Jessica Grey on the Darker Side of Fairy Tales

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Jessica Grey is guest posting today to share about her latest release, Views From the Depths. This is Jessica’s second volume of fairy tale short stories, following last year’s Views From the Tower. Jessica is also the author of two full-length modern fairy tale retellings, Awake and Atone. The third volume in that series, Aspire, will hopefully come out next year.

Fairy tale retellings and adaptations have been around forever, but recently they’ve gotten a lot of play in television, movies, and books.  This trend is especially popular in the young adult genre.  I’ve always been a huge fan of fairy tale retellings and I feel like I’ve kind of lucked out because what I love to write happens to be such a big thing just as I’m starting my publishing career.

The fun thing about fairy tales is that they are so incredibly rich that they can be almost endlessly adapted. Each author can chose to focus on the elements that speak strongly to them and as readers we can enjoy an incredible variety of stories.

In my latest short story collection, I chose to focus on the darker, more melancholy elements of four popular stories.  One of the reasons for this was that I spent a lot of time going back through the “original” or early tales and really immersing myself in the details that often get overlooked in newer retellings.

The term “fairy tale ending” has come to mean a “happily ever after” that’s wrapped up in a big, sparkly, perfect bow.  A lot of these original stories don’t have traditional happy endings, but even the ones that do often take a pretty dark path on the way to that happily ever after.  There are some tales will actually traumatize you if you think too much about them.  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is one of these.  You’re left thinking, “Holy crap, is she still seven years old while this is all happening? What kind of dude offers to buy a dead seven year old? It’s like necrophilia and pedophilia together on a two for one special!”  A character you’ve thought about as nice—a “Prince Charming” in your head—suddenly becomes super creepy.

When I was writing the stories for Views from the Depths it wasn’t the gory or creepy details from these original tales that interested me so much as the psychology of the characters.  The personal emotions fascinated me, and that is one reason I chose to do the stories in first person and from the view points of multiple characters.  Writing in a character’s voice really forces you to examine their motivations and often causes you to empathize with their feelings (if not their actions).

In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs I made Snow White older, but still a young teenager.  This led me to ask, how would being that beautiful and that hated for so many years shape her psyche?  Would she become selfish and manipulative?  I also chose to redeem the Prince Charming character from the creepiness of the original story, but doing so made him immune to Snow White’s charms.

Another thing that I chose to do was occasionally mix elements of tales.  In my version of The Little Mermaid there are lot of the themes from the original Hans Christian Anderson story (unrequited love, sacrificing oneself, the idea that mermaids have no immortal souls), but I also decided to make the mermaids the more traditional “sirens” of the sea” that you see in other stories.

We so often only focus on the main characters in these stories, but there is such a rich tapestry of characters and motivations in them—so many narratives that cause or are affected by the story.  It was thinking through these that really informed the tone of this collection.

I say in the description that these are often “melancholy” looks at these original stories.  This is true, but I feel that the tone is less external than that implies. It’s not that I started from a place of darkness or sadness and said “let’s mold the tales to fit this feeling,” but more that from immersing myself in the minds of the characters in the process of writing their narration the darker, more deep and sad parts of the human psyche seemed to speak to me from within these stories.  In my opinion, it’s a testament to the richness and complexity of stories that are often dismissed as being “children’s stories.”  The material already exists, or as it least suggested, within the stories.

After reading this post you may be concerned that Views from the Depths is too dark or sad for you to enjoy, especially if you’re a fan of a traditional happily ever after.  I will leave you with a quote from one of my favorite reviewers.  She nailed the feeling I want Views from the Depths to impart:

“It’s not the kind of dark that gives you the shudders and creeps, or even leaves you feeling depressed and sucked void … it’s the kind of dark that makes what’s light shine a little brighter.”

I just finished reading Views From the Depths this week. You can find my review here.

Jane Odiwe: The Surprise Plot + GIVEAWAY!

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Today I’ve traded places with Jane Odiwe, a fellow author and Janeite friend. We’re both sharing moments from our most recent novel that took us–the authors–by surprise. I hope you enjoy her post about Searching for Captain Wentworth, and then come over to her blog and see what surprised me in Loving Miss Darcy.

Jane has also offered a paperback copy of Searching for Captain Wentworth to international readers. To enter, just answer her question at the end of the post. Giveaway ends next Monday night at midnight, and I’ll announce the winner no later than Thursday, May 2. 

Thank you, Nancy, for hosting me on your blog today – I’m thrilled to be here!

Like you, when I’m writing I find keeping one’s characters in check and “on the plot in hand” is sometimes an impossible one, especially when they have strong personalities. More than any other of my novels, Searching for Captain Wentworth proved to be a case in point.

My favourite novel is Persuasion and I’d always wanted to write a book with this wonderfully emotional story as its inspiration. Whilst in Bath, I kept wondering about Jane Austen’s inspiration for her novel. Biographies usually say that Jane Austen was unhappy in Bath, though the evidence for this I feel is rather slim, based on a couple of remarks made in letters and the initial feelings of her heroine Anne, who associated the city with the passing of her mother. Yet, two of her novels have her heroines falling in love in Bath, and so, whatever Jane Austen might have felt on leaving, after she’d experienced the death of her father and her family’s financial decline, I came to the conclusion that Bath was probably a place of good memories as well as the disappointing.

Jane Austen’s hero, Captain Wentworth, is a naval officer and so were two of her brothers. It occurred to me that her brother Charles would have been a young lieutenant at the time Jane and her family was living in Sydney Place in Bath and that’s what set me thinking. Perhaps the story she wrote was inspired by events she witnessed in part. Everything I read about Charles Austen made me convinced that his sister had used him as a model for her Captain Wentworth. And then I thought how wonderful it would be to go back in time and “meet” the Austen family through the eyes of a modern heroine, Sophie. I’m sure you can see what’s coming – Sophie travels back in time and is drawn to the dashing sailor, Charles Austen. This was the crux of my novel and with another hero vying for her affections in the present day; I thought I’d got the story pretty sewn up.

I wrote my novel and was feeling quite happy with it but for someone who would not leave me alone – Jane Austen herself. Every time my heroine had a conversation with her, she kept dropping hints about her own story as if to say, ‘What about me? I want my share of the novel. It’s all very well to go making up stories about my brother, but I have one too.’

At the same time I was writing my novel, I met the owner of the Rice portrait of Jane Austen. I was invited to see the painting in Paris, and Anne Rice (the wife of Henry Rice who was descended from Edward Austen’s family line) related so many wonderful family stories that it got me thinking again. Jane’s years in Bath are a bit of a mystery, but we know she was inspired enough by the city to write both Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. Anyone who has read the former knows that Catherine Morland is the daughter of a clergyman and comes from a large family like Jane herself. The opening of the book describes Catherine and her habits and it’s impossible not to wonder if much of this is autobiographical. Catherine goes to Bath with Mr and Mrs Allen and that’s where she meets Henry Tilney. She is seventeen, a very young girl. What do we know about Jane Austen at 17? Not too much. Apart from knowing that she went to boarding school for a while between the ages of 10 and 11, 1785-86, we have little information before her letters begin, apart from the fact that we know she visited her Great Uncle Francis in Sevenoaks in 1788 and that he may have commissioned her portrait.

Could Jane have met someone when she was 17 – a very special someone? Might they have been separated at a later stage like Anne and Frederick? Perhaps they met again years after and their romance was re-kindled. Even though I had no evidence that any of this had happened, so many pieces of Jane’s novels seemed to be offering clues and it was fun to piece together a story of what might have happened using her novels and letters as inspiration.

Of course, we will never know the absolute truth, (unless someone unearths a missing diary) but I feel very strongly that Jane wanted us to know in Persuasion that she knew what it is to have loved and lost.

Here is an excerpt from Searching for Captain Wentworth – I hope you enjoy it! My heroine Sophie has gone back in time and is taking a walk in Sydney Gardens in Bath.

Several times I took a wrong turn at a hermit’s cottage or where a wooden pavilion signalled the end of a path and had to double back, but I soon found myself in the middle. There was Merlin’s swing, a huge wheel rising high in the air for those brave enough to try it, but there was no one suspended above the Labyrinth today to laugh at those who’d lost their way. A moss-covered grotto with a wooden sign declared an alternate way out through an underground passage. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go that way. It looked dark and gloomy so I turned back on myself, and following a butterfly that flew into my field of vision I entered another part of the Labyrinth.

The butterfly almost seemed to be waiting for me to catch it up. As I ran to keep it in view, I watched the beautiful creature dancing in the sunlight, its fragile wings hovering above the ground before soaring to the top of the hedge to alight on a leaf. Brown velvet wings fluttered to make a display of its white lace, and it was then I realized that we were not alone. I heard a whispered exchange, hushed voices that held such nostalgic sounds of recognition, I instantly felt I was intruding. Before I’d taken many more steps I knew that I’d stumbled upon a lover’s meeting and though I really didn’t want to spy, I found myself unable to stop staring.

Concealed within a bower of arched trees, with blossoms tumbling in white curtains like confetti to the ground, a handsome fair-haired gentleman sat holding the hand of his girl who was hidden from my view.

‘I have never been inconstant,’ he said. ‘Your heart must understand the truth of all I say. Tell me not that such precious feelings will diminish, that you will cease to love me. I love none but you. Accuse me of self-interest, I cannot deny it. I am guilty of being selfish, I know, but the happiest hours of my life have been those spent with you. Do not blame me for wishing to snatch a few more.’

‘I do not blame you, but with everything settled as we know it to be, as things can only be resolved, we will do more harm than good if we do not accept what is beyond our control.’

‘If I were a knave, I would plead with you to change your mind.’

‘And we both know there lies a path to unhappiness and folly. This encounter is insanity itself, I cannot think how you persuaded me to meet you today.’

‘Yet, you came.’

Silence descended. Oblivious to everything around them, I saw two heads bend towards the other and the young man plant a tender kiss upon his lover’s hand. I was rooted to the spot, even though I knew I should leave. If I moved they would hear or see me and know that I’d found them out. That they had no wish to be discovered was painfully obvious. Although the young man seemed to be less furtive, I sensed their anxiety as I caught a glimpse of the girl leaning forward to whisper in his ear. Dressed in a blue gown, which fluttered back in the breeze, I saw her bonnet strings were untied.

The young man spoke again. ‘Can we not pretend just for today, that we are as free to love one another as we were all those years ago when we first met?’

‘The past seems so long ago, a time in another world. You and I are both changed in every way,’ she said.

‘But not in essentials, I believe. True, our circumstances have changed and we’ve had to follow another course to the one we should have desired, but our souls will be forever entwined.’

I heard the girl laugh. ‘You are the most amusing gentleman of my acquaintance. Tell me, just how many of the romantic poets are you imbibing these days? Too much poetry can never be safe!’

‘I only speak from my heart and if you examine yours, you will know that I speak the truth. I need no poet’s sonnet to inspire or declare my feelings. You of all people could never accuse me of disguising my intentions.’

‘No, you always were a most forthright fellow!’

Do you remember that first night when we both realized that we loved one another?’

‘How could I forget a warm summer’s eve, a night sky filled with stars and the beauty of the Kentish countryside all around us?’

‘Riding on Queen Mab in the moonlight, we flew like midsummer fairies over the fields and hedgerows.’

‘You stole me away from the house like a wicked bandit.’

He laughed. ‘I do not recall your protest. Indeed, I seem to remember it was you who urged me to share the horse. No doubt, so I should have to hold you against me.’

‘Which you did with no hesitation, sir.’

‘And then we found a spot to your liking.’

‘I have no recollection of being consulted about the stone temple, dark and enclosed.’

‘I took you in my arms and you did not resist.’

‘I did not.’

‘You did not recoil from the kiss I planted.’

‘No.’

‘Is it etched in your mind, as it is in mine? Are you able to recall all that we were to one another? I can bring forth every feeling, every sound and smell of that sweet night. The scent of your skin, the soft caress of your lips, and the sounds of a burbling stream making its way to the river are all married as one.’

There was another silence and it seemed to me that the girl whose few words had been so filled with emotion could not speak many more.

‘Jane, you pledged your heart to me that night.’

‘And it will forever be yours. I shall not break my promise.’

I would love to know your thoughts. Do you think Jane Austen’s Persuasion was written from her own experiences, from her imagination, or perhaps a mixture of the two? Please leave a comment below to be entered into a draw for a giveaway of a signed paperback copy of Searching for Captain Wentworth.

Finally, I would just like to add that if you go to this wonderful resource: http://www.pemberley.com/etext/index.html and put in a search for the word “seventeen” in the “Search all six novels” box, I think you’ll find some of the 13 results most interesting!

 

You can find Jane Odiwe at www.austeneffusions.com, http://www.janeaustensequels.blogspot.co.uk, http://austenauthors.net, http://historicalromanceuk.blogspot.co.uk https://twitter.com/JaneOdiwe https://www.facebook.com/JaneOdiwe

Guest Post: Sally O’Rourke

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Some of you may be aware that my late husband, Michael, and I collaborated on The Man Who Loved Jane Austen. It was a very personal project that he called the ultimate valentine because it came out of our love for each other.

After completing the book, rather than attempting to get it published, we decided to bind the finished product and give it as gifts to friends and family. Originally we did a dozen copies that were hand bound with green ribbon in three volumes as Austen’s books were printed. When people started asking for additional copies we had them professionally printed and bound rather than trying to keep up with handmade editions.

 

It was fun that everyone seemed to enjoy the book, but the fun didn’t last long. I lost Michael suddenly on November 14, 2001; my world crashed. Everything went on the shelf, even my life.

 

A few months after the funeral, a close friend (the best man at our wedding) called and told me that I needed to get out so he was taking me to the screening of a movie. He was right of course, it would have been very easy for me to become a hermit. As a member of BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) he had passes to an, as yet, unreleased British film. I grudgingly agreed to go and just as I was leaving he called again and asked that I bring a copy of the book. “Why?” I asked (he had gotten one of the original hand bound editions). “I want to give it to someone.” I picked up a copy and left.

 

The screening was at one of the film and television studios in Hollywood. As it was only a short time after 9/11 the security was extreme. There were check points to get on to the parking lot, the walk through gate, the building entrance and the theatre itself. Very time consuming.

 

When we reached the stairs leading to the theatre it was clear the theatre was not yet open as a crowd was gathering in the hall. Apparently the film had arrived without numbers differentiating the reels so the projectionist had no idea in which order they were to run. Until it was cleared up they wouldn’t let anyone in the theatre (never was really sure why, overly secure I guess). A tall, handsome young man politely made his way through the crowd and straightened it all out and we were finally allowed to enter the screening room.

 

While Roger made his rounds to visit with friends I sat down and waited, still finding it difficult to mingle with people; particularly strangers. After a while he came over, handed me the book and looked up the aisle, “Go give it to him.” I looked over my shoulder, six feet away was the star of the movie we were there to see. The tall young man who had fixed the film roll problem. I looked back at Roger quizzically. “You dedicated the book to him, give it to him.” “Seriously?” I asked. He pulled me to my feet, “Yes.”

 

We had dedicated the book to him. To him, Jennifer Ehle and Jane Austen. I took a deep breath and looked back at Roger; he nodded his head and sat down. Slowly I made my way up the steps and stood next to him as he finished a conversation with someone else. He turned to me and smiled, “Hello.” I didn’t reciprocate the greeting, I just said, “I have something for you.”

 

His lovely smile turned to trepidation and I realized that he was afraid I was a stalker. I assured him I wasn’t, told him about the book and showed him the dedication. The smile returned and he thanked me as the house lights dimmed and we returned to our seats.

 

After a much anticipated Question and Answer session with the film’s director, producer and cast, Roger and I headed to the exit. As we neared the door the young man stopped me. He thanked me again, saying he was exceedingly touched and had never been given a nicer compliment. He bent down and kissed my cheek and then was pulled away by another fan.

 

In the tram that took us to the car a woman’s voice asked, “You’re the one who gave Colin the book aren’t you?” I turned around, the question had been asked by Minnie Driver who was sitting next to Saffron Burrows. I only had time to respond in the affirmative when we arrived at the car.

 

It was an amazing evening but I didn’t really appreciate and enjoy it as much as I might have. The wound incurred by the loss of Mike was still raw and I was very much in a daze most of the time. Still the gracious young man left an indelible impression and what else can you say when you’ve been kissed by Colin Firth?

 

Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen (also dedicated to Jane Austen, Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth). is the expansion and continuation of the story in The Man Who Loved Jane Austen. It delves into the complex nature of Fitzwilliam Darcy, the 21st century American horseman who slipped through a rip in the fabric of time and met Jane Austen.

Eliza Knight, the Manhattan artist who finds the letter proving to Darcy that he did, in fact, travel in time, has fallen in love with the enigmatic Virginian after a long weekend at his home, Pemberley Farms. His epic tale of love and romance in Regency England puts Eliza on edge. How can she compete with the inimitable Jane Austen? And things are happening in the small hamlet of Chawton, England that could change everything. Will Jane Austen be the wedge that divides the modern couple or the tie that binds them?

What do you say when you’ve been kissed by Colin Firth, indeed! Sally has graciously offered two copies of Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen–an ebook, open internationally, and a paperback, to readers in the US/Canada. 

 

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Guest Post: Jane Odiwe

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I am absolutely thrilled to be a guest on Nancy’s blog today and would like to thank her for her kind invitation. I always enjoy Nancy’s writing and it’s such a pleasure to have met her ‘in the flesh’ too!

Searching For Captain Wentworth: A Tale of Love Lost in Time

Persuasion is the inspiration for my new book, Searching For Captain Wentworth. My heroine Sophie finds herself travelling back to Jane Austen’s 1800s to live the life of her ancestor, Sophia Elliot. Life isn’t all excitement, however, and she quickly learns that her new family are not quite what she thought they’d be. In complete contrast to the beloved father she’s left behind in contemporary London, her Bath counterpart in 1802 is proving to be a bit of a nightmare. And her sister Emma certainly doesn’t seem to be the sibling she’s always longed for. The friendship Sophie develops with her neighbours in the past with the Austen family makes up for the increasing tensions with the Elliots but there are some situations in which she finds herself feeling at a loss for words!

In this extract from Searching For Captain Wentworth, Sophie is attending a ball at the assembly rooms when a particular person gives rise to her ‘father’s’ curiosity.
I almost didn’t see him at first. Charles came dawdling along at the back stopping to talk to his friends, to listen attentively, or laugh out loud at a shared joke. I imagined they must be other sailors from the way he greeted them. Dressed for the evening I couldn’t help staring as he nonchalantly strolled across the room. Every detail of his appearance sharpened into focus. Dark curls fell on the high collar of his black coat, cut to display a flash of white silk waistcoat with buttons faced in pearl, that led the eye to the swell of satin where his breeches began. Defining his muscular legs, they finished at the knee where silk stockings delineated the curve of shapely calves leading down to a pair of gleaming dancing shoes. He looked beautiful if I can use that word to describe a man, and I knew I was not the only woman in the room who glanced his way or sat up in their chair. I wasn’t standing near the fire, but I felt the rush of heat on my cheeks as I stared. Something about the cut of his dark coat emphasized his broad shoulders, and the crisp cotton kerchief at his neck exaggerated his tanned features making him stand out from the crowd. His air of self-assurance might have come across as arrogance in anyone else, but to me, he simply looked perfect lighting up the room with a personality so magnetic, he seemed to draw everyone around him. The family took up station by the fireplace opposite. Jane glanced across with a smile, and I saw her point me out to her brother. Our eyes met across a sea of people and Charles smiled broadly. I cannot say what made my heart flutter at that moment, but I felt he’d curled a finger round my heart. I couldn’t sustain his gaze and looked away.
‘Who is that fellow over there with the Astons?’ said Mr Elliot, making me feel instantly cross that he couldn’t even remember his neighbours’ name.

‘I’m sure I have no idea,’ said Mrs Randall, looking at me as if she were sure I could supply the answer. ‘He is a very fine looking gentleman. Perhaps he is a relation of the Austen family; a noble peer, I daresay, by his attitude and deportment.’

I spoke out. ‘He is the Miss Austens’ brother, Mr Charles Austen, lately returned from his duties at sea as a lieutenant on the frigate Endymion.’

‘Oh, a sailor,’ uttered Mr Elliot, turning back with utter disdain. ‘Well, I suppose a clergyman’s son has to make his way in the world as any other. But he should be careful about giving himself such airs or he will be sorry when he is found out to be a nobody; a person of obscure birth. I might have guessed he was no gentleman for his face is the colour of my mahogany secretaire.’

‘The Navy has done so much for us that I am convinced of sailors having more worth and warmth than any other set of men in England,’ I said, but even as I uttered the words I felt sure I was repeating something I’d heard spoken before. They came out so naturally that I couldn’t stop them.

‘I suppose the profession has its uses but I have my own objections to the Navy’s place in society. Men who would never have been raised to honours in the past are now moving in the same circles as their betters, though I can assure you not one would find a friend in me. Besides, I could never be seen consorting with such weather-beaten creatures. A sailor is old before his time; a man’s youth is cut off in its prime. They are exposed to every sort of foul weather and as a consequence are as wrinkled as a walnut and not fit to be seen.’

I was just thinking that this speech had more than a familiar ring to it when I chanced to see that its effects on two people standing less than two feet away had been both painful and mortifying. Unknown to me Jane and Charles had walked over from their place on the other side of the room. They’d obviously heard every word judging from their expressions, though they both assumed smiles as soon as they saw that I, too, was quite horrified by the conversation that had just taken place.

Mr Elliot did not acknowledge them for the second time and I saw Emma turn, linking her arm in his to lead him away. Mrs Randall smiled at my friends, but followed the other two, so I was left alone to think how I could possibly apologize for their abominably rude behaviour. I didn’t know what to say or how to start. I couldn’t bring my eyes to look at Charles even though I knew he was looking at me intently and was very thankful that Jane was the first to speak.

‘Well, is there anyone here worthy of our notice, do you think?’ Her face was alive with humour, her words peppered with irony.

‘Only the first-rates, eh, Miss Elliot?’ Charles declared with a smirk and a wink.

I knew they were teasing, but I couldn’t decide if their comments were in reaction to my family’s rudeness, or an allusion to their pompous and snobbish behaviour, and I didn’t know how to reply.

Such an awkward situation! But, I enjoyed writing the scenes where Sophie’s snobbish ancestors show their true colours. I love the idea of going back in time to see and meet your ancestors but what if they turned out to be an awful family?

I know some of my ancestors were Jewellers and Engineers. Have you ever traced your family tree? And if you could, would you go back in time to meet your family?

Jane Odiwe is a lifelong Jane Austen enthusiast. She is the author of the newly published Searching For Captain Wentworth, Mr Darcy’s Secret, Lydia Bennet’s Story, Willoughby’s Return and Effusions of Fancy. Born in Sutton Coldfield, England, she holds an arts degree and spent many years teaching History and Art in Birmingham and London. Jane is lucky enough to live with her very own Captain Wentworth, their children and two cats, dividing her time between North London and Fairyland, Bath.

How to Write a Heroine

Jennifer Becton, author of the Austen novels Charlotte Collins and Caroline Bingley and the Southern Fraud thrillers Absolute Liability and Death Benefits, is guest posting today. I asked her to explain a little of the similarities and differences between writing historical and contemporary novels.

Writing Heroines: Historical versus Modern

Whether a book is set in historical or modern times, people expect to meet interesting character inside. Some historical heroines are amusing, smart, and kind, like Elizabeth Bennet, and some are beautiful, intelligent, and well, a bit less than kind, like Scarlett O’Hara. Modern heroines can be tough, gun-wielding crime fighters, like Anita Blake, or bumbling but brave, like Stephanie Plum.

But each character is influenced by her historical context. For example, Jane Austen wrote Elizabeth Bennet as a strong female character in Pride and Prejudice, but Lizzie was strong within her context. She didn’t wield a gun or even engage in any swordplay. She engaged in battles in drawing rooms and on dance floors. Her quest? To marry only for love and, with any luck, to fall in love with a gentleman of good fortune so that she could live comfortably.

Yet Lizzie was also ahead of her time. Unlike her friend Charlotte Lucas, she was completely unwilling to marry a gentleman she didn’t love just for the sake of money. She refused to marry the buffoon Mr. Collins even though it meant the preservation of her family home for her mother and sisters. Elizbeth also shared her opinions and spoke boldly; she knew her own mind. She objected to society’s pressure to marry only for financial gain, but she didn’t lead a political crusade to change matters. She did, however, use her own inner strength to refuse to allow society’s mores to dictate her life completely. And there is true power in that.

Just because Elizabeth wasn’t out to change the course of human history by righting all the wrongs of Regency society, that doesn’t mean she wasn’t a strong or interesting character. It only means that she lived within her historical context. As modern writers, it can be difficult to create a character who is truly within her historical context and not influenced too much by modern life and thought. So how do we strike the right balance of historical context and strength of character?

The key is remembering what true strength of character is. It means being true to one’s beliefs and acting as one sees fit regardless of the consequences. Whether you are writing a historical romance, like Caroline Bingley, or a modern thriller, like Absolute Liability, create a heroine with a strong morality (or amorality in some cases) and look for the ways it comes into conflict with her everyday life. That may lead your heroine into the halls of congress to fight for her beliefs, but it may also lead her on a more personal, intimate quest to fight for those closest to her. Elizabeth Bennet may not have been the first suffragette, but she did completely change the course of her sister Jane’s life, and that is important too because great societal change can only happen when the hearts and minds of individuals are changed.

Jennifer Becton writes historical fiction and thrillers, including Charlotte Collins, Caroline Bingley, Absolute Liability, and Death Benefits. At Fault (Southern Fraud 3) will be out in 2012.

Guest Post and Giveaway: Linda Wells

Jane Made Me Write!

If, in the autumn of 2007 when I started joining story sites dedicated to Jane Austen Fan Fiction, somebody would have told me that in the spring of 2012 I would impulsively Google my name and discover that something I wrote (WROTE?  ME???) was not only for sale, but in the top ten list for “Hot New Reads” in Regency Romance on Amazon.com, I would have given her an incredulous stare worthy enough of Fitzwilliam Darcy attempting to quell the endless nattering of Mr. Collins at the Netherfield Ball.   The last thing I had written that was not an environmental permit to construct a new solid waste facility was my term paper for Geography 404 at Penn State.   And while that had elements of storytelling about it, Regency romance it most certainly was not.  But here I am; a self-published author.

I guess that I bring this up to ask a question.  What drives otherwise contented readers to pick up their pens and start writing?  Is it an outlet for their imaginations?  A desire to fulfill an empty part of their lives by imagining characters doing what they can or dare not?  Are they exorcising demons:  bad relationships, bad parents, bad experiences?  Is writing a form of therapy?

I’m the first to admit that I have certainly put a lot of “what I know” into my stories, but that is what makes writing JAFF so fascinating.  Here was Jane Austen, two hundred years ago, writing the exact same emotions that I write about today.  She captured the essence of human nature in her characters, and because of that, these people live and breathe in our imaginations as clearly as the people who surround us in our lives today.  She gave us the template for love stories and happily ever after.  I suppose that is why taking her characters and making them my own was so irresistible.

Why I write has evolved since my first story.  At first it was a desire to contribute to the community I loved and perhaps just a bit of a desire to prove that I could do a credible job.  It was undeniably an escape from real life.  But as each of my personal experiences are thoroughly aired out by my characters, I find that I am now facing that blank page with a clean slate.  I am finally free to see what I can truly do on my own; well . . . what my characters will let me do on my own.  I guess that the next big step would be to walk away from the comfort zone of JAFF and just see what happens.  Not that I’m about to, I love Darcy and Elizabeth way too much, but the elements of Jane Austen will always be there no matter what I do.  The lovers, the friends, the family, the bad guys, whoever they are, human nature remains the same.  I am grateful that Jane Austen was there to do it first, and I am grateful that her courage to write and publish inspired me to try, too.

So.  Are you willing to give it a try?  Is there a kernel of an idea in your head that suddenly, somehow takes over every free moment of your life?  Are you brave enough to share it with the world?  I didn’t mean to sell my first book.  I just wanted a nice copy of the story I had written and found a website that printed them.  You just never know what might come of it.  I’ll thank Jane Austen for inspiring me.

If you are interested in seeing what Jane made me do, I hope you might enjoy my newest story, Imperative.

Author page at Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Linda-Wells/e/B001HO7GTQ

I am always happy to hear from people on my author page.  I am also on Facebook, and welcome emails to lindawellsbooknut@gmail.com

 

Giveaway: Linda has graciously offered the following giveaway to readers of my blog:

If the winner is international: The complete set of her books in ebook form.

If the winner is from the US or Canada: EITHER the complete set of ebooks, OR the first volume in paperback.

To enter:

1) Comment on this post, sharing something you’ve been inspired to do after reading a book.

2) Tweet up to once daily about the giveaway, using the following tweet: Enter to win Linda Wells’ reimaging of Pride and Prejudice on @Nancy_Kelley’s blog: http://nancykelleywrites.com/?p=214 #JaneAusten

3) Friend Linda on Facebook.

4) Post about this giveaway on Facebook.

Giveaway is open to all readers and will close at 11:59 PM PDT on April 10, 2012.

 

The ebooks are available at Amazon (worldwide sites) and Barnes and Noble.

The paper books are available only at Amazon.

Guest Post: Jessica Grey

Image 2
Good Guy Heroes – Are They Still a Thing?

The best thing about writing novels is getting to create your own heroes.  My Fairytale Trilogy series has female protagonists and they are awesome and so much fun to write, but there is something beyond fun about creating perfect (for them) heroes.  Of course each hero should be strong, complex characters on their own…and hot.  “Hot” helps too.  Never underestimate the power of “hot.”

“’He is also handsome,’ replied Elizabeth, ‘which a young man ought likewise to be, if he possibly can.  His character is thereby complete.’” – Pride and Prejudice.

The problem with writing heroes is they need a character arc.  They need to develop, or learn something, yadda yadda.  This writing conundrum has lead to a rise in what I call the “Bad Guy Hero.”  There are several subsections of Bad Guy Heroes.  Examples include the Reformed Rake, Vampires or Other Mystical Beings Generally Considered Evil-ish, the Self-Centered Tycoon, and the Pirate/Thief, just to name a few. Invariably these Bad Guy Heroes are discovered to have a Heart of Gold and/or their perfectly normal heart is gold-i-fied by love for the heroine.

The Bad Guy Hero is not necessarily a new invention, nor is he necessarily just straight up bad.  He may just need some polishing, or to realize the Error Of His Ways.  In my opinion, Mr. Darcy is the original Bad Guy Hero (and by original I don’t necessarily mean first, but most definitely the most influential in a literary context).  He isn’t evil, or a thief, nor does he suck anyone’s blood, but he does fall a bit into the Self-Centered Tycoon archetype.  He was given “good principles” after all, but he just doesn’t follow them quite the right way until he meets and falls in love with Elizabeth who shows him – wait for it – The Error Of His Ways.

There is a reason why the Bad Guy Hero is a thing.  They’re fun to write, they’re fun to read, they’re fun to watch on screen (Han Solo anyone?).  The second book in my Fairytale Trilogy, Atone: A Fairytale, has a Bad Guy Hero – I mean, it kind of has to, it’s an adaptation of Beauty and the Beast after all – and it is is heaps of fun to write the

interactions between the soon-to-be-almost-but-not-quite-a-”hero” and the heroine.

I have to confess, however, that I have a huge soft spot for the often overlooked Good Guy Hero.  What if the hero wasn’t a baddie to start?  What if he started out as a goodie?  Gasp!  What if, and here is where some people look at me as if I’ve lost my marbles, what if he was a Skywalker and not a Solo?
Or maybe a Clark Kent?
There is something about a guy with inherent goodness, especially one that is comfortable being a good guy, that just ups the hotness factor in my book.  The problem with Good Guy Heroes for writers is there isn’t quite as much room for a character arc.  If he starts out good, you don’t have the easiest path of character growth open to you.  And you also have the “if he’s totally hot, and totally awesome, why is the heroine NOT with him at the start of the book.  Is she dumb as a rock?” problem.  This requires a bit more elbow grease in relationship development, but a hottie Good Guy Hero can be a pretty powerful force in a novel.  This is why I am such a desperately committed Team Peeta member (if you haven’t read The Hunger Games, please stop reading this post and go start the first book now).

Just because a Good Guy Hero starts out good, doesn’t mean he can’t grow.  He can go through trials, learn, and change.  He just does it with in the context of not being a jerk to start off with.  Peeta in the Hunger Games, definitely grows as a character.  He goes through some major crap, but within those trials he desperately tries to hang on to the truth that he is a Good Guy Hero, even with though everyone is trying to rip that truth away from him.

Just for fun, I made my hero in Awake: A Fairytale not only a good guy hero to start with, but unconscious for most of the book.  You know, cause I just like to up the difficult quotient for myself.  Some may argue that my Good Guy Hero, Luke Reed (yes, quite possibly named after Luke Skywalker, first crushes die hard my dears), doesn’t have much of a character/growth arc.  He’s a Good Guy Hero (and a total hottie) at the beginning of the book, then he’s knocked out by a magical curse, and at the end he’s still a Good Guy Hero.  This is something I struggled with while I was writing him.  I wanted him to grow as a character, even if it was subtle growth WHILE unconscious…and to reference some previous “right before the novel starts” growth.  Did I succeed in making a character who is asleep most of the book into a valid, Good Guy Hero worthy of a heroine who undergoes quite a bit of growth on her own?  You’ll have to read it and let me know! (See what I did there?  It’s called “a plug,” people and I can just feel it working it’s magic on you right now).

So, to sum up: I love me a Bad Guy Hero with wonderful growth and character arc and “Omg I love that girl and therefore I realize The Error Of My Ways” moments.  They make for some dishy heroes.  But if you really want to make me sigh, give me a Good Guy Hero.  Give me a Peeta, or a Clark Kent, or in my case, a Luke Reed.  Good doesn’t have to be annoying, or whiny (I hear you all of you Luke Skywalker haters), or uptight.  It can be honorable and dashing.  It can be sweet and honest.  It can be super, uber hot.

What about you?  Do you prefer the reformed Bad Guy Heroes or do you prefer a hero that starts out good?

Want to win a copy of Awake: A Fairytale with its hot good guy hero? Jessica has offered one paperback copy to a lucky reader.

To enter:

1) Follow Jessica’s blog. (All links below)

2) Follow Jessica on Twitter.

3) Follow Jessica on Facebook.

4) Share a link to the giveaway on Facebook.

5) Tweet (up to once daily) about the giveaway, using the following tweet: Love fairytales with hot, good guy princes? Enter to win Awake: A Fairytale by @_JessicaGrey  http://ow.ly/9Mu0T via @Nancy_Kelley

Giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada until March 28 at 11:59 PDT. Winner will be chosen randomly and announced in a separate post.

Bio:


Jessica Grey is an author, fairytale believer, baseball lover, and recovering Star Wars fangirl.  A life-long Californian, she now lives in Montana with her husband, Edward, and two children, Maddie and James, where she spends her time writing, perfecting the fine art of toddler-wrangling, and drinking way too much caffeine.

Guest Post: Haley Whitehall

half free

Does Money Bring Happiness?

By Haley Whitehall

It is an age old question. Does money bring happiness? If you have more money will you be happier?  Studies have shown that having more money, beyond what is required for the basic needs of life (food, clothing, and shelter) do not make us any happier.

In His Good Opinion money was one of the deciding factors for creating and breaking up several potential marriages. Do you dream about being as rich as Mr. Darcy? I often dream about winning the lottery. If I didn’t have to worry about money, I could go on vacations, buy a big house (big enough for a wall to wall bookcase. I really need one of those!) I could do in person research for my novels — I am really looking forward to going toGettysburg one day. Best of all, I could have a live in editor… oh that has possibilities. I’m sure my productivity would skyrocket.

While studies have shown that people in the middle class are not happier with more money, there are plenty of other people below the poverty line who are struggling to feed, clothe, and provide shelter for their families. In my debut historical fiction novel Living Half Free another basic need of life is added to that list: the need for freedom.

Zachariah, a naïve mulatto slave, is sold to a Kentucky slave trader, and separated from his ma and sister, and realizes the true meaning of not having rights. Seeking escape, he falls in love with a Cherokee woman, under whose direction he learns to pass as white. With the help of the woman and her family, he puts on the pretense of having money. He gets his own log cabin. Being provided with fine food, he is no longer hungry. He wears the clothes of not only a white man — but of a gentleman. But is he truly happy? No. He wants more. And now that these basic needs are met he worries over smaller concerns such as an unwritten speech or a poorly pressed shirt.

Even with his poor roots, he falls into the trap. Have you fallen into the trap? Are you happy with your life? Are you content with what you have?

This YouTube video got me thinking, and inspired this post. I hope it gets you thinking too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2p5svFJ9cQ

Giveaway!

Haley has generously provided an ebook copy of her book for my readers. You have multiple ways to enter this giveaway:

1. Comment on this post.

2. Tweet (up to once daily) about the giveaway, using the following tweet. Love historical fiction? Enter to win a copy of Living Half Free by @HaleyWhitehall: http://ow.ly/9vB5r via @Nancy_Kelley

3. Follow @HaleyWhitehall on Twitter.

4. Follow Haley on Facebook.

Make sure you comment for every entry.

Giveaway is closed.

Giveaway ends March 13th at 11:59 PM.

HALEY WHITEHALL has a B.A in history and has been studying the Civil War era since the 5th grade. She likes to write out of the box stories that feature an underdog. LIVING HALF FREE is her debut novel. Released February 29, the ebook can be found at Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords. Find out more about Haley through her website or connect with her on Twitter @HaleyWhitehall or Facebook.

His Good Opinion Blog Tour

I’m a little tardy in posting this, and I apologize. So many of my fellow bloggers have reviewed His Good Opinion or posted interviews. I will keep this list updated from here on, with newer posts at the top of the list.

Active Giveaways:
Honestly…
My Jane Austen Book Club
Author Jessica Grey

Reviews:
Indiejane
So Little Time…
Love Letters to the Library
Comedy or Tragedy?
A Word’s Worth

Guest Blogs/Interviews:

Introducing Shannon Winslow, Austenesque Author

Today I invited Shannon Winslow, author of The Darcys of Pemberley, to guest blog. (See my review on Indiejane.) Please also check out her blog and follow her on Twitter–she’s a great asset to our Jane Austen community.

Thank you, Nancy, for inviting me to guest blog for your readers. I love making connections with other fans of Jane Austen, and talking about how I happened to write my first novel, The Darcys of Pemberley.

I was as surprised as anyone that I should turn out to be a novelist. You see, although I’d dabbled in other creative mediums (music, art), I’d never given any serious thought to writing. Besides, I had a practical career, a house and husband to look after, and two sons to raise. I barely had time to read a book, let alone write one.

Then about eight years ago, I discovered Pride and Prejudice and simply fell in love – with the beautiful story, with Darcy and Elizabeth, with the elegant period language, and with Jane’s witty writing style. I couldn’t get enough. It became my passion – or arguably, my obsession. Still, it might easily have amounted to no more than yearly rereads of the novel and countless watchings of the ’95 film adaptation.

Undertaking a huge creative project, like writing a first novel, requires a ton of inspiration (which I had, thanks to Jane Austen), but also a major dose of motivation. I found mine in an unexpected place: in the first Pride and Prejudice sequel I stumbled upon.

I’m fascinated with the “what ifs” of life. What if this had happened instead of that? What if I had turned right instead of left at the crossroads? These questions play a significant role in my second novel, and serve as the central theme for my third (both yet to be published). They also apply to my life, and to my writing career in particular.

What if I’d resisted the impulse to buy that movie at Costco years ago, the one with Colin Firth’s handsome face on the cover? Would I have ever discovered Pride and Prejudice? I don’t know. But I’m pretty sure that if I had loved that first sequel (a book praised by many other JA fans), if it had been everything I was personally looking for, I never would have written a sequel of my own.

I wrote The Darcys of Pemberley, first and foremost, to satisfy my own longing to continue the story the way I thought Jane Austen would have done herself, to spend more time with her characters and in their world. In the process, I discovered another passion – a passion for writing that has changed my life.