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|challenges of writing about JA's characters
Written by CarrieB
(4/7/2004 2:01 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Question from GR lurker, penned by Johanna Elisabet
My previous novels were shared-world fiction (something more common in the sci-fi and fantasy genre than others), which means that I was one of multiple authors writing stories in the same setting. (Star Wars and Star Trek novels, for example, are shared-world fiction.) Having written those books really helped when I started working on the Mr. & Mrs. Darcy mysteries, because I had experience in maintaining continuity between other authors' work and my own.
Sharing Austen's characters and world, however, did (and continues to) have its own unique challenges. Her characters belong not just to her, but to two centuries of readers, and above all else, I wanted to be respectful of her creations. But each of you has your own idea of what Pemberley looks like, what Mrs. Bennet might say in a given situation, what Elizabeth and Darcy's marriage would be like. And so do I. It's difficult to write about characters people already know, when each reader knows them in a slightly different way. Whereas with characters of my own creation, you have no preconceived ideas about them.
I feel there are also limits on what I can do with Austen's characters, plotwise. I would have to think very long and hard about killing one off, or making one of them a villain. I was concerned while writing P&Psc about whether anyone would take Mr. Hurst seriously as a suspect. Would readers think he couldn't possibly be the murderer, because he was an original JA character? And if he did turn out to be the murderer, would that make readers angry?
Limitations, however, can fuel creativity. Instead of taking the easy way out, pondering a solution that keeps a character true to JA's original can actually lead to more interesting scenes or plot developments than I might have thought of if I had complete freedom. So despite, or perhaps because of, the challenges inherent in creating the Darcy mysteries, I love writing them.
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