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Wednesday, April 1

Austen Inspired Author: Kathryn Nelson Chats About Pemberley Manor

Gentle Readers: We are happy to welcome author Kathryn Nelson today to chat about her new Jane Austen inspired book, Pemberley Manor: Darcy and Elizabeth, for better or for worse. This continuation of Pride and Prejudice is a new twist on the story of Darcy and Lizzy after the nuptials. It has received solid reviews and was nominated for Best New Fiction in 2007 by the Jane Austen Regency World Awards. It is an engaging tale that not only reveals the story of their new life at Pemberley, reuniting us with many familiar characters, but introduces an intriguing psychological subtext for one of the main characters.

Kathryn Nelson

Hello to Laurel Ann, Vic and Jane Austen Today fans. Thank you so much for your generous praise of Pemberley Manor. The pleasure of hearing that someone enjoyed reading my book is only second to the fun I had in the writing of it. And that is closely followed by the delight in being asked, “Why did you write a sequel to Pride and Prejudice?” With the exception of parenting a child, birthing this book has been my most enjoyable adventure yet.

The sheer beauty of Jane Austen’s language coupled with the timeless quality of her characters constantly stirs up readers to visit and then revisit her work. I’m far from the only writer to become obsessed with chasing those characters down the road, trying to get a glimpse of how things will turn out for them. For me, that obsession included trying to peek back into the past, especially Darcy’s, to understand what forces molded their personalities. I confess it’s a very modern pursuit, but then I’m a pretty modern girl. And so are my readers.

To critics and admirers of Pemberley Manor, I confess I tried desperately to imitate Jane Austen’s prose, but I strayed a long way from her style. Conversations on nature versus nurture and the paths to self-awareness were definitely not the ordinary dinner conversation of her day as far as I know. But that is not to say that Jane Austen was not extraordinarily aware of who her characters were and what they represented in terms of human foibles. Particularly with her leading characters, she carefully placed them in scenes that tested their beliefs and values, and she was willing to allow them to be humanly flawed.

Some of us (not mentioning names) focused on Darcy as portrayed by Colin Firth in 1995. I had to pull myself away from the BBC/A&E tapes, and read and reread Pride and Prejudice, to fully comprehend how equally flawed Elizabeth Bennet was. She had all of the appearance of good sense, especially in her own eyes, but she was also prone to precipitous leaps of judgment. I lately heard praise of Elizabeth’s willingness to stand up for her ideal of love, even braving the possible outcome of disastrous poverty if her prince failed to materialize. I tend to think she was immature, as many of us were at that age, and didn’t really imagine that the consequences her mother feared would befall her.

Elizabeth’s father was her greatest fan – at least until Fitzwilliam Darcy came along. Mr. Bennet, first observed as a man of good humor and common sense, is revealed by Jane Austen to be lacking in the kind of strength and determination that are called for in difficult circumstances. Elizabeth seemed to recognize in herself that same weakness of character as she was confronted with the increasing complexities of life; unlike her father, she fought against that nature.

In Pemberley Manor I tried to wrap my mind around the inevitable sparks that would have resulted from the collision of these two strong personalities, and the process of maturing that marriage may bring to a couple. If all of this sounds terribly dark and serious, I hope you’ll find that large doses of humor alleviate any heaviness that may result.

Thanks again for the opportunity to join you on this beautiful site. I look forward to your comments or questions.

Thank you Kathryn for joining us today. I found her tale charming, intelligent and engaging; uniquely one of the most thought provoking and satisfying Austen sequels that I have ever read. I hope that you enjoy it also.

Kathryn Nelson’s romance with language and the characters of Jane Austen was reawakened in 1995 by the BBC/A&E miniseries of Pride and Prejudice inspiring her to write Pemberley Manor. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband and son.

Give away

Win a copy of Pemberley Manor by leaving a comment before April 8th by asking Kathryn a question about her new book, or stating why you think that Mr. Darcy is one of the most popular romantic literary heroes of all time. The winner will be announced on April 9th. Shipping to US and Canadian locations only.

Further Reading

Reviews of Pemberley Manor
Visit Kathryn Nelson's website

Purchase Pemberley Manor: Darcy and Elizabeth, for better or for worse

Cheers, Laurel Ann, Austenprose


LaBelleRiviere said...

I think that Mr. Darcy is the best literary hero because he is (as Jane Bennet says about Bingley)what every man ought to be. He is neither the bad guy nor the bumbling idiot. His actions speak much louder than his words. He and Lizzy butted heads a few times and managed to take turns getting the better of each other, but that helped them grow as "people". Mr. Darcy is the kind of man that lets a woman know that she is independent enough to live without him, but would rather not.

cupcake said...

I enjoyed what Ms. Nelson had to say regarding Elizabeth's own shortcomings, as well as Mr. Bennet's. I've always wondered how Lady Catherine found out that Darcy proposed to Elizabeth? Did Darcy tell her?

I would like to know from Ms. Nelson how she thinks the Wickham - Lydia marriage wound up. And what does she think became of the other sisters?

MaryK said...

"Mr. Darcy is one of the most popular romantic literary heroes of all time."
While pondering this phrase, it occured to me that we have been raised on fairy tales where the prince rides and rescues the fair maiden. Darcy is Prince Charming. Darcy embodies everything that we, as little girls, were told to look for in life and now, we, as grown women, continue to seek our Mr. Darcy. Sadly, we are not as fortunate as Elizabeth but through the novel and inspired writing such as Ms. Nelson's, we can continue to dream of our Prince Charming.

Midnight Cowgirl said...

Mr. Darcy is a brilliant character not because he is perfect but because even with his flaws he succeeds where most men fail. For instance, almost any other man who had had his marriage proposal mocked would have held a grudge against the woman he had once loved and would not have secretly tried to restore her family's honor.

Mr. Darcy's flaw is his arrogance (no small flaw when you think about the arrogant people in your own life), and it is his love for Elizabeth that helps him overcome the flaw which has turned her against him.

A rich, good looking man will all ways be labeled "prince charming", but Mr. Darcy would be a romantic hero even without the money and looks because his love for a woman made him become a better man.

Kathryn L Nelson said...

Hi everyone. Sorry I've been inattentive. I went to check out a wedding location for my good friend's daughter. Love is in the air, even though it has been snowing here most of the day.

Nice to hear your observations. As far as Lady Catherine goes, I'll check tomorrow, but the answer is in the final conversations of P&P, as I recall. I don't have my book at hand tonight, but Darcy mentions a conversation he had with her in the final chapters.

As to Lydia Bennet, I can tell you that the definitive alternate answer to her story is well written by Jane Odiwe in Lydia Bennet's Story. Check out her blog on Jane Austen Sequels to read excerpts. Or, I suppose you could content yourself with Jane Austen's own description at the end of the book. Ms Odiwe's is more fun, though.

As for me, I left the three silly sisters out of my story. It felt like I had too many characters to deal with as it was, Jane Odiwe had taken Lydia in hand, and Mary and Kitty simply didn't speak to me.

I would agree that Darcy is the perfect man for a daydream - hard to catch, but not impossible.

Lynn said...

Congrats to Kathryn on a monumental task of continuing the story of Darcy and Elizabeth.

Mr. Darcy is simply everything a woman could want: Human, loving, generous, passionate, mature and of course, very rich !

Dyeing to Quilt said...

I think Darcy is the best literary hero because he pays for the folly of Mr. Wickham when he really doesn't need to. He lays his previous shortcomings bare and insists taking the responsibility, regardless of the shame it may bring him AND necessarily tie him to the Bennet family, whether they end up together or not.

Kathryn L Nelson said...

So here's an intriguing question: would Darcy have done the same noble gesture towards Lydia and Wickham if it had come up just after Elizabeth's rejection of his marriage offer? I like to think yes, but I guess we'll never know.

Shelly said...

I think Mr. Darcy is one of the best literary heroes because he is not only handsome and rich, but because he is a challenge for women. He wasn't easily drawn to ladies who were vying for his attention and in doing so seemed to be a bit of a snob. Stand-offishness can be a challenge and an attractive quality sometimes. I think he was also a flawed character who made some mistakes in wooing Elizabeth, but ultimately in the end was a man of good character and quite a match for Lizzie.

Aranel said...

Mr. Darcy's characteristics make him one of the most popular romantic literary heroes. On the surface, he is handsome man of great fortune. Underneath, he is kind to those in his service, has exceptional manners, is quite shy and reserved, good-natured, and the best of a friend. Just as well, Darcy is a brooding, gallant and chivalrous gentleman.

kathryn said...

Hi, Cupcake. Looked up the passage I was remembering about Darcy and his aunt - it doesn't tell us how she came to suspect, does it? Maybe she was just reading the look in her nephews eye...

Julia said...

I personally love Mr. Darcy because he always came off as vulnerable when I read the novel. He always was on the edge of the crowd in public, but he was nevertheless unquestionably the master of his house in private. His proposal came as such a shock to Elizabeth exactly because he was so reserved, and he has to work very hard to win her love. While Austen's narrator never sits inside Darcy's mind, the narrator does give us teasing glances at his own motivations that endear readers to him in a way that Lizzy could not initially see. This is why he is so beloved. He's awkward, and his character makes just as many personal changes as Elizabeth does.

I do have a question. How much of the narrative spotlight do you give to Darcy? How much is the narrator privy to Darcy's thoughts? Some of his mystic from Austen's novel comes from the fact that her narrator only gives us glancing tastes.

Thank you for your comments!

(By the way, we are supposed to infer that Lady Catherine just "heard" that Elizabeth was engaged to Darcy. She does live in the other world in which Elizabeth and Darcy's courtship was more public. I honestly do not think that Darcy would have told her; he is a very internal person and believes his aunt to be ridiculous.)

kathryn said...

Pemberley Manor does focus on Darcy's thoughts, Julia. Or more precisely on his efforts to avoid thinking or discussing his memories. I was engaged with these characters precisely because Jane Austen gave us so very little to go on in regard to Darcy. I tried to supply a possible backstory to explain his temperament.

It's really a matter of taste, I think. Not everyone has been as generous with praise as Laurel Ann, but overall, most of my reviews have been favorable.

laura said...

I have a question for Ms. Nelson: what was involved in the writing process, other than reading and rereading the book, as you mentioned. What kind of research did you do? Did you highlight passages, look up social conventions of the day or did you just go with the flow and edit after?
I think Mr.Darcy is popular because all girls hope that the really arrogant guy at the office or in their class will turn out to be good and amazing like Mr. Darcy. So I guess he gives us hope (I admit that happens to me sometimes too...*sigh*)
This book looks so great!

abdulla said...

Hi, Laura. Most of my research consisted of studying all of Jane Austen's writings including letters and some of her early shorts. For details about carriages, roads, maps, etc, I used the internet - sites like Wikipedia and others to try to get the right feel for travel constraints. The rest came out of my head. Thanks for the question.

Kathryn L Nelson said...

Oops. Ignore the name Abdulla - I used my husbands google account by mistake - should have been Kathy Nelson!

Susan said...

Your post has peaked my interest about reading a novel that picks up where Jane Austin left off in P&P. My question is: Do you find your self somewhat intimidated by trying to follow in the shoes of such a great writer like Jane Austen? If so, how does this influence your writing?

Melanie said...

Mr. Darcy is the best literary hero because he's real. Many Prince Charmings are so perfect they're not believable. Because Austen let Mr. Darcy's humanness show through he is adored.

My question is; Are there any new characters in Pemberley Manor that didn't appear in P&P? Thanks!

kathryn said...

Thanks for your questions. Always fun to reminisce.

Susan: Lord, yes. I didn't admit I'd written Pemberley Manor outside of my inner circle for a very long time. I really just started with an obsession to try imitating her language. And an absolute certainty that there was a lot more that could be said about the Darcys. I didn't really mean to write a book, and when I had hundreds of pages, I didn't mean to have them published. I just sent them to the BBC & A&E with the request that they produce a continuation for all of us Firth/Ehle fans. Cheeky, huh. They didn't bite.

Melanie: There are several new characters in Pemberley Manor to aid in the unfolding of the family history. The Alexander family were great friends of the old Mr Darcy but not good enough for his wife. Then there's Trevor Handley, a sort of Wickham gone good, who shared Darcy's home as a boy.

Felicia said...

Congratulations on your book. I can't wait to read it!

I think one of the things that reaches all women is that Mr. Darcy takes Elizabeth's opinions about him seriously. Then he makes the changes he needs to make.

Christine said...

This sounds fantastic! Kathryn, I applaud you for taking such a monumental task in your hands. Can't wait to read it.

Darcy is a great character because he is so real. Sure, we all idealize him as the "perfect" man, but don't forget, he's flawed. Hopelessly, just like any human. And Jane didn't sugarcoat these flaws, which makes him all the more enjoyable as a leading man.

And Kathryn, I like what you bring up about Lizzy's flaws. I have always thought that, despite her winning personality, she had a lot of growing up to do, which she finally grasped toward the end of P&P. Despite her mother's silly nature, she did have a point about her daughters' futures.

Na said...

I think Darcy is a great literary hero because he does the one thing that many women desire. Even though it deeply hurt his pride to have Lizzy ruthlessly turn down his proposal, he listened to her. Her words cut him, but also cut through him forcing him to consider her opinion of him. In his letter he explained his behavior, admitting mistakes, but also holding his ground. I know it is modern for a woman to want to be "heard," but I think it is something that woman have felt over the centuries and are drawn to men with whom they may have a dialogue and a friendship as well as a romance.

parasolparty said...

Darcy remains one of the most popular romantic literary heroes of all time because he teaches us to believe that a man's true feelings may sometimes take a while to show up correctly on our radar screens. To believe that a man who seemed contemptuous could truly be in love with us, and just not communicating it well? That's what I call hope.

Kathryn L Nelson said...

Very funny, Parasolparty. I love how women do cling to hope. I've made Elizabeth work very hard in Pemberley Manor, and to your point, Christine, helped her grow up.

To my mind, one of the charms of Austen is that all of her characters have strengths and weaknesses. I think that's what invites us to identify with them - and to write endless sequels.

sarahanne said...

I think at some point in time most women have know a Mr. Darcy. His quiet reserve is very intriguing. Although he can be miss represented, in time his true character shows to those he is closest to.

My husband is a Mr. Darcy. Those that do not know him call him stuck-up and haughty. I've always known him to be reserved yet gentle. Now that we are married he is fun and full of life, but only around those he is closest to. Mr. Darcy is definitely my type of guy.

Julia Ergane said...

I think I've been a little bit in love with Darcy since I first read P&P in the 7th grade (way back in 1962). Naturally, this was a very important time in my life and it set a tone for my ideal hero: serious, loyal, deep voice (that is always how I viewed him -- still am attracted mainly to baritones), and not conventionally good-looking but distinguished. I always viewed D&L as growing into the type of relationship that I would want -- one of full partnership, respect and love.

sphinx63 said...

I think Mr. Darcy is so popular because he was able to change into a better man, all for the love of a good woman. When Elizabeth told him why she couldn't marry him, he did everything he could to become the man that he ought to have been from the first.

Heather said...

Haha, I often tease my husband that I married Mr. Darcy...without Pemberley, of course ;)
Mr. Darcy holds a special place in my heart because as a hero he IS flawed (he's no one demensional Disney-esque prince) but he has such integrity and willing to do the right thing without regard to praise or what he might get out of it.
With Darcy, you know that even if he can be snobbish or aloof, he is still tender-hearted and self-conscious.
He isnt perfect, but he is good. that is the perfect hero!

kathryn l nelson said...

And let us not forget the prospect from the window at Pemberley that so captivated Elizabeth. By all means, let him be rich if he can manage it.

Lovely to hear from all of you. Thanks, Kathy

Becky's Place said...

I myself have always been blessed with an unmanageable imagination when it comes to the character of Fitzwilliam Darcy. He encompasses all that women really want. Some one who will love them regardless of HER flaws.
He is represented beautifully by Austen's writing skill,she is a Master. His goodness and true and sincere kindness (once you get to know him better) makes me go weak in my knees when reading. JA has always been perfect in my book at capturing gentlness and that type of man is so much needed in this world today and thats what makes him a hero. We escape our daily world that is so filled with hatred and lack of common courtesies to revel in the gentleness of a real literary hero gentleman Mr. Darcy. I look forward to reading your book even if I am not lucky enough to win it. Thanks!

Donna @ Party Wishes said...

I hope that I am not too late!

Darcy lets his actions speak for him and does not have to drawn attention to himself. Strong, silent type...every woman's fantasy!

kathryn said...

Ooh, yes, the fantasy life - well-captured, ladies. The nights I spent with Darcy were memorable. I highly recommend writing your own stories about your relationship with your hero.


Thanks again, Laurel Ann.