Sunday, 30 May 2010
Saturday, 20 February 2010
Tuesday, 16 February 2010
In the article, I explore some of my reasons for writing Mr Darcy, Vampyre. It's a mulit-layered novel and the layers begin with the title. I wanted a title which would warn my regular readers that it wasn't like my other books because I didn't want them to be shocked when they read it. I also wanted to make an ironic comment on the prevalence of vampyres in our modern culture, irony being particularly suitable for anything related to Jane Austen. And of course I wanted an eye-catching title.
Writing Vampyre satisfied a lot of urges for me: the urge to write a sequel to Pride and Prejudice that wouldn't be just another sequel; the desire to write a book in the tradition of the nineteenth century novelists that Jane Austen liked to read, complete with deus ex machina ending; the desire to write a book which acknowledged love as an old, powerful and necessary force; and the desire to take Jane Austen's most famous characters and put them in their historical, political and literary context.
This is an extract from the article.
Casting Darcy as a vampyre not only took the sequel into the Gothic realm, it also made a statement about the the deathless nature of Pride and Prejudice and the eternal freshness of its characters. Mr Darcy is over 200 years old and yet he is forever young and handsome and he still has the power to attract women.
It also made a comment on the relationship between novel and reader. A novel does not exist by itself, it only truly lives when a reader gives up some of their lifeforce in order to vitalise it. Often this is a willing gift, when a reader is seduced by the cover or the synopsis, but there is also a moment when a book takes over. It glues itself to the fingers and sucks the lifeforce from the reader, refusing to let go.
I think this is one of the reasons I'm so interested in Jane Austen, because her books are multi-layered. They are love stories, they are ironic comments on the world in which she lived and they are laugh out loud funny.
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
One of my lovely friends, Victoria Connelly, sent me these fab pics of Vampyre in the Jane Austen Centre giftshop in Bath.
Victoria is writing a trilogy of modern romances about a group of friends who are obsessed with Austen and she was paying a flying visit to the city on her way to Wales. It really is a beautiful place. I love the golden stone, something about that warm and mellow colour makes it seem as if the sun in shining even if it's raining.
The city features in a number of Austen's works but Jane didn't like it. She was a country girl, and to find herself suddenly transplanted to a city must have been very hard.
Mr Darcy, Vampyre looks at home there though, as he surveys the scene and looks out at all the tourists!
Friday, 13 November 2009
Mr Darcy, Vampyre will soon be available in Italian!
I'm really pleased about this because a lot of the book is set in Italy and it will be interesting to know what the Italians think of it.
Venice is such a beautiful city, despite its problems. It has the most fantastic buildings and history, and I tried to capture some of that in Vampyre. The picture at the right is of the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, with its famous spiral staircase. The love and artistry that have gone into this building are amazing. Just looking at the staircase lifts my spirits.
The Venetian palazzos are so beautiful that I knew I wanted to include them prominently in the novel. At first I thought I would have Lizzy and Darcy staying with some of Darcy's wealthy friends, but then I decided to give Darcy a palazzo of his own. Wealthy families often had property in Europe and although no European properties are mentioned in Pride and Prejudice, it would have been quite likely that Darcy would have had property abroad. The faded grandeur of the Venetian palazzos created just the atmosphere I wanted, something beautiful and opulent, but with a sense of decay underneath.
The Venetian floods feature in a dream sequence in the novel, which is the first thing I wrote. I don't usually write books out of order, but in this case the images of Elizabeth running through the streets with her red dress flowing out behind her like liquid flame, whilst the waters rose all around her, were so strong in my mind that I wanted to get them down before their vividness faded.
Fantasy and the supernatural flourish in times of transition and the dream sequence involves disorienting changes between past and present, night and day. Luckily for Lizzy, Darcy is there to wake her, but their problems are only just beginning.
Sunday, 8 November 2009
Friday, 30 October 2009
A fun quiz for Halloween. When you’ve found out, leave your answer in the comments for a chance to win a copy of Mr Darcy, Vampyre! Closing date November 7th.
1) You notice that some of your companion’s teeth appear to be long and sharp. Do you think:
a) He must be a vampyre.
b) Perhaps he should visit the dentist.
c) Jane has lovely teeth, doesn’t she, mother? We are so proud of Jane’s lovely teeth.
d) Lord! Those teeth are worse than Denny’s!
2) You notice a bat outside the window. Do you think:
a) Oh, no, my companion isn’t here, he must have turned into a bat!
b) I’d better close the window.
c) That reminds me of the time when Jane first saw a bat, doesn’t it, mother? I say JANE SAW A BAT ONCE, DIDN’T SHE, MOTHER?
d) If I catch that bat, I could scare all the officers. Lord, fun!
3) Your ship is about to be attacked by pirates, but they suddenly turn tail and run. Do you think:
a) There must be a vampyre on board the ship.
b) They were frightened off by the ship’s guns.
c) Jane was nearly drowned once when she was on a ship, or was it a boat, let me fetch her letter and read it to you.
d) Thank goodness there are plenty of officers on board.
4) Your companion’s friend shows you some very old clothes Do you think:
a) She must be 500! She’s one of the undead!
b) They are very beautiful, and very well preserved.
c) Jane had a lovely shawl, a present from Mr Dixon, it was ever such a lovely shawl, all different colours and she was so careful of it. She put it away ever so carefully but when she took it out again it was all holes, wasn’t it mother? Jane’s shawl, I say it was full of holes.
d) She ought to ask her father for a larger allowance.
5) You are visiting a castle when it is stormed by an angry mob. Do you think:
a) The villagers are rising up against the undead!
b) This is how the revolution started in France, it seems the unrest is spreading.
c) Thank goodness Jane is staying with the Campbells. Just look what the mob has done to mother’s spectacles.
d) Lord, what a time we’re having! Just look at that peasant over there, he’s very handsome, I’ve always liked a man in a blue coat.
6) You go to a masked ball where you start to see strange things. Do you think:
a) Someone is tampering with my mind.
b) I must have had too much champagne.
c) I think I must need some spectacles like mother. Jane will probably need them too as she gets older, but not yet, she has such lovely eyes. Such pretty, pretty, eyes.
d) Lord, I’ve never had so much fun in my life.
7) You learn something terrible about someone close to you. Do you think:
a) I knew there were monsters. I was right all along.
b) I must think about what to do.
c) I must be very stupid, I really must have been very stupid not to have seen it before, Jane would have seen it straight away.
d) Lord, what a lark.
Mostly a's: You are Catherine Morland.
Mostly b's: You are Elinor Dashwood.
Mostly c's: You are Miss Bates.
Mostly d's. You are Lydia Bennet.
Thursday, 15 October 2009
19th A Bibliophile’s Bookshelf
20th Fang-tastic Books
21st Night Owl Romance
22nd Romance Junkies
23rd Pop Syndicate’s Book Addict
26th Anna’s Book Blog
27th A Journey of Books
28th Fresh Fiction
29th The Book Faery
For a new extract, check out Twitter in the week of Halloween.
The celebrations will finish with a quiz, here, on the 30th.
Hope to see you there!
Saturday, 10 October 2009
There's also an audiobook coming out in February, which will be available on CD as well as MP3.
I'll be going on another blog tour towards the end of October and I'll be putting the dates up in a few days time, so I hope you'll join me then.
Wednesday, 7 October 2009
Just click here, then click on Music and select Preliator.
Saturday, 12 September 2009
Byron wrote no more than a few pages, but the idea was taken up by Polidori, who used it as the basis for his famous story, The Vampyre. This story, in turn, was the forerunner of all our modern vampyre tales.
Mr Darcy, Vampyre, has an homage to the Byron fragment in the last few chapters. It's inspired by this section:
" 'On the ninth day of the month, at noon precisely (what month you please, but this must be the day), you must fling this ring into the salt springs which run into the Bay of Eleusis; the day after, at the same hour, you must repair to the ruins of the temple of Ceres, and wait one hour.'"
A ruined temple, a set of extraordinary instructions . . . anyone who has read Mr Darcy, Vampyre, will recognise these elements in the finale!
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
Sunday, 30 August 2009
I was in Leeds yesterday and happened to go into Borders. I wasn't looking for Mr Darcy, Vampyre because it's not officially out until Sept 1st in the UK, so I did a double take when I saw the display! No sign of it in Waterstone's yet, but look out for it there on Tuesday!
Saturday, 22 August 2009
Friday, 14 August 2009
Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Darcy’s companions claimed his attention and he turned reluctantly away. As he did so his hand moved to his chest as though he were lifting something beneath his shirt, pulling it away from his chest and then letting it drop again.
‘What is it he does there?’ asked Katrine. ‘Does he wear something round his neck?’
‘Yes, I bought him a crucifix yesterday. The shops in Paris are very tempting,’ said Elizabeth. ‘He refused to take it at first, but he had given me so much and I had given him so little that I insisted and at last he allowed me to fasten it around his neck.’
Katrine’s voice was reverent. ‘He must love you very much,’ she said.
‘Yes, I believe he does,’ said Elizabeth.
Thursday, 6 August 2009
Elizabeth Bennet’s wedding morning was one of soft mists and mellow sunshine. She drew back her bedroom curtains to see the dreaming English landscape lying serene and beautiful beneath a soft white quilt. The mist was at its thickest by the river, lying voluptuously over the water, then thinning out as it spread over the fields and pastures before disappearing, wisp-like, into the trees.
The birds were silent, but there was a sense of expectancy in the air. It was as though the world were waiting for the sun to rise and burn away the gauzy veil, revealing the true colours of the countryside, not muted white and grey, but green and blue and gold.
Elizabeth sank onto the window seat and pulled her knees up in front of her. She wrapped her arms around them and her thoughts drifted to the ceremony that was to come. Images floated through her mind: she and her father walking down the aisle, Darcy waiting for her, the ring slipping onto her finger . . .
She was not the only one to have risen early. Her mother was already awake, complaining to anyone who would listen to her about her nerves, and Mary was playing the piano. Kitty was calling out, ‘Has anyone seen my ribbon?’ and Mr Bennet was adding a full stop to his dry reply by closing the library door.
Beside her, Jane was still sleeping.
As she watched the world waking outside the window, Elizabeth thought of the past year and of how lucky she and her sister had been. They had both met men they loved and now, after many trials and difficulties, they were to marry them.
The trials and difficulties of Pride and Prejudice are over, but new ones are just beginning, and this in the end is why I chose to write a paranormal sequel to Pride and Prejudice, because a sequel, like the original, needs problems.
Most sequels make those problems the real life problems of a move to Pemberley, but I wanted something bigger. I knew that Darcy and Lizzy were deeply in love and so I wanted something that could really challenge this, something that could put the outcome in real doubt, just as it is in real doubt in the original. And so I made Mr Darcy a vampyre. Even Lizzy and Darcy's love would be challenged by something like that!
Their love for each other is at the heart of the novel, and the test of that love will take them to hell and back.
Don't forget to check out the review on Review on Savvy Verse & Wit and drop by at Review on Savvy Verse & Wit tomorrow for an interview, with your questions at the ready!
Wednesday, 5 August 2009
Tuesday, 4 August 2009
Meanwhile, Amy's review - "A thought provoking and seductively gothic tale" - has provoked a lot of interesting comments. It sounds like there's going to be a lot to talk about tomorrow!
Monday, 3 August 2009
Just email me your address, Cecelia, by clicking here, putting Signed Copy in the subject line (things with competition in the subject line tend to go automatically into the junk folder) and a signed copy will be on its way to you!
Meanwhile, don't forget to head over to Bitten By Books for today's interview! I'll be dropping by later to answer any questions. See you there!
Sunday, 2 August 2009
Friday, 31 July 2009
3rd August Bitten By Books
5th August Romance B(u)y the Book
6th August Review on Savvy Verse & Wit
7th August Interview on Savvy Verse & Wit
10th August Debbie's World Interview
12th August Yankee Romance Reviewers
14th August Peeking Between the Pages
16th August Risky Regencies
17th August Bloody Bad Book Blog
19th August Café of Dreams
21st August Sia McKye's Thoughts… Over Coffee
24th August Zensanity
31st August Love Romance Passion
Meanwhile, check out Sia McKye's fab review of Mr Darcy, Vampyre over at her blog here
And don't forget, the competition to win a signed copy ends at midnight on August 1st (London time) so if you haven't entered yet, see below for details! The winner will be announced here on the blog on Monday.
Tuesday, 28 July 2009
As I grew older I read Alan Garner. The Owl Service in particular made a big impression on me. When I found out it was based on the story of Blodeuwedd, which was to be found in the Mabinogion, a collection of Welsh folk tales and legends, I bought the Mabinogion. The version I bought had very evocative illustrations by Alan Lee, who of course went on to work on The Lord of the Rings films.
A year or so later I read The Lord of the Rings. My local library only ever had The Two Towers but I was intrigued by the cover and by the world I glimpsed inside so I went out and bought The Fellowship of the Ring. I then went on to read the trilogy many times. The characters now seem like old friends, and I love returning to the world of Middle Earth.
As I grew older I discovered American fantasy - I loved The Dragonbone Chair in particular - and continued reading English fantasy, including the weird but very atmospheric Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock.
All these influences whirl around in my imagination, mixing with each other and changing subtly as they do so. Sometimes they stay there but sometimes they find their way into the book I'm writing. In the last few chapters of Mr Darcy, Vampyre I can definitely see a lot of fantasy influences. I don't want to give too much away, but the settings and atmosphere come from the world of fantasy.
I think that's why I found Mr Darcy, Vampyre such an absorbing book to write, because it has so many influences from a wide divergence of genres.
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
The chat ranged from why such books were popular to my inspirations for Mr Darcy, Vampyre, but the best bit for me was when she said that she'd read Mr Darcy, Vampyre and really enjoyed it. Yay!
You can read the whole article here
Saturday, 18 July 2009
I'm not sure if Buffy the Vampire Slayer counts as horror but as regular blog readers know, it was Buffy that first gave me the idea of Darcy as a vampire (read more about it on my brilliant friend Amanda Ashby's blog here)
Other horrror influences are Polidori and Byron (see below) and of course Dracula. Less obvious might be H P Lovecraft, but he definitely influenced certain aspects of the style as a kind of Lovecraftian eeriness seeps into some of the chapters of Mr Darcy, Vampyre.
I didn't realise this when I was writing the book, although I've always adored the language of Lovecraft and the atmosphere he generates, but once I'd written the book it was obvious to me and so I went back and put in a gibbous moon as an homage: gibbous moons often appear in Lovecraft's works.
I love the word gibbous. Like much of Lovecraft's vocabulary, it suggests all sorts of horrible things - it always makes me think of gibbering monsters - but in fact it's perfectly innocent, meaning more than half but less than fully illuminated.
I also tried to include the word squamous, another brilliantly evocative word much used by Lovecraft, but I couldn't fit it into Mr Darcy, Vampyre. It will, however, fit brilliantly into Sense and Sensibilty and Sea Monsters As the author says that he, too , was inspired by Lovecraft, I'm hoping to see it there!
Saturday, 11 July 2009
Wednesday, 8 July 2009
Meanwhile, Waterstone's have just added the book to their online shop for pre-ordering.
Saturday, 4 July 2009
All you have to do is to mention Mr Darcy, Vampyre on your blog, Twitter or website etc and include the link to this post - you can just copy and paste it, here it is:
Or use the tiny url if you prefer: http://tinyurl.com/n2zn9j
Then come back here and click on Mr. Linky - link directly to your post about Mr Darcy, Vampyre and not just to your blog’s home page, please.
If you don’t have a blog etc but would like to enter the competition anyway, just leave a comment on this post!
Closing date is midnight on August 1st (London time). I'll pick a winner at random from everyone who joins in and announce their name here on August 2nd
UK cover (left) and US cover (right)
Friday, 3 July 2009
The Everything Austen Challenge runs for six months, from July 1, 2009 – January 1, 2010. Just choose six Austen-themed things you want to do in that time - Stephanie has a great list on her website to inspire you - and finish them to complete the challenge.
Tuesday, 30 June 2009
One of the first people Elizabeth meets is Darcy's cousin, Mme Rousel, who lives in Paris.
At the time of the book, Paris is a city in upheaval. Having endured a turbulent ten years of revolution and war, it is enjoying a brief period of peace with England, but there are unsettling undercurrents everywhere as the peace is not likely to last.
I see Mme Rousel as looking like Madame Recamier, whose famous portrait is on the left. But is she a vampyre or is she not?
Sunday, 28 June 2009
Mr Darcy, Vampyre is now available to pre-order on Amazon UK.
At the moment Amazon UK are displaying the US cover but I'm sure that problem will soon be sorted out.
In case you missed the earlier posts, the two covers are UK cover (left) and US cover (below)
Meanwhile, the first review has gone up on Barnes and Noble from an advance reading copy. ***** 5 stars! Yay!
There's nothing better for me than knowing that a reader has enjoyed one of my books! But a word of caution, the review contains spoilers so if you don't want to know what happens then approach with care.
Thursday, 25 June 2009
Tuesday, 23 June 2009
Monday, 22 June 2009
Sunday, 21 June 2009
I thought I'd fill you in on a bit of background to the book. It's set at the start of the nineteenth century, in 1802, and the pictures show you the kind of clothes people would have been wearing then. I see Lizzy being dressed in clothes similar to those at the left, and Darcy's French relatives being dressed like those below.
As all you history buffs will know, England was at war with France throughout most of the period but there was a brief peace, The Peace of Amiens, from March 1802 to May 1803. It’s during this period that Mr Darcy, Vampyre is set - the date is important, because it made it possible for Lizzy and Darcy to travel outside England.
The action takes place between October and December of 1802. The month of October was fixed for me by the timeline of Pride and Prejudice, because that's when Lizzy and Darcy married, and December – well, that’s how long the action takes!
Friday, 19 June 2009
Thursday, 18 June 2009
Marianne's letter to Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility convinces Brandon, wrongly, that Marianne and Willoughby are engaged.
And who can forget Wentworth's letter to Anne in Persuasion? Not me, that's for sure! In fact I think it would qualify as "best letter in a book" for me.
So when I was writing Mr Darcy, Vampyre, I knew there would be letters, in fact it begins with a letter. You can read the exclusive extract on Austenprose, so if you haven't been there yet, head on over and read it!
As for Jane's letters to Lizzy . . . well, I'm not saying anything about them. Let's just say if you want to learn more, you'll have to read Mr Darcy, Vampyre!
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Monday, 15 June 2009
Saturday, 13 June 2009
Friday, 12 June 2009
I think there were three real seeds which finally resulted in Mr Darcy, Vampyre.
The first seed was sown when Buffy the Vampire Slayer was on TV in the UK. I always hoped they would do a Pride and Prejudice episode. I could see it all: Buffy and Willow eating ice cream in front of the TV, talking about their boyfriend problems with Angel and Oz whilst watching Pride and Prejudice.
Buffy says, If only life could be like Pride and Prejudice – and hey, presto! Some lurking fairy sends them back into Regency England as Lizzy and Jane. Then all the rest of the cast turn up: Angel as Darcy, Oz as Bingley, Xander as Mr Collins, Giles as Mr Bennet, Buffy’s mum as Mrs Bennet, Drusilla as Caroline Bingley and Spike as Wickham.
Sadly for me they never made the episode, but the idea of Darcy / Angel lingered, encouraged by my great friend Amanda Ashby, brilliant author of You Had Me at Halo and Zombie Queen of Newbury High. I think it’s fair to say that Amanda has a slight fixation with David Boreanaz :) We spent a happy hour chatting about it on her blog when she interviewed me on the release of Mr Darcy’s Diary. (And if you’re wondering how an interview about Mr Darcy’s Diary turned into a chat abut David Boreanaz, all I can say is that most chats with Amanda end up turning into a chat about DB!).
The second seed was the wealth of Austen related books coming out, which made me wonder what Jane would make of it all. In a quirky moment I asked myself what was next - Mr Darcy, Vampyre? As soon as I thought of the title, I loved it.
The third seed sprang up at about the same time. I was reading a lot of the classic Gothic novels again in preparation for writing Henry Tilney’s Diary and the idea of a very different kind of Austen sequel occurred to me. Luckily I did warn people that I have an untidy mind so I don't think they will be too surprised that my imagination suddenly carried me off in a different direction.
Then the three seeds sort of merged inside my imagination like tea, milk and sugar combining in a cup of tea, all mixing together so that one minute they were three separate entities and the next they were one complete and delicious whole.
You’ll be able to see if you agree with me about the delicious bit on August 11, because that’s when Mr Darcy, Vampyre hits the US shops!
Thursday, 11 June 2009
But what happens afterwards? I've been thinking about this for a long time.
I began to realise that what I wanted to read was a story which would test them and their love for each other in the way that Pride and Prejudice tested them, because I knew that whatever happened they would find a way to overcome their difficulties.
Their love for each other is legendary and immortal and so I wrote a legendary and immortal love story for them.
There are still plenty of familiar things for them to do. They visit the ballrooms of Europe, they entertain, they meet Darcy's relatives, just as they did in Pride and Prejudice. But under everything is a current of unease, because as well as the strange happenings, Darcy is reserved and Lizzy doesn't know why. All she knows is that when they left the church he was full of love and longing, and by the time they reached Longbourn for the wedding breakfast, everything had changed.
Could it have anything to do with the message he received after the wedding? And if so, what was in it?
Tuesday, 9 June 2009
I wanted to put an homage to The Vampyre (see post below) in Mr Darcy, Vampyre and so I decided to call one of Darcy’s uncles Count Polidori. Count Polidori lives in a castle in the Alps and this extract has his first meeting with Elizabeth:
‘We are going to have a storm,’ said Elizabeth. ‘Are there any inns nearby where we can stop until it passes?’
‘No, there is nothing for miles, but no matter, in another half hour, or hour at most, we should be there.’
There was a distant rumble and the threatened storm began to make itself felt. The sky was suddenly lit from behind, glowing with a lurid brightness before quickly darkening again. Inside the coach, it was becoming hard to see, and matters were made worse when the trees began to thicken as the road went into a forest of dense trees. They cast long shadows and Elizabeth could barely make out her husband’s features, although he was sitting only a few feet away from her.
They emerged at last, but it was scarcely any brighter beyond the trees for the sky was now almost black. Another rumble, closer this time, tore the silence and a few minutes later the rain began to pour. The thunder grew louder as the storm broke overhead and the sky was rent apart by a jagged spike of lightning which ran down to the ground in a network of brilliant veins. The horses neighed wildly, rearing up and flailing their hooves in the air. The carriage rocked from side to side as the coachman tried to hold them and Elizabeth took hold of the carriage strap which hung from the ceiling. She clung on as she was bounced and jolted this way and that. She managed to keep her seat until the horses at last quieted but she did not let go, knowing that another flash of lightning would scare the horses again.
‘How much farther?’ she asked.
‘It is not far now,’ said Darcy, holding onto the strap which hung on his side of the carriage.
Another flash of lightning lit the sky and revealed an eerie shape on the horizon, a silhouette of spires and turrets that rose from a rocky pinnacle. A castle, but not like those in England, whose solid bulk sat heavily on the ground. It was a confection, a fragile thing, tall and thin and spindly. And then the sky darkened and it was lost to view.
The rain was coming down in earnest, drumming on the roof of the coach, and Elizabeth was glad when the gatehouse came in sight. The coachman held the horses and guided them over the last stretch of road. There was a pause at the gatehouse, and through the wind and the rain Elizabeth heard a shouted exchange between the coachman and the gatekeeper. Then the windlass creaked and the drawbridge was lowered, its chains clanking in the rain-sodden air before it settled with a dull thud on the reverberating ground.
The coach traversed the drawbridge and Elizabeth glimpsed a steep drop on either side, and then they were through into the courtyard. Armed men in billowing cloaks with hats pulled down over their eyes were patrolling with large hounds, more wolf than dog, and their free hands rested on their sword hilts.
‘There is no need to be afraid,’ said Darcy as Elizabeth shrank back against her seat. ‘This is a wild country and my uncle employs soldiers to protect him from roaming bands of villains.’
‘He employs mercenaries, do you mean?’ asked Elizabeth.
‘If you will. Armed men, at any rate, who are in his employ.’
Elizabeth heard the drawbridge being raised behind them and as it clanked shut on its great chains she knew a moment of panic, thinking wildly, ‘We’re shut in.’
Darcy touched her hand in silent support and the gesture calmed her, and the sight of liveried footmen emerging from the castle dispelled much of her fear. Darcy stepped out of the coach as the footmen unloaded it, and he handed Elizabeth out. The butler appeared, a man past youth but not yet old, with bright eyes that missed nothing as they ran with recognition over Darcy and then ran more watchfully over Elizabeth. He greeted them with a few barely comprehensible words in garbled and heavily accented English, then bowed them towards the steps that led up to the massive oak door. Darcy returned his greeting and then stood aside to allow Elizabeth to precede him through the door.
As she stepped over the threshold there was a grating sound and one of the axes which was displayed above the door, just inside the hall, came loose of its fastenings and fell to the floor. It missed Darcy by inches and Elizabeth by more than a foot. There was an initial moment of shock but then they quickly recovered their composure. Not so the butler, however, who cried out in a strange language and rolled his eyes in fear.
It was not an auspicious beginning to their visit. Nor was the walk across the vast, echoing hall, with its dark stone walls and its draught-blown torches and its gloomy wall hangings. But once they were shown into the drawing-room things improved. The room was warm with the heat of a log fire, which crackled in an enormous stone fireplace. The carpet was old but not threadbare and the furniture, though dark and heavy, was of a good quality. Sitting in a chair with his legs stretched out to the fire was a man whom Elizabeth took to be the Count.
The butler announced the Darcys in a foreign tongue and the Count rose, surprised, his look of astonishment quickly giving way to one of welcome. He was somewhat strange of appearance, being unusually tall and very angular, with a finely boned face, long, delicate fingers, and features which gave him a perpetual look of haughtiness, yet his manner when he greeted Darcy was friendly.
Elizabeth let her eyes roam over the Count’s clothes, which were reassuring in their familiarity, for they were the kind worn by country gentlemen in England. He wore a shabby but well-cut coat of russet broadcloth with a ruffled shirt which had once been white but which was now grey with many washings, beneath which he wore russet knee breeches and darned stockings. His black shoes were polished but they, too, were shabby. The only thing she could not have seen on some of her more countrified neighbours was his powdered wig, which would have marked him out as old-fashioned, eccentric even, in Hertfordshire.
The two men spoke in a foreign tongue which Elizabeth did not recognise. It seemed to bear some resemblance to French but many of its words were unfamiliar and she could not understand what was being said. Darcy quickly realised this and reverted to English. The Count, after a moment of surprise, glanced at Elizabeth and then, understanding, spoke in English, too, though he spoke it with a heavy accent and a strange intonation.
‘Darcy, this pleasure, it is not expected,’ he said, ‘but you are welcome here. Your guest, too, she is welcome.’
He extended his hand and the two men shook hands with a firm grip.
‘Thank you,’ said Darcy. ‘I am sorry I could not give you warning but I did not like to send a messenger on to the castle alone.’
‘The road to the castle, it is not a safe one,’ the Count agreed. ‘But what does it matter? My housekeeper, she is always prepared for guests. And this so charming young woman is . . . ?’ he asked.
‘Elizabeth,’ said Darcy, taking her hand and drawing her forward.
‘Elizabeth,’ said the count, bowing over her hand. ‘A beautiful name for a most beautiful lady. Elizabeth . . . ?’
‘Elizabeth Darcy. My wife,’ said Darcy with wary pride.
‘Your wife?’ asked the Count, recoiling as though stung.
‘Yes. We were married three weeks ago.’
Monday, 8 June 2009
It was written by John Polidori, a physician who was in the employ of Lord Byron and who travelled with him to Switzerland in 1816. They stayed at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva in what was to prove a fruitful visit. Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary's stepsister Claire Clairmont were also at the villa and they amused themselves by reading ghost stories. Afterwards they each decided to try and write a ghost story. What a night that must have been!
Mary Godwin – later Mary Shelley, on her marriage to Percy Bysshe Shelley – started a story which would become Frankinstein and Byron wrote Fragment of a Novel, on which Polidori later based his famous story, The Vampyre.
For two such enduring stories to come out of one evening is truly remarkable. Perhaps whenever I get writers’ block I should try going to Switzerland!
Sunday, 7 June 2009
When Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney, heroine and hero of Northanger Abbey, go out walking with Henry’s sister, they have the following conversation about the Gothic novels of the day:
They determined on walking round Beechen Cliff, that noble hill whose beautiful verdure and hanging coppice render it so striking an object from almost every opening in Bath.
“I never look at it,” said Catherine, as they walked along the side of the river, “without thinking of the south of France.”
“You have been abroad then?” said Henry, a little surprised.
“Oh! No, I only mean what I have read about. It always puts me in mind of the country that Emily and her father travelled through, in The Mysteries of Udolpho. But you never read novels, I dare say?”
“Because they are not clever enough for you — gentlemen read better books.”
“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. I have read all Mrs. Radcliffe’s works, and most of them with great pleasure. The Mysteries of Udolpho, when I had once begun it, I could not lay down again; I remember finishing it in two days — my hair standing on end the whole time.”
“Yes,” added Miss Tilney, “and I remember that you undertook to read it aloud to me, and that when I was called away for only five minutes to answer a note, instead of waiting for me, you took the volume into the Hermitage Walk, and I was obliged to stay till you had finished it.”
“Thank you, Eleanor — a most honourable testimony. You see, Miss Morland, the injustice of your suspicions. Here was I, in my eagerness to get on, refusing to wait only five minutes for my sister, breaking the promise I had made of reading it aloud, and keeping her in suspense at a most interesting part, by running away with the volume, which, you are to observe, was her own, particularly her own. I am proud when I reflect on it, and I think it must establish me in your good opinion.”
“I am very glad to hear it indeed, and now I shall never be ashamed of liking Udolpho myself. But I really thought before, young men despised novels amazingly.”
“It is amazingly; it may well suggest amazement if they do — for they read nearly as many as women. I myself have read hundreds and hundreds. Do not imagine that you can cope with me in a knowledge of Julias and Louisas. If we proceed to particulars, and engage in the never–ceasing inquiry of ‘Have you read this?’ and ‘Have you read that?’ I shall soon leave you as far behind me as — what shall I say? — I want an appropriate simile. — as far as your friend Emily herself left poor Valancourt when she went with her aunt into Italy.
In Mr Darcy, Vampyre, Elizabeth and Darcy go on their wedding tour and take much the same route that Emily took in The Mysteries of Udolpho, through France, over the Alps and on into Italy. And that's when things really start to get Gothic . . .
Mr Darcy is one of the most compelling, if not the most compelling, character in fiction. I, as well as a lot of other people, find it hard to stop writing about him and I’ve been wondering why he is so endlessly fascinating.
Well, yes, but he’s not the richest character in Jane Austen’s novels. Mr Rushworth from Mansfield Park is richer, but no one finds him fascinating, not even his fiancée.
He’s been in a couple of movies and a notable TV mini series.
True. But other heroes have been brought to the screen without arousing such fervour. There have been several films of Wuthering Heights, The Scarlet Pimpernel and Jane Eyre, to name but a few, but they haven’t put Heathcliff, Sir Percy Blakeney and Rochester into the same league as Darcy.
He wore a wet shirt (well, he did in the TV series).
Yes, he did, but other men have worn wet shirts or no shirts onscreen and their characters haven’t become part of a global phenomenon.
He was played by Colin Firth.
Except Colin Firth was already an established actor when he played Darcy and has gone on to play many other roles since, none of which can compare with the popularity of his Darcy.
So there is more than wealth, looks, screen adaptations, wet shirts and Colin Firth at work. All of those things help, but ultimately it’s Darcy the character who attracts us. Is it his arrogance? Is it his ability to learn and grow? Is it the fact that he can admit when he’s wrong? Is it the fact he has an overwhelming love for Elizabeth? I think it’s all these things, and something extra as well. Darcy is more than a sum of his parts, there’s an extra special spark in him which makes him uniquely compelling, for which we have to thank Jane Austen.
Friday, 5 June 2009
As I read The Mysteries of Udolpho, and as I followed the heroine over the Alps and into Italy, I found myself thinking, What if Lizzy and Darcy went to the continent for their wedding tour? What if they visited a remote castle and then went across the Alps to Italy? And what if, in those far flung locations, Lizzy discovered that Mr Darcy had a secret?
The idea of a Gothic sequel to Pride and Prejudice began to take shape and it wasn't long before I knew that Mr Darcy's secret would be that he was a vampyre. It explained a lot about his character, why he was so aloof and why he was so devastatingly attractive, and it set the scene for a Pride and Prejudice sequel with bite!