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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?


Interview with Brenna Aubrey, winner of Jane Austen Made Me Do It contest, author of the Broken Oaths saga

2 Nov
Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Today I’m happy to host Brenna Aubrey, winner of the Jane Austen Made Me Do It contest!

Brenna’s favorite Jane Austen novel is Persuasion.  She also loves to write historical romance and epic fantasy fiction.

Visit Brenna at her website Brenna Aubrey, on Twitter as @BrennaAubrey, and on Facebook as Brenna Aubrey.


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

Brenna Aubrey: I’ve always written for my own amusement. It was my favorite way of blowing off steam. I had people inside my head who would hold entire conversations and sometimes drive me to the point of distraction. But there’s this thing that happens when you write — when you get “in the flow” and the scene is unfolding in your mind while your fingers are typing as fast as they can. It is an amazing feeling of opening up. Being creative is difficult. It all comes from inside. But it is a path so worth pursuing.

Only recently did it occur to me that others might be interested in reading my stories. I would pass things along to my husband and friends and get good responses from them. Many of them told me I should get it published. That always made me laugh a bit because in my mind, “getting published” was something akin to building your own rocket ship out of spare parts and flying it to the moon. The entire process intimidated me and I felt that pursing publishing would be like trying to win the lotto.

I’ve educated myself, now. First, I joined RWA (Romance Writers of America), even though I wasn’t writing romance at the time. It is an amazing and supportive organization of intelligent and successful women who are very talented as well as business savvy. I cannot recommend it enough. Secondly, I got a couple of crit partners who are at the same level of writing as I am (and one who is already a very successful published author) who were honest about what my stories needed and how to improve my writing.


Carolyn: What ideas led to your books, specifically the Broken Oaths Saga?

Brenna: Hmm, well it’s hard to remember where the root of my ideas come from. Mostly it’s from allowing myself to daydream. I ask lots of “What if?” questions and “Why?” questions. I almost always start with the character. I build my entire story around an intriguing character whom I flesh out as I go. I mull things over a lot while washing dishes or folding laundry. I doodle and brainstorm in my notebooks. My brain never shuts up, as a matter of fact, and it can get annoying. Most writers have this problem, though it likely manifests in different ways. We are, by nature, ruminators. We hypothesize people and situations and play out
those scenarios in our heads long before the words ever hit the paper.

My Broken Oaths saga, the fantasy novels that are now retired to the trunk, started with the main character, Synna. In dreaming up her background and her story, I asked a lot of why and what if questions. For example, I knew she was a hoyden (tomboy) so I dreamed up why that would be. She came from a large family of all brothers, of course. And et cetera, so on down the line. It’s a chain reaction that you allow to continue in your brain.


Carolyn: What types of characters do you enjoy reading and writing about?

Brenna: I love strong characters — determined, moral, intriguing, compassionate. Those with intelligence and insight. Some of my favorites are Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables, Elizabeth Bennet form Pride and Prejudice, and Margaret Hale from North and South. I do like male characters, too, but the strong women always captivate me.


Carolyn: What intrigues you about Jane Austen?

Brenna: Well! Where do I begin? Her writing is amazing. So gifted and insightful. Her wit is incomparable. She was a genius and there’s not that much more to it. She was truly exceptional at her craft. Her stories are timeless and her observations piquant. She saw things clearly and expressed them in a way that speaks to most readers. That her novels are still treasured after two centuries
demonstrates that.


Carolyn: How do you support yourself financially while writing?

Brenna: Fortunately, I do not have to support myself with my writing. I still consider myself in the “hobby” phase. I do have a day job and so writing is my creative release valve. It helps keep me sane. I won’t pretend that I don’t want to be a full-time writer someday. It’s certainly my dream job. Until then, though, the day job stays. I do have a very supportive husband who watches the kids many hours during the week while I write in our spare time. And even on weekends! Without his support, I could not do it.


Carolyn: Tell us a bit about your piece in Jane Austen Made Me Do It. Congrats on winning the short story contest!

Brenna: Thank you. I’m still pinching myself about winning. There were so many interesting and wonderful stories entered into the contest. I’m truly fortunate to have been included in the anthology.

My story is based upon Captain Wentworth’s love letter to Anne Elliot in Persuasion. In fact, it was the first thing that popped into my mind when I asked myself what I would base the story on. I also knew that my story would be contemporary because I don’t feel my skills are up to imitating Jane Austen’s style and voice. And I doubted I could do justice to her characters.

The genesis of an idea began to form when I decided to write the story from a man’s point of view. We all know that many Janeites are women. But I wanted to explore how Austen’s stories could appeal to a man and teach him something about himself that he didn’t know before. Thus, adding Wentworth’s love letter — in my opinion the most beautiful declaration of love in English literature — with a modern young man who was still bitter after losing the only woman he’s ever loved, I began to draw the parallels.

In the story, I include passages from Persuasion because I could not keep my hands off of Austen’s hauntingly beautiful prose. I wanted my story to express the modern reader’s relationship to Jane Austen’s work. I also pay tribute to Miss Austen in some way. I hope I succeeded in that.

Thank you so much, Carolyn, for the interview and the insightful questions. I really look forward to looking around your community. I think it is a marvelous idea!!!

Thank you so much, Brenna! We look forward to talking with you more and seeing more Austen works from you.

Buy the book!
Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart

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!