Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Author Mary Simonsen On Re-Imagining Jane Austen’s Work

As we continue to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication ofMary at Borders Book Signing Small SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen this month, author Mary Lydon Simonsen joins us to share her thoughts on the unique author and what her work has inspired.

Mary is the author of two Regency Austen re-imaginings, THE PERFECT BRIDE FOR MR. DARCY and A WIFE FOR MR. DARCY, and a Jane Austen historical romance, SEARCHING FOR PEMBERLEY. Her latest novel, MR. DARCY’S BITE (released October 4), adds a paranormal twist to the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth in this PRIDE AND PREJUDICE re-imagining.

Here’s a brief synopsis of MR. DARCY’S BITE: Mr. Darcy has a secret...
Darcy is acting rather oddly. After months of courting Elizabeth Bennet, no offer of marriage is forthcoming and Elizabeth is first impatient, then increasingly frightened. For there is no denying that the full moon seems to be affecting his behavior, and Elizabeth’s love is going to be tested in ways she never dreamed...
Darcy has more than family pride to protect: others of his kind are being hunted all over England and a member of Darcy’s pack is facing a crisis in Scotland. It will take all of Elizabeth’s faith, courage, and ingenuity to overcome her prejudice and join Darcy in a Regency world she never knew existed. 

Here’s Mary’s take on a question I asked.

Hi Mason. Thank you for having me on your blog. You have asked for me to write about why I think Jane Austen’s work has endured for 200 years and has spurred the various re-imaginings.

In PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, Jane Austen opened her novel with the following: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” It is simple and brilliant and sets the tone for the entire novel. From that one sentence, we know that we are going to be treated to a well-written story by an author who is in possession of, if not a good fortune, than most definitely an abundance of wit. 

Although Austen did not think of her masterpiece as a romance, more a study of a neighborhood of four and twenty families set on its ear by the introduction of two single men in possession of large fortunes, that is how it has turned out. Because Elizabeth Bennet is such a well-image001sculpted character, full of wit, humor, grace, and intelligence, we want her to marry well, especially since she has virtually no dowry. But when we first meet Fitzwilliam Darcy, a member of the landed gentry with connections to the monarchy, he is proud, aloof, and too full of himself. It is only when Lizzy refuses his offer of marriage that he looks inward. After finding himself wanting, he undergoes a change that will make him worthy of our heroine. A man who is capable of change? What woman doesn’t want that? He probably even asks for directions.

Like so many other PRIDE AND PREJUDICE enthusiasts, I find the possibilities for Darcy and Elizabeth to be endless. Unlike some authors, such as Charlotte Bronte, Austen leaves a lot of the details up to the reader. Physical descriptions of people and places are minimal, and as such, her stories are not anchored to any one time period. (Think of Emma and Clueless.) She is more interested in the personality traits of her characters and their interactions. 

In my novel, DARCY ON THE HUDSON, I have Darcy visiting American Elizabeth Bennet in New York while MR. DARCY’S ANGEL OF MERCY is set in post-World War I England. In MR. DARCY’S BITE, I go a step further. I have turned Mr. Darcy into a werewolf. But even with fur, fangs, and four feet, the essence of the gentleman from Pemberley is the same, and that is because I have remained faithful to the nature of Austen’s beloved characters.

I am not sure what Jane Austen would make of all these re-imaginings, but at the very least, she would have to be pleased that her novel stirs the imagination of generations of readers. Her work stands the test of time.

Mary, thanks for guest blogging today. I enjoyed your take on why Austen’s work has endured for so long and continues to be so popular. I’d have to agree that I think she would be pleased that her novel stirs the imagination of so many.

In Mary’s novels, the romance between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet is told with a light touch and a sense of humor and presented as a battle of wits between two equals. For more on Mary and her writing, check out her blog, Austen Inspired Fan Fiction by Mary Simonsen

Do you think Austen would be pleased her work has inspired so many different takes on Darcy?



  1. Mary, thanks again for guest blogging today. Wishing you much success with your writing and looking forward to seeing what happens to Darcy next.

  2. Mason - Thanks for hosting Mary.

    Mary - It's certainly true that Pride and Prejudice is a classic story right from the first sentence. And I think the key words are universal truth. Austen wrote about a lot of things with which we all can identify. No wonder the novels have endured.

  3. Hi Mason. Thank you for having me on your blog today.

    Margot, Austen really is timeless. So many 19th Century authors have fallen in favor with the reading public, but not Austen. She really is a rock star.

  4. Thanks for the look at Jane Austen and her work. I've never been a fan and I guess that means someone will hit me with rotten tomatoes or something. I like grittier novels like those of Lee Child, James Lee Burke and David Morrell, but I do enjoy hearing about other readers' favorites and why they like them.

  5. Most people believe Austen writes character-driven pieces, but I am a strong advocate for her ability to write theme-driven novels.
    Mary, as usual, I wish you the best. You are a special lady.

  6. "A Truth Universally Acknowledged" that phrase does sum up why Jane Austen has endeared her works to so many people from so many backgrounds. Good answer and enjoyed the posting.

  7. Hi Velda. Austen is not for everyone. Some people think her world is too small and definitely not gritty. But it would be a dull world if we all liked the same think.

    Hello again to Regina. You are very generous with your time. Thanks for stopping by.

    Sophia Rose. Good to see you here.

  8. I cant help but think Jane Austen would be pleased that her works are still so beloved and influential 200 years later. Its amazing to me that great authors like Mary can go in so many directions with a story like P&P and yet stay true to the core themes and characterizations that Austen created.

    And maybe she'd be surprised that so many are fascinated with her personal and family life, as well. I couldnt imagine people wanting to visit my home 200 years from now, or wanting to read letters written amongst my family members about everyday ordinary things, in order to get a glimpse into my personality, as so many do with Jane.

    I cant wait til I have free time enough to jump into Mr Darcys Bite. Hopefully this weekend. Werewolf Darcy - yum :)

  9. I think Jane would be flattered by all the Darcy books written today.

  10. I think Jane Austen would be pleased and probably more than a little surprised at how beloved she (and her characters) is in the literary world.

    I think she was a genius at reading people and sketching out characters with genuine wit.

    Great post, Mary!


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.