March 2012 FAQ of For Darkness Shows the Stars

So since I’m getting lots of questions about For Darkness Shows the Stars (and seeing the ones I’m not getting personally floating around) I thought I’d take this opportunity to answer a few of the most common. Here goes.

Q: Is this book post-apocalyptic?

A: Yes, that’s why I used to call it “post-apocalyptic Persuasion.” (PAP) The book is set many, many generations after the end of a society we would be more familiar with.

Q: Is that the same thing as dystopian?

A: I honestly couldn’t tell you. The current trend is to call pretty much anything that deals with the breakdown of society as we know it or a futuristic society “dystopian”, whether or not that’s accurate. When I was in school, I learned that a dystopia was the opposite of a utopia — i.e., an evil society. I suppose then, this qualifies. Marketing terms are kind of a mystery to me. They seem to be dependent on whatever the current trend is, less than on an intrinsic part of the book.

It’s a futuristic science fiction story.

Q: Oh, it’s sci-fi. That means it’s set in space, right?

A: No.

Q: But there are stars on the cover! That means it’s set in space, right?

A: No. Stars are also visible on Earth. At night. When it’s dark.Thus, the title. However, I can see the confusion, because we, as readers, have been trained to respond to certain coded images on book covers. Like a boy and a girl on a cover is supposed to say romance. And a drawing instead of a picture on a cover is supposed to say “younger.” And pastel colors on a cover is supposed to say “chick lit” whereas purple and black and red is supposed to say “paranormal.” Sometimes, stars on a cover says “space.” Sometimes, though, it doesn’t. In my case, it doesn’t.

Q: Whatever. So in your book, the guy is a spaceship captain, right?

A: Sigh.

Q: Is this a standalone?

A: Yes. Mostly. Almost entirely?

Q: I kind of wish this book was a standalone, since I’m so sick of series.

A: See above.

Q: Do I need to read/reread Persuasion first?

A: Though I will always advise the reading of Persuasion, since it is one of my very favorite books, you do not need to read Persuasion, see the Persuasion movies, or even have heard of Persuasion to read and enjoy FDSTS. It’s like Clueless. When I first saw Clueless, I did not know it was based on Emma. I’d never even heard of Emma. (I know. It was a long time ago.)

Q: I’m a big fan of Persuasion, and I read one of the excerpts, and I want to know what part of the story that supposedly comes from.

A: It’s entirely possible the paragraph or scenelet doesn’t come from anything at all. This isn’t a shot-for-shot remake of the original. Though many of the scenes and characters you love are present in my book in forms you’ll recognize, some aren’t. To go back to the Clueless/Emma thing: Christian is gay, Mr. Churchhill is not. In West Side Story, Anita, the young, gorgeous lover of Maria’s gang leader brother, performs many of the plot functions held in the original Romeo and Juliet by the aged Capulet Nurse. And also, Maria survives. Things change in retellings. I lovelovelove my source material, and all the changes I’ve made were in service of making my version of the story as powerful and right as possible.

Q: So what kind of changes did you make? If you took out [insert favorite part of Persuasion here] I’ll be really upset.

A: Sorry. That part’s TOTALLY gone. 😉

Any other questions for me?

Posted in Austen, PAP

10 Responses to March 2012 FAQ of For Darkness Shows the Stars

  1. Tiff says:

    This is probably too forward, but is there any chance you’ll be writing any short stories set in the same universe as FDSTS? Possibly in advance of it coming out?

  2. Diana says:

    Tiff: see above. 😉

  3. I don’t really have a particular question for you, but wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading those questions. Usually, I have difficulty sitting through interviews, because they’re full of ‘stock’ answers, but this one was delightfully sassy.

    Dystopian has become quite muddled. It is a bit of a catchall now. Shrug.

    I mostly want to know how you translated Persuasion, which focuses on a ‘spinster’ past her bloom, into a young adult novel, but I suspect that’s one of those wait and see kind of dealios.

    I guess I can ask: did you first come up with the idea of writing something Persuasion-ish or was that added to the post-apocalyptic idea later?

    P.S. One of your novels’ titles in the side bar breaks down to PIMP. Hilarious.

    P.P.S. The anti-spam word is German for unicorn. Love it.

    • Diana says:

      I want “delightfully sassy” on my tombstone. 😉

      That’s a very good question, actually, and one I spent a lot of time mulling over. Not just “Anne as spinster” but Anne and Wentworth as older, more mature characters. In the text, Anne’s “spinster” status actually had less to do with her actual age (after all, her older sister Elizabeth — pushing 30 — is only *starting* to think it’s about time she settles down), and more about how she, as you said, “lost her bloom” as a result of her broken heart. At the time, female beauty was really seen as a “bloom” that came and went, never to return. Anne’s bloom did fade (according to town gossip and her father’s decree) as a result not only of her broken heart, but also the frustrating life she was living.

      Anne, unlike the Musgrove girls or even Elizabeth, is not the regency equivalent of on the prowl. She didn’t just turn down Wentworth, she also turned down Charles Musgrove — you think any other guy in her tiny country village is going to try where the dashing young sailor and the landed heir failed?

      She hates dancing, she’s not the life of the party, and it’s not like she goes anywhere where she’s likely to run into bunches of eligible bachelors. The only people in the story who REALLY think she’s on the shelf are her father and sisters, and they hate her. The guys she meets (Captain Benwick, Mr. Elliot) like her just FINE, and Wentworth does too, when he’s not trying to hurt her feelings by saying how “altered” she is. And after getting out from under her father and sister and hanging out with GOOD people for a while (the Musgroves and the sailors at Lyme) even her father says she’s looking better.

      So for me, it was a question not so much of Anne being “too old” for marriage, though she is a great deal older than a lot of girls, as it was a question of most of the people around her having decided that she’d pretty much had her chance, had good offers (like Charles), and wasn’t having any of it. Jane Austen was quite clear on how preferable it was for women to remain single unless they had a really good reason to decide otherwise, both in her personal life, in her letters to family members, and in the words of her characters such as Elizabeth Bennet.

      For my character Elliot, her father and sister don’t think of her at all, and most of the people she knows (rightly) believe that she has too many other things on her mind to think about romance. Her closest friends, of course, think of Kai.

      I came up with both ideas a long time ago, and they collided. this happens to me a lot.

  4. Wow, thanks for answering. Obviously, you’ve given it a lot more thought than I have, and it’s been a few years since I read Persuasion. Anyway, it’s lovely being able to see your thought process going into it, and I very much enjoyed your analysis of Persuasion.

    I did always see Anne’s loss of bloom, as you do, not so much as a matter of age, but of her broken heart, of her boredom and her depression. If you’re only going to meet the same awesome people, why would you bother trying to look your best? She was surrounded by sniping people who liked to put others, mostly her, down to make themselves feel better.

    If the bloom were merely age, then Captain Wentworth’s return would not have brought it back. Perhaps the bloom is simply love and happiness. In which case, Anne’s pretty lucky, since she’ll have that bloom forever (I choose to believe).

    I love Jane Austen so much for her mentality that only the deepest love should lead anyone into matrimony. Certainly, I will not ever wed unless I find my Darcy/Wentworth/Knightly or Tilney (my personal favorite).

    This discussion made me think of another question: do you read any of the published Jane Austen spin-offs out there? I do, and generally am disappointed, yet something makes me keep going. Probably Jane. If only she really were a vampire and was still around to write more books. haha.

    • Diana says:

      Well, I kinda think of it as my job to think really hard about this stuff. So many people love Persuasion so much,t here’s a kind of ownership there — people get really possessive and protective of the stories they love. Since I love it too, I know exactly how they feel. so I knew if I wanted to take on a retelling I was going to have to be really respectful and knowledgeable about the source material. I make changes, but I want to respect what Austen did and the love that people have for the original.

      I do read and watch a lot of the spin offs and sequels and such. Just as with any genre, some I really love (like Clueless and Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary) and some not so much. I got my mom Death in Pemberely for Xmas and she loved it.

  5. Sorry, I don’t know if that came off like I intended. I didn’t mean to imply that I didn’t think you would have done your research into Persuasion. Instead, I meant to comment on the fact that it was really nice to have a window into what you, as an author, were thinking about.

    Oh, Clueless. That’s been one of my favorite movies forever. I read Rebecca Brownstein’s Why Jane Austen? and she had a long section on how awesome Clueless is.

    Anyway, waiting on tenterhooks until I can read and review FDStS. I am full of confidence that it will be a new favorite. 😀

    • Diana says:

      Oh, I didn’t think that at all. I just know that sometimes I can come off as a total bore when I get really Jane Austen geeky about things, but I do feel like I owe it to Jane and all the other readers who love Jane as much as I do to make conscious choices about my work when it’s in relation to hers. because one of the things I *don’t* like in retellings and spinoffs and such is when writers just capitalize on the Austen audience without really thinking about what they’re doing. It’s a weird balance to strike because you don’t want to write something that people won’t like unless they’re HUGE jane austen geeks like me, but respect for the source is also really important to me.

  6. I really don’t know if it would be possible for something to be *too* Jane Austen nerdy for me. Something about her books just seriously jives with me (except for Mansfield Park…blergh).

    Really, I think she was just as snarky, witty and hilarious as Oscar Wilde, but she was much more subtle about it, so a lot of people miss that.

    In my experience, a lot of the spinoffs are not all that great, because they don’t really consider the characters’ motivations or what makes them uniquely themselves. As amusing as all of the bodice rippers starring Darcy and Elizabeth are, it really just does not fit their personalities for them to be making sweet passionate love on Bingleys’ billiards table at Netherfield before they are married. Afterwards, I suppose all bets could be off, but, really, I think Darcy would be too proper to do such a thing in someone else’s house, since he certainly wouldn’t approve of someone else performing such shenanigans in Pemberley.

    The other big mistake they often seem to make is when the author tries to write like Jane, which seems to essentially entail writing with a thesaurus and using the biggest word they could find for everything. Plus, these books would not be complete without the use of the word ‘whilst’ at least once ever other page. Oy.

    Bringing things back, the best spinoffs are the ones that try to do something new, and don’t worry about trying to match Jane precisely, either in language or plot.