From Pemberley to Milton
Excerpt from a 2016 interview at FromPemberlytoMilton.com
When was your first contact with Gaskell’s work and what captivated you about it?
I stumbled upon the BBC’s adaptation of North and South in October 2009. It was a pivotal event for me. I’d never heard of Elizabeth Gaskell before. Richard’s performance of the lonely and misunderstood John Thornton was utterly riveting. I don’t think I’d ever seen a romantic hero as vulnerable as Thornton was during that profoundly moving scene with his mother the night before he proposed. The intensity of emotion in this love story is amazing. Both Margaret and John are striving so hard to do what is right in life, and they’re holding their families up — yet they’re really both quite alone.
Excerpts from a 2012 interview with Maria Grazia of Italy at Fly High!
When did you decide to write your sequel? Was it after reading North and South or after watching the series? Also, your story starts as a ‘what-if’ and proposes some changes to Gaskell’s plot. Can you tell us a little about that?
I happened upon the miniseries quite by accident, and was utterly captivated by the whole story, but especially by Richard’s performance. I sought out Gaskell’s book very soon after, having never heard of her before. It’s now my secular bible! I couldn’t stop thinking about the adaptation those first few months, especially the agonizing goodbye scene when Margaret leaves Milton. I began to imagine how these star-crossed lovers might have avoided the pain of separation for that last year. I was convinced that if Margaret had known that John still loved her, they could have come to some understanding. I was obsessed for weeks. Slowly, a scenario evolved in my mind that would change the outcome of that scene. It became clearer and clearer to me, so I decided to write it out. I had never written fiction before, but once I started, the ideas kept flowing.
Your Mr. Thornton is very tender, romantic, thoughtful and generous like Gaskell’s hero. Did you add or change anything to his character in your book?
Well, I think it would be natural to expect that once he has secured Margaret’s affections and becomes a husband, he will be quite a different man than the dark, brooding man we saw for most of the miniseries. He will be more relaxed, joyful, and gratefully content. His character will still be hard-working and strong, but his innate tendencies toward compassion and tenderness will be brought out with Margaret by his side. In my book, I give the newlyweds some time to discover each other - alone - on their honeymoon. I envisioned that during this time Margaret would help bring out a playfulness in John that we had never seen. I think the joy of their new intimacy would naturally bring this out.
Excerpts from a February 2012 interview at melaniesmusings.net
Where does your book begin in regards to Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel?
It begins shortly after Mr. Hale’s death, when Aunt Shaw has come to take Margaret back to London. I’ve given a twist to Gaskell’s plot which sends the story in a new direction.
It was my obsession with the heart-wrenching goodbye scene that impelled me to write this story. Actually, it was the miniseries that turned me into a writer, and I know several other authors who can attribute the start of their writing careers to North and South. That’s the power of the miniseries – and of Richard’s amazing acting.
What are your thoughts on Henry Lennox? Love him? Hate him? Is he simply misunderstood?
That’s a somewhat complicated question because there are practically two versions of Henry. In Gaskell’s book, Henry Lennox is a nice enough fellow; he just isn’t the one for Margaret. He seems content to follow the rather self-consumed patterns of London society which Margaret doesn’t really enjoy. I give him credit for being attracted to Margaret. He likes her intelligence and her unique spirit, but he doesn’t really understand her.
Both the Henry of the book and the Henry of the adaptation have a tenacious hope that Margaret can be won over, given time. Wrong.
In the miniseries, we’re given a delightful dose of sparring between Thornton and Henry at the Exhibition. This Henry has a venomous bite and we’re given a good opportunity to ‘hate’ the arrogant and jealous competitor for Margaret’s heart. We know who we want to win.
I don’t hate Henry, but he can be a great character for emphasizing what it is that Margaret doesn’t want. I dislike Henry only when he’s being condescending, which seems to be a trait in both versions of the character.
My Henry is very displeased when he discovers Margaret is betrothed to Thornton. I use him to rile both John and Margaret at different places in the book.