This post has been transferred in from a previous blog.
My thanks to all who contributed or commented.
Jonathan, huge congratulations on the publication of Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens, and thanks for dropping in to tell us about it.
This year’s been a busy year for you; in May you were named as a 2011 Scott prizewinner for your literary short story collection, Dot (.) Dash (-), due out in 2012, and now your debut novel Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens has been published by the brand new Salt imprint, Proxima Books. What a year!
So, Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens is the long-awaited sequel to Pride and Prejudice – what happens?
JP: “Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens” is pretty much what it sounds like: a sequel to “Pride and Prejudice” with added aliens. Actually, the aliens were present in the original book – explaining much of Wickham’s questionable behaviour, for example – but their presence is only revealed in this sequel. There are also several ghosts with an attitude, loads of contraptions, a dirigible and a pigeon called Colin.
On reading Pride and Prejudice, what triggered the realisation that there were tentacles beneath the surface?
JP: Good question. There are probably tentacles beneath the surface of most books if you look hard enough. I think it was realising that you could add wizards to a Regency novel and come up with “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell” that made me think that adding aliens to one might be productive. What I hadn’t anticipated was that someone else would be thinking of adding zombies not long after.
There are a fair few historical characters worked into the book, such as Mary Jane Kelly and her teapot-wielding, time-travelling cronies, Annie Chapman, Catherine Eddowes and Elizabeth Stride, not to mention Humphry Davy, Byron, k’Ekkk and even a passing reference to Francis Crick… to name but a few. Were you familiar with all of these characters prior to writing, or did they require a lot of research?
JP: I’m a firm believer in the maxim that time spent researching is time spent not writing. I looked at Wikipedia a couple of times to check a fact or two (mainly about k’Ekkk – no, not really), but that’s about it, apart from an inordinate amount of bilingual Googling in order to get the correct Cyrillic for the Trotsky and Mao quotes on pages 192 and 193. Incidentally, if you look reaaaaaally closely, Watson and Franklin get name-checked at the same time as Crick. Wilkins turned out to be a step too far, however.
Your ghostly, headless whore, despite her neck deficiency, has a cracking voice. My favourite quote from the book might be one of hers,
‘Turns out your spirit don’t get to lie down and rest with your body until the end of the world as predicted by your revelating John.’
Do you have a favourite character/quote?
JP: I’m probably more fond of Lord Byron than I should be. We have a long tradition of filth and double entendres in this country and I hope I have done my small bit to add to that.
Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens is very funny (‘I need your clothes, your riding boots and your stallion’!), but I understand that writing good comedy is hard work. How was it to write — did you laugh?
JP: Gosh, thank you! I know writing’s supposed to be difficult, but it was actually a breeze to write Mrs Darcy. And I also know you’re not supposed to laugh at your own jokes, but I’m afraid I did from time to time. It was an entirely enjoyable experience.
Jane Austen, what would she think?
JP: I have absolutely no idea. I like to think she’d find it amusing, because she clearly had a very sharp sense of humour. Although she might take issue with her own little cameo appearance and demand a re-write.
And now a non-question: I was going to ask about your serialisation of the book online; it seems an unusual, although clearly successful, route to ‘traditional’ publication — but you’ve covered this in depth on Nicola Morgan’s blog so for other interested readers / writers, here’s a link:
And finally — what’s next? In the last line of the book you refer to a sequel, ‘Mrs Darcy versus The Monster’. There were 198 ½ years between Book I (Jan, 1813) and Book II (Sep, 2011); do you anticipate Mrs Darcy returning a touch sooner this time?
JP: I certainly hope so. I would love to write a sequel, but that depends on demand of course. The next thing in the pipeline is Dot(.) Dash(-), which would have come out in November were it not for Mrs D, but has now been postponed until next year. So at some point in the proceedings I will have to switch to being a more serious literary type for a while (although the humour is never that far from the surface in my stuff, I suppose).
Jonathan, thank you very much for dropping by, during what must be a wonderfully busy time for you. It’s been a great pleasure, and I know everyone’s going to love Mrs Darcy.
Regarding your continued, resounding success:
Pride and Prejudice has sold about 20 million copies worldwide. It would be a sad indictment of our culture today if we couldn’t manage the same with Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens (online excerpt), and for more alien shenanigans, we can catch up with Mrs Darcy on Twitter as @RealMrsDarcy, on Facebook and at home. (If you haven’t seen Wickhampedia, you haven’t ever really grasped a tentacle.)
[Images provided by interviewee.
Any queries, please let me know.]