Interview with Monica Fairview, Author of The Other Mr. Darcy
By Miguelina Perez
Ms. Fairview started her writing career as a professor of literature. She took great pleasure in teaching students the love of reading. But after years of postponing her creative calling, she finally realized one day that she could not ignore that calling any longer. Today she enjoys writing books about many of Jane Austen’s much-loved characters and novels set in the Regency period.
After moving around extensively, she followed her true love across the Atlantic Ocean to settle down in Surrey, South of London, UK. She and her romantic husband have a lovely and super-active daughter. They are currently pet-less, but they have had a past-full of opinionated cats.
According to Ms. Fairview one of the advantages of living in England is that she can visit many fascinating properties managed by the National Trust, including famous Austen film locations.
Thank you for being here.
You are welcome. It is wonderful to be here at Pandora’s Box Gazette. Many thanks for the invite.
The pleasure is all mine. I know you are very busy, so I appreciate the time you are taking away from your schedule to answer some questions. Tell us about Monica Fairview the woman and the writer.
This could be treacherous waters – I could write a whole book about it! To be very brief: my claim to fame is that I started university when I was fifteen and got a Ph.D. in comparative literature when I was 24. Between then and now, I wrote mainly academic papers, though I did write some poetry and started several novels. I finally got around to focusing on writing novels seriously around six years ago, and I haven’t stopped since then.
That is amazing. Besides Jane Austen, can you name another author you favor? Why?
I have lots of favorite authors. They have changed over the years, of course. As far as the Regency Period is concerned, Georgette Heyer is my favorite. I love the world she created, the Regency slang she uses, and the humor. I also love her strong and unforgettable woman characters.
I agree. What is it about Austen’s novels that compel you to write the story either by introducing new characters or providing your audience a different perspective from another character’s point of view?
Pride and Prejudice is very cleverly skewed to give us Elizabeth Bennet’s point of view, even though it seems like there is an omniscient narrator. Consciously or unconsciously, people want to see the novel from other perspectives, which is one of the reasons Austen sequels are so popular.
My impulse to write an Austen sequel was born from a sense of injustice. I thought it was very unfair for a villain like Wickham to get away with running off with a 15-year-old, while Caroline Bingley is presented as the real villain of P&P. So many people really dislike Caroline, but why? Yes, she is a bit catty, but her real sin is that she wanted Darcy to herself. Who can blame her? I thought was fascinating that Darcy was even associating with her. After all, she has a background of trade. So, I wanted to give her perspective, as a kind of balance.
We know that the Regency period had a lot of exciting developments, such as the manners of its society, class structure, industrial developments, etc. What is it about that period that appeals to you as a woman? And as a writer?
Well, the class structure was firmly in place – it was possibly the last hurrah for the aristocracy before the rise of the Middle Class. The shadow of the Guillotine hung over that generation, with fortunes and lives destroyed by the French Revolution. The English aristocracy was determined to make the best of it while they had the chance, which accounts for some of the excesses of the time. There was a sense of reckless freedom. Queen Victoria came in and clamped down on that very firmly.
The sense of reckless freedom translated into the much freer Regency fashions for women. Heavy wigs were disposed of, and many women cut their hair short. All the heavy brocades and layers of previous generations were tossed out of the window. Instead, you suddenly had young ladies dressed in thin gauze-like layers with only a couple of light layers underneath. What freedom!
What role has Jane played in your writing?
Obviously she has inspired two of my novels. She was an amazing writer who was able, with the minimum of fuss, to create characters that speak to us even now, two hundred years later. She had to be genius, because she single-handedly created the romance as we know it, yet at the same time her writing was complex enough to be taught as literature.
From all of the books you have written, which one do you consider your masterpiece? Why?
(Laughs) I don’t think I can talk about masterpieces at this point. I’m still developing my craft as a writer. So far, every time I write something, I like it more than anything I’ve written before. As far as popularity goes, “The Other Mr. Darcy” has been my most popular novel.
I am looking forward to reading The Other Mr. Darcy. Can you tell us a little about it without giving away any spoilers?
Miss Bingley is heartbroken about losing Mr. Darcy, and she has a meltdown at a very inappropriate moment (at Mr. Darcy’s wedding). Unfortunately, someone witnesses the meltdown – a Mr. Robert Darcy, an American cousin. She resents him because she’s afraid he’ll reveal her secret to society – but circumstances bring them together, so she has no choice but to deal with him. The rest is a clash of cultures and personalities…
As a writer do you feel you have come full circle, i.e., are you achieving your passion?
I love writing – it’s a drive and need on many levels. I wouldn’t want to give it up. But I also feel I’m only just beginning. There is so much more still to explore. I’m writing different things, and I’m excited about all my new projects.
Is there a character from one of your books that you molded after yourself?
Not really, but perhaps that’s because I’m writing Regency. There are bits of me in all the characters.
Any advice to new authors?
Three things: 1) revise, revise, and revise some more. 2) join a critique group and develop the ability to take criticism. Not all criticism is valid, but you have to be able to listen to it with an open ear if you want to improve your writing to the point that it’s publishable. 3) remember that different people have different tastes in reading – including editors and agents. It’s not personal if they don’t like your work. Just keep trying (but only after you’ve done number 2)).
What are your thoughts on publishing the traditional way versus e-publishing?
Initially, many Jane Austen sequels were self-published because the publishing industry didn’t recognize the large market for sequels until Sourcebooks started to do it. There are many brilliant novelists that have tried for years to get published but haven’t had a chance because they don’t fit in a specific genre acceptable to traditional publishers. For them, e-publishing is a great opportunity. It’s a way of by-passing all the traditional methods, particularly in a largely cautious industry that doesn’t have room for writing that doesn’t fit a genre. In some senses, the publishing industry is caught in a loop. Publishers only want to publish “what sells.” Yet how do we know what sells if we only publish the same things, over and over?
I’m definitely a strong advocate of e-publishing because it gives the author more control over her/his work.
But e-publishing can also become a way of by-passing some of the necessary stages needed for an author to develop. Let’s face it, very few people write first novels that people would want to read. Often the so-called first novels that make it into print traditionally are novels that have been written and rewritten for years. No one would assume that you can become a mechanic by taking up a spanner and opening the boot of a car. Yet you’d be surprised how many people assume that anyone can write a novel, that writing is easy. It takes a lot of trial and error to learn your craft, and there’s no substitute for rejection (or critique) to force you to go back to the drawing board to rethink what you’re doing and make it better. Even the most talented writers need to hone their skills. The danger of e-publishing is that the market will be flooded with novels that just aren’t ready yet. This will turn off readers eventually. There has to be a way of working out if a novel is ready to be published or not. I suspect there will be more and more editing services out there that will cater for people who are serious about getting a novel out.
It’s a new and wonderful world out there, but as with anything, there are pros and cons.
Thank you so much for being here. I have enjoyed talking to you and look forward to reading The Other Mr. Darcy.
MF: My pleasure!
About Our Columnist
Ms. Miguelina Perez is a writer, and jewelry artist. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of the District of Columbia. As a jewelry artist one of her lariats was showcased in the San Antonio Express-News. She has won several awards including a critical Writing award for an essay on the gender roles of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.
It was during her high school years at the school’s library that she first encountered her first romance mystery writer – Ms. Victoria Holt and then Ms. Phyllis J. Whitney. Her love of romance novels stems from those discoveries, especially the Romance mystery genre.
Several of her poems have been published in anthologies, and she was named “Poet of Year in 1995”. She finished her first book, The Vicar’s Deadly Sin – a Regency romance mystery, the first of a seven-part serial based on the Seven Deadly Sins.
Currently, she is editing the sequel to the Vicar’s Deadly Sin, “Angel’s Lust.” Her next project is a contemporary romance thriller called “A Hero of Her Own.”
You can read Miguelina’s column on the 3rd Saturday each month here at Pandora’s Box Gazette.