It’s finally time! After a month of time spent in the wild, Jane Austen Made Me Do It — and talented editor Laurel Ann Nattress — are stopping by write meg! today. I’m pleased to welcome Laurel Ann and thank her for stopping by — and answering some of my most pressing questions.
Let’s take it away . . .
Hi Megan, thanks again for hosting me at Write Meg during my Grand Tour of the blogosphere in celebration of the release of my new Austen-inspired anthology, Jane Austen Made Me Do It.
Meg: Laurel Ann, we “met” years ago and bonded through our mutual love of Jane Austen. Your blog Austenprose has been a big inspiration to me, and I love your focus on Austen’s writing – and the many contemporary spin-offs her books have stimulated. When you’re reading an Austen-inspired work, what elevates it from just a decent read to an amazing one? What qualities make a book unforgettable?
“I have read a few Austenesque books in my day. Am I jaded? Hope not. I usually know by the end of the third chapter if it has wings: a fresh concept skillfully rendered, Austen allusions or her characters reverently portrayed and humor in the form of wit and irony, please. I know. It’s a tall order. I’m fastidious.”
I wrote that on my blog in 2010. I have not changed my mind. Even though my reading taste has evolved since the early years of the Austenesque boom (after the 1995 A&E/BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice) my standards have remained the same.
I read my first Jane Austen-inspired sequel in 1999. It was Marjorie Fasman’s The Diary of Henry Fitzwilliam Darcy. I loved it. It motivated me to read just about everything in print up to that point and to continue reading anything new published in the genre to date. I have not read everything, mind you, but I do try to visit them all.
So what elevates an Austenesque book from decent to unforgettable? For most readers it is what books they have already read to compare against the next one, and personal taste. This might sound like a cop-out, but we are what we have read. Some people love the highly romantic aspects of the genre; others the historical details. I enjoy an Austenesque book for the same reasons that I admire Austen’s writing — her acerbic humor and astute characterizations. If an author uses those qualities successfully, it really grabs my attention. Overall, a great novel needs to take me on an emotional journey, teach me about human relationships and myself. Since these qualities are subjective, what I like, might not please someone else.
“Only a novel… in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language.” – Northanger Abbey
Meg: Your new anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It debuted in October and features short stories from many fabulous authors, including Laurie Viera Rigler and Adriana Trigiani. It’s so wonderful to see book lovers making the leap from blogger to author/editor. What was the most rewarding part of the editing process for you? And the most challenging?
Thanks Meg! I am indeed the poster girl for following your bliss! I had no idea that blogging would culminate into a book deal, but it did. That was never my original plan, but sometimes magic just happens. All of my planets and stars were aligned on one amazing day in January 2010 and my book was set into motion.
Working with the twenty-four authors was the most amazing part of the process. They were hand selected by me and my editor because we greatly admired their writing. When their stories started arriving months later, it was like Christmas in my email inbox for about two weeks. Seeing what they had created was so exciting. The variety of genres and inspirational basis was far beyond what I had anticipated. From Regency to contemporary, comedy to romance, mystery to paranormal, it is all there. Quite a selection of Austen confections.
One of the most challenging aspects of the editing process was the Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest. Since Jane Austen was so committed to her craft, I thought that it would honor her ideals by leaving a spot open in the anthology for a debut voice. The contest was open to previously unpublished authors and was held online last January. We expected about twenty stories and were blown over when eighty-eight arrived, including your wonderful story Megan, “Spinning White Hair Gold.” Readers narrowed down the list to the Top Ten finalists, and then my editor and I chose the Grand Prize winner. That was a very difficult decision. I greatly admired many of the stories and wanted to include them all, but only one could be selected. Ultimately, we unanimously agreed on “The Love Letter,” by Brenna Aubrey. It was a fantastic contribution and I hope that readers enjoy it also.
Meg: If you could create an all-star Austen cast for a new production of Pride and Prejudice, who would you love to see in each role?
Wow, a fantasy Austen team for P&P, right? Okay, here goes:
Richard Armitage as Mr. Darcy; Gemma Arterton as Elizabeth Bennet; Emma Watson as Jane Bingley; Hugh Laurie as Mr. Bennet; Joanna Lumley as Mrs. Bennet; Emily Blunt as Caroline Blingley; Laurence Fox as Mr. Wickham; Harriet Walter as Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Charlotte Rampling as Aunt Gardiner. One can dream, can’t one?
Meg: For an Austen newcomer, which novel would you recommend reading first? Which has inspired you the most on a personal level?
Pride and Prejudice is a great choice for the first Jane Austen book read. It is her most famous and there are so many movie adaptations out there that a new reader is bound to have heard of it or seen one and be familiar with the story. P&P inspired me to love Austen and the unique world that she created. I have read all of her novels, her minor works and letters and I gravitate toward each for different reasons. Some people greatly admire her heroes and heroines: Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth and Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars. I am drawn to her secondary characters: Henry and Mary Crawford, Caroline Bingley, Mary Musgrove, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. I enjoy how she develops the darker side of human nature. It challenges me and makes me think.
Meg: What do you hope readers will glean from Jane Austen Made Me Do It? What has its publication meant to you?
I hope that readers will feel uplifted, inspired and in awe that Jane Austen has left such an indelible mark on literature, and then want to read her novels. Jane Austen Made Me Do It is a tribute to her brilliance. She has been delighting readers and inspiring writers for two centuries. I hope that my anthology both honors her and entertains.
The publication of JAMMDI is personal triumph for me. As a single woman of a certain age, it has shown me that we all deserve a “season of second chances.” It’s never too late.
Thanks Meg, for your great questions. It is always a pleasure to visit Write Meg, and I have so enjoyed following your writing career. I am all anticipation of your first novel. I will be the first to wave its flag!
Cheers, Laurel Ann
A life-long acolyte of Jane Austen, Laurel Ann Nattress is the author/editor of Austenprose.com a blog devoted to the oeuvre of her favorite author and the many books and movies that she has inspired. She is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, a regular contributor to the PBS blog Remotely Connected and the Jane Austen Centre online magazine. An expatriate of southern California, Laurel Ann lives in a country cottage near Snohomish, Washington. Visit Laurel Ann at her blogs Austenprose.com and JaneAustenMadeMeDoIt.com, on Twitter as @Austenprose, and on Facebook as Laurel Ann Nattress.
Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress
Ballantine Books • ISBN: 978-0345524966
Giveaway of Jane Austen
Made Me Do It
Congrats to Elaine, the randomly-selected winner of a copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It! Elaine, I’ll be contacting you shortly.