The Library at Pemberley by Sharon Lathan, Novelist


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Questions were asked, and Sharon answered!
Sharon Lathan
November 11, 2014 - 11:31 PM
Member Since: April 24, 2011
Forum Posts: 216
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Is the Darcy Saga inspired solely by the 2005 movie, the novel by Jane Austen, or both?

A – Both. I am unabashedly a fan of the movie, and did see it, as well as the other Austen movie adaptations, before reading the novel. My initiation was cinema, no doubt, but together the original novel and the movie feed my inspiration for the Darcy Saga.  


Did I read the novel before I began to write?

A – Yes, I did. I also read innumerable essays, forum discussions, reams of fan fiction, and other books that related to Austen, Pride and Prejudice, and the Regency Era, before I wrote a word. My study of Austen from every angle is ongoing and contributes to the scenes, images, and conversations that swirl through my head when viewing the movie.  


Why do I chose to focus on the 2005 movie for my vision of Lizzy and Darcy’s life together?

A – I am a visual, emotive person. Even when I read a novel, I automatically create the scene in my mind’s eye, much as a film rolls and unveils the vivid detail. For me, this ability to visualize a story adds to the magic, and transports me into that other world. Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice masterpiece transported me, and captured my heart. I still think it is brilliant! The costumes, the music, the cinematography, the drama, the passion, the humor, the language, the actors, the gritty atmosphere – all if it phenomenal. Few movies have touched me to this degree, so I cannot help but be inspired by it, and therefore chose to focus on it.  


Did I like the 1995 miniseries?

A – Yes, I liked it. But I did not love it. Some of that is probably timing since I saw it after seeing the movie. Primarily, I prefer a story with sparkle, excitement, action, and passion. I want to be touched in some way, and see wild chemistry between the star-crossed lovers. For me, the miniseries, while excellently done and having far more time to tell Austen’s story fully, fell flat and did not stir my insides. I appreciate all the various adaptations of Austen novels, and can clinically point out the pros and cons. Some simply move me more than others, for reasons I can’t always explain.  


Why do I prefer Matthew Macfadyen over Colin Firth?

A – I know what kind of man makes my heart race and Matthew is that kind of man. He has a presence on screen that screams strength, confidence, sexuality, manliness, vulnerability, and shyness, all rolled into one handsome package. As Mr. Darcy, he was sublime. Colin Firth is amazing, and I admire his talent immensely, but he has never appealed to me in that melting, fluttering stomach way. Call me superficial, but there it is!  


Do I think one version is closer to Austen’s novel than the other?

A – No doubt that the 1995 miniseries is closer to the book since it is 6+ hours long. All the subplots and characters could be shown, because there was time to do so. Truncating a novel – any novel – into 2 hours means adapting on a larger scale, so certain elements will be lost. Capturing the tone and essence becomes the focus, rather than directly translating each scene.  


Do I think one version nailed the characters while the other failed?

A – Every adaptation has pros and cons. Each brings different interpretations to the screen. The key word here is “interpretation.” There is no ONE interpretation of the character,s since no two people are ever going to perceive them the same way. Everyone reads a book and uniquely imagines the characters based on their own personality and life experiences. A brief perusal of any Jane Austen discussion forum will clearly reveal the wealth of differing opinions. That is why I don’t think either version can claim to be the “right” one.  


Why do I call my sequel series a “saga”?

A – The name began as a humorous jest since I had so many chapters with no end in sight! Over time, I realized the name was perfect. I am writing about a family as they travel the course of life. That is what a saga is all about! It isn’t about one conflict or drama with the resolution being the end.  


Is there a plot? What is the plot?

A – Yes, there is a plot, absolutely! Remember that a “plot” is defined as: the storyline, theme, plan, and sequence of events in a literary work. Most novels do have a single conflict/resolution plot line, I admit, but not all do. Nor is it the only way to write a book. Many have been written with a saga-style theme wherein the plot is about the passage of time and how life events affect the characters.  


What are the themes of my plot?

A – My series is about following the Darcys, and the other P&P characters, as they travel through life. It is about the history of the Regency Era and how people would realistically live in the day to day and month to month. It is about the highs and lows that each of us experience as we move through the present and into the future, only placed into a world some two-hundred years ago.  


How has the plot changed over the course of the books?

A – The pace has increased, for one thing. The first three novels cover one year of the Darcys’ marriage. Action and trauma rear up here and there, but largely the story flows in a relaxed manner, and focuses almost exclusively on Darcy and Lizzy. It is written so that the reader is the proverbial fly-on-the-wall fortunate to ride along during the day-to-day. Gradually the other characters slip in with their own tales gaining emphasis. The fourth and fifth novels cover more time, with increased drama and interwoven stories.  


Where do the ideas for my novels come from?

A – It seems to be a combination of ideas sprung from the extensive research I do and other ideas that magically materialize. I never really know when something is going to literally flash through my brain. Dreams have lead to a wealth of great scenes. I have also stumbled across really interesting historical facts that I just HAVE to write in, leading to some fabulous stuff.  


What are my views on marriage for Mr. and Mrs. Darcy?

A – I am recounting a marriage in the purest embodiment of a union based on commitment, equality, passion, friendship, honesty, love, and so on. I strive to answer the timeless question of happily ever after, and how two individual people meld into one soul. I desire to give hope that true love does exist, and that marriage can be a wonderful, blessed relationship. I have given them the happiness I imagine Jane Austen planned.  


Do I believe in happily ever after?

A – I do indeed! I know from experience that life is not easy, and marriage is not hearts and roses day in and day out. Nevertheless, I also know from experience that marital happiness, affinity, bonding, and passionate love can survive and flourish. I have 27 years of marriage to prove it! The question really should be: Why does one NOT believe in happily ever after?  


Do I write Lizzy and Darcy as too happy and idyllic?

A – Maybe, but why not? First, I truly believe a couple can live in general harmony without constant bickering, being miserable, or bored within a few months time. Conflict and arguing are a natural way of life, especially with the one you are closest too – and I do show this with the Darcys – but it does not have to be the norm, nor is it a foregone conclusion to a marriage. I prefer to write a couple who grow stronger after conflict, who resolve their issues together, and who communicate and respect each other’s opinion.  


How do I define “love”?

A – Love is a feeling, but not primarily. As the Bible teaches, love is about reaching beyond the emotions of the moment to the deeper foundations. Commitment to the person you love, no matter what emotion you are experiencing at the time, is a key factor. Love is unconditional and selfless. Humans are inherently selfish creatures. But we also divinely have the infinite capacity to open our hearts to others and share of ourselves. We are wired to need that connection. To lose oneself, to sacrifice our desires and comforts, to give in order to please the one we love, is the greatest blessing and joy.  


Why did I write Mr. Darcy as a virgin?

A – Surprisingly, this choice was not due to my Christian faith. I am a realist, and know very well that the odds of a man of 28 – in any century – still being a virgin are minimal. Minimal, however, does not mean impossible, a fact I can assure of based on personal connections, ‘nuff said! I cannot fathom the Mr. Darcy of Jane Austen’s creation being a rake with a history of wild sexual exploits and illegitimate children scattered all over England, but that does not mean he had to be completely inexperienced. He could have “practiced” prior to his marriage to Lizzy without being an immoral degenerate! What I reject is the idea that a man has to lose his virtue in order to become a man. I also reject the idea that in order to be a worthy husband, a man must first attain his sexual knowledge from brothels or illicit liaisons.  


Am I a Christian? And do I bring those beliefs into my novels?

A – Yes, I am a Christian, born-again and spirit-filled! My relationship with God is central to who I am as a person, so naturally some of that will spill into my writing. This is definitely a major reason why I have presented the marriage of Darcy and Lizzy as I have. I believe in God’s plan for marriage, believe that His ideal is to be the goal, and believe that He can fulfill His promise. I do not, however, write a purely “Christian” novel. I do not preach about Jesus in a direct way. Rather, it is Biblical themes of faith, conviction, commitment, honesty, respect, etc. that I can apply to my characters and the situations they encounter.  


Why have I chosen to take the reader into the bedroom of Mr. and Mrs. Darcy?

A – My vision, from the very beginning, was to explore and recount the marriage of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet as thoroughly as possible. Doing so meant including the physical aspects of their relationship. Intimacy and sexual satisfaction between a married couple are vital, critical portions of a successful marriage. This is where true, complete bonding occurs, and it is in these moments of utter nakedness – literal and figurative – that a couple share their deepest thoughts. Opening the bedroom door and entering the privacy of their sanctuary was necessary to fulfill my vision.  


Does that mean my novels are erotica?

A – No, not even close. I do not relate the intricate, fine details of their assignations in a pornographic way. Darcy makes love to his wife. Lizzy makes love to her husband. They do not have X-rated, carnal sex. Perhaps that is mere semantics, but I believe there is a fundamental difference between the two. The sexual act is a beautiful celebration of love and commitment, and, if written carefully, this can be communicated. I believe I have accomplished this.  


Are the novels heavily proportioned on their marital relations?

A – As important as I deem passion in a healthy relationship, the Darcy Saga involves far more than romantic episodes. The newlywed Darcys do not even consummate their marriage until the third chapter of the first novel, well over forty pages into the book, and although Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy does cover numerous romantic interludes, I honestly don’t think this unrealistic for honeymooners. In every novel the bedroom interludes are spaced with a multitude of happenings, and the number of scenes decrease as time moves on. Not that I think a passionately in love couple make love less often, or with waning enthusiasm, but simply because their relationship became well established, and I had lots of other topics to write about!  


What is my goal in writing a bedroom scene?

A – Obviously folks differ in what they want to read in erotic scenes, but my goal is to focus on the emotion that is attached to the sexual act. I figure my readers know the mechanics and body-part names, so I have no need to get too specific! Whether Lizzy and Darcy are caught up in sheer animal lust, feeling frisky and silly, or experiencing a deeply bonding lovemaking session, my goal is for the reader to appreciate the interlude for what it signifies – that is, the exceptional relationship these two people possess. I do not add bedroom scenes for gratuitous titillation, but to convey the amazing love, marital affinity, and supreme happiness that Lizzy and Darcy have found with each other. And, hopefully, thus instill faith that it can happen for the reader.  


Should an Austen novel have sex in it?

A – An Austen novel does not have sex in it, and whether Jane would have written such a scene if she had been at liberty to do so is unknown. I, however, am not Jane Austen and I do have the liberty of writing a sex scene! If you want an Austen novel, then pick up an Austen novel. If you want something different, then pick up a novel by me or any of the hundreds of writers within the Austen literary genre. Bearing in mind that our name is on the cover, so therefore it is NOT an Austen novel. There may well be sex in it, or zombies or vampires even!  


Do I write like Jane Austen?

A – In a word: No. My opinion is that no one can ever write like another author, let alone Jane Austen. Every artist is unique in how they create their art. I could try to perfectly capture Austen’s style, voice, and nuance, but I would fail. Worse yet, in trying to do so, the writing would be forced and unnatural; it would sound false and not flow. I must write in the manner pleasing and natural for me. Additionally, I am writing for a modern audience who may not grasp an older style of literature, but still love the story from the movies or simply love a nice Regency historical romance. I want to appeal to everyone, and present a story enjoyable to read.  


What do I think about Jane Austen fan fiction? Would Jane Austen approve?

A – I love the whole concept of fan fiction! I think it is fantastic that lovers of Austen have a way to express their devotion by writing stories that, in turn, delight other lovers of Austen when they read them. Through fan fiction, Austen’s legacy continues to flourish. I am confident that Jane would be pleased to learn her humble writings have inspired so many generations of readers, after she recovered from the shock!  


Do I agree with the opinion that fan fiction isn’t “real literature” and just a cheap rip-off of another author’s work?

A – I cannot speak on the heart and skill of every writer of fan fiction, but all the ones I know are highly talented authors who write Austen literature reverently and out of love. In every case, whether writing a modern spin or a sequel or variation, they are inspired by Austen and write as an homage to her. However, once inspiration takes hold, it is then entirely on the author’s shoulders to write a story that is unique and excellently wrought. Rare is the person who writes a whole novel without talent, sacrifice, dedication, artistry, and hard work. To not recognize and respect this is erroneous and unkind.  


Do I agree that a writer must follow Austen precisely in tone, style, characterization, etc. in order to validly write in the genre?

A – As I said before, no writer can capture another writer’s voice. It is simply impossible. Characterization is tricky, since this depends totally on the interpretation. How I view Lizzy Bennet is not going to be the same as someone else, at least not exactly. Then you add in the plot variances of the contemporary story or, as in my case, a story where the characters are moving into their future, and it then wholly depends on how the author imagines them handling the situations. Even if we could universally agree on the interpretation, our own voice comes through as we write our individual stories. Logically, mathematically, it is impossible to adhere to the canon of Austen, otherwise we would be writing the same book!  


What kind of sequel to Pride & Prejudice do I think Jane Austen would have written?

A –  I really have no idea! Of course, neither does anyone else, do they? I am quite sure she would not relate their bedroom activities, but I do think she would want them to be happy, however one defines that. Clearly she saw a difference in the marriages of people like Mr. and Mrs. Bennet compared to Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner. She was not against marriage, and the epilogue she gave us for Pride & Prejudice reveals her desire for her characters to be content. Her books were about the normal aspects of life during the times, with the drama rather sedate. She wrote of misunderstands, meddling individuals, societal mores, and romantic entanglements. There were few kidnappings, wild horse chases, or life threatening situations in her books, so I doubt her sequel would be all that different from mine in essence.  


When did I start writing?

A – Other than in college creative writing classes, I hadn’t written anything more intense than a letter for years. I saw the movie in November 2005, and after weeks of absorbing everything Austen I could find, I sat down before my computer to put the scenes in my head onto digital paper. I can’t remember the precise date, but it was somewhere in the first half of February 2006. More on this can be read on the About Me page.  


What is my favorite aspect of writing?

A – My favorite is the research. I have always adored history, so delving into a past world is marvelous. Secondly, it is the language. I am crazy about vocabulary and a well-written page. I prefer reading a book that makes me think, that draws me in with vivid descriptions, and that captures me as if I am standing right there. The thrill in accomplishing this with my words is incredible. Thirdly, it is pleasing the fans of this timeless love story who never tire of journeying with the Darcys.  


How much research do I do for my novels?

A – An incredible amount. I had to learn about the Regency, everything from the clothing, furnishings, money, manners, etc. I had to study England – a country I have never been to – from every aspect imaginable, 200 years ago. In my novels the era, history, landscape, economy, society, lifestyle, inventions, etc. are as important a character as the people running about. Then there is the language. I take inordinate pains to carefully word each sentence in an elegant, intelligent manner that is also easy to read. I cannot research every single word, but I vigorously employ a dozen vocabulary sources to be as authentic as possible and avoid anachronisms.        

Miss Darcy Falls in Love - 2014 World Book Night US selection! 
Historical romance novelist, author of The Darcy Saga
"Happily ever after comes true..."
John 3:16
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