By Pan Zador, author of Act of Love and Far from the Madding Crowd: The Wild and Wanton Edition
One of my younger readers suggested those famous last words of Admiral Nelson as an alternative title to my new novel, or rather, collaboration with Thomas Hardy. I would be the first to give him a kiss of thanks for his stunning original, through which run such strong undercurrents of sexual power that I hope he will forgive me for the liberties I have taken in removing the corsets and whalebones of Victorian morality, allowing my characters’ natural impulses free play, although always with Hardy’s style and story in the foreground.
In Far From the Madding Crowd I’ve moved away from the theatre setting of my first novel for Crimson Romance, Act of Love, published last December, yet I hope you will find these characters just as passionate and sympathetic, their stories every bit as dramatic.
I particularly love the unashamed theatricality of Hardy’s emotional scenes, such as the outrageous behaviour of his heroine, Bathsheba, in the presence of her dead rival, as she wields a screwdriver to force open the coffin. What she finds there is no more than she deserves, but it is exactly the kind of material that has successfully transformed this novel into so many film versions – the most famous of these starred English actors Julie Christie , Alan Bates and Terence Stamp.
Another movie is in production, shooting this summer, starring Carey Mulligan as the irresistible Bathsheba. Watch out for the sex scenes –I wonder how far they will go?
In Hardy’s beloved Wessex, which is in fact Dorset, in the south west of England, where Hardy lived and died, I went to soak up the atmosphere of his birthplace, a thatched farmhouse house considered humble by Victorian standards, with dark interiors, uneven floorboards and a stone-flagged, draughty kitchen boasting a fireplace so massive you could seat your family on either side. The gardens are immaculate, and there is still an orchard of mossy, ancient trees where young Hardy would gather apples and swap them for books at the local bookshop. Hardy’s upbringing was strictly practical, and although he began training as an architect, he never qualified, preferring to become a stone mason. His love of local trees, flowers, birds, hills and coastlines inform his writing, and when he achieved success and fame he designed his own mansion, a rather dark and forbidding house called Max Gate, where he lived with his second wife, but alas, it was never home to any children. He is buried in Westminster Abbey, but, at his request, his heart lies in Stinsford Churchyard, a stone’s throw from where he was born.