With most of my books now hitting virtual bookshelves outside Amazon, I’m excited about expanding to new audiences. But with a lot of the work of setting up this new distribution out of the way, I'll switch gears. This time the focus is on the vintage-era drama Bellevere House and Horace Carter. Anyone familiar with Jane Austen at all knows this character is based on Henry Crawford from Mansfield Park. (After all, the first letters of their names are the same!)
Everyone loves the drive Henry brings to the plot and I really enjoyed turning him into Horace Carter. Horace was just a great person to write about, because he’s so entertaining. Like Henry, he’s the sort of type you love to see in a book—debonair, a little bad-boy, perhaps quite flawed, but ultimately has a good heart. I’m not sure that person is quite realistic, but he’s what makes novels so great. I wanted to give him and Maria a happy ending because I just couldn’t stand for him to be sad at the end—but of course he shouldn’t end up with Fanny/Faye.
Besides, Horace deserves some gratitude for all that he offers the story. He’s a perfect side character and almost embodies the guy who just missed being the hero. But without him the book would almost fall apart and would be a good deal less fun. Sometimes if we look at someone’s flaws too much—even if those flaws are real—we can overlook their good qualities and we shouldn’t. There’s more to almost everyone than meets the eye.
And there will be more updates.
Although I'm planning to focus on other projects for the time being, I did do a mild tweak to Bellevere that pared it down just a hair and removed the contemporary version as not necessary. I'm still working with the cover and I will do a brief post on Faye, 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. 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. In reality, 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 in the end wasn’t a remake or a retelling. It was 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 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.
Pleasant Fiction in an Age of Noise
This blog serves as the newsletter for Sarah Scheele.com. Posts are delivered to your inbox every Saturday. For fast subscription instead of visiting a link to another website, fill out the form below and you will receive the 9-Chapter Sampler shown above, in PDF. To get the book in Epub or Mobi formats you will need to use the external link above.
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.