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Pemberley Beach, a Modern Retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice by Elizabeth Famous.

By Mariagrazia @SMaryG

Welcome, Austen Admirers! Today, we have a special treat for you as we welcome the talented author Elizabeth Famous to our cozy corner of the internet. With her recent publication, Pemberley Beach, a contemporary reimagining of Jane Austen’s timeless classic Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth has captivated readers with her fresh take on beloved characters and themes.

We invite you to join us in exploring Elizabeth’s creative process, her love for Austen’s work, and the delightful twists and turns she introduces in Pemberley Beach. This interview is not just a conversation between author and interviewer; it’s an invitation for all of you to participate. Feel free to share your thoughts, questions, and favourite Austen moments in the comments section below. After all, what’s better than discussing literature with fellow enthusiasts? So, brew a cup of tea, settle into your favorite reading nook, and Elizabeth Famous as she shares insights into her literary world and her passion for all things Austen.

Question: What inspired you to write a modern retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice?

Answer: Jane Austen’s works, with their ingenious humor, rich dialogue, well-crafted characters, intricate plots, and keen insights into human nature, served as the primary inspiration for Pemberley Beach. While Austen's setting was Regency England, I was drawn to exploring contemporary life and the complex relationship dynamics faced by young women today. From navigating issues of consent and birth control to slut-shaming and sexual harassment, modern life presents a minefield of challenges. I believe these themes mesh with Austen's exploration of human behavior. Her writing has an undercurrent of sexual tension. For instance, Darcy's subtle advances toward Lizzy at Rosings Park hint at the sexual energy simmering just below the surface. By infusing Austen's classic tale with these modern themes, I aimed to create a compelling adaptation that resonates with today's readers while honoring the essence of Austen's work.

Question: Can you tell us about the process of adapting such a beloved classic into a contemporary setting for your novel, Pemberley Beach?

Answer: In one respect, adapting Pride and Prejudice into a modern setting for Pemberley Beach was a breeze. Given my deep obsession with Jane Austen's classic, I practically have the novel memorized, which allowed me to easily pop in plot points and dialog. However, translating the story also involved five years of creative, original novel-writing. For example, instead of Lydia "ruining" her family's prospects by eloping with Wickham, I reimagined her as a ditzy flirt who naively trusts Wickham enough to engage in risky behavior, such as taking explicit photos for him. Lady Catherine doesn’t threaten Elizabeth with being excommunicated by Darcy’s family but with using her influence in town to get Elizabeth fired from her job if she doesn’t give up dating Darcy. I hope my approach allowed me to infuse the story with contemporary relevance while honoring Austen's timeless tale.

Question: Your novel explores themes of class, family, and romance, much like Austen's original work. How did you approach updating these themes for a modern audience?

Answer: I could write a dissertation on this, but I’ll stick to three illustrative examples. First, I tackled the issue of class by highlighting the awkwardness of low social status and how social connections can help or hamper one's career—Elizabeth, for instance, is a first-year music teacher navigating the dynamics of being lowest on the totem pole while Darcy’s family has the money to grease every wheel and make their skeletons disappear. Regarding family, while patriarchal structure may not be as pronounced today, Elizabeth is just out of college and living at home, allowing the influences of Lydia, Jane, and her mother to remain central. In terms of romance, I replaced the institution of marriage with sex, having Darcy proposition Elizabeth for a hook up. Her powerful rejection forces him to confront his snobbish and demeaning attitudes toward women, reflecting modern challenges in romantic relationships.

Question: Elizabeth Bennet is such an iconic character. How did you reimagine her for Pemberley Beach, and what aspects of her personality did you want to emphasize in your adaptation?

Answer: Reimagining Elizabeth Bennet was indeed a challenging endeavor. While Elizabeth is an amazingly quick-witted and confident character in Pride and Prejudice—close to perfection in my opinion—I found it necessary to introduce elements of vulnerability and insecurity to make her more relatable to a modern reader and emphasize her resilience and strength in overcoming adversity.

Being on the verge of poverty because you can’t inherit your father’s estate doesn’t work as a liability for a modern woman who can get a job and take care of herself. So I crafted a backstory for Elizabeth that delves into her experiences with an absent father and a tumultuous relationship with an older, abusive partner during her wild teenage years. These experiences have left lasting scars, shaping her character.

By dampening Elizabeth's sparkle and introducing layers of complexity, I sought to create dramatic tension in Pemberley Beach.

Question: Darcy is another character deeply ingrained in literature. What were some of the challenges you faced in modernizing his character, and how did you make your Will Darcy relevant to today's readers?

Answer: Modernizing Darcy posed fewer challenges because in today’s world there are numerous examples of wealthy and privileged young men who exude a sense of entitlement and arrogance, often engaging in promiscuous behavior that disregards women's feelings. Drawing inspiration from the conduct of certain rock stars and celebrities, such as those referenced in Taylor Swift’s songs, provided a rich tapestry for shaping Darcy's persona. However, balancing this modern figure with the original Darcy's essence was crucial. My aim was to make Will Darcy relatable and compelling to today's readers while preserving the dignified, principled, aloof, and reserved character traits from Austen's book.

Question: Pemberley Beach is set in a picturesque seashore resort. How did you choose this setting, and how does it influence the story?

Answer: I drew inspiration for the setting of Pemberley Beach from my childhood vacations in Victorian Cape May. This charming seaside town left a lasting impression on me, particularly its blend of beachy vibes, amusement park activities, and sophisticated afternoon teas in quaint old estates. For the novel, I envisioned a similar coastal setting but further south, incorporating elements of Southern manners and charm. Additionally, I aimed to infuse the story with a sense of luxury and extravagance, reminiscent of the upscale resort atmosphere found at destinations like Kiawah Island in South Carolina. This blend of coastal beauty, Southern etiquette, and opulence provided the perfect backdrop for the unfolding drama and romance in Pemberley Beach, shaping the characters' experiences throughout the story.

Question: Are there any specific scenes or moments in Pemberley Beach that you're particularly proud of, where you feel you captured the essence of Austen's original while putting your own spin on it?

Answer: Absolutely. One scene in Pemberley Beach that particularly stands out for me is when Elizabeth and Darcy find themselves alone together aboard Darcy’s yacht. This scene mirrors the original Darcy’s struggle to avoid engaging with Elizabeth when they’re alone together at Netherfield. In my modern adaptation, Elizabeth playfully calls out Darcy's silence, reminiscent of how in Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth challenges Darcy's stiff manners while they are dancing together. Here's a snippet from my novel:

He looked at her.

She returned his gaze steadily.

He still didn't speak.

"Do you think maybe we should say something to each other, Darcy. It might be odd to sit together and say nothing."

He bowed his head. From where he sat, with the ship tilting, he got a view of her décolletage. "What would you like to talk about?"

"Hmm. Perhaps you should say something about the weather. I'll compliment your boat.Then we can be silent again for a while."

He studied her face, evaluating its shape and features, the expression of her eyes. She was one of those women who looked better outdoors. Her brown hair had highlights of gold and her eyes shone even more than usual in the daylight.

"We speak by rule then?" he asked.

She nodded. "The two of us are both of a reserved disposition, not willing to speak unless we have something to say that's so impressive it will amaze the room." She sputtered a cough, or maybe it was a chuckle. "Therefore, we benefit from exacting guidelines that allow us to say as little as possible to each other."

He smiled despite himself. "I'm not sure that's an accurate description of you. Whether it describes me, I cannot say. You perhaps think so."

She shrugged, adjusting the strap of her sundress, which had slipped off her shoulder. "That's a sufficient reply for now." She reached for a glass of ice water, swirling the liquid in it, her lips twitching. "We can go back to ignoring each other."

"As you wish," he said, wishing he was not so drawn to her. "Please feel free to continue giving me instructions on how to behave."

She laughed out loud, then lean back in her seat with her hand on her stomach. Her flushed cheeks suddenly concerned him. He didn't want to give her the wrong idea. He would not now, or in the future, be offering to act as her date just because her sister was socializing with his friend.

This scene allowed me to explore the connection between Elizabeth and Darcy in a contemporary setting while staying true to the spirit of Austen's characters. It's moments like these that I believe capture the heart of both Austen's original work and my interpretation.

Question: For readers who are unfamiliar with Jane Austen's work, what do you hope they'll take away from reading Pemberley Beach?

Answer: I hope readers will find Pemberley Beach engaging and accessible, even if they haven't read Austen's original work. While Austen's prose is masterful, it can be complex for some readers. In Pemberley Beach, I've aimed for a more straightforward sentence structure while retaining the core of Austen's storytelling. Of course, I always recommend delving into the original Pride and Prejudice for its unparalleled brilliance. An annotated edition can be a helpful guide for navigating the historical context and nuances of Austen's writing. 

Question: Lastly, what's next for you as an author? Do you have any future projects in the works, and will they continue to draw inspiration from classic literature like Austen's? 

Answer: I'm excited about several potential future projects. One idea I've been considering is a contemporary retelling of Persuasion, featuring a more assertive Anne Elliot. I'm also intrigued by the idea of a historical romance set in a small Midwestern farming village in the 1880s, exploring themes of love and duty against the backdrop of a changing society. The heroine, trapped in an abusive arranged marriage, longs for her childhood friend and first love. Additionally, I've been toying with the concept of a futuristic dystopian novel centered around AI technology, where people can escape into virtual reality fantasies. The protagonist would defy societal norms by eschewing the idea of living in a make-believe world and seeking solace in an abandoned library, navigating the post-apocalyptic landscape. These ideas draw inspiration from a variety of sources, not just classic literature, but I'm always excited to explore new narratives and themes in my writing. I'm grateful for the support of my husband who encourages me to pursue creative endeavors.


PEMBERLEY BEACH, A MODERN RETELLING OF JANE AUSTEN'S PRIDE AND PREJUDICE BY ELIZABETH FAMOUS.In Pemberley Beach, worlds collide at a high-society party where Will Darcy slights Elizabeth Bennet’s looks, setting the stage for their tumultuous relationship, fueled by wit, pride and an undercurrent of desire.
A contemporary twist on Jane Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice, Pemberley Beach is set amongst the sun and sand of a modern seashore resort where Elizabeth’s quest to escape the trailer park she grew up in leads her into the path of arrogant Darcy, owner of beachfront Pemberley estate.
Elizabeth’s playful, teasing remarks are hard to ignore, and Darcy battles his unwitting attraction to her as his best friend starts dating Elizabeth’s older sister Jane. Suspicion about the Bennet girls’ reputation as “gold diggers” triggers controversy and misunderstandings.
After some verbal sparring at a private pool club, Darcy propositions Elizabeth — not with marriage as in the original Pride and Prejudice but with sex. She turns him down, giving him a tongue lashing he’ll never forget.
Contrite, Darcy apologizes and invites Elizabeth to a swanky jazz party at Pemberley. Sparks fly. What would their families and friends say if they started dating?
Enter seductive Wickham, Darcy’s nemesis, who poisons Elizabeth’s mind with outrageous stories about Darcy’s cruelty toward “his social inferiors.” Wickham, who’s as handsome as Darcy, does more than flirt with Elizabeth, and then uses his allure on her 18-year-old sister Lydia, weaving a web of deception and indiscretion that jeopardizes not only Elizabeth’s reputation but her burgeoning career as a music teacher.
Amid the escalating scandal, which has the whole town whispering, Darcy is confronted with a choice: give up on his undeniable feelings for Elizabeth or take a stand against the idea that Pemberley Beach would be polluted by someone like her.
Elizabeth Famous, a bestselling author celebrated for her evocative love stories featuring authentic, imperfect characters, revels in navigating the complexities often sidestepped in traditional romance. Her debut novel, Love and Candy, was a poignant exploration of first love, and her second work, Light, Bright & Sparkling, followed the compelling tale of an aspiring singer/dancer.
With an unwavering passion for Jane Austen, Famous draws inspiration from the iconic author in her latest endeavor, Pemberley Beach.

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