Friday, May 9, 2014

Lizzy Bennet's Diary with Cassandra Grafton

Cassandra Grafton is my guest today and she is visiting with us about her online postings of her book, Lizzy Bennet's Diary, at Austen Variations. If you haven't had a chance to read them yet, I hope you will follow the link to Chapter One and get started. Chapter Three posted today and you will not want to miss it! A new chapter will post each Friday and that makes the day even more special. 

I hope you enjoy our questions and answers! 

 What inspired you to write Lizzy Bennet’s Diary?

I was an active member of a Forum at the original (and now disbanded) Longbourn Lounge website which came into being in late 2005 following the release of the film. It was a fun place to be, with lovely people - many of whom I am still good friends with – pouring out their love of Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice, Darcy etc. in all sorts of creative forms, from writing (poems, limericks, fan fiction short stories and challenges), and images (drawings, paintings and picture collages) to more unusual talents such as stamp carving and cookie making!

As you may know from some of the online interviews I’ve done over the past year, before trying my hand at writing Austen-inspired stories, I used to co-write Harry Potter fan fiction with my friend, Ada, and this had been my only recent writing experience up to then.

When I started to read the wonderful stories appearing at the website, it gave me the incentive to try my hand, but I had never written anything historical, so was unsure of my ‘voice’.

I found the best way to gain a feel for the Regency tone and words I needed to represent Elizabeth Bennet was to think in my head of either Jennifer Ehle or Keira Knightley speaking the words aloud.

This approach seemed to work and helped me get into my stride, so I started to write the opening chapter from Lizzy’s point of view, and in the first person (also something new to me), and it naturally evolved into a record of her day – hence the diary extracts.

There are quite a few diaries out there “penned” by Darcy and giving his account of falling in love, being rejected and then changing to be a person worthy of the woman he loved, but I feel quite strongly that Lizzy has at least as much changing to do as well! So I decided to write her thoughts and feelings, as I interpreted them, during the story, and as the 2005 film was the most current adaptation, I chose to follow the screenplay. (It was also much shorter than trying to take on the 1995 series or the original novel, and as I had only written short stories before, it felt a big enough challenge at the time!)

There are some things in Lizzy Bennet’s Diary not included in the film though?

Yes, there are!  Two further aspects have been incorporated, one relating to the film itself and one to the overall story.

I had noticed, as I am sure many viewers did, several things which seemed to have no explanation – inconsequential perhaps, but nonetheless ones I wished to find an answer for, such as why Lizzy didn’t return from the Netherfield Ball in the family carriage and why she walked home from Pemberley – minus her coat! Though these are small matters, I did enjoy weaving a solution into the storyline!

The other thing I have done is included a few nods to the book where I felt a little more background was required than the screenplay provided and there are also a couple of original ‘scenes’ which I have also added from my imagination, including the day spent at Pemberley and after the end of the film (UK version).

So this story was written some time ago. What made you decide to post it now?

I started to post the opening chapters on the Longbourn Lounge website in early 2006, but then Ada and I decided to set up our own small site on the Web as an archive for our writing (Pen & Ink) and I moved it over to there where it was finally completed during the summer. Pen & Ink is no more, sadly, and Lizzy Bennet’s Diary has been languishing on my hard drive ever since. I came across it a few months ago, re-read it, cringed at how poor my attempt was, then couldn’t resist editing it to try and make it a better read.

Once I had finished, rather than stow it away again I decided to post it online again in the hope some readers would enjoy reading it.

I had originally picked the title to echo that of Bridget Jones’ Diary, and this is why I wanted the iconic poster image of that film to influence the ‘cover’ for the story. Being a huge fan of Pride & Prejudice in all its guises, and having used Jennifer Ehle’s performance in equal measure with Keira Knightley’s for Lizzy’s ‘voice’, I really wanted a cover representing both adaptations.

Over to you, Janet!

Thank you, Cassandra, for answering my questions about Lizzy Bennet’s Diary and for sharing its history with us. I am truly enjoying reading Elizabeth’s most private thoughts, especially where they concern Darcy. You are doing an excellent job getting ‘in’ her head, but then, you know, I have long admired your ability to do that very thing with your characters. You can delve into their minds and thoughts like no other.

Now I’m ready to take on a few of your questions and hopefully, add a little insight into the covers and what they represent.

 Since I mentioned that I wanted two covers for this story, representing both adaptions and wanted them to reflect Bridget Jones’ Diary, tell me a little about your work on these covers.

When sharing your thoughts with me about the covers, you mentioned having both men standing with Lizzy. Since that is not something that occurred in either adaptation, I had to create the scene.

The picture of Kiera Knightley outdoors with the book in her hands was a scene from the movie and made a good starting place for the 2005 cover. Then I watched the movie for scenes of the gentlemen, (and I use that term loosely with Wickham) that would appear to have them looking toward her from behind. Once I found one that had all the right elements, I took a photo of the scene, cut out the background leaving only the man and put him as a layer into my original photograph of Lizzy. I did with each man and I also had to change the colour tone on each to get him to match the background of the cover. We then decided it might be good to have them a bit transparent as if she was thinking about them.

The 1995 adaptation was a bit harder. Wanting the covers to be similar, we needed a picture of Elizabeth outdoors with a book. The background for this one is a photo I took of the grounds at Luckington Court, the home used for Longbourn. Lizzy had walked in this area during the miniseries so it was perfect.  Next I took pictures of the different characters, again cutting out the background and putting them in the new one. The only problem was that Lizzy did not have a journal. I remembered the scene in the carriage when Lizzy and Maria Lucas were leaving Hunsford. Maria was holding her journal and a pencil in her gloved hands! Perfect!  All I had to do was take a photo, cut out the gloved hands holding the journal and pencil then rotate the new picture to fit with the Elizabeth I had chosen!

Once the covers were put together, I turned them into paintings via computer software. I did ‘clean up’ their faces a good bit and that took away some of the painted look. I felt that a necessary step, as their faces needed to reflect the desired expressions more clearly.

Although the covers are similar, they each have a different look to them. Expand on that if you would.

When I was watching and re-watching the adaptations for scenes to draw for my 2014 Calendar, I began to notice differences in the tone of the scenes. As we all know, the 2005 movie is very romantic. Many of the scenes are filmed in candlelight, cloudy skies or rain. The scenes are also softened and the details are not sharp. This all gives the illusion of a much more romantic setting. The scenery, the soft details and the light are all used effectively in creating the romance of the story.

The 1995 miniseries is classical. Most of the scenes are bright, crisp and clear. There is lots of sunshine and the details have not been softened.  Neither have the faces of the characters.  When the scenes are outdoors, in shade or snow, everything is lighter. Indoors, the rooms are well lit and play to the more traditional aspects of the adaptation.

These are the looks that I wanted to capture when doing the covers. The 2005 is softer, greyer and has fewer details. (I did add the branch to the upper right to make the covers more similar.) The 1995 has lots of light, much green and many details. Of course, making the men a little transparent does tend to soften their looks but then, that is the idea if one is only thinking of them!

I appreciate your questions to me and your answers to mine, Cassandra. It was lovely to work with you on these covers and I hope that everyone is enjoying Lizzy Bennet’s Diary as much as I am. I look forward to each Friday so I can read the next instalment at Austen Variations. Thank you again for being my guest today. 

Before we end, I must ask one final question, is there anything in the works that may be published in the future? I hope so!

Cassandra Grafton is also the author of the trilogy, A Fair Prospect.


  1. Thank you both, Cassandra and Janet, for sharing your thoughts about how 'Lizzy Bennet's Diary' came to be. It's great to read about Elizabeth's transformation in a more direct and intimate way than that provided by the original story, and the complex technical process in creating those beautiful covers is just astounding!

    I thoroughly enjoyed 'A Fair Prospect' when it was released last year, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for another story from Cassandra's pen (or rather PC - far preferable as it's much quicker :D)

    1. Thank you, Joana, for your kind words! Janet did do a fabulous job on sourcing what was needed to produce two lovely, appropriate covers. I particularly loved that she chose background appropriate images for the scenery as well - real attention to detail, which I love!

    2. Thanks for popping in, Joana. Glad you enjoyed our post. I loved 'A Fair Prospect' too. I can hardly wait for Cassandra to give us a new story! In the mean time, this online posting is great!

  2. I'm loving Lizzie Bennet's Diary on Austen Variations. I've also just finished the third volume of A Fair Prospect which I've also really enjoyed. The art work for both projects is wonderful.

    1. So pleased you are enjoying the series, Angie, and that you also enjoyed A Fair Prospect. I really appreciate your taking the time to let me know!

      Janet did a lovely job, didn't she? (As did Adrea and her mum who did the artwork for AFP). I loved how Janet took inspiration for each separate cover from the style in which each was filmed. It's not something I would have thought about, and I believe it really enhances the subtle differences between both productions.

      Thank you for commenting!

    2. Thank you Angie and Cassandra. I'm loving the Diary chapters too. Aren't they wonderful!

  3. Loved this post, Cassandra and Janet! I'm enjoying Lizzie Bennet's Diary. Of course, I enjoy anything Cassandra writes because she pulls me in with her beautiful language and subtle wit. She writes just like I think Elizabeth would. Janet's explanation of the romantic and classic looks of the two P&Ps was an eye-opener to me. She told me of this some time ago, and I wondered why I never saw it before. Just shows which one of us has the artist's eye.

    1. I have to agree with you on Cassandra's writing, Jan. She does write so beautifully. So glad you stopped by.

      Thanks to both you ladies for the nice comments. I enjoyed doing these covers. It was lots of fun to put all the characters together and create my own scenes! :) Glad Cassandra wanted them to be like the original poster for 'Bridget Jones's Diary'.

  4. Jan, you are too kind about my writing, but I am so pleased you are following the diary entries and enjoying this take on Lizzy's thoughts throughout P&P.

    I too loved how Janet took the romantic and classic looks into account in creating the covers - not something I would have thought about, but she has such a clever eye for detail in things like that (I too don't have the artist's eye!)

    Thank you for taking the time to comment, it is much appreciated!

  5. Because I have zero self-control, I am thinking of developing a 12 step program for those like me who become anxious when we have to wait to get the next chapter in these mini-series. Cassandra, I LOVE this so much, but HATE the wait even more. It's like being allowed to see and smell the chocolate but not getting to eat it. But, chocolate is another 12 step program, isn't it? Janet, love the covers. Sigh!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Joy. I'm thrilled you like the covers! :)

  6. LOL! Sorry about that. I wish I had the whole box to hand to send you, but I am still putting the finishes touches to some of the individual contents! ;)

  7. I have been enjoying the Lizzy Bennet's Diary. I love how you have been portraying Lizzy's thoughts. I also loved reading about the work that Janet put into the covers. Both are beautiful, although my favorite is from the 2005 movie. I believe that's because it was my first introduction to P & P. I agree with J Dawn King that waiting for pots weekly is difficult, but mostly I find the posts well worth the wait, although the wait, at times, can be difficult due to anticipation.

    1. Thank you, Deborah Ann, for your comments about the covers. I am happy that you enjoyed reading about their creation. I, too, have a hard time waiting for the next week's post. They are so good that it is torture sometimes to wait for the next one!

  8. Thanks for commenting, Deborah Ann! I know a lot of people won't read posting-in-progress stories because they can't bear the wait! Luckily this is only 10 chapters and on Sunday we will be half way through!

    The covers are fab, I LOVE them both!!!