The day before I flew off to DC for the RWA National Conference, our wonderful and adorable publicist Danielle Jackson sent me the preliminary list of websites that have agreed to host me for blogs or interviews as part of the “Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley” launch. The official date of release is September 1, but as we all know, the blog blitz virtual tour begins several weeks prior! I thanked Danielle, but also told her that, all things considered, I refused to more than glance at the list until after the conference and family vacations were over! Well, the time has come and I can no longer find excuses to procrastinate. Well, I could – LOL – but I shall attempt to be a responsible, good little author and start writing my blogs ASAP so I shan’t be doing what I am doing at this very second, i.e. writing my essay some six hours before it is due to post! Ha!!
I have thought a great deal on the themes for the bulk of my blogs when “Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy” was released in March and know for a fact that I want to have a different tactic this time around. You see, before I was introducing myself as an author, establishing who I was and my “credentials,” while generally being on the defensive. In interviews and blog topics I was forced to focus almost exclusively on these types of questions: Why are you writing Jane Austen fan-fiction? Why were you inspired by the movie? Should you write a sequel since you haven’t been an Austen fan for several decades and read the novel a million times and taken college classes on the subject? Why write a happily-ever-after tale? How can you say your book has a plot when nothing horrible happens, no one dies, or is kidnapped by pirates? How dare you prefer Matthew Macfadyen over his Firthiness, who everyone knows is Jane Austen’s pick as Mr. Darcy? And how, oh how in God’s holy name, can you write of S. E. X. between Darcy and Lizzy?!?!?!
Ok, snarkiness aside, you can see that it got a bit old. And all these questions I answered, in the thousands of ways they were presented to me, and can be read on my FAQ at my website. Check it out, and don’t ask me again! Instead I have decided to talk about the immense amount of historical information I unearthed and wrote about in the series, specifically in “Loving Mr. Darcy” of course. So, in order to get myself used to the idea, I will start with this blog today, even if it isn’t precisely a part of my launch schedule.
A character detail I gave Fitzwilliam Darcy early on was his passion for and expertise in the game of billiards. He is such a mysterious person in the original novel, that it is easy to create factoids to round him out. I hit on the billiards concept not only because I knew from casual reading that it was a popular game of the day, but because I have always loved to watch really good pool players. That dates back to my dad and his friends playing the game, and partially from seeing Paul Newman in “The Hustler.” There is something so cool about a pool shark hitting those balls with that narrow cue, the staccato clap as they veer off in impossible directions, and then miraculously fall into the recessed holes all while the player stands nonchalant and puffing away on a cigarette. Not that I imagined Mr. Darcy in a rolled up T-shirt and slicked back hairdo, but the image of a master player was still cool! So I envisioned a billiards tournament happening in Meryton while they visited with Lizzy’s family, with Darcy proving his skill in a thrilling, play-by-play enactment. My mind conjured all sorts of wild scenes, probably influenced by Mr. Newman and Tom Cruise, and even memories of Minnesota Fats being watched by my dad. It was really some good stuff!
Enter problem number one – and if any of you smarter people laugh at me I will hunt you down and lash you with Aunty Cindy’s whip – but did you know that billiards and pool are two completely different games? I know! I was shocked! Now, I don’t consider myself an expert on pool by any means, but I have seen the game played enough to vaguely know the rules and common terms. Clue numero ono was when I Wiki’d “billiards” and started reading about two white balls, carom, hazards, cushions, stringing, faults, snooker – What the heck? I am not entirely stupid, so it did rapidly become clear to me that something was wrong in Denmark! Problem number two was the two-fold one of trying to figure out precisely what “billiards” was, since it obviously was a very different game than pool, but also to track the history of this strange game 200 years back. Luckily I adore history and solving a puzzle, and am very stubborn. So after perusing a couple of dozen websites, including the International Billiards & Snooker Federation and Billiard Club, reading through reams of instructions on how to play the game, and watching several videos… I was completely lost! Yep, this American girl simply could not grasp onto the finer nuances of billiards enough to write that riveting play-by-play tourney that she had imagined. Bummer. I researched enough to know I was on track in the historical importance of the game and in what rules and terms were standard in early 1800’s England, but my comprehension ended there. What to do? Scrap the idea of a billiards tournament altogether? Never give up! Never surrender!
Instead I changed my approach, dealing head on with problem number 3 – writing something you just do not know from experience. Of course we often do that in our writing, so I looked at the challenge as no different than visualizing England, where I have never gone, or imagining traveling for days in a carriage, which I have never done. Only a billiards expert could tell me if I utterly flubbed it up, but I think I did a fairly good job of getting the idea across and writing a riveting chapter even without the play-by-play! When September arrives you can tell me how I did. But for now, share with us some of your hardest challenges in writing of something that you just can’t grasp onto. Or perhaps there was that fabulous idea that you had no choice but to forget due to lacking information.