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|Why a mystery?
Written by CarrieB
(4/5/2004 11:47 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Welcome, Carrie Bebris, penned by Linda
Actually, the mystery format came before the decision to write a sequel.
I didn't set out to write an Austen sequel. Rather, I wanted to write a mystery, and the kind of mysteries I like to read are those with literary foundations -- The Eyre Affair, Possession, Amanda Cross's Kate Fansler series, things like that. Jane Austen is my all-time favorite author, so I wanted to somehow use her work as the foundation, but I hadn't decided how. Short of using Austen herself as the sleuth (which was, of course, already being done by Stephanie Barron), the possibilities were endless. Austen lends herself quite well to the mystery genre. Mystery author P.D. James has made a case for reading Emma as a detective story (link below), much of S&S focuses on figuring out whether Marianne and Willoughby are engaged (and later what had motivated W's conduct), characters such as Wickham are exposed as something other than what they represented themselves to be, etc. There were lots of potential directions I could take.
I explored all sorts of ideas, but one thing that my mind kept returning to was the end of P&P. Elizabeth, despite having misjudged Darcy and Wickham, is a good observer when it comes to other characters in the book. She sees her parents for what they are, she's not fooled by the Bingley sisters' false politeness toward Jane, she picks up Mr. Collins's personality from his first letter before even meeting him. And she predicts Lydia's disgrace. After the elopement, it is Darcy who ferrets out the missing couple -- who uses his connections, influence, and knowledge to trace Wickham to Mrs. Younge's and make the marriage happen. We all know (or at least, want to believe) that after their marriage, Darcy and Elizabeth will make a great team as husband and wife. What if, I thought, they also applied these complementary aspects of their personalities to solving other problems? I imagined them discussing cases using their signature repartee, much like other couple detective teams (The Thin Man's Nick and Nora Charles, Hart to Hart, Moonlighting), and the idea for the series was born.
I confess, I was a bit nervous adding my book to the growing list of Austen sequels out there. But I think the fact that it's a mystery holds advantages. A novel must have conflict, but I don't think any of us want to see marriage-threatening tension between Darcy and Elizabeth. The mystery plot puts the novel's primary conflict outside of the Darcys' marriage, yet enables Darcy and Elizabeth to still be the main protagonists. We can spend more time with them, enjoy their romatic interplay, watch them develop as a couple. Their different backgrounds, strengths and views provide conflict, but nothing that's going to tear them apart. They work together as a team to face an outside threat. And when that threat is contained, they can return to the safe haven of Pemberley :)
|Emma Considered as a Detective Story|
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