Sharon Lathan Q&A
Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy ~ Two Shall Become One
LRP: Would you say your versions of Darcy and Elizabeth match closer to the actors’ portrayal of the characters in the 2005 movie of Pride and Prejudice or to their personalities in Austen’s original writing?
Sharon: Ah, the controversial question right off the bat! Let me see if I can answer without upsetting someone! I was inspired by the movie, absolutely, and I proudly proclaim this. So, yes, when I began writing it was with Keira Knightley’s and Matthew Macfadyen’s general appearance in mind, as well as how they were directed to portray Miss Austen’s written characters. That is where I fell in love with P&P. I adore Lizzy and Darcy in the movie! I fell utterly in love with them and wanted to tell their love story, even before I read the novel or watched the other versions. Therefore it is their story I am telling to a very large degree, yes.
The interesting aspect of this question, the unspoken assumption if you will, is that the characterization in Joe Wright’s adaptation is vastly different than how Austen wrote them. I do not agree with this opinion and here is why: Before I wrote one word, I scoured through dozens of Austen fan-sites where the debates and/or arguments regarding aspects of the text (including but not exclusively the characters’ personalities and motivations) were hashed over without agreement. After reading the source novel myself, reading tons of JAFF, and reading the endless forum discussions, it became clear to me that there was a wide variance in how folks interpreted details of the novel. Of course, this is normal, isn’t it? I know that when I reread a novel I always see something I never saw before, have a new revelation, or feel toward it in a way that is altered from how I felt before. And when I talk about a book or movie with someone else? Well, how often do two people see it precisely the same way? The point is, I love how the movie portrayed the novel – all of it – and although it was truncated and creatively rearranged, I do not think it missed the essence of Miss Austen’s novel or perverted the characters.
LRP: When writing, who speaks to you more clearly – Darcy or Elizabeth?
Sharon: Strangely, it is Darcy. I suppose that is because I am like him. I understand his character as I too am shy, uncomfortable in unfamiliar crowds, and bad at casual conversation! I am quiet and reserved. I am much more relaxed with a few close friends or just alone with a book in my hand. His character, as portrayed in the movie especially, called to me. Perhaps some of that is my empathy as well. I felt sorry for Darcy. He struck me as this sad individual that not only needed to be brought down a peg or two, but also needed the love of a good woman! I really adore his mixture of strength and intelligence, with softness and humor.
LRP: What was the hardest part of writing your book? Easiest?
Sharon: Although I did not realize it when I started this venture, the hardest part is emotionally dealing with the too often hateful attitude among the Austen purists who despise anyone touching Jane or have rigid conceptions of how it ‘must be.’ I had no idea that attempting to humbly give her creations additional life for fans of all kinds to enjoy was considered taboo. Criticism is rough. I now know it is part of the process and my shell is thicker, but I do wish people would think twice before they cruelly attack with their words. I shall say no more!
The easiest part is the writing itself! I have hit a few blocks, but for the most part it has been effortless and incredibly fun. It is natural, and a tremendous joy, to create this happy existence for the Darcys.
LRP: What is your favorite aspect of writing? Least favorite?
Sharon: My favorite is the research. I have always adored history, so delving into a past world is marvelous. Secondly it is the language. I do not claim to attempt an Austen-style, but I am crazy about vocabulary and a well-written page. I prefer reading a book that makes me think, that draws me in with vivid descriptions, and that captures me as if I am standing right there. The thrill in accomplishing this with my words is incredible. Thirdly it is pleasing the fans of this timeless love story who never tire of journeying with the Darcys.
There truly is nothing about writing itself that I dislike. Except that I find less and less time to be able to do it! I suppose it is the work required to publish, maintain a website, correspond with fans, market, and even write guest blogs that, although wonderful and amazing and fun in its own right, is also time-consuming and not exactly relished. It keeps me from doing what I desire to be doing 24/7: Write! The proverbial catch-22 I guess.
LRP: What do you think is the greatest creative risk you’ve taken?
Sharon: Writing in the first place! I am still scratching my head in bafflement as to how this has happened. I remember enjoying the obligatory college research papers and English compositions, was actually really good at it, but never translated that into having a gift for writing. Too focused on my nursing career and then raising a family to think of creativity. So, taking the leap from swirling visions and conversations in my mind to putting them into words, and then posting it on the internet for all to see….Yikes! That was scary.
During the course of writing my Darcy Saga, I have forced myself out of the comfort zone many times. I have a perverse attraction to a challenge! Guess that is why I work in an intensive care unit! Writing action sequences, such as a duel that takes place in Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy, was a challenge. All along I have striven to stretch myself beyond just writing about the main lovers. I think this is more evident in the volumes beyond my first novel as the Darcys travel away from Pemberley. Action and encounters vary widely with the diversity of peoples and situations immense.
LRP: What is your greatest weakness in writing dialogue?
Sharon: Finding the balance between making it essential to the story and keeping it natural. By that I mean I want to avoid inane conversation that serves no purpose, so I try to have a focus or direction to the dialogue. However, random discourse is a normal part of life! In order to maintain the essence of my tale – i.e., a life being lived – I have to provide the mundane, even if that is pointless. On the other hand, I love all my characters so much that sometimes it is fun to just let them out of their cages now and again! Let them speak, laugh, tell jokes, pontificate, whatever. But if I am not careful they will take over the scene and before I know it they have been chatting for pages with nothing of any use having been said! Some of them are horrid show-offs, so I have to rein them in and remember what the intention of the scene was. See, balance.
LRP: How do you define love?
Sharon: Love is a feeling. But not primarily that. As the Bible teaches, love is about reaching beyond the emotions of the moment to the deeper foundations. Commitment to the person you love no matter what emotion you are experiencing at the time is a key factor. It is unconditional. We love our kids no matter how bratty they may be acting because there is a bond between us that is unbreakable. It can, and should, be the same for our life partner.
Love is selfless. Humans are inherently selfish creatures. But, we also divinely have the infinite capacity to open our hearts to others; to share of ourselves; to need that connection. To lose oneself, to sacrifice our desires and comforts, to give in order to please the one we love is the greatest blessing and joy.
LRP: What makes a great (written) bedroom scene?
Sharon: Ha! Good thing you clarified the ‘written’ part!! Obviously folks differ in what they want to read in erotic scenes, so I can only speak for my preference. For me it is the emotion that is attached to the act itself that is central. I figure my readers know the mechanics and body-part names, so I have no need to get too specific! LOL. Whether Lizzy and Darcy are caught up in sheer animal lust, feeling frisky and silly, or experiencing a deeply bonding lovemaking session, my goal is for the reader to appreciate the interlude for what it signifies – that is, the exceptional relationship these two people possess. I do not add bedroom scenes for gratuitous titillation, but to convey the amazing love, marital affinity, and supreme happiness that Lizzy and Darcy have found with each other. And, hopefully, thus instill faith that it can happen for the reader.
LRP: If you could be one of the characters in Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy ~ Two Shall Become One – who would you be?
Sharon: There is actually a character who shows up in my second novel, Loving Mr. Darcy ~ Journeys Beyond Pemberley (release date September 2009) that has the panache, quick-witted humor, and eccentric confidence I wish I possessed. He is my favorite character and I can’t wait for the readers to meet him!
In this novel I suppose I’ll go for the obvious and chose Lizzy. I may be like Darcy, and I love him so have no problem with that, but who wouldn’t want to be fiery Lizzy?! She has spunk and spirit, a quick intellect, and sharp wit that I would love to have. She is loving, kind, graceful, and passionate. And, let’s face it: Who doesn’t, just a teeny bit, want the fairy-tale dream of the handsome rich man who sweeps you away to his luxurious castle… Pemberley…where you will be lavished with finery and reign supreme with servants at your bidding? Or maybe I am saying that because right now I would give anything just to have a housekeeper!
LRP: Name one guilty pleasure that you indulge:
Sharon: Just one? You’re killing me here! Truthfully, I am a pretty boring individual whose big excitement is catching a movie and dinner with my hubby! Lately I have developed a serious addiction to Facebook that is threatening to take over my life. LOL! Otherwise it is fairly average stuff: chocolate anything, food, the espressos homemade by my dear heart every day, way too many TV shows (thank the Maker for TiVo), and the Saturday afternoon snuggly naps with my own Mr. Darcy that keep me functional and satisfied.
LRP: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Sharon: First off I have to thank Keira for giving me the opportunity to share my ideas, speak from my heart, and talk about my novel. I am so proud of what I have accomplished with Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy ~ Two Shall Become One, and the entire Darcy Saga for that matter. I am a firm believer in romance and living happily with one’s soulmate. If we women didn’t believe in that potential, why would we keep reading romance novels? Yet, perhaps there is a fear that the ending will not be happy after all. I have endeavored, and I believe succeeded, in showing that marriage can be wonderful. That the romance can live on. I have taken the passion highlighted in the movie and carried it forward into the life of the Darcys.
I am convinced that Jane Austen would have wanted a happy life for her characters. But we have to ask ourselves if her opinion, especially since we have no way of knowing it, really matters. Her tales are timeless and they belong to everyone who has read and loved them on down through the centuries. Fan-fiction in all its incarnations is an expression of that devotion. Isn’t it utterly fantastic that in the Austen realm, as in all literature, there is something for everyone’s taste? I say YES, and if it is an everlasting honeymoon you desire, then my Saga is for you.
LRP: That concludes this author interview! I want to thank Sharon for taking the time to sit down and answer all these nosy questions. Be sure to check out her website for more information on the Darcy Saga.