“THE FORMIDABLE Mrs ELIZABETH DARCY”: In The Beginning

Once my first novel ‘Ghost Love’ was done and dusted and safely in the hands of my publishers I started to cast around for a new writing project. I began a sort of follow-up entitled ‘Hotel Russ’ but realised I wanted something different to get my teeth into.

‘Pride and Prejudice’ has been haunting me ever since I studied it at the university in Moscow. In England much more is available to get your imagination racing: various TV series, films, history programs, my children’s GCSE and A-level syllabus…

This is a Gillray cartoon which shows William Pitt and Napoleon Bonaparte carving up the world, this ‘carving’ a consequence of England and France signing the Treaty of Amiens in 1802. I have taken the Treaty to be the reference made by Jane Austen in P&P’s final chapter to ‘the restoration of peace’.
This is a Gillray cartoon which shows William Pitt and Napoleon Bonaparte carving up the world, this ‘carving’ a consequence of England and France signing the Treaty of Amiens in 1802. I have taken the Treaty to be the reference made by Jane Austen in P&P’s final chapter to ‘the restoration of peace’.

When we debated it around the family table three things were often mentioned as puzzling. The first: how parochial the Meryton society inhabited by the Bennets was. As Darcy says, ‘In a country neighbourhood you move in a very confined and unvarying society’. Indeed, from what we learn (or rather don’t learn), the inhabitants of Longbourn and Meryton have absolutely no interest in what is happening outside their insular little world. They are so myopically intent on romances and marriage that there is not a single reference to the war with France, to Napoleon or the abolition of slavery. So the question arises: how would Elizabeth cope with suddenly finding herself the wife of one of the richest men in England and being plunged into a society much more concerned with the big questions of the day? This would be a huge and challenging change of milieu for a girl of twenty-one.

Secondly is the enigma of why Darcy is plain ‘Mr Darcy’. His fortune is immense. Whilst some commentators would have us believe Darcy’s £10,000 is equivalent to an annual income of $331,300 or even $800,000 in today’s money these estimates seemed to me somehow wrong. So I turned to my tame accountant, Rod, for an answer. Based on PPP (Purchasing Power Parity), Rod estimates that Darcy pulled down something in the order of £10 million per annum in today’s money, which fits comfortably with him being able to run such a vast estate as Pemberley and a house in London. This would have put him in the top 200 earners in England circa 1800 and those guys didn’t relish the tag ‘Mr’. So what stopped him being ennobled?

Thirdly, is the question of Darcy’s personality. In the beginning of the book he presents as being stand-offish, rude, arrogant, and very full of himself. By the end of the book he’s caring, considerate, loving … a complete volte-face. Now it’s easy to say his falling for Elizabeth was the cause of this softening, but is that the whole story?

These three questions were my starting point. And when I came to think of writing a new book this seemed a perfect opportunity for me to try to answer them.

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I entered Battle-Off contest

Olga Godim writing

EagleEnGarde_smallI recently sent a fragment of my fantasy novel Eagle En Gardethe winner of 2015 EPIC eBook Award – to Grimdark Magazine’s Battle-Off competition. The conditions are simple: only scenes of battles (less than 1,000 words) from published works in speculative fiction genres need to apply, and only indie writers are eligible. Then, readers vote. The winner with the most votes gets a Kindle, plus a bunch of other prizes are available.

Here is my battle scene. I’ll be blatant about it. I want that Kindle. As far as I understand the rules of this game, that’s how it’s done. Writers apply to their friends and utilize their network to the utmost. If I want the prize I must play the game.

Please VOTE FOR ME!

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PERESTROIKA QUIZ!

The wonderful team at The Kompass who are part of RBTHRussia Beyond The Headlines have not only published the first couple of chapters of “Ghost Love”, but have also come up with this really fun and clever quiz on the theme of perestroika! I helped a little bit, Rod and I having a lot of fun putting some questions together and remembering the good old times.

Don’t forget that you can win a free paperback copy of “Ghost Love” if you answer the ten questions correctly and leave your email address. Have a go, follow this link HERE!

Alchemy Offers

The Alchemy Press

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We have reduced the prices of some of our limited edition titles so now is the time to buy the book you’ve been meaning to. For details of the lower prices click on the book title and scroll down the page and take advantage of the PayPal button….

Merry-Go-Round and Other Words by Bryn Forty — collects the best from the author’s oeuvre, from his first horror story publication to stories appearing here for the first time. The contents range from across the horror and science fiction fields, with a bit between.Merry-Go-Round also includes his heart-felt poetry. This limited edition hardcover comes with a moving tribute by Johnny Mains and an extra, brand new story. An essential collection.

Invent-10n by Rod Rees — Greetings Gate, let’s Agitate. Look over your shoulder. Do you see the camera? Then dig that even as you read these words of sedition and denial you are being…

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CHAPTER 31: (NON)COMMUNICATIONS IN THE USSR

Here is Rod coming out of    the Telex room of the Intourist Hotel in Moscow
Here is Rod coming out of the Telex room of the Intourist Hotel in Moscow

I pride myself in the fact that I have written the shortest chapter in the history of literary world: Chapter 31 of “Ghost Love” contains just three sentences these amounting to a miserly 49 words. The chapter is about Peter phoning Tonya twice from the UK, after which his calls stopped. But though the chapter is short every time I read it I’m reminded of how difficult communicating was back in the early 1990s.

We managed to survive without a mobile phone, e-mail and the internet. And if communicating was a problem in the West, inside the USSR it was nigh-on impossible. If you wanted to phone another country, you had to book your call one week in advance (and you didn’t know if the person you wanted to speak to would be at home). You also had to book the length of the call – say, five minutes, which would cost you 5 roubles per minute. If you compared this with my student allowance of 45 roubles per month … you know what I mean. To add to the problem of cost, there was this inconvenience of the operator listening to the whole of your conversation… apparently they had to do this, I am not sure why but I can guess.

Of course businessmen could use the Telex (a text messaging service linking up teleprinters around the world) to contact the outside world. Most of the larger hotels had a Telex facility. Here’s a picture of Rod coming out of the Telex room at the Intourist hotel (don’t bother trying to find the hotel now: it was built in 1970 and demolished in 2002. Such a shame: it had a great pizza restaurant which my children loved!).

A fax message Rod sent me on 19th December 1990 - a fax Christmas card! x
A fax message Rod sent me on 19th December 1990 – a fax Christmas card! x

And then, in 1990, the fax came!!! Yay! I remember looking at the fax machine in Alphagraphics where I worked, stroking it and thinking, this is the best human invention ever! My loved one is on the other line, sending me this letter, and I am receiving it here and now, in real time from three thousand miles away!

After that the improvements came thick and fast. When Rod and I moved into our first apartment in Moscow, the district hadn’t been connected to the ‘phone network so we became one of the first users of mobile phones in Russia. ‘Mobile’ is perhaps too generous. It was enormous and weighed a tonne. It was also temperamental. Still, it worked … sometimes.

To summarise, back in the 1990s it was very difficult to keep in touch. Things are so much easier today … aren’t they? For those of you who are trying to dial Moscow, the powers-that-be have made a change in the code system, so now Moscow has two codes (depending on the district you’re calling): 007 495 and 007 499. A great way to confuse the life out of everybody. Who said communication in the 21st Century was easy?