When I was a little girl, the only thing I loved more than Disney movies were those specials on the Disney Channel about the making of Disney movies. I’ve always been fascinated by how things are made, so it’s probably understandable that I’ve always liked to talk (and talk some more) about how my own creative works came to life. As I await the final(!) proof of Once Upon My Mind, I thought I’d give you a little peek into the process behind my first published book, Time & Tenacity (which, incidentally, you can totally buy the second edition of now! Makes a great holiday gift!)
Death seems like a gruesome way to start off this short behind-the-scenes special, but I’m starting with it because one of the first things I decided and stuck with since wondering one night “What if Pride and Prejudice ended with Mary or Kitty Bennet running away with the Doctor?” was that Mr. Bennet’s Time counterpart had to be dead when the story started. His death, as hypothetical as it is the entire time in Pride, is the Sword of Damocles that hangs over the entire proceedings, and one of the first things I wondered was what would happen if Mary/Kitty (one of my other early decisions was to composite them into one character, Jane, so I wouldn’t have to marginalize either of them) was still unmarried when Mr. Bennet moved on and Mr. Collins moved in to the Bennet house.
The rest of Jane’s circumstances were somewhat different, at first. The character who ultimately became Lady Jennings, in this original version, was Mrs. Farnsworth, Jane’s mother, but just as malicious and partial. (Basically Mrs. Bennet with her redeeming qualities stripped away.) Edward, in this version a composite of Bingley and Collins, was the distant cousin who had inherited everything (more Downton Abbey than Jane Austen, I know.) While he didn’t turn Jane and her mom out before her dear dad was cold in his grave, he and Cassandra were a bit too distracted by their own affairs to take proper care of them. Eleanor wasn’t even in the opening chapter when I introduced Jane’s family at all, being at her Pemberley counterpart lying-in. Isabella was pretty much the same as her current boastful, impetuous version, however! Jane would have gone travelling with Riley around various points in time without any of them.
I threw this version out after a few months after realizing even with the change of names and certain circumstances, I was making all our beloved Pride characters absent, aloof, or jerks to make Jane more sympathetic. Also, a plot comprised entirely of loosely-connected episodes of Jane travelling in time didn’t really have a larger purpose or even much of a Austen-esque “feel”. It took reading a sweet Pride sequel to help me realize any retelling of Pride without utilizing more of the wide cast of characters we love so much like Lizzy, Darcy, Bingely, Jane, Bingley, Georgiana, Bingley (ha ha, take a wild guess who my favorite character is), and even Lydia was empty and lifeless.
But even in this new and much improved version, poor Mr. Farnsworth was dead. I can’t really explain why, since in the published version there is still a Mr. Bennet-like figure in Sir Francis. I suppose I was still interested in exploring the consequences of being an unmarried, fatherless woman (or women, since in this case all four Farnsworth girls are left behind at first) in a world where she would have very little resources or opportunities to take care of herself, much like Jane Austen was for a significant part of her real adult life. (Also, like the real Jane’s father, my fictional Jane’s father ended up being a clergyman.)
Mrs. Farnsworth had to be removed from the picture too, for reasons that are obvious to anyone who’s made it to Chapter 15 of Time (and that’s all I’m going to say about that for now!), so the cruel matriarch figure quickly became Lady Jennings. Be sure to follow this blog to learn more about Mrs. Farnsworth’s story and how the other characters, including their names, came to be. If there’s anything about the making of Time & Tenacity that you’re curious about, please let me know in the comments!