Tag Archives: #NS10

#NS10 My Favorite N&S fanfiction

Meek Margaret

Romantic tension between would-be lovers. Thornton with his book. He loves to read, too!

 

After watching North & South for the very first time, I was desperate to talk about the story with others because I simply couldn’t stop thinking about it. I found C19 within a few days. It saved me from certain lunacy (or did it?). What a relief to know that I wasn’t the only one suffering from the effects of watching a Victorian cotton mill owner smolder for nearly four hours. Finally I could discuss and ask questions … but that was not all. There were stories there! Other people, whom the gods had allowed to find N&S years before me, had written stories about John and Margaret.

I had discovered fan fiction! Cue the music from on high.

I spent hours upon hours immersing myself in Milton again through the creative talents of many fellow fans. I devoured all the stories set in the Victorian Era and then, still hungry for more, tried those that transferred the romance to a modern setting.

Eventually, I turned to writing my own stories. It’s the most effective way of getting the story fleshed out in exactly the way you see it playing in your head.

But what if you’re not inclined to write your own N&S story? There are plenty of tales to get lost in, written by those who couldn’t leave the images of Margaret and John swirling in their heads until they had attempted to transcribe it for others to enjoy.

Here are some of my favorites, heavily influenced by my long-term love for and connection to the C19 forum:

Traditional continuation stories

Pack Clouds Away My all-time favorite continuation from the book. So Gaskellesque: tender and passionate all at once.

True North Wonderful continuation from the mini-series written with historical detail and a little spice.

Mistress of Marlborough  Unfinished, but a favorite at C19. They go to Cadiz to visit Fred!

Variations stories / What-ifs

Fate & Circumstance  Unfinished, but so worth it anyway! The prose is incredible. I’m left with my jaw hanging every time. And the sexual tension is staggering. A must-read, but be prepared for a grinding halt to the story.

How Far the World Will Bend (also available at Amazon) Creative time-travel with spine-tingling romantic tension. I’ve reviewed it on another post here.

Under Compulsion Margaret is pressured to marry Thornton to save her reputation after the riot. Margaret warms to John as his wife.

Bring the Heart to Earth The premise is tough to take, but the reconciliation involved is a slow-burn delight.

Modern setting

Past and Present There’s a magnetic attraction between Milton hotel owner John Thornton and the girl who’s just moved into town. Intense! I love this author’s writing.

East and West Sweet story based on N&S although the names are changed. ‘Margaret’ is a California liberal who moves to NYC where she meets the conservative financial executive ‘John Thornton.’

Come Back to Me  Maggie and Jon endure a tumultuous relationship that includes crossing social classes.

Alternate Universe

Deep Blue Sea  Fantastic Regency world story based on N&S. The names have been changed, but ‘John Thornton’ is a sea captain! A creative and spicy spin on the story.

For Laughs

North and Spoof  This is a hilarious spoof that throws a little Thorin in with the stolid Mr Thornton. It takes a special skill and a little inherent wackiness to create a brilliant parody. The author talks about her craft and inspiration on another post here.

North and South for Dummies Who doesn’t need a good laugh now and then? A zany look at a few of the episodes in N&S.

 

You’re welcome to tell us your favorites!

 

 

 

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#NS10: Going Back To The Beginning

The Armitage Authors Network continues our celebration of the 1oth Anniversary of  North & South this week with a special post from three of the authors we’ve archived: Elizabeth Hanbury, Phillipa Ashley, and Georgia Hill. They recently spent some time exploring Quarry Bank Mill, a site that Elizabeth Gaskell may have used as inspiration for Thonton’s Mill and the Master’s house, and they shared their photos and memories of what the early days of the fandom was like below.

Happy Anniversary!

This month marks the 10th anniversary of the first broadcast of the 2004 BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South.

Anyone who has only recently discovered the delights of N&S and John Thornton/Richard Armitage might not know the internet phenomenon that followed its original broadcast. The three of us (Phillipa Ashley, Liz Hanbury and Georgia Hill) were there when it happened and to celebrate this special occasion, we’re sharing our thoughts and recollections of those heady days.

“Quarry Bank Mill – it’s believed that Elizabeth Gaskell would have known the Gregs (who owned QBM) as her uncle was employed as doctor to the child apprentices there and Hannah Greg was a Unitarian and therefore part of EG’s circle. It’s been speculated that EG based N&S/JT/MH on Quarry Bank Mill, Samuel Greg and Hannah Greg.” Photo used with the kind permission of Liz Hanbury.

So let’s begin with a bit of background…

Back in November 2004 there was very little pre-publicity about this new period drama series North & South, even from the BBC. It arrived on British TV screens on Sunday evening, 14th November, relatively unheralded and unannounced. Then (as now) the BBC has a specific area on its website – messageboards – for comments and discussion on TV and Radio programmes. A messageboard for N&S was started shortly after episode one was broadcast. At first these discussions took place on the BBC’s general drama board. The contributions were plentiful but initially fairly restrained because the board was strictly moderated – more on this later. Then, someone asked “Is it just me, or is Richard Armitage hotter than a thousand suns?” and the floodgates opened!

By the end of November, the volume of messages being posted had swamped the general board, so a new board was opened especially for N&S in mid-December which sparked another 5,000 messages. This unprecedented reaction to North and South and the outpouring of emotion caused such a stir it even got a mention in the UK national press.

"Reconstruction of a mill workers cottage, built in Styal village near to Mill." Photo used with the kind permission of Liz Hanbury

“Reconstruction of a mill workers cottage, built in Styal village near to Mill.” Photo used with the kind permission of Liz Hanbury,

Liz says…

I was desperate to find out more after watching North & South. I’d never had such a reaction before to a TV drama before and to this day I don’t know why this production and Richard Armitage/John Thornton got under my skin as they did. Some people have described it like falling in love and it’s a fair comparison. It was certainly a wonderfully intense response. Having searched on line, there was very little information about the adaptation and even less about Richard Armitage, unless you were looking for the former US Deputy Secretary of State! I didn’t make the connection when watching N&S but I’d actually seen Richard before briefly, on stage, when he played Angus in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Macbeth in 1999.

Eventually I found the BBC drama messageboard where a very long conversation was already going on about North & South. My first feeling was one of relief. I was just pleased to find others had been similarly affected. I thought I was the only one going crazy over it!

I joined and did at least remember to use a pseudonym although the weirdos I’d been worried about finding in an on-line chat room all seemed remarkably intelligent and erudite people, quoting Gaskell, comparing the original text with the adaptation and discussing many aspects of 19th century culture and literature. The atmosphere was heady and strangely comforting for those of us caught up in this extraordinary passion. Discussion was fast, furious and fun with dollops of desire for a certain TDHCMO (that’s short for ‘tall, dark, handsome cotton mill owner’ – we created our own acronyms and phrases for speed of posting and to get around the moderators. For example, ‘South American River’ was used when you wanted to point people towards ‘Amazon’!) alongside sensible literary discussion and analysis.

A campaign was started to get the series out on DVD as only a few lucky souls had had the foresight to record every episode.

The board was strictly moderated, and messages would be removed without warning if the moderators thought we had broken the rules. We never knew who the moderators were. We only knew the two BBC hosts, Ian and Claudia, who occasionally popped up to post in the threads. There were no pictures on the board and no smilies.

Also, the board was only open until 10pm in the evening, so there would often be a mad rush just before then to post messages. It was hard to tear yourself away, such was the intensity of the discussion. One evening I made the mistake of putting on a face pack thinking I’d spend a few minutes checking on the latest postings and news. Three hours later I was still staring at the PC screen, utterly engrossed and still wearing the face pack!

And some of the threads were side-splittingly funny and off-the-wall – there was a Milton Pantomine thread featuring Henry the Horse and a thread which discussed which washing powder Mrs Thornton used to get John’s shirts so white!

It was a magical and unforgettable time and out of it came things I’ll always I treasure: the N&S DVD which might otherwise not have seen the light of day, and which continues to gain the series new fans and incite the same passionate response we experienced back in 2004; some wonderful friendships and plenty of laughter; and indirectly the push I needed to take my scribblings out of the drawer, dust them off and start writing again.

I hope Richard and the rest of the cast and crew of N&S 2004 find it heart-warming to know how many good things N&S 2004 has been the catalyst for, and feel proud to have been involved in something that continues to delight 10 years on, as well as engender a strong sense of community and goodwill among its many fans worldwide.

"Kitchen garden at the Apprentice House – produce from kitchen garden was used to feed apprentices." Photo used with the kind permission of Liz Hanbury.

“Kitchen garden at the Apprentice House – produce from kitchen garden was used to feed apprentices.” Photo used with the kind permission of Liz Hanbury.

Phillipa says….

 I’ve never heard that face pack story, Liz! I’d love to have seen that.

 Whizzing back ten years to that dark Sunday evening in November 2004…

 I’d always loved period dramas and when I saw N&S trailered, I thought I’d give it a go, BUT (please hide behind the sofa at this point) I hated Thornton in the first episode. I thought he was vile when he kicked the millworker and not handsome, but scary. I told my husband and daughter that I might not bother with episode 2, however, they really enjoyed it so I decided to give the series a second a chance.

 Some way into episode 2, I suddenly thought: wow, this is good and wow, this character has a magnetic charisma that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. Basically I was completely hooked on the series and on Richard’s portrayal of Thornton and I wanted more of both.

 Internet forums were relatively new back then, so while I was looking for more details on the series I happened upon the BBC Drama messageboard. It was there I saw a thread that said something like: “It is just me or is John Thornton hotter than 1000 suns?”

 The board is where I ‘met’ Liz and Georgia but they had screen names then. It wasn’t until many months later that we finally met in the flesh.

 I have North & South to thank for that, and for introducing me to writing fiction and to my other C19 close friends.

"Inside the mill with machines and cotton dust!" Photo used with the kind permission of Liz Hanbury.

“Inside the mill with machines and cotton dust!” Photo used with the kind permission of Liz Hanbury.

 Georgia says…

Heady is exactly the right word. It was an extraordinary time. I’d gone through something similar with the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice, back in 1995. The big difference? No internet! I had to make do with a ‘Making of’ behind the scenes book and a trip to some of the film locations. Although I still harbour a fondness for both television series and Colin Firth (who doesn’t?!) the obsession soon waned. With North & South, I had a access to a community of intelligent, educated and, let’s face it, swooning Richard Armitage fans! It revived my love of 19th century literature and history and introduced me to many books I probably would have otherwise overlooked.

I have very fond memories of the BBC site. I’d never been on an internet chat forum before and it was an absolute delight. Like having a non-stop gossip with like-minded people. We’d begin a thread discussing one thing and it would drift into something really quite different. What began as an opera topic, ended up as a discussion on whether we thought our literary hero was a virgin. There were in jokes galore too. The main snag was, at that time, I only had a dial-up internet connection. This meant not only was the phone ‘engaged’ for hours on end, I quadrupled the phone bill. That took some explaining.

Meeting up in London – for the first time – was scary. It didn’t help that a friend suggested all these women may not be all they seemed. The person who claimed to be a Jane Austen literature expert on the board may be something completely different for real! Thankfully, everyone turned out to be as lovely in real life as on the board – and as easy to talk to. We’ve gone on to have some really enjoyable weekends – to mills, Chawton and to Edinburgh where many N&S locations were filmed. I’ve made some lasting friendships which I treasure. And, of course, it sparked off my writing career.

Great fun and happy memories.

"Tables set out for celebration dinner – complete with yellow roses of course!" Photo used with kind permission of Liz Hanbury.

“Tables set out for celebration dinner – complete with yellow roses of course!” Photo used with kind permission of Liz Hanbury.

 Footnote…

The BBC N&S board carried on until February 2005, when it was shut down in a cost-cutting exercise. Allegedly ;0) Actually I don’t think they could cope with the deluge of posts! Richard Armitage himself posted a message to us the day before it closed and the response caused the board to go into meltdown. It never quite recovered before its final closure the following evening!

One of the members had already set up another board elsewhere for discussion about 19th century literature. When the BBC board closed, she kindly set up some extra boards about N&S for us on the C19 Messageboard, and most of us moved over there.

Copies of some of the conversations we had about North & South on the BBC board in the three months after it was aired can be found in the archive board on C19. A few members had the prescience to save some of the best ones.

And that mention in the UK national press? The Times printed an article about the phenomenon that was the BBC N&S board just before Christmas 2004. You can read it here.

We hope those who were never on the BBC board enjoy reading about that heady time. We certainly will never forget it! Let us know if you have any questions about those early days and we’ll do our best to answer them.

You can find Georgia Hill in our archive here. Follow her on Twitter @georgiawrites. Phillipa Ashley is in our archive here. Follow her on Twitter @PhillipaAshley. Liz Hanbury can be found in our archive here. Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Hanbury.

#NS10: An Armitage Authors Network Fan Letter

Dear Mrs. Gaskell,

Today is a special anniversary for many of us and I wanted to take a moment to thank you for writing North & South. I wonder if you ever imagined the lives it would touch, then and now. I wonder if you ever imagined that John Thornton and Margaret Hale would be considered a classic romantic couple. They’re certainly not typical. Margaret may be soft hearted but she’s not soft headed. I love her determination to do something, to affect the world beyond her own sitting room. Thornton isn’t a typical romantic hero, either. He doesn’t lounge around in drawing rooms because he doesn’t have time, and if he did have the time he doesn’t have the temperament. They’re so beautifully matched and you obviously loved writing them as much as we’ve loved reading them.

Elizabeth Gaskell by George Richmond, 1851

Elizabeth Gaskell by George Richmond, 1851

The romance of John and Margaret is just one love story in North & South, though. The complex relationships that you write between parents and children, between siblings, between masters and workers, are beautifully explored: Thornton’s desire to take care of his mother and the pride she takes in him; Dixon’s devoted care for Mrs. Hale and for Margaret; Margaret’s taking over the household to make the transition to Milton easier on both of her parents.  The compassion you have for your characters comes through in each line and, for me at least, is what makes the novel ring true even now.

Richard Armitage in North & South

Richard Armitage in North & South

I also wonder, especially today, how you would feel knowing that North & South and the BBC’s 2004 adaptation has brought together and inspired a new generation of writers. The tall, dark, handsome actor who played John Thornton might have had something to do with bringing them together, too, but there would have been no actor, no series, no BBC message board crash without your novel. Thank you, Mrs. Gaskell, from all of us.

Your devoted fan,

jazzbaby1