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Mr Darcy Forever - Victoria Connelly

My lovely guest today is Victoria Connelly, the author of A Weekend with Mr Darcy, and The Perfect Hero, two books inspired by Jane Austen. She has a new book out, Mr Darcy Forever, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and if you've read any of Victoria's other books, I'm sure you'll enjoy this too! I have lovely memories of showing Victoria around Bath during the Jane Austen Festival, taking tea in the Pump Rooms and looking at all the wonderful costumes in the Fashion Museum. I seem to remember we spied a particularly dashing Mr Darcy figure on the promenade walk...
I asked Victoria to tell us a little more about her books and the characters she writes about.

What made you want to write novels inspired by Jane Austen?
I’d been visiting lots of the Jane Austen locations: Chawton in Hampshire, Lyme Regis and Bath and I was really inspired by how beautiful they were and I thought they’d make great settings for novels.  I quickly came up with an idea for a trilogy: three separate books about modern-day Jane Austen addicts, each set in a different Austen location.
I’d also just watched ‘Lost in Austen’ and had laughed out loud when Amanda Price declared ‘I just want to read my book’ after her drunken boyfriend interrupts her evening’s reading of reading ‘Pride and Prejudice’.  I wanted to explore what it was like to be an Austen addict in a world that can often seem far from romantic.

Can you tell us something about the characters in Mr. Darcy Forever? Who is your favourite?
‘Mr Darcy Forever’ is about two estranged sisters, Sarah and Mia Castle, who are loosely based on Elinor and Marianne Dashwood from ‘Sense and Sensibility’.  I kept wondering what Austen’s sisters would be like if they were alive today and my heroine, Sarah, has OCD – she’s incredibly controlled about everything in her life – measuring, counting, cleaning etc.  It was fascinating to learn about OCD and she was a fun character to write about.  There’s also a naughty dog called Bingley who’s a lot of fun too!

For you, which comes first? The plot or the characters? How long does it take for you to outline your book before you start writing, or do you just dive in and plot as you go along?
It’s often hard to tell which comes first – plot and characters both often go hand in hand for me.  I come up with a very rough idea eg: estranged sisters or a Jane Austen conference (as in ‘A Weekend with Mr Darcy’) or a lottery winner who gives it all away (for ‘Molly’s Millions’).  I do a very rough plot outline which gets padded out as I go along.  But I do rather like the surprise of diving into a new project and seeing where it takes me.

What research for your book surprised you the most, and which bit of research did you enjoy most?
To research this book, I stayed in Bath for three nights during the Jane Austen Festival.  It was amazing.  I loved every minute of it from the grand costumed promenade to the dancing and the talks about Regency costume.  I met some fabulous people and was probably most surprised by the continuing popularity of Jane Austen and that people had come from all over the world to celebrate her work.  I talked to people from Italy, America, Scandanavia and Australia.  It’s incredible that she’s still so loved 200 years after her first book was published.

Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?
Recently, the biggest influence has been Jane Austen!  I have a lot to thank her for – she’s inspired my trilogy which broke me into the American market and has got me into the Top 100 Amazon Kindle Chart.  Growing up, though, I have to say I was influenced more by films than books – I devoured romantic comedies and adored the films of Doris Day, Judy Garland, Deanna Durbin and Marilyn Monroe.  Romantic comedies are my favourite genre and I feel very privileged to be writing them now.

What is the one thing your readers would be the most surprised to know about you?
They might be surprised to know that I love a good thriller and I adore gangster films from the 1930s and 40s.  Alongside the Doris Day movies, I love anything starring James Cagney and I adore ‘Public Enemy’ and ‘Angels with Dirty Faces’ – basically, any film where James Cagney ends up dead.  That might surprise my readers!

If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing?
Going mad, probably!  I can’t imagine not writing but, before my writing took off, I was an English teacher.  Other jobs that appeal are anything creative – something in the world of film or working in Jim Henson’s creature workshop!  I’m also passionate about conservation and animal welfare – I have a rescue spaniel and some ex-battery hens so maybe a job helping animals.  But I think I’d always be writing - no matter what other job I did.  

Thank you, Victoria, for being my guest today, and I wish you much success with Mr Darcy Forever!