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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Beth Massey: I am NOT a Darcyholic!

Welcome Beth Massey to Darcyholic Diversions!
Hi, Darcyholics!  I am very happy to welcome Beth to Darcyholic Diversions today.  Beth and I met several years ago when she visited Georgia, and I have also visited with her in her home land.  Hope you enjoy getting to know her as I have, as well as know about her recent book release. 

I also want to apologize to her as I am getting her post up late due to pending surgery I am having tomorrow nothing has gone quite according to plan this week.  But Beth has been most gracious in her understanding!  I hope you enjoy her post as much as I do!

Upcoming Guest Posts Are As Follows:
May 13--Matt Duffy
May 15--Erlynn K.
May 18--Rebecca T.
May 22--Candy M. (So Little Time...)
May 25--Karen Cox
May 29--Jan Ashe
June 1--Kara Louise
June 5--Sharon Lathan
June 8--Gayle Mills
June 12--Shannon Winslow
June 15--Karen Wasylowski
June 19--Krista Bagley
June 22--Stephanie Hamm
June 26--Laurel Ann Nattress
June 29--Pam Dixon
July 3--Jennifer Petkus
July 6--Karen Aminada
July 10--Marilyn Brant
July 13--Meredith Esparanza
July 17--Lori Smith
July 20--Bernadette
And Many more to come!

Comments on Beth's post will be entered into a contest to win 1 of 2 eBooks as well as 1 softcover version of 'Goodly Creatures'. Comments will also enter you in the monthly drawings here at Darcyholic Diversions. Entries will be based on comments on blog posts; but additional chances will be given for joining this site, tweeting this post, Joining this site as a member!, sharing this on Facebook or your blog, Friend me on Facebook, clicking 'like’ on Barbara Tiller Cole, Author's Facebook page, Join Darcyholic Diversions Facebook Page or following BarbTCole on Twitter.

I Am Not A Darcyholic!
Lest those reading this accuse me of being in denial and feel the need to organize an intervention; I must confess I have known since my second reading of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ that Mr. Darcy and I would never suit.  Among other things, his great wealth was a major turn off for me.  Instead, I chose to marry a former military man with a strong sense of justice—a man of little means but fierce loyalty and whom I have several times had to restrain from fighting a metaphorical duel on my behalf.  As with Colonel Brandon and Marianne in ‘Sense and Sensibility,’ the love of my life is more than thirteen years my elder.  A significant age difference also plays a role in another of Austen’s literary pairings.  My husband was my friend and mentor before he became my spouse as was Mr. Knightley in ‘Emma.’   Like that admirable character, Bill is a kind and compassionate man who easily puts the greater good ahead of his own selfish needs and is willing to compromise—you know, the sort of husband who would agree to live with his peculiar father-in-law if it made his wife happy.   I first fell in love with my Mr. Massey’s delightful irreverent sense of humor, which is very reminiscent of Henry Tilney’s.  Then there was his penchant for writing poetic and passionate letters to me that rivals Captain Wentworth’s “you pierce my soul.”  Truth be told, except for an occasional need to officiously interfere, my William has absolutely nothing in common with Mr. Darcy.  Luckily for him, I have always preferred a charismatic personality and a love of dancing to a handsome face.
Perhaps an explanation of what led me to adore Jane Austen would help readers understand my perverse deviation from the norm in lusting after Mr. Darcy.  My first love as a child was the theatre.  Recruited to the Chattanooga Little Theatre at age eight, I marched to a different drummer quite early.  The director had seen me on local television playing a bossy bunny in a skit performed by my Brownie troop.  He was immediately captured by my officious stage presence and thought I would be perfect to play Rhoda, in the ‘The Bad Seed.’  My performance as that creepy child serial killer managed to horrify my father, but the Mrs. Bennet in my mother (she thought I would be thrown into the company of rich and powerful people who would help me get me into a prestigious university) caused her to persuade her husband to allow me to continue in the program.  From then on I diligently spent my youth preparing for a creative life on the stage.  A voracious reader, I devoured plays and novels with an eye toward imagining how I would play certain characters.
My first impression of Jane Austen’s most famous novel left me scratching my head.  Who were these characters and what were they all about?  Though a precocious, dramatic teen filled with strong opinions, I am certain I did not finish the book.  To the youthful me, ‘Pride and Prejudice’ had a boring plot, language that was difficult to ‘apprehend’ and humor that went completely over my head.  Dickens and Baroness Orczy were much more to my liking.  The bizarre troupe of characters involved in the multiple mysteries of ‘Great Expectations’ competed with the intrigue and romance of ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ to grab my attention.  Elizabeth and Darcy and their obscure repartee just didn’t cut it.  Come on folks; admit it—there truly is very little in P & P to stir the soul of a thirteen-year-old.  A wayward teen is as good as it gets.  There isn’t even a peck on the cheek.
My second reading of the tale of literature’s iconic couple was as a twenty-year-old literature major and orphan.  I was in the process of abandoning my theatrical career path while attempting to come to grips with grief.  My new life situation allowed me to better understand Austen’s tale, but it was Lizzy with whom I fell in love—not Mr. Darcy.   ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is her story, and Austen created a strong, though flawed, character who I greatly admired.  She mirrored my own struggle to sort through childish prejudices and don more appropriate adult judgments that would allow me to survive on my own.  It was the late ‘60s and marriage was not at the top of my agenda or that of my peers.  We were women, and we wanted to roar.  Besides, I was very wary of leaving myself open to love—the pain of loss too fresh in my memory.  The final piece of the puzzle was that Mr. Darcy reminded me of my brother.  With the death of our parents, he had been required to accept responsibility beyond his years.  His rigidity in interpreting proper behavior had provided fodder for a major tiff with his rebellious younger sister.  Youthful delusions of grandeur led the dear man to marry a well-connected Caroline Bingley type that resulted in the first divorce in our family.  Later, he found his Elizabeth Bennet, and is now enjoying a well deserved happy-ever-after.  He has always been a good man; he just needed to grasp what is important in life.  I used him as my prototype for Mr. Darcy in ‘Goodly Creatures, a Pride and Prejudice Deviation.’   http://www.facebook.com/#!/GoodlyCreatures  Now you know, it would be very creepy and possibly prosecutable for me to be a Darcyholic.
That same literature professor who caused me to revisit ‘Pride and Prejudice’ assigned me ‘Sense and Sensibility’ to read.   I was much more profoundly affected by Austen’s first published novel than with any of her others.  I have heard many in the JAFF community say they do not like the story of the Dashwood sisters.  As a love story to inspire passion, it definitely leaves much to be desired.  I have long held the opinion that Jane Austen was not a writer of romances but was instead the mother of the modern psychological novel.  In ‘Sense and Sensibility,’ the precarious position of women is subtly showcased without beating readers about the head and ears with the harsh reality.  Because she wraps her exposure of what the female sex had to endure within a very deft comedy of manners, she did not come across as a crusader.  However, to a 20th century young woman the reality was abundantly clear.  It left me with a burning desire to vindicate her most unfairly treated characters—the two Elizas—toward which the honorable Colonel Brandon feels such loyalty.
‘Goodly Creatures, a Pride and Prejudice Deviation’  is the result of that youthful aspiration.  I allow there to be happy endings for both a very young woman impregnated by a man much above her station as well as a wealthy woman whose fortune is appropriated by a husband who treats her cruelly.  And though he is not my personal choice for a mate, I allow my heroine to win Mr. Darcy.  My own life experiences shaped much of my story.  I have made it clear that it was my own experience with date rape that gave words and feelings to Elizabeth.  My portrayal of Rhoda, the child with a murderer for a father, also played a role in crafting the plot.  Even as a child I felt the premise of ‘The Bad Seed’ to be specious.  My novel includes, not one but two children, who have a parent with a dubious character. Neither Bethany nor Lewis Darcy presents any evidence that their characters are tainted by bad blood.
My own Colonel Brandon/Mr. Knightley/Henry Tilney/Captain Wentworth now struggles with the effects of COPD, blindness from AMD and a severe essential tremor.   Sometimes I imagine Ms Austen time-travelled to the 21st century to observe Bill when she was writing Mr. Woodhouse.  Like Emma, I lovingly tolerate his quirky fears and phobias and rejoice that he still has Henry Tilney’s delightful sense of humor.  


  1. Barb, wow, I hope your surgery goes well! Feel better soon!
    Hi, Beth! I'll be reviewing your book soon! No need to enter me in the giveaway!

    1. I am looking forward to trying to win you over with 'Goodly Creatures.' My brother called me last night to let me know how much he enjoyed the story. Luckily I did not offend him with my depiction of my Mr. Darcy. He is also a voracious reader. His favorite authors are Anne Rivers Siddons and Pat Conroy.

  2. Barb, I hope your recovery goes smoothly. *HUGS*

    Beth, I love that you found your own Colonel Brandon. a former military man with a strong sense of justice—a man of little means but fierce loyalty Sounds wonderful to me!

    1. I am very lucky. Although, yesterday I had to take him to the urologist. In the next life, I now believe it might be better to opt for marrying a man 13 years my junior. An enlarged prostate and its effects are not the 'stuff of dreams' I imagined as a young romantic. Still, once we got the peeing in a cup out of the way, we were able to get a good laugh out of the visit. Pardon me if this was TMI.

  3. I truly adored your article, Beth. I believe that you are a Jane admirer, though not a Darcyholic. I think most of us put our own constructions on Mr. Darcy to make him what we want.

    I also agree that Austen was a woman who felt the limitations of being born in her time period. I think she resented being expected to marry in order to be respectable and have a home.

    Your husband sounds like a wonderful man; you are a fortunate woman indeed. Captain Wentworth and Mr. Knightley are two of my most-beloved Austen characters, and Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion are great favorites of mine.

    I've read Dickens, Scott, Dumas, Hugo, Eliot and other classics since I was in seventh grade, and I'm amazed that you preferred Dickens to Austen. His characters are humorously drawn, true, but the language is very difficult to understand, and his stories are very dark. I do like them, of course, but Austen has long been my favorite author. (I read everything I could get my hands on, including the books my elder siblings were supposed to read for their high school classes. They rarely read the assigned material, so the books were left around the house. I'm sure Gayle read everything she was assigned, but my other four brothers and sister most assuredly did not.)

    Please enter me in the giveaway. I think I would enjoy your book immensely.

    1. I did not read all Dickens at a young age--only 'Great Expectations,' 'A Tale of Two Cities,' 'A Christmas Carol' and 'Oliver Twist.' Those were good for action. I read the rest as a young adult at the same time I read all the Russians--Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Turgenev. The problem with Austen for a young teen is that she is mostly about adults talking. Despite an awareness of the importance of dialogue, Jane's was over my head. My favorite scenes as an adult are those at Netherfield, but at thirteen they were very obscure. Even today, I sometimes have to read the same sentence several times to ensure I understand what ODA is saying. I jokingly accuse her of being the queen of the run on sentence.

      As for liking dark, my favorite fairytale as a young child was Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Snow Queen' with 'The Little Match Girl' a close second. I told you I marched to a different drummer.

  4. I agree with Robin that we tend to make Mr Darcy into what we want him to be or hope he would be. I definitely found myself frustrated with him in your story, but it's such a compelling emotional journey, and I look forward to reading (hopefully winning! Fingers crossed) the published version. Bethany and Lewis are adorable!

    How lucky you are to have found a husband with a mixture of the great characteristics of Brandon, Wentworth, Knightley, and Tilney (with maybe a little dash of Darcy)!

    Barbara, I hope you are feeling better soon!

    1. I hope you either win here or at IndieJane. My brother, who is the template for my Darcy, thinks my Bethany is patterned after his granddaughter Emma. The problem is Emma is only three and a half and I first wrote the character in 2008. Bethany is mainly my memories of my younger sister. Lewis was patterned after a nephew. I need to keep a real person in mind when I write a character.

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  6. I loved this post and then also Robin's comment. I enjoyed probably the Bronte sisters first, but then devoured Austen with a fiery passion. I wasnt a big fan of Dickens as a teenager, but now I love his work. I agree with his creation of amazing characters! It truly is the draw for me to his work.

    I love the description of your husband. I secretly always try to fit my husband into all the Austen men. ;)

    Thank you for the giveaway! Id love to read your book.

    1. I was about 15 when I read Charlotte and Emily Bronte. I liked 'Jane Eyre' and was a bit horrified by 'Wuthering Heights.' The characters were all so disturbed. I read their sister Anne's 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall' as an adult after Bill suggested I would like it. It is my favorite of the three. The author that is the most difficult for me is Thomas Hardy--talk about dark. However, I love his poetry.

    2. Beth:

      I so enjoyed your post! I totally get your attraction to Colonel Brandon in light of your love for Bill. And knowing, at least the original 'Goodly Creatures' story I understand more of your need to write that story as well. Thanks for your willingness to share with us here!