I’m so pleased to bring you this next author’s post. I’ve been obsessed with her Darcy Mysteries for years so when I put together my little personal wishlist for authors I wanted for this event this author was near the top. I couldn’t believe it when she said yes. So everyone welcome the amazing Carrie Bebris!
- So I first discovered your books through my mom, who adores your MR. & MRS DARCY MYSTERIES series (as do I). Can you tell us a little bit about those books?
Set in early 19th-century England (also known as the Regency period), the Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mysteries cast the now-married Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as reluctant sleuths who find themselves called upon to untangle intrigues involving their family and friends. The first book of the series, Pride and Prescience, opens with Elizabeth and Darcy’s wedding and takes place entirely within the world of Austen’s P&P. Successive books of the series bring the Darcys into contact with the characters and settings of other Austen novels.
- What kind of research do you have to do for a series like that?
Oh, my goodness—quite a lot! Multiple types, both before I begin writing the novel, and throughout the writing and revision process:
Austen’s writings: I’ve read all of Austen’s novels (also her letters and other minor works) multiple times, but when beginning a new mystery I always do a very close rereading of whichever Austen work my new mystery is based on, looking for undeveloped plot threads, getting intimately acquainted with the characters, immersing myself in the setting, and taking notes on minute details most readers breeze past or scarcely notice. It’s very important to me to capture the spirit of Austen’s writings and be respectful of her creations.
History (particularly social history): What everyday life was like in Regency England—how people lived, worked, played, courted; what they wore and ate; transportation, communication, customs such as dueling, gambling, hunting; attitudes, beliefs, and traditions, etiquette; how institutions such as schools, army, navy, the church were organized, etc. Sometimes I know from the outset that I’ll need to research particular topics (such as life aboard ship for a plot involving a naval officer); other times I’ll be in the middle of writing a scene and suddenly realize that I don’t know whether I can have a character slip a crucial item of evidence into his trouser pocket because I don’t know whether men’s trousers in that era had pockets!
Legal and technical details of the crime or other mystery the Darcys have to solve: These are details all mystery writers must research, but it’s particularly challenging to create clues and plot developments when the story is set in a time before modern medicine, forensic science, or even police departments. Would a doctor even recognize the effects of belladonna poisoning? What kind of ballistic evidence would that 18th-century dueling pistol leave, and how would it ever be found on an open field? Who has a legal claim to the estate of that rich, childless widow who has suddenly disappeared?
Setting: When the novels take place in real-world locations I try to visit them if possible to render them as accurately as I can. In addition to places such as London, Bath, Lyme Regis, and Derbyshire, I’ve also explored 18th-century battleships, subterranean smuggling caves, and country manor houses. Many times, I’ve created plot twists inspired by things I never would have known about, let alone thought of, if I hadn’t been there in person.
Language: With rare exceptions, if a word had not yet entered the language by the time my book is set, it doesn’t appear in my book.
Experiential learning: When possible, I take advantage of opportunities to learn history by experiencing it hands-on. In the name of research, I’ve worn Regency-style gowns and danced at period balls, written with quill pens, attended a Regency-era dinner party in a Bath townhouse, and fired a reproduction dueling pistol.
- What made you want to write the Darcys as detectives?
My first two published novels were fantasy stories. When I decided to switch to the mystery genre, I wanted to write the kind of mysteries I most enjoy reading: those with some connection to classic literature, and those in which a couple works together as sleuthing team. Jane Austen had long been my favorite author (confession: the hero of my second fantasy novel was a holier-than-thou knight with the surname D’Arcy, who was taken down a few pegs by the feisty heroine with a scruffier upbringing), and I contemplated a number of premises inspired by her. When I struck upon the idea of the newlywed Darcys finding themselves embroiled in intrigue and engaging in witty, flirty dialogue as they puzzled their way out of it, I knew THAT was a story I wanted to read. So I wrote it ☺.
- You’ve covered just about all of Jane Austen’s books in your series; what’s next for the Darcys? Or are we at the end of their story?
Readers and interviewers asked me this same question when my sixth Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery (The Deception at Lyme, based on Austen’s Persuasion) released, since Austen completed only six full-length novels. Yet here we are, with a seventh Darcy Mystery (The Suspicion at Sanditon) releasing in trade paperback this month after a successful hardcover/ebook launch last July. (It made the Los Angeles Times Summer Reading Recommendation List—in the “Page-Turners” category with Stephen King. ☺) This newest Darcy mystery takes place in the village of Sanditon, the setting of a manuscript Jane Austen left unfinished when she died. She left behind a whole cast of characters for me to work with, and it was a pleasure to finally give them a story. Austen also left behind another unfinished manuscript, a novella, and three volumes of juvenilia (short stories and other works) she wrote as a teenager and young woman. So there are still a significant number of Austen works I (and the Darcys) have not yet explored, and even within her published novels there are other characters and plot threads waiting to be developed. The Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mysteries have from the very first novel been an open-ended series, and will remain so as long as readers keep buying and enjoying them.
- Can you tell us a little about what else you write?
I write nonfiction articles, essays, and feature stories on a variety of topics for magazines and anthologies. The change of genre and style helps keep my writing fresh and takes me back to my roots as a writer. (My undergraduate degree and early publishing jobs were in journalism.) I also write the occasional short story.
- Who is your favorite character or characters to write? Why?
It’s probably obvious that I enjoy writing about Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, or the series wouldn’t have continued this long. I am always discovering new things about them, both as I am writing, and whenever I reread Austen’s P&P. But beyond them, I really enjoy developing Austen’s other characters. Since her novels primarily use the heroine’s point of view, it’s a pleasure to explore some of her heroes and villains in further depth (and also to give those villains their just desserts!). I’ve delighted in adding new dimensions to characters who don’t get a great deal of “stage time” in the original novels, and creating backstories—such as the romance between Mr. Darcy’s parents—that cast new light on characters we thought we knew well. It’s also great fun to create characters of my own who interact with Austen’s originals, whether as suspects, allies, or obstacles.
Finally, each of my mysteries contains at least one romantic subplot, and I must confess that by the time I’ve finished writing the book, I’m at least half in love with the suitor ☺
- Do you read a lot as well as write? What do you read? Favorite books/authors?
Like many authors, I was a voracious reader as a child—and still am. I read across genres, and usually have several books going at once. I find that my choices vary with the stage of writing I’m in with my own work-in-progress. When I’ve recently finished a manuscript or am in the research phase of the next, I gravitate toward classics, historical fiction, mystery, and suspense. When I’m deep into the writing of my own book, I crave fantasy, modern fiction, or nonfiction—something very different from what I’m writing.
- What made you decide to write?
I think writing chose me as much as I chose it. I can hardly remember a time when I wasn’t telling stories in one form or another. Ask my younger sister about the time she stayed up all night watching her stuffed animals because I told her they came to life at midnight ☺ (Actually, perhaps you shouldn’t ask—her version of the story doesn’t portray me very sympathetically!) But the moment I first thought about becoming a professional writer occurred when I was 10. Every week, we had to write a sentence for each of our spelling words. One week, I linked all of my mine to create a story. My teacher complimented my creativity and added, “You should be a writer.” That was the first time it occurred to me that writers were real people—that the authors of the books I loved so much weren’t exalted beings handing down their literary masterpieces from On High, they were regular folks with a job. A job that I considered the Best Job Ever, and that with enough talent, determination, and hard work, perhaps one day could be mine. All these years later, I can’t imagine choosing another path, and even on my toughest days, I still consider being a writer the Best Job Ever.
- What’s next for you?
I’m currently writing a stand-alone historical novel. It’s not Austen-related, but it takes place in the same time period (1816-1818) and is set against some fascinating yet little-known historical events I learned about while researching my Darcy mysteries. I don’t want to give away too many plot details at present (talking about a story too much eliminates the need to write it), but the novel contains everything readers (and I) enjoy about my Darcy series: romance, intrigue, suspense, humor, rich historical details, and characters readers will fall in love with. (And yes, I’m already in love with the hero! ☺ )
- Is there anything else you want to talk about that we haven’t covered?
First of all, I want to thank you for inviting me to participate in OAAA! This is a great event, and I’m honored to be a part of it.
I’d also like to let your readers know that in addition to the OAAA giveaway copy of the new trade paperback edition of The Suspicion at Sanditon, they also have an opportunity to win a copy by signing up for my e-newsletter. All new subscribers between now and May 15, 2016 will be entered in a drawing. To subscribe, or more information about me and my books, visit my website (www.carriebebris.com).
If you wanna win a copy of Carrie’s latest book enter our massive giveaway here.
From our shelves to yours,
Erin & Carrie