We’re delighted to be able to bring you this fantastic blog post by Claudine Pepe; blogger and devoted Austen fan, in which she asks fellow Austenesque authors why Jane Austen inspires them so much, and why they personally have an enduring love for Jane Austen and all things Austenesque.
Fans of Jane Austen throughout the world connect with her today in so many different ways.
For me, as well as for thousands of other readers, our love for Jane Austen now continues in the fan fiction stories that we love to read based on the characters she created over 200 years ago. I don’t know how many other authors have such a large amount of fan fiction that is published based on their work, but for me it has been a blessing and a joy to be part of the Jane Austen Fan Fiction community, where we are able to continue to enjoy Jane’s characters and stories in so many new ways.
I am so grateful to Miss Austen for starting all of this with her wonderfully crafted stories and her characters that feel as true-to-life as our very own family and friends. I also would like to thank all of the authors who have been inspired so deeply by their love for Jane Austen’s work that they themselves take on the challenges of creating stories based on her work to entertain readers all over the globe.
In tribute to Jane Austen, today I am sharing some of my quotes from my favorite Jane Austen Fan Fiction writers who have visited Just Jane 1813 over the past few years, as they share with us how they have also been inspired by the brilliant Jane Austen. I can never thank Jane Austen enough for giving us her unforgettable stories, but it is my hope that this post demonstrates our appreciation and love for this talented and witty woman!
“I happened to be at a train station without a book and picked up Longbourn by Jo Baker, which I really enjoyed, though I wasn’t always happy with the depictions of Darcy and Elizabeth, but it started me looking for other books on my Kindle and I was delighted to find that there were hundreds of variations and sequels, and I devoured them. There are some brilliant JAFF writers around and they inspired me. I remember reading Joana Starnes’ book The Falmouth Connection, putting it down and thinking ‘that was bloody great, I want to have a go myself.’ At that time I just used to read books I found on Amazon, and I had no idea there were blogs and places like ‘A Happy Assembly’ or even that Meryton Press existed.
“Back in those earlier days, I didn’t even know that Goodreads existed! I just wrote Ardently and stuck it on Amazon. I had no idea of what I was doing. I think Darcy and Elizabeth are the most portable characters in all Austen’s work, which is why I choose to focus on them in my writing. You can put them in any situation – zombies, witches, pirates, different eras, whatever – and somehow, they still work. I would like to write something based on Austen’s other novels one day, however.”
Caitlin Williams author of The Coming Of Age Of Elizabeth Bennet & When We Are Married
“Jane Austen was always enjoyed in my house as I was growing up, but it was in the mid-nineties after watching the spate of wonderful series from the BBC that I re-read the novels and wanted to discover more about Jane Austen, the author. I was intrigued by the fact that biographies talked about her as if she were just a maiden aunt or timid spinster, and that certainly wasn’t the idea I had in my mind when I visualised her character. I love to draw and paint, and I wanted to see a young Jane dancing with Tom Lefroy, so I started by trying to paint Jane’s portrait with any references I could find and also discovered a miniature of Tom. I made a painting of them dancing at Ashe, which soon led on to many others. Then I decided to try and fill in the gaps in the correspondence between her and her sister Cassandra, which turned into my first little book, Effusions of Fancy. I sent it out to publishers, but they all said they didn’t think there was much of a market for Jane Austen gift books so I decided to publish myself.
I met so many lovely people online after that I was encouraged to try my hand at writing a novel. There were a handful of authors writing about Elizabeth and Darcy, but I wanted to do something different. I took a character that nobody liked very much, but Lydia Bennet’s Story was fun to write because she is so outrageous, and I enjoyed redeeming her character just a little. I self-published that book, and then I had the very good fortune to have it taken up by Sourcebooks.”
Jane Odiwe author of Jane Austen Lives
“I had written a few things (non-Austen-related) and loved to write. When I read Pamela Aidan’s trilogy, and also Susan Kaye’s books, I decided I wanted to do the same thing for Mr. Knightley. He’s my favorite Austen hero, although I do like them all. One thing that appeals to me about Emma is the humour in the book, and I thought it would be fun to reproduce that in my own work.”
Barbara Cornwaite, author of the George Knightley, Esquire Series
“I had discovered the world of fan fiction and life after Pride and Prejudice through the elegant hand of Pamela Aidan’s Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman…and then on to the madcap, puckish Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll. Soon after many on-line writers began to publish their stories via some online printing and distributing press—that was super expensive. Finally, larger presses started to mine the world of JAFF. All of that seems quite foreign now—because in this ever changing wild, wild west that is modern day publishing—small presses, hybrid presses, large publishers, and an explosion of self-published authors—have come on the Jane Austen scene. With the advent of e-readers, I rarely ever read at on-line sites unless someone directs me there specifically to discover an exceptional writer. Presently, I own over 400 Austen inspired novels in print and countless more on my Kindle…and cannot comprehend the neglect of the collection in such days as these.”
Christina Boyd, Austenesque editor of The Darcy Monologues
“I began writing Austen-based fiction when the Internet was new—and so was A&E’s mini-series Pride and Prejudice. My friend, author Susan Kaye, was posting Persuasion-based stories on the Bits of Ivory storyboard at the Republic of Pemberley. She and I collaborated together on a Persuasion what-if at Derbyshire Writer’s Guild, and then I launched Mercy’s Embrace, a longish tale featuring Persuasion’s so-arrogant Elizabeth Elliot. Gotta love that girl. She thinks she’s so smart and she just…isn’t.”
Laura Hile, author of Darcy By Any Other Name
“Oh, there are so many reasons, but I will start with her characters. She created such amazing, vivid, and unique characters – there is so much difference between Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse, and Anne Elliot, to name a few examples. But it’s not just the lead characters – each of her books is populated with such an amazing cast of characters. Just from Pride and Prejudice, her characters have been able to form the foundation for a seven-book series for me, so I’m particularly grateful for them. And I think that’s a big part of the reason why JAFF has become so popular – these characters are so memorable and so loveable (or in some cases love-to-hate-able) that we all want to spend more time with them, and experience them in different ways.”
Sophie Turner, author of A Constant Love Series
“Jane Austen wrote great books. Full stop. I think it also helps that her stories are taught in school, which means each generation of readers gets to discover them during their required summer reading.”
Maya Rodale, author of Keeping Up with the Cavendishes Series
“I think it’s all about characterization. The main characters in her stories are so well done, so real, and so relatable. Even the characters who served as mere device are thoroughly enjoyable. What her characters go through, the feelings they express, are timeless. Any woman can identify with Elizabeth Bennet the moment she refuses Darcy’s proposal, though in 1813 those feelings were not dared expressed, which made Pride and Prejudice so shocking in its day. Any woman, in any time period, can identify with Elinor Dashwood’s reluctance, with Marianne Dashwood’s romanticism, with Anne Elliot’s longing, etc No one is better at getting into a woman’s head than Jane Austen.
Jodi Covey, author of Progressions Series
“I’ve actually thought about this quite a bit over the years and particularly now as I research and write my variations. I’ll limit my response to Pride & Prejudice, because as much as we enjoy her other work, I think it pales in comparison to the popularity of the Darcy & Elizabeth story. I believe there is a good reason for this. Pride & Prejudice is singular in combining two very significant feminine themes; “Cinderella” and “Beauty and the Beast.” These two motifs resonate with women across various times and cultures, which can also be traced through myth, fairy tale, and literature.”
Sophia Meredith, author of Pemberley Departures Series
“There is one thing that I have learned in reading comments about my book and that is that there is a different Jane Austen for everyone. To my mind, she has a deftly humorous touch which she uses to enchant her readers, all the while providing them with an overview of civilized society that was unparalleled at the time for its objectivity.
“Jane Austen lived in a world in which women were relegated to the background: the foreground being dominated by men. Yet she managed to shine a light on women (the forgotten half of the population) and still make it fascinating reading. Without undue sentimentality, Austen showed women in their disadvantaged positions and then explored the compromises that they had to make to survive. We are also indebted to her for her creation of intelligent, strong heroines.”
Ivy Mae Stuart, author of Becoming Elizabeth
“Humanity and humor. It’s an unbeatable combination, and Austen’s got it. That’s one of the reasons people haven’t forgotten Shakespeare. I think Austen’s going to be remembered just as long.”
Steven Hockensmith, author of Dreadfullly Ever After: A Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Sequel
“I really don’t know. I wrote a blog post myself, recently, on this idea. For me, it’s the juxtaposition of restraint and wickedly strong emotion. As for broadcast or theater productions, there’s just something about the clothing…okay, the male clothing in particular!”
Debra E. Marvin, co-author of Austen in Austin
“I think her works bring the perfect mixture of traditional values and modern ideals. We are drawn to her way of life, to romantic courtship, balls and genteel manners (not to mention gentlemen in tailcoats and riding boots – or wet shirts). But we are also thrilled to find that her characters are rewarded not for their wealth and status, but for their intelligence, their honourable deeds, their capacity to love. Then there’s the great sense of humour of her writings and the ever so uplifting message that love conquers all. It makes for an irresistible mix.”
Joana Starnes, author of Miss Darcy’s Companion & Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter
“Because she wrote of universal themes and emotions. There can be few people, even today, who cannot empathize with her plots and personae, and recognize their own acquaintance in her characters. Add to that her genius for prose, and voilà! we have the Jane Austen phenomenon. Unless and until the species evolves into something else, I believe her works will continue to enjoy the same popularity for another 200 years.”
Stan Hurd, author of the Darcy’s Tale Series & Colonel Fitzwilliam and the Countess of Sainte Toulours
“I really do not know how to explain this other than to say that a love of Jane Austen’s works is ingrained upon my soul. I fell in love with her stores when I was twelve. I am now sixty-eight. I cannot recall a time Austen was not “whispering” in my ear.”
Regina Jeffers, author of The Road to Understanding
“I haven’t read another novel that has engaged me in quite the same way as Pride and Prejudice, although I read quite a diverse array of books, fiction and otherwise. I think it must be the unforgettable characters that Jane Austen created in Pride and Prejudice, as well as the delightful way in which she sends up the pretentious elements of her society. A casual search one day turned up literally hundreds of Pride and Prejudice sequels, prequels, variations and more, and I was away, reading just about every version that I could find–occasionally I have to remind myself to read something else! Reading so many varied and interesting stories inevitably led to my own ideas forming, and after amusing myself for a while by jotting down notes, it was the Christmas of 2013 that I began writing The Longbourn Will in earnest.”
Carolyn Whyte, author of Darcy’s Denial & Darcy’s Deliverance
“I’m inspired most by canon. I first read Jane Austen over twenty years ago and there is still more to explore. You can truly drop those characters into any situation and any period of time and they will be relevant. Even though Sketching Characters was a tough journey for me, I really fell in love with writing through this process. I don’t think I could stop now that I have.”
Pamela Lynne, author of Sketching Character
“Austen and her works are timeless. I first read Austen when I was 17 for a school reading assignment. I quickly identified with Elizabeth Bennet. She’s not perfect, she’s not always the kindest, her temper and feelings can get the better of her, she has relatives she doesn’t always like to spend time with, is quick to perceive injustices, and is challenged by other women to be something different but she can only be herself. She’s imperfect but willing to change for herself. I see that in each of Austen’s heroines. A struggle between confidence and conceit in many ways, but they always follow what their conscience dictates and not what their peers or society tells them they should do. They are not disrespectful, but neither are they spineless. 200 years later the world still has a thousand opinions on what it means to be a woman, but we must be true to ourselves.”
Rose Fairbanks, author of Sufficient Encouragement
“Her wit and humour are as sharp and relevant today as it has ever been and can span all cultures. It’s not just 19th Century England where a forced marriage to someone you cannot, and perhaps, will never respect happens. It happens today, in our society – as much as people don’t really want to think about it – and it takes courage to reject such a life, knowing that it might alienate family and friends. I think Jane Austen was a feminist before being such a thing was fashionable. I could (and have) written essays on strong, independent women in literature, and many of my favourites were creations of Austen’s brilliant mind.
“In those days there was no social care, or health care, and the government couldn’t really care less about what happened to the masses and Elizabeth throws away the chance for a secure home, and future. She isn’t afraid to be herself, even when doing so brings her into direct conflict with society and those who she should respect.”
“I think that is something that girls who read Austen should take away from her works. They shouldn’t be afraid to be themselves, to have opinions that don’t always conform with what society or their peers think they should be. Also, people deserve a second chance. Not everyone is what they seem and we shouldn’t be too quick to judge others.”
Steph Nixon, author of The Darcy Madness
“Jane Austen wrote such fantastic books, with characters that really seemed to come alive to me. When I picture them in her scenes, I can picture them so well, that it’s really not too hard for me to imagine them in the scenes I create. My continuation of her stories are, I hope, a respectful homage to Jane’s talent.”
KaraLynne Macrory, author of Forevermore, Mr. Darcy & Haunting Mr. Darcy
“Jane Austen was brilliant. She created stories that appeal to men and women of all ages. Her stories are insightful, funny and romantic. Her characters are often complex with layers of meaning and her dialogue rings true. I often wonder what sort of screenplays Jane Austen would write if she were living today. “
Cass Grix, author of Stealing Mr. Darcy
“I think there are multiple reasons people are still reading Jane Austen’s books after all this time. I know Jane Austen herself wrote “I could not sit seriously down to write a serious Romance under any other motive than to save my life…” but she indeed wrote wonderful love stories whether she intended to or not. Who wouldn’t want to read about a man who would go to such lengths as Darcy did for the woman he loved? What woman wouldn’t want a man who with as steadfast a heart as Captain Wentworth? They are definitely swoon-worthy.”
“Jane Austen is also simply timeless in so many respects. We all can recognize Jane Austen’s characters from our everyday life. We all know a Mrs. Bennet, an Elizabeth Bennet, an Anne Elliot, or even a Marianne Dashwood. I know people who resemble these characters and I am certain most of the readers do as well. If you read Jane Austen’s letters, you should recognize Jane Austen’s characters in the people she knew and loved as well.”
“Socially, we still have stigmas and prejudices against certain classes of people, so her social satire still rings true today. Caroline Bingley thumbs her nose at the Gardiners for being in trade, yet her money came from trade. Class prejudices are not something that has ever gone away, but have simply changed with time.”
L.L. Diamond, author of Particular Intentions
“One of the reasons books become classics is because the characters and/or the situations themselves transcend time. People are people and things such as love, anger, hate, jealousy, envy, ambition, greed—do not change much. We will always love a romance where the characters face obstacles before realizing their feelings, even though the details of those obstacles may change. We love to read classics because we can still identify with the characters. It’s why Shakespeare is still read despite the difficulty some modern readers have with the language, and it’s why we still read romances where women would be considered wanton if they revealed their ankles to anyone other than their husbands.”
Melanie Rachel, author of Courage Requires & Courage Rises
“Well, my primary inspiration is, of course, Jane Austen’s writing, which is just so brilliant, witty, and multi-layered that I would run out of superlatives trying to describe it. I’m always discovering new things about her works. I am also inspired by the writing of other JAFF authors. When I first started reading Pride and Prejudice variations, I was struck by all the different ways the plot could be changed. It’s a testament to Austen’s work that it can serve as a vehicle for so many re-imaginings. It’s hard to envision multiple authors re-writing the plot of Moby Dick or David Copperfield in such intriguing and inventive ways. Yes, those are brilliant works of literature, but they don’t lend themselves to variations the same way. There’s just something about Austen….”
Victoria Kincaid, author of Darcy’s Honor
“To me, it all comes down to Austen’s wit and her characters. She somehow captures, with an elegance of language that I’ll never approach, the spirit of humanity in her characters — both the good and the bad! And she’s just so funny. I’ve been rereading Sense and Sensibility lately, and as much as I love the relationships between Elinor and Marianne and Elinor and Edward, I realized after my reread how much I adore the humor, as well. For example, here’s one of my favorite put-downs in all of Austen (she’s describing John Dashwood): “He was not an ill-disposed young man, unless to be rather cold-hearted, and rather selfish, is to be ill-disposed” (Sense and Sensibility, Volume I, Chapter 1). If I could insult my own characters with half so much brilliance, I would be a happy woman indeed!”
Christina Morland, author of A Remedy Against Sin & This Disconcerting Happiness
“Jane Austen could explain with wit and grace what made a “good match.” She could convince a girl’s uncertain heart that what she really needs is a Mr. Darcy. Her characters are drawn so well they truly feel alive to us. Each of her books is a satisfying journey of growth and love. There is simply no author equal to Jane Austen when it comes to true romance.
Trudy Wallis, author of Longborn Library
About Claudine Pepe:
Claudine Pepe is the Regional Coordinator of JASNA NY Metro, and the talented woman behind the wonderful blog, Just Jane 1813, an online book club experience with reviews, interviews and Austen-themed posts.