Today I have the privilege of having debut author C.P. Odom with me. His premiere novel, A Most Civil Proposal, is a Pride and Prejudice variation that explores what would happen if Mr. Darcy realized the folly in expressing the “struggles” he had to overcome before allowing his ardent love for Elizabeth to rule.
Meryton Press has kindly offered one trade Paperback for GIVEAWAY. To enter, leave a comment or question for Mr. Odom along with your email address so I know how to contact the winner.
On Meryton Press’s site you mention that it was after watching part of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice mini-series that had you wanting to know what happened during the part you missed, which led to you reading Austen’s most popular novel as well as watching both the 1995 and 2005 adaptations in their entirety. Which parts of Austen’s work held you captivated and which story elements had you thinking of writing your own variation?
Before I answer that, I need to lay a little groundwork. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed a number of romantic films such as “An Affair to Remember,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “The Princess Bride,” etc. I’ve been kidded a few times for liking movies that some people rather inelegantly refer to as “chick-flicks,” but I figure that my “Guy Credentials” (former Marine, football player, etc.) are good enough so that I can watch whatever I want. Anyway, “You’ve Got Mail” is one of my favorites, and if you’ve ever seen the movie, you know that the director, Nora Ephron, implicitly included a lot of “Pride and Prejudice” elements in the plot and even explicitly mentions Jane Austen, Elizabeth Bennet, and Mr. Darcy. However, at the time, I hadn’t read “P&P.” Thus, while I enjoyed “You’ve Got Mail,” I didn’t “get” the references to the “P&P” elements.
Anyway, one weekend day I nodded off watching TV and woke up midway through the “Pride & Prejudice” mini-series. Half asleep, I started watching this heretofore unknown movie and caught references to “Mr. Darcy,” “Lizzy,” and “Mrs. Bennet.” I was so ignorant that it took a while before I realized what I was watching, but it was the connection to “You’ve Got Mail” that first piqued my interest. However, even after watching the rest of the movie, I didn’t know why Elizabeth Bennet was so upset with Mr. Darcy, who was this Mr. Wickham, etc., etc.
To assuage my curiosity, I dug out my first wife’s copy of “P&P,” read it, and later watched both the 1979 and the 1995 miniseries. My present wife kind of smiled tolerantly and kept on watching her own favorites (which usually involved vampires somewhere, such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and let me go my own way. Then one day on a whim, I did a search online for sequels to “P&P” and found Jane Austen fan fiction. I happened to get lucky and read several pretty good stories, and my interest was again piqued. One reason for my interest is that I read a lot of science fiction, including a sub-genre called Alternative History (such as, what if the South had won the Civil War?). Clearly, Jane Austen fan fiction leans heavily on such topics, which in turn led me to wonder, “What would have happened if Darcy hadn’t been a jerk when he proposed?”
The more I thought on it, the deeper I got, and I was soon jotting down notes of what parts of the story might have turned out differently. Before long, I started fleshing out my notes with backstory elements and dialogue, and some months later, I started posting the initial chapters of “A Most Civil Proposal” online. It took a while to finish posting since I hadn’t finished the story when I started, but eventually, I got it done to generally positive comments.
My wife continues to smile tolerantly, but she still hasn’t read any of my stories. Perhaps if I put some vampires in a story? “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” has already been done, but what about vampires? Elizabeth Bennet the Vampire Slayer anybody?
The idea of Mr. Darcy realizing how supercilious his initial proposal to Elizabeth sounded and therefore changing it to a more civil proposal sounds interesting. What inspired your muse to come up with this topic?
As for Darcy recognizing how supercilious he was being, well, he wasn’t quite there yet (no surprise there!) before the proposal, but he did manage to realize how objectionable it would be to say to her, “In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed.” He resolves to be more gentle, but he still has some edges that he needs to have polished off. In this variation, Elizabeth is more the sandpaper than the hammer, which is partly due to the civility of his proposal.
For the question of what inspired my muse, the answer is that I myself have struggled with my mouth leading a life of its own. In my job, I wanted to move into engineering management, and speaking first and thinking afterward is kind of an obstacle to such a goal. So I had to train myself to imagine how what I wanted to say might sound to the other person BEFORE I actually said it. It took a while, needless to say, but I did get better. When I read the proposal passage in “P&P,” that training led me to think, “There ought to be some way to make this less objectionable,” which then led to imagining Darcy making a civil proposal and what would transpire from that. But just making a civil proposal didn’t mean he was instantly a smoothie. To paraphrase Mrs. Gardiner, it would take a good wife to teach him such things.
Who is your favorite P&P character?
It’s a close race between Elizabeth Bennet and Col. Fitzwilliam. EB is attractive to me as a guy because she’s spirited and optimistic at a time when such characteristics were rather unusual, but I think I have to give the award to Col. Fitzwilliam, because he appeals to me as an author for a rather strange reason, which is that we really don’t know too much about him. EB, Darcy, Bingley, Mr. Bennet, etc., are all sketched fairly completely by JA, but I can almost make Col. Fitzwilliam whatever I please, as long as he remains a younger son, an army officer (we don’t know it it’s Lt. Col or Col., for example), & shares guardianship of Georgiana.
Who’s your least favorite character?
Bingley, without a doubt, because he’s a wimp. Getting talked out of marrying Jane because she might be indifferent? Pulleaze! He’ll find that out when he makes an offer, and, if she accepts him, then she cannot be too indifferent. He doesn’t deserve her.
What is your favorite Jane Austen quote?
There’s a lot of competition, but I think Mr. Bennet’s comment when he refuses to make EB marry Mr. Collins is at the top of the list: “An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”
If you lived during Austen's time, what is the one thing you would dislike the most and the one thing you would most enjoy?
Probably my least favorite thing would be the social stratification, which prevented enterprising people from achieving their dreams by hard work and effort. That is despite the fact that I know that Regency England was a breath of fresh air compared to the rest of Europe.
My favorite thing is probably the civility and manners that were part of social interaction. I think good manners are the grease that make any society work. All societies are inherently unwieldy, and “frankness” and “telling it like it is” are highly overrated “virtues.” Too many people today use them to justify rudeness and arrogance.
Meryton Press is kindly offering ONE TRADE PAPERBACK of A Most Civil Proposal to one lucy commenter (US only). Simply leave a comment or question for C.P. Odom. Also, please provide your email address so I know how to contact the winner. For extra entires, tweet about the giveaway and provide the Twitter link to your tweet. Giveaway ends Monday, March 18. Best of luck!! =)
From the publisher:
"You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you." When Fitzwilliam Darcy spoke these words to Elizabeth Bennet as part of his marriage proposal, they expressed his concealed feelings completely, but their meaning was at odds with the rest of his prideful and arrogant offer of marriage. It was therefore rather easy for Elizabeth to reject his offer in much the same manner. But what if Darcy, never one at ease when trying to speak of inner sentiments, had realized beforehand how his intended proposal would sound to the young woman he hoped to make his bride? What if he had attempted a much more civil and thoughtful proposal of marriage? Could Elizabeth Bennet have coldly and angrily rejected an offer made in such a manner? A Most Civil Proposal, a variation on Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice", examines and explores how the lives of the two main characters and their families and friends might have turned out differently had Darcy realized his error beforehand and thus avoided being so forcefully instructed and corrected by the love of his life.