Before your Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mystery series, which began with 2004's Pride and Prescience, you published two fantasy novels. Was it a big leap between genres?
Carrie Bebris: For me, the transition from writing fantasy to writing mysteries wasn't as great a leap as one might think. Both the fantasy novels and the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mysteries contain supernatural elements; the fantasy novels take place in imaginary settings where magic is real and accepted by the characters as part of their world. The Darcy mysteries take place in our own world, one where science reigns but can't quite explain everything. So any paranormal elements the Darcys might encounter are more subtle and require the couple to question whether what they perceive is indeed happening. This is also a nod to the Gothic novels that were popular in Jane Austen's day. The Darcy novels are also essentially "quest" stories, in that the characters are essentially searching for the truth.
When did you discover Jane Austen?
I discovered Jane Austen in high school, where we read an excerpt from Sense and Sensibility. There's a wonderful scene where Harry, who's one of the main characters in my new book, Suspense and Sensiblity [click here to read the review], has been named heir to Norland, and his father, John, who has passed away at the time of my book, has custody of the estate during his lifetime. John is trying to figure out how to provide for his half-sisters. His wife, Fanny, keeps talking him further and further down saying, "You don't want to give them that much money; you will be depriving Harry of it." John starts out with the intention of providing them with dowries, but in the end he stops by occasionally with gifts of game. It's a wonderful scene, and I just loved it!
How did you happen to choose the protagonists of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth (née Bennett) and Fitzwilliam Darcy, as your sleuths?
When I went to the library to check out Sense and Sensibility, it wasn't there, so instead I got Pride and Prejudice, which I read and loved. I was reading it while waiting for my violin lesson, and my teacher said, when she saw what I was reading, "Read it again when you're 30; it will be a completely different book." She was absolutely right. I think it was all part of the timing that having read Pride and Prejudice again when I was 30, it was in my mind when I was thinking of moving into the mystery genre.
Even though they've aged 15 years since Sense and Sensibility in Suspense and Sensibility, Eleanor and Marianne are much as one would expect them to be.
I have so much love for Austen, and such respect for her creations, that I don't want to transform them in ways that I think wouldn't be true to character. So there are always limits to what I can do and how far I can go with their stories, but within those limits I can have a lot of fun.
Actually, when you called, I was working on a new Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mystery, tentatively titled North by Northanger. While Jane Austen may have parodied Gothic novels in Northanger Abbey, I think she must have enjoyed them, or she wouldn't have read so many.