A huge welcome to Jean Burnett, a writing friend who has just hit the big-time with her Jane Austen comic spin-off Who Needs Mr Darcy?, already showcased at this year’s Jane Austen Festival in Bath. And with Jean’s unerring sense of occasion (and fun!) she has even come dressed for the part. I’m going to pretend I am similarly attired, or maybe even wearing Lydia’s amazing lilac ball-dress. Afterall, that’s what the virtual book tour is all about. So excuse my while I shake my ruffled neckline and throw a few questions at Jean.
What inspired you to write Who Needs Mr. Darcy?
I was inspired to write the book when I heard a literary agent say that there was no female version of the picaresque novel e.g. the Flashman novels by George MacDonald Fraser or the Sharpe novels about men having a series of adventures all over the world, because women’s lives were so circumscribed in the past. As a result, I started looking at literary heroines to see if I could give one of them an additional ‘life.’ I came up with Lydia Bennet from Pride and Prejudice because she was only sixteen. Her runaway marriage seemed doomed to failure. She would then be free for other adventures. The other sisters did not fit the bill in the same way.
Great idea, Jean, and one that addressed a gap in the market – brilliant! Did you have a particular audience in mind?
I wrote it for the ‘Janeites’ – the hordes of JA fans out there.
What’s your own feeling about Lydia – mad, bad or just misguided?
I don’t see Lydia as bad – just immature and flawed, initially. She matures with time but always has an eye to the main chance –very human!
I agree. I’m sure she has many modern equivalents – and not just in fiction! How did you structure the novel?
The central theme is Lydia’s desire to fulfill three ambitions -1. To dance at Almack’s. 2. To marry a rich man. 3. To meet Lord Byron.
And we’re going to have to read it to find out which of these Lydia achieves – very cunning. Having heard most of the novel in our writing group, I loved the incredible knowledge of the period that you show and also the distinctive style.
I have tried to write in a 19th century style. Modern idioms sound wrong for this kind of novel.
Who would you say were your main writing influences?
The Bronte sisters were an early influence, but there have been so many I couldn’t pick just one. I read a lot of historical fiction and crime!
Why do you think Jane Austen has proved evergreen?
It’s hard to know why JA is still so popular. I think she strikes a chord in most women. Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy has also helped!
Yes, I am with you on that one – no one else has come close, although I love your own portrayal of D’Arcy as hilariously dull!
So what next, will there be further adventures of Lydia? Did I hear rumours of South America?
I see this as the first in a series eventually taking Lydia into retirement somewhere on the continent where she can finish writing her exciting memoirs. Apart from that, my lips are sealed!
Thanks so much to Jean for taking time out of her hectic schedule to drop by.
She is also offering a free paperback copy of Who Needs Mr Darcy? Just leave a comment saying what you like best about this excerpt from the book to be entered in the draw. Entries will close at midnight Sunday Oct 7th UK time. Winner TBA on Monday.
Meanwhile Who Needs Mr Darcy? is available in all good bookshops and on Amazon.
Visit Jean at www.jeanburnett.co.uk