One of the highlights of each Vintage Jane Austen book, of course, is the moment when the cameo character “Jane Watson” walks into the pages. She’s based on Jane Austen and is a journalist in the 1930s. It was a pleasure to bring her to life in Bellevere and what was more amazing was that each author showed her so differently in their books. I guess Jane Austen fascinates people because each person sees something different in her. The only thing they agree on is that she is seriously cool. Even though some of the hype and the endless rehashes of her work and biography can get a little spun out, in the end everyone loves them some JANE.
Jane offers something unique to world literature and her personal life is interesting too. Especially her close friendship with her sister Cassandra has always intrigued many people because they want to think there was someone in Jane’s life who really understood her, although I personally just never feel that spark in Cassandra that Jane has. But what is specific to Mansfield Park among Austen’s works is her relationship to Maria Bertram. No movie ever shows Maria the same way and people don’t seem to agree on what she’s like. I think Jane Austen knew a lot about this character but didn’t quite let on what she saw. Maybe Maria isn’t as simplistic, just greedy and filled with a wish for gratification with Henry, as people think. It’s just that Jane Austen didn’t tell us enough about her.
And in my book, “Jane Watson” spends all her time talking to Faye instead, while Myrtle (Maria) is in New York and Jane could have talked to her. This is true to the book, which is all about Fanny, while Maria lurks in the background. Many people find it hard to understand why she included Maria at all. But maybe that’s because we don’t know something about her that Jane did.
And there will be more updates.
This book has taken a long time to make it into my collection, but I'm finally going to be publishing it in a couple of months. it’s a really fun read that adds a lot, I believe. So I’m glad I moved it on into a more permanent position. I started writing it over 10 years ago, and about 8 years ago added the subplot of Betty Hilligan and her family to the initial idea of the Harrisons, 3 girls who had been educated at home and were now moving into the world. Betty added a lot of comedy to keep the story from getting too dull (social issues about homeschoolers is a topic that easily becomes tedious.) Her mother’s plot with Mr. Shotgun, which was created literally on the spur of the moment as I was writing rapidly, made me able to tie me in some of Letty’s adventures so all the storylines came full circle and interlocked together.
There’s a ton of local flavor and hints of daily life based on where I lived these earlier years of my own life in Texas. Small towns, country fields of corn and wheat, churches—even the college buildings are based on real places I went to constantly. I think the authentic hum of daily life is what really stands out about this book. While the characters are invented and not based—for the most part—on anyone I’ve ever known, the setting is real. It’s a place you can really sink into and live because it’s based on the places I knew.
What I hope would be a lasting impression from the book is the theme of being genuine and honest. It’s a story with real, ordinary situations, even if some of them are exaggerated for fictional effect, and I would like to think I talked honestly about those situations. What it’s actually like to go through them. Even if it’s topics that don’t come up in most people’s lives, like church politics, TV families, and getting framed for a blind date because you accidentally ran into someone popular, there’s a thread of emotional genuineness about how it really feels to deal with things. Honesty is fundamentally the only thing that gives relationships integrity and I think that shows in The Harrisons.
And there will be more updates.
Pleasant Fiction in an Age of Noise
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When I set about defining my books, I wanted them to be positive places where a gentleness emanated from the pages. A hopeful safety lies in gentleness and there's also an honesty to it. A whirlwind of pushy book blurbs and hot characters (or whatever type character the author wants you to admire) can conceal a reality underneath. A quiet--possibly even lurking--reality that's more visible if you dial down the volume. That lurking reality isn't necessarily bad, but like anything quiet, it gets drowned out by conflict and angst. Peaceful fiction can help explore the truth that noisy books ignore.
Bellevere House has been featured on Ezvid Wiki video "10 Wonderfully Inventive Retellings That Interpret Classic Stories in a New Way." Click to see the video.