Edmund Bertram was not the reason I did Mansfield Park. I'd never quite liked him--although I didn't care much and that was a good thing. I actually took Mansfield because its characters annoyed me the least. I preferred some of Austen's other novels as overall stories, but each of them had at least one major character that irritated me to pieces. Writing about those characters would be a problem, so I bypassed those books. Only two of them were options, but I would also have skipped the other three if they had been on the table. Edmund was the one character I didn't completely like in Mansfield Park, but he didn't drive me crazy.
The tricky thing was that he was a primary male character, so I couldn't minimize him. I planned for him to be an obligatory reference at first and early on I wrote more of a trite romance between Ed and Fanny (Faye) than currently appears in Bellevere because I felt he wasn't good for much else. But he sprang up large because he has a quite real, unexpected entertainment factor. In fact, his faults are what I began to enjoy about him. He doesn't have to be perfect or anywhere close to that in order to be a good character. He just has to be real--something that applies to Bellevere House as a whole. Its characters aren't whitewashed role models or even entirely rational, but from being a skeptic who had always had Austen in my face (not that I hated her, but my friends and family were way bigger fans) I've grown into loving her work. Bellevere is now my personal favorite of my books for plot and storyline. Not for characters, because that's Victoria: A Tale of Spain. But for narrative and that of course means I've put it above any of my own creative plots. To paraphrase John Dryden "I hope that in wrecking Jane Austen I have created an above-average self-published novel."
When I was evaluating my books, I began to reconsider Bellevere and Ed. Though he's unattractive at times, his absolute foolishness keeps him from being a boring character. He might even be funny as he drifts around trying to up his market value by being rude to the woman he actually likes and flirting with someone else. After all, what I've always tried to avoid was writing a boring book, not a bad one. And, thanks to Austen's vivid story arcs, this one will be worth reading no matter what I do with it. My first blurbs for the book, which feel almost cute since they were so long ago, said Ed was the one Faye would never admit she was in love with. I've discovered it's the opposite. Faye is the one Ed will never admit he's in love with. But since he is actually quite fond of her, it makes sense that he now spends most of the last chapter apologizing to her.😊
And there will be more updates.
Throughout the process of retelling Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park into the 1930s, I continually realized just how good this book really is. This is something that you might not expect because Mansfield Park is about people who have a truly flawed outlook on life. The negative relationships of the Bertram set superficially look like Austen’s other characters, who socialize a great deal and have a great deal to say about each other’s mistakes. But actually, Mansfield Park is about a different group of people from her other work, so it greatly interests readers even though it has never quite blended with her other books.
In Mansfield Park, Austen ventured out of storytelling that had worked very well for her in earlier novels like S&S and P&P and that she would return to in Emma. Instead of people who are delightfully human and foolish, the Bertrams have a bad way of viewing the world. In short, they really need to rethink their lives. Their motives are different from Austen’s other characters, many of whom are shallow or struggle with the shallowness of others. The Bertrams have a lot more wrong with them than that. There are occasional characters in the other novels to whom a rooted outlook on how to live--essentially a belief system--is important. But they are individuals and don't reflect the entire book. In Mansfield, philosophy is a way of life and it's not a good philosophy either.
Mary Crawford mentions that she’s shocked how interesting she found these people and how relevant they are since they live far from London, a center of intellectual thought and trends. There’s something about the people of Mansfield that locks you into their orbit and their fascinating, but flawed relationships. Even Fanny actually belongs at Mansfield, as she learns when she is sent back to live with her family. It’s not adjusting to a different style of living that’s hard for her. It’s because she has nothing in common with her birth family. She is a part of the Mansfield conversation—just not the same part that the others are.
Challenging a flawed worldview and the people who hold it while not ignoring the complexity that not all bad people are irredeemable (which is hard to show without seeming soft on wrongdoing) is always a courageous thing to do. While this book is generally viewed as only fairish in execution—and so are virtually all movies, remakes, and retellings of it, including mine—the fact Austen tried to write it is one of the things I like about her. It made me have great respect for her and that is why I chose this book to retell.
And there will be more updates.
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.
Pleasant Fiction in an Age of Noise
I write stories about human emotions--about the journey of life. Every step of it can be meaningfully great or simply terrible and you can only reach the end after experiencing many kinds of things that make you grow. Emotional travels are the travels of life and the road of living is not one planned out in notebooks or organized in Scrivener. It is felt in love, hope, and fear and developed through an understanding of why humans go through these. And, on top of that, my stories are adventure stories. History, fantasy, and daily modern situations are all adventures as long as you don't know for sure what's going to happen when you wake up each day. Because that would be like repeating the same day over and over again and who wants to do that?
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