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Monday, 30 March 2015

Interview with The Darcy Madness author S J Nixon

Book cover: The Darcy Madness by S J Nixon
I thought it might be interesting to find out a bit more about what inspired the story 'The Darcy Madness' (you can see my review of it here), so I contacted the author, who has very kindly agreed to answer some of my questions.

This variation is extremely unusual, with the variation being that Mr Darcy is cursed, as are all Darcy men. Most of them are driven to madness by the curse and end up killing their wives and hence Darcy has decided never to marry and to let the curse die out with him. However, a faulty lock on the Netherfield Library door means that Darcy is forced to marry a woman he finds more than tolerable, though she is less than fond of him...

Here's the blurb (from Amazon):

Fitzwilliam Darcy is a man Cursed ...

Cursed to shoulder the burden of a dark insanity that has swallowed his ancestors whole...

Cursed to lose himself to a madness that will destroy everyone and everything he holds dear...

In this original retelling of Jane Austen's timeless classic Pride and Prejudice discover what happens when the Darcy family is afflicted with a dark, terrible secret that leads him to utter those fateful words ... 'Not handsome enough to tempt me,' and how an unforeseen twist causes his determination to avoid marriage at all costs to be unexpectedly thwarted by the compromise of a lady's reputation.

Can Darcy and Elizabeth resolve their differences to fall in love and live happily ever after, or will the Darcy Curse strike again...

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Thank you to author S. J. Nixon for joining me at Babblings of a Bookworm today! I'll get straight to the questions:

1) What was your introduction to Austen's work and which of her novels is your favourite?

I think the first Jane Austen novel I read was Pride and Prejudice when I was eight or nine years old. I remember loving Elizabeth's independent spirit and her bravery, and loving Darcy of course even though he was arrogant and a little bit of a prat to begin with. I also remember watching the 1995 BBC dramatized version when it was originally on the TV with Colin Firth in his wet shirt and being an instant lifelong fan! Alison Steadman's portrayal of Mrs Bennet is scarily similar to how my Grandma was in real life and I could immediately sympathise with the Bennet girls' embarrassment!

I've read the majority of Jane Austen's other books, but I must admit that I have to stick with my first love; Mr Darcy. Pride and Prejudice will forever and always be my favourite of her novels! In fact I'm something of a fanatic I must have read it hundreds of times and I don't think I'll ever get bored of it!

2) How did you discover fanfiction and what type of fanfiction do you read?

Book cover: Darcy's Story by Janet Aylmer
Funnily enough I first discovered fanfiction in the library at my highschool when I was about thirteen. There was a book by Jane Aylmer called Darcy's Story, which is Pride and Prejudice told from Darcy's perspective. I loved it, and have been hooked ever since, and I suppose the degree of its influence must show in the fanfic I write since its invariably told from Darcy's point of view.

I have no real preference as to what type of Fanfic I read to be honest. Modern/historical/variations I'll happily read them all, although I'm not a massive fan of the ones that require characters to act in a manner not as Jane Austen originally intended. I'm not entirely sure if that makes sense since I turned my Mr Darcy into a cursed being, but in my head at least it follows some form of convoluted logic. I also don't particularly like a whole load of angst, but I'm a bit of an emotionally repressed wuss at the best of times, so I suppose that counts as any upsetting part that lasts longer than three sentences!

And yes I'm aware of the hypocrisy in that, since there's a fair amount of angst in TDM, but at least in that I know that there's going to be a happy outcome!

3) What's your favourite fanfic read (published or unpublished)?

I'm not really sure that I have a favourite, my kindle is choc full of all kinds of books about Pride and Prejudice, but I suppose there are a number of them that I come back to again and again. Anything by Linda Wells is always a must read and I love Miscommunication* on A Happy Assembly and pretty much most of Jancat's* writing, although she does love a good angst session that makes me cringe and hide behind the sofa, but her writing is always so lyrical and beautiful that I just can't help myself! Also there's my beta JaneV* whose writing always makes me smile when I'm sad and I want to hug and squeeze her Darcys until his eyes pop!

I suppose the list is really kinda endless, I just love peering into other people's imaginations and seeing what fresh ideas and stories pop out!

*Please note that the links to A Happy Assembly and the Meryton Reading Room probably won't work unless you have an AHA login or know the Meryton Reading Room username/password.

 4) How long have you been writing fanfic and what made you start? Do you write other genres?

I've been writing stories in general since before my handwriting was legible, but fanfic started probably about five or six years ago. I'm not sure what made me start other than a deep obsession for Jane Austen and Mr Darcy and a brain that keeps thinking now what would happen if this happened ...

Unfortunately I've a low threshold for boredom so TDM is to date the only novel length fanfic that I've ever completed, but there are scores of half written stories sitting in the bottom drawers of my computer hard drive patiently waiting for me to remember them! Mostly they involve some form of supernatural occurrence because that's my favourite non-Austen genre. I've written a few other original stories but none of them have ever seen the light of day aside from a few of my friends who have to be nice to me because I know their secrets!!!

 5) The Darcy Madness is a very unusual story in that the variation to the story is pretty extreme; Darcy is cursed! What gave you the inspiration for the story?

I wrote the original prologue as an AHA playground piece for Halloween in 2012 for the Dark and Displeasing category. I'm not entirely certain where the inspiration for a cursed Darcy came from to be honest, but once he popped into my head he just sort of ran away with me! As for meeting the extreme edges of fanfic, anyone who knows me knows that I've something of a dark imagination and sense of humour - too much Monty Python and Blackadder as a child and a little too much fascination with Patricia Cornwell books for a girl in Primary school (I'm not certain that The Body Farm was meant to be read by a nine year old!).

Anyway, once the idea struck I really liked the idea of there being some other overriding reason - unrelated to arrogance and conceit - why Darcy would behave the way he did at the beginning of the story, and I love a tortured Darcy, so the story was born! I'm something of a guerrilla writer, so I just sort of set things in print as they come to me, which makes it somewhat surprising that everything comes together so well in the end despite the complications of the story! I must say though that it would never have been pieced together so seamlessly if it wasn't for the help of Jane my beta who had the sometimes onerous task of reminding me that chapters required writing and structure and I probably shouldn't slaughter my way through the entire population of Regency London!

 6) Did you do much research for the book (Regency, curses, anything really!)

I'm the sort of writer who researches things as they come to me, so at the beginning there wasn't a whole lot of involved research involved in the curse or the madness or anything really. If I have an idea for the plot as its unfolding then I delve into google and books and Shakespeare for inspiration or facts that need to be backed up. Thankfully my brain seems to retain in general essentially useless bits of information that sometimes tend to be quite helpful when writing a book! When I was younger I basically used to read anything that I could get my hands on - I once read a book about Medieval falconry and another about boat-building, which doesn't really help me in everyday life, but can be quite useful in fantasy land! So when something strikes me as being interesting from the dim recesses of my brain I look into it from several different angles - I'm something of a scientific bent so I have the tiresome habit of having several sources for each bit of information I gather - and decide whether it fits or not. And sometimes I just make things up to satisfy myself!

 7) Elizabeth's family are pretty unlikeable here, Mr Bennet and Mr Gardiner particularly. What made you decide to present them in this light?

I've always had a bit of an aversion to Mr Bennet, even when I first read P&P as a girl. I'm not entirely sure why I took such a dislike to him, probably because I could imagine how frustrated and irritated I would have been with such a lacklustre parent. His attitude to his family always annoyed me, and since TDM is about taking the characters to their extremes I decided to make the Bennets almost caricatures of themselves based on Jane Austen's originals. I wanted to highlight all of the things I found annoying about Mr Bennet's character almost as a balance to the extreme nature of the Darcys and their struggles. In essence Mr Bennet has led a charmed life - a gentleman with no real disadvantages in his life (aside from his choice of wife and inability to produce an heir)  and yet is indolent and uninterested in his family and home, in contrast to Darcy whose life, despite his wealth has been anything but ideal and yet he still manages to be a worthy, conscientious gentleman.

Mr Gardiner's transformation is less about my personal feelings for the character and more a necessary plot device, again to add contrast to the goodness of the cursed Mr Darcy. I needed his business to be such as it is in order to achieve scenes toward the beginning and end of the book - and eventually draw Elizabeth and Darcy closer together in the face of family conflict - plus I quite enjoyed writing a villainous Gardiner and the various interactions between him and Darcy.

 8) How has the book been received?

Overall I think the book has been received in a very positive light. Readers seem very open to the very strangeness of my variation and genuinely become attached to the characters I've portrayed. I had several threats to withhold chocolate and bribes if I killed off Darcy's favourite horse Biscuit when TDM was originally being posted! I've enjoyed discussing the various aspects of my character's and how they differ from canon or not as the case may be, and mostly everyone seems happy enough to suspend disbelief when something implausible occurs!

I have received some reviews that were more negative, some criticism that was constructive, which I gladly welcome, because how do we grow as people or authors but for reflecting on what other people think of us? However, I have had a few reviews that were less constructive and more unhelpfully critical, but everyone is welcome to their own opinion. I know some people don't like the supernatural genre as a whole or don't in particular like what I have done in TDM, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying writing and sharing them. I don't think I could stop even if I tried!

 9) Are you writing anything at the moment?

As usual I have several irons in the fire at once, some of which are merely short pieces to entertain myself, others might just turn into something. Currently I'm about 2/3rds of the way through what is sort of a sequel to TDM. Its a modern variation set in the same alternate universe, but with a completely different storyline to the original. Its mostly non-canon and just as dark and odd as TDM called Love and Other Madness, but I hope people enjoy it. I should start posting it on AHA in the next couple of months once I get the time to sit down and review the chapters again!

Author Bio:

S. J. Nixon is a Northern girl (and proud of it) currently working in the beautiful Lake District National Park as a part time mixed-practice Veterinary Surgeon. She lives with her long-term boyfriend and opinionated cat, Fidget (who tolerates people only when they feed her), and loves books to an obsessive degree and anything on four legs with hair, fur or wool. In her spare time she likes nothing more than enjoying the gorgeous scenery of the English Lakes or snuggling up in front of the fire with a good book.

Book links: Goodreads • Amazon UKAmazon.com

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I am so pleased to hear that there is a follow up to The Darcy Madness currently in the pipeline. Thank you so, so much to S. J. Nixon for spending the time answering my nosey questions. I hope you've enjoyed reading the answers as much as I have!

6 comments:

  1. Love the interview and your review Ceri! When I first looked at the title, I keep confusing it with The Madness of Mr. Darcy by Alexa Adams. Madness & Darcy can be a bit confusing!

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    1. Yes, they are very similar titles aren't they! I had to keep double checking that I wasn't putting the wrong one.

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  2. I missed this one somehow and I loved the 'curse' idea to freshen the plot. Always was a sucker for gothic stories.

    Nice interview, ladies!

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    1. Thanks Sophia! I found it via the suggestions on Amazon of things people had bought who had items on my wishlist or I'd have missed it too. I hope you enjoy it if you read it.

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  3. I am delighted that my book Darcy's Sorry inspired this author. The sequel has now been published - Dialogue with Darcy - and details of that and my other books can be found on my web site - www.janetaylmer.com

    Best wishes

    Janet

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    1. Thanks for commenting Janet! It's a wonderful compliment to your work that it introduced somebody to a genre! That book will always be special :)

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