My friend Kathryn L Nelson is a very special guest on my blog today. Her book, Pemberley Manor, a new Sourcebooks edition, is to be released in April of 2009. Kathy tells us of her inspiration and about how she came to write her lovely book.
Lord, it makes me laugh to think of it…
I continue to require the services of a little pinch now and again to remind me that I’m not dreaming, that I have indeed written a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, that it has been published once, and now will be published again by Sourcebooks, all within my lifetime!
When the BBC and A&E created yet another production of Pride and Prejudice in 1995, it was as if I were seeing it for the first time. I don’t know if it was my age, my condition in life, or solely the excellence of the screenplay, directing, and acting, but I was suddenly caught up in Jane Austen’s world.
When I began to write the rambling story that eventually became Pemberley Manor, I was a partner in our family electrical contracting business, co-chair of the Parent Teacher Organization at my twelve-year-old son’s school, and the floor-covering store my sister and I owned was taking its final, fatal nose-dive. I suppose my adventure in writing could have been nothing more than an attempt to run away to another time and place for a long rest.
There was, of course, the allure of Colin Firth’s wet shirt and Jennifer Ehle’s fine eyes to tempt a middle-aged woman, twenty years married, into thoughts of romance. And there was my friend Jane Anderson who had her own fire burning and purchased first one and then a second set of tapes of the miniseries so we could make sure we hadn’t missed anything.
After several years of late-night writing, I had filled hundreds of pages of paper with words that made me laugh out loud, and I couldn’t shake the vision of the same actors, reassembled somewhere in the English countryside, speaking them before a camera. I wrote to the BBC and also to A&E to suggest it, and although they politely declined, I was encouraged to receive an answer back that included the phrase “an absorbing read from the very first page….” Well!
After a very brief foray into the agent/publisher-hunting business, I boxed up my lovely pages, put them under the bed, and got on with my life. But every once in a while I would pick up one of Jane’s novels or replay the tapes yet again, and a little longing would stir in me. It would not give me rest, and when I stumbled over the names of several other sequels to Austen’s novels, I became a woman obsessed.
In my first halting steps on the web, I managed to find Diana Birchall and her lovely sequel, Mrs Darcy’s Dilemma. She was a gracious mentor, sending me to her publisher, Egerton House, and introducing me to our own Jane Odiwe who was trying to publish a sequel herself, a sweet rendering of Lydia that has since become Lydia Bennet’s Story. The story of their encouragement and support is another tale, but it gave me to understand that the obsession to travel down the road with Jane Austen’s characters after she leaves them is one that is shared by an enormous number of people.
From this realization, it was a short step to the Jane Austen Society of North America. I was, at my first meeting, too nervous to admit that I had written a sequel. I still feel a blush when I mention the word to a devoted Austen fan, and I have to confess that had I not written one myself, I would have been the first to disparage the genre.
But there it is. I’ve done it and I can’t take it back. And I’ve discovered a world of both readers and writers who, in my opinion, flatter Jane Austen both by imitating her style and by treating her characters as if they never stopped living and growing.
And…I got to have both lunch and dinner at Jane Odiwe’s house, meet her amazing family and be treated like royalty. I highly recommend the writing of sequels. It throws one in the path of all the best people.
I just wanted to add that apart from getting to know Kathy and her charming book, Pemberley Manor, I've got to meet her gorgeous son, Nayef, and her friend Marian and husband Brian, who are those sort of lovely people you feel you've known forever.
I am loving that new cover, Kathy!