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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Guest Blog by Heather Lynn Rigaud, author of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star

*What is Heather's writing process?

Before I ever start, I spend a lot of time thinking about my characters and my plot. I like to have a really strong sense of my characters motivations and personalities. I want to know what they're thinking, what their quirks are, and what they're longing for.

I'm a serious plotter. I like plan where my story's going to go and the major plot points as well as the tiny details that will be important 200 pages later. However, I'm often surprised when I actually start writing because my characters sometimes will produce something I wasn't expecting, but I do try to keep some control.

I will usually write a chapter a week. I'll then send that out for feedback from my beta-readers and do some edits. When the whole work is done, I'll then do several rounds of edits and re-writes as needed. (And then some more, and then more after that)

*Was it hard to stay true to Jane Austen while making Austen's characters her own?

Yes, and no. I can divide the characters into 3 categories. First, there were character that I tried to stay really true too, specifically Darcy and Elizabeth. It's their story and I find these characters so vibrant that I think their original selves shine through. Darcy is still proud and aloof, Elizabeth is still sparkling while still resenting Darcy. I have to also include the villains in this category: Wickham, Collins, and Lady Catherine. Austen knew her badies and they don't need any work, other than updating.

Second, there are characters that I tried to imagine what they would be like if they just had more 'screen time'. This would include Charles Bingley, Jane Bennet, and Anne DeBourgh, who I let express the anger I have to believe she's repressing. Jane and Charles are allowed to explore their motivations- What's going on in Charles's head when he separates from Jane, how he views his friendship with Darcy, etc.

Finally, there's the characters I take and change significantly. This would include Caroline Bingley and Richard Fitzwilliam. I don't feel bad about Richard because he's hardly in P&P (he doesn't even have a first name), so he was useful to develop for my own purposes and Caroline was an experiment: Caroline in the original is easy for Darcy to reject because he can see she's a hollow suck-up. But what if she wasn't a horrid, selfish sycophant? What if she was a nice person? She'd be a much bigger rival to Elizabeth for Darcy's attention. And wouldn't it say more about Darcy's love for Elizabeth if he had a real alternative?

Charlotte Lucas is her own special case, because I start with the very pragmatic, plain character from Pride & Prejudice, and I take it to a different conclusion. She's still Charlotte, but she goes to a really new place.

*Why does she think that these modernized classics or take offs seem to be a hot genre right now?

Because the classic stories have great bones. Under the period fluff, the characters and plots combine to make strong, exciting stories. Readers love and enjoy these characters so much they're excited to get to spend more time with them. And by updating the language, and some of the situations that don't make sense for modern times, we're opening up these classics to be enjoyed by more people.

I'm a good example: my first exposure to Jane Austen was the movie Bridget Jones's Diary, which is a fearless adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I loved it, so I read the book. The book talked about the Pride and Prejudice BBC series, so I got that and watched it. From there, it was a short hop to Jane Austen's book and then to all of Austen's novels.

The other point I'd like to make is these novels are not that out of date. Take Mansfield Park. It's about a seriously dysfunctional family: the mother is chronically ill and is non-functional most of the time. The oldest son is an alcoholic with gambling issues. The oldest daughter is a party girl who has an affair, and leaves her rich, dull husband. The mother's nurse falls in love with the second son, who's pining for the glamorous girl next door. Sounds pretty modern doesn't it? And that's what Austen wrote.

In Northanger Abbey the heroine, who's away from home for the first time, is obsessed with romantic horror novels. She draws the attention of two men: one's charming but has an emotionally abusive father, the other is a loud-mouthed braggart who's always swearing and talking about his car(riage). 

My point is Austen's basic plots are already pretty modern. It's not that far a stretch to take down the Regency wallpaper and put up some modern paint.

Melissa, thank you for the opportunity to visit your blog and get to know some of your readers. I hope to hear about what they think in the comments.


  1. Hey Melissa,

    These were good questions. I enjoyed them and I appreciate anything that isn't "So why Rock Stars?"

    Thanks again for having me today.

  2. She's right. I hadn't really thought about it, but Austen's basic plots are certainly as timely now as they were when she wrote them.


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