Saturday, July 25, 2009

And so it begins....

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.


  1. Interesting, Sharon, what you find out when you start digging. Looking forward to book 2.

  2. The more I learn, the more I learn I don't know!

    Fortunately, I love research.

  3. You know, not writing the play by play might be for the best. Even my beloved Georgette Heyer loses me when she wants to tell me card by card about a game of Hazard--which I cannot follow and don't care about anyway. And a blow by blow fight scene? Even sex loses its umph when the author insists on listing every stroke's destination.

    As for me, I'm eternally stuck with not knowing what the heck I'm talking about when it comes to details analogous to a game of billiards. Everything SEALs do after basic training is secret. But I content myself that the reader who cares about such things probably isn't reading a romance. And I stick with what I do best, making characters who tug at the heart strings.

  4. Oh I meant to tell everyone to notice how much better organized our sidebar is. Sharon not only blogged today. She tidied us up!

  5. Good morning everyone! Still waiting on my hubby's espresso, but going to try to be coherent. :)

    Thanks for not giving me a bad time on my stupidity! LOL! You know, you are right, Mary Margret. Too much detail, especially when it is tough to understand, just loses the reader. I ended up focusing on the atmosphere of the billiard room and the characters of the players. It was more fun in the end, I think.

    Hope everyone likes the sidebar. If the feeling is that New Releases should be on top rather than an alphabetized arrangement, or whatever, I will fix it. It is a start, though!

  6. Sharon,

    Re: Lizzy and Darcy as sexual beings

    Years ago (too many to share) I took a seminar class on Austen as an undergraduate. We talked about everything from family issues to feminist issues, and I remember bringing the class to silence one day as I announced that Elizabeth and Darcy were the only two Austen characters I could actually imagine going home and making love.

    As you can well imagine, that engendered a whole 'nother discussion. . .

  7. One of the things I do when I'm stumped by research or lack of first-hand knowledge - I call those that are knowledgeable. I'll never forget the enthusiasm of the woman who answered Georgetown's French Department's phone when I explained that I needed a family motto for a British family in 1487 (which, of course, was written in French back then). I told her what I wanted it to say in english, and I was a language major in college and knew that a direct translation wouldn't give the words the meaning I wanted. She took my name and number and told me she'd call me back... and she did. With a beautiful translation, btw. I'm still hoping to sell that story so she can see her name in the credits.

    For the scuba diving experience and technicalities of it, I called Bob at a nearby Dive Shop. He was on the phone with me for 20 minutes, more than happy to share his expertise.

    I find that when you tell people you're writing a book (even if you haven't yet sold) they're more than happy--and sometimes even downright excited--to help you out.

  8. Rosemary, that is great! I would have loved to be in on that discussion!! Hahaha! I am sure many were shocked by the idea. Cracks me up!

    Hi Judi! I thought about hunting down an English pub with billiards tables, but we are a bit limited in the culture market here in the central Valley! But you are so right that people are very willing to answer questions. I have done that many times on other subjects.

  9. Very informative post, Sharon. Like you, I had no idea billiards was different from pool! I've had my characters play before but thankfully never went into detail about the game. I love what MM said--stick to the romance--ah but as I wrote that, I remembered I do have a blow by blow boxing match in my upcoming book. Pugilism was also a popular sport. But I'm suggesting you let Mr. Darcy box, Sharon! :-)

    I think the sidebar looks great. I absolutely LOVE looking at everyone's cover. I think they are all fabulous!

  10. LOL Sharon!

    Looks like your threat of using my crop (so much daintier than a whip) scared off those who would mock you for not knowing the difference betwixt pool and billiards. ;-)

    Even though I LURVE to write about murder and mayhem, Aunty has very little first hand experience with weapons. Thank goodness I have a CP who formerly worked in law enforcement and whose DH is a gun collector. I once asked about a Baretta 9 mm and within two minutes, she'd delivered one (unloaded, of course) directly into my hot little hands! So nice to know the feel and weight of the real thing as well as knowing how many shots are in an ammo clip.


  11. Yes, Sharon, the research can be something else at times.

    With my last book is searching out the 1870s and making sure anything I used wasn't used or done after 1872.


  12. I had always suspected that pool and billiards were different, just as cricket is different from baseball, but never knew for certain. Thanks for clearing that up!
    Looking forward to the next book!

  13. I loved the pictures, Sharon! Once, I judged a book that had an INORDINATE amount of information about the workings of a paddle wheel. Did I care? Only as much as it might have some devastating effect on the characters in the story. Otherwise, get on with the story! :) So some accuracy of details is great, but the play by play isn't needed. What's lots more interesting is the characters' actions and reactions in the historical settings. :) I played a game once where if you went back in time and took an object that hadn't been invented at that time, it disappeared. LOL :) Linda made me think of! LOL :) Can't wait for the next book, Sharon!!

  14. Well, it is a relieve to know that Amelia did not know pool and billiards were different! Whew! I suppose the blow-by-blow depends on the situation. Like in action sequences. When I wrote a duel in "Mr. and Mrs. FD" and the bandit attack in "Loving Mr. Darcy" I described each step. Same with a boxing match! And for the covers, it was a shame that you weren't on there!

    Cindy, whip/crop, pool/billiards - the idea comes across! The threat worked either way. :)

    The research can be overwhelming at times. But then I love it for the most part, and get so excited about learning new stuff that I run the risk of doing what you are referring to, Terry! TMI! LOL! Hopefully I have managed to pull back most of the time!