Gentle Readers, author Colette Saucier has written a description of her journey on writing Pulse and Prejudice, a vampire adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Those of us who are fascinated with the vampire myth can relate to her journey! You can find more information about Colette and her book on Colette Saucier.com
I love Pride and Prejudice. I have read it so many times, I cannot even remember a time before it was not part of my consciousness. Of course, I like all of Jane Austen’s novels, but the story of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth speaks to me in a way the others do not. I do not believe I am alone in this, as it set the standard for every romance novel and romantic comedy since its publication 200 years ago: boy meets girl, boy likes girl, girl hates boy, girl and boy like each other, misunderstanding/outside forces tear them apart, reunion, reconciliation, happily ever after.
Quite a number of years ago, I had the misfortune of seeing what I refer to as the Pride and Prejudice mutilation, the 1940 film starring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson. Not only did they dress all of the Bennet girls as Southern Belles, Greer Garson was thirty-six. THIRTY-SIX! Three years older than Olivier. I won’t even go into the plot except to say they had no right to call it Pride and Prejudice. After that, I decided never again would I subject myself to any adaptation of my beloved Austen. I did not even see the BBC miniseries with Colin Firth when it premiered.
So what changed? First, I saw the movie Clueless. I enjoyed every moment of it, all the while thinking to myself, “This is Emma!” Sure enough, Amy Heckerling had updated my second favorite Jane Austen novel. Then, without knowing Helen Fielding had written it as a modern variation on Pride and Prejudice, I read Bridget Jones’s Diary. Well, after that, I had to see Colin Firth’s Pride and Prejudice, and now I had a face to go with my Mr. Darcy. Thus ended my boycott of all things not-quite-Austen.
All of this, of course, occurred some fifteen years ago. Although my mind had been opened to the possibilities, I had no intention of writing any Austen adaptations myself. Then a little book called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies took off like wildfire and landed near the top of the New York Times bestseller list. I have never been a zombie fan myself, but I did love the film Shaun of the Dead. When I stumbled upon the zombie book in my daughter’s bedroom, I knew it was a parody, and I had hoped its approach would be similar to that film. I had never heard of a “mash-up” before, but now I know I do not like them. The (co)author had taken the complete text of Pride and Prejudice and just stuck zombies and ninjas between the paragraphs. Not impressed. The zombie book did, however, introduce me to the genre of Austen adaptations and variations, and an addiction was born. I ate them up like potato chips. Some were good, some were horrid, but many I found completely delightful. All of them allowed me to continue my literary love affair with Mr. Darcy.
Now to back up a bit, somewhere in the middle of my multiple readings of Pride and Prejudice (actual Austen, not adaptations), I learned about Lord George Gordon Byron. I had read some of his poems over the years, but after seeing the film Gothic, I became more interested in the man behind the words. That he was portrayed by a young Gabriel Byrne didn’t hurt! This film depicts the summer night when Byron and his pal Percy Shelley gathered with friends in Switzerland and told each other ghost stories, one of which became Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
That evening also inspired John Polidori to write The Vampyre – the original gentleman vampire. Although I never cared for zombies or werewolves or other monsters, I have always been a vampire fan. (To all of those publishers who rejected my manuscript because they believed the “vampire trend is over,” allow me to say, vampires will never of out of style. They’re immortal, after all!) I refer to the sensual, suave, and seductive variety of vampire, or the tortured souls such as Gary Oldman’s depiction in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. That image of the mysterious and charismatic vampire originated that night in 1816 with Polidori and Lord Byron.
Austen’s Mr. Darcy struck me as a Byronic figure – intelligent but arrogant, sophisticated and cynical, introspective and conflicted. “That man of loneliness and mystery, Scarce seen to smile, and seldom heard to sigh.” (The Corsair, I, VIII) Knowing that Polidori had based his Vampyre on Byron cultivated in my mind the idea that Darcy as a character – as well as Pride and Prejudice as a whole – lent itself well to a vampire adaptation; however, when I looked, I could not find the adaptation I envisioned. Yes, someone had published a vampire “mash-up,” but I have already expressed my opinion on those. I also found a vampire sequel told in gothic style. Regina Jeffers had written a fascinating novel inspired by Pride and Prejudice with Mr. Darcy as dhampir, battling against vampires while resisting the urge to become one himself.
I needed something more. I wanted Mr. Darcy to be an honest-to-goodness neck-biting, blood-drinking, night-walking vampire who could be healed in the moonlight as in the Polidori story. I felt the story must be told from Mr. Darcy’s point of view to explore that Byronic Hero aspect of his nature, which we only glimpse in Austen’s narrative, and allow the curse of vampirism to reveal further depths of character – an outcast, suffering, jaded . Because this adaptation of Pride and Prejudice did not exist, I had no choice but to write it myself.
I threw myself full-force into researching Regency England, vampire folklore, and Pride and Prejudice itself. This paranormal adaptation had to remain faithful to Austen in style, plot, and characters. How would Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet react to vampires? That itself required a thorough analysis of Elizabeth to ensure in this adaptation she remained true to the original character under remarkable circumstances. The novel had to be historically accurate and free of any anachronisms. I wanted it to be as if Jane Austen herself had written the story of Mr. Darcy as vampire, and I think I have succeeded. Well, except I did add another section – Beyond Pride and Prejudice – to peek into the passion, lust, and desire between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy that simmers just under the surface in the original. Jane Austen teases us with hints of Darcy’s attraction to Elizabeth, and I could not leave that territory uncharted.
Thus, after fifteen years gestation, Pulse and Prejudice was born – an authentic vampire variation of the beloved classic. I hope I have written the paranormal adaptation others want to read as well.