During March, we at AustenAuthors.net will be looking at Jane Austen’s influence on contemporary romance, as well as to look back at those who have written contemporary romances based on Austen’s tales. One of the key issues in the publishing business is that the author of a romance must have a strong, sympathetic believable character as the heroine. Elizabeth Bennet is the model for the romantic heroine. What we admire in Elizabeth is what we admire in most romance novels. She is a keen observer of human nature and society’s peculiarities, but she is also quite willing to own up to her own failings. All Elizabeth’s quirks and flaws add up to a heroine to which readers of any century can relate. Elizabeth’s quest to learn how to open herself up to romance when it comes along is the pattern we see repeated again and again in modern romances.
Austen is a thematic master. Of course, there is the biting humor and delving insights, but it is her development of theme that prevails. I call her thematic technique a “broccoli” because Austen expertly develops the plot by using strong story lines that branch out like a head of a broccoli. She builds gradation upon gradation of a single idea, which encases a central truism. There is a repetitive pattern that sucks the reader into the theme. One finds timbre and connections. Theme explains why Austen’s pieces work so well. There is a permanence of purpose.
Recently, I have pulled out my modern Pride and Prejudice novel and have given it a good once over. Honor and Hope is leaner; I removed some 20 pages from the original. I also revisited some of the scenes to make them read smoother. Honor and Hope is not a book I have ever publicly promoted because I knew it needed another look before I did anything with it. This book came about as a transition piece between Darcy’s Passions and its sequel Darcy’s Temptation (originally entitled Darcy’s Dreams). I had hit a wall with the sequel, not a “wall” of ideas, but a “wall” about the direction the piece would take. I had a vision for Darcy’s Temptation, but I questioned whether I had “forced” the story line. There was nothing to do but to abandon the book for a time. Therefore, I took up the writing of Honor and Hope.
First, I needed a setting upon which to base the book. For my birthday several friends had taken me to visit a North Carolina winery. I thought it would be the perfect setting for a story line. Next came the main characters. An Alpha male hero with an obsession for one particular woman and a strong, independent heroine developed. I started Honor and Hope, but I quickly realized I had broken the cardinal rule for romance novels–I brought the lovers together too quickly. As a former theatre teacher, I had related the old adage of boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl as the romantic story line. So, I rewrote a major portion of the book, but it didn’t work for this couple. They desired each other completely and would risk anything to be together; I didn’t envision them as being the type to wait–to play the “teasing” games often found in contemporary romance.
A third time I reworked the piece. Originally, Will and Liz met by accident and quickly fell into a physically dependent relationship. Now, the task became creating a “history” for them. I changed the current physical relationship to one begun in college with an extended separation and then an accidental meeting where they discovered each other once more. Of course, I tossed in several “challenges” before they can know happiness.
Mountain State University is based on Western Carolina University. My son attended school there, and it has a beautiful campus. My son is a distance runner, and I love the pro football season. They were natural backdrops for Will and Liz’s relationship. I live in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area, giving me a basic knowledge of places involved in the story line. I’m originally from West Virginia; we often joke that it is part of our cultural heritage to vacation at Myrtle Beach. From Charlotte, the trip is less than three hours to Myrtle. Therefore, I added Myrtle Beach to the story line. I love the Resort at Glade Springs outside of Beckley, West Virginia; it became an integral part of the scenes of the book–a perfect romantic destination. Visits to England and to Tuscany complement the action; they are two of my “dream” itineraries.
Before I go further, I must extend my apologies to Jane Austen. I love her works more than any other literature. Miss Austen creates drama out of morality–her works are perfect. She knows how to describe a man because she doesn’t exploit her feminine daydreams. This book is loosely–VERY loosely–based on Pride and Prejudice. My second “apology” goes to the Jane Austen Society in Bath, England. I do know they celebrate their annual convention in September. However, for this book’s purposes, I moved it to the last part of February or early March. I also included my own convoluted “name game” to advance my story line.
This book is contemporary romantica–a couple hopelessly in love–and also sexually attracted to each other–a sexy romance focused on the relationship between Will and Liz. I write scenes–connected scenes–such as one finds in a play or a movie. My theatre background makes me prefer telling the story through dialogue rather than description. The “scenes” play in my head; I see the hero and heroine acting out the events. My dialogue is used to create the connection between the characters–the intimate relationship between a man and a woman.
Will and Liz must resolve their own character flaws and their “secrets” before making a permanent commitment. The plot isn’t simply their love affair. The events are obvious in some places and surprising in others. I use backward plotting in designing the story’s frame–starting with scenarios I wanted to create–and then figuring out what I needed in place beforehand to make the scenarios believable. The plot says “happily ever after” has a price to pay.
Within weeks, Honor and Hope will reappear from a different publisher and will be available on Kindle. Right now, it sports a cover drawn by one of my students for the book. I am excited to have the book finally out there for readers who keep asking more about it.
ABOUT THE BOOK: Liz Bennet’s flirtatious nature acerbates Will Darcy’s controlling tendencies, sending him into despair when she fiercely demands her independence from him. How could she repeatedly turn him down? Darcy has it all – good looks, a pro football career, intelligence, and wealth. Pulled together by a passionate desire, which neither time nor distance can quench, Will and Liz are destined to love each other and to misunderstand each other until Fate deals them a blow from which they cannot escape. Set against the backdrop of professional sports and the North Carolina wine country, Honor and Hope offers a modern romance loosely based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
To read an excerpt from Honor and Hope, visit my website, www.rjeffers.com