Monday, November 29, 2010

Interview with Rebecca Ann Collins

 In her latest and final chapter of the Pemberley Chronicles,  author Rebecca Ann Collins, brings you once last time to the world of the Darcys and Bingleys as she weaves together a spell of innocence and betrayal.
She was also kind enough to grant me an interview.

Plot: The Darcys along with the Bingleys, have gone to the southern areas of Europe for the winter, leaving Pemberley estate to their children and Mr. Darcy's younger sister Georgina.  Newly widowed, Georgina is at her wits end dealing with a full grown daughter who seems to have no patience for the rules.  Meanwhile, two new comers to the area Mr. Faulkner and Mr. Fraser have endeared themselves to the locals, at the same time a wealthy land developer is trying to buy up the estates.  Can Pemberley's guests get through the year without the guidance of Mr. Darcy or will this mean the end for it's legacy?

My favourite character was Daniel Faulkner, he's a large departure from the usual gentleman you would find in this type of novel, what inspired you to add him?

RAC: Thanks very much for inviting me to contribute to your blog.  I am glad that you liked Daniel Faulkner; he is one of those characters I grew to love as he developed through the story. I live in Australia, so it wasn’t difficult to place Daniel Faulkner here.

It was quite a natural development to add a couple of “gentlemen” from the colonies into the cast of the Pemberley Chronicles. This was a period (it was the mid-19th century) in which many people were going out to America  and Australia, India and Ceylon, as settlers, investors and adventurers. Unlike the earlier convicts, these people went willingly looking for a new life, fame and fortune. Some never returned, others came home and brought with them a completely new outlook.  I used Daniel Faulkner and Adam Fraser to add something new and interesting- in character and outlook- to the story. They are quite different in character and help to illustrate the contrast between the two young women too.

Two of the "young ladies" are at the age of thirty, were you expressing the fact that youth has no bearing on love, or was it more a case of showing the contrast of maturity between the two girls?

RAC: I believe there is a bit of both . In other volumes of the series (A Woman of Influence or Recollections of Rosings), I’ve used older women as central characters and the feedback from readers has been terrific. Many women in that age group, who are aware that age is no barrier to love, have felt marginalized by the cult of youth that dominates the modern romance genre. They were thrilled to see older women  given a chance to find love and express their feelings in the Pemberley novels. It’s a recognition of reality.

In the case of Rachel Fitzwilliam and Virginia Grantley, I was also trying to demonstrate the contrast between the two women.

There seemed at first to be a teasing towards Daniel Faulkner and Caroline Fitzwilliam being a couple (having him remember meeting her twice when he was a teenager, and joining her during the cricket game) did you originally intend for these two to become something other then what they did?

RAC: Not at all, I always intended Daniel for Rachel, who is one of my favourite minor characters. But, I also needed to work it out in a credible way. Rachel is not as outgoing as her mother; she is rather shy and needs some encouragement. It would not have been very credible in that era, to have her meeting and falling in love with a complete outsider—a man who appears from Australia after twenty years.  Using the link with Caroline, who is a very socially adept woman, eases the situation. Also Daniel is somewhat older than Rachel and is quite at ease socially with Caroline, so it made sense.

Georgiana, after what had happened to her in the original works, did you feel her innocence was what made her character as endearing as it was?  As when the information was given to her about Adam Fraser, she acted with a sense of disbelief, when one would think she of all characters would have been more careful. Even with the explanation that you've given her for her latest actions in regards to Fraser, it came across to me like Georgiana was set to just prove everyone wrong. Was your intent to show a "like mother like daughter" innocence when it comes to men like Fraser (and Wickham)?

RAC:  To answer the first part of your question, yes, Georgiana’s innocence when we meet her at age sixteen in Pride and Prejudice is an endearing quality and that is continued in our first volume, The Pemberley Chronicles. Her complete dependence upon the approval and judgment of her brother, then Elizabeth and later her husband, Francis Grantley, contributes to a continuation of that impression.

As to the rest of your question, no, I did not want a “like mother like daughter” comparison at all. While Georgiana is genuinely naive and innocent and that does get in the way of her judgment of Adam Fraser, Virginia is self-indulgent and stubborn.

The novel carries within it a sense of bitterness at times by Elizabeth (Bennett). Did you feel that in the original works, her stubborn streak was downplayed? Or just that as she would have aged, she would have kept a stricter view of what society should have evolved into? 

RAC: I don’t think Elizabeth’s attitude can be called “bitter;” she has nothing to be bitter about. She has lived a long and happy life with a loving husband and family. But she has known sorrow too and that has affected her character, the loss of a child in a stupid accident is likely to cause the same kind of reaction in any normal person.

Apart from that however, Elizabeth is in her seventies in the final volume and it is quite natural that her attitudes would be “stricter” and more critical of those who fall below her standards.

For you was there a particular reason you made such a contrast between the careers of Daniel Faulkner and Thomas O'Conner?  You made both men very likable/similar in attitudes and yet, gave them careers that would at once put someone in the mind of polar opposites. 

RAC: Well, isn’t that just how life is? In the same community you can meet two people who are polar opposites in their interests, but share the same values. I have two brothers –in-law. One is an intellectual and the other a mad keen sportsman, yet they are both thoroughly likeable, decent men.

As to the careers of Daniel and Thomas: there were not many careers for gentlemen if they didn’t go into the church, the military or Parliament. Daniel returns from Australia and it is revealed that he is an ordained clergyman, while Thomas wants to be a writer. Both these careers were popular with educated young men at the time. I also wanted Tom to be somewhat different—with that touch of magic intensity that the Irish brought to ordinary life—for young Laura Ann.  Making him a promising young writer gave him that quality.

I noticed in your author's notes that you teased a bit on the idea of very minor characters and their future. As someone coming into your characters at the very end of their run, I found The Legacy of Pemberley to stand very easily on its own. Was your hope to not just wrap up your series but to maybe plant some seeds for a new direction? 

RAC: My farewell note was quite genuine; I really felt sad at letting my characters (and those I had borrowed from Jane Austen) go, after more than a decade in which they had become part of my life. I was just saying what I felt—that it was difficult to part from them and not wonder what might happen to some of them, like young Anthony Darcy, the next Master of Pemberley, whose lives had not yet run their course.

I have no plans to return to Pemberley, at this stage, but one can dream, I suppose. 

I do hope you have enjoyed the answers to your interesting questions. Thank you for having me on your blog!

You can find out more about Rebecca Ann Collins and her complete series of Pride and Prejudice stories at her official website

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