Alex Field’s ‘Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding’ is a Real Treat

1330-20120419211614-sophiaAlex Field‘s talents as an author, publisher and speaker, her love of Christmas pudding, and her overt enthusiasm for Jane Austen all cleverly amalgamate in the latest of her series, Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding. Having previously featured her beloved Pride and Prejudice characters in Mr Darcy and Mr Darcy the Dancing Duck, Alex Field, together with the ingenuity of illustrator Peter Carnavas, bring back the haughty but loveable duck in this Christmas tale about love and goodwill.

You may have already read Dimity Powell‘s fabulous review! Here’s some further promotion of this endearing book!

Mr Collins makes his debut appearance by pouncing on an innocent Maria, intended as a delicious ‘mousy’ feast. As punishment, Mr Darcy snatches her away and leaves poor Mr Collins out in the cold. It is Mr Darcy’s charitable friends that, after enjoying their pudding-bake time together on Stir-up Sunday, show concern for the cat’s wellbeing. Sweet Lizzy’s compassionate nature is finally rewarded on Christmas Day when she gets her wish under the mistletoe.

In true, delectable style, Peter Carnavas creates expression, a sense of warmth and focus with the perfect variation of colour, plain backgrounds and page layouts.

Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding is a fun and charming story about friendship and kindness, is a seasonable reminder that Christmas is a time of giving, with a beautiful sentiment of family traditions.

New Frontier Publishing November 2014.  

856-20141023120845-Cover_Mr-Darcy-and-the-Christmas-Pudding_R Alex Field shares her Yuletide joys and her inspiration behind ‘Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding’ in this engaging interview. Thank you, Alex!  

Your books in the Mr Darcy series are all based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice characters. What do you love about Austen’s stories?
The first Austen book I read as a teenager was Northanger Abbey. It is her one title that has a dark, gothic twist, something all teenagers gravitate towards. From there I was hooked. I read every one of her books and go back to them often. It is her characters I adore. In two lines she tells us everything we need to know about Mr Collins. “Mr. Collins had only to change from Jane to Elizabeth — and it was soon done — done while Mrs. Bennet was stirring the fire.” I was very keen to include Mr Collins in one of the Mr Darcy picture books. At last he makes an appearance in Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding!  

How did this inspiration turn into the development of your own picture books?
One of my friends named her family duck Mr Darcy. Sadly, much to the distress of the children, he died soon after he arrived in the family garden. I started thinking about the possibility of creating a character for children based on Pride and Prejudice. Romantically I thought I could put this character on the page and the children in the family, who had lost their beloved duck, would see he lived on in a book. Of course by the time the book was published the children were all too old for picture books!  

What challenges have you found referencing Pride and Prejudice in your Mr Darcy books when considering suitability for children?
The language was a little tricky. I wanted to ensure that Mr Darcy’s pompous manner came across in the story. He is a very polite duck.
The challenge I set myself for Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding was to create a Christmas scene true to the Regency era. This meant doing away with the usual trappings of Christmas such as a Christmas tree and Santa. However the Christmas pudding was around in Regency times as was mistletoe so both these make an appearance.  

Congratulations on your latest book ‘Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding’! How did you celebrate its’ release?
Thank you! I was in London at the time visiting my daughter who is currently studying there. We went to Selfridges, looked at the gorgeous Paddington Bear windows and indulged ourselves in the Food Hall. As Paddington was a favourite growing up I couldn’t resist also buying a jar of marmalade.  

What did you find the most rewarding part of creating ‘Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding’?
I enjoyed the research leading up to writing the book. It was fascinating to discover more about the Christmas traditions we all take for granted today.  

The story includes the characters coming together to celebrate the tradition of Stir-up Sunday. How is this event meaningful to you?
My sister and I always used to celebrate Stir-up Sunday with our nan. She lived in the countryside in Hampshire, very close to Jane Austen’s home. Every year we made the puddings with Nan and she then used to give them out to all the family to share on Christmas Day.  

mr darcy and the christmas pudding_page The illustrations have been consistently adorable throughout the Mr Darcy series by the talented Peter Carnavas. How do you find working with him? With ‘Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding’, how much of the illustrative detail did you specify and how much is left to Peter’s imagination?
I love working with Peter. Early on when he was creating Mr Darcy he watched the BBC adaptation with Colin Firth lots of times to ensure he got the hat right. When he was creating Mr Collins he sent me a few rough sketches before finalising the character. Most of it is left up to Peter. He is a genius.  

Besides understanding the meaning of Stir-up Sunday, what special message do you want your readers to gain from reading ‘Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding’?
When I was doing my research I discovered that charity was at the heart of a Regency Christmas. I hope this comes across in the book. I still think it is an important part of Christmas.  

What can all your ‘Mr Darcy’ fans look forward to seeing from him (and you) in the near future?
I have a few ideas for upcoming books in the series. Jane Austen has given me a wonderful array of characters to work with.
For the moment I am going to enjoy the festive season with my children. This weekend we begin making the puddings!  
(Stir-up Sunday falls on November 23rd).

Thank you so much for answering my questions for Boomerang Books, Alex! Wishing you and your family a safe and enjoyable Christmas!
My pleasure. I wish you and all your readers a Happy Christmas.  

Follow Alex Field via her facebook page:  
www.facebook.com/pages/Alex-Field

Interview by Romi Sharp
www.romisharp.wordpress.com
www.facebook.com/mylittlestorycorner
www.twitter.com/mylilstorycrner

Review – Mr Darcy the Dancing Duck

The first time I met the acquaintance of Mr Darcy, I was much enamoured by his unassuming good looks, impeccable manners and sophisticated demeanour. If his reserved gentility left both Lizzy and me a little wanting and him rather lonely in the beginning, then it was only a question of time and persistence on behalf of Lizzy’s friends, to eventually secure his friendship and affection.

He is after all the stuff of classic novels. Imagine how I swooned with delight when Mr Darcy re-entered my world, this time with a new tribulation to overcome.

Mr Darcy the Dancing DuckMr Darcy the Dancing Duck is the second release by the impressive new picture book teaming of Alex Field and Peter Carnavas. Loosely observing the characters and circumstances of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, this delightful tale reintroduces us to Mr Darcy, a duck contentedly residing in Pemberley Park until it dawns on him that spring is in the air and therefore ‘it’s dancing season again.’

Mr Darcy cordially greets his erstwhile friends; merry Maria, dignified Mr Bingley and the comely Caroline but as always feels a little awkward and shy around Lizzy and her sisters. His hurried refusal to dance with Lizzy intimates a weakness in our dashing hero – he cannot dance.

He is very much disheartened by his inability; so much so, he can no longer even acknowledge the presence of his friends. Fortunately they recognise his inadequacy and quickly give him a ‘helping hand’. Before long, Mr Darcy is dancing rather splendidly and even taking a few turns about the makeshift maypole. But will he be able to demonstrate his new found talent in front of those he is so eager to impress without making a fool of himself? Amidst a blaze of colour and twirling of ribbons, he does. Mr Darcy and Lizzy couldn’t be happier, dancing together in Pemberley Park. Ahh.

Alex Field (Sophia Whitfield)You need not be an Austen addict to appreciate the subtle references to the characters of Pemberley Park or to fall in abject adoration of Mr Darcy, a duck of ineffable character and appeal as I did. The crisp, clever narrative of Alex Field (pen name for one Sophia Whitfield) effectively draws the reader into Mr Darcy’s world and his largely self-imposed, perplexing social situations. It is not difficult to care about this be-speckled little duck. Younger readers will adore his bright bow tie and the way he tries to contain his hapless clumsiness. Older ones, like me, will be attracted to the very attributes and humour that make all Mr Darcys so alluring; restrained humility, beguiling vulnerability and brooding charm.

Peter CarnavasAnd who isn’t spellbound by the illustrations of Peter Carnavas? Free of any human form, Carnavas’ marvellous paintings encapsulate all the sensitivity, sophistication and elegance of the era in the most charismatically cheerful, contemporary way.

It may be 200 years on, but thanks to the passion and talent of authors and illustrators like Field and Carnavas, the celebration of love and friendship and top hats lives on.

Pride and Prejudice CoverAnd as Professor Todd mentions on the celebration of 200 years of Pride and Prejudice, “I don’t think she (Jane Austen) wanted to write a book that is simply borrowed from the library and then taken back or a paperback that’s thrown away. She wanted to write books that people valued, kept and read.”

Mr Darcy the Dancing Duck and its predecessor, Mr Darcy, are two such books. Value them, keep them and read them, often.

Perfect for primary aged children and Pride and Prejudice officiados.

New Frontier Publishing April 2013

 

 

 

Literary Mashups – the New Classic or High Culture Vandalism?

Arguably, the biggest trend to hit 2009 mass paperback fiction was vampires, fuelled by a little book you may or may not have heard of (Twilight).

The second biggest trend was the literary mashup.

Mashups have been around for a while, employed in the music business as a song or a composition which blends two or more other songs. It would appear that the controversy of mashups bends over the question of originality, but so far they hold up under copyright laws as a transformation of the original, and thus original in its own right.

In March of 2009, a book titled Pride and Prejudice and Zombies slobbered its way onto the scene, impressing upon the reading public the idea that Austen’s famous and much-loved gentility prose could be ‘zombified’. The story begins much the same as the original text, except that while Mrs Bennett endeavours to marry off her daughters, Mr Bennett goes about teaching the girls the art of martial defence. The gaggle of ladies still attend the ball, yet amidst the social interactions a zombie attack ensues and the women slap about like petticoat-ed Charlie’s Angels, hacking away and sloshing the floor with zombie limbs and other delicious bits. And so on and so forth.

Author Seth Grahame-Smith (in collaboration with Jane Austen – ha!) said at the time:

“You have this fiercely independent heroine, you have this dashing heroic gentleman, you have a militia camped out for seemingly no reason whatsoever nearby, and people are always walking here and there and taking carriage rides here and there…It was just ripe for gore and senseless violence.”

By no means an Austen purist, I was drawn in by the hype. I read the text, but was thoroughly perplexed by the message behind the book (if there was one). To my knowledge Pride and Prejudice and Zombies never purported to be fine literature, but I must admit I felt a little uneasy, and did I only imagine the ground shook for a moment, in response to a certain someone rolling over in their grave?

Since then, the bloodlust for monster mashups has only increased. Austen appears to be the current favourite, with the release of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and Mr Darcy, Vampyre. Louisa M. Alcott has since had the pleasure of werewolves invading her classic, Little Women, and Android Karenina is rumoured to be released on the 100th anniversary of Tolstoy’s death.

Sadly, Seth Grahame-Green couldn’t reprise his role of author for the brand-spanking-new prequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, as he had his hands up to the elbows in Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. And no, I’m not kidding.

So what do you think? Is it blasphemy, or does it encourage more people to read classic literature? Reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies didn’t inspire me to pick up the next mashup I came across, but for my one voice of nonchalance there are probably one hundred voices of praise.

SOMEONE must be laughing…

Is it the readers, giggling over lines that shouldn’t be taken so seriously?

And the publisher, skipping all the way to the bank?

Or is it one entirely more sinister, horns throbbing and forked tail twitching; cloven hooves trampling delighted over a pile of freshly-sold literary souls?

USER REVIEW WINNER: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies  by Jane Austen (via Seth Grahame-Smith)
Reviewed by HelenphH

This was recommended to me by someone who is a huge fan of Jane Austen. Another recommendation came from someone who HATES Jane Austen and felt that Grahame-Smith’s additions fully redeemed Austen’s own efforts. Taking a middle view on Austen’s work, I also thoroughly enjoyed this book, so it seems safe to say it would be appreciated by all.

Imagine the formality and rigidity of life in Regency, England, centred around a family consisting of a silly and fussy mother, a sensible but down-trodden father and their five unmarried daughters – just as Austen created them. But now imagine those same young ladies were employed by the government to help wipe out the plague of zombies whose habits included eating brains and attacking all and sundry. Imagine the Bennett girls all taking concealed ankle daggers to Mr Bingley’s ball and you can see that this is a very clever and funny version of the original.

It helps to have some knowledge of Austen’s work to fully appreciate the book, but if you’ve watched one of the television or movie versions that is sufficient to put this in context. I must admit to visualising Dame Judi Dench reprising her role as Lady Catherine, now renowned for killing ninety zombies with only a wet envelope. I see her with elegant gown tucked into her waistband, slicing into zombies left and right with that indomitable look she does so well.

Great fun.

A big thanks to the 100 members who submitted reviews – keep reviewing your favourite books at http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au for your chance to win! For being this month’s winner, HelenphH has won $50 to spend in Boomerang Bucks.