I’ve participated in a couple of JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction) author events recently. And in preparing for them, I realized that, although we all share the same love of Jane Austen’s work, my writing philosophy is a little different from most JAFF authors, and my novels reflect that. Doing things my own way may not be the smartest move, from a business perspective, but I have to be true to myself.
I am fully sensible that an historical romance… might be much more to the purpose of profit or popularity than such pictures of domestic life in country villages as I deal in. But I could no more write a romance than an epic poem… No, I must keep to my own style and go on in my own way; and though I may never succeed again in that, I am convinced that I should totally fail in any other. (from Jane Austen’s letter to J. S. Clarke, librarian to the Prince Regent, after receiving from him some unsolicited advice on writing)
First, I love ALL of Jane Austen’s novels. Okay, not equally, it’s true. As for most people, Pride and Prejudice is right there at the top, followed closely by Persuasion. Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, and Emma comprise the middle of the pack, with Mansfield Park bringing up the rear. That’s my ranking.
But still, as I said before, I love them ALL. They’re ALL worth reading. They’re ALL worthy of our attention. And for a true Janeite, ANY Austen is better than almost any other book you could read, right? So, early on, I decided that I’d like to write at least one novel related to each of Jane Austen’s six. And I’m well on my way.
I have Pride and Prejudice covered, obviously (The Darcys of Pemberley, Return to Longbourn, The Ladies of Rosings Park, Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley, with another coming out soon: Fitzwilliam Darcy, in His Own Words). For Persuasion, I wrote The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen. I count Leap of Hope as my Mansfield Park book (although there’s a lot of P&P in it too!). And most recently, I wrote a campy sequel to Northanger Abbey: Murder at Northanger Abbey. That leaves Sense and Sensibility and Emma left to go.
I only wish I could persuade more readers to also expand their sights beyond P&P, at least once in a while!
The second major difference between me and most other JAFF writers is that I don’t write “variations” per se. I can’t swear that I won’t in the future if I get a sensational idea, but so far the books I’ve written expand on (or supplement) Jane Austen’s stories; they don’t change them. I don’t mean that as a criticism of those who do write (and read) variations. Not at all! It’s just what works best for me. I’m sappy enough to believe that there’s one true story for the characters I’ve come to know and love, and that’s the one Jane Austen wrote. So for now, I’m sticking with that.
Well, I did make one minor exception to the above guideline. If you remember, near the end of P&P, Mr. Collins writes to Mr. Bennet and mentions expecting a “young olive branch” – an allusion to Charlotte being pregnant. Personally, I thought it would be better if Mr. Collins were not allowed to reproduce, so in my sequels, that turned out to be a false alarm! I trust you won’t mind.
Anyway, it’s kind of a “world building” approach that I’ve taken. I have expanded on Jane Austen’s stories chronologically, with sequels for example. In fact my two P&P sequels, when added to the original novel form a complete P&P trilogy!) I have also expanded by writing from alternate character’s points of view, telling their full stories and how they fit in, discovering what they’re up to all the time they’re missing from the page. There’s plenty Jane Austen didn’t tell us to give scope for the imagination, plenty of intriguing gaps for me to fill in. What fun!
So all my books are written (at least to the best of my ability) to agree with each other and with canon. And not all of my books are based on Pride and Prejudice. That makes me kind of different, I guess, but the devotion to Jane Austen is the same!
Have you read all six of JA’s novels? How would you rank them? Are you willing to venture beyond P&P JAFF from time to time? What would you like to see me write for my Emma and S&S books?
Yes, I have read all six and all of them several times, but I order my favorites a bit differently. I know P&P the best, and I would group it with Persuasion, Mansfield Park, and S&S as my favorites; it’s too hard to choose an absolute favorite among them. Then I would put Northanger Abbey in second place–I have a hard time with second-hand embarrassment which seems to be Catherine’s life in a nutshell. And I despise the title character of Emma–she annoys me to no end, and I am not really fond of any of the characters, so it’s definitely in last place. I identify the most with the characters of Fanny, Anne, and Elinor. They are not flashy in the least; they quietly put others’ needs ahead of their own, and I find that quality so admirable.
Hi, Susanne! I probably identify most with Elinor and admire Anne and Fanny. An admirable/relatable heroine doesn’t always make the best story, though (or vise versa). I’m not at all like Lizzy but love P&P. And even though I don’t really admire Catherine Morland, I thoroughly enjoy the NA story, especially JA’s humor in it. Meanwhile, I revere Fanny’s character but her story falls a little flat for me.
But you’re right; if you actually despise the heroine, you’re not going to like the book. I suppose that means when I eventually write my Emma book, you won’t be willing to read it. I thought of focusing on the men (The Gentlemen of Highbury, like The Ladies of Rosings Park), but sounds like you’re not crazy about them either! Haha!
I don’t mind Knightley–he’s okay. He’s like a Darcy without the pride and Pemberley and with the awkward turned up to eleven. He seems to have no filter which I kind of like and kind of don’t. Emma’s father, though, is the worst father in all of Austen. The only thing I admire about Emma is her devotion to her self-absorbed father. The rest of the men in Emma are meh … or worse. So no … not really a fan of the men, but I do like them far more than the ladies!!
And yes, I’m afraid that I don’t read Emma-based FF … unless it’s a continuation of the story after Emma has learned not to orchestrate everyone else’s lives like a spoiled brat.
However, I do love Clueless — mostly because Alicia Silverstone is so winsome. And a young geeky Paul Rudd … yes. 😉
I rank P&P first followed by Persuasion. After that I don’t really have a ranking although Mansfield Park might be at the bottom, also. I have to agree about not allowing Collns to reproduce. However I would hope that Charlotte’s good sense would counterbalance his character’s behavior and advice.
Yes, I imagine she does try. With skill and subtlety she would guide him to more sensible behavior. But there would only be so much she could do. So I decided to rescue her from Mr. C. altogether. 😉
I’ve read all six novels, plus Lady Susan & some of the Juvenilia. I’ve read P&P over a hundred times, the others only a couple.
I like the first few chapters of NA, which I feel are the ones JA revised, while the rest seem more like her jumped-the-shark Juvenilia efforts, which go for the cheap laugh or beat you over the head to make their points.
Sorry to disappoint, but, while I buy & make an effort to read JAFF that’s not about Darcy & Lizzy, I rarely get farther than a tedious chapter or two. I can make the stretch to Col Fitzwilliam, and that’s about it. I’m simply not interested in other characters, so such a book has to work extra hard to engage me. I did just finish the fascinating S&S variation The Year in Between by Christina Morland, a work that I cannot recommend enough.
Thanks for your comments, Beatrice, explaining how you feel. I guess I have to “work extra hard” when I write a non-P&P story, then. And it’s good to know that you have discovered at least one that could hold your interest!