SUNDAY, JUNE 26, 2011
Interview with Regina Jeffers!
Today brings us both our last interview and (later today) our last giveaways of this year’s Jane in June, and they both come from the lovely Regina Jeffers (who already came out to play with us in the Austen Authors interviews). Hope you enjoy!
Why Jane? What drew you to Jane initially, and what compelled you to try your hand at her stories?
My mother introduced me to Pride and Prejudice when I was twelve. I, instantly, fell madly in love with Mr. Darcy, not because he was a dashing hero, but because he accepted a woman whose figure was “light and pleasing” and who possessed an “easy playfulness.” At twelve, I was head and shoulders taller than everyone in my family, and although “tolerable,” I “had hardly a good feature” in my face. If Elizabeth Bennet could find such a suitable match, my Cinderella syndrome declared hope for me also.
As a teacher, I regularly chose to discuss both Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. I love those two Austen works best, and my enthusiasm never failed to infect my students. (I fear that I was not so successful with Dickens’ Great Expectations, however. LOL!!!) With one class, the call came from my students for me to write my own version of Austen’s timeless classic. So, I retold Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s point of view. I self published the work and thought no more of it, but the piece rose to #8 on the Amazon sales list, and Ulysses Press contacted me regarding the publication of Darcy’s Passions. The rest is history.
What are some of the difficulties in writing a story using established (and beloved) material? And is anything sacred, or is it all fair game?
Henry Austen’s posthumous publication of his sister’s biography gave rise to the Jane Austen myth. As such, many have developed their own opinions of what is acceptable and unacceptable in creating sequels and adaptations of Austen’s classics. The Jane Austen phenomenon is everywhere: dolls, guidebooks, puzzles, stationery, mugs, music, movies, books, the Internet, fan clubs, etc. Her novels serve as a model for updating other classics. Austen’s unforgettable characters, her strong irony, and her rigorous social critique are present in today’s literature.
Needless to say, some hard core Janeites believe that the modern adaptations have resulted in the loss of Austen’s complex social and political commentary, but I counter that they speak to similar issues in current day society. After all, objectivity, duty, and self-knowledge are universal issues. The modern adaptations tend to focus on the themes of marriage, the generation gap, and social pressure. These, too, are universal.
Although I accept that Darcy and Elizabeth or Anne and Wentworth would enjoy conjugal relations, I do not need to know every detail of their joining. I prefer to quietly close the door and to use my imagination. That is a personal preference for my Austen pieces. I have written contemporary romance and Regency pieces which are more specific. Of course, I have been criticized, as have been most modern Austen writers, for acknowledging even what I do include. There is no way to please everyone.
Who is your favorite Austen villain?
Upon their first meeting, John Willoughby, literally, sweeps Marianne Dashwood off her feet. He is, according to Marianne, “what a young man ought to be.” Luckily, Austen does not allow Willoughby to seduce Marianne – although one could assume that the younger Dashwood sister would have easily succumbed to the man’s charms. Willoughby’s actions are caste-determined, and that makes him so pitiful. His “deathbed” confession to Elionor reveals him to be selfish, weak, and spoiled. However, it is his seduction and abandonment of Colonel Brandon’s ward, which relegates him to the class of rake. Multiple opportunities exist for him to become a better man, but he resists each.
What is your favorite scene is all of Austen?
Captain Wentworth’s love letter still takes my breath away. One time in my Advanced Placement English Composition class, we were reading Persuasion. When I read Wentworth’s letter aloud, there was a collective sigh of “Ahhh” from every female in the room. I totally understood. I feel it every time.
What is your “truth universally acknowledged”?
“Beware the prayer the Devil answers.” One hears that phrase often in the South. My mother shared it on numerous occasions.
Jane, Twitter Style: If you could tweet 1 message to Jane (140 characters or less) what would you say?
Ben Franklin said: “Write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
If you could completely rework any Austen character, who would it be and what would you make of them?
I openly admit that I prefer Emma Thompson’s screenplay version of Colonel Brandon to the one in Austen’s novel. Quite frankly, the Austen colonel is a prig, and the social tension between Brandon and Marianne is too weak to engender true romantic interest between the two.
The moral contrast between Brandon and Willoughby is greatly lacking in the novel. Thompson gives Brandon many of Willoughby’s finer qualities, including the man’s love of music; therefore, creating an “emotional hero.” I would have to give Colonel Brandon more depth than did Jane Austen.
What’s your favorite scene you’ve ever written?
From my Austen adaptations, there is a tie. The scene when Darcy corners James Withey in The Phantom of Pemberley plays well, as does the fight scene in the Northumberland cemetery in Vampire Darcy’s Desire. I am not certain what it says of me that I have chosen two fight scenes – probably all those years of Tae Kwon Do.
To counter what may be perceived as a “tendency” for violence, in my non-Austen pieces, I prefer the scenes where Carter manipulates Gillian on the reality TV show entitled “Second Chances,” from the novel by the same name.
Which character would you most want to shake?
Anne Elliot’s indecision drives me quite mad. Even when Wentworth returns and is making an “a**” of himself by flirting with Louisa and Henrietta, I always wish for Anne to do something more than to sit with downcast eyes. It is bad enough that she refuses him in ‘06, but what would she suffer by confronting Wentworth upon his return? Her future looms grim as it is. I realize that my attitude is one entrenched in my 60s and 70s upbringing rather than Miss Anne’s reality; yet, it is most frustrating.
To which character would you least like to be related?
I am torn between Elizabeth Elliot and Caroline Bingley, but I would probably choose Miss Bingley. I despise those who place themselves above others, especially when they have no call to consider themselves as such. Miss Bingley acts from jealousy and from desperation; yet, I hold no sympathy for her. Even at Pemberley, when it is obvious to all that Darcy prefers Elizabeth, Miss Bingley’s lack of breeding leads her to berate Elizabeth Bennet. She needs to learn to “know when to hold them and know when to fold them.”
Would you rather be stranded on an island with Lady Catherine or Mr. Collins?
Lady Catherine’s tenacious spirit, her resiliency, and her intelligence would prove an asset. She would, of course, expect me to do all the work, and we would have a “heated exchange” regarding her attitude, but Her Ladyship and I would survive. We are both of the nature to lead, follow, or get out of my way. Lady Catherine has assumed Sir Lewis’s role at Rosings. She is capable of handling tough decisions.
As “Mr. Collins was not a sensible man, and the deficiency of nature had been but little assisted by education or society,” we could not co-exist on the island. His pompous self-conceit would drive me crazy. Literally, crazy. I could not be held responsible for my actions. (Oops! That reeks of more violence. Perhaps, I should seek a therapist.)
What is next for you?
I have a short story entitled “The Pemberley Ball” in the new anthology The Road to Pemberley. [Note from Misty: I will be reviewing this!} Fellow Austen Author, Marsha Altman, served as the editor for this July 2011 Ulysses Press release.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Regina!
Janeites, make sure to stop by later today for 2 giveaways from Regina!