I'm delighted to welcome Juliet Archer to the blog today! Juliet is the author of a new book, Persuade Me, which is her second book in the series, Darcy and Friends. I am looking forward very much to reading this book as I so enjoyed her first, The Importance of being Emma. Over to you, Juliet!
DARCY & FRIENDS by Juliet Archer
I’m thrilled to be doing this guest blog – so thank you, Jane, for inviting me and ‘hi’ to everyone out there! I’m here to celebrate the launch of my new book, Persuade Me, and will be meeting up with Jane later this week to celebrate in person – with wine (I’m so looking forward to that!).
First, let’s get one thing straight: I don’t write Regency. Instead, I’m on a mission to modernise all six of Austen’s completed novels. I’m two down – Emma and Persuasion – with four to go, in a series entitled ‘Darcy & Friends’.
You see, it is a truth universally acknowledged that Darcy is the best loved of all Austen’s heroes. A series called ‘Ferrars & Friends’ or ‘Bertram & Buddies’ would be less than enticing! But it’s one thing to decide on a name, and quite another to make it fit the series it’s describing.
When I was writing Persuade Me, however, I discovered a strong link between Wentworth and Darcy: both are resentful types if wronged. Wentworth can’t forgive or forget Anne Elliot, while Darcy bears a bitter grudge against Wickham, because of first Georgiana and then Lizzy. What if they met shortly after the earlier incidents, and Darcy found he could relate to Wentworth on precisely this point? Here’s Persuade Me’s Foreword by Will Darcy:
A magazine headline, circled in black ink: ‘Never forgive, never forget’. You can tell a lot from what’s on a person’s desk …
Some years ago, just before I met Elizabeth, I took my sister Georgie to Australia for a much-needed holiday. She was going through a particularly difficult time; so, when she showed a spark of her previous passion for saving the planet, I encouraged it in every possible way.
During a brief visit to Melbourne I discovered that there was an expert in marine conservation based at one of the local universities, a Dr Rick Wentworth. I sent him an email, using the pretext of possible interest from the Pemberley Foundation in his Save the Sea Dragons campaign – although I usually avoid the ‘grand benefactor’ act at all costs. When I received a terse and somewhat begrudging invitation to meet in his office, I immediately pictured an old, cross, bespectacled nerd.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. He turned out to be young, charming and, judging from Georgie’s sharp intake of breath, very easy on the female eye. And he was English, with a northern accent that had apparently resisted all attempts at Australianisation.
He even apologised for the tone of his invitation. He told us that, with his work attracting more and more media attention, he’d become wary of requests like mine. This led to a brief discussion about the drawbacks of being a modern celebrity, especially a reluctant one.
As we talked, I realised that he was meticulous about his research – and not just on sea dragons. I’d given him no indication of my sister’s troubles and had taken the necessary steps to gag the press, although inevitably some details had leaked out. Yet I sensed he knew – and understood – what she’d been through …
So I watched in genuine admiration as he drew Georgie out of her dark shell into the wider world, if only for an hour. He held us both spellbound with stirring tales of battles against natural elements and man-made disasters, often in the form of short-sighted bureaucracy, and showed us stunning footage of the fragile creatures he was fighting to protect. Of the man himself I learned very little – until we got up to leave.
At this point he scrawled his personal email address on a piece of paper and handed it to a blushing Georgie, urging her to get in touch with any questions. That in itself made me warm to him and decide on a generous donation from the Foundation for his campaign – an unusual instance of my heart ruling my head.
But the piece of paper had been hiding something on his desk, a magazine article with a big bold headline. A headline that obviously had a greater significance because he’d drawn a brutal black ring round it: ‘Never forgive, never forget.’
They were words I could relate to completely. Except that I was thinking of the man who’d broken my sister’s heart, whereas he – as I discovered much later into our friendship – was thinking of the girl who’d broken his.
Although neither of us knew it then, their paths would cross when he wrote a book and, despite some misgivings, visited England to promote it.
This is their story …
Next I turned to The Importance of Being Emma, which had been published at the end of 2008. What did Darcy have in common with Knightley? Well, I’d already taken on board Austen’s hint that the relationship between Emma and Knightley was for a long time one of ‘brother and sister’. While this was based on her sister being married to his brother, it also became the rationale for Emma to suppress any romantic feelings she has for Knightley throughout most of the book.
My version starts with a scene between Emma and Knightley some years earlier, where he finds out that she has a teenage crush on him and he completes her humiliation by telling her that he thinks of her as a little sister. Ouch! Therefore, in the reprint of The Importance of Being Emma (see below for the beautiful new cover) there’s another Foreword by Will Darcy, concluding with a description of the connection he felt with Knightley: Little did I know that Georgie, fifteen years old at the time, was harbouring a teenage crush of her own – one that would have far-reaching effects. While the little incident between Mark and Emma had caused a rift that he only discovered years later.
I have no idea whether Jane Austen ever linked her heroes in this way. To me, these connections are yet another example of the sheer complexity of her books. As well as being beautiful studies of how young men and women learn to love, they are a reference point for human nature in all its richness and diversity.
So what’s next in the ‘Darcy & Friends’ series? To quote the title of a wonderful book penned by my hostess, that is Mr Darcy’s Secret!
Juliet, thank you so much for being my wonderful guest today. I'm looking forward to seeing you very soon to celebrate the launch!
You can find Juliet on twitter and Facebook. If you're in Bath at the end of this week you can also meet Juliet:
16th September, 2011 4.00-5.00pm - Mystery Walking Tour of Jane Austen’s Bath - start/end at Waterstone’s, Milsom St
17th September, 2011 1.30-4.30pm - Jane Austen Festival, Bath - book signing at Country Fayre, Guildhall and afterwards at private reception for the Festival Friends
18th September, 2011 2.00-3.00pm - Mystery Walking Tour of Jane Austen’s Bath - start/end at Waterstone’s, Milsom St