Archive | December, 2011

2012: The year we apply Jane Austen to our lives

31 Dec

Janeites,

I’ve been absent far longer than I intended, but 2012 will change it all. I’m going back to the basics, and I’m digging into her 6 novels (and a few extras) to garner as much life advice as possible. As a few of you know, a breakup at the beginning of December left me in a whirlwind and asking plenty of questions about my life. I always find myself turning to Jane when life throws me a tough change, and what better way to dig into her words than to get input from others?

I’m going to read each of her works, starting with Northanger Abbey, and I’m inviting you to join me. I took a class on Jane Austen two years ago as an English major in college, and though it was great, I hate to admit that I wasn’t able to participate as fully as I should have because of the other class and activities I had on my mind. However, I love the premise of the class: We investigated Jane’s heroines.

This time last year, I was in a funk at my old job (which soon led to another major life change – getting out of the journalism industry for a bit), and my roommate and I decided to read all of Jane’s works and talk about the heros and heroines and what characteristics make a “perfect” guy or gal. I created charts for each book and put them on our living room wall (which got some great comments from our friends, especially guy friends. I’ll have to find them in my files and post them soon.) We got through a couple of the books, but then her schoolwork and my job took over, and we dropped it.

Now I’m determined. I need advice, and I need it now.

Jane’s work is timeless, and I know I’m not alone in saying this. In fact, it could be the main reason we all love her so much. As you read along with me, feel free to toss in any ideas or questions you have. I’ll be looking at the heroines, the heros and anything I can deem “life advice,” which carries a very loose interpretation.

I’m planning to read the books in the order she wrote them. I want to be a writer, so I’m always fascinated with the way writers’ voices develop over time. I’d also like to see how Jane’s characters and thoughts change over time as well. This works out perfectly to start with Northanger Abbey in January because the book has 31 chapters for the month’s 31 days.

Then we’ll cover the other 5 books February through November and some odds and ends (Sanditon, Watsons, Lady Susan) in December. I’ll post a more specific schedule as we approach each novel. For January, I’m getting a late start, but I hope to work ahead in the future so I can post with consistency.

Ready? 2012 is going to be a fantastic year, and if we keep up with Jane all year, we’ll come out as better people on the other end. I can feel it.

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Interview with Abigail Reynolds, author of The Pemberley Variations

20 Dec

Austenites,

I have a lovely interview with Abigail Reynolds to round out my interview posts for the year! Thanks again for reading these interviews, and I look forward to your thoughts about my 2012 challenge to read all of Austen’s books and relate them to today’s problems.

Have a happy holiday season!

Abigail ReynoldsCarolyn Crist: What sparked you to pursue publication as an author?

Abigail Reynolds: I had no intention of publishing when I started out writing for internet fanfic sites, but readers kept encouraging me to try. Eventually I decided that if I didn’t try to get published, I’d always wonder what might have happened, so I gave it a shot, and here I am!

 

Carolyn: What ideas led to your books?

Abigail: My ideas for variations on Pride & Prejudice are all different. Sometimes it’s a scene in the original book that drives me crazy, like at the Lambton Inn when Darcy doesn’t tell Elizabeth that he still cares for her because he assumes she knows it. Other ideas are based on curiousity about what would happen if I changed a factor.

 

Mr. Darcy's UndoingCarolyn: What characters draw your attention?

Abigail: I’m fascinated with both Darcy and Lizzy – I want to know what makes them tick. I think Bingley has unplumbed depths.

 

Carolyn: What intrigues you about Jane Austen?

Abigail: I love her narrative voice. She mocks people, but it tends to be in a warm way. You don’t get the feeling that she really dislikes her characters – she may find them silly, thoughtless, or manipulative, but she’s never nasty about it.

 

Carolyn: How do you support yourself financially while writing?

 

Abigail: Easy answer – I don’t. To make enough money to live on, I’d have to write a lot faster than I do and have a very wide readership. Fortunately for me, my husband has a job that provides benefits, so we don’t have to depend on what I make from writing. I’ve worked part time through all of my writing career to date, but I’m quitting my job soon to write full time.

Mr. Darcy's Letter

 

 

Carolyn: And tell us about your blog tour – what is that like?

 

Abigail: Busy! Blog tours can be a lot of fun, but they’re also like Freshman English on steroids. For my last tour, I had to produce 16 posts of 500-800 words each over 4 weeks, mostly on assigned topics. The fun part is interacting with the readers. The hard part is balancing the time it takes with the need to be writing new fiction.

Thanks for inviting me!

Thanks, Abigail! And thank you for being my wonderful final interview for 2011.

Jane Austen fantasy finals: Winner announced!

18 Dec

I can’t believe this is all coming to an end. Thank you so, so much for playing with me. We had three wonderful scenes this week, go read them here.

As usual, all three of the scenes were fabulous. They were so clever and creative, and I feel honored that they’re all on this site and all together in one place. It was impossible to pick a winner, so I picked all three as winners this week. Fantastic job!

As the points tally up, Cinta is the overall winner. Congratulations, Cinta! I will ship the prize soon.

—-

Here’s the final tally for points:

Cinta: 210

Kirk: 190

Mary: 180

Nicole: 175

Irene: 150

Sarabeth: 75

Rebekah: 25

Karen: 20

Andrea: 15

Alysa: 10

Jen: 10

Susan: 5

Betsy: 0

Life in Labels: 0

Here’s a reminder of what the playoffs scene was:

I’m feeling sassy (and OK, perhaps a bit lazy), so for the playoffs, I’m not going to create a scene, per se. You are!

You all have been so creative, so feel free to throw it all out there. Is there something you’ve wanted to write during the past few weeks that you haven’t been able to fit into a previous post? You know your style – humor, twists, letters, or dialogue. Pick what works for you and throw it at me.

This time, instead of giving you characters to play, I’ll give you points if you can incorporate the 5 players you named for this week’s scene. Maybe this is my twist for the end? I hope you like it!

This has been a blast, and I hope we continue to connect through Austen. I plan to bring in a few competitions next year — possibly starting with a “March Madness” basketball spinoff with Austen characters. Have a lovely holiday season, and welcome 2012 with open arms. I’ll see you then!

 

Jane Austen’s birthday: Bringing changes to VJA in 2012

16 Dec

Happy birthday, Jane!

There are dozens of blogs and websites celebrating Jane today, which is a powerful thing. Think about all of the topics, guest posts, and online games occurring because of her and her impact. This and events from the past few weeks have helped me to re-think what this site should be in 2012.

The spinoff author interviews were relatively popular on VJA, but most importantly, they’re not what I want to host on here.  I may do one every now and then, but they won’t be the main focus any longer. I’ve really enjoyed them, and I hope you have, too.

But now it’s time to try something new and bring the conversation back!

I started thinking about what I like most about Jane and her world, and it’s her books. I like reading them, and I like highlighting the portions relevant to me at the time. It amazes me how new aspects jump out each time I read them.

For me, it’s all about her books. To be honest, I don’t like many spinoffs, and I don’t care to watch many of the movies. They’re excellent, and I highly support and appreciate the creative minds who make them happen, but I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to Jane. Her own words speak to me the most.

So what does that have to do with VJA and 2012?

I’m embarking on an adventure to read all of her novels again next year — shooting for one novel every two months. On VJA, I’ll regularly post comments and invite discussion. I realize that plenty of blogs host book discussions throughout the year, but I want to see if we can take it a bit further on VJA.

Rather than being just a blog about what’s going on in the world of Jane Austen today, VJA will reflect my own ideas in an attempt to uncover life’s truths in her novels. Instead of a hobby that I regularly update (but sometimes neglect), I’m really going to create a goal to post here on schedule and invite you to help me achieve it along the way. As I explore this aspect of Jane’s world with more excitement and passion, you’ll be able to tell. It’ll make for a much better read.

So here’s to you, Jane. A bit different than the post you’ll find on other blogs today, but I think that’s what I’m aiming for. My gift to her is the simple appreciation of her works and how much they continue to impact our lives. I plan to delve into them and investigate the characters, situations, and words we have grown to love.

Want to celebrate her in this way as well? Join me! I’ll create another post soon with a tentative schedule, discussion topics, and other ideas. Do you have any recommendations for me? Which book should I read first? Is there a particular topic I should emphasize throughout the year? Do you want to be one of my regulars?

Interview with Jacqueline Diamond, author of 6 Regency novels

14 Dec
Austenites,
Today I’m hosting Jacqueline Diamond, author of several Regency novels. She recently reissued her out-of-print Regencies in digital editions. It’s a thrill for her to reconnect with the Janeite community, so she agreed to answer a few questions!
Carolyn Crist: What motivated you to pursue publication as an author?
Jacqueline Diamond: At age 4, I made my brother teach me to read when he came home from school each day. At age 5, I wrote my first story (it was one sentence long). I don’t honestly remember a time when I didn’t intend to be an author.

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After college, I received a one-year playwriting fellowship, which I spent traveling in Europe and writing a play (never produced, but I learned a lot). Then returning to reality, I moved in with my very patient brother in California and got a job with a public relations firm, after which I went into journalism (two newspapers and the Associated Press). At the age of 32, I sold my first novel, a Regency romance. Lady in Disguise is now available for Kindle and Nook.
Carolyn: What sparked the ideas for your books?
Jacqueline: I’ve always felt as if the characters and stories actually exist, but without me their tales would never be told. My challenge hasn’t been getting ideas but shaping and developing them and learning the fiction skills that most writers struggle with: point of view, exposition, story structure, and so on.
Carolyn: How did you first decide to write Regency novels, and why did you decide to reissue them recently?
Jacqueline: I was working at the Associated Press and had been writing novels and plays for ten years after college with no notable success. Then Masterpiece Theatre aired Pride and Prejudice (the series with Elizabeth Garvey). I fell in love with all things Jane Austen. After reading her books, I was in the library one day and discovered Regency romances. Devouring dozens of them inspired me to begin doing researching and writing my own. I wrote two—Lady in Disguise and Song for Lady—before selling them to Walker and Company in hardcover.
Once they went out of print, I requested that all rights be returned to me. Although my agent was able to sell some foreign rights to these, there was no other market until Amazon and Barnes and Noble enabled authors to post their own work. At that point, I had the books scanned, reedited them and put together new covers.

Carolyn: How did you support yourself financially while writing?

Jacqueline: As mentioned above, I worked for about a year in public relations and then for about ten years in journalism. Since I sold Lady in Disguise, I’ve gone on to sell 90 novels. Some years I earn a fulltime income and some years not. Contrary to what the public often assumes, romance writers don’t necessarily rake in big bucks, and I’ve continued to receive rejections.
In fact, some of my favorite non-Regencies, including the paranormal romance Touch Me in the Dark and the darkly funny murder mystery Danger Music, took years to sell. I’ve reissued these for Kindle and Nook also.

To finish answering your question, I also teach writing (through LongRidgeWritersGroup.com). And my husband of 33 years, an IT business analyst, brings in his share of the income. We have two sons in their twenties.

Carolyn: And what are your next steps?
Jacqueline: A big fan of Grey’s Anatomy, I’m currently writing a series of medical-themed romances, Safe Harbor Medical, for Harlequin American Romance. The sixth book, The Surgeon’s Surprise Twins, came out in October 2011 and the seventh, The Detective’s Accidental Baby, is due (pun intended) in February 2012. An earlier release, Falling for the Nanny (book number five), was just nominated for an award by Romantic times. Next, I need to put together a proposal for another three books and hope Harlequin buys them!
Also, since I own the digital rights to eleven of my early Harlequins, I’m reediting and updating them. These are contemporary romantic comedies. So far I’ve reissued Old Dreams, New Dreams, about a hairdresser pursuing her dream of working in Hollywood.
There’ll be more romantic comedies after the first of the year. I hope people will visit my website at www.jacquelinediamond.com, where I post free writing tips and updates on my books. I also provide tips and publishing industry news on Twitter as @jacquediamond.

Thanks, Jackie! You’re an inspiration.

Fantasy week seven and playoffs: Create your own scene

11 Dec

This is the seventh week of Jane Austen fantasy — and the playoffs! Congrats for making it to the end — and the end of 2011. I can’t believe it’s almost a new year.

Everyone should name their five characters for the week on the previous post. The seventh scenario is below.

You have all week to pose your response!

Here’s the point system to keep in mind and then the scenario below.

The scoring system:

5 points per character that you play each week that I use in the scene

10 points if you respond to the weekly scene

15 points if a character you played “wins” in the weekly scene

20 points if I pick your response for the weekly scene

I’m feeling sassy (and OK, perhaps a bit lazy), so for the playoffs, I’m not going to create a scene, per se. You are!

You all have been so creative, so feel free to throw it all out there. Is there something you’ve wanted to write during the past few weeks that you haven’t been able to fit into a previous post? You know your style – humor, twists, letters, or dialogue. Pick what works for you and throw it at me.

This time, instead of giving you characters to play, I’ll give you points if you can incorporate the 5 players you named for this week’s scene. Maybe this is my twist for the end? I hope you like it!

Good luck! Thank you so much for playing with me. This has been a blast, and I hope to think up more competitions in the future. It has been fabulous to meet you and read your creative thoughts! I’ll post a final response next weekend (let’s be real, probably Sunday) to announce the final winner. I’ll e-mail you to ask for your address so I can send out the prize!

Austen fantasy week six: Winners and heading into playoffs

11 Dec

I didn’t announce that week six was the second to last week, and this week is the last! I’m quite excited to send out the prize. We had four lovely scenes this week, go read them here.

All of the scenes were fabulous for various reasons! I love that both Mary and Kirk referenced Army versus Navy. Cinta’s scene included a letter and the complex emotions of impatience, tension, and jealousy, while Kirk’s scene provided laughs, modern references, wit, and a dance between the author and Tom Lefroy. Who wouldn’t love that? Nicole continued her epic story with intensity, and Mary provided lovely description and several emotions. I gave everyone 10 points for these reasons and 20 to Mary for being this week’s winner!

Don’t forget to pick your 5 players for week seven/the playoffs!!

—-

The scoring system:

5 points per character that you play each week that I use in the scene

10 points if you respond to the weekly scene

15 points if a character you played “wins” in the weekly scene

20 points if I pick your response for the weekly scene

—-

Here are the point totals for this week:

Cinta: 210

Kirk: 190

Mary: 180

Nicole: 175

Irene: 150

Sarabeth: 75

Rebekah: 25

Karen: 20

Andrea: 15

Alysa: 10

Jen: 10

Susan: 5

Betsy: 0

Life in Labels: 0

Now it’s time to put your team in for week seven. The playoffs!!

Don’t forget that you’re playing for a leather-bound copy of Austen’s works, which I will buy and ship during the week of Christmas!

Interview with Michelle Franklin, author of the Haanta Series

9 Dec

Hey Austenites,

I took a small hiatus from interviews for a few days, but now I’m back! Today I’m hosting Michelle Franklin, who wrote the Haanta Series. It’s a bit different when you think about “Austen fiction,” so read ahead!

Carolyn Crist: What sparked you to pursue creative writing?

Michelle Franklin: I was so horrid at everything else, I felt as though I didn’t really have a choice but to write. I have been forever writing since my first taste of storytelling in grade 4. I wrote a horrendous story about cat people. From there, however, I moved onto the bigger and the better, and have never stopped since.

 

Carolyn: What ideas led to the Haanta Series?

Michelle: Everything has always been giants and warriors and kings with me. I just finally had the good sense to put it all together. I was also laid off work during the recession and had little else but myself, the computer, and the walls to furnish me. That helps creativity: when one is left with nothing but one’s own imagination. I began writing stories of a woman and a giant, and eventually their relationship blossomed into 30 books and over 100 characters.

The series begins when Commander Boudicca MacDaede must make a last stand to defend her kingdom. She finds Rautu imprisoned in the armoury where she is stationed and asks him to help her turn the tide of the war being fought between her nation of Frewyn and the neighboring nation of Gallei. They win the current battle and Rautu is asked to stay to win the war. Thus begins the first book in the series.

 

Carolyn: Why do you describe it as “Austenesque, with giants”?

Michelle: Many critics describe my style of writing as Austenesque. This is probably due to the fact that the only books I enjoy are classics. Classical style narrative is all my delight, which is very much discouraged in authors nowadays. I haven’t enjoyed a book that was published after 1950 in some time, and therefore my style reflects the books I enjoy most, Jane’s work being of the highest on my list.

 

Carolyn: What characters draw your attention?

Michelle: Characters who have the heart of their authors. TH White’s character of Lancelot from Ill-Made Knight is an excellent example: a character that at first we sympathize with and then is dragged through unutterable hell but is ultimately redeemed in the end. Most of Jane’s characters are the same, I feel: they begin in a mess and then are all reconciled by the end. I do my best to reconcile all my characters. They are my family, and I cannot let them suffer for long without having myself suffer in return. Any character who is worthy of redemption draws my attention.

 

Carolyn: What intrigues you about Jane Austen?

Michelle: Jane often went her own way, and her style is so unique that it’s maddening to think so little else is like to it. She does very well to delve into the mind and describe sensibility as no one else can do. Many authors are taught this rule of “show and don’t tell”, but Jane tells us a great deal, and her only enemy on this point was Mark Twain. She knows more about love and the female mind than anyone else in the literary world. I can only contrive to discover a fraction of what she knows.

 

Carolyn: How do you support yourself financially while writing?

Michelle: I live on a small income, as most great hermits of the world must do. I have much support from family and friends, and pity from readers who are so good as to buy and read my books.

Thank you, Michelle!

Mini Jane Austen adventures: Bonding with Billy

7 Dec

Jane and Shakespeare explore the living room.

Jane Austen and Shakespeare box

Jane Austen and Shakespeare on jar

Jane Austen black dressJane Austen purse

Shakespeare in video case

Mini Jane Austen adventures: Exploring the kitchen

7 Dec

Jane takes an evening walk around the kitchen. Yes, I understand my roommate and I are a bit silly.

mini Jane Austen crock pot

Jane Austen glass

Jane Austen in blender