INTERVIEW: Linda Berdoll, Zeal of a True Obsessive
Updated: May 18
Linda Berdoll’s debut book, her own continuation of Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice, was initially self-published in 1999 under the title The Bar Sinister. But I first read the novel in 2006, two years after Sourcebooks had re-published it under the new title Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife. I had only recently come to the Jane Austen fanfiction (JAFF) world—not long after seeing director Joe Wright’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (2005)—when my sister recommended Berdoll's book. I admit I had no idea what to expect from this madcap, sexy sequel. However, it’s Berdoll’s explicit voyeurism into the Darcy’s enthusiastic and abundant lovemaking that offends many Austen readers, thus, separating readers into two camps: those who fervently love Berdoll’s work and those who vehemently hate it. Contrary to the naysayers, there is more to this landmark work of fanfiction than numerous seductions and copious conjugal proclivities between the literary world’s most beloved couple. Check out my review at Austenprose. Hold onto your bonnets, I am clearly on Team Berdoll.
Christina: When did you first think you had a book to write, and how did you start?
Linda Berdoll: Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife began with the BBC 1995 mini-series of P&P. It awakened a love of all things “Jane Austen.” I was so taken with Darcy and Elizabeth I watched that production again and again, read and re-read Austen’s books (with all the zeal of a true obsessive). On vacation, we even made a side trip to Chatsworth—believed to be the model for fictitious Pemberley.
Christina: I can absolutely relate. We made a pilgrimage to Jane Austen’s England in 2017, and I felt very much like Lizzy Bennet when I first approached Chatsworth.
It was a large, handsome, stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal, nor falsely adorned. Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something! —Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 43
Linda Berdoll: Nothing, however, stopped that infernal itch to know what came to pass after the Darcys’ wedding bells tolled. I recognized all the symptoms. I was suffering from a severe case of literary coitus interruptus. Miss Austen was long-past righting this perceived wrong (and as a maiden, she was disinclined to do so anyway.)
I daydreamed about Darcy & Elizabeth incessantly. So copious and diverse were these mental meanderings, to keep them straight, I soon began to jot them down. However, it was only when I began to include and interweave other, lesser characters from P&P did I realize I had leapt from daydreams to novel. And, although Austen merely alluded to the Napoleonic Wars, I clothes-pinned the better part of my story around it.
I would never have dared publish such an explicit book had My Own Mr. Darcy not insisted that the world should have the privilege of reading my sequel. His good opinion and the belief that no one would buy it anyway convinced me to publish.
Christina: Ha! No one would read it? I saw somewhere that your wildly successful Pride & Prejudice sequels have over 400,000 copies in print. I am sure that number is outdated and with the popularity of ebooks...boggles the mind!
Do you hide any secrets in your novels that only a select few might know?
Linda Berdoll: Probably too well-hidden, in that no one has inquired of them.
Christina: What comes first, plot or characters?
Linda Berdoll: Characters—which I like to weave into a plot driven by historical events.
Christina: Is there one of your characters you most identify with and why?
Linda Berdoll: Like a good portion of literate females, I see myself as Elizabeth Bennet—not only because she is witty, courageous, kind, and never plays the fool, but she gets to sleep with Mr. Darcy.
Christina: Indeed. Your Mr. Darcy leaves his wife quite satiated in all aspects of married life.
What do you think is your strength as a writer?
Linda Berdoll: I will leave it to others to suggest any strengths I might have. But among my many faults is the one I find most irritating—I’m slow as Christmas! I write and rewrite ’til the cows come home.
Christina: I can’t wait to read your next, Mr. Darcy Takes His Wife Some More. You've already written four successful sequels and two other books (I also loved the non-fiction Very Nice Ways to Say Very Bad Things), what is your greatest accomplishment as a writer?
Linda Berdoll: My name was a question on Jeopardy.
Christina: Yes! What is Pride and Prejudice? Funnily, that same sister who first recommended your debut novel to me later joined the Peace Corps in Senegal…and what book did she ask me to send her? Yup. Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife. I likened that to: If you were on a deserted island, what book would you want?
I’ve already professed myself as a Linda Berdoll fan. But I must thank you. Reading your book (and Pamela Aidan’s series) pulled me into Jane Austen fanfiction. Not long after, I was thrilled many online fanfiction authors began to publish their stories with small presses or self-publish via print-on-demand. Finally, larger presses started to mine the world of JAFF. All of that seems quite foreign now—because in this ever-changing Wild West that is modern-day publishing, e-readers, small presses, hybrid presses, traditional houses, and the explosion of self-published authors have come on the Jane Austen scene and made fanfiction so much more accessible. This led me to read and review at Amazon, then later for Austenprose; I first edited for Meryton Press and now edit under my umbrella. I have since curated and self-published five multi-author Austenesque anthologies and have even written my own book, though not JAFF. I guess you could say your passion for Darcy and Elizabeth helped forever change the story arc of my life. And I love it. Thank you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Linda Berdoll is the author of the bestselling and award-winning Pride and Prejudice sequels Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife and Elizabeth and Darcy: Nights and Days at Pemberley. She and her husband live on a pecan farm in Del Valle, Texas. To learn more, connect with her via Facebook.