The story behind The Passions of Dr. Darcy
As everyone who has followed the Darcy Saga and my blog knows, Dr. George Darcy was never meant to be a main character. He wasn’t meant to even stay in England for very long! Needless to say, he had a very different idea on that subject, and being the pushy fellow that he is, eventually he got his way. It is fun to joke about George and his gradual embedding into the story (and my heart) as if he is a real person. Yet the truth is that the character of Dr. George Darcy was much like a real person who “grows on you” and then becomes essential to your personal happiness as an integral part of your life. The stronger his personality emerged, the more I fell in love with him. So too for my readers.
Over time, as I wrote his character interacting with Fitzwilliam, Elizabeth, and the others, tidbits of his life in India were revealed. Sometimes those “facts” were carefully constructed and based on research. Most of the time they simply “came to me” and were then integrated without me hardly realizing it. Little by little I recognized that this was a man who had an incredible story to tell. That this story should be told was a given. Whether I could tell it wasn’t so clear.
In December of 2010 I completed Miss Darcy Falls in Love and sent the manuscript to my editor. At that point I was a bit exhausted, and also unsure of what to write next. I had several desires within my heart, none that were taking central stage. I allotted two months to enjoy the holidays and finish a number of household projects that had been forgotten, forcing myself NOT to think about what to write next. Then, one day in late January of 2011 while I was painting the wall of my son’s bedroom, I suddenly flashed upon a scene in my head.
Two men, brothers, sitting across from each other in comfortable armchairs located in a parlor of some kind. The scenery was vague, except for a longcase clock somewhere nearby, the steady ticking prompting one of the brothers to think a particular line. It came to me as clearly as if a voice had spoken, chills running up my spine, and I knew instantly that this was the opening line to Dr. George Darcy’s story.
Ten years ago Alex died. On this day. At this precise moment.
Nearly the entire scene played out as I finished painting Kyle’s room. As soon as I could, I sat down and wrote that line and scene. Naturally it has been expanded upon and altered, but 90% of it is exactly as I envisioned that day in January. The opening line remained untouched.
Now, you might then imagine that I took off and had the book written in a few months. Oh, how I wish! Aside from a plethora of personal issues that hit me in 2011, as well as the edits for Miss Darcy Falls in Love and the April release of The Trouble With Mr. Darcy, the challenges of writing this novel proved nearly insurmountable.
First off, I had to scour through my novels and find every reference, conversation, detail, description, and so on that had anything to do with George, and to the people from the past, such as James Darcy. I spent hours upon hours plotting a highly technical timeline from the mid-1700s to 1820. Secondly, I had to let inspiration flow to create a full life for George. As much as I had written about him in the Saga, it still wasn’t enough to fill thirty-plus years! I spent lots of time in quiet contemplation of who he was as a young man compared to the mature man known in the Saga. How did his personality evolve? What events shaped and molded him? Who were the people that would impact his life? It was an intriguing quandary!
Then came the research. OMG! Talk about tough. Regency England I know fairly well. Georgian England? India? Hinduism? British East India Company? Medical history? Hmm… not so much. Basically I had to start completely from scratch. For the first months of 2011 I worked on research and answering the questions in the last paragraph… in between real life. Admittedly, it was a sketchy process with little progress. My desire to tell George’s story was SO STRONG, but the reality was that I didn’t know if overcoming the difficulties to do so was worth my time. Why? To be blunt, because I remained unsure whether my editor and publisher were interested in the story.
Every time I broached the topic of George’s story, or my future career for that matter, I was met with resistance and vagueness. I’d rather not go into those details, but suffice to say, I wasn’t happy with how our professional relationship was going. Even when I formally pitched the idea to my editor in July, the response was lukewarm. For the next two months I confess to writing and researching half-heartedly. Finally I was faced with an offer to publish the story, but also a dilemma. I was well aware that what I wanted to write was at odds with what my publisher wanted from me. However, I feared that if I declined the offer I would never complete George’s story. I decided that telling his story, even if not precisely as I would wish, was better than not telling it at all. Now, in hindsight, I see the matter differently, but at the time I believed I needed the impetus of a signed contract with a firm deadline to break through the roadblocks. So, in October I signed the contract, and got down to serious work!
Sadly, it still was not a smooth process. Getting serious meant I had to face the biggest hurdle of all.
In a nutshell, I knew from dozens of conversations with my editor that they/she refused to consider this novel as a historical fiction, which therefore meant I was drastically limited in how much I could write. As I alluded to above, our visions were on different pages. How could I possibly recount a man’s life in a single novel that could not exceed roughly 400 pages? Now, that may sound like a lot, but pick up a historical novel and flip to the end. There is a huge difference between 400 pages and 5, 6 or 700 as is standard for a serious work of historical fiction! Again, for reasons I won’t delve into but remain very unhappy about, I was not allowed that option. Thus, I had to step back a pace, so to speak, and carefully consider what story was most important for me to tell. As I saw it, there were three elements to Dr. Darcy’s life I longed to cover–
- George’s personal journey. This would encompass his lingering grief over Alex, his relationships with his family, the significant friends and loved ones he would make in India, his romantic relationships, his travels, the trials and losses he would suffer, and all the other events that shape a person. His “character arc,” to use a literary term, that would bring him to the George my fans knew and loved.
George’s professional journey. This would focus on medicine, the practice of a physician during that time and in India, medical history and the types of healing arts, how George became a brilliant doctor, and the like. I wanted to deeply explore every aspect of medical practice, and vividly show George at work in as realistic a manner as possible.
George’s literal journey. This would cover his actual travels, the places he visited or lived in, the Indian culture and how he immersed himself into it, his relationship with the East India Company, the history of India and George’s involvement in politics and wars, real historical figures to interact with, the balances of power during this fascinating time, etc. I wanted my readers to feel India, just as they feel England while reading my novels.
As much as I hated to admit it, it was impossible to do justice to all three. Something had to give or the book would be too long and my editor would refuse to publish it. It was agonizing, and angering, but since there was no hope in convincing her to consider my work as serious literature worthy of being labeled historical fiction, I let #3 take a backseat to the first two elements. Even #2 wasn’t highlighted as thoroughly as I originally conceived. It was a bitter choice to be sure, but when I honestly considered the options, there was never any doubt that what my heart wanted most to tell was George Darcy’s personal journey. After all, it is the man we love and adore!
The conclusion to this story behind the story is that I wish I could have told the complete saga of Dr. Darcy as I dreamed. Yet, despite the sacrifices, the final result is a novel I am tremendously proud of. George Darcy is an incredible human being that I feel blessed to know. I am honored to be granted the opportunity to recount his extraordinary life. The Passions of Dr. Darcy is aptly named. I guess he is real to me!