A self-confessed dreamer, gossip, and matchmaker, Jane emerges from a prophetic meeting with gypsies and sets out to discover her soul mate. As Jane writes through the twists and turns of her turbulent romances, Southard ponders the question faced by many devoted readers over the years – did she ever find love? And what would that be like if Jane could write it? Binding fact with fiction, courting brave new literary twists, and written in the style of Jane Austen herself, A Jane Austen Daydream is the tale of Jane’s life as a novel. It contemplates the eventual fate of Jane’s heart, and uses her own stories to fill the gaps that history left to the imagination.
Scott D. Southard, author of A Jane Austen Daydream, granted an interview with Stella, our Forum Manager. Read on to find out about his perception of Jane Austen, his upcoming novel (available in April, 2013, from Madison Street Publishing), and sneak a preview of this new work.
1. Which Austen novel influences you the most in your writing style?
This is an interesting question to answer since A Jane Austen Daydream, my novel, is very singular in my collection of works. Usually, when I take on a book I try to find a different “voice” for it, and my catalogue is pretty eclectic because of it. For example, my time travel book, My Problem With Doors is a very deconstructive version of Vonnegut and my new novel about artists and relationships, Permanent Spring Showers (which I am writing in real time and sharing on my site- sdsouthard.com), is much more contemporary. To capture Jane’s voice (or my own hybrid, if you will), I was reading her work again and again as I was working on it. Looking back over e-mails of that period I can even see her voice sneaking in there! Each volume of my book reminds me of a different one of her books in style. The first volume reminds me of Emma, the second of Pride and Prejudice, and the third of Persuasion.
2. If you had a choice to live in the 17th or 18th century which one would it be and why?
To be honest, I would be lousy in either century. I like my technology. The idea of having to write with an inkwell (shiver).
3. What do think Jane Austen’s next novel would have been if she had been able to continue into her 50’s?
Jane was a single woman, never married, and I would have loved to have seen her perception of that kind of a life in that society (since it was all about marrying young, and everything else was considered failing). We get a little of it in Emma with Miss Bates, and, of course, there is Persuasion. But an entire book of that reality (maybe living with a relative’s big family, solving problems, being witty) would have been fascinating in my opinion.
4. Jane Austen famously quotes “I could no more write a romance than an epic poem. I could not sit seriously down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life” Do you consider your work romance, contemporary or historical?
This is an interesting question and one I have been trying to answer since writing the book. It is unique, in many ways to other books out there. It is historical in that it happens in a period of history, but it is also not since there is so much fiction embedded in it (and so much history thrown away in favor of plot). It is not contemporary, of course. There is love in it and a love story, but I am hesitant to just throw it under romance (there is a lot of baggage that comes along when you use that word). I would say it is a playful character study with hints of romance and a very surprising twist. It is the twist where all bets are off the table. As I like to say to people, I might be the first writer to attempt this in a novel, but we’ll see.
5. Which is your favourite Austen quote from her novels?
I have always loved “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?” from Pride and Prejudice and it is special to me as well because of how I use it in A Jane Austen Daydream. Not to give it away, but it always tugs on the heartstrings for me, no matter how many times I have read and edited that moment in Daydream.
6. How do you think your academic background helped you along to the path of writing an Austen inspired novel?
My first experience with Pride and Prejudice was in a college classroom with a professor who adored the work. Not only did he inspire us about the book, but he walked us through each of the points that proved how great a work of fiction it is. That’s not to say I wouldn’t have read Austen at some point or another (I’ve always been an aggressive reader), but it added to the reading experience. It inspired me to learn more.
7. If you could meet any one of the characters from the Austen novels who would that be?
Liz Bennet. Not even a question. Can you imagine just sitting around talking to her for a few hours? Keeping up with that wit! Darcy is a lucky man.
8. Which was your first Austen read?
I started with Pride and Prejudice and as I said it was in a college setting. Was it a “dude” thing that I didn’t get to Austen earlier? Possibly. But I can say that after that class I read all of her work over the next summer. Over the course of writing A Jane Austen Daydream I read each of her books between five and seven times.
9. Have you visited any of the parts of England Jane called home if not which would you want to visit?
When I graduated from college the first time, I explored England hitting as many literary sites as I could. For Jane I visited Chawton and Bath. I would love to go back and explore more, of course.
10. If you had to choose one favourite Austen novel, what would it be and why?
Pride and Prejudice is, in my opinion, one of the two only perfect works in literature (the other being A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens). The plot, the character development, the dialogue, the pacing… okay, I am going to use the word “perfect” again, but it’s the book that made me fall in love with Jane’s writing. It is, frankly, perfect.
A short selection from Volume I:
There was a strange excitement between the two of them. It was not a feeling that Jane was used to. They let go quickly of each other’s hands. All of this meeting unraveled her, especially as she had already been in quite an emotional and confused state due to the party in the hall. All that attention, all those eyes watching her!
“If you do not mind me saying, Ms. Austen, you seem much more sensible than I might have imagined. I first met a Mrs. Catherine de Bourgh, and she presented someone quite different.”
“I am sure I was compared more to a piece of fine art to be purchased by the highest bidder rather than flesh and blood. No, unfortunately, I talk; a sin I should try to overcome.”
Mr. Lefroy studied her and then leaned forward and spoke in a playful whisper. “You are wicked, Ms. Austen.”
“I am sure I have been called worse,” she said, and bowed her head. She liked how he called her ‘wicked.’ There was a second pause in the conversation as both seemed to study the other. Jane was the first to blush.
“Why do you look at me that way, sir?”
“I am sorry,” he said, and quickly looked away, “you look different closer than you did when I escaped from that line.”
“You are smiling more,” he said playfully.
“I was smiling then.”
“Yes, but it was not a real smile. It was, dare I say, scandalously fake.”
She liked his use of words. “Do you think anyone else noticed?”
“The smarter of the attending men.”
“So about two then?” Jane said, before she realized the rudeness of it.
“Yes, about two,” Lefroy said. He was obviously holding back a laugh, “and not including my friend I came with, I am sure.”
“Who is your friend? All this gossip about him, I should know his name properly to continue.”
“Fowles. We share a first name so it is easier to think of him by his last. Tom Fowles. If you do not mind me saying, he looked quite taken by your sister from the start. I believe he had already danced with her once.”
“Yes, he has but more than once now. Typically, I would not ask such a question for all the world,” Jane said, choosing her words carefully, “but is he a good man?”
“I would only want the best for my sister.”
“A fine answer,” Mr. Lefroy said and nodded.
Outside the room, the orchestra had begun a new piece. Lefroy looked to Jane. “Do you dare reenter the fray?”
“I do not know,” Jane said. It was a very honest answer and, after the stress and strain of the weeks building to the gathering this moment, this quiet moment away felt wonderful.
“Maybe you will return if I was to ask for the next dance? We can talk further on the floor.”
“I see it now, you will say something about the number of couples and I will discuss the size of the room.”
“Yes,” he laughed, “that sounds adequate. One must speak a little.”
He offered her his hand.
Jane looked to him as he rose from his seat, his hand out to her. She paused, but for only a second before taking his arm and rising from her seat. As they began walking to the door she began to fumble around her pockets.
“Wait, Mr. Lefroy, I am not sure I can. I have a dance card that as you may imagine is quite… ” she found it and thumbed through it quickly, “it looks like I might be available after three dances with…”
Mr. Lefroy interrupted her comment by taking the book from her and throwing it into a nearby bin. “I think we have had enough of that.”
Jane laughed and they left to join the next dance together.
Scott D. Southard, the author of A Jane Austen Daydream, swears he is not obsessed with Jane Austen. He is, however, also the author of the award-winning novels, My Problem With Doors, Megan, and 3 Days in Rome. His eclectic writing has also found its way into radio, being the creator of the radio comedy series The Dante Experience. The production was honored with the Golden Headset Award for Best MultiCast Audio and the Silver Ogle Award for Best Fantasy Audio Production. Scott received his Master’s in writing from the University of Southern California. Scott can be found on the internet via his writing blog “The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard” where he writes on topics ranging from writing, art, books, TV, writing, parenting, life, movies, and writing. He even shares original fiction on the site (currently creating a novel in “real time” with one fresh chapter a week; it is entitled Permanent Spring Showers). Currently, Scott resides in Michigan with his very understanding wife, his patient two children, and a very opinionated dog named Bronte.
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