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The lovely author Nancy Kelley had this fab idea to swap posts this week and so I am thrilled to welcome Nancy here today! We were chatting about how very often, when writing, the characters in your novel can behave unpredictably, and as much as we try to keep them in line they go their own sweet way and start demanding to change the plot! Other problems occur when an author thinks she has resolved a carefully constructed plot, which suddenly falls apart because another character complains that they’ve been left out or have not been given a big enough voice or part in the unfolding story. The eventual plot can be something of a surprise!

Here is Nancy to tell us about her experiences of the surprise plot when writing Loving Miss Darcy.

Nancy is giving away an e-book copy of Loving Miss Darcy, open internationally – to enter, answer Nancy’s question below by leaving a comment! The Giveaway is open for one week only – closes Tuesday, April 30th 2013. 

Thanks to Jane for agreeing to trade places with me today. I love meeting new blog friends. Jane has posted on my blog, along with a giveaway; make sure to check it out!

Every author, from the ones who plan out every detail to the ones who just write as the story comes to them, is eventually surprised by something in their book. The characters start doing something you hadn’t anticipated, or a plot development arises that you weren’t expecting.

When I started writing Loving Miss Darcy, I was absolutely adamant that the main plot of the book would have nothing to do with George Wickham. This is Georgiana three years later, after all—wouldn’t she be over that by now? From the perspective of the author, I knew that several other books had already investigated that plot line and I wanted to do something different.

There followed six months of struggling with the book, trying to find the plot. Finally my good friend and critique partner told me I needed to explore Wickham. I fought and railed against it (for reasons not wholly creative), but finally gave in.

As soon as I allowed Georgiana the space to still feel shame for what Wickham had done, her personality and story unfolded beautifully. I hadn’t let her be herself, so I couldn’t see her story.

Now the Wickham debacle plays a central role in the plot of Loving Miss Darcy. Though it was three years ago, she knows others would be scandalized if they knew. In this rather poignant scene with Richard, she asks how she’s supposed to marry a man without letting him know all of who she is.

Loving Miss Darcy – Nancy Kelley

Farther down the same corridor, Georgiana was less fortunate. No matter how much she tried to convince herself the argument with Richard had been over his mistaking her age, she could not lie to herself any longer. He and Fitzwilliam constantly insisted on recommending men who deserved her but…

I do not deserve anyone! she thought morosely. I have made more mistakes than a young lady is usually allowed, and yet they pretend…

She paced in front of her fireplace, her fingers clenching and unclenching in the folds of her dressing gown. Elizabeth had asked her over a month ago if her reluctance to go to Town had anything to do with Wickham, and she had denied it.

How could I have been so blind to my own fears? And why do I still allow him such a hold over me?

The thought grew in her mind that she must make Richard see how little she deserved his regard. Knowing his habit of slipping out of the house early in the morning, she did not tarry in her own room. As soon as light touched the eastern horizon, she dressed as best she could without any help from Annie and walked silently down the stairs to the breakfast room. A word to the maid laying the fire ensured a cold repast would be laid on the table soon, along with Richard’s preferred coffee.

Richard did not disappoint. He appeared not long after the food, clearly dressed for the road. “Good morning, Cousin,” she greeted him.

He stood still for an instant before turning to face her. “Good morning, Georgiana. I did not think to see you up so early. Why are you hiding in the shadows?”

She stepped into the light and shook her head. “It is hardly my fault it is still so dark—it is your habit of sneaking out that drew me from my bed,” she chided him. “I could not let you leave with yesterday’s angry words hanging between us.”

Richard sat down and poured two cups of coffee. “Break your fast with me, Georgiana.”

Though phrased politely, Georgiana heard the note of command in his voice and sat in the chair opposite him. She could feel his gaze on her as she filled a plate with cheese and bread, but she did not return it.

“Look at me, Georgiana.” Reluctantly, she raised her eyes to his and sagged in relief when she saw no anger there, only confusion. “Our argument kept me up most of the night, and there is one point I do not understand.”

“What is that?”

“When you spoke of going to London for the Season, you still sounded… unenthusiastic.”

Georgiana bit her lip and pondered her answer. “Do I truly need a Season, Richard?” she finally asked, deciding at the last minute not to bring up Wickham unless she absolutely had to.

Richard leaned back in his chair. “I am afraid you do, Cuz.”

“But why?” Her own desperation took her by surprise, but she would not back down from the request.

His brow furrowed. “I thought the suggestion to have Kitty join us in Town for the Season had allayed most of your concerns.”

She shrugged and ran a finger over the pattern of the tablecloth. “Most, but not all. Kitty is so much… friendlier than I am. She does not worry what people will think of her.”

Richard took a swallow of coffee. “I see. And you do?” Georgiana nodded. “Tell me what it is about London that bothers you so much.”

Georgiana clenched her hands together in front of her. The food on her plate remained untouched, but she had no appetite for it. “You know enough of my past to guess, surely,” she said finally, seeing there was no way around it.

A gravelly sound caught her ear, and she looked up at Richard. His hand clutched the handle of his mug so tightly that she honestly feared he would break it. “Richard?”

He set the mug down carefully and spread his hand out, palm down, on the table top. “You cannot allow him to control your life, Georgiana.”

She raised her eyebrows. “How can I look these young men in the face and pretend I have nothing to hide, that I am as innocent and unblemished as any of the other ladies they might dance with?”

Richard’s face turned an alarming shade of red. “You are innocent.”

From anyone else, this level of anger would have quieted Georgiana. However, she was upset enough and trusted Richard enough that instead, she matched his vehemence with all the bitterness she felt. “Oh yes, of course I am—I am innocent of all but foolishness, but you know as well as I that not everyone will see it that way. How can we know which of those young men would not turn away from me when they found out the truth?”

“They need never know.”

She laughed, though she felt no amusement. “Oh, that is not fair to them, not fair at all,” she protested. “You cannot expect me to keep a secret like this from my husband. And if I am as innocent as you and my brother constantly proclaim, then why should it be a secret at all?”

Richard stared at her, gape-mouthed for some minutes. “I do not like to admit it, but you have a point,” he finally said.

Georgiana spread jam on her thick slice of bread and took a bite before speaking again. “So I ask again, how can I know which gentlemen would understand and stand by my side, and which would run, or worse, try to ruin me?

The room was quiet for a very long time, and finally Georgiana wiped her hands on a serviette and rose from the table. “You see why I do not look on the idea of a Season with much pleasure,” she said.

In the end, it is the threat of scandal that drives the final confrontation and climax. If I hadn’t let Georgiana surprise me, the book likely would never have been finished. What do you think? How much long-term impact would Wickham have had on Georgiana?

Nancy Kelley—Janeite, blogger, and chocoholic—is the author of two Jane Austen sequels, His Good Opinion: A Mr. Darcy Novel and Loving Miss Darcy. Her third novel, Against His Will, will come out in fall of 2013.

If Nancy could possess any fictional device, it would be a Time-Turner. Then perhaps she could juggle a full-time library job, writing, and blogging; and still find time for sleep and a life. Until then, she lives on high doses of tea and substitutes multiple viewings of Doctor Who for a social life.

You can find Nancy on Twitter @Nancy_Kelley , at nancykelleywrites.com  and on Indiejane.org. She also blogs regularly about Doctor Who for Smitten by Britain.

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When I was writing Mr. Darcy’s Secret I was lucky enough to take a trip to Derbyshire for inspiration and research. In my book Elizabeth Bennet’s aunt, Mrs. Gardiner, has a friend, Mrs. Butler, who lives in Lambton. We know, of course, that Mrs. Gardiner lived in Lambton herself once upon a time so I assumed she would have made friends there.
I stayed in the village of Beeley on the Chatsworth estate and it was here that I was very taken with the house below which I thought would be a good starting point for Mrs. Butler’s house. Although not quite exactly as the house I’d imagined in my head, it certainly ran on similar lines. I’d imagined a stone house with mullioned windows – perhaps a little more set back from the road, a little larger in size, and with a grander front door, but I was very pleased with this one nevertheless.

The interior of Mrs. Butler’s house was inspired by a house that I knew as a child. The room belonged to a friend of my mother’s and I can still remember it very clearly now. I think the memory has stayed with me partly because I wrote about it in a story when I was about seven years old, and also because my Mum’s friend was a lady who encouraged me to pick things up and play with them. I remember a beautiful music box – I’d never seen anything like it, and I was allowed to turn the key and play it to my heart’s content. There always seemed to be a fire roaring in the grate, interesting objects on the shelves and windowsills, and the added delight of a dog who allowed me to pet and stroke him. Again, the room in my head is a little different to the one I knew, but there are elements that are the same.

I’ve included the extract from Mr. Darcy’s Secret which describes Elizabeth and Georgiana Darcy calling on Mrs. Butler with Mrs. Gardiner. I hope you enjoy it!

Georgiana was delighted to join the party that set out next morning after breakfast, driving along in the carriage away from Pemberley taking the road to Lambton. The three women travelled alone with the coachman and his boy, leaving Mr Darcy and Mr Gardiner to their shooting and all the little Gardiners to their lessons with their governess.
“Thank you so very much for inviting me, Mrs Gardiner,” said Georgiana. “I’m rather embarrassed to admit that I am not really acquainted with anyone in the village, though I’ve always longed to have more friends in the area. But having been in London for such a long time meant I did not have the opportunity to meet with many people round about, apart from the families that called when I was here in the summer.”
“There is no reason why you should be acquainted with anyone in Lambton, Miss Darcy,” replied Mrs Gardiner. “I know the circles you have moved in all your life are very different to those of my own and I am sure there was never the chance to enjoy a very wide society.”
Georgiana looked thoughtful. “I do remember my brother telling me that my mother was very conscientious in her duties and often called in the village especially on the needy and sick. It is a practice I would like to rejuvenate; I know my mother was very well regarded in Lambton. What do you think, Elizabeth? Would you like to revive the habit?”

“We shall go together if you should like it,” agreed Elizabeth warmly. “I know Mr Darcy has always tried to help the poorer families where he can, and I think we could certainly find other worthwhile occupation and enterprises to which we may give a helping hand, especially if it can be done without giving offence. The people here are very proud, hard-working, and for the most part self-sufficient, but we can do much to improve their general happiness and condition, I am certain.”
“If any two people can undertake such work with sensibility and discernment, I am sure you both can,” said Mrs Gardiner. “There is always someone or something that needs attention in a place like this, where those who do fall on hard times often find it difficult to ask for largesse.”
The carriage turned into the High Street and Elizabeth could not help noticing the excitement their arrival was causing amongst the inhabitants going about their business. Being Mrs Darcy was going to take some getting used to, she decided, as she witnessed passers by nudging one another, curtseying or bowing and doffing caps, as they travelled the length of the thoroughfare to a good-sized stone house with gables set back from the road.
“Here we are, I am so looking forward to seeing my friend, though I have to tell you, it shall be a visit tinged with sadness,” declared Mrs Gardiner. “Dear Mrs Butler’s lovely husband passed away last year. He was a naval captain until his health took a turn for the worse and an upstanding member of the community, always willing to help those less fortunate than himself. He succumbed to consumption after a long illness and poor Martha is left quite alone. Her only surviving son has gone to seek his fortune in London and is doing well, I believe, and although he has tried to persuade his mother to join him there, she would never consider leaving Derbyshire or the home she shared with John.”

“I can easily understand that,” said Lizzy peering out at the house before them. “To leave a house full of memories shared with the one you love would not be easy, even if you were going to make a new home with those you adore. Her son must be a generous, affectionate young man to take such care of his mother.”
“I have not seen him for some time, but I do remember that he was the very image of his father and with the same gentle ways. I know he would have tried very hard to persuade his mother to join him.”
The coachman was at the door in a moment and the ladies stepped down to make their way along the flagged path leading up to the house with its central door set between mullioned windows. They were soon shown into a comfortable yet old-fashioned parlour furnished in country style. On one side of the gleaming mahogany fireplace was an oak dresser displaying a wealth of pewter, illuminated by the bright flames of the fire in the grate, and in the opposite corner, a grandfather clock with a painted face of flowers and cupids stood ticking the hours away. Placed before the hearth an ancient settee draped in chintz and a sturdy settle adorned with blue check cushions were arranged to make the best use of the heat of the coals.

Georgiana looked around her with wonder. Such a cosy room and stuffed with objects of varying interest, though not necessarily of great worth. It had the feeling of what she imagined it would be like to enter a ship, with its low, beamed ceiling and dark, panelled walls. Every surface displayed some treasure, from exotic shells, oyster pink and glossy with a finish of pearl, to spiky sea urchins and stiff, bony sea horses. A mahogany box brimming with bright fishing flies lay open on the shelf before the window, in between a Chinese bowl decorated with peonies in vivid blue and the skeletal remains of what appeared to be a large and rather sinister looking fish.

Martha Butler bade them sit down after the introductions and immediately addressed the Darcy women, telling them what an honour it was to receive them. “And to see you again, Mrs Gardiner, after all these years and under such splendid circumstances. I cannot think of anything that would have pleased you better than to see your niece as mistress of Pemberley. Lambton was always so dear to your heart and now you have an excellent excuse to visit us both very often, I hope.”
“I am very lucky to have been invited to stay so soon and I hope to visit you often, my dear friend,” Mrs Gardiner replied.
Mrs Butler glanced at Georgiana who despite herself could not help look with fascination at everything around the room. “It’s a very queer room, is it not, Miss Darcy?”
“Oh, Mrs Butler, on the contrary, it is a lovely room, but you must think me so rude for staring.”
“Not at all, my dear, and if there is anything takes your fancy for a closer scrutiny, I hope you will have a look. See these old panels on the walls? My late husband rescued them from a ship he served in that was broken up for scrap. I never felt so far away from him when he was at sea, so long as I could see these lovely pieces of timber worked on and polished by his own hand to fit into my parlour.”
“Mr Butler was a skilled carpenter as well as being an admirable sea captain,” joined in Mrs Gardiner. “I remember he made you a sewing box on your marriage, a most beautiful object to my mind.”
“I have it still, though it is locked in the cupboard this morning. I’ll fetch it out in a minute, Miss Darcy, and you can see what my husband had to keep himself occupied on during those long days on board ship when he was a mere midshipman.”
At that moment the party heard the sound of the front door shutting and a man’s voice booming with cheerful resonance to the maid in the hall.
“Oh, my goodness me, I quite forgot to tell you in all my excitement in seeing you again,” Mrs Butler declared, her face lighting up with pleasure. “Master Thomas is home for a holiday. He has just finished on a scheme of work at Lord Featherstone’s house in Richmond, but I expect he will tell you all about it himself.”
Just as she spoke, the door of the parlour opened to admit a tall young man with an air of affable good nature and with such pleasing looks that Georgiana, who had started to become quite at ease, felt quite unequal to meet the eyes of those which alighted so eagerly upon her countenance.

© Jane Odiwe Mr. Darcy’s Secret 2011

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It’s just over a fortnight to go before Mr Darcy’s Secret launch – I can’t quite believe it, but it won’t be long before I shall be able to hold my ‘new baby’!
When I was researching the book and thinking about the plot, I very much wanted to make Lizzy’s dream of visiting the Lakes come true and who better to share the experience than with her new husband Mr Darcy.
At this time the Cumbrian Lakes were beginning to grow in popularity as a holiday destination. The area became the retreat for painters and poets with Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey living and writing in the area. Wordsworth was inspired to pen his most famous daffodil poem in 1802 when he and his sister Dorothy were wandering along Ullswater.

Dorothy wrote in her journal:
When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow Park, we saw a few daffodils close to the water side. We fancied that the lake had floated the seed ashore and that the little colony had so sprung up. But as we went along there were more and more and at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road.

I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake, they looked so gay ever dancing ever changing.

This wind blew directly over the lake to them. There was here and there a little knot and a few stragglers a few yards higher up but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity and unity and life of that one busy highway. We rested again and again. The Bays were stormy, and we heard the waves at different distances and in the middle of the water like the sea.

Lake Windermere, or Winandermere as it was known then was not the very busy tourist destination it is today. Prints of the time show it to be a very unspoiled area. Ann Radcliffe made a journey in 1794 to the Lake District and wrote: Windermere is distinguished from all the other Lakes by its superior length and breadth, by the gentle hills, cultivated and enclosed nearly to their summits, that generally bind its shores, by the gradual distance and fine disposition of the northern mountains, by the bold sweeps of its numerous bays, by the villas that speckle and rich plantations that wind them, and by one large island, surrounded by many islets which adds dignity to its bosom. On the other lakes the islands are prettinesses, that do not accord with the character of the scene; they break also the surface of the water where vast continuity is required; and the mind cannot endure to descend suddenly from the gigantic sublimity of nature to her fairy sports. Having said all that, however, she goes on to say that she found the area a little tame for her taste – it was the fashion to be in awe of the sublimity of nature, and the Lake District presented many opportunities for those ‘romantics’ who wished to be struck by the terror and beauty of all they observed in the stunning scenery.
I thought Elizabeth Darcy would love the Lake District, though perhaps be able to appreciate it with a more tempered and pragmatic eye, but nevertheless enjoy the reactions of certain individuals who wished to be ‘overcome’ by the dramatic landscapes, and given to painting or writing poetry.
I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but just as she and Darcy, along with Georgiana, Jane and Bingley, are enjoying themselves in the peaceful Lakeside Bellingham Hall, they receive news that a party from London who are tired with the  Season and have become enamoured of a certain new painter/poet are following in his wake, and about to descend. I wonder if you can guess who any of these characters might be?
While everyone else is occupied with following their artistic pursuits, Georgiana finds her own romantic nature in more ways than one, but I shan’t say any more! I really enjoyed writing this section of the book, and I hope you will be amused by it!

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In Pride and Prejudice when Elizabeth goes touring to Derbyshire with her aunt and uncle they visit Pemberley and to Lizzy’s horror she comes face to face with Mr Darcy. She’s really embarrassed because she’s turned down his marriage proposal and she is mortified at what he will think of her looking over his house and grounds. But, it’s at this point in the book that Darcy starts to show that he’s really taken notice of Elizabeth’s criticisms of him and he makes an enormous effort to be extra civil and attentive to her and her relatives.

During the visit he introduces his sister Georgiana, and Lizzy discovers that Bingley is with him also. Her sister Jane is in love with Bingley, and been disappointed by him. Yet, it is very clear that he has not stopped thinking about Jane and this is proved when he remembers the exact date when he saw and danced with her last – November 26th.

Here’s an extract from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice followed by one of my favourite scenes that takes place during the Derbyshire visit from the BBC Pride and Prejudice with that ‘look’ from Mr Darcy!

Miss Darcy and her brother appeared, and this formidable introduction took place. With astonishment did Elizabeth see that her new acquaintance was at least as much embarrassed as herself. Since her being at Lambton, she had heard that Miss Darcy was exceedingly proud; but the observation of a very few minutes convinced her that she was only exceedingly shy. She found it difficult to obtain even a word from her beyond a monosyllable.

Miss Darcy was tall, and on a larger scale than Elizabeth; and, though little more than sixteen, her figure was formed, and her appearance womanly and graceful. She was less handsome than her brother; but there was sense and good-humour in her face, and her manners were perfectly unassuming and gentle. Elizabeth, who had expected to find in her as acute and unembarrassed an observer as ever Mr. Darcy had been, was much relieved by discerning such different feelings.

They had not been long together before Darcy told her that Bingley was also coming to wait on her; and she had barely time to express her satisfaction, and prepare for such a visitor, when Bingley’s quick step was heard on the stairs, and in a moment he entered the room. All Elizabeth’s anger against him had been long done away; but had she still felt any, it could hardly have stood its ground against the unaffected cordiality with which he expressed himself on seeing her again. He inquired in a friendly, though general way, after her family, and looked and spoke with the same good-humoured ease that he had ever done.

To Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner he was scarcely a less interesting personage than to herself. They had long wished to see him. The whole party before them, indeed, excited a lively attention. The suspicions which had just arisen of Mr. Darcy and their niece directed their observation towards each with an earnest though guarded inquiry; and they soon drew from those inquiries the full conviction that one of them at least knew what it was to love. Of the lady’s sensations they remained a little in doubt; but that the gentleman was overflowing with admiration was evident enough.

Elizabeth, on her side, had much to do. She wanted to ascertain the feelings of each of her visitors; she wanted to compose her own, and to make herself agreeable to all; and in the latter object, where she feared most to fail, she was most sure of success, for those to whom she endeavoured to give pleasure were prepossessed in her favour. Bingley was ready, Georgiana was eager, and Darcy determined, to be pleased. In seeing Bingley, her thoughts naturally flew to her sister; and oh! how ardently did she long to know whether any of his were directed in a like manner. Sometimes she could fancy that he talked less than on former occasions, and once or twice pleased herself with the notion that, as he looked at her, he was trying to trace a resemblance. But, though this might be imaginary, she could not be deceived as to his behaviour to Miss Darcy, who had been set up as a rival to Jane. No look appeared on either side that spoke particular regard. Nothing occurred between them that could justify the hopes of his sister. On this point she was soon satisfied; and two or three little circumstances occurred ere they parted, which, in her anxious interpretation, denoted a recollection of Jane not untinctured by tenderness, and a wish of saying more that might lead to the mention of her, had he dared. He observed to her, at a moment when the others were talking together, and in a tone which had something of real regret, that it “was a very long time since he had had the pleasure of seeing her;” and, before she could reply, he added, “It is above eight months. We have not met since the 26th of November, when we were all dancing together at Netherfield.”

Elizabeth was pleased to find his memory so exact; and he afterwards took occasion to ask her, when unattended to by any of the rest, whether all her sisters were at Longbourn. There was not much in the question, nor in the preceding remark; but there was a look and a manner which gave them meaning.

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