Although I’m planning to dismiss arguing about Bellevere for the time being, I will post on Faye a bit, because I think people were surprised by the way I showed this character. Not as different from Jane Austen’s Fanny Price, because remakes often try to make her less shy and less forgiving. But because I showed her in a particular way.
There is no hidden story beneath what I did in Bellevere House. Faye is not intended to support a subversive, disobedient attitude that pretends friendliness, but is actually hostile. (In contrast to the original Fanny Price. And to the rest of the VJA, in which authority and older people were always obeyed and shown very favorably.) I felt that what makes Fanny Price different from Austen’s other heroines is not her dependent social position—more than any of them have—but her approach to it. She is loyal, passive, and accepting of most things in her life. I wanted to make Fanny like the rest of her heroines and show the social situation wasn’t what caused the blip of Fanny Price—it was the author’s decision to show a specific personality. Fanny could easily have been just like her other heroines.
But a lot of people come to Mansfield Park with issues of authority in mind. They believe Fanny is a person who lives under authority of her aunt and uncle and that Sir Thomas is an authoritarian, landowning man who also treats his children this way. In contrast, Faye is always very detached and clearly views herself as superior to those around her, so much so she is actually tolerant of them. Readers who are interested in Mansfield Park because they think it upholds a staid, authority-driven local structure—being inroaded by the Crawfords' sexual honesty--might imagine I was attacking authority and using Faye to do it. Faye doesn’t care about that at all. She is intelligent, can be cutting or cynical at times, enjoys socializing but keeps aloof in a way—like most of Austen’s heroines. And the story I wrote is nothing but a bubbly surface of fun, a little cynicism, and a party of shallow young people that we’re all too cheerful to hate. A formula that isn’t entirely unfamiliar either when speaking of Jane Austen.
So perhaps Bellevere wasn’t a remake or a retelling. It became its own story, a different book from Mansfield Park. It deserves to be read as that, for what it is, rather than through a lens of seeing nonexistent undercurrents from the original book or the several movie adaptations. But it wasn’t read that way and by now I don’t care if it was. I just want to clarify what I believed was in the story.
And there will be more updates.
One issue that any storyteller will encounter in the book market these days is deceptiveness. I’m not speaking of cloudy interactions with other authors, insincere networking, and unclear feedback. I’m speaking of the way stories are actually written. Far too many readers are used to seeing a “real” story laced under the surface of the so-called narrative. They push aside the story on the surface and automatically reinterpret to find the content they believe is hidden.
This can be legitimate if the author actually intended it that way. But not every book is this way and such thinking easily becomes aggressive, pushing what is stated to be there aside in favor of what you’re sure you see. People who become accustomed to this approach will start simply imagining there must be a “real” story beneath anything they come across.
They will start to read The Book That Isn’t There.
This has often happened with my books because the whole point of them is to make things clear, to make the story simple so we all know what we’re talking about. But if you’re used to reading this way, you’ll automatically dismiss what I’m saying and start getting into a very murky kind of creativity. I couldn’t possibly have simply written a story to read. I MUST be hiding something. If I say Bella in Victoria: A Tale of Spain is sad and lonely because her parents don’t like her personality, I must have really said they have been trying to force her into an arranged marriage but won’t admit it and the other sisters don’t know this.
But that isn’t what I said. It simply isn’t. People who don’t read my books as straightforwardly as a child would are reading The Book That Isn’t There. What you see really is what you get. I am up to literally nothing. If you think my book is boring, that’s because you really think it is boring. It’s not that there’s a hidden plot underneath that would make it more interesting to you and you don’t know WHY I’m not developing that plot. It’s not because I don’t know how to write my book and if you asked me little personal questions about it perhaps you could get me to admit the story underneath. It’s because you don’t know how to read my book and are trying to make it another book.
A Book That Isn’t There.
And there will be more updates.
The rewrite of Victoria took off after I worked with the old Alyce manuscript. When transferring Alyce to Spain, it slowly merged into Victoria until the two became one. I changed Alyce’s name to Victoria, changed other character names to blend in, and voila! A perfect answer to all the endless riddles of “what to do with Alyce.”
As the second half of Victoria’s story, “Alyce” takes Victoria on a lighter-hearted tone that balances the opening and expands the world. More than that, giving her Alyce’s adventures and a quick tie-in to the Hirado for continuity developed Victoria’s character hugely. She actually seemed to learn from her earlier adventures and the second half shows her applying the skills she learned in the first. This gave the story of Victoria what I’d always been worried it lacked—a point.
The only differences are: some areas in which Alyce was a Cinderella figure—which was hard to work in once I blended her with Victoria, a duke’s daughter. (But the “Mrs. Codge” character was preserved in a few moments as a greedy, funny woman named Duchess Almezia.); and some of the “fake-history” politics of the end of Alyce. Moving it to a real country made many of these null.
The longer, extended Victoria should be available soon, I hope.
And there will be more updates.
I live surrounded by cultivated fields that rapidly give way to wild flowers, wild plants, and wild life. I get most of my ideas while drifting innocuously around my house and some of those ideas get into print.