The Secret Betrothal: Guest Post by Jan Hahn

May 7, 2014 by

The Secret Betrothal: Guest Post by Jan Hahn

Thank you for the opportunity to be a guest at Indie Jane and talk about my latest book, The Secret Betrothal.  It’s another variation on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in which I explore what might happen if Elizabeth Bennet enters into a secret engagement with Mr. Darcy’s worst enemy.

 

Since this is a blog primarily aimed at writers, I want to discuss what authors can do with secondary characters.  Some of us love to make up our own individuals to throw a kink into Austen’s stories or provide a necessary friend or enemy.  I had great fun dreaming up Nate Morgan, the highwayman in The Journey.  I envisioned a young Gerard Butler with blonde hair, gave him a scar on his face, and an unfortunate back story to go with it.  He not only caused Darcy’s protective feelings for Elizabeth to arise, but he provoked the hero’s jealousy as well.

 

Besides creating original characters, we can pick and choose from the toy chest filled with delightful people who portray supporting roles in Austen’s books.  In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet possess wonderfully defined faults.  Her foibles are always entertaining, and many a writer has played up Mr. Bennet’s weaknesses as a father.  Some of us have even killed him off in our books, providing a sober twist to the plot.

 

Jane and Mr. Bingley are popular with authors.  Some like to change their personalities until they’re quite the opposite of Austen’s versions.  And then there’s Mr. Collins, Charlotte, Lady Catherine, and the long-suffering Anne de Bourgh.  All have been the focus of many a writer’s desire to alter the originals.

 

Mrs YoungeIn The Secret Betrothal, I took two somewhat minor characters and made them my own.  I’ve read more than one story where Mrs. Younge of the infamous Ramsgate-Georgiana-Wickham debacle was made to be the former or even present paramour of George Wickham.  In reference to Mrs. Younge, Austen says, …there proved to have been a prior acquaintance between him and Mrs. Younge, in whose character we were most unhappily deceived; and by her connivance and aid, he so far recommended himself to Georgiana…  Later, Austen says, This Mrs. Younge was, he [Darcy] knew, intimately acquainted with Wickham; and he went to her for intelligence of him…

 

It’s understood that the use of the word intimate did not always have a sexual connotation in Austen’s time.  In a reference below, the friendship between Lydia and Mrs. Forster is termed intimate.  Personally, I’ve never imagined Wickham and Mrs. Younge as a couple.  I think of her as one of Wickham’s relations or close friends, who is willing to help him in his schemes to advance.  In my latest story, she is his aunt.  She has married a wealthy, childless man and convinced him to name Wickham as his heir if he will clean up his act.

 

Forster

 

I conveniently arranged for a friend of Mrs. Younge to be Mrs. Forster, the young bride of Wickham’s colonel in the militia stationed near Meryton.  I confess I was highly influenced by the actors Paul Moriarty and Victoria Hamilton as Colonel and Mrs. Forster in the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice.  Austen says Mrs. Forster …was a very young woman, and very lately married.  A resemblance in good humour and good spirits had recommended her and Lydia to each other, and out of their three months acquaintance they had been intimate two.  Elizabeth warns her father that Lydia could derive little advantage …from the friendship of such a woman as Mrs. Forster, and the probability of her being yet more imprudent with such a companion at Brighton, where the temptations must be greater than at home.Wickham 2005

 

Because of Austen’s description and the appearance of the actors, I placed a significant age difference between Mrs. Forster and her husband.  In addition to being vain, silly, and flirtatious―attributes that Lydia shared―I gave the married woman a darker side that Wickham discerns upon first meeting her.  I’ve always found it odd that a married woman would pick a fifteen-year-old airhead as her traveling companion.  If, however, Mrs. Forster liked the companionship of handsome young officers, who better than Lydia might lure them to her side?

 

Both Mrs. Younge and Mrs. Forster maintain small but important connections to Wickham 1995Wickham, the natural villain in my story.  I sometimes wonder if Austen selected a name for Wickham as close to the word wicked as she could.  At first, I intended to redeem Wickham in this book, but as many of us have experienced, some characters have a mind of their own.  No matter how hard I tried, Wickham’s baser side continued to rear its ugly head.  I fear he’s turned out quite awful in The Secret Betrothal.

 

I hope, however, that you will see more in Wickham than his inclination toward evil.  A recent review said, “There is more depth with Ms. Hahn’s characterization of Elizabeth, Darcy, Wickham, and Charlotte.  You feel their happiness and pain.  This is one of the few novels that I feel sorry for Wickham, [but] only for a short time.”  That’s one of the best reviews I could receive, for no character should be one dimensional.  We all have our strengths and our weaknesses.

 

I hope you will read and enjoy The Secret Betrothal.

*****

After leaving a long career in the world of business, Jan Hahn began writing stories based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 2002.  Her first novel, An Arranged Marriage, was published in 2011 by Meryton Press and won Best Indie Novel from Austen Prose that year.  Her second novel, The Journey, was selected by Austen Prose as one of the Top Five Austen Inspired Historical Novels of 2012, and it won the Favorite Pride and Prejudice Variation/Alternate Path award from Austenesque.    Meryton Press published Ms. Hahn’s third novel, The Secret Betrothal in early 2014. She is a member of JASNA and lives in Texas.

Visit Jan on Facebook or at Meryton Press

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1 Comment

  1. Sophia Rose

    I enjoyed Jan’s take on the secondary characters and what led to this story. Very enlightening, thanks!

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