In 2008, I took the plunge in the publishing world when one of my AP students challenged me with “If you know how to do this, do it yourself.” Publishing was not on my radar. I was 37 years into a teaching career and counting down to 40. Even so, I grabbed the “golden apple” when it was dangled before me. My self published book rose quickly upon the Amazon sales list, and I was offered a publishing contract with Ulysses Press.
The one thing I forgot to mention in this process is the fact that I am more than a writer who kills, I am also an unrepentant thief. How so? Permit me to explain.
My writing career began with a retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s point of view. Since that time, I have written 50+ novels, about half of which are Austen related retellings, sequels, variations, and mysteries. In the dark hours of early evening, I regularly creep into the land of Austen and make away with our dearest Jane’s special treasures.
I was told by another writer recently on Twitter that I should STOP writing Austen-inspired stories—that the tropes are overused. In other words, I should ignore my Austen readers, those who I have carefully cultivated for some twelve years. I should abandon a source of income. As a retired school teacher, I am not rolling in money.
So, why does a customarily law abiding citizen “borrow” someone else’s brilliant body of work? If someone had asked me that question before I wrote Darcy’s Passions, I would have told him that I had no intention of making a career from publishing; therefore, if all I was to do was to dabble in writing a novel in order to answer the challenge of all-too-smart student, why not choose a plot I dearly loved.
I ignored many other works within the realm of public domain to choose Jane Austen because Miss Austen is the friend I always wished I possessed. Jane would understand me; she would cheer for my success. Austen provides her readers a familiar starting point. So, I did not only “borrow” a plot, I also encouraged a plethora of favorite characters to follow me into a “second” life. With plot and characters in my bag, why not slip in a bit of tone and syntax. Although I initially thought only to manipulate the plot, I found some of the less famous of Austen’s characters demanded an introduction to modern audiences.
But why Austen? In Ian Watt’s Rise of the Novel, the author says that Austen combines the internal and external approaches to character. Austen possesses authenticity without diffuseness or trickery. Austen creates a sense of social order, which is not achieved at the expense of individuality and autonomy of the characters. Personally, I believe Austen to be an expert in plot-driven fiction. More than simply telling a story, Austen builds vivid worlds that capture the truths of an imperfect humanity.
Austen serves as both my bane and my salvation. I would not have a writing career without her, but because I write stories with familiar characters, some experts and reviewers look upon my stories as “cheating.” What these so-called experts do not realize is how many hours of study I have completed on Austen’s works. When I create a story line around Austen’s most famous characters, Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, not only must I develop a believable story from my own imagination, but I must also maintain Austen’s “mastery” in the new plot.
In other words, I remain conscious of the canon and the past while I create new situations for familiar characters. I attempt to retain the specifics of the context and the historical setting, while highlighting and exploring current issues. I am in good company with well-known crime writer Phyllis Dorothy James (P.D. James), Baroness James of Holland Park, who released Death Comes to Pemberley in 2013, a year before her death.
My first mystery The Phantom of Pemberley came out in 2010. (It will be rereleased in February 2020) In it, I explore multiple personality disorders in history. The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy is a twisted tale of grave robbers and resurrectionists. It will rerelease on August 10, 2020. The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy is based on the legend of Sawney Bean, a 14th Century Scottish cannibal. It, like the others, has seen a rerelease because I have now received back the rights to my books, originally published by Ulysses Press. Another Pride and Prejudice mystery is The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin, which explores the effects of PTSD long before it was a recognized ailment. But more than a mystery, each of these books views our contemporary world through a narrow lens buried deep in the past. What I write is more than nostalgia. My novels analyze the social, cultural, and pedagogical conditions that reshape Austen’s story into mine. The past is, for all intents and purposes, always being reinvented.
The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Mystery
A THRILLING NOVEL OF MALICIOUS VILLAINS, DRAMATIC REVELATIONS, AND HEROIC GESTURES THAT STAYS TRUE TO AUSTEN’S STYLE
SHACKLED IN THE DUNGEON of a macabre castle with no recollection of her past, a young woman finds herself falling in love with her captor—the estate’s master. Trusting him before she regains her memory and unravels the castle’s wicked truths would be a catastrophe.
Far away at Pemberley, the Darcys happily gather to celebrate the marriage of Kitty Bennet. But a dark cloud sweeps through the festivities: Georgiana has disappeared without a trace. Upon receiving word of his sister’s likely demise, Darcy and his wife, Elizabeth, set off across the English countryside, seeking answers in the unfamiliar and menacing Scottish moors.
How can Darcy keep his sister safe from the most sinister threat she has ever faced when he doesn’t even know if she’s alive? True to Austen’s style and rife with malicious villains, dramatic revelations and heroic gestures, this suspense-packed mystery places Darcy and Elizabeth in the most harrowing situation they have ever faced— finding Georgiana before it’s too late.
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The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Mystery [mystery, suspense, historical fiction, Regency, thriller] [February 18, 2013] – rereleased August 11, 2020
A THRILLING STORY OF MURDER AND BETRAYAL FILLED WITH THE SCANDAL, WIT AND INTRIGUE CHARACTERISTIC OF AUSTEN’S CLASSIC NOVELS
Fitzwilliam Darcy is devastated. The joy of his recent wedding has been cut short by the news of the sudden death of his father’s beloved cousin, Samuel Darcy. Elizabeth and Darcy travel to Dorset, a popular Regency resort area, to pay their respects to the well-traveled and eccentric Samuel. But this is no summer holiday. Danger bubbles beneath Dorset’s peaceful surface as strange and foreboding events begin to occur. Several of Samuel’s ancient treasures go missing, and then his body itself disappears. As Darcy and Elizabeth investigate this mystery and unravel its tangled ties to the haunting legends of Dark Dorset, the legendary couple’s love is put to the test when sinister forces strike close to home. Some secrets should remain secrets, but Darcy will do all he can to find answers—even if it means meeting his own end in the damp depths of a newly dug grave.
With malicious villains, dramatic revelations and heroic gestures, The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy will keep Austen fans and mystery readers turning the pages right up until its dramatic conclusion.
The Phantom of Pemberley: A Pride and Prejudice Murder Mystery
HAPPILY MARRIED for over a year and more in love than ever, Darcy and Elizabeth can’t imagine anything interrupting their bliss-filled days. Then an intense snowstorm strands a group of travelers at Pemberley, and terrifying accidents and mysterious deaths begin to plague the manor. Everyone seems convinced that it is the work of a phantom—a Shadow Man who is haunting the Darcy family’s grand estate.
Darcy and Elizabeth believe the truth is much more menacing and that someone is attempting to murder them. But Pemberley is filled with family guests as well as the unexpected travelers—any one of whom could be the culprit—so unraveling the mystery of the murderer’s identity forces the newlyweds to trust each other’s strengths and work together.
Written in the style of the era and including Austen’s romantic playfulness and sardonic humor, this suspense-packed sequel to Pride and Prejudice recasts Darcy and Elizabeth as a husband-and-wife detective team who must solve the mystery at Pemberley and catch the murderer—before it’s too late.