Halle Mason’s eyes light up when she talks about Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham. The trio of fictional characters is from one of her favorite novels – Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” a beloved story that has resonated with romantics for more than two centuries and spawned numerous adaptations. It’s also the inspiration for Mason’s popular blog-turned-Instagram account – Looking for Mr. Darcy – a place where the Nebraska native takes Austen’s characters and applies them to the 21st century world of dating, much to the delight of her nearly 7,000 followers.
A senior majoring in English with a renaissance program minor, Mason recently won the International Virginia Woolf Society’s undergraduate essay prize for her piece, “A Modern Gothic: Septimus Smith Haunts the Streets of Virginia Woolf’s ‘Mrs. Dalloway,’” that she originally wrote for Professor Emily James’ fourth-year course on the Metropolitan Mind.
The Newsroom caught up with Mason to talk favorite words, romantic comedies and connecting with her fans.
What place on campus do you like to spend time?
The fourth floor of the library where all the 19th century literature is. It’s all in four rows and it’s all up there. I like to go there and visit the books.
In one description of Looking for Mr. Darcy, you say it has the tone of Carrie Bradshaw, but the content is Jane Austen. Tell me more.
I grew up watching shows like “Friends” and “Will & Grace.” I’ve always loved “Sex and the City” and rom-coms. I feel like the whole premise of Looking for Mr. Darcy is romantic comedies. That’s kind of where it started, but then it adapted into Austen where the fantasy is associated with watching rom-coms all the time and reading Jane Austen novels all the time. And the way in which that fantasy starts to infiltrate your reality and affect your perception of reality and, in turn, affects your expectations out of the people that you date and what you expect your love life to look like. So I was really interested in exploring that with the blog. I thought “Sex and the City” – Carrie Bradshaw is such a fascinating love writer and I’ve always identified really strongly with her perspective on things. I know she’s a fictional character, but that’s kind of the whole thing – allowing fictional characters to infiltrate your reality and affect you in a really personal deep level. I’ve always loved the tone. I feel like it really fits into my audience level.
I get a lot of girls like ages 16 to mid-20s from all over the world who reach out on Facebook. It’s a really broad audience and I think that that tone really sits well with that audience. You don’t take it too seriously, but it’s like you’re talking to your best friend over cosmos at a bar or over coffee.
When your fans reach out to you, is there a common question they ask?
A lot of it is dating advice, which I don’t fully feel equipped to give. Especially with very complicated situations. Some people reach out and they just want book recommendations. I was very open with the blog and I was open with a lot of my personal dating life, so basically any guy who goes on a date with me is going to end up on the blog at some point.
Is that a disclaimer you throw out there when going on a first date?
Yeah, I have let most of them know that in advance. My audience has been very attached to certain stories. I get messages like, “Hey! So has anything happened with you and that guy?” and I’m like, no. … I feel like my audience is more invested in those relationships than I am at some points.
Do you have a favorite word?
Gamophobia. It’s the fear of commitment – I’ve researched it a lot. I really got into the psychology behind romantic comedies and there’s also this whole psychological study out of Germany where they have a word for the disillusionment we feel between our reality and our fantasy – weltschmerz. I wrote an entire piece on it. Those are two of my favorite words because they’re two big study words for me. They’re just rife with research.
I read you teach yoga. Do you have a favorite pose?
I was. I’m not currently teaching, but yes. I trained with CorePower my freshman year of college. I love crow. So, it’s like you’re balancing with your knees on your triceps. It’s an arm balance, but it’s nice just to kind of get off your feet for a little bit.
The image of a crow seems to go nicely with your love of Gothic literature!
It is Gothic actually! Very Edgar Allan Poe yoga.
You said you’re a fan of romantic comedies. What modern day rom-com is underrated?
I’m a sucker for Hallmark Christmas movies. I would say an underrated rom-com that I watch frequently is “The Decoy Bride.” It’s super obscure. It’s about a writer who goes to the island of Hegg. It’s bizarre and low-budget, but I just love it.
What was the last thing you ordered online?
A copy of Carmen Machado’s “My Body and Other Parties” from Graywolf Press. I have a copy for myself that I had signed by Carmen at a Graywolf event. My best friend’s birthday is next week, and I ordered her a copy.
During high school, what did your fellow students think you’d end up doing for a career?
People used to tell me that the career they saw me in when I grew up was Miranda Priestly from “The Devil Wears Prada.” My original plan coming into college was to become an editor. I worked as an intern and freelance writer for both Omaha Magazine and then Minnesota Monthly. I loved it. I love that kind of work and I love those magazines and I love publishing as an industry. I would love to become a lit agent or something like that in the future. That’s not really in the cards right now, but maybe down the road.