamous manner by trying to run off with Georgiana. That was an interesting turnabout for me as a reader, and irresistible for me as a writer.
By writing Wickham’s Diary, did you hope to shed some sympathy on the Pride and Prejudice bad boy or were you hoping to explain the impetus behind his actions that readers weren’t privy to?
AG: I was really writing my version of Wickham and his journey from Darcy´s "companion of my youth" to Darcy´s greatest enemy. I was intrigued by his childhood, with a respectable father and an extravagant mother. In fact, as Wickham´s Diary is a prequel to Pride and Prejudice, and written in the short novella form, I focused on his childhood and his young adulthood, tracing his descent from indulged boy to rascally man.
Did you feel a heightened sense of responsibility or expectation by taking on the beloved Jane Austen’s characters in Wickham’s Diary and other Austen-inspired works?
AG: Yes, I´ve always felt a responsibility to Jane Austen when writing the diaries. I stick closely to her plots and characters, but I turn them round and look at them from a different angle, going behind the scenes, so to speak. In contrast, I went off at a tangent in Mr Darcy, Vampyre, which is my paranormal sequel to Pride and Prejudice. There, I changed the characters and put them into the mould of an early nineteenth century Gothic novel, the sort of book that Jane Austen would have been familiar with as a reader. It was a lot of fun to write, but it takes a lot of liberties. I just hope Jane will forgive me!
So far as your series goes, and I know you have an upcoming book on Henry Tilney as well, what has been your favorite character to diary-ize?
AG: That´s really hard to say, because I like the one I´m writing at the moment the best. But having now finished them, I think I would have to go for Colonel Brandon. He comes over as such a dull man in Sense and Sensibility, and I know a lot of readers don´t like him, so it was very satisfying for me to flesh out his backstory. Jane Austen herself tells us his history, but in just a few paragraphs, and I turn it into half the book in Colonel Brandon´s Diary. I know that Colonel Brandon´s Diary is one of readers´ favourites, too.
Any particular reason that you have chosen to focus on Jane Austen’s male characters versus the females?
AG: The females already have a voice in the original novels, as they are told from the female point of view, so I wanted to give the men a chance to speak. Who wouldn´t want to know what Mr Darcy was thinking when he made that disastrous first proposal, or what Captain Wentworth thought when Anne broke off their engagement?
Before you began your “diary” series, you wrote historical romances. What drove you to change your writing style and why did you choose to write “diary” style?
AG: It was really an accident. I was reading Pride and Prejudice again and I thought, this is so modern I´m not surprised it´s still so popular. The only thing it doesn´t have is sections from the hero´s point of view. So I started writing them. I got engrossed and the result was Mr Darcy´s Diary. I liked doing it so much, I did it again, and then I couldn´t stop! As to why I wrote in diary style, it was a happy accident. It just felt right because it gave readers a `you are there´feeling which I really liked. And which, fortunately, readers really like!
How much research goes into writing a Regency style or era book?
AG: An awful lot to begin with. I had to research the clothes, houses, furniture, modes of transport, in fact everything about everyday life. Then I had to research the customs etc. But now I´m very familiar with the world and I have stacks of notes to turn to if I get stuck, so I don´t need to do a great deal of research for new books.
Do you prefer to outline your books from start to finish or are you a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of gal who writes what comes to her?
AG: I plan the diaries meticulously because I have to work out the timeline and of course I have to stick to all the events in the original novel. It´s a time consuming and complicated process. But when it comes to my historical romances I´m more of a pantser! They´re all now being reissued as ebooks and on Kindle and the Nook, if anyone wants to give them a try!
Can you take us through a normal day in the life of Amanda Grange?
AG: There´s no such thing as a normal day for me. If I´m starting a new book I tend to write for ten or twelve hours a day, interspersed with boring things like housework. If I´m in the middle of a book I usually don´t spend so much time writing, but I spend quite a bit of time thinking or working out difficult bits of the plot. Then, when a book´s nearing completing I´m usually at the computer all hours I´m awake.
Are you working on a project now?
AG: I´m just reading the proofs for a short story which will appear in October, in an anthology called Jane Austen Made Me Do It. The story is about Mr Bennet´s courtship of Mrs Bennet.
Personal favorites . . . As Mr. Darcy, Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen? As Elizabeth Bennett, Jennifer Ehle or Keira Knightley? As Emma, Gwyneth Paltrow or Kate Beckinsale? As Wickham, Adrian Lukas or Rupert Friend?
AG: As Mr Darcy, David Rintoul! He was Darcy in the first TV adaptation I saw, and my love for him sticks! As Elizabeth I would also have to choose Elizabeth Garvie, who played opposite David Rintoul. As Emma, I love Gwyneth Paltrow, I thought she was perfect. And as Wickham, Rupert Friend.
You have one hour to spend with Jane Austen. What would you do?
AG: I would like to say, indulge in witty conversation, but I would probably be star struck and babble incoherently.
And lastly, what one word would you use to describe Wickham’s Diary?
Thank you so much, Amanda, for taking the time to answer my questions. Best of luck to you with Wickham's Diary and your future projects!
AG: Thanks for inviting me!
This prequel to Pride and Prejudice begins with George Wickham at age 12, handsome and charming but also acutely aware that his friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy, is rich, whilst he is poor. His mother encourages him to exercise his charm on the young Georgiana Darcy and Anne de Bourgh in the hopes of establishing a stable of wealthy social connections.
At university, Darcy and Wickham grow apart. Wickham is always drinking and wenching, whilst Darcy, who apparently has everything, is looking for something he cannot find. Wickham runs through the money Darcy gives him and then takes up with the scandalous Belle, a woman after Wickham's own greedy, black heart.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amanda Grange was born in Yorkshire and spent her teenage years reading Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer whilst also finding time to study music at Nottingham University. She has had eighteen novels published, including six Jane Austen retellings which look at events from the heroes' points of view.
Woman said of Mr Darcy's Diary: "Lots of fun, this is the tale behind the alpha male," whilst The Washington Post called Mr Knightley's Diary "affectionate". The Historical Novels Review made Captain Wentworth's Diary an Editors' Choice, remarking, "Amanda Grange has hit upon a winning formula." Austenblog declared that Colonel Brandon's Diary was "the best book yet in her series of heroes' diaries." Her paranormal sequel to Pride and Prejudice, Mr Darcy, Vampyre, was nominated for the Jane Austen Awards.
Her books are on sale in the Jane Austen Centre, Bath, and the Jane Austen House Museum, Chawton, as well as regular book outlets. Amanda Grange now lives in Cheshire.