My love affair with Pride & Prejudice
I’m sure I'd heard of the novel before this, but the first time I remember hearing of Pride & Prejudice was in the movie You've Got Mail. Kathleen Kelly is telling Joe Fox that Elizabeth Bennet is the heroine of Pride & Prejudice and that he, being an evil corporate bookstore owner, could never really appreciate her.
I should say that I am not a reader of the classics. I never have been. Like Kathleen Kelly, I get lost in the language. This was especially true at the time that You've Got Mail came out—the year was 1998, and I was thirteen years old. It wouldn’t be until Bridget Jones’s Diary hit theaters three years later that I would give Pride & Prejudice more than fleeting consideration. Because, as I discovered, Bridget Jones was a modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice.
I loved Bridget Jones at the time—the not-perfect heroine for the ages. I also liked the idea of Mark Darcy loving Bridget from affar but having completely messed up in the whole “wooing her” department. And when I learned that Colin Firth, who played Mark Darcy, also played Mr. Darcy and was, indeed, the inspiration for the Mark Darcy character—Firth, not just Mr. Darcy—I became intrigued.
So I bought and read Pride & Prejudice for the first time. I also talked my mother into buying the DVD of the BBC production—this was back when DVDs were more expensive than they are now, and I was still a cash-strapped teen. Fortunately, it didn’t take much to twist her arm—she has always been more into period pieces than I.
Needless to say, something stuck.
I can’t tell you how many times I watched the BBC adaptation, nor how many times I read the book. When I discovered the world of Pride & Prejudice variations, a part of me really wanted to get in on the action. But historicals have never been my strong suit, and part of the fun of the original was all the tension that built up to the climax. I’ve always been an erotic romance author, even when I was writing Buffy fanfic. I liked the idea of Darcy and Elizabeth together physically, but what drew me to the relationship was never the thought of them having sex—it was the way these two people clashed and didn’t stop clashing, and the passionate way they came together without sexy scenes. And how despite everything, they came to love each other. Hell, the amount of chemistry and tension while fully clothed was enough to do it for me. I can’t understate the impact Pride & Prejudice had on me as a romance author.
Beyond Bridget Jones, I actually haven’t read any modern variations—with one exception, but I don’t even recall the title and it came out nearly a decade ago. If I remember correctly, Darcy and Elizabeth were opposing lawyers. Or maybe one of them was a judge. At any rate, I read it at a time when I was just emerging from my fanfic roots and beginning to dabble in original fiction, and it occurred to me then, perhaps, that I wanted to write a modern Pride & Prejudice of my own. This fleeting notion was shelved until 2012, when it blossomed into something that would eventually become A Higher Education. I saw Lizzie and Darcy in the middle of a heated debate in a classroom and taking out their frustrations in a much more, errr, contemporary way, unhindered by the environment that so influenced their behavior in the original novel. This idea hit around the time when I was hired at Samhain Publishing as a developmental editor, so my own work, including all ideas for future stories, was shelved to the back burner.
Last year, armed with a two-year-old outline and the encouragement of my beta readers, I sat down and started writing what amounts to the culmination of my love affair with Pride & Prejudice. Today, that book is now available for purchase.
A few things:
1. Playing with characters this beloved is, as you might imagine, scary as fuck. I am braced for negative reviews.
2. That said, I can’t say I regret anything. I had the time of my life writing the story—making this work one of the most enjoyable undertakings I’ve ever tackled as an author. In some small way, even only in my head, I have made a part of Pride & Prejudice, well, mine. So even if everyone hates the book, I had a hell of a time getting here.
3. I haven’t read any other modern variations, aside from the lawyer one I mentioned, and Bridget Jones. I bought one modern retelling when it came out a couple years ago but ultimately returned it. I did this for two reasons:
This was around the time that I became dead serious about writing A Higher Education in a real way; it was after I had completed my outline (in 2015) and written the first chapter for submission into a local contest. That chapter ended up being trashed, as I decided to start the book in a different place, but bottom-line, it seemed like a bad idea to read someone else’s version of something I planned to write.
The author made some disparaging comments about the Romance industry around the time of the release, which did not sit well with me.
Ultimately, I thought it safer to proceed with my own book as uninfluenced as possible by anything aside from the source work. I also wasn’t convinced I could divorce my negative feelings regarding the author's comments from my experience. So if you do have any modern Pride & Prejudice suggestions for me, I’d love to hear them. Even better if they’re on Audible—that’s where I do most of my reading these days.
To those of you who are interested in a world where Elizabeth and Will Darcy are coeds, A Higher Education is available as of right now, exclusively on Amazon at the moment. Be warned—there is bad language, explicit sexual content, references to drug use and past sexual assault. When I say I modernized it, I modernized the fuck out of it.
If you decide to give it a shot, I hope you enjoy.
Happy reading, all. Until next time, be good to yourself, and to somebody else.