June 9, 2011

Author Interview: BELINDA ROBERTS

Please join me in welcoming Belinda Roberts, author of the newly released Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard, a fun and modern take on Pride and Prejudice, to Psychotic State Book Reviews.

Hi Belinda! Welcome to Psychotic State Book Reviews. Thank you for taking the time to chat with me and my readers.

You have a new book out - - Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard - - which I recently finished, by the way, and found an absolute hoot. What can you tell us about it?

BR:  It's a fun, light-hearted beach read.  Pride and Prejudice with sun, sea and sand; assemblies and ballgowns replaced by boats and bikinis.  Picture (if you dare!) Mr. Collins in swimming trunks, Lady Catherine de Brrr arriving by helicopter, the luxury yacht Pemberley, Kitty and Lydia streaking, Lizzy swimming across the estuary in a wet suit, Darcy, his taut, muscular body, also in a black, rubbery wetsuit, Netherpollock, Rosings on the Rocks, great excitement at the arrival of the lifeguards, Maria choking on lobster, Charlotte Lucas revealing her engagement plans to Lizzy on an upturned dinghy, Bingley making friendship bracelets with Jane . . . all within the plot of the original Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen has a very devoted following of fans. Were you worried that by modernizing one of her classics you might offend the more serious Janeites?

BR:  No.  There are of course two types of "serious Janeites".  The first group of "serious Janeites" are those who love Jane Austen and therefore must have a good sense of humour - - Jane Austen certainly did.  These "serious Janeites" would not be at all offended at Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard but would enjoy the book as the fun read it is intended.

Now, the other "serious Janeites" are just that:  deadly serious!  Lacking a sense of humour, they probably don't really understand Jane Austen herself and might well be offended - - always taking themselves too seriously and unable to enjoy a little fun!  I'm sure Jane Austen would enjoy poking a little fun at them

Tackling existing characters - - much less beloved ones - - must be very difficult! What obstacles did you encounter creating your own versions of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth?

BR:  It was actually quite straightforward.  Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard is not a Pride and Prejudice follow on - - rather follows the original in plot chapter by chapter.  I simply had to ask myself "What would Darcy or Elizabeth be doing now, in this modern setting?"  I was keen to keep the essence of their characters.  So, for instance, when Elizabeth decies to walk across to Netherfield in the original, I decided she could swim across the estuary to Netherpollock - -an equally headstrong and energetic action.  The fact that she emerges from the sea, masked and in her rubber wet suit seems incredible to the Bingley girls "and they hold her in contempt for it".  Darcy, however, when questioned by Cazza Bingley about his "admiration of her (Elizabeth's) fine eyes" replies that "even through her mask I could see that they were brightened by the exercise".  Hopefully readers will not see them as my versions of Darcy and Elizabeth - - rather Darcy and Elizabeth transposed to a modern, possibly slightly wacky, setting.

What character was the most difficult to grasp or write?

BR:  Lydia's behavior was always going to be tricky.  I felt the Polegate situation was just perfect.  It is shocking whilst maintaining the humour of the book.  It portrays Wickham as the rascal he is, Lydia as fun-loving but foolish and Kitty as a silly girl, envious but completely missing the point: 

"It's so unfair.  Lydia's clubbing and I'm crabbing . . . I mean, what's the difference wearing your bikini on the beach in the day or wearing your bikini in the evening and sliding down a pole?" 

It also gives the opportunity for Mary to whisper wisely to Lizzy the famous:

"This is a most unfortunate affair and will be much talked of.  But we must stem the tide of malice and pour into the wounded bosoms of each other the balm of sisterly consolation."

Lydia, impetuous and bursting with life, goes on to be "saved".  I felt quite strongly about this.  I have always found Lydia's story a bit depressing and I really did not want her to end up frustrated and unhappy.  I wanted to draw on her positive side and maintain the feelgood factor effect! 

What part of writing Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard did you enjoy the most?

BR:  I absolutely loved playing with the language and situation.  For me, the mix of regency and modern is just hilarious and I found myself laughing out loud frequently when writing.  In our family it is not uncommon for one of my daughters to say to another something along the lines "Come, let us take a turn around the room.  I assure you it is very refreshing after sitting so long in one attitude."  Meaning "Take those plugs out of your ears and let's go out for a walk." 

When Lizzy meets Lady Catherine (Lady Catherine de Brrr in Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard) the conversation is drawing room society in tone but modern in topic.  Mr. Collins is overwhelmingly impressed by Lady Catherine's bulletproof windows which prompts Lady Catherine to say:

"I always wear a bulletproof vest . . . in my position you can never be too careful.  Do you wear a bulletproof vest, Miss Elizabeth Bennet?"

"Rarely" (Lizzy replies)

"That is very foolish."

"I find it hard to accomodate under a bikini.  Do you wear a bikini, Lady Catherine?"

The audacity of this remark made other members of the party draw sharp intakes of breath.

"You are a bold and foolish girl, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, but I will excuse you this once, as you clearly are new to such company as occurs at Rosings on the Rocks."

What is such fun is that even though in Salcombe today there are fast cars, yachts, iPods, texts . . . we are the same now as always: ambitious mothers, young lovers, fathers wishing to escape.  It's all there.  My only real worry is that with teenage children myself, I am not cast as Mrs. Bennet!

What led you to write a 21st century version of Pride and Prejudice?

BR:  As a family we have spent many happy holidays in the English seaside town of Salcombe and the thought that it would be just the place where a modern day Bennet family would go on holiday grew and grew.  Salcombe is fashionable, sociable, the place to be seen and perfect for any mother on the hunt for a young Darcy for her daughters.  In my mind, the ballgowns of Pride and Prejudice started to be replaced by bikinis, Pemberley became a sixty-two foot yacht, the famous Netherfield ball the equally famous Salcombe Estuary Swim, the militia the lifeguards - - the links seemed perfect and I couldn't wait to start.  My opportunity came when I went down to Salcombe to accompany my eldest daughter, Sophie, who needed some peace and quiet to write her dissertations on Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande.  This was a serious endeavor.  We both sat at the little kitchen table of our terraced house in Island Street, Salcombe, set up our laptops and started to write.  I was keen that my book should follow Jane Austen's original chapter for chapter in plot and characterisation as best I could.  The combination of reading Pride and Prejudice, translating it into a modern seaside setting and trying to keep quiet was too much and I kept bursting out laughing - - which was not helpful to poor Sophie! 

Prior to writing Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard you were a playwright. How does one segue from writing plays to writing a novel inspired by Jane Austen?

BR:  Writing plays is all about dialogue.  Every line must be true to the character of the speaker - - and reveal that speaker's personality to the audience.  Jane Austen does this superbly in her novels.  No word is ever wasted - - and everything anyone says is so revealing.  So it wasn't too tricky to move from plays to a novel.
Being a wife and mother, you must have a busy life! How does writing fit into that?

BR:  I write about things my children enjoy so they are keen to be involved!  Last summer we made a film of Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard - - you can see a preview at http://www.beetleheart.co.uk/

The plays I have written have also been a rich source of discussion!  Vivaldi's Angels, for instance, is set in 1703 in Venice and is about the time Vivaldi spent at the girl's orphanage Ospedale della Pieta, OTMA's Glory is about the last Romanov family and Starry Night, set in Paris, is about Vincent van Gogh, the artist community at the turn of the century and a group of English girls looking for love!

Are you working on a project now? Any possibility that we will see another Austen inspired work?

BR:  I have two children's books I have nearly finished!  But I do have another Austen inspired work on the back burner.  Will keep you posted! 
I would take it that you are a fan of Jane Austen. What other authors would you consider yourself a fan of?

BR:  Anthony Buckeridge.  He wrote the wonderful Jennigns and Darbyshire books.  Never read them in a quiet place as you won't be able to stop laughing out loud! 
If Jane Austen could read Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard what do you think she would like most and like least about it?

BR:  I think she would enjoy the humour, the mix of language and situation.  The manners of girls stuffing their faces with Chupa Chups would probably not go down too well!
You can sit down to tea with one character from a book of your choice. Who would it be, why and what would you most like to ask him/her?

BR:  Charlotte Lucas has always fascinated and rather horrified me.  How could she have married Mr. Collins? 
Lastly, what one word would you use to describe Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard?

BR:  Sunny!

Thank you so much, Belinda, for taking the time to answer my questions. Best of luck to you with the wickedly funny Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard!

For more information on Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard and author Belinda Roberts, please visit her Facebook page here and her Twitter page here.  

For my review of Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard, please click here

To purchase Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard, please visit here
So readers . . . what do you think?  Do you prefer your Jane Austen straight or will you take her with a slight dose of humor?  Click on the above link for my review to find out what I think!

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