Love, Letters and Lies

“Love, Letters and Lies: A Pride and Prejudice Variation” started with a premise that Elizabeth would take extraordinary steps to avoid marrying Mr. Darcy. They end up locked in a room together at Netherfield Park. Darcy is not really all that upset at being forced to marry Elizabeth, but she takes down the curtains, fashions a rope and climbs out the window. This, needless to say, banishes all thoughts from Mr. Darcy’s mind that she is trying to attract him.

I wanted Elizabeth to be brave but not reckless. Thus, I had her climb out of what in America is called the second floor, but in England is the first floor. To avoid confusion, I had to make it clear without it being awkward. I solved that problem by never using “first floor” or “second floor.” I wrote that it was one floor up.

Serendipitous Details

I met Summer Hanford in an online writing class, where the teacher had a master’s degree in creative writing. The teacher described writing a novel as driving with headlights. You could see enough to drive but not much more. Presumably, you knew your goal. Because students could only turn in a limited amount of material, the class encouraged writing roughly a chapter at a time.

There is another philosophy of writing. The writer creates an outline and then follows it. I am a driving-with-headlights writer. Summer is an outline writer. In essence, I give her a detailed outline, which I have achieved without an outline. A twenty thousand word “outline” for a sixty-thousand-word novel is sufficiently detailed, isn’t it? 😊

One of the results of the way I write is that I frequently go back and change things. I decide I want something to happen, so I go back to foreshadow it. Alternatively, I could be originally thinking of going a certain direction, decide not to, but must go back and take out the foreshadowing.

But sometimes things work in another direction. I will put something in and find I can use it. In one case, a character was given a surname of Green. I put something in about green referring to inexperienced or young. I’m sure readers would assume I named the character for that reason, but it happened the other way around.

Yesterday I was working on a novel that is a Pride and Prejudice variation. There is an extremely minor character in Pride and Prejudice named Mrs. Annesley who was Georgiana Darcy’s companion. I didn’t want her in a scene, mainly because a character who is in a scene and contributes nothing makes the scene more complicated to write. Yes, sometimes I’m lazy.

Using the excuse that the carriage taking four people was full, I unkindly left her behind. But Miss Bingley returned early and ended up having a conversation with Mrs. Annesley. I needed that conversation to make Miss Bingley approach something sensibly. Suddenly, I realized here was a character I could use.

I still don’t know how I’m going to use her, but I’m leaning toward pairing her with Colonel Fitzwilliam. But by staying in the background, she achieved a role of a character having at least two scenes. As a fan of Jane Austen, I appreciate the irony.

Courting Elizabeth

When I was writing Courting Elizabeth: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, I created a character whose existence is implied in Pride & Prejudice, Colonel Fitzwilliam’s older brother. I called him Lord Henry. Sadly, I got the title wrong and should have called him Lord Matlock. (I could claim that he was the Earl of Henry, but I don’t think anyone would believe me.)

Lord Henry evolved as I wrote him. I originally intended for him to die. I then started liking him so much that I couldn’t do that. I went back, changed a couple of very minor things intended to foreshadow his death and left him in. The reviewers made me glad of my decision. Lord Henry received more positive comments than any character I’ve ever created.

Entanglements of Honor

When I worked out the basic plot for “Entanglements of Honor: A Pride and Prejudice Variation,” I wanted to go with a variation of the standard compromise situation. Rather than having Darcy compromise Elizabeth, I wanted Darcy to compromise Jane, and Bingley to compromise Elizabeth. Then I would have them switch.

The problem was finding a single event that would cause this. I didn’t want one couple in a snowstorm in a cottage and the other couple accidentally locked in a room. I came up with Miss Bingley arranging for a large fire to be lit in an unoccupied room, when she was unaware the damper was closed. This gave people reason to believe there was a fire when there wasn’t. (Well, actually, there was a fire, but it was safely in the fireplace.) It also had the advantage of making Miss Bingley unhappy, because she caused two marriages to take place that she definitely did not want to happen.

I enjoy making Miss Bingley unhappy.

A Friendly Warning about A Dollop of Pride and a Dash of Prejudice

Two years ago, almost everyone I knew was computer literate. Now that I’ve moved into a retirement community, many people I know aren’t. Summer and I wish to have our stories available to all readers, and that includes people who cannot or will not read an eBook. Many people love the feel of a book. I can hardly blame them. For me, physical books are associated with many pleasant hours of reading.

Cost, the ability to enlarge the type, and lack of storage space has turned me into a fan of eBooks, but others haven’t made the shift. Perhaps they have better eyesight, more space or more money to allocate to books. Whatever their reason for enjoying print books over eBooks, we’ve taken this opportunity to make four of our short works, previously available only as eBooks because they’re simply not long enough to turn into print books, and put them in a single paper book. There is nothing in the paper books that isn’t in the four, previously published eBooks. We’ve also turned the collection into an eBook because it is very easy to do.

Although we love for people to buy our books, the one thing we don’t want to happen is for people to buy A Dollop of Pride and a Dash of Prejudice thinking it is something new. Consequently, Summer made the cover of A Dollop of Pride and a Dash of Prejudice with the original covers from the stories contained within.

Three of the books can be read using Kindle Unlimited. Those are:

Epiphany with Tea: A Pride and Prejudice Variation

Miss Bingley’s Christmas: A Pride and Prejudice Variation

 Their Secret Love: A Pride and Prejudice Variation Novelette

The fourth book, From Ashes to Heiresses: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, can be read for free by going to

– Renata McMann

Version Control in Writing

Summer Hanford and I work together, but in a way, we work separately. We don’t work in the same room or even in the same state. Most of our discussions are by email. We’ve only physically met twice, and the first meeting was after we started working together and long after we became friends.

When many people work on a software program, which is normal in the business world, there must be some way of seeing that it all fits together at the end. Version control in computer programs is more important than in writing. There are even software programs to help. Wikipedia lists 38 of them. A program with many authors who do not coordinate properly will be very unlikely to do what it is supposed to do. It may not even run.

A book can be written by two writers who do not use any version control, but it may not make sense. If I foreshadow something in chapter two and Summer decides to eliminate it in chapter ten, the work will not be as coherent. To get to the ridiculous, if one of us decides to change the name of a character, that name change must take place everywhere in the book. We changed the name of a character in The Widow Elizabeth. It happens.

Summer and I use a very simple system. Only one of us can edit a particular story. Right now, she has Hypothetically Married. That, by the way, is probably the final title of our next publication. In Hypothetically Married, Elizabeth and Darcy frequently have hypothetical discussions, which often lead to somebody getting married, which explains the title.

Summer hasn’t, as I write this, started working on Hypothetically Married. She is writing another Regency Romance, the sequel to The Archaeologist’s Daughter, in Scarsdale Publishing’s Under the Shadow of the Marquess Series. Nevertheless, I should not, by our method of working, make any changes to Hypothetically Married without first telling her.

I have my version of The Long Road to Longbourn almost finished. The title refers to Elizabeth who is with Darcy, trying to get home with no money. Wickham is with them as well, which makes it not as romantic as many readers would like. If Summer had nothing to work on, I would send it to her. But I plan to sit on it for a month or two, reread it, and see how it can be improved. The title is tentative, but at least a possibility. Summer likes the title, but she hasn’t read the story. A title is never final until we have both read the story and agree on it.

Both Summer and I thus have a story that we are not currently working on. I am working on a file I have named Climb out the Window. That is not the final title. I refer to it to Summer as Climbing. The title refers to Elizabeth climbing out a window to avoid being compromised by Darcy. He was not ready to marry her at that point, but considering how he is courted by Miss Bingley for herself and Lady Catherine for her daughter, it has to be a blow to his ego for Elizabeth to go to that extreme to avoid marrying him.

Therefore, I am working on a Pride and Prejudice variation that will come out after two others, and Summer is working on her next Regency romance and will work on Hypothetically Married next. Both of us know what we can work on in our partnership. We have no problem with version control.

Pride and Prejudice, Humor and Cynicism

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. Pride and Prejudice’s famous opening sentence sets the tone. Jane Austen contradicts the opening sentence in the first chapter by having Mr. Bennet question it. It is certainly not a “truth universally acknowledged.” It isn’t even a truth, much less accepted.

Jane Austen’s cynical tone is shown by many of her characters. Mr. Bennet utters what might have been her motto: “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”

But Mr. Bennet also displays cynicism in other ways. When Elizabeth refuses to marry Mr. Collins and Mrs. Bennet wants her husband to force her to do so, he says, “An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”

Later, Elizabeth wonders how much money it took to persuade Wickham to marry Lydia. Mr. Bennet says, “Wickham’s a fool if he takes her with a farthing less than ten thousand pounds. I should be sorry to think so ill of him, in the very beginning of our relationship.” He would be sorry to have his son-in-law be a fool. That is reasonable. What is not reasonable is that to show he isn’t foolish, his son-in-law must squeeze the maximum amount of money out of his bride’s relatives. Surely, Mr. Bennet isn’t sorry about that.

Mr. Darcy isn’t above a certain cynicism: “What a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr. Darcy! There is nothing like dancing after all. I consider it as one of the first refinements of polished society.” “Certainly, sir; and it has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the world. Every savage can dance.” True, but even though Jane Austen wrote it over two hundred years ago, many still think dancing is refined.

But Jane Austen certainly was cynical when she described people’s actions. Miss Bingley isn’t as comical as some of the other characters, but she certainly had her moments. “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! …” No one made any reply. She then yawned again, threw aside her book, and cast her eyes round the room in quest for some amusement.

Mrs. Bennet contradicts herself so often that one wonders if she had any idea of consistency. Consider part of her speech to Elizabeth when she refused Mr. Collins’ offer of marriage: “…I have done with you from this very day. I told you in the library, you know, that I should never speak to you again, and you will find me as good as my word. … Nobody can tell what I suffer! But it is always so. Those who do not complain are never pitied.”

Another instance of Mrs. Bennet’s lack of logic about how she cares for her eldest daughter is shown here: “Well, my comfort is, I am sure Jane will die of a broken heart; and then he will be sorry for what he has done.” But as Elizabeth could not receive comfort from any such expectation, she made no answer.

Lady Catherine is not as stupid as some of the characters in Pride and Prejudice, but Jane Austen does have such gems as this: The party then gathered round the fire to hear Lady Catherine determine what weather they were to have on the morrow.

Mr. Collins has many funny moments, but one that stands out is this: “You ought certainly to forgive them, as a Christian, but never to admit them in your sight, or allow their names to be mentioned in your hearing.”

If anyone does not think Jane Austen was a great comedic writer, one approach is to use the same approach Elinor used in Sense and Sensibility: Elinor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition.

Finding a Co-Author

I met Summer Hanford in an online novel writing class at AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop in 2010. Every week, all the students emailed each other pages of their current novels and critiqued them in a live, online discussion. Summer and I stopped taking classes together sometime in 2013, but continued to keep in touch and seek each other’s opinions.

About a year later, I tried writing Jane Austen fan fiction. The short story, Pemberley Weddings, sold more than expected, so I wrote four more. Summer was reading my work and expressed an interest in getting into that kind of writing. I realized that Summer had skills that I lacked, so I asked her to try writing with me. It turned out better than I expected.

We have physically met only once. We talk on the phone infrequently. Most of our work is done by email and we email often.

I don’t know what makes a good co-author, but I like Summer’s writing. Her thrice born fantasy series has many interesting and likable characters. There were other writers I met at Allwriters who also wrote well, but I doubt I could work with them. Mainly, I didn’t like their characters, hence the draw of Elizabeth, Jane, Darcy and Bingley. I like to be able to see the viewpoint of the characters I write about, and I want to love my main characters. Yes, sometimes I can even relate to Mr. Wickham, and in the next story we are working on, the conclusion of our smoke and fire books, Mr. Darcy actually goes to Mr. Wickham for help. It is very near the beginning, so readers can find out about it in the sample.

We hope our readers are enjoying our partnership as much as we are.

Renata McMann

Happily Ever After for Pride and Prejudice Villains

We have already published three stories that give villains a happy ending: Mrs. Bennet’s Triumph (a bonus short story found on this site as well as at the end of The Second Mrs. Darcy), Caroline and the Footman, and Mr. Collins’ Deception. We are currently working on Mary Younge (pun intended) and have plans for Lady Catherine’s Regrets. The story about Mrs. Bennet is a Pride & Prejudice variation. The others try to be largely consistent with the original but have a separate story within them.

Jane Austen wrote villains who were only slightly villainous. We’ve discussed Caroline Bingley and Mr. Wickham on this website. They are actually the most villainous of the Pride and Prejudice villains because they actively advanced their own interests at the expense of others. The other ‘villains’ are perhaps stupid and self-centered, but think they mean well.

We don’t know anything about Mrs. Younge. We don’t even know for certain that she was ever married, because sometimes women over twenty-five were given the title Mrs. even if they hadn’t married. Was she duped by Wickham? Was she a plant to facilitate Wickham’s marriage to Georgiana Darcy? If so, how could she trust him to give her a share of the money? Was she so enamored by Wickham that she was willing to ruin her career by helping him? How old was she? What was her background? How was she able to run a lodging house after being fired in disgrace? Our answer should appear in the summer of 2015.

Jane Austen didn’t create the Wicked Witch of the West or Hannibal Lector. She created people. How many rock stars have a little bit of Lady Catherine in them? They may even hire their own Mr. Collins, who is an overstatement of yes-men. Mrs. Bennet is an exaggeration, but how many mothers are frantically trying to do what they can to help their children? Jane Austen speaks to us because she saw human truth in her limited world which was, in her words:  “the little bit (two Inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a Brush, as produces little effect after much labour?”

Caroline Bingley

Caroline Bingley is a character people love to hate. She’s often portrayed as a villain in Pride and Prejudice variations, but Jane Austen cleverly makes her only a mild villain. She lied to Jane Bennet, but most of her lies are difficult to pin down. She talked about people’s feelings, but she could be mistaken in those. Her claim that Mr. Bingley and Georgiana Darcy might marry is not entirely without foundation, since it is implied that Mr. Darcy considered that as a possibility.

Caroline Bingley is funny because she undermines herself. Sometimes she does so immediately, such as the following statement:

“Elizabeth Bennet,” said Miss Bingley, when the door was closed on her, “is one of those young ladies who seek to recommend themselves to the other sex by undervaluing their own; and with many men, I dare say, it succeeds. But, in my opinion, it is a paltry device, a very mean art.”

One has to ask if she is listening to herself.

When Darcy praises Elizabeth Bennet’s eyes, Caroline mockingly talks of Darcy’s marriage to Elizabeth with an emphasis on his dealings with her family. But Darcy controlled his attraction to Elizabeth very well until he saw her at Rosings, away from her family. In Darcy’s proposal, he talked about his struggle. He almost certainly thought that he could enjoy Elizabeth as a wife and only have infrequent contact with her family. Caroline’s talk of the marriage probably helped Darcy’s struggle, since it pinpointed the problem.

Caroline also pushes Darcy to say how attractive Elizabeth is, probably for the first time. Regardless of how many times he thought that, saying it in public probably helped solidify his feelings for Elizabeth.

Caroline’s attempt to attract Darcy in a positive way, by flattery and attention, has to be considered less than well-planned. He must be very used to both. Praising his writing? Asking him to include statements to his sister, when it would be permissible for her to write Georgiana directly? Telling him they are both above the company they keep, when he must consider himself well above her? Reading the second volume of a book when he is reading the first volume?

On the last, how about reading the first volume when he is not reading it, and talking to him about it? Wouldn’t that be more likely to attract his interest?

Summer Hanford and I wrote a short story called “Caroline and the Footman” which explores the possibility that Caroline Bingley’s actions are not caused by stupidity and not motivated to attract Darcy. We aim to shatter the Caroline Bingley villain motif, and turn what you thought you knew about her on its head. This story will come out in January, 2015.