Bellevere House is a reworking of a classic novel (Mansfield Park) and the source material has a sizable influence on what plots and characters appear in the book. The original book is a soap opera in which the characters run a pretty big gamut of situations. Like all Jane Austen's novels, knotted family situations and complex romantic character development are given free rein to grow, and Mansfield Park is by nature a complicated type of story. Austen's fearlessness encouraged me to examine situations I hadn't written about before and took me out of my usual storytelling to broaden my writing.
After I worked with them, these Central Five Characters became a little bit mine as well as Austen’s. But you can definitely still recognize that they were once hers.
Uncle Warren is the head of the Haverton family. He is unusually wealthy for the Depression era and is sometimes a threatening figure to others, since he is rather self-centered and motivated by what he feels is a “bigger picture” instead of individual feelings. While far from the world's best dad, he does genuinely try to be involved with his children's lives—like Sir Thomas, who is an imperfect but often misunderstood Austen father.
Aunt Cora is the middle-aged sister of Uncle Warren’s wife. She lives with the Haverton family and spends all her time doing—well, basically nothing. In the past, she was a devious and active woman who got situated around her rich relatives. She was also very much full of herself and now she doesn't quite know when to stop getting on people's nerves, which makes her a really funny character.
Horace was inspired by Henry Crawford, one of Austen’s most dashing and frustrating characters. It’s understandable why the talented young Henry has wowed whole generations of fans, but he has real limitations that contribute to his demise. In Bellevere, Horace Carter embraces religion as a path to gain social acceptance after moral transgressions, sharing Henry’s inability to quite understand those he wishes to be near.
Faye is Uncle Warren’s niece. A quiet young woman, she comes from a poor family and while she's not angsty about it, she acknowledges the social reality of her position and gains from being useful to those around her. Otherwise, she has few opinions on the lives of others, simply trying to deal with opportunities or challenges as they present themselves. But you certainly shouldn't make her mad, as her cousin Ed finds out when awkward efforts to flirt with her by being rude backfire.
Jane Watson appears as a thread in all the VJA retellings. She’s a concept of what Austen might have been like had she lived in the 1930s and although she only appears for a couple of scenes in Bellevere, she is very meaningful. The variations on her differ from book to book, but all agree that she is a strong person and keenly observant without being petty. Family, community, and feminism are all important qualities to her and her work as a journalist makes her objective.
And there will be more updates.
This Merry Summertime was published just a couple of months ago, but in some ways it’s an older book because most of the stories in it are between 6 and 8 years old. I call it my “missing piece,” for two reasons: It rounds out my publications to an even 10; and it finalizes everything I’ve made public, in whatever form, into a formal publication. The stories in this anthology were aired briefly on my blog once upon a time, but I got busy with other things and it was years before I knew these missing pieces were just as much a part of my writing as the ones that had been in print for a long time.
And that being the case, they should be given a paperback, a share of attention, and a list of Five Central Characters that bring focus to This Merry Summertime:
Queen Arangiphaten is a comedy character, a legendary Egyptian mummy who has resurrected, and at times a very ordinary woman. She’s all star power, royal swagger, and haughty dignity—plus she’s quite adept at harnessing moonlight into cheesy lightning. But behind her efforts to protect her ancient monument from vampires and American teenagers, she is a woman who just wants to spend time with the man she was married to for a thousand years.
Count Rousillion, also known as Bertram, is a man who astounds with his inattention to reality. "In the End the Story Ended" is a retelling of one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays and Bertram is based on the hero. He is unable to rise to the occasion. No matter what the occasion is, and no matter how much we’d like to sympathize with him as he is hounded by a creep—Bertram seems incompetent at living life.
Mr. Marcus Stone is the director of a children’s movie that has spun off from a popular TV series. Fussy, strict, and usually angry, he is not pleased at all when twins Hal and Hetty accidentally crash his movie more than once. Since they’re not in school, they got mixed up with his actors instead and while Mr. Stone doesn’t hesitate to express his displeasure, he keeps running into their family. Every time he believes it will be the last time, but it never is.
Nora Ashford is an attractive young actress in Regency England. "The Destiny of Princes" imitates vintage-era historical films, with elaborate costumes and descriptions of silly, over-the-top acting, so Nora’s demeanor is part vintage, part Regency and all swoon, creating a myriad of stagy poses, hysterical sobbing, and melodramatic situations as she tries to impress smug, fastidious Beau Brummel while the Prince Regent and his minions pursue her.
Mrs. Dimwit is a confidential friend of the Heroine in "A Matter of Life and Hair." Contrary to what her name suggests, she's actually very astute. But as a woman in later middle age living in a slightly-pretty western town, she enjoys her life very much. She is unambitious and feels she’s exactly where she wants to be, so she can be gently insensitive to the feelings of others and surprise them with statements that are tactless or odd. This occasional thoughtlessness contributes to the comedy, but she is respected by everyone, especially by the Heroine--who never hesitates to take her advice.
And there will be more updates.
Ryan and Essie is a children’s story that started with some drafts written when I was quite young. Of course, that original story got a substantial polish by the time I returned to the manuscript about twenty years later. But the idea of two children who are pushed together by a larger world that wants them to team up was what always defined the book, from the childish draft into the finished story that built itself around Ryan and Essie’s incompatibility. At times this space adventure and its world-building of the planet of Caricanus show evidence of a young mind learning to tell a story. But I wouldn’t be the first author to complete an idea that they discovered in early writing years and the two protagonists do have a vividness that tugged me back into finishing their story after putting it aside for so many years.
So for the Five Central Characters that bring focus to this weird, but special little story. Since Ryan and Essie are both critical to the book, I’ve foregone both of them so neither one gets favored. So these FCC characters explore the world that wants these kids to work together so badly.
Prince Alavtar is the son of a king who rules a hidden castle built out of diamonds. It is the only castle in the eastern and middle part of the planet that wasn’t wiped out by an ancient war and it remains a hidden sanctuary. Alavtar is Essie’s first friend in the planet, but he is a sensitive and at times emotional young man who becomes vehement and negative when her unfamiliarity with the planet causes his friend Crissy to die.
Lyssia is a dishonest, backstabbing girl who is going nowhere in her life. She works as a henchman for the villainous King Karpalff who rules most of the southern part of the planet, but she has one gift—she can shape-shift. Befriending Ryan immediately in the deserted caves around the ruined ruby castle, she takes advantage of his ignorance to rope him into Karpalff’s service. It’s only at the end that Ryan learns she’s not even human.
Princess Tarvelas is a brilliantly gifted young lady with wisdom that makes her seem far older. She lives in the emerald castle on the western side of the world and is deeply connected to the spiritual side of the Caricanus universe. They worship a deity called Trisagion and Tarvelas has rare direct access to him. A reclusive and intense person, she accepts death and betrayal from Ryan as she is trying to teach him about the planet, rather than ever let go of her ideals.
Viltan is a drifting scavenger who seems to pride himself on being disloyal to everyone. He comes from the galactic world outside of Caricanus—it’s one of many inhabited planets far from Earth—and assists confused Ryan with tasks from Karpalff. Self-absorbed and ostentatiously distant, Viltan refuses to adopt the thinking of the bickering Caricanan castle-states and shows that by trying to work for them all.
Princess Kalvarina is from the pearl castle. Her home is isolated and remote, locked in an endless war with a northern king who is loosely allied to Karpalff. A young warrior who keeps her feelings to herself, Kalvarina is Tarvelas’s cousin and shares a close bond with her. But her home life leaves her bitter and always hungry for affirmation and certainty, as her mother is unkind to her and favors her brother all the time.
And there will be more updates
Pleasant Fiction in an Age of Noise
I write peaceful stories with happy endings. When I started writing, I wanted to write the kind of books I like to read. I wanted them to be upbeat and friendly books that make you feel like you're being whisked off on an adventure with friends. And there's also a purposefulness in that because many stories already written miss out on a great deal of what people experience every day.
Join the weekly newsletter and get This Merry Summertime: An Anthology Celebrating Family, Fantasy, and Young Women (short stories, comedy) as a signup gift! Click the book image below to get started! + Get a free sampler of first chapters from 9 other books in the welcome email.
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.