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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?


NaNoWriMo week three: Are you still up to speed? Not me.

17 Nov

I’m definitely not. As predicted by all, the NaNo rhythms felt across the board by experienced NaNo writers, the second week is usually the roadblock that prevents everyone from moving forward. You add a minor scene here and few thought bubbles there, but you feel your story and your characters becoming increasingly stale. You watch it happen right in front of you, and yet you feel powerless.

I hate my story. Can I admit that? I’m pretty sure I really dislike it. It’s become everything I hate in a story – stereotypical, sappy, too romantic. I know I set out for it to become a chick lit story based on Sense and Sensibility, but even the best parts are slipping away. I have a pretty good grasp on my three main characters, but they’re not who I wanted them to be.

However, I think it’s redeemable. There are shimmers of hope in a few clever lines of dialogue, and I’m finding ways to make the hero not so typical. He should have some flaws, and I have a few good ones in mind. On the other hand, my female character may have too many flaws to be likeable.

Yesterday started the typical NaNo week three for me – all of the sudden, I had a few great scenes and I seriously surpassed the daily goal. However, I’m still about 7,000 words behind thanks to family-packed visits during the last two weekends. I finally have a free weekend coming up, and I’m holding still, moving methodically through my last two work days, hoping that won’t be disrupted by another event or visit.

When you live in a college town in the South during football season, these things happen. Friends pop in, and you can’t resist. As holidays draw closer, you also can’t push the relatives away.

But this weekend is my weekend. I claim it. I’m going to pull ahead, I’m going to ignore some of the terrible words I wrote last week, and I’m going to attempt to redeem this story.

If you are having any problems with your NaNo novel, I hope you’re able to do the same. For the Americans, I hope we can all knock out a good chunk this weekend before families and the traveling frenzy take over our lives next weekend for Thanksgiving.


My questions to you:

Are you experiencing the same?

How are you redeeming your story?

How do you ignore the ugly bits that have become a part of the character’s story? Just change it?

How are your weekend counts? So far, mine have been absolutely zero.

Do you think you’ll be on track to finish?


NaNoWriMo 2011 begins: How do you tackle your story?

1 Nov

Today’s the day. This is my first National Novel Writing Month.

I’m a bit nervous, but I’m also excited. I’m going to do the by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach.

I have a general idea about my characters and a general outline. However, I’m not completely clear on the details, and I think that’s OK for my chic-lit-esque story. I think I’ll let the characters tell me where to go. The idea is one that my roommate and I drafted about two years ago, so I’ve had it floating around in my brain and in a notebook for awhile. Last weekend, I scribbled out details for a few scenes, so we’ll see how productive I can be!

Who else is writing? I’d love to connect with you online. To keep myself accountable, I’m going to post a line or two each day on my personal blog. I’ll post on here each week, too, if you’d like. The story is a take on Sense and Sensibility, so that might be entertaining 🙂

Oh yes, and a bonus. Did I mention that my supervisor at work is NaNoing, too? She suggested that we take an hour or so out of our work each day and close the door and write together. Tomorrow morning is the first test of that, so let’s see how it goes!

So the big question: How do you tackle your story? It almost seems overwhelming at the beginning to stare an idea in the face and dare yourself to make it a reality. I’d probably feel much better if I had more notes scattered around me, but oh well. What are your strategies for tackling writing assignments? I’ll give you my tips when I have a better idea. When I wrote newspaper articles each day, I didn’t really have a choice. I just had to write them – and that’s probably the best mentality here, too. You just have to do it. You must complete the goal each day. When it’s your job, of course that your impetus to complete the assignment.

What’s your motivation?

Mid-day update: Somehow this morning I wrote 2,916 words on my story! I’ll probably zoom through this week, but watch out if I falter next week! How is the first day of NaNo going for everyone?? Have you met your goal yet?

Interview with Amanda Grange, author of Mr. Darcy’s Diary and Mr. Darcy, Vampyre

31 Oct

We’re honored to host Amanda Grange as a Halloween treat today!

Jane Austen Award nominee Amanda Grange was born in Yorkshire, England. She spent her teenage years reading Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer whilst also finding time to study music at Nottingham University. She has had more than 20 books published including six Jane Austen retellings and Mr. Darcy, Vampyre.

Amanda Grange now lives in Cheshire. Visit Amanda at her website Amanda Grange, on Twitter as @HRomanceUK, and on Facebook as Amanda Grange.

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

Amanda Grange: I’d always loved writing, ever since I was a little girl, and as I grew older it became an ambition of mine to have a book published. I didn’t always finish my books when I wrote for myself, and I thought that aiming for publication would encourage me to finish a book, and to write the best book I possibly could.


Carolyn: What ideas led to your Jane Austen books, especially Mr. Darcy, Vampyre and Mr. Darcy’s Diary?

Amanda: My first Austen book was Mr Darcy’s Diary. I remember it very clearly, even though I wrote it about eight years ago. I was reading Pride and Prejudice again, and it occurred to me that it was a very modern book in many ways. It had a lot of short chapters, a lot of dialogue – both things that editors love today. But in one way it was very different to novels published today, because it didn’t have any sections written from the hero’s point of view. I started writing some of the scenes from Mr Darcy’s point of view and couldn’t stop, so that’s how I ended up writing Mr Darcy’s Diary (the UK hardback and the audio download are both called Darcy’s Diary, by the way).

With Mr Darcy, Vampyre I wanted to write a book in the tradition of the Gothic novels that Jane Austen read, books like The Mysteries of Udolpho by Mrs Radcliffe. I’d had the idea of making Mr Darcy a vampyre for some years, ever since watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, because something about the Buffy/Angel dynamic reminded me of the Lizzy/Darcy dynamic. So when I had the idea of writing something in the great Gothic tradition, the two ideas merged and led to Mr Darcy, Vampyre.


Carolyn: What characters draw your attention?

Amanda: I like characters who are strongly drawn and who are true to themselves, like Lizzy Bennet. I like them to grow and develop throughout a book, and so I liked seeing Lizzy learn that she had been wrong to ridicule Mr Darcy and believe ill of him with very little reason. That’s also why I love Mr Darcy, because he changes. He’s proud and arrogant to begin with, but in the end he realises that Lizzy was right to reject him the first time round and confesses: “By you I was properly humbled.” I think it took a lot of courage for him to face his faults and change, and his ability to do that makes me really admire him.


Carolyn: What intrigues you about Jane Austen?

Amanda: I’m fascinated by the way she writes such different novels, even though they are all about the same subject matter. Pride and Prejudice is light, bright and sparkling whilst Persuasion is elegiac and Mansfield Park is more serious in tone. Northanger Abbey is a spoof of the Gothic novels popular at the time, Sense and Sensibility is dramatic and Emma confines itself entirely to one neighbourhood. So within six novels there is an enormous range.


Carolyn: How did you support yourself financially while writing?

Amanda: I had a day job, which is essential for most writers as it can take years to get published and then many more years to get established. I wrote in the evenings and at weekends, and sometimes in the early mornings as well. It’s a lot harder than most people think to get published, and to stay published. I admire anyone who wants to achieve that ambition, but I think it’s necessary to be realistic. Publication doesn’t necessarily mean earning a living, so it’s important to have a reliable source of income as well.


Carolyn: Tell us a bit about your piece in Jane Austen Made Me Do It!

Amanda: It’s about Mr and Mrs Bennet’s courtship. The story starts on Lizzy and Darcy’s wedding day, which reminds Mr Bennet of his own wedding day and the events leading up to it. I’ve often wondered why Mr Bennet married the silly Mrs Bennet, and so this story sets out to explain how it came about. There’s a lot of humour in it and we get to meet Mr Collins’s parents, as well as Mr Collins as a baby!

I also have another book coming out at the end of October, the UK paperback of Colonel Brandon’s Diary. I love this book. Colonel Brandon is such a romantic figure, and he has a tragic back story. A lot happened to him before he met Marianne, and Colonel Brandon’s Diary shows his life before and after he met her. It’s available from bookshops in the UK or from Amazon.

Thank you, Amanda! We admire how much you’ve achieved as an author, and we’d love to hear more tips when you have a chance!

Would you say you have more sense or sensibility?

26 Oct

It’s a Whiny Wednesday kind of day, so I’m whining about how I’m not feeling like myself today.

Someone else is making me feel down, but I believe I can make myself feel better. I firmly believe that we can often change our mood depending on our outlook. At this point, however, I’m not sure how to respond to the situation. Should I be more like Elinor or Marianne in this situation?

I think we have a little bit of both in us, but which way do you tend to lean? Do you have more sense or sensibility? How do you define those terms?

Also, this is the place for whines on Wednesdays. Do you have a whine? Let us know below! Maybe we’ll have some advice if you want it.

(Additions from Twitter: 10 p.m. EST)

Austenite78 9:15am via Twitter for Mac

@VicariouslyJane I like to think that I have a balanced mix of both, but lately people are saying I am more sensitive than sensible, so…

IsaBookSoulmate 9:18am via Web

@VicariouslyJane I’m definitely more SENSE 🙂 Eleanor and I could totally hang out and just roll our eyes at people all day long, lol

oxymoronic82 9:22am via Mobile Web

@VicariouslyJane ooh, good question! I think I’m more sense but a strong inner-Marianne that bursts out on a regular basis!

RegencyErica 9:44am via Twitter for Android

“@VicariouslyJane: Would you say you have more sense or sensibility?” I’m the sensibility. @RegencyJenny is the sense.

Alwys_Smthgs 12:06pm via TweetDeck

@VicariouslyJane sense. Although for the record, I think JA’s book was sort of making the pt that we can’t have 1 exclusively. #janeausten

LevRaphael 6:20pm via Web

@VicariouslyJane I’m glad it wasn’t a question about pride or prejudice. 🙂

CAllynPierson 9:16pm via Web

@VicariouslyJane Definitely Sense- I’m not much into sensibility

RegencyErica 9:23pm via Web

@CAllynPierson @VicariouslyJane You and @RegencyJenny both then!

CAllynPierson 9:54pm via Web

@VicariouslyJane Yep, there is no question. I am definitely Elinor.

AlysaAKim 9:33pm via Web

@VicariouslyJane Sensibility I am afraid.


Incredible response on Twitter! Thank you everyone 😀

Re-reading Sense and Sensibility is motivating me for NaNoWriMo

20 Oct
Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility

In honor of Sense and Sensibility’s 200-year anniversary, I started reading my Norton Critical Edition this week. It’s amazing how each re-read of her novels speaks to me even more than the previous read. As I get older and experience more in relation to people and relationships, her words ring even clearer.

Each time, I always underline new favorite phrases and write new thoughts. My copy is all marked up, but that’s how I like it. You can’t tell as much in the photo.

I stopped at Volume I, Chapter IX, right after Willoughby picks Marianne up. I thought I would let that soak in a bit.

Plus, I figured it would help me to gear up for my National Novel Writing Month idea, which is a loose adaptation of S&S. Is anyone else writing NaNoWriMo? This will be my first year, and I’d love to connect with some of you. I’m excited to see what other new Jane Austen adaptations come from it!

Also, is anyone else reading Sense and Sensibility right now, whether or not it’s related to the anniversary? It would be fun to compare fresh notes with someone!

— On a side note, I’m still switching over the nameservers and theme for the site, so please forgive me for any clunky design or broken links. I have to use a temporary site name for the time being, but in about the next 48 hours, we’ll have a solid home at I can’t wait, and I hope you’ll join me! I’ll update more in the coming days about the anticipated features, but I’m finding some plugins for a chat bar, discussion boards and an activity stream (essentially, I’m trying to integrate the best of the VJA network site without having to use their template). We’ll see how it goes!

If you were Marianne in S&S and you fell down, who would you want to pick you up?

17 Oct

Today’s Twitter question was a fun one. If you were Marianne in Sense & Sensibility and you fell down, who would you want to pick you up?

I’ll admit it. Mine would be James McAvoy, even better if he said some of the witty lines from Becoming Jane.

What did our Twitter peeps say?

Gwen Hardin
ChickLitGwenGwen Hardin
@VicariouslyJane The automatic answer for most would be Mr. Darcy, but I’d prefer if it were Captain Wentworth.
@VicariouslyJane My own husband…;-) or maybe Johnny Depp.Because I love my husband.And Johnny Depp..sigh.Right or wrong answer 😉 😉
Mary Moss
melonbuseyMary Moss
@VicariouslyJane Johnny Depp’s character from Don Juan DeMarco could be my Willoughby, while Javier Barden pines from afar!
C. Allyn Pierson
CAllynPiersonC. Allyn Pierson
@VicariouslyJane i would want Captain Wentworth to cross over into S&S- I am sure he knows how to deal with an emergency!
More added Tuesday!

of_berglands 6:53pm via Web

@VicariouslyJane col Christopher Brandon played by David Morrissey, what a gorgeous man!! pick me up..I have pain and need to be comforted

What clever answers. We’re a bunch of Janeites, that’s for sure. Thanks for participating, and feel free to suggest your own questions!

VJA interview with Jane Odiwe, author of Mr. Darcy’s Secret, Willoughby’s Return, Lydia Bennet’s Story

15 Oct
Austen lovers,
Yay for another Austen author interview so soon! I hope you like the fantastic answers. I’ll feature Jane for the weekend and have another post set for Monday, so get ready! Enjoy.
Jane Odiwe(From her website) Jane Odiwe lives in North London and Bath, with her husband, family, and two cats. More than anything she loves a house full of people, music, and good books, which is just as well, because that’s the norm! She is the author of Effusions of Fancy, Lydia Bennet’s Story, Wiloughby’s Return, and Mr. Darcy’s Secret. When she isn’t writing, she loves painting watercolors, especially of Jane Austen and the world in which she lived. Visit Jane at her website Austen Effusions, at her blog Jane Odiwe – Jane Austen Sequels, and on Twitter as @JaneOdiwe.
Vicariously Jane Austen: What sparked you to pursue publication as an author?

Jane Odiwe: I’ve always loved writing and still have a box of stories I wrote when I was very young. As I got older I didn’t have the confidence to pursue my dreams and was busy being a teacher and a mum. Being published still remained a dream, but it wasn’t until I first self-published a picture book with letters I’d written as though from Jane Austen’s sister that I actually thought about trying to write a whole novel. In the end I decided to prove to myself that I could do it, and wrote Lydia Bennet’s Story. The feedback I got from friends and other writers like Amanda Grange and Diana Birchall really spurred me on, and thanks to them my dream of getting a publisher came true when Sourcebooks took me on.

VJA: What ideas led to your Jane Austen books, specifically the latest one, Mr. Darcy’s Secret?

Jane: Effusions of Fancy came about because there are not many images of Jane and her family. I wanted to see a young Jane having fun, and falling in love. I painted pictures and accompanied them with ‘Cassandra’s letters’.

Lydia Bennet's StoryLydia Bennet’s Story appealed to me because she was a heroine not many people would like (which is how Jane had approached her novel about Emma) and I wanted to see if there was any chance she might reform-even slightly. I also wanted to find out why Lydia was so naughty and thought writing about her would give me an opportunity to write a comic novel.

Buy it now on Amazon – Lydia Bennet’s Story: A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice""

Willoughby's ReturnWilloughby’s Return was inspired by Sense and Sensibility. Mr. Willoughby returning to the area where Marianne lives with Colonel Brandon was an idea I couldn’t resist. I wanted to find out if all passion between Willoughby and Marianne was truly over, and if Marianne had married the right man.


Buy it now on Amazon – illoughby’s Return: A tale of almost irresistible temptation

Mr. Darcy's SecretMr. Darcy’s Secret was inspired by the idea that even when we fall in love, and know we have chosen the right person there is still a lot to learn about them. Darcy and Elizabeth are always portrayed as the perfect couple, but it occurred to me that at the end of Pride and Prejudice they don’t really know very much about one another. I wondered how much Darcy had really changed, if all his pride was a thing of the past, and I wanted to know if he’d allow his sister the same freedoms in choosing a life partner. What would happen if Elizabeth discovered something about Darcy’s past that she didn’t know about? And although Elizabeth had also changed over the course of Pride and Prejudice, I wanted to explore her character too. How would she deal with problems that might arise?

Buy it now on Amazon: Mr. Darcy’s Secret""

VJA: What types of characters do you like the most?

Jane: I like the imperfect ones as they give you something to really explore. I think most of Jane’s characters, even the good ones are imperfect, which is what makes them so real. I love expanding on characters like Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Mrs. Jennings, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, William Collins, and of course heroines like Marianne Dashwood, Lydia and Elizabeth Bennet. I also love inventing my own characters, particularly heroes. In Willoughby’s Return I found a gorgeous young man for Margaret called Henry Lawrence, and Georgiana gets a lovely man too though I shall keep you guessing about him!

VJA: What intrigues you about Jane Austen?

Jane: I’m intrigued by the mysteries in Jane Austen’s life, there is so much that we don’t really know about her. Did she ever really fall in love? What did she really look like? Was she as much fun as I think she would have been? Why did Cassandra burn all those letters, and what I wouldn’t give to find copies of her journals or a painting that has “This is me, signed Jane Austen” on the bottom.

VJA: How did you support yourself financially while writing?

Jane: Good question! I’d like to say straight away that most writers do not make fortunes as is the public perception, and that if you are considering being a writer don’t hand in your notice on the day job unless you’re given an enormous advance. I work with my husband in his graphic design company, and produce anything from illustrations to designs for posters and menus, but I am very lucky to spend most of my time writing. I am married to the most wonderful man in the world. He totally supports my writing, and without him I simply couldn’t spend all the time I do writing my books.

VJA: Tell us a bit about your piece in Jane Austen Made Me Do It.

Jane-Austen-Made-Me-Do-ItJane: My story is called ‘Waiting’, and to my immense pleasure it’s the second one in the book! At the end of Persuasion I wanted to know what would happen next. Anne and Captain Wentworth have waited almost nine years before finding one another again, and falling in love. How would her family react to their news? Would they be pleased for her? I had such fun with characters like the snobbish Sir Walter Elliot, and Anne’s sisters, Elizabeth and Mary. Writing scenes between Anne and Frederick when they first meet was something I’d wanted to do for a long time and I loved writing them. The stories in the book are fabulous-all different, and there’s something for everyone!

Buy it now on Amazon: Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart

Thanks Jane! We can’t wait to talk to you some more!

If Elizabeth Bennet were at a party, which character from another Jane Austen book would she interact with?

14 Oct

Today’s fun Twitter question: If Elizabeth Bennet were at a party, which character from another Jane Austen book would she interact with?

Some great responses:

SalonJaneAusten 11:01am via Web

@VicariouslyJane Emma! Girl fight! One is too controlling, and Lizzy is so rebel…. 😛

grannyuser 11:07am via Twitter for iPad

@VicariouslyJane I think she would interact with Fanny Price of Mansfield Park.

margecavani 12:26pm via UberSocial for BlackBerry

@VicariouslyJane I know, for sure, she wouldn’t be friends with Emma. Maybe… Elinor Dashwood?

margecavani 12:28pm via UberSocial for BlackBerry

@SalonJaneAusten Had the same feeling about Emma and Lizzy @VicariouslyJane

margecavani 1:02pm via UberSocial for BlackBerry

@VicariouslyJane Elinor is patient, calm, impartial, a good listener and a smart girl, Lizzy would bond with her immediately

ModernMrsDarcy 5:04pm via Web

@VicariouslyJane I’d like to think she’d hit it off with Anne Elliott. But I’m not sure Anne’s fast enough with the one-liners. #ifonly

You guys crack me up!

What are you doing to celebrate the 200-year anniversary of Sense and Sensibility’s publication?

14 Oct

Twitter results time!

Today’s Flashback Friday idea: What are you doing to celebrate the 200-year anniversary of Sense and Sensibility’s publication? While scouring different celebrations online, I’ve seen book discussion groups, Sense and Sensibility parties, book reviews and more.

For National Novel Writing Month in November, I’m going to write a silly spinoff called Cents and Cents-ability, which involves two heroines who are similar to Elinor and Marianne. I’ll tell you more later 🙂

On Twitter:

SalonJaneAusten 9:51am via Web @VicariouslyJane A photohomage! and we count on your pic!! 🙂

(The idea is so cool – check it out on flickr – it’s a global photo homage for Sense and Sensibility. How can you help? You just have to take a pic of the book (or DVD of any of the adaptations or both if you want), with your place as background, or a beautiful spot from your city/town. Then, you can: 1.  Join and post it in the topic, telling where the book/DVD is OR 2. Post it on twitter/photobucket/wherever and contact her @SalonJaneAusten or mail the photo to sitiojaneATgmailDOTcom, telling her where the book/DVD is.)

grannyuser 11:51am via Twitter for iPad

@VicariouslyJane I will reread Sense & Sensibility but the new annotated edition recently published.

CourtneyBParker 1:33pm via Web

@VicariouslyJane To celebrate S & S? I will be satisfied with the fact that JA loved Severus Snape (ie. Col. Brandon) long before we did.

LitDetectives 4:07pm via Web

@VicariouslyJane we haven’t planned anything as yet. Any ideas/ thoughts?

Keep adding ideas!