Pride and Prejudice and passion

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Linda Berdoll 

A miniseries, a movie, and endless reprintings of Pride and Prejudice prove the classic love story’s timelessness nearly 200 years after Jane Austen’s death. The story of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet strikes a chord with millions of readers – so much so that they often don’t want the story to end. It is this desire that the authors of Pride and Prejudice sequels tap into. Unofficial continuations litter the bookstore shelves, providing hours upon hours of titillating delight to those fans who crave to know what Lizzy and Darcy’s marriage was like and to those authors who crave to write their fate.

Linda Berdoll, the author of Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife and its sequel, Darcy and Elizabeth, is one such author. What sets her books apart, however, is her attention to every detail of the Darcys’ marriage. To the consternation and shock of Austen purists everywhere and the joy of those with curious minds, Linda Berdoll graphically illustrates not only the relationship between the two, but also their sex life – and oh, what a sex life. That Other Paper’s Luna recently chatted with the author about Texas, sex, and loving Austen.

That Other Paper Are you originally from Texas?

Linda Berdoll I am an Air Force brat, so we moved around a lot. Although I was born in Enid, Oklahoma, we were only there for six months. Much of my childhood was spent in Fort Worth, so I consider myself primarily a Texan. I moved to Austin when my dad was transferred to Bergstrom Air Force Base.

TOP What’s your favorite thing about Texas?

LB Finding my husband – a real-life, long, tall, slow-walking, slow-talking cowboy. We were high-school sweethearts – and still are. It is my only conceit – knowing when I have something good and hanging on to it.

TOP When did you first read Pride and Prejudice?

LB Perhaps it was because of the itinerant nature of my education, but I didn’t read Jane Austen early on. My interest wasn’t sparked until viewing the A&E production of Pride & Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. I loved every minute of it and simply couldn’t bear the story to end. So I read and reread Pride and Prejudice and all of Jane Austen’s novels and every Jane Austen biography I could find. With all that, I hardly call myself an authority on Jane Austen. There are true Jane Austen scholars, and I can’t call myself one.

TOP Have you thought about writing sequels to any other of Austen’s works? I would love to see a portrait of Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram, for example. Or Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley.

LB I have thought about writing about other Austen sequels, particularly a follow-up to the Dashwood sisters of Sense and Sensibility. Real life, however, intrudes on my time and I am not a fast writer.

TOP What kind of research did you do for Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife?

LB I love doing the research for historical fiction. I read some really fascinating (if occasionally dry) works for background of Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife, such as The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500–1800, Military Experience in the Age of Reason, and Sexual Life in England Past & Present. I also spent a lot of time researching period euphemisms for, among other things, physical congress and the body parts directly and indirectly involved in this activity. There were so many hilarious and unusual words and phrases that I couldn’t use, I compiled them into Very Nice Ways to Say Very Bad Things.

Actually, it was my research of the Regency era that directly impacted how and why I wrote my sequel. Jane Austen’s language and storytelling is unparalleled, but in the case Pride and Prejudice particularly, it left many of us with a case of literary coitus interruptus. I couldn’t bear to leave Darcy and Lizzy just as they embarked on what we all know must have been a life of unrivaled passion. What I learned about the mores and events of the time suggested to me what Jane Austen, as an unmarried lady, could not. That, I suppose, has been a constant in my life – wanting to know what was, and is, really going on. My sequels are about that – granted, it’s information some readers would just as soon not know. Happily, many more understand that the book was written with a sense of fun and are happy to go along for the ride.

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Linda Berdoll’s Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife 

TOP How have readers responded to your sequels?

LB There seem to be two schools of opinion on my sequels. Many readers love them enough to read them again and again. A number of fans take time to write and let me know how much they enjoyed both sequels. Others don’t care for them at all, but as a rule don’t hunt me down to tell so – they just write scathing reviews on Amazon. There is, however, a strain of what I am inclined to call the “Jane Austen Lunatic Fringe.” They not only take offense, they want me drawn and quartered and hung from the nearest gibbet for defiling poor Jane’s memory. In the camp of those who are unhappy with my depictions are a peculiarly determined group who go through my books line by line scouring it for errors of grammar, punctuation and historical accuracy. I am pleased that I have supplied these meticulous personalities with hours of entertainment. Fortunately, as of yet I have not received death threats. There have been an occasional amateur review that crossed the line into personal attack, but the professional critiques have been surprisingly good. My favorite article included the observation that Mr. Darcy’s male member was actually another character in my book. At first I was mortified by the insinuation – then I realized I was embarrassed because it is probably true. The only time I get annoyed by criticism is when a reader insists that my interpretation of the characters is wrong, because their opinion is the only correct one.

TOP How many copies of your books are in print?

LB I am told that there are over 250,000 of my books in print.

TOP Are you writing any books right now?

LB I have a third book about Darcy and Elizabeth in the works. But right now I’m working on another book which takes place in San Francisco during the gold rush.

TOP Does your husband read your books?

LB I would never have published Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife without my husband’s encouragement. He is circumspect in all things and very much a gentleman. I wouldn’t have had the gumption (or the inspiration) to publish such a racy book had he not approved of every word.

Comments

Analisa's picture

I just want to let you know Mrs.Berdoll that I personally think your sequels to Pride and Prejudice are the most amazing books I have ever read. I dare say they are more exciting, suspenseful, and enjoyable than the actual Pride and Prejudice. The way you capture Lizzy and Darcy’s love and passion for each other makes every woman jealous. When I read Pride and Prejudice I wanted to know more. Then I read your books and I was in awe because they were exactly what I imagined their life to be. I don’t care what any one else thinks, but I cannot wait for your third sequel to come out. Just know there are other people out there who enjoy your books and support you more than you think. I love everything about your books, they are truly amazing.

Anonymous's picture

I would be eternally grateful Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife was made into a a movie staring Colin Firth and jennifer Ehle. Is there any chance of this and what is the possibility?

Anonymous's picture

In reply to the 19 January comment - yes, yes, and yes, please. Okay, maybe some of the scenes would have to be somewhat “cut to the ocean”, but the passion would still be there. Mr. Darcy takes a Wife is a superb continuation of the English-speaking world’s favorite love story that is appropriate for audiences of our time.