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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sally Smith O'Rourke: Who Was Mr. Darcy

Welcome Sally Smith O'Rourke!
One of 28--Yes 28, Including Laurel Ann Nattress--Authors Participating in the Upcoming Decatur Book Festival 
To Darcyholic Diversions...
10 Days to Go till Decatur Book Festival!)

Hi, Darcyholics!  Today, we have Sally Smith O'Rourke with us.  Sally is one of our remote authors for the upcoming Decatur Book Festival.  I am very happy to welcome her here to Darcyholic Diversions today!

The information on Decatur Book Festival was updated Today!  It now Includes the Social Events planned AROUND the festival!  So check it out at the link below! If you are planning on attending and are not one of our authors, please send me an email to barbaratillercole@gmail.com so I can send you information out our social events during the festival weekend.

I am also announcing initial plans for a Darcyholic Holiday eBook Festival.  More Information to come, but send me an email at barbaratillercole@gmail.com if you are an author and would like to participate!!

Upcoming Guest Posts Are As Follows:
August 24--Pamela Aidan
August 26--Reposting Decatur Book Festival Author Links!
August 28--Jack Caldwell
August 31--Decatur Book Festival Eve!
September 2--Live from the Decatur Book Festival
September 4--Fun Stories from the DBF
September 7--Jack Caldwell's Experiences at the DBF
September 11--Karen Cox's Experiences at the DBF
September 14--Mary Simonsen
September 18--Amber G.
September 21--Moira B.
November 2--Amy Patterson
November 13--Karen Doornebos
And Many more to come!
Sally is giving away a copy of The Man Who Loved Jane Austen and a future copy of Yours Affectionately, Jane AustenComments count as entries, but additional chances will be given for joining this site, tweeting this post, joining this site as a member via Google Friend Connect (GFC) (See the left hand column on the blog to join!), sharing this on Facebook or your blog, Friend Barbara Tiller Cole on Facebook, clicking 'like’ on Barbara Tiller Cole, Author's Facebook page, Join Darcyholic Diversions Facebook Page or following BarbTCole on Twitter.

Who was Mr. Darcy?

In reading biographies of Jane Austen it becomes apparent that the famed author based virtually all of the characters in her books on the people in her life. Some, like friends and family, were people with whom she was very close, some were neighbors, others were merely passing acquaintances and very likely there were people she had never met but had observed.

In Pride and Prejudice for example Mr. Bennet seems to have been based on Jane’s father, most particularly her relationship with him. So, too, the close bond Jane had with her sister Cassandra is reflected in Pride and Prejudice with Elizabeth and Jane’s intimate friendship.

The one character that most Austen biographers have never been able to identify is Mr. Darcy. There are many theories, of course, but unlike virtually all her other characters Mr. Darcy remains an enigma.

To me Mr. Darcy always seemed more a modern man than a Regency aristocrat. Here was a man whose offer of marriage was rejected, and none too gently, by a woman he deemed inferior. Later admitting to anger, certainly a natural human reaction he still looks into himself and decides she was right. He is a jerk. Determining that she isn’t inferior at all he sets out to change that part of him that made Elizabeth Bennet, a woman worth pleasing, not at all pleased with him and does so with no expectation of any kind other than to better himself.

In an era when women were second class citizens, to be used by rich and powerful men as bargaining chips, chattel to bear heirs to keep the wealth and power in the family, Jane Austen’s men where exceedingly unusual; the men in her books and in her life. Her father and brothers encouraged and supported her writing. Her heroes loved women who were strong and intelligent.

Mr. Darcy was different in 1813 when the literary world met him for the first time and he is different today. Even among Austen’s own heroes he is different. A man of his stature and wealth would very likely, even today, have simply walked away from a rejection such as Elizabeth’s. But he is dissatisfied with himself and makes a concerted effort to change. Quite frankly there aren’t that many modern men who would do that. Darcy is the ultimate romantic leading man because he altered his perceptions and won the woman he loved. How Austen came to write so uncommon a man for any time intrigued me and sent me on the journey that brought about the creation of The Man Who Loved Jane Austen.

In the late 1990s my late husband and I vacated our home at the recommendation of the Health Department because the house was harboring toxic mold. In an attempt to redirect what had become an obsession with the house and resulting law suit, we sat down one night and watched the wonderful Andrew Davies adaptation of Pride and Prejudice; all six hours of it in one sitting. (One of the advantages of having grown children… no interruptions). Somehow this wonderful interpretation of Pride and Prejudice made it easier to not obsess about toxic mold.

In continuing our non-obsession plan I re-read Pride and Prejudice and then all of Austen’s other writings and became fascinated with the author herself. Not only had she created the inimitable Mr. Darcy but six strong, independent (particularly for their time) women and men who loved them for those qualities and not in spite of them.

By the time I had finished reading all six of Austen’s novels and three biographies Mike was ready to start a new project and suggested that we resurrect a time travel story I’d started a few years before but never finished. Just couldn’t decide where I wanted the story to go. So I suggested something else entirely and The Man Who Loved Jane Austen was born.

I wanted to do a ‘what-if’ story about who Mr. Darcy really was; a 21st century man who accidentally slips through a rip in the fabric of time and wakes up in Jane Austen’s bed. Unbeknownst to him, he becomes her muse, the embodiment of one of the most quixotic heroes in English literature.

In our hands Darcy became a Virginia horse breeder whose family history stretches back to the revolution. On a trip to England to purchase, Lord Nelson, a champion jumper, Darcy is injured when thrown from the horse. So begins his journey to 1810.

Even though a lot of people like a love story to end unhappily, like The Way We Were or tragically, like Message in a Bottle, I wanted our story to have a happy ending and a happy ending needed a modern woman.

Meet Eliza Knight, successful New York artist (because we didn’t want another Cinderella). Eliza triggers the story in The Man Who Loved Jane Austen when she finds two letters behind an antique vanity mirror. One is an open letter from an F. Darcy to Jane Austen and the other a sealed letter to Fitzwilliam Darcy from Jane Austen.

Even though Mike was a published author (dark fiction as Michael O’Rourke and political thrillers as F.M. O’Rourke) we made no attempt to get the book published and I can’t really tell you why. I don’t know if time has stripped me of the memory or if it just wasn’t important. We had written the book for us. Mike called it the ultimate valentine because it came out of the love we had for each other. So after completing the manuscript, we type-set, printed and hand-bound copies of it and gave them as gifts to family and friends. Then my world crashed and burned. In November 2001, two weeks before his sixtieth birthday Mike died suddenly; we had not gotten out of the house soon enough.

The Man Who Loved Jane Austen sat on the shelf for several years while I struggled through the grief and worked at putting my life back together. Once I was thinking straight again I realized that I didn’t want our little story to die with Mike.

The Man Who Loved Jane Austen was published in 2006. The publisher didn’t want two names on the cover (which was how I had presented it) and preferred the one name be mine as I would be doing revisions and promotions. So only my name appears on the cover of the book. I often regret not insisting that Mike’s name be used as a tribute to him. But regret serves no useful purpose and people from all over the world have read and enjoyed his work and that had been my objective.

One of the things I’ve always considered odd is that no journals or diaries written by Jane Austen have survived. Did she not keep any because she was busy writing fiction or were they destroyed, like so many of her letters, by her family’s misguided attempt to protect her legacy?
Whatever the reason, I thought it might be fun to create a journal chronicling the Spring of 1810 when Jane met Fitz Darcy, from her point of view. But who was I to write as though I was Jane Austen?!?

Instead I decided to write a story that takes place for Jane, the summer of 1813 after the successful publication of Pride and Prejudice and for Darcy the week following his heritage Rose Ball from the end of The Man Who Loved Jane Austen.

Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen reacquaints readers with Americans Fitz Darcy and Eliza Knight, juxtaposing their blossoming relationship with Jane Austen’s life as she copes with the subtle celebrity of being ‘the lady’ who wrote Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen delves into the complex nature of the man who became the embodiment of Jane Austen’s most romantic and legendary hero and the women who love him.

When New York artist Eliza Knight buys an old vanity table one lazy Sunday afternoon, she has no idea of its history. Tucked away behind the mirror are two letters. One is sealed; the other, dated May 1810, is addressed to 'Dearest Jane' from 'F. Darcy' - as in Fitzwilliam Darcy, the fictional hero of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice". Could one of literature's most compelling characters been a real person? More intriguing still, scientific research testing proves that the second, sealed letter was written by Jane herself. Caught between the routine of her present life and these incredible discoveries from the past, Eliza decides to look deeper and is drawn to a majestic, 200-year-old estate in Virginia's breathtaking Shenandoah Valley. There she meets the man who may hold the answer to this extraordinary puzzle. Now, as the real story of Fitzwilliam Darcy unfolds, Eliza finds her life has become a modern-day romance, one that perhaps only Jane herself could have written.

Releasing September 29, 2012

Was Mr. Darcy real? Is time travel really possible? For pragmatic Manhattan artist Eliza Knight the answer to both questions is absolutely Yes! And Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley Farms, Virginia is the reason why!

His tale of love and romance in Regency England leaves Eliza in no doubt that Fitz Darcy is the embodiment of Jane Austen’s legendary hero. And she’s falling in love with him. But can the man who loved the inimitable Jane Austen ever love average, ordinary Eliza Knight?

Eliza’s doubts grow, perhaps out of proportion, when things start to happen in the quiet hamlet of Chawton, England; events that could change everything. Will the beloved author become the wedge that divides Fitz and Eliza or the tie that binds them?

Nestled in a coastal inlet a few miles north of Newport, Rhode Island, Freedman's Cove is known for its superb seafood, its postcard-pretty waterfront, and its exquisite Victorian homes - a legacy of the town's past as a summer resort for wealthy families. Manhattan antiques appraiser Susan Marks inherited one of these ornate mansions from her great aunt. After suffering a devastating loss, she retreats to Freedman's Cove to nurse her grief.Three months have passed since the corporate plane piloted by Susan's lover, Bobby Hayward, disappeared at sea, but still Susan dreams nightly of his safe return. Her days are filled with memories of Bobby's mischievous blue eyes, his sensual touch, and the sheer zest for living that he imparted to every moment of their time together.Amid the bracing sea air and familiar surroundings of the town where she spent happy childhood summers, Susan starts to recover her peace of mind - until she awakens one night to see an ethereal figure standing at her window. More curious than afraid, Susan is immediately intrigued by the ghost of this sad and beautiful young girl who gazes out at "The Maidenstone Lighthouse". Delving into the story of her ancestor's tragic death brings Susan into contact with Dan Freedman, a local historian and famed artist who was once the town's teenage rebel. But even as the hours spent with Dan awaken Susan's hope that she could someday find love again, the startling truth behind a century-old mystery emerges to shed a beacon of light on dangerous shadows in Susan's own past...and in her present.

With its rough gray shingles and weathered slate roof, Sea Pines cottage seems, at first glance, past its prime. But inside this remote fisherman's house, a driftwood fire crackles in the fireplace, brightly colored rugs cover the floor, and cozy cushions dot the worn, welcoming furniture. A young man named Robert has retreated after the war, planning to spend his days writing, tending to the local lighthouse, and nursing his injuries. For company, he adopts a young Golden Retriever puppy named Meteor.

Robert and Meteor spend months in quiet companionship, until the day Robert rescues a young woman from a storm at sea. Strong-willed and intelligent, Laura sees past Robert's injuries to the proud, passionate man beneath, and--with some matchmaking help from Meteor--they begin a new life together at the cottage. But even Meteor's tireless devotion can't protect his cherished family from all of life's unexpected challenges--hurdles that will teach each of them lessons of courage, faith, friendship, and the enduring love that can sustain us through life's coldest seasons.

Visit Sally Smith O'Rourke at the Following Sites:


  1. This is a wonderful idea for a story. I have always wished that Jane Austen had a true love of her own, someone who was *her* Mr Darcy in real life. Thank you for writing this, and I'm glad you and Mike had fun writing this together.

    PS to Barb - Barb, I follow you on Twitter and Facebook and in real life. You are so lucky that you'll be meeting all these authors in person!

  2. I am friends on facebook

  3. I like authors page on facebook

  4. I follow on twitter

  5. I like Darcgjolics Diversions facebook page

  6. I tweeted this post

  7. I am so looking forward to your new book! I read the man who loved jane austen within a couple days!

  8. Thanks for sharing your story and inspiration behind writing The Man Who Loved Jane Austen, Sally. This book has been added to my wish list.

    GFC follower: LĂșthien84
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  9. Thank you so much, Sally, for sharing the birth of "The Man Who Loved Jane Austen". What an inspiring story.

    I love time travel and the ideas behind the books. Thank you so much for the giveaway!

    Barbara, I am following your Twitter, subscribed to your personal and author FB pages (as Lori Johnston Hedgpeth) and requested to join the DD FB group.

    Happy Wednesday!

  10. wonderful gifts of writing! TY for sharing with us both story and background... and entirely pleased you "wanted our story to have a happy ending"!

  11. The books sound interesting, especially the time travel aspect. When I watch shows on H.G.T.V. and there is a house with a terrible mold problem, they have to rip out a lot of stuff.

    I like the puppy on the Sea Pines book. I'm a cat lover but I like any kind of animal in a book.

    GFC - Michelle Fidler
    Twitter - MichelleFidler1
    I have done all the Facebook stuff.