Hi Judy. Thank you for having me on The Long and Short of It. You asked me write about what I would ask Jane Austen if I could have a sit-down with her. So many questions, so little time.
To begin with, I’d provide a pot of tea and a plate of scones and compliment her on looking so well, that is, for someone who is 236 years old. After a nice lemon tart for dessert (or the pudding), we’d get down to business.
In the Regency Era, people wrote with a quill pen, an instrument requiring constant repair and one that needed to be frequently dipped in ink, very possibly, homemade. It was a messy undertaking. Splotches of ink would be everywhere as well as blobs of ink where you started and mere scratches where you needed to re-dip your pen. If you made a mistake, you merely crossed it out and wrote over, under, or around it. (As an aside, I remember my mother and father using fountain pens and refilling them from an inkwell containing India ink. This would have been in the mid 1950s. I also remember spilling said ink on my Sunday dress. Mom was not happy.)
As someone who probably writes every sentence at least two or three times, I am in absolute awe of Jane Austen. When you look at the corrected manuscript shown here, you will see how heavily edited it is. So my first question would be: How did you not crumple it up in a ball and start over? What powers of concentration you must have!
Second: Although you had limited success in your lifetime, you did pretty well for a woman author? Did you ever think of it in those terms?
Third: In your wildest dreams, did you entertain the thought of having your books selling in the millions and in 60+ languages? My delusions of grandeur are being on the New York Times Bestseller’s List and a guest on the Diane Rehm Show. (I missed out on Oprah, but I’m pretty sure if she stayed on the air, Mr. Darcy’s Bite would have been an “Oprah Pick.”)
Fourth: Your clergymen are flawed characters. Considering that your father was an ordained minister, I find this surprising. Any particular reason for this?
Fifth, sixth, seventh, etc.: Did you model Mrs. Bennet on anyone? What about Mr. Darcy? Did Marianne Dashwood and Col. Brandon really live happily ever after? What about Elinor and Edward? Emma and Mr. Knightley? Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill?
My final question would be: What do you make of all these re-imaginings of your novels? You have been portrayed as a sleuth, and murder was done at Mansfield Park. Mr. Darcy was a vampire, and Emma was a Valley girl in Clueless. I, personally, have turned Mr. Darcy into a werewolf. Any objections?
I shall answer the last question on behalf of Miss Austen. With her lively sense of humor and quick wit, she would laugh at all of our humble attempts to mimic her genius and would see our re-tellings as paying homage to her unique talent.
Do you have question for Jane Austen? I have a lot more, but I wanted to give you all a chance.
Thank you, Judy, your readers, and most especially, Miss Austen.
Mr. Darcy’s Bite by Mary Lydon Simonsen
Mr. Darcy has a secret...
Darcy is acting rather oddly. After months of courting Elizabeth Bennet, no offer of marriage is forthcoming and Elizabeth is first impatient, then increasingly frightened. For there is no denying that the full moon seems to be affecting his behavior, and Elizabeth’s love is going to be tested in ways she never dreamed...
Darcy has more than family pride to protect: others of his kind are being hunted all over England and a member of Darcy’s pack is facing a crisis in Scotland. It will take all of Elizabeth’s faith, courage, and ingenuity to overcome her prejudice and join Darcy in a Regency world she never knew existed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Lydon Simonsen is the author of two Regency Austen re-imaginings, The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy and A Wife for Mr. Darcy, and a Jane Austen historical romance, Searching for Pemberley. In her novels, the romance between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet is told with a light touch and a sense of humor and presented as a battle of wits between two equals.