Anna Elliott: Georgiana Darcy’s Diary

Today’s Inspiration Award goes to Anna Elliott! 

Anna is the author of the Twilight of Avalon Trilogy (book three comes out this September), and she has recently gone the indie route with the publication of her new book Georgiana Darcy’s Diary.   Welcome Anna!

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I’ve read Pride and Prejudice many, many times, and seen the various movie adaptations more times than I can even begin to count.  (Colin Firth is my favorite Mr. Darcy!).  I love Elizabeth and Darcy’s love story, of course–it’s a testament to Jane Austen’s genius that it truly stands the test of time and feels as compelling now as it did 200 years ago.  And yet, strangely, it’s always been Georgiana Darcy’s character that stays with me the longest, each time I read the book or watch one of the films. 

            Georgiana’s character is almost a plot device in the book–proof of Wickham’s villainy, since he tried to seduce her when she was only fifteen.  She’s described as ‘exceedingly shy’ and we never actually hear her speak a single line; any dialogue she has is summarized by the narrator.  And yet I’ve always wanted to know more about her–how did she really feel about George Wickham?  What was it like growing up as Mr. Darcy’s younger sister?  And most important of all, I couldn’t stop myself from imagining what might have happened to her after the close of Pride and Prejudice.  Did she ever find her own happily-ever-after?

            Georgiana Darcy’s Diary was born out of all my wondering.  I chose a diary format to tell Georgiana’s story, first because I’d never written a diary form novel before, and wanted to challenge myself to master the form.  But mostly that was just how I heard Georgiana’s voice in my head: a shy girl, pouring herself onto the pages of the private journal that—at the beginning of the story, at least– serves as  her only real confidant.  

           I absolutely loved writing Georgiana Darcy’s Diary, and I hope fellow Jane Austen lovers will enjoy spending a little more time in the Pride and Prejudice world.

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Mr. Darcy’s younger sister searches for her own happily-ever-after…
The year is 1814, and it’s springtime at Pemberley. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy have married. But now a new romance is in the air, along with high fashion, elegant manners, scandal, deception, and the wonderful hope of a true and lasting love.

Shy Georgiana Darcy has been content to remain unmarried, living with her brother and his new bride. But Elizabeth and Darcy’s fairy-tale love reminds Georgiana daily that she has found no true love of her own. And perhaps never will, for she is convinced the one man she secretly cares for will never love her in return. Georgiana’s domineering aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, has determined that Georgiana shall marry, and has a list of eligible bachelors in mind. But which of the suitors are sincere, and which are merely interested in Georgiana’s fortune? Georgiana must learn to trust her heart-and rely on her courage, for she also faces the return of the man who could ruin her reputation and spoil a happy ending, just when it finally lies within her grasp.

Check out Anna’s blog and her other books:  http://annaelliottbooks.com/

Georgiana Darcy’s Diary is available at Barnes and Noble:  Georgiana Darcy’s Diary  Amazon US:  Georgiana Darcy’s Diary and Amazon UK:  Georgiana Darcy’s Diary

And thanks to Suzanne Tyrpak for my own Inspiration Award.  You can find her at:  http://ghostplanestory.blogspot.com/2011/04/big-thank-to-my-fellow-author-and.html

Writing Historical Fantasy: A Magical Balance

Today, Anna Elliott, the author of the wonderful Twilight of Avalon (Touchstone:  May 2009) is here to talk about blending history and fantasy when writing historical fiction.  Welcome, Anna!

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Ever since I wrote Twilight of Avalon, based on the Trystan and Isolde legend in the larger cycle of Arthurian tales, I’ve often been asked for thoughts on the enduring appeal of the King Arthur story. Why should that legend, perhaps more than any other in Western culture, have captured our imaginations for more than a millennium, have engendered countless retellings and reworkings of the old tale?

The answers are legion, of course. But for me, the unique enchantment of the Arthurian legends lies in their blend of fantasy and history. The world of the legends is a recognizably historical one, part of our own past. Many scholars have explored the possibility of a real, historic Arthur–who, if he existed, was most likely a Celtic warlord of the mid fifth century, a warrior who led a triumphant stand against the incursions of Saxons onto British shores. Trystan, whose existence as a real historic figure is suggested by a memorial stone in Cornwall, was likely a roughly contemporary warrior, possibly the son of a Cornish petty king, whose cycle of tales were eventually absorbed into the legends growing up around Arthur and his war band.

And yet the world of the Arthur tales is one steeped in magic, as well. It’s a world filled with the voices of prophecy, with enchanted swords and Otherworldly maidens and the magical Isle of Avalon, where Arthur lies in eternal sleep, healing of his wounds, waiting to ride once more in Britain’s greatest hour of need.

That combination of historical truth with the wonderful potential for magic was what most of all drew me to the Arthur stories when I first studied them in college.  And it was what delighted me about living in my own version of the Arthurian world while writing Twilight of Avalon and the next two books in the trilogy.

The fifth century, when scholars agree a historic Arthur might have lived, was a brutal, chaotic time in Britain. Roman Britain had crumbled; Rome’s legions had been withdrawn from this far-flung outpost of the empire, leaving the country prey to invading Pictish and Irish tribes from the west and north and to Saxon invasions from the east. It was in many ways also a crucible in which the British identity and sense of place was forged. And it is against this backdrop that Arthur appears, a war hero who led–or at least may have led–a victorious campaign against the invaders, driving them back for perhaps the space of a man’s lifetime and so inspiring the roots of a legend that still captures our imaginations today.

I was fascinated by this possibility of a real King Arthur, and fascinated by the world in which he might have lived. So I decided to set my story there, to make my particular Arthurian world grounded in what scraps of historical fact we know of Dark Age Britain. And yet I wanted, too, to honor the original stories and their magical, legendary world–a world that after centuries of telling and re-telling, is as real in its own way as historical fact.

It was a bit of a balancing act, I discovered.

My Isolde is the granddaughter of Morgan (sometimes known as Morgan le Fey in the original Arthur stories; a healer and enchantress of great renown). Isolde is gifted through Morgan with both the knowledge of a healer and with the Sight, which enables her to receive visions and hear voices from the Otherworld. All of which fitted in with what I’d read of both the legends and historical accounts of Celtic spirituality, pre-Christian Celtic belief, with its emphasis on the powers of herbs, on trances and dreams that transcend physical boundaries and touch an Otherworld that is separated from our own by only the thinnest of veils.

And yet, too, there were those elements of the original Trystan and Isolde tale that were harder to fit in with any degree of historical verisimilitude. There were those cases where I could take a more symbolic approach to the legends—as with the famous love potion, which in the original legend causes Trystan and Isolde to fall helplessly in love.

I decided that a love potion like the one Trystan and Isolde accidentally imbibe can be viewed as a metaphor for the overwhelming, all-consuming nature of passionate romantic love. So in the second book of the trilogy, Dark Moon of Avalon, Trystan and Isolde do journey together by boat, as in the original tale, and it is over the course of the journey that they deepen and develop their relationship, which again is true to the original legend. But the purpose of their journey is based on what scraps of historical fact we can gather about the shaky political situation of sixth-century Britain. And they don’t need a literal draft of a magical potion to fall in love–only the magic of their own powerful emotional bond.

But then there were other cases when honoring the legends seemed to me to demand a factor that simply did not exist in 6th century Britain. For example, the fortress at Tintagel, where Twilight of Avalon is largely set. The Tintagel of my novel is pretty much purely anachronistic. Recent archaeology suggests that there was some sort of important fortification there during the 5th century–one belonging to a powerful Dark Age chieftan, to judge from the remnants of expensive imported wine jugs that have been found. But that the site ever had the remotest connection to Arthur is unlikely in the extreme. And certainly that Dark Age chieftan’s fortress would not have resembled anything in the nature a castle as we think of such places today.  But one of the elements of the Arthurian stories I found I simply couldn’t do without was a brooding, majestic castle perched on the crumbling edge of Cornwall where the land meets the sea–and where Arthur, son of Uther the Pendragon, was conceived and born. An authentic Dark Age wattle and daub and thatch dwelling just didn’t feel the same to me, and so I allowed the anachronism to creep in.

Again, it’s a balance. I try to be honest about the historical liberties I take in my author’s notes at the backs of the books and on the FAQ’s on my webpage. And I try to do my utmost to limit those historical liberties to cases like the above when it’s a matter of being true to the legendary basis of my story. I hope it’s a blend that works, one that echoes, a bit, the mixture of history and fantasy that first made me fall in love with the legends and the Arthurian world.