Posts Tagged ‘Pride and Prejudice sequel’

Emma Hamilton in one of her 'Attitudes', Thomas Rowlandson caricature, 1790

Just when the rage for Jane Austen monster mash-ups seems to be over, our favorite author’s fine books have been targeted for a different sort of mangling, one that explores the sexual side of her characters’ lives.

Frankly I don’t care for Jane Austen sequels in general and so chose to ignore all the hoopla surrounding Mitzi Szereto’s 15 minutes of fame with Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts. But then she wrote a blog post for Huffington Post and I found that my indifference over her  x-rated foray into Pride and Prejudice could no longer be ignored. This statement particularly set up my hackles:

There appears to be this presumption by the pitchfork coalition that Jane Austen was some prim and proper spinster who wouldn’t have dared to be so impolitic as to address sexual matters in her novels. Therefore who was I, a lowly writer, to tamper with such purity? I wonder if these hecklers from the peanut gallery have even read the original Pride and Prejudice, since it alludes to matters most impolitic, indeed.

That’s a broad  sweeping statement if ever I read one.  If Mitzi had used her critical thinking skills she would have realized that even pitchfork carrying Janeites are conversant with the Regency era and its history. By and large they know about the scandals, the Hell Fire club, the mistresses, the revealing clothing, and the sexual proclivities of all segments of that society, not just the aristocrats. Thomas Rowlandson’s sexually charged cartoons are not unknown to this group. Neither are the stories of such well-known mistresses as Perdita, Emma Hamilton, and Harriette Wilson.

So if it isn’t ignorance about the Regency era and knowledge of Jane Austen’s awareness of the  hanky panky that surrounded her that has kept a Janeite like me on the sidelines regarding Mitzi’s tome, why have I been unable to embrace her new novel?

I am simply not interested.

There are readers who will LOVE her sequel, and I say to each their own. But don’t expect EVERY reader to fall all over themselves to be the first to read yet another twist on the Pride and Prejudice tale. I am so over reading these countless variations on a single theme that I no longer review them. (By the way, the sensual side of Jane Austen characters has been explored by other sequel writers; Mitzi is the first one whose steamy version has caught the eye of mainstream media.) I don’t begrudge Mitzi’s enterprising nature, her talent, or her desire to explore different sides to Lizzie and Darcy; I begrudge that she is miffed that many of us are not impressed. Here’s another statement on Huffington Post:

Why do the re-imaginings of Austen’s works push so many buttons with these “literary purists” – especially re-imaginings that don’t follow the traditional romance route? And why the vitriol, some of which is not very gentlemanly or ladylike? If it’s the sexual content that’s getting these naysayers’ knickers in a twist, perhaps said naysayers should pay closer attention to the original Pride and Prejudice …

Vitriol? To that I say piffle. And before I am lumped in with the Puritans or some virginal sect group, I have read my share of romance novels and believe me, the traditional romance route of which Ms Szereto speaks is hotter than a Houston pavement in 101 degree heat. Ever since Kathleen Woodiwiss arrived on the scene in 1972 with The Flame and the Flower, the majority of romance novels could safely be labeled as soft porn. Some, like Thea Devine’s, are downright hard-core erotic. My point is that Ms. Szereto should have let sleeping dogs lie and not responded to her naysayers in such a public way, for she gained no fan in me.  She concluded her rant with this statement:

Perhaps the members of the pitchfork brigade need to pull that stick out of their backsides and get a sense of humor. After all, Jane Austen had one!

Nice way to win me over. Talk to my friends, by the way, and none will accuse me of lacking humor or of not taking advantage of the bawdy side of my sensual nature to make a point. I am sure Mitzi’s novel will be a hit, for it has garnered more publicity than Casey Anthony sightings. I, for one, will not be reading it.

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From the desk of Shelley DeWees…An interview with Karen V. Wasylowski, author of Darcy and Fitzwilliam: A Tale of a Gentleman and an Officer

About the book: The first ever Jane Austen BROmance from debut author Karen V. Wasylowski, Darcy and Fitzwilliam: A Tale of a Gentleman and an Officer is a truly original look into the life of Mr. Darcy. Butch Cassidy has the Sundance Kid, Felix has Oscar. Darcy has…Fitzwilliam! Readers of Pride and Prejudice know that Darcy and Fitzwilliam are thick as thieves and each other’s most cherished counsel. But as strong as their bond is, the two are still polar opposites! Darcy is quiet and reserved, while the vivacious Colonel Fitzwilliam is a confirmed bachelor whose military feats have made him a hero. Cousins, best friends, and sparring partners, Darcy and Fitzwilliam have always been there for each other.

To read Shelley de Wees’s refreshing review of this debut novel, click on this link to Jane Austen Today.

1.The problems faced by the characters in Darcy and Fitzwilliam are not quaint trifles by any means. Rather than being consumed by dilemmas of fashion or gossip or health, they’re instead met with huge setbacks and major trials of spirit. They encounter serious issues of social expectations, the solutions of which require lots of thinking and personal toil. What inspired you to write this way, especially in a genre that’s usually overrun with fluffy worlds of happiness and harmony?

First of all, thank you so much for saying that because that was truly what I wanted, to portray these men as real people, not Darcy the perfect romance hero and Fitzwilliam the affable side kick, nor did I want the women to be just caricatures of femininity. Real life is a struggle, very often between men and women, and that is so much more interesting to me than ball gowns and Almacks. There is a saying that life is what happens while we are busy making other plans and that’s the truth. Love and family can bring ecstasy and make you crazy, and sometimes all at once.

2. I really admired the way Lady Catherine De Bourgh was portrayed. Witty and stubborn yet refreshingly aware of her surroundings, your representation of her was one of the more ambitious ones in Austenesque literature. What motivated you to develop her so fully?

I loved writing Lady Catherine. I could say outrageous things that made no sense. As head of the family she feels she has the right, no the obligation, to infuriate these two men and interfere in their lives because, in her eyes, they are still horrid boys. She means well, she really does, and she’s the voice of the older generation that never can quite come to terms with the younger one. In my head Judy Dench starred as Lady Catherine, looking outraged at Fitzwilliam’s filthy boots or explaining procreation to Lizzy. Judy Dench was brilliant in my head.

3. When you’re not writing or volunteering, how else do you spend your time? Do you have any other hobbies?

No, not really. We live in Florida and that’s a pretty laid back lifestyle. Eating out is a hobby here, sleeping late. I love writing but I’m not disciplined in the least and I don’t feel much confidence yet. At any moment I think I’ll never create another scene or another word and that is scary, but exhilarating.

4. Tell us about the process you engage in when you sit down to write. Do you need complete silence, or do you write in the bedroom while throwing wild parties in the livingroom? Do you stick to a schedule? Do you prefer to write barefoot? Any other weirdness you’d like to share for the sake of our fascination?

Most of the time I need silence; anything on the television in the family room will bother me and I sit at my desk and marvel at the amount of female screaming there is on television – very disturbing on many levels. Other times a car could backfire in the family room and I wouldn’t hear it. There is no rhyme or reason. I have no schedule at all, spend a great deal of time ‘getting ready’ which means I play computer chess, and solitaire, I check Facebook, answer e-mails, go into the chat rooms, read the fan fiction sites, see if anyone left a nice compliment for one of my stories there, etc. After about an hour of this I feel ready to start. And then the phone rings – I get angry, grumble that I’m being disturbed, and the whole process begins again. It’s amazing I finished a book at all.

5. Are you working on anything new? Any more beguiling tales of love and intrigue we should know about?

Well, to tell you the truth, I have two books started. One covers the time before Darcy and Fitzwilliam, centering on Lizzy and Darcy and how they coalesce into a single unit as it were. I imagine it was quite a process for him to really understand her family and for her to adjust to his status. Their differences were vast, and I don’t think we, two hundred years later, can truly appreciate how difficult their adjustment must have been. I also want to show the effects of the war on Fitzwilliam and how years of warfare had attacked his spirit, causing his slide into the sort of debauched lifestyle he was living at the beginning of Darcy and Fitzwilliam.

The second book then is the period after Darcy and Fitzwilliam. It involves their children and all the blessings and madness that go with parenthood and getting older. Only heaven knows if either book will see the light of day but it is fun to be with my boys again. I told my husband, “You know it’s like I know what goes on in their heads.” He looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Karen, you are their heads.” I had forgotten. They are that real to me.

6. Finally, is there anything else you’d like to say?

I’d like to thank Deb Werksman and Sourcebooks Landmark for publishing Darcy and Fitzwilliam. No agent would even consider me – I wasn’t a famous name, nor a celebrity. So, I defied all logic and sent my manuscript directly into the publisher who gave me my chance. It proves that if you really love what you are doing and if you have faith in it, anything is possible. Never give up.

Karen Wasylowski

About the author Karen V. Wasylowski: Karen is a retired accountant and CPA. This is her first novel. She and her husband spend much of their free time volunteering with charitable organizations in their community. Karen and her husband live in Bradenton, Florida.

About the interviewer Shelley de Wees: This is Shelley de Wees’s first interview for this blog. She has written five reviews for me – three for Jane Austen’s World and two for my other blog, Jane Austen Today. Shelley also oversees her own blog, The Uprising, which features vegan recipes. Yum. She lives in the northern U.S. I shiver just thinking about the cold at this time of year.

Image of the author taken from My Jane Austen Book Club.

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