For my September guest blog at A Bibliophile’s Bookshelf I wrote about my love for secondary characters. I have utterly fallen in love with each of the characters I have created or expanded upon, some more than others, and was delighted to talk about a few of them. Hope you all agree!
When I began writing the short story that eventually evolved into the larger saga it has become, my only focus was on Darcy and Elizabeth. Of course I knew I had to mention the various servants since they are an integral part of Pemberley, but I took my time before I inserted other characters to the mix. The reasons for this are myriad: I wanted to spend quality time with the newlyweds, I wasn’t too sure what I was doing, I feared getting overwhelmed by the massive number of secondary players, and so on. I started slowly with just a handful of familiar folk from Austen’s novel and one or two original creations. And then, to my surprise, once I had opened the door to crafting new people and expanding on the ones already within Austen’s pages, I couldn’t contain myself!
However, this posed a new problem. Have you ever stopped and really thought about how many characters Austen packs into one of her novels? It is mind-boggling! I instantly knew that there was no possible way I could adequately deal with each of them. I had to pick and chose, leaving some of them quietly dwelling in Kent or Newcastle for the time being while I centered on those who called to my heart. In my second novel – Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley – I was able to greatly incorporate a wealth of secondary players as Darcy and Lizzy travel beyond the borders of their country estate.
Col. Fitzwilliam is so minor a character that Austen did not even give him a first name! I saw this man, Darcy’s cousin, as someone who probably would have known Darcy all his life and thus better than anyone else. Plus he was a military officer in a time of war. Great fodder for storytelling there! I named him Richard and developed an entire history of kinship with Darcy. Richard is the gregarious, humorous contrast to the serious, reserved Darcy. They compliment each other and are the dearest of friends. As the story unfolds, Richard’s arc is woven in and he has many moments to shine. I really love him!
Anne de Bourgh probably struck a chord within me due to my medical background. Who was this mysteriously ill woman living under the domineering shadow of her mother? Did she want to marry her cousin? Was she devastated when he married Elizabeth Bennet? What became of her? Again, I saw a chance to create an individual dear to Darcy, someone with a history and hopefully a future. I scoured through medical articles until I found an illness that could have been partially treated in those days. I wanted to give her a personality and voice, and a life beyond just the cast away “fiancé” of Darcy.
Georgiana Darcy is the Wickham-abused younger sister of Darcy. End of story. We know that Darcy loves her and would go to great extremes to protect her, but that is about it. Over the course of my saga I allow her to grow from a shy, insecure adolescent to a confident, mature woman. She is a young lady who has been alone most of her life with limited female confidantes. Lizzy is near in age, so I gave them a sisterly relationship. As with all these relatively unknown characters, I create a complex personality for Georgiana with individual interests and memories. I have taken her so far as to write a companion novel all about her romantic entanglements that I someday hope will be published.
Mary Bennet is the Bennet sister I highlight most prominently in this novel. Jane is there, as is Kitty, and both are a part of the story with tidbits offered. But it was Mary that I felt strongest needed her time to shine. I bring her into the social whirl surrounding Lizzy in London, giving her the chance to see beyond the narrow confines of Meryton. She gradually blossoms, her eyes opening to a world with promise. And naturally since I am in large part a romance novelist, Mary falls in love!
Most of Austen’s beloved characters are in Loving Mr. Darcy to some degree. I tried very hard to at least mention all of them, even if they never show up in the flesh. However, as much as I felt a tug on my soul for the existing ones, I yearned to invent others wholly mine. The Saga is replete with individuals who serve a purpose, all with distinct personalities. Some I created with the idea that they would be prominent, but then they weren’t. Others were planned to be short-term, but grew on me and exerted their presence.
In the latter category are the two personal servants of Darcy and Lizzy: the valet Samuel and ladies’ maid Marguerite. Wait until you read what happens to them! Then there are Lord and Lady Matlock, Darcy’s uncle and aunt, who provide necessary support dozens of times. And my favorite of all, the one character I absolutely adore, is Dr. George Darcy.
This eccentric, wandering physician uncle of Darcy’s was supposed to breeze in for comic relief, ruffle Darcy’s stoic tail feathers, and diagnose Anne de Bourgh. Then he was to sail away. I just couldn’t part with him! And I think my online readers would have hunted me down if I had sent him packing! I am so proud of George. I love the relationship he forges with Darcy. I love his humor. I love his irreverent attitude. I love his intelligence. I love his radically progressive outlook. I simply love him!
This is just scratching the surface. Thank you, Bella, for giving me the opportunity to talk about my characters and my novels. I hope my essay and your review have piqued your readers’ interest!