“True originality consists not in a new manner but in a new vision”
– Edith Wharton
Today I’m at Babblings of a Bookworm, talking about the serendipity of inspiration, and how the same idea can take two authors in two such different directions. There’s an excerpt from Teaching Eliza as well! Come and read.
(copy of content from Babblings of a Bookworm)
Teaching Eliza by Riana Everly – Guest Post, Excerpt and Giveaway
Riana Everly is paying her first visit here today on the blog tour for her debut novel. Teaching Eliza is a mash up of Pygmalion (My Fair Lady) and Pride & Prejudice. This may sound familiar, because last week we had another visitor who had written a book with a similar premise. Riana Everly is here today with a guest post, excerpt and giveaway. I’ll share the book blurb with you first, and then hand over to Riana for her to tell you about her book and the unintended joint release!
Teaching Eliza – Riana Everly
This past summer, we were lucky enough to see a great deal of excellent theatre, including two very different productions of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. One was put on by the world-class Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario. The other was a Shakespeare-in-the-Park affair, starring young and promising actors with the Canadian Stage Company, as the audience sat on a rocky hillside surrounded by trees and mosquitos.
My daughter, while a theatre fanatic, was unsure about this. “Why see both?” She asked. “Aren’t they the same? And which one will be better?”
Aha! A Teachable Moment! And so we launched into a fabulous discussion about the nature of art and interpretation. These two productions of the same play were a contrast in almost everything. The settings were different (a vaguely Renaissance city state and a modern Hotel Illyria, complete with luggage carts, service elevator and hotel gym), the text was different (Stratford, with its comfy theatres put on a full production, while Can Stage abridged the play to 90 minutes so our poor backsides wouldn’t get too numb from sitting on the ground). The casting was different, and even some of the characters’ motivations were different. Which was better? That’s not a fair question, because both had a great deal of merit, and we enjoyed both a great deal. They were the same, from the same pen, and yet they were so different, and it was a real treat to be able to compare without having to choose.
Likewise in music, different performances can highlight different aspects of the same piece. Bach played fast is different from Bach played slowly, and you hear different things in each performance. Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is a masterpiece, no matter the orchestra playing it, but one conductor might emphasize the melodic line (da-da-da-DUMMMM), while another might find the repetition of that rhythmic motif in each movement and bring that out.
Now wait a moment, you’re thinking. This is a Jane Austen-related blog. What does all of this have to do with Lizzy Bennet and Mr. Darcy? Quite a bit, really. Let me explain.
I had the brilliant idea (if I may be so modest) to do a mash-up of Pride and Prejudice and Shaw’s Pygmalion, the inspiration behind the movie My Fair Lady. If you follow this lovely blog, you’ll realize that Barbara Silkstone was even more brilliant, because she beat me to it. (Insert big cheesy grin here!) She has just published a delightful romp called My Fair Lizzy, which had been my original title.
Our books are so similar in so many ways – same concept, same inspiration, same original title even! But, like the two productions of Twelfth Night, or the myriad recordings and performances of Bach and Beethoven, they are also very different. Our settings are different, our characters’ situations are different, all the details that bring a concept to life are different. Even my final title – Teaching Eliza – is different.
And different can be delightful! How fun to have two such different takes on a single theme published within a couple of weeks of each other! It’s a great way to see how authors’ minds shape common ideas. Here is an excerpt from the beginning of my new release, Teaching Eliza. Read Ms. Silkstone’s excerpt from a few days ago, then read this, and enjoy!
Viva la difference!
Excerpt From Teaching Eliza
Lizzy found herself recounting to Jane the conversation she had unwittingly overheard between the Bingley sisters. “I hate to admit it,” she concluded, “but they are correct. I would be a disaster in London, and I have resolved to write back to our aunt as soon as we are home and explain why I cannot accept after all.”
“Surely not, Lizzy,” Jane soothed. “You shall be valued for yourself wherever you go, and not for your country accent or country ways.”
“No, Jane, it cannot be. You did not hear Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst as they spoke. Their words were cruel but true, and I know that I shall meet many more like them in London, far more than the gentler souls who might overlook my origins. I shall be tarred by their brush long before I even have the chance to prove my character.”
Jane’s lovely face fell as she considered these words. “But is there no hope, Lizzy? Surely there is some remedy…” She lit up as she said, “Why not ask Professor Darcy to help you? I know what he did for Charles, and he is widely considered a formidable expert in this area. You have a quick ear and are intelligent. I am certain he would know just what to do to let you move easily in the upper circles of society!”
I can take even a flower girl, with her kerbstone English that will keep her in the gutter to the end of her days, and within three months pass her off as a duchess at an ambassador’s garden party.
Those had been Professor Darcy’s words, and they reverberated through Elizabeth’s head as readily as if she heard them spoken aloud. “Three months…”
“What do you say, Lizzy?”
“Three months! Last night, the professor boasted that he could transform a flower girl into a duchess in three months. I am hardly a flower girl, but I wonder…”
* (Lizzy wanders to the library where she finds Darcy and Colonel F in conversation) *
Lizzy found a suitable volume and was about to depart when she looked again at the two men, and deciding that she might have no better opportunity to do so, resolved to speak to the professor immediately about Jane’s idea.
“Professor Darcy,” she began as she turned to face them directly. The colonel’s eyebrows rose slightly at her forward address; the professor gazed into the middle distance, his eyes hooded, his jaw lax. “I wish to engage you to teach me to improve my accent.”
Darcy gave a visible start and stopped still in his place with his eyes wide; even the colonel, normally so easy to adapt to any circumstances, stared at the young woman who made this statement.
“Teach you, you say? Why on earth would I wish to do that?” He had raised his chin and levelled a piercing gaze at her.
Elizabeth did not waver, nor did she back down. She had taken her first step and was determined in her efforts. “You did say that you are not above giving lessons. I have heard this from others, and I heard it from you, yourself, last night. I wish to take lessons. If you have condescended to teach upstarts from Kentish Town and men from merchant families like Mr. Bingley, you should have no objection to teaching a gentle-born woman such as myself.” She kept a steady gaze on him and did not allow him to drop his eyes.
“Why on earth, madam, should you wish for speech lessons? Do you hope to better yourself in society? You are already of the first family in the area; do you wish to alienate your friends by putting on airs?”
“I do not wish to alienate my friends. I wish to be able to move in society in Town.” There. She had said it.
“Miss Elizabeth,” the colonel asked politely, “what do you mean? Is your father hoping to send you to London?”
“No, not he. My aunt—or rather, my aunt’s sister—” She described her relationship to the newly raised baronet and his lady, and added, “Lady Grant has become a dear friend and with her husband’s position and new estates, wishes to help me in society. They have offered to provide me with a home for a season and with the funds to outfit myself, as well as a generous increase to my dowry, but I have become all too aware of late that my manners and speech mark me as being of the country, and very much below all the other ladies of the circles in which I am expected to move. And so, Professor, I wish you to teach me to speak and act as they do.”
Darcy tilted his head backwards slightly and impaled with her a hard stare. He rose to his feet and regarded her from his superior height, looking once more down his patrician nose. “And what,” he demanded, “am I to receive for my efforts? I know your family’s situation, Miss Eliza. You are hardly in a position to pay me the amount I usually receive for my efforts.”
To this, Elizabeth had no answer. She began to stumble through a reply when the colonel leapt up suddenly and pulled Darcy aside, then whispered at some length into his ear. This monologue was interrupted at intervals by expressions such as “No. Absolutely not,” and “You have got to be mad!” but at length these protestations lessened in ferocity and the forbidding head began to nod.
Slowly, Darcy walked back towards Elizabeth, a saturnine look in his dark eyes. “Miss Eliza,” said he, “I believe I may accept your request. However, in return I have one of my own. It concerns your payment.”
Lizzy was shocked. He could hardly mean….