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. Continue reading The Enduring Inspiration of Miss Jane Austen Now and Forever
Imagine a world where Jane Austen and her favorite characters exist in a Downton Abbey atmosphere… Impossible, you say, and yet, apart from the passage of years, they are all gentlemen and gentlemen’s daughters, as Elizabeth Bennet so succinctly puts it. In Jane Odiwe’s latest novel,Jane Austen Lives Again, our favorite author does not die at age 42 in Winchester, but is kept, somehow in stasis, until Dr. Lyford can not only cure her last lingering illness, but revive her again in the prime of her life. The scientific details are not spelled out, and honestly, it doesn’t matter, as Ms. Odiwe’s book will captivate you from the first. Finally we are able to see Jane “live again” sans vampires and magic, and enjoy her introduction to modern life in the 1920’s.
Ms. Odiwe is unabashedly nostalgic about paying tribute to her favorite novels and stories of the period, from Cold Comfort Farm and I Capture the Castle to Downton Abbey, all the while painting a lovely, if complicated plot involving recognizable characters from Austen’s own novels. A “novel” concept, indeed!
The story begins with Jane awaking in a new century, shortly after the close of the Great War; her recovery is glossed over, but her shock at having become a “famous” novelist is of course delightful. Unfortunately, the copyrights have expired and who would believe the truth, anyway? She is forced to take a position as companion to five young ladies living at Manberley Castle (shades of Rebecca, anyone?) a rather decrepit country estate in Devon. Her surprise at finding grown women rather than the children she was expecting is soon overcome by her realization that the entire family could use some help in realising their full potential. In true Flora Poste style, she sets out, with just the right nudge here and opportune word there, to bring the family into some semblance of decorum.
Populating the castle are Lord and Lady Milton, Lord Milton’s oldest children, Alice (a winning combination of Elinor Dashwood and Anne Elliot), Will (could there be any doubt?) and Mae (the personification of Marianne Dashwood with just a hint of Lousia Musgrove), along with three more daughters from his second marriage, Beth (Elizabeth Bennet), Emily (Emma Woodhouse) and Cora (Jane Bennet). The rest of the neighborhood is peopled with various other characters recognisable from Jane Austen’s novels, while the downstairs staff has a distinct propensity towards Downton.
Jane takes her young charges in hand, managing their personal trials and love lives with an author’s deftness, all the while failing to take into consideration the love story happening in her own life. Her own difficulties in finding her place in this brave new world, in making room for her writing and in giving her heart a second chance, can only be all-absorbing to the reader with the same literary taste as Ms. Odiwe.
Throughout the novel you will find delightful surprises and references to Austen’s works, as well as the others listed. Julius’s home, Salcombe Magna, is just such a one and gives a glimpse of who he is and what is in store for Mae. (But is he truly as wicked as Willoughby, or only a selfish Frank Churchill?) So many characters are given facets of others that it will keep you guessing to the very end—and who could ever complain about a novel with two Mr. Darcys!
Fleshing out the novel are delightful descriptions of castle life, walks about the countryside, trips to the seaside and even a climactic scene in a London nightclub, so reminiscent of Lady Rose MacClare’s Jazz club adventures in Downton Abbey. In fact, the pervasive popularity of that programme is a wonderful thing for the reader trying to picture just how life might have played out, upstairs and down, and how the vividly detailed gowns and ensembles would have looked.
Jane is, as she ever was, pleased to be looking fashionable once again. A treat to the imaginative reader, the novel also provides ample scenes from Austen’s previous life, introducing her family to us as well as providing a plausible backstory for her turquoise “engagement” ring. Later rings feature towards the end of the book, including a suspiciously familiar sapphire and diamond (could any proposal be more perfect?)
All in all, Jane Austen Lives Again will be a treasured addition to any sequels library. The winning combination of old and new will have you guessing to the very end just what is in store for our heroines (of whom there are many). The final scene, in the hall, decorating the Christmas tree strikes just the right note of closure, though one could wish the book to go on forever—would a sequel even be possible? I, for one, certainly think so, and would be glad to spend more hours in such amiable company. Kudos again to Ms. Odiwe for continually testing her creative limits, bringing Jane Austen to life (again) in such a fresh and imaginative way.
Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austentation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends is her first book. Her greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family (1 amazing husband, 4 adorable children and a very strange dog.)
From the Desk of Jane Odiwe
I was very excited to read about some of the discoveries made during the dig at Jane Austen’s childhood home in the village of Steventon, Hampshire, which took place in November 2011. The rectory was pulled down in the 1820s and what is known of its appearance is only recorded on old maps and drawings or writings made from the memories of Austen descendants. It seems that the actual foundations of the rectory have now been located as a result of the dig – formerly, the only clue to its situation was the presence of an iron pump.
Jane was born in Steventon Rectory and lived happily for the first twenty five years of her life until her father decided to retire and move the family to Bath. It was here that she drafted her first three novels, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey, all between the ages of 19 and 23.
Anna Lefroy, niece of Jane, wrote about her memories of the house:
“The dining room or common sitting-room looked to the front and was lighted by two casement windows. On the same side the front door opened into a smaller parlour, and visitors, who were few and rare, were not a bit less welcome to my grandmother because they found her sitting there busily engaged with her needle, making and mending.
Jane Odiwe writes from the heart. This is evident to anyone who has ever read one of her novels, but particularly so in her newest work, Project Darcy. Published just in time for Christmas, it is surely her gift to Austen fans everywhere.
The story centers on a group of friends who join an archeological expedition at the site of Steventon Rectory. The five girls mirror the Bennet sisters in personality and even name choices, and just as in Pride and Prejudice, Ellie (our heroine) and Jess share a special bond.
The purpose of the dig is to discover the actual layout of the Austen’s home, and it is clear from the writing that Ms. Odiwe is intimately familiar with the Austen haunts mentioned throughout the book, from Steventon to Ashe and Deane, Bath and London. Relationships among the other workers and staff form the backdrop of a fairly straightforward retelling of Pride and Prejudice, cleverly repackaged though, in order to drop twists and turns throughout, and laugh out loud moments at just the right time.
This is, however, a time travel story, as well. Like her previous book, Searching for Captain Wentworth, Ellie has the ability to travel between the 21st century and Regency England. Unlike the other book, however, these time jumps are uncontrolled by temporal items, and are brought on by the proximity of so many Austen locations. In Ellie’s jumps, she literally becomes Jane Austen, creating a story within a story, as she relives many of the poignant memories of Austen’s past, and seeks to shed light on her oh-so-mysterious relationship with Tom Lefroy.
Although the archeological dig takes place in summer, Ellie’s jumps, for the most part, return her to the winter of 1795/96 when we know, from Jane Austen’s own letters, that she met Tom while he was visiting his aunt. The descriptions of Christmas at Steventon and the Manydown ball are delightful, and it is fun to fill in the gaps in what we do know, fleshing out a story of love won and lost. Traces of Austen’s “later” works are visible and it is clear that Ms. Odiwe let her imagination have full reign in giving Jane the romantic past that we all might wish for her. While many scenes are reminiscent of Jon Spence’s Becoming Jane, we are also treated to the history of Jane’s turquoise ring which came to public attention this past year.
Jane Austen was a very hands-on aunt, with numerous games and activities in her repertoire. Her nieces and nephews recall with fondness the many games, from paper ships to Battledore and Shuttlecock, that she would play with them by the hour. One activity, Spillikins, was remembered with fondness, by Jane, herself:
“Our little visitor has just left us, & left us highly pleased with her;-she is a nice, natural, openhearted, affectionate girl, with all the ready civility which one sees in the best Children of the present day; -so unlike anything that I was myself at her age, that I am often all astonishment & shame.-Half her time here was spent at Spillikins; which I consider as a very valuable part of our Household furniture, & as not the least important Benefaction- from the family of Knight to that of Austen.”
Jane Austen to Cassandra
February 8, 1807
In her letter, Jane Austen refers to her personal set as “a very valuable part of our household furniture.” The “Austen Spillikins”, along with other artifacts of Jane’s daily life can be found on display at the museum in Lyme. Ivory fish, like those Lydia gambles with in Pride and Prejudice, and letter blocks, similar to those used in Emma can also be found in the display. It is clear the Austens were serious about their fun and games.
So just what was this engrossing game? Spillikins is played the same way that early versions of Jack Straw and the American “pick up sticks” are. The difference comes withe the playing pieces. Jack Straws were originally played with uniform pieces of straw (though now wooden or plastic farming tools are generally used.) Pick up sticks are made of wood or plastic, of uniform length, sometimes with knobs on the ends. Spillikins, were crafted from wood or ivory and could be blunted or rounded depending on the set.
When playing with sticks of uniform size and shape, like those that belonged to Austen, the rules are, as follows: Continue reading Spillikins
Searching for Captain Wentworth is unlike any Jane Austen inspired novel I’ve ever read. I suspect it’s unlike any Jane Austen novel ever written! Part love story, part time travel fantasy, part Austen biography, it’s all about the author’s (Jane Odiwe) love for Jane Austen and the city of Bath, her ‘Fairyland’ city.
Reading it (in 24 hours! I couldn’t put it down!) was like taking a walk with friends through old, familiar places. Jane’s use of Bath (both in the present and during the Regency) and Lyme, coupled with her deft weaving of historical fact and Austen lore, Austen novels (especially NorthangerAbbey, SenseandSensibility and Persuasion) and films made for a book that felt like there was a cameo appearance on every page. It is truly a book written by someone who knows Austen’s life, novels and films inside out, and though any and all might enjoy the wonderful story she has crafted, for those in the “know”, Easter eggs abound, almost like the many inside jokes, shared by the Austen family, that made their way into Jane Austen’s writing.
Jane Odiwe’s descriptions of Bath, both past and present, make the city come alive, reviving happy memories for those who have visited the beautiful white limestone city, and painting a vivid tour of city highlights and must visit stops for anyone contemplating a visit. Equally compelling are the settings in Lyme Regis, fromCobb to country house to assembly room.
In the story, heroine Sophie Elliot moves into her great-aunt’s flat in Bath, while she recovers from a broken heart, determined to put the past behind her and move on with her life and writing. The house, adjacent to the home occupied by the Austen family in 1802, proves to be full of secrets and surprises, and once her adventure begins, she transports between present day Bath and a hopeful friendship with her new neighbor (and perhaps something more?) and 1802, where she slips into the life of her ancestor Sophie Elliot, and a friendship with Jane and Cassandra Austen.
When Charles Austen, a young Naval officer, enters the scene, Sophie’s life becomes decidedly complicated. Persuasion may be the initial inspiration for the story, a novel many feel was Jane Austen’s attempt to rewrite history in her own life, however, questions remain, “Can the past be changed? Should the past be changed? Are happy endings only to be found in fiction?” A rosewood box and pair of gloves may hold the key to all the secrets of the novel, and in finding them, Sophie discovers the truth about herself and her heart.
It is known that Jane Austen drew her characters from the traits she noticed in those around her, and recognizable characterizations abound including the snobbish Elliot family themselves…oh-so like their “fictional” counterparts. Conversations and scenes from Austen’s novels are woven together in new and unexpected ways, providing a canvas that the “real” Jane Austen might later use in her writing. Additional portrayals of Cassandra Austen, Charles Austen and even Henry and Eliza Austen ring true and offer glimpses of family life that are not only faithful to the recorded history we have, but also all any “ardent admirer” of Jane Austen’s works and life could hope for.
Moving along at a brisk pace, the story jumps quickly from the present to the past and back again, and readers will visit the amusements, pleasure gardens and assembly rooms of Bath and Lyme and the countryside beyond in both 2012 and 1802. Odiwe cleverly ties up her threads by the end of her story, though readers are left to wonder if Sophie is the only one of her family to have enjoyed the company of L’amiable Jane…leaving room, perhaps, for future stories.
Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austenation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends is her first book.
Now for Bath…
Jane Austen to Cassandra
September 13, 1815
Searching For Captain Wentworth, my newest book, was inspired by Jane Austen’s novel, Persuasion. In it, my heroine Sophie is invited by her aunt to spend some time in the family townhouse. As she is at a loose end with a broken heart, she thinks it might be a brilliant idea. After all, she’s wanted to visit Bath since she firstt read her favourite novel, Persuasion, and longs to walk in Jane Austen’s footsteps.
On arrival, she finds she’s actually living next door to Jane Austen’s own house, but far from being the Regency fantasy she’s imagined, her flat turns out to be a rather neglected place and she only has access to the upper floors. The lower part of the house is occupied by the mysterious Josh Strafford who works at the Holburne Museum over the road in Sydney Gardens.
It’s not long, however, before Sophie learns that she’s not alone. A ghostly presence and the discovery of an ancestor’s journal fascinate her. When she sees Josh drop something out on the pavement outside she follows him and picks up the wet object which unfurls in her hand. It looks like Captain Wentworth’s glove. Running after him into the gardens she loses sight of him and when she steps through a cast-iron gate down to the canal that’s where her timeslip adventure begins.
I had such fun with this book because I love Bath and am very lucky to be able to spend a lot of time there. It’s my idea of Fairyland and has totally inspired this book. Writing about the time that Jane lived there involved lots of lovely research and I enjoyed weaving fact and fiction together.
There are three romantic story lines which run through the book, but it’s not all rosy – I very much wanted to show how difficult it was for women in Jane Austen’s era, and to have the different viewpoints of those in the past as well as the present. Jane Austen’s story unravels alongside Sophie’s and I enjoyed including many of the Austen family – especially Charles Austen, one of my handsome heroes.
I visit all my favourite places in Bath. The action takes place at the Holburne Museum, Sydney Gardens, the Assembly Rooms, the Pump Room and up on Beechen Cliff. My hero and heroine even take tea at the Jane Austen Centre in the lovely tearoom!
Taking a turn into Quiet Street and rounding the corner onto Gay Street, we climbed ever higher, unable to pass the Jane Austen Centre without visiting the giftshop where Josh treated me to a book. I chose Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, a sumptuous volume, which had my mouth watering at the fantastic recipes. Josh suggested we break our fast by sampling the hot buttered ‘Crawford’s Crumpets’, washed down with a cup of Peking tea in the Regency tearoom upstairs, and in such surroundings we felt we’d escaped from the hustle and bustle of town life below.
-Searching For Captain Wentworth
I’m delighted to have been invited to talk at the Jane Austen Festival this year – I’m so looking forward to meeting those of you who are coming. Look for me at the costume promenade – I shall be there with my camera so I can send pictures round the world to show Janeites who cannot be there what a wonderful spectacle there is to be seen. This is one of the highlights for me – some of the costumes are amazing. Hand-sewn and beautifully stitched, many professional costumiers and re-enactors delight in showing off their skills. Equally endearing are the homemade outfits and the children are especially adorable dressed in costumes and dresses crafted from clothes they already possess. There’s a lovely carnival atmosphere and such a buzz of conversation that you might think you really had travelled back in time!
There are so many lovely talks, demonstrations and theatre performances during the whole festival that you’re really spoiled for choice. Not to mention the dancing! And there are lessons too – so you can’t go wrong. Well, not unless you’re like me – I love dancing but sometimes I forget the steps, but then it’s all part of the fun. I promise, you will spend a lot of time laughing. The Festival Fayre is a favourite of mine – if you need a new reticule, a parasol or a new book, you’re sure to find it.
When you’re not busy with the Festival, there are some must-see places to visit. Top of my list because it is so central is The Pump Room. You don’t have to take tea here though that is a lovely treat. You can sample the waters for a small charge and have a look at the wonderful surroundings!
Just walking through the revolving door under the Pump Rooms sign was as good as stepping back in time, and it did look as wonderful as I’d hoped. A sea of tables dressed in crisp white linen stretched the length of the room, each decorated with arrangements of white lilies scenting the air along with the evocative aromas of Earl Grey tea, pungent morning coffee, the fragrant smells of cake and toasted Bath buns. From the lofty ceiling, a dazzling chandelier glittered above the throngs of tourists. Spangled with strings of crystals like sprinkles on winter cobwebs, every pendalogue dripped prisms of rainbow light to illuminate the glossy hair of a young girl, or to wink in a clinking, silver teaspoon.
-Searching For Captain Wentworth
Don’t forget to visit the Assembly Rooms if you can. Not only will you find the ballroom, the tearoom and the octagon room that Jane Austen talks of in her novels but the Fashion Museum is housed here. They have a fabulous collection including many Georgian dresses – there’s always something new to see.
Last, but by no means least, pop into the Jane Austen Centre for an entertaining talk and exhibitions as well as the gorgeous shop. I don’t think I’ve ever left without buying something so be prepared!
I shall be talking about my writing, and reading from Searching For Captain Wentworth on Wednesday 19th September at the Duncan Room, BRLSI 16-18 Queen Square BA1 2HN at 10.30 – it would be wonderful to see you there or at any of the Festival events!
One regret I have in my busy life is the lack of leisure time I have for reading. Right now there are four stacks of books on the floor of my office, all waiting to be read. So many books! So little time. Given my schedule, I am glad I set aside the required hours to readJane Austen Made Me Do It, an anthology of Jane Austen-inspired stories by published Jane Austen sequel authors and edited by Laurel Ann Nattress.
I rarely read anthologies front to back, but flit here and there, landing instead on a story with an intriguing title or by a favorite author. In this instance I began with Stephanie Barron’s tale of Jane And the Gentleman Rogue: Being a fragment of a Jane Austen mystery. I am so glad I did, for it prompted me to linger longer over dinner and read another short story. Beth Pattillo’s When Only a Darcy Will Do was a delight, as was Margaret C. Sullivan’s Heard of You, which I read just before going to bed. The list of authors in this anthology is impressive: Pamela Aidan • Elizabeth Aston • Brenna Aubrey • Stephanie Barron • Carrie Bebris • Jo Beverley • Diana Birchall • Frank Delaney & Diane Meier • Monica Fairview • Amanda Grange • Syrie James • Janet Mullany • Jane Odiwe • Beth Pattillo • Alexandra Potter • Myretta Robens • Jane Rubino & Caitlen Rubino Bradway • Maya Slater • Margaret Sullivan • Adriana Trigiani • Laurie Viera Rigler • Lauren Willig.
I’ve always enjoyed reading anthologies. They allow one to pick and choose on a whim, and finish a story in a short space of time. Anthology stories serve as literary versions of amuse bouches, those tasty bites served at the start of dinner. Even the most the discerning reader is bound to find selections and authors they will love. (Or discover a new author!) Click here to read a short synopsis of each story.
I favored some stories over others, but won’t share them with you for the simple reason that some of the stories I disliked received rave reviews on other blogs. Anthologies appeal to a variety of tastes, and I found it remarkable how many in Jane Austen Made Me Do It captivated me. If you decide to purchase this book, I can guarantee that you will discover new authors and stories that you will want to reread.
This is due, no doubt, to the hard work that editor Laurel Ann Nattress put into the project. As a blogger, I can’t imagine how much of her time was spent in contacting the authors and working with them, overseeing a contest for an unpublished author (the honor went to Brenna Aubrey), working with her publishing house in editing the stories, and now publicizing the book. I tip my hat to Laurel Ann for overseeing this ambitious and very worthwhile project, for this is her first book. I give Jane Austen Made Me Do It five out of five Regency tea cups!
Vic Sanborn oversees two blogs: Jane Austen’s World and Jane Austen Today. Before 2006 she merely adored Jane Austen and read Pride and Prejudice faithfully every year. These days, she is immersed in reading and writing about the author’s life and the Regency era. Co-founder of her local (and very small) book group, Janeites on the James, she began her blogs as a way to share her research on the Regency era for her novel, which sits unpublished on a dusty shelf. In her working life, Vic provides resources and professional development for teachers and administrators of Virginia’s adult education and literacy programs.