I am delighted to welcome Alexa Adams to My kids led me back to P&P. I would like to thank Alexa for answering questions about her new book 'The Madness of Mr Darcy'. Alexa was kind enough to indulge me and answered a few questions regarding Austen and JAFF.
Alexa has very kindly offered 2 digital copies of her newest novel 'The Madness of Mr Darcy', which two lucky bloggers will receive! I will be reviewing 'The Madness of Mr Darcy' on the 3rd Nov and announcing the winners of this giveaway!
When did you first fall in love with Austen?
I found a copy of Northanger Abbey in a train station bookstore when I was eleven. I chose it based on the cover. I didn’t understand much of what I read, but it was enough to keep bringing me back to Austen until I had read all her works. I did not become truly obsessed until my adulthood, sometime during the transition from college to the “realworld.”
Am I safe in assuming P&P is your favourite? If yes why?
Actually, Persuasion is my favorite. Anne Elliot has to be the most actualized heroine ever created. She’s so real I can have lengthy conversations with her in my head and often do. Of course I adore Pride & Prejudice too, as I do all of Austen’s works. My favorite part of P & P is the secondary characters. I particularly love Lady Catherine and Mr. Collins. It’s a lot of fun to write scenes for both. Lady Catherine is long dead in The Madness of Mr. Darcy, but I revive her in the guise of Anne. She needed her share of the conversation.
I never have anyone to play my Austen games with, why do you think it is so hard to find Janeites on your door step?
I don’t know! I am constantly preaching Austen to everyone who will listen, but very few people seem receptive. In my “real life” I’m that crazy Jane Austen lady. Online I know so many wonderful people who are just as obsessed (or more!) with Austen, and I frankly know not what I would do without you all.
How do you write such lovely prose, when you were not born in Jane’s era?
Thank you for the compliment! My writing had always sounded pretty old fashioned. I was criticized by college professors for not adopting a more modern, concise style. That wordy, 19th century style of prose comes kind of naturally to me, undoubtedly shaped by my reading tastes. Makes my daily conversation confusing to the layman at times.
What did you want to invoke within the reader?
Empathy. I am always trying to take characters who people dislike or behave badly and present them in a way that makes them more relatable. My most recent story, Becoming Mrs. Norris (which is currently being posted daily on my blog) is the perfect example. People who do terrible things are almost always suffering themselves in some way, and I like to make that apparent.
I tend to like whatever I wrote most recently the best, but I think Second Glances has a rather exalted place in my heart. It was the first time I created (and fell in love with ) my own characters, and there is something pretty special about that. The hero, Sir James Stratton, is definitely my favorite character I have written.
Favourite JAFF and why?
The first JAFF I ever read - the Sanditon completion by “Another Lady.” It’s seamlessly done. The hero, Sydney Parker, is fabulous. It is the closest thing I’ve ever found to a seventh Austen novel, and I reread it regularly.
If they were to do a P&P continuation, what previous couple would you like to see?
I enjoy continuations that focus on secondary characters, particularly Mary, Kitty, and Lydia. Georgiana is so often the center of sequels that I get a bit bored with her. She’s also a bit too sweet and privileged, while the flaws of the other Bennet girls make them more interesting. I also love spending time with Austen’s rogues, and as long as he hasn’t become diabolical (as he sometimes is portrayed), Mr. Wickham and his silly wife can be so much fun. I really like writing for Wickham, too.
What do you think Jane would make of JAFF?
I think her feelings would be complex, as are those of her fans. Primarily, I like to believe she would be flattered, but I also think she would feel overwhelmed, often embarrassed, and occasionally angry.
If you could be any Austen character who would it be and why?
Catherine Morland. I think she has the best chance for sustained happiness, as she has more of a disposition to be content then the other heroines. She beats out her closest competitors for strictly practical reasons. A Mrs. Tilney would be perfectly comfortable economically but unburdened by the pressures of great wealth and estate that a Mrs. Darcy would confront, and she wouldn’t have to worry about a husband going off to war, like a Mrs. Wentworth.
In the book you mention you have an interest in asylums in the Victorian era, how did this come about and what interests you about it?
There is a lot of mental illness in my family, so it is a topic in which I’ve always been interested. Both my grandmother and father have spent time in asylums. From a very young age my taste in books and film reflect the fascination. I became rather obsessed with Bertha Mason of Jane Eyre at a very young age (my mother showed me the old BBC adaptation from the 70s when I six). She looked so wild and abandoned that thoughts of her kept me awake at night. Another image of madness that sticks with me from early childhood is that of a writhing naked man in a restraining cage in the film Amadeus. As I got a bit older, books like I Never Promised You A Rose Garden and The Bell Jar were huge influences (the latter is actually the only book I know my grandmother has read - kind of creepy, isn’t it?). In college I wrote a thesis about images of madwomen in the Victorian era. One of the books I used for the paper was Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White, a story of a woman falsely institutionalized by her ruthless husband. That’s when I began to think about the evolution of the legal status of the mentally ill, which shifted my attention from literary depictions of lunatics to what life would have been like in a 19th century asylum. I never dreamed of throwing Mr. Darcy into one until a moment of inspiration just about two years ago, but in so many ways I've been preparing to write this book my entire life.
Were you apprehensive of people’s reaction to such a topic?
I was apprehensive but not so much about the topic as the angst that necessarily accompanied it. My previous novels were very happy affairs, and I feared my fans would be appalled by the degree of suffering the characters endure, but so far the reaction has been very positive. Everyone seems to agree that while the beginning of the book is painful, the ending makes up for it. That’s a huge relief! Readers of JAFF have such a personal relationship with the characters, and it can be tricky to judge what crosses the line into the unacceptable. I just try to stay within the bounds of what I am comfortable with and hope that the majority feel similarly.
Mr Darcy’s late night reading had me in tears, did you find it as emotional to write as I experienced reading it?
Yes. This book was very hard to write at times. The worst part for me was actually writing about what happens to Lydia at the very beginning of the story. Next was depicting Darcy’s internal turmoil. The letters were actually a little easier for me. I feel like Elizabeth’s strength, so apparent in the letters, bolstered both Darcy and myself. If she could do what she did then anything is possible. It’s the moment in the book when I was certain everything would eventually be OK.
Thank you Alexa, such wonderful answers, especially your answer to "If you could be any Austen character who would you be and why?" I really enjoyed reading 'The Madness of Mr Darcy' and look forward to reading more from you in the future!
For a chance to win a copy of 'The Madness of Mr Darcy', please answer the following question "If you could be any Austen character who would you be and why?"
Winners to be announced on the 3rd Nov 14. Good Luck everyone! Thank you again Alexa Adams.
Follow Alexa over at her blog Tales of Less Pride & Prejudice