As you guys know, I love Austen stories. So of course I was going to grab a bunch of Jane Austen Fan fiction (JAFF) writers for this year’s even. I was surprised how many there were in Ohio. So let’s take some time with one of the best known JAFF writers Regina Jeffers. Welcome!
As we celebrate those writers who bring us great joy, I thought it prudent to examine what makes “my” Jane Austen so popular, even after 200+ years. Austen’s influence proves that the past is always in the process of being reinvented. Over 800 continuations, retellings, adaptations, and sequels to Austen’s works have been produced by traditional and self-published authors.
In Ian Watt’s Rise of the Novel, the author says that Austen “combines the internal and external approaches to character, and she has authenticity without diffuseness or trickery. Austen offers a sense of social order, which is not achieved at the expense of individuality and autonomy of the characters.”
Repeatedly in interview questions, I am asked the proverbial question: Which historical figures would I invite to a dinner party? Along with Ernest Hemingway, George Custer, and Thomas Jefferson, Jane Austen would be at the top of my list. I am easily imagine a delightful evening, where I could sit close to Miss Austen and be privy to her observations on everyone in attendance. The two of us would take on the pompous meanderings of the gentlemen. I can imagine the pair of us avidly “people watching” and speculating on the driving forces behind some of history’s most fascinating personalities.
Needless to say, the woman who created some of our most beloved humorous and larger-than-life characters would surely possess incredible insights. I can see the two of us with our heads together. I would wryly interject my opinions. Among my friends, I am known for my dry, sarcastic wit, and I seriously believe that Jane would “get it,” and not only “get it,” she would appreciate my efforts.
But more so, I would adore the chance to thank Jane Austen for her lovely stories, for her casts of characters so real I feel I know them, and for her clear-eyed pictures of the world around her.
As we all know, Austen conveys life stories, which are small, but perfect. Her subjects are common, ordinary families. Our Jane sees things as they are and as they ought to be. Her happy endings translate the heroine’s moral assets into material ones.
So, what are some characteristics of Jane Austen’s writing that can be easily translated into modern times?
** Jane Austen wrote about the mundane, interior lives of deliberately commonplace characters. We all know people like the ones Austen described.
** Austen’s stories are filled with strong irony and rigorous social critique. She wrote about the social and political conditions of the world in which she lived.
** The ironic take on society is delivered in a reassuring, sisterly voice, which sucks the reader in. We think upon Jane/the narrator is the kind of person with whom we would willingly share secrets.
** Her works deal with the believable, timeless obstacles of class, money, and misunderstandings, which make her works adaptable to any era. Certain universal truths never die.
** Austen’s witty, satirical approach to her subjects resonates with contemporary readers. In Pride and Prejudice, for example, Elizabeth Bennet finds amusement in the foibles of others, but she is equally as severe on her own faults.
** Jane Austen looks at society through a comedic screen, examining the problems of a male dominated society. Comedy is the only socially accepted form of criticism. By using comedic elements, Austen is capable of removing the “sting” from her words.
** Jane Austen’s novels focus on personal conduct and that within a complex system of estates, incomes, and social position, personal conduct is seen to create a bridge between private moral order and social order.
** “Family” is the building block of society.
** Austen’s subject matter is universal, and theme permeates everything it touches. Austen was a thematic master, peeling away layers of the ideas to expose the core truth of the story.
** Focuses on themes that never die: marriage; social pressure; generation gap.
** Ordinary people can have interesting lives. The BeeGees’ song, “Ordinary Life” says, “There was one small dream – incredible highs and lows, what little we knew living ordinary lives.”
** Her novels focus on the tenuous position of women in society. Austen lived with the fact that she must marry in order to achieve social acceptance. This is not a new concept. It is a story as old as time.
** Adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels hold a mirror to our own society – Jane Austen’s keen analysis of the vicissitudes of class. Vicissitudes are typically changes in circumstances or fortunes, generally one that is unwelcome or unpleasant.
** The reader is presented with a protagonist whose life and social position is similar to the reader. In characters, such as Elizabeth Bennet, we see ourselves. Elizabeth’s quirks and flaws add up to a heroine to which readers of any time period can relate. She is coming to terms with the trials life presents her. Even with her growing affection for Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth admits that he does not change, she simply views him differently.
** Austen’s women are women of sense; they embody the notion of rational love.
** Her characters speak to what we were, what we are, and what we want to be. They demonstrate how we interact with the world and those who inhabit it with us.
** Courtship offers the hero a paradoxical challenge in that he must follow normalizing rules of public behavior in order to create a uniquely personal emotional connection. Contrary to what is expected, the absurd expresses a truth worth claiming.
** The visual text escapes Austen’s verbal control and encourages her audience to interpret it. In other words, Austen uses biting humor and delving insights. There is a good dose of moral responsibility in each of her tales.
** Modern readers appreciate the male hero’s displaying his struggle to achieve emotional expression, which will bring him into balance. He physically displays the emotions that he cannot speak. We must recall that Austen likes to torment her male characters with snarky, tongue-in-cheek statements of potential theme, i.e., “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” Needless to say, Mr. Darcy is NOT wife hunting when he meets Elizabeth Bennet. In fact, a man of his social standing, wealth, and fine features would only need to snap his finger to claim any woman who caught his attention, that is, any woman except Elizabeth Bennet. That is the paradox. Darcy’s best qualities are said to be his “handsome features, a noble mien, and a report of 10,000 per year. In reality, Darcy’s true worth is his sense of honor.
** We create “masculine balance” according to our own emotion-based criteria, while Austen creates our ideas of masculinity. Her characters’ internal contradictions become harmonized.
io for Regina Jeffers
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Regina Jeffers is an award-winning author of historical cozy mysteries, Austenesque sequels and retellings, as well as Regency era romances. A teacher for thirty-nine years, Jeffers often serves as a consultant for Language Arts and Media Literacy programs. With multiple degrees, Regina has been a Time Warner Star Teacher, Columbus (OH) Teacher of the Year, and a Martha Holden Jennings Scholar. With seven new releases in 2015 and four upcoming releases for 2016, Jeffers is considered one of publishing’s most prolific authors. Come check out some of her 25 novels: Darcy’s Passions, Captain Frederick Wentworth’s Persuasion, The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy, A Touch of Grace, A Touch of Honor, and The First Wives’ Club.
Regina’s career began when a former student challenged her to do what she so “righteously” told her class should be accomplished in writing. On a whim, she self-published her first book Darcy’s Passions. “I even paid one of my former students to draw the cover. The book was for them and for me. I never thought anything would happen with it. Then one day, Ulysses Press contacted me. They had watched the sales of the book on Amazon, and they offered to print it. That was the beginning of this madness.”
Branching out into Regency and contemporary romance, Jeffers insists, “Every woman dreams of her one great love, the man who inspires an emotional response with just a glance across a crowded room. A romance novel must by definition exist purely for the advancement of the hero’s love affair with the heroine; yet, the reader must want the hero to win the woman’s love. To be believable, there must be a connection beyond the sexual appeal; there must be some conflict, which is character-driven. The characters must have believable reasons to be drawn together, as well as to be frustrated by their dreams.” This is the type of literature Jeffers writes–something truly beautiful and haunting.
Every Woman Dreams Blog reginajeffers.wordpress.com
Austen Authors Blog austenauthors.net
Regina Jeffers Website (excerpts, news and events, reviews, etc.) www.rjeffers.com
You may also find Regina at
Twitter @reginajeffers https://twitter.com/reginajeffers
Thanks Regina. Regina is giving away SEVERAL copies of her books as part of our giveaway!
From our shelves to yours,
Erin and Regina!