Monday, June 21, 2010

Mid-Summer Madness

Happy Solstice everyone.

And pomp, and feast, and revelry,
With mask, and antique pageantry,
Such sights as youthful poets dream
On summer eves by haunted stream.

—John Milton (1608–1674) L'Allegro (1631)

Misty over at BookRat has pulled two names out of the hat and I will be sending Stella and Sarah each a signed copy of Intimations of Austen.

Thanks to everyone who signed up to win a copy of my Austen-inspired short stories.

If you're wondering about them, below is a brief synopsis of each and here's a link to Misty's recent review of the book.

Rainbow around the Moon

This is one of the shortest stories in the collection and is a first-person narrative by the daughter of Captain and Anne Eliot Wentworth. Many find it hauntingly beautiful, many find it desperately sad, many find it peaceful and reassuring. I loved writing it. I was driving to work one morning and the opening line, "My father watches the sky" popped into my head. By the time I had finished my commute, I knew that I would be writing a Persuasion story that night. I also remember how much fun I had researching all the expressions that sailors use in predicting weather, starting with the most sky at morning, sailors take warning.

The Last Baby

Regarding Austen characters we love to hate, this is one of my favorite stories because it evokes such strong response from readers. It is a Pride and Prejudice-inspired story, a sequel and prequel wrapped up together, and Mrs. Bennet is the heroine! Again, the story began with an opening line that demanded a story be written around it: "My arms are empty."

Bird of Paradise

Once again, this is one of my favorites because so many readers tell me that they absolutely love seeing Fanny Price with an unambiguously happy future. This story begins with the wedding of Fanny and her cousin, Edmund Bertram, and goes gothic when Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca tries to steal the scene. I loved writing it and researching flowers that take awhile to bloom, but when they do, they do so gloriously. One of my favorite Austen critics has written about how Fanny is one of the most passionate of all Austen heroines, and I wanted to find a story and symbolism that would capture that passion she hid so well while under her Aunt Norris's thumb at Mansfield Park.

All I Do

By far the longest of the stories in this collection, this is a what-if Pride and Prejudice-inspired story that is angst ridden and forces the characters and the readers to address a moral dilemma that has no easy answer. Most readers love this story, but a few are seriously troubled by it. As a writer, I wrestled with the same question that Darcy wrestles with--how can I rid myself of this obligation without compromising my integrity. The story takes place twenty years after Austen's P&P closes, and it was immensely satisfying to write about a mature Elizabeth in middle age. The inspiration for Colonel Fitzwilliam's burial place in this story was Princess Diana's--her death, though it happened several years before I wrote this story, was still fresh in my mind.

Three Sisters

This story was once described as the anti-Persuasion. I won't give away the one-two punch at the end by telling you which Austen novel it's really about, but suffice it to say, I always rather thought that Lady Russell has gotten a bad rap all these years and that she may have had point that Anne Eliot and Austen readers don't like to acknowledge.

The Color of Love

I thought about this story for years before I sat down to write it. One of my brothers sent me an article about synesthesia, a neurologically based condition in which one sensory path is crossed with another. There are many varieties of synesthesia, and one that I read about involved reading in color. I found in this a way to explore Darcy's struggle to reconcile his love for Elizabeth Bennet with his own sense of self and family. This story parallels the action of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, but is told entirely from Darcy's perspective as a synesthete.

When Fates Conspire

The last story I wrote for the collection and different from most of the others in tone. This Persuasion story focuses on Captain Wentworth as he approaches Kellynch Hall to visit his sister and her husband. I was in a fanciful mood when I sat down to write this story, and when I got to wondering just what those Fates who play with our fate really look like and sound like pure fancy struck my pen.

Remember That We Are English

A Northanger Abbey story that explores how Henry felt knowing that his father was entirely mistaken about Catherine Morland's family and prospects. One of the threads that runs through most of my stories is that the natural world can heal wounded spirits if you seek solace and wisdom in it, and in this story that thread is given center stage.

Heaven Can Wait

This story was written as the dénouement for a longer work on Marianne Dashwood, post Sense and Sensibility, but I came to love Gideon Hayes, Jane Bennet's original suitor, so much that I had to share it in this collection. Again, this story blends the magic inherent in nature with a character's struggle to move forward, grow, and live and love. I shamelessly borrowed the title from that cute Warren Beatty movie from 1978.


  1. Bird of Paradise is my absolute favourite, Jane - but then Mansfield Park is my favourite Austen novel, and I love the way you combined elements from Rebecca but also Jane Austen's real-life glamourous French cousin.

    And I love the picture you've used to illustrate the top of this page!

  2. Tracy - thanks for the comment on Bird of Paradise. It's so interesting how MP evokes such different responses from people. BTW, here's the link where I found that fabulous midsummer image I used: I really love his fantasy prints.

  3. Thanks for the link - they are good!

    MP is one of those books that people either love or hate, and all because the heroine is completely unlike any other JA heroine - she's so passive.